The Great Summer: Introduction

As part of our new blog series, Swamiji at Ridgely, we begin with a series of posts documenting  his multiple stays at Ridgely Manor.

Swami Vivekananda visited Ridgely, an estate in the Hudson Valley owned by his friends Mr. and Mrs. Francis Leggett, three times during his two visits to America. The first two times were in 1895. Both those visits were short–about ten days each. His third stay at Ridgely took place at he very beginning of his second visit to America. It lasted for ten weeks, from August 28 to Novemeber 7 of 1899. During those golden weeks of late summer and early autumn, the great swami was free from the pressure of engagements, as never before in the Western World. He was free to talk, to be silent, to meditate, to laugh, and to simply live the exalted life that was natural to him.
The chapter “The Great Summer,” which is a part of the fifth volume of the six volume work SWAMI VIVEKANANDA IN THE WEST: NEW DISCOVERIES by Marie Louise Burke (or Sister Gargi as she is known) tells in detail of these ten extraordinary weeks, during which Ridgely became, through his presence there, a place of pilgrimage. In this series of posts, we share excerpts from this chapter.

Welcome to our new website design

Our webmaster, who goes by the online name Bhairav Jr. (!), and I have redesigned Ridgely’s website. We wanted it to be simple to use for those who are viewing on smartphones and tablets as well as computers. We analyzed the data from our previous website and our other social media platforms to see which pages and platforms were the most popular. We kept those and either deleted or moved the others to a subsection of another category. As an example of that, you will now find most historical information under the About Ridgely section. You will find those sections and subsections listed in the column on the left of the main post.

One of our most important changes was to create a user- friendly blog section. We will be posting to the blog regularly along with photographs from Ridgely. We will also post podcast episodes every other Monday starting September 7, 2015. Be sure to check in every week to see new content, and to subscribe to our podcast.

Vivekananda Retreat has a busy presence on Facebook. We are hoping to move at least part of that audience to our blog and are working on a way to enable comments to be posted to our new blog after registering. We hope you will take the time to read, listen and comment on some of our blog posts.

A link to our overnight retreat application can be found on the Visit page in 2 places. Please read the information carefully before applying.

Enjoy our new simplified website. If you have any feedback about how it could be improved or would like to help us maintain some our of online platforms, please let us know.

Guest Blogger: Shivani

One day, during the garage sale at Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely I found the book that is a constant inspiration to me: the“Shrimad Bhagavad Gita” translated by Swami Swarupananda which I will quote heavily below. I had read the Bhagavad Gita before, few different “interpretations”, but this one, almost word for word translation spoke to my soul.

Having asked the big “WHY??” of my being here, now, on this earth for many years, I was very fortunate to come to Ridgely and get introduced to such truth and to discover the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.

The “impulses of passion”, the onslaught of thoughts troubling our mind due to Karma and the habits we formed, what is termed our “lower nature” is very strong and in being unconscious of this we make ourselves miserable. Unaware that we need to work to overrule all the attachments and aversions of our senses, we go like sleepwalkers through life. The Gita teaches that:

He who here … living in sin , and satisfied in the senses… he lives in vain.(III 16)

This was how I was feeling, so why was it that way? Again, the Gita has the answer I was looking for:

 The turbulent senses… do violently snatch away the mind of even a wise man… (II 60)

So what could I do, far from being wise or anywhere close? There again, I learned the answer from the Gita:

Knowledge is covered by… the unappeasable fire of desire (III 39)

And:

In tranquility, all sorrow is destroyed. (II 65)

Easy for you to say was my first thought. But with the supporting community of Vivekananda Retreat, I realized that we are all dealing with the same problems mankind has for centuries. In the Gita, Arjuna asks:

But impelled by what does man commit sin, thoug against his wishes…      constrained as it were by force? (III 36)

Shri Krishna answer is:

It is desire – it is anger… of great craving, and of great sin; know this as the foe here (in this world). (III 37)

The senses, the mind, and the intellect are said to be its abode: through these,  it deludes the embodied by veiling his wisdom. (III 40)

Thus, knowing Him who is superior to the intellect, and restraining the Self by the Self, destroy… that enemy, the unseizable foe, desire. (III 43)

Freed from attachment, fear, and anger, absorbed in Me, taking refuge in    Me, purified by the fire of knowledge, many have attained My Being. (IV 10)

Thus, from the classes and talks with the Pravrajikas, with the teachings of the visiting Swamis and spiritual seekers who come to Vivekananda Retreat, Ridgely, I learned about the One that is all and I practice.

 

I practice and practice,
Then forget that I know
Forget my practice
But, in winter, the snow flakes
Cooling my head
In spring, the babble of birds
Waking me up at sunrise
In summer, soft warm wind
Whispering through the fields
In fall, fabulous colors
Reminding me that all is One
And in this environment,
I am always brought back to my practice.
I know what I am to do:
Rise the Wind
The sweet Wind of Knowledge
To blow the smoke
The smoke hiding the Fire
The Fire that is all.

Swami Vivekananda tells us again and again to seek the truth within ourselves as in the Gita:

Better is one’s own Dharma, (though) imperfect, than the Dharma of another well-performed. Better is death in one’s own Dharma: the Dharma of another is fraught with fear. (III 35)

Swami Vivekananda emphasized that within ourselves lays the answer and one is to search it for oneself, not blindly follow another’s truth. By searching within one “un–covers”, “remembers” the truth that is. Swamiji’s strength of character, pure knowledge and enthusiasm is catching here where he spent so many weeks. When reading his teachings or listening to the Pravrajikas uttering his words, I feel such strong conviction, I have glimpses of remembrance that yes, all is within, it is so simple for me to see yet so difficult to do. The senses, attachments and aversions are very strong but here I have discovered a map, it is now up to me to follow my path, I may go the wrong way from time to time but I have the map and can always go back and start again.

All quotes are from the “Shrimad Bhagavad Gita” translated by Swami Swarupananda

Poems by Michele C. Placais, reproduction with permission only.