The book is about fourteen notable Westerners, who on different times came close to Swami Vivekananda and left imprints of their indelible memories of that association. Here we have three phases of the Swami’s life in the West. First, before he appeared at the religious congress; second, while leaving his enduring mark at the Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893 and then moving around places in the US, and a little later in Europe, with his abiding spirituality and brilliance; and lastly, when he began to fulfil his role as the first exponent of Vedanta in the West.
Way back when I first began to read Mrs Burke’s Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries, it had been the fortnight before the Chicago religious congress in 1893 which captivated my whole attention: it epitomizes Swamiji’s prophetic disposition—no country in this world or its people were unfamiliar to him, he never hesitated to love people or speak his mind wherever he went. Even when he was no more than a fortnight in America, he had no difficulty in getting attention of the people, or in endearing himself to them who came a little closer. Each story in this book is testimony to what Romain Rolland felt long back: ‘It was impossible to imagine him in the second place. Wherever he went he was the first. … Everybody recognized in him at sight the leader, the anointed of God, the man marked with the stamp of the power to command.’
Here we have two persons who saw the Swami at the Chicago Parliament of Religions and were impressed in their own ways.
One was a youth with a distress of his own. What he suddenly read in a book by Herbert Spencer devastated his perspectives and world view, which all had in background his Methodist upbringing. To have answers to his mental turmoil he entered the Art Palace on the inaugural day of the religious parliament and saw the Swami making his first appearance―what he experienced on that day began to reshape his entire life.
The other man was already a distinguished personality of his time. But his task drew him to the religious parliament in Chicago―it was to salvage the troubled Christianity from the onslaught of Higher Criticism. He searched for newer interpretations from Buddhism and therefore patronized the visiting Buddhist representatives at the Parliament. Nonetheless, he hardly could remain immune to the catholicity of Swami Vivekananda’s message.
Before ending his first visit to America the Swami met three persons in New York.
A latter-day world renowned sculptor, who as a nine-year-old girl once had for a fleeting instance met the Swami.
The impression remained alive till she relived that through her art after a long time.
One of the all time greats of World Theatre, the Diva of Western Stage in late nineteenth century, once came to meet Swami Vivekananda.
A scientist, a genius without whom the wheels of progress in the twentieth century would have been hampered, once felt an urge to meet Vivekananda .
Here we have two individuals the Swami closely interacted with during his famous lecture within the Harvard University in March 1896.
An undisputed giant in American Philosophy. His words that, '...the Swami is an honor to humanity...' has in background what he saw in Vivekananda.
One Harvard Graduate of 1894, who closely saw the Swami when he last was at Harvard.
Two Great German Scholars were eager to meet Swami Vivekananda
And this Book has what followed
The Talented Two.
One from the World of Art, the Other from the Stage.
Without their chronicles the world would have missed much of the Swami's later life