From Epistles – Third Series of Volume 7 of The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Translated from Bengali)
HIGH VIEW, CAVERSHAM,
27th April, 1896.
DEAR (Members of the Alambazar Math),
. . . Let me write something for you all. It is not for gaining personal authority that I do this, but for your good and for fulfilling the purpose for which the Lord came. He gave me the charge of you all, and you shall contribute to the great well-being of the world — though most of you are not yet aware of it — this is the special reason of my writing to you. It will be a great pity if any feeling of jealousy or egotism gain ground amongst you. Is it possible for those to establish cordial relations on earth who cannot cordially live with one another for any length of time? No doubt it is an evil to be bound by laws, but it is necessary at the immature stage to be guided by rules; in other words, as the Master used to say that the sapling must be hedged round, and so on. Secondly, it is quite natural for idle minds to indulge in gossip, and faction-mongering, and so forth. Hence I jot down the following hints. If you follow them, you will undoubtedly prosper, but if you don’t do so, then there is a danger of all our labours coming to naught.
First let me write about the management of the Math:
1. For the purposes of the Math please hire a commodious house or garden, where everyone may have a small room to himself. There must be a spacious hall where the books may be kept, and a smaller room for meeting the visitors. If possible, there should be another big hall in the house where study of the scriptures and religious discourses will be held every day for the public.
2. Anyone wishing to visit anybody in the Math should see him only and depart, without troubling others.
3. By turns someone should be present in the hall for a few hours every day for the public, so that they may get satisfactory replies to what they come to ask.
4. Everyone must keep to his room and except on special business must not go to others’ rooms. Anyone who wishes may go to the Library and read, but it should be strictly forbidden to smoke there or talk with others. The reading should be silent.
5. It shall be wholly forbidden to huddle together in a room and chat the whole day away, with any number of outsiders coming and joining in the hubbub.
6. Only those that are seekers after religion may come and peacefully wait in the Visitors’ Hall and when they have seen the particular persons they want, they should depart. Or, if they have any general question to ask, they should refer to the person in charge of that function for the day and leave.
7. Tale-bearing, caballing, or reporting scandals about others should be altogether eschewed.
8. A small room should serve as the office. The Secretary should live in that room, which should contain paper, ink, and other materials for letter-writing. He should keep an account of the income and expenditure. All correspondence should come to him, and he should deliver all letters unopened to their addressees. Books and pamphlets should be sent to the Library.
9. There will be a small room for smoking, which should not be indulged in outside this room.
10. He who wants to indulge in invectives or show temper must do so outside the boundaries of the Math. This should not be deviated from even by an inch.
THE GOVERNING BODY
1. Every year a President should be elected by a majority of votes. The next year, another, and so on.
2. For this year make Brahmananda the President and likewise make another the Secretary, and elect a third man for superintending the worship etc., as well as the arrangement of food.
3. The Secretary shall have another function, viz to keep watch over the general health. Regarding this I have three instructions to give: (i) In every room for each man there shall be a Nair charpoy, mattress, etc. Everyone must keep his room clean. (ii) All arrangements must be made to provide clear and pure water for drinking and cooking purposes, for it is a deadly sin to cook sacramental food in impure or unclean water.
(iii) Give everyone two ochre cloaks of the type that you have made for Saradananda, and see that clothing is kept clean.
4. Anyone wishing to be a Sannyâsin should be admitted as a Brahmacharin first. He should live one year at the Math and one year outside, after which he may be initiated into Sannyâsa.
5. Make over charge of the worship to one of these Brahmacharins, and change them now and then.
There shall be the following departments in the Math:
I. Study. II. Propaganda. III. Religious Practice.
I. Study — The object of this department is to provide books and teachers for those who want to study. Every morning and evening the teachers should be ready for them.
II. Propaganda — Within the Math, and abroad. The preachers in the Math should teach the inquirers by reading out scriptures to them and by means of question-classes. The preachers abroad will preach from village to village and try to start Maths like the above in different places.
III. Religious Practice — This department will try to provide those who want to practise with the requisites for this. But it should not be allowed that because one has taken to religious practice he will prevent others from study or preaching. Any one infringing this rule shall be immediately asked to clear out, and this is imperative.
The preachers at home should give lessons on devotion, knowledge, Yoga, and work by turns; for this, the days and hours should be fixed, and the routine hung up at the door of the class-room. That is to say, a seeker after devotion may not present himself on the day fixed for knowledge and feel wounded thereby; and so on.
None of you are fit for the Vâmâchâra form of practice. Therefore this should on no account be practised at the Math. Anyone demurring to this must step out of this Order. This form of practice must never even be mentioned in the Math. Ruin shall seize the wicked man, both here and hereafter, who would introduce vile Vamachara into His fold!
