As It Has Been Growing

(a brief history of the Students’ Home, drafted by the Founder himself – Swami Nirvedananda)

Things that matter

emblem_bigMinute things tend to elude our grasp. Even when they come to our view, we are prone to ignore their existence. We have an innate love for big and showy things; no matter if then happen to be mere externals. This is why bulk, name, seal, rules, reports, committees, boards and all that have to come in and stamp a hall-mark of dignity on an institution before it may engage our attention. Indeed, the form and trapping of an institution capture our imagination for than the reality that lies beneath them. It is, therefore, quite likely that the unostentatious beginning of the Ramakrishna Mission Students’ Home may just escape our notice.

Moreover, this Student’s Home being one of a class of institutions that appear to have some sort of organic growth, its earliest phases of existence like those an organism, seem to be almost beyond our ken. In the case of man, for instance, his life history really being as soon as a microscopic cell starts on its mysterious career of body building in a unseen region made secure by a Mother’s love and sacrifice. This portion of his prenatal history is almost like a sealed book. When, however, the child is born, we recognize its existence by its body, which is big enough for our attention. It is an irony of fate that the body appears to be more important than its builder, the mysterious life-force, the élan-vital, that has been at work since the appearance of the primal cell. Institutions like the Students’ Home appear to have something like a life-force, which is more important and, in a sense, more real than their outer growth. If it departs, a gigantic institution of this class is instantly reduced to a lifeless shadow. Of such an institution the beginning has to be traced to the first stirring of its life-force.

The play of the life-force, again, is not a sporadic affair. It is guided, controlled and directed by an effective creative will. It works according to plan. It has to weave patterns designed by the divine will. So far even the creative evolutionists of our day will agree with us. Perhaps they may go a bit further and allow us to hold that sometimes one may have an intuitive glimpse of a portion of the divine will.

Now, Swami Vivekananda had such a glimpse when he declared “The fiat has gone forth, India must rise”. With the advent of Sri Ramakrishna, he felt the World had stepped into a new epoch to me marked by a rising wave of spirituality, and our holy motherland, fully awakened, and rejuvenated, would have to play a prominent role in the spiritual renaissance of mankind. This intuitive vision of Swami Vivekananda warranted his belief that innumerable forces would be let loose to work out the Divine will. And this is why he announced, “His work does not depend on the likes of you and me. He can raise his workers out of the dust by hundreds and thousands. It is only a Glory and a privilege to be allowed to work under Him.”Indeed, persons do not could except as privilege agents of the Divine will. They are not more than marionettes worked by the forces released by the Great Will.

Qua Vadis?

Perhaps, it was of these forces that hurled a young graduate of Calcutta out of his family orbit towards the end of 1913. It was vague urge from within that made him leave the beaten track and cut himself adrift from the family moorings. He did not know what he was about to do. Nothing more than a faint dream of a free and useful life could be perceived at the moment. To earn enough for an independent living and for finishing the post-graduate course of study came to be his immediate concern.

A new chapter was opened on the ground floor of a very small two storied house in a dingy corner of a very narrow lane in the Bowbazar quarter of Calcutta. The ground floor of 32, Jeliapara lane, consisting of a bedroom, a verandah and a bathroom was rented at Rs. 10/- per month. The owner of the house lived with his family on the first floor containing only a couple of rooms. He landlord had a peculiar way of realizing the rent. He would always be ahead of his time. Before any month could pass he would squeeze out the bulk of the rent by installments of even four-anna bits which, he would say, were so necessary for his daily marketing. It was in such surroundings that the young graduate set out upon his independent career and took two coaching students as his part time vocation. He had at that time a school boy as his only companion who in later days came to be a monk of the Ramakrishna order and one of the oldest workers of the Students’ Home.

A year later, the venue shifted to the upper storey of the same house. It was here that the nebulous state of the previous year began slowly to take shape after the future pattern of the Students’ Home. It was on his upper storey of Shashi Banu’s house that the Home may be said to have been conceived. Veiled from public gaze, the features of the Home began to appear, one after another, though in hazy outline.

The coaching class grew in size. Nearly fifteen students of the class IX of a neighboring school joined it. To them the place gradually became a sort of second home where they would spend their leisure hours and holidays. The income of the coaching class was the source maintenance of the tutor and two students of the group who came to stay with him, one of them having been their right from beginning.

One day a picture popularly known as “Anjali” was placed in a niche in one of the walls. It depict Sri Krishna with Sri Radhika offering flowers at his feet. Since then a humble ceremony at dusk came to be an affair of daily routine. Incense would be burned, and a lamp would be lighted before the deity. After that, the tutor together with his pupils would, for a while, disturb the peace of the neighborhood by repeating at the top of their voice, “Jaya Netai Gour Radhe Shyam, Hare Krishna Hare Ram”. One evening a peace loving old neighbourhood had actually to cry out from his house to the landlord demanding immediate expulsion of the vociferous gang.

A day came when the boys proposed to go the Belur Math. The tutor, in his insolent stupidity, advised to go to Dakshineshwar instead. Disregarding his crass counsel, however the pupils visited both the places and brought the surprising news that the tutor had been asked by one of the Swamis of the Belur Math to go and see him. The tutor was non-plussed. However, he obeyed the call. At the Math he met Srimat Swami Premananda who enthralled him instantly without any introduction and without any query on his part, he was received by the Swami with quite a familiar and endearing expression and for a while, the Swami’s inspired talks flowed ceaselessly, solving, one after another, all the different problems that had been pressing the tutor’s heart for some time past. The whole thing came almost like a revelation to him. A gate was flung open and he saw a path that he was to tread.

As It Has Been Growing : Part – 2 [Home in Embryo]
As It Has Been Growing: Part – 3 [Gathering Strength]
As It Has Been Growing: Part – 4 [A Step Forward]
As It Has Been Growing: Part – 5 [On the Way to Permanence]
As It Has Been Growing: Part – 6 [In Its Own Premises]
As It Has Been Growing: Part – 7 [Where It Stands]