Swamiji in Madras
Long before Swamiji reached Madras, the people of that city were planning to welcome him. It was from Madras that Swamiji had left for the West, taking his ship at Bombay. The people of Madras felt that he was their Swamiji. And so he was!
Swamiji was coming by train from Kumbakonam. It was a through train, and it did not stop at small stations. But at every station there were large crowds of people waiting to get a glimpse of the great Swamiji! At one small station, near Madras, the people wanted very much to see Swamiji. ‘Please,’ they begged the Station-master, ‘flag Swamiji’s train and make it stop. We must see Swamiji!’ ‘I can understand your feelings,’ said the Station-master, ‘but I cannot stop the train. It is a through train, and it will not stop here.’
What could the people do? They saw the train in the distance. It was coming very fast. About a hundred people ran and lay down on the tracks, in front of the rushing train! The Station-master was frightened. He had to stop the train! Then the people ran to Swamiji’s compartment and garlanded him and asked for his blessings. Swamiji stood there, radiant with love for them. He blessed them, and the train moved on.
At last the train reached Madras. Again, there was a huge crowd to greet him. He was garlanded, and many people threw flower petals as he walked.
They cheered and shouted: ‘Welcome, Prince of Men’, and ‘Hail to Sri Ramakrishna’s worthy disciple’.
The streets were decorated with arches and flags and flowers. All the shops were closed. The people filled the streets. Swamiji was taken by carriage through the streets of Madras. Some young men took the horses away from Swamiji’s carriage and pulled it themselves through the streets. Never before in Madras had there been such a welcome for anyone!
Swamiji was taken to a large hall, and there addresses of welcome were read to him. Wave after wave of people surrounded Swamiji. It became impossible for him to give a long speech. So he said: I am intensely pleased at the show of enthusiasm. That is what is required—tremendous enthusiasm. Only make it permanent; keep it up. … We want to work out great things in India. For that I require your help; such enthusiasm is necessary.’
A day or two later, Swamiji was able to give a long speech to the people. He called it ‘My Plan of Campaign’, and in it he said: ‘Make your nerves strong. What we want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel. … Stand on your feet and be men.’ Today, if we want to serve India, we should first understand Swamiji’s ideas and then follow them in our lives. If you want to serve India, he said, three things are necessary. First, you must have great feeling. Love is the gate to all the secrets of the universe. If you want to help the people who are starving and living in ignorance, you must feel for them, you must love them. Secondly, you must find a practical way to help them. Mere talking will not do. Thirdly, you must have a strong will. Even if the whole world stands against you, you must still dare to do what you think is right. If you have these three things you will work wonders. You will be powerful. Even if you live in a cave your thought will go vibrating all over the world and help people. Such is the power of thought, of sincerity, and of purity of purpose.
- Swami Vivekananda