Saturday, April 2, 2011

Swami Vivekananda's American Devotee

With a view to keeping the time framework, I had despatched my Saturday weekly yesterday on Saturday 17th Jan 2009, with the

attachment " In the Realm of Dogs"[Article No.483]. It is only just now that I got a few telephonic calls informing me about the non-receipt of

my mail.

This has happened for reasons best known to the computer only.

However, I have pleasure in enclosing a replacement by my article " AMERICAN SINGER MADAME CALVE -- An ardent devotee of

Swami Vivekananda" . I hope you will find it i equally interesting.

Best wishes
B.M.N.Murthy, Sunday 18th Jan 2009 7 PM

--An ardent devotee of Swami Vivekananda

Psychosis has been defined as a severe mental disorder which is normally generated in the human mind owing to conflicts, confusion and frustration caused by uncontrolled emotions. These tendencies can hardly be removed unless higher values are absorbed in the mind and practically implemented in life. This is very easy in case of a person when he has belief in religion and has regulated all his activities according to it. For such a person there is always a need to associate himself with spiritual souls or their message. The immaculate life such sages and seers lead with all its purity and holiness will act as a guiding star and leads drooping souls out of depression. The experience of one Madame Calve, a celebrated opera singer of Chicago at the close of the 20th century lends ample credence to this belief.

Madame Calve was at the height of her career as an opera singer in 1894, a time at which Swami Vivekananda was also in Chicago to address the World Parliament of Religions. So great was her popularity as a singer that the world was at her feet. She was seen by her flamboyant admirers as well as by the celebrities in America who formed the cream of society as a bright star set to conquer the world. One evening, during the course of her performance, she had the worst experience of stage fright which she had never felt before. In spite of her nervousness she entered the stage and performed the first act which came out successful. Returning to the stage after intermission, she experienced profound depression and considered cancellation of the rest of the programme. She staggered from her dressing room and reached the wings unable to move further, as if paralyzed. The Stage Manager, however, persuaded her to go on to the stage to continue. She performed magnificently. But she collapsed on returning to the green room after the Second Act and instructed the Manager to announce her inability to continue. Despite succumbing to the mental depression and developing breathing problems, she was nearly carried on to the stage by the Manager and his friends for the last Act. She finished her performance which proved to be one of the most glorious performances of her entire career, only with the greatest effort of her life.

After a thunderous applause and ovation, when she returned to the dressing room, she was surprised to find saddened faces of her close friends in the dressing room awaiting there. Her mind was filled with a foreboding of grave impending peril. On receiving the tragic news that during that glorious performance, her beloved and only child had been burnt to death. Madame Calve fainted. She had showered every mark of tender affection on her daughter. How can she live now? Her unprecedented triumph of success caused her to realize the shallow triumph of success and made her desperate. She resolved to put an end to her life by committing suicide by throwing herself into a lake.
Until this moment, she possessed vague misconceptions of the spiritual power of Swami Vivekananda, the Indian Swami who was then very popular in Chicago. She had heard of him and his spiritual powers to cure. She had also an opportunity to meet him once. But the music celebrity had neglected or ignored the opportunity to meet him at leisure and seek his advice.

Three times she approached the lake to fulfill her awful intention but all the three times she was inexorably drawn from it and directed on to the road towards Swamiji’s home instead. She repeatedly resisted and returned to her house instead. Finally, as though in a daze, she was led unintentionally to Swamiji’s house and found herself sitting on a chair outside his room. “Come on child, don’t be afraid”: she heard these soothing words in her hypnotic state and following these comforting words, she found herself before the Swamiji.

It would be of interest to learn the reminiscences of Madame Calve from her own words:
“It has been my good fortune and my joy to know a man who truly walked with God’, a noble being, a saint, a philosopher and a true friend. His influence on my spiritual life was profound. He opened up new horizons before me, teaching me a broader understanding of Truth. My soul will bear him eternal with gratitude
He was lecturing in Chicago when I was there. As I was greatly depressed in life I decided to go to him, having seen how he had helped some of my friends. I stood before him in silence for a minute. He was seated in a noble attitude of meditation. After a pause he spoke without looking up. “My child” he said “What a troubled atmosphere you have about you; Be calm. It is essential” Then in a quiet voice, untroubled and aloof, this man who did not even know my name talked to me of my secret problems and anxieties. He spoke of things that I thought were unknown even to my most intimate friends. It seemed miraculous and supernatural.
“How do you know all this?” I asked at last. “Who has talked of me to you?”. He looked at me with his quiet smile as though I were a child who had asked a foolish question.
“No one has talked to me” he answered gently “Do you think it is necessary? I read in you as in an open book”. Finally it was time for me to leave.
“You must forget” he said as I rose. “Become gay and happy again. Build up your health. Do not dwell in silence upon your sorrows. Transmute your emotions to some form of eternal expression. Your spiritual health requires it. Your art demands it”
I left him deeply impressed by his words and his personality. He seemed to have emptied my brain of all its feverish complexities and placed there instead his clean and calming thoughts. I became once again vivacious and cheerful. He did not use any of the hypnotic or mesmeric influences. It was the strength of his character, the purity and intensity of his purpose that carried conviction. It seemed to me, when I came to know him better, that he lulled one’s chaotic thoughts into a state of peaceful acquiescence, so that one could give complete and undivided attention to his words”

Madame Calve’s unique experience illustrates the truth of Swamiji’s assertion from his own experience: A great spiritual personality who is perfectly established in higher realizations can transmit this knowledge to a disciple even if the disciple has not undergone vigorous spiritual practices.

Madame Calve subsequently became an ardent devotee of Swami Vivekananda and toured extensively with the Swamiji visiting places like Turkey, Egypt and Greece. Concluding her impressions of her tour with Swami Vivekananda, Madame Calve writes
“The hours that I spent with a gentle philosopher like him remained in my memory as a time apart. These beings, pure, beautiful and remote, seemed to belong to another universe; a better and wiser world”


Created: Sunday, January 18, 2009 7:59 AM


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