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THE 4TH JULY ----MAHASAMADHI OF VIVEKANANDA


Swami Vivekananda's tours, hectic lecturing engagements, private discussions and correspondence had taken their toll on his health. He was suffering from asthma, diabetes and other physical ailments. A few days prior to his demise, he was seen intently studying the almanac. Three days before his death he pointed out the spot for this cremation—the one at which a temple in his memory stands today. He had remarked to several persons that he would not live to be forty. On the day of his death, he taught Shukla-Yajur-Veda to some pupils in the morning at Belur Math. He had a walk with Swami Premananda, a brother-disciple, and gave him instructions concerning the future of the Ramakrishna Math. Vivekananda died at ten minutes past nine P.M. on July 4, 1902 while he was meditating. According to his disciples, this was Mahasamadhi. Afterward, his disciples recorded that they had noticed “a little blood” in the Swami’s nostrils, about his mouth and in his eyes. The doctors remarked that it was due to the rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain, but they could not find the real cause of the death. According to his disciples, Brahmarandhra — the aperture in the crown of the head — must have been pierced when he attained Mahasamadhi. Vivekananda had fulfilled his own prophecy of not living to be forty years old. "And tell the world — Awake, arise, and dream no more! This is the land of dreams, where Karma Weaves unthreaded garlands with our thoughts Of flowers sweet or noxious, and none Has root or stem, being born in naught, which The softest breath of Truth drives back to Primal nothingness. Be bold, and face The Truth! Be one with it! Let visions cease, Or, if you cannot, dream but truer dreams, Which are Eternal Love and Service Free." Vivekananda died at ten minutes past nine P.M. on July 4, 1902 while he was meditating. According to his disciples, this was Mahasamadhi. Afterward, his disciples recorded that they had noticed “a little blood” in the Swami’s nostrils, about his mouth and in his eyes. The doctors remarked that it was due to the rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain, but they could not find the real cause of the death. According to his disciples, Brahmarandhra — the aperture in the crown of the head — must have been pierced when he attained Mahasamadhi. Vivekananda had fulfilled his own prophecy of not living to be forty years old. Before his Mahasamadhi he had written to a Western follower: “It may be that I shall find it good to get outside my body, to cast it off like a worn out garment. But I shall not cease to work. I shall inspire men everywhere until the whole world shall know that it is one with God.” Three days before the mahasamadhi, Swami Vivekananda pointed out to Swami Premananda a particular spot on the monastery grounds where he wished his body to be cremated.

On Wednesday the Swami fasted, following the orthodox rule: it was the eleventh day of the moon. Sister Nivedita came to the monastery to ask him some questions about her school; but he was not interested and referred her to some other Swamis. He insisted, however, on serving Nivedita the morning meal. To quote the Sister's words:

Each dish, as it was offered — boiled seeds of the jack-fruit, boiled potatoes, plain rice, and ice-cold milk — formed the subject of playful chat; and finally, to end the meal, he himself poured the water over her hands, and dried them with a towel.

'It is I who should do these things for you, Swamiji! Not you for me!' was the protest naturally offered. But his answer was startling in its solemnity — 'Jesus washed the feet of his disciples!'

Something checked the answer, 'But that was the last time!' as it rose to the lips, and the words remained unuttered. This was well. For here also, the time had come.

There was nothing sad or grave about the Swami during these days. Efforts were made not to tire him. Conversations were kept as light as possible, touching only upon the pet animals that surrounded him, his garden experiments, books, and absent friends. But all the while one was conscious of a luminous presence of which the Swami's bodily form seemed only a shadow or symbol. The members of the monastery had never felt so strongly as now, before him, that they stood in the presence of an infinite light; yet none was prepared to see the end so soon, least of all on that Friday, July the Fourth, on which he appeared so much stronger and healthier than he had been for years.

On the supreme day, Friday, he rose very early. Going to the chapel, alone, he shut the windows and bolted the doors, contrary to his habit, and meditated for three hours. Descending the stairs of the shrine, he sang a beautiful song about Kali:

Is Kali, my Mother, really black? The Naked One, though black She seems, Lights the Lotus of the heart. Men call Her black, but yet my mind Will not believe that She is so: Now She is white, now red, now blue; Now She appears as yellow, too. I hardly know who Mother is, Though I have pondered all my life: Now Purusha, now Prakriti, And now the Void, She seems to be. To meditate on all these things Confounds poor Kamalakanta's wits.'

Then he said, almost in a whisper: 'If there were another Vivekananda, then he would have understood what this Vivekananda has done! And yet — how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time!'

He expressed the desire to worship Mother Kali at the Math the following day, and asked two of his disciples to procure all the necessary articles for the ceremony. Next he asked the disciple Suddhananda to read a passage from the Yajurveda with the commentary of a well-known expositor. The Swami said that he did not agree with the commentator and exhorted the disciple to give a new interpretation of the Vedic texts.

He partook of the noon meal with great relish, in company with the members of the Math, though usually, at that time, he ate alone in his room because of his illness. Immediately afterwards, full of life and humour, he gave lessons to the brahmacharins for three hours on Sanskrit grammar. In the afternoon he took a walk for about two miles with Swami Premananda and discussed his plan to start a Vedic College in the monastery.

'What will be the good of studying the Vedas?' Premananda asked.

'It will kill superstition,' Swami Vivekananda said.

On his return the Swami inquired very tenderly concerning every member of the monastery. Then he conversed for a long time with his companions on the rise and fall of nations. 'India is immortal,' he said, 'if she persists in her search for God. But if she goes in for politics and social conflict, she will die.'

At seven o'clock in the evening the bell rang for worship in the chapel. The Swami went to his room and told the disciple who attended him that none was to come to him until called for. He spent an hour in meditation and telling his beads, then called the disciple and asked him to open all the windows and fan his head. He lay down quietly on his bed and the attendant thought that he was either sleeping or meditating.

At the end of an hour his hands trembled a little and he breathed once very deeply. There was a silence for a minute or two, and again he breathed in the same manner. His eyes became fixed in the centre of his eyebrows, his face assumed a divine expression, and eternal silence fell.

In the morning people poured in from all quarters. Nivedita sat by the body and fanned it till it was brought down at 2 p.m. to the porch leading to the courtyard. It was covered with ochre robes and decorated with flowers. Incense was burnt and a religious service was performed with lights, conch-shells, and bells. The brother monks and disciples took their final leave and the procession started, moving slowly through the courtyard and across the lawn, till it reached the vilva tree near the spot where the Swami himself had desired his body to be cremated.

The funeral pyre was built and the body was consigned to the flames kindled with sandalwood.