THE BRAHMAN MONK
(New Discoveries, Vol. 2, pp. 68-71.)
Swami Vivekananda the Guest of the Woman’s Club
(Of which no verbatim transcript is available Cf. the preceding American newspaper report, “Lecture by Hindoo monk ” of the Lawrence Evening Tribune (pp. 463-66), for other highlights of the same lecture.)
[Lawrence American and Andover Advertiser, May 18, 1894]
HE POINTS OUT THE BETTER PHASES OF BRAHMANISM.
AND DELIVERS A POINTED MESSAGE TO CHRISTIANS.
Swami Vivekananda, the Brahman monk addressed a most interested audience Tuesday night in Library Hall under the auspices of the Lawrence Woman’s Club.
Miss Wetherbee introduced the speaker and prepared the way for a cordial reception which American courtesy rarely fails to give a distinguished visitor from another nation.
Miss Wetherbee wisely referred to him as a prominent personality at the World’s Parliament of Religions, also to the strong impression made by him at the World’s fair. . . .
. . . In his own country, in his own class, he addresses all women as mother. The Brahmin is educated thus to think of women as mother and a man may not marry his mother. In that country the mother instinct is developed in woman; in this he thought the wife instinct was cultivated, and the most beautiful thing in his lecture was his tribute to the mother, and not unnoticed was the reference to the kindness of heart of the little Hindoo child which would instinctively cause him to turn aside from his path rather than crush a worm.
The Subject of Marriage
formed a large part of his lecture. Among the high classes, called Aryans, women think of marriage as indecent [?]. A widow is not expected to ever marry again. A man who never marries, is highly praised, and indeed worshipped, but should he marry then in the minutes all would be changed. He who does not marry is looked upon as high-minded, as holy and spiritual.
Among the Aryans no money is paid in marriage [?], and as female children are largely in the majority it is one of most difficult things for a father to marry his daughter, and from the time of her birth he racks his brains to find her a husband.
With the two lower classes the rules in regard to marriage are all different. Widows marry again and wives and husbands if desirous become divorced. When a child is born an astrologer comes and casts a horoscope of the child, he delineates the future character of the boy or girl — it is decided whether he is manly or a devilish child; if devilish — he is married to one next in caste, and thus is obtained a minute chance of bettering the condition of the devilish child.
The matter of marriage is not left to the decision of the child as in that case he might marry because [he was] in love with a good nose or good eyes and so in having his own way would spoil the whole thing. The fact was emphasised that only the higher classes think of a
True Spiritual Life
and of worshiping God instead of thinking of marriage. He spoke of the pitiful condition of the lower classes, their poverty and their ignorance. Millions and millions are [un]able to write their name and yet he said:
We are all preaching sermons into them, when their hands are reaching out for bread. Poverty is so extreme in the lower classes that fifty cents a month is the average income of a Hindoo. Millions live on one poor meal a day and millions subsist on wild flowers for food.
He spoke of the idea being prevalent that there were no scholars among the women of India and stated that this was an error as many women of the Brahmins were married but became scholars, and with evident pride he referred to the fact that in no nation could one line be found
In Any Bible
that had been written by a woman excepting his own country alone where many beautiful things in their Bible had been written by women.
Swami Vivekananda did not fail to inform the audience in English words which could not be misunderstood, that the effort to raise his people by teaching them the Christian religion was a thankless task. He said:
We have seen the Greek and the Persian come to us — we have seen the Spaniard with guns come to make us Christians, still we are Hindoos and thus we shall remain.
Had Vivekananda used all the power of his flashing eyes and his expressive voice it would have been a most dramatic speech when he said:
I dare here in America to say that we of India shall stand by our religion.
He said our customs were good for us and we were welcome to them. He stood before us as he has before many a cultured American audience — he, the learned exponent of the Brahman religion, the only Hindoo who has ever come to this country to tell us — as forcibly as he dared and as politely as he could and yet be forcible, — to say no more to the poor Hindoo but to be so very kind as to mind our own business.
After the lecture many of the audience gladly availed themselves of the opportunity offered by Mr. and Mrs. Young to meet Vivekananda at their residence where he has been entertained and has proven himself to be a most delightful guest.