(Translated from Bengali )
[Place: The Math, Belur. Year: 1902.]
After returning from Eastern Bengal Swamiji stayed in the Math and lived a simple childlike life. Every year some Santal labourers used to work in the Math. Swamiji would joke and make fun with them and loved to hear their tales of weal and woe. One day several noted gentlemen of Calcutta came to visit Swamiji in the Math. That day Swamiji had started such a warm talk with the Santals that, when he was informed of the arrival of those gentlemen, he said, “I shan’t be able to go now. I am happy with these men.” Really that day Swamiji did not leave the poor Santals to see those visitors.
One among the Santals was named Keshta. Swamiji loved Keshta very much. Whenever Swamiji came to talk with them, Keshta used to say to Swamiji, “O my Swamiji, do not come to us when we are working, for while talking with you our work stops and the supervising Swami rebukes us afterwards.” Swamiji would be touched by these words and say, “No, no, he will not say anything; tell me a little about your part of the country” — saying which he used to introduce the topic of their worldly affairs.
One day Swamiji said to Keshta, “Well, will you take food here one day?” Keshta said, “We do not take food touched by you; if you put salt in our food and we eat it, we shall lose our caste.” Swamiji said, “Why should you take salt? We will prepare curry for you without salt, will you then take it?” Keshta agreed to it. Then at orders of Swamiji, bread, curry, sweets, curd, etc. were arranged for the Santals, and he made them sit before him to eat. While eating, Keshta said, “Whence have you got such a thing? We never tasted anything like this.” Feeding them sumptuously, Swamiji said, “You are Nârâyanas, God manifest; today I have offered food to Narayana.” The service of “Daridra Narayana” — God in the poor — about which Swamiji spoke, he himself performed one day like this.
After their meal, the Santals went for rest, and Swamiji, addressing the disciple, said, “I found them the veritable embodiment of God — such simplicity, such sincere guileless love I have seen nowhere else.” Then, addressing the Sannyasins of the Math, he said, “See how simple they are. Can you mitigate their misery a little? Otherwise, of what good is the wearing of the Gerua robe? Sacrifice of everything for the good of others is real Sannyasa. They have never enjoyed any good thing in life. Sometimes I feel a desire to sell the Math and everything, and distribute the money to the poor and destitute. We have made the tree our shelter. Alas! the people of the country cannot get anything to eat, and how can we have the heart to raise food to our mouths? When I was in the Western countries, I prayed to the Divine Mother, “People here are sleeping on a bed of flowers, they eat all kinds of delicacies, and what do they not enjoy, while people in our country are dying of starvation. Mother, will there be no way for them! One of the objects of my going to the West to preach religion was to see if I could find any means for feeding the people of this country.
“Seeing the poor people of our country starving for food, a desire comes to me to overthrow all ceremonial worship and learning, and go round from village to village collecting money from the rich by convincing them through force of character and Sadhana, and to spend the whole life in serving the poor.
“Alas! nobody thinks of the poor of this land. They are the backbone of the country, who by their labour are producing food-these poor people, the sweepers and labourers, who if they stop work for one day will create a panic in the town. But there is none to sympathise with them, none to console them in their misery. Just see, for want of sympathy from the Hindus, thousands of Pariahs in Madras are turning Christians. Don’t think this is simply due to the pinch of hunger; it is because they do not get any sympathy from us. We are day and night calling out to them, ‘Don’t touch us! Don’t touch us!’ Is there any compassion or kindliness of heart in the country? Only a class of ‘Don’t-touchists’; kick such customs out! I sometimes feel the urge to break the barriers of ‘Don’t-touchism’, to go at once and call out, ‘Come, all who are poor, miserable, wretched, and down-trodden’, and to bring them all together in the name of Shri Ramakrishna. Unless they rise, the Mother won’t awaken. We could not make any provision for food and clothes for these — what have we done then? Alas! they know nothing of worldliness, and therefore even after working day and night cannot provide themselves with food and clothes. Let us open their eyes. I see clear as daylight that there is the one Brahman in all, in them and in me — one Shakti dwells in all. The only difference is of manifestation. Unless the blood circulates over the whole body, has any country risen at any time? If one limb is paralysed, then even with the other limbs whole, not much can be done with that body — know this for certain.”
Disciple: Sir, there is such a diversity of religions and ideas among the people of this country that it is a difficult affair to bring harmony among them.
Swamiji (in anger): If you think any work difficult, then do not come here. Through the grace of God all paths become easy. Your work is to serve the poor and miserable, without any distinction of caste or colour, and you have no need to think about the results. Your duty is to go on working, and then everything will follow of itself. My method of work is to construct and not to pull down. Read the history of the world, and you will find that a great soul stood as the central figure in a certain period of a country. Animated by his ideas, hundreds of people did good to the world. You are all intelligent boys, and have been coming here for a long time. Say, what have you done? Couldn’t you give one life for the service of others? In the next life you may read Vedanta and other philosophies. Give this life for the service of others, then I shall know that your coming here has not been in vain.
Saying these words, Swamiji sat silent, wrapt in deep thought. After some time, he added, “After so much austerity, I have understood this as the real truth — God is present in every Jiva; there is no other God besides that. ‘Who serves Jiva, serves God indeed’.” After some pause Swamiji, addressing the disciple, said, “What I have told you today, inscribe in your heart. See that you do not forget it.”