SOME GENERAL REMARKS
1. If any woman comes to have a talk with a Sannyasin, she should do it in the Visitors’ Hall. No woman shall be allowed to enter any other room — except the Worship-room.
2. No Sannyasin shall be allowed to reside in the Women’s Math. Anyone refusing to obey this rule shall be expelled from the Math. “Better an empty fold than a wicked herd.”
3. Men of evil character shall be rigorously kept out. On no pretence shall their shadow even cross the threshold of my room. If anyone amongst you become wicked, turn him out at once, whoever he be. We want no black sheep. The Lord will bring lots of good people.
4. Any woman can come to the class-room (or preaching hall) during class time or preaching hour, but must leave the place directly when that period is over.
5. Never show temper, or harbour jealousy, or backbite another in secret. It would be the height of cruelty and hard-heartedness to take note of others’ shortcoming instead of rectifying one’s own.
6. There should be fixed hours of meals. Everyone must have a seat and a low dining table. He will sit on the former and put his plate on the latter, as is the custom in Rajputana.
All the office-bearers you should elect by ballot, as was the mandate of Lord Buddha. That is to say, one should propose that such and such should be the President this year; and all should write on bits of paper ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and put them in a pitcher. If the ‘yes’ have a majority, he should be elected President, and so on. Though you should elect office-bearers in this way, yet I suggest that this year Brahmananda should be President, Nirmalananda, Secretary and Treasurer, Sadananda Librarian, and Ramakrishnananda, Abhedananda, Turiyananda, and Trigunatitananda should take charge of the teaching and preaching work by turns, and so on.
It is no doubt a good idea that Trigunatita has of starting a magazine. But I shall consent to it if only you can work jointly.
About doctrines and so forth I have to say only this, that if anyone accepts Paramahamsa Deva as Avatâra etc., it is all right; if he doesn’t do so, it is just the same. The truth about it is that in point of character, Paramahamsa Deva beats all previous records; and as regards teaching, he was more liberal, more original, and more progressive than all his predecessors. In other words, the older Teachers were rather one-sided, while the teaching of this new Incarnation or Teacher is that the best point of Yoga, devotion, knowledge, and work must be combined now so as to form a new society. . . . The older ones were no doubt good, but this is the new religion of this age — the synthesis of Yoga, knowledge, devotion, and work — the propagation of knowledge and devotion to all, down to the very lowest, without distinction of age or sex. The previous Incarnations were all right, but they have been synthesised in the person of Ramakrishna. For the ordinary man and the beginner, steady devotion (Nishthâ) to an ideal is of paramount importance. That is to say, teach them that all great Personalities should be duly honoured, but homage should be paid now to Ramakrishna. There can be no vigour without steady devotion. Without it one cannot preach with the intensity of a Mahâvira (Hanumân). Besides, the previous ones have become rather old. Now we have a new India, with its new God, new religion, and new Vedas. When, O Lord, shall our land be free from this eternal dwelling upon the past? Well, a little bigotry also is a necessity. But we must harbour no antagonistic feelings towards others.
If you consider it wise to be guided by my ideas and if you follow these rules, then I shall supply on all necessary funds. . . . Moreover, please show this letter to Gour-Mâ, Yogin-Mâ, and others, and through them establish a Women’s Math. Let Gour-Ma be the President there for one year, and so on. But none of you shall be allowed to visit the place. They will manage their own affairs. They will not have to work at your dictation. I shall supply all necessary expenses for that work also.
May the Lord guide you in the right direction! Two persons went to see the Lord Jagannatha. One of them beheld the Deity — while the other saw some trash that was haunting his mind! My friends, many have no doubt served the Master, but whenever anyone would be disposed to consider himself an extraordinary personage, he should think that although he was associated with Shri Ramakrishna, he has seen only the trash that was uppermost in his mind! Were it not so, he would manifest the results. The Master himself used to quote, “They would sing and dance in the name of the Lord but come to grief in the end.” The root of that degeneration is egotism — to think that one is just as great as any other, indeed! “He used to love me too!” — one would plead. Alas, Nick Bottom, would you then be thus translated? Would such a man envy or quarrel with another and degrade himself? Bear in mind that through His grace lots of men will be turned out with the nobility of gods — ay, wherever His mercy would drop! . . . Obedience is the first duty. Well, just do with alacrity what I ask you to. Let me see how you carry out these few small things. Then gradually great things will come to pass.
PS. Please read the contents of this letter to all, and let me know whether you consider the suggestions worth carrying out. Please tell Brahmananda that he who is the servant of all is their true master. He never becomes a leader in whose love there is a consideration of high or low. He whose love knows no end, and never stops to consider high or low, has the whole world lying at his feet.