In this book, the author takes his reader along a tour of Europe following Swami Vivekananda’s footprints. IN his wandering from London to Athens, Vivekananda had treated England and Continental Europe differently. In England, he devoted almost his entire time giving classes and lectures, and made some devoted followers, but he visited France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Austria, Turkey and Greece in Continental Europe with an altogether different perspective. He explored the countries’ rich heritage of science, art, religion, language, and culture, huddled with some old friends and made some new ones, feasted his eyes on the breathtaking beauty of the snow-clad mountains and the deep blue lakes, spent a few days filled with incredibly refreshing spiritual solitude, took a relaxing river cruise looking at the ancient castles on the banks, and experienced the various countries’ ethnicities and the grandeur of their millennia-old historic monuments, religious edifices, and architectural ruins.
Swami Vivekananda’s visit to the West included the United States of America and nine countries in Europe. This book, which emerged as a natural extension of the first two “New Findings” books by the author, Swami Vivekananda in Chicage—New Findings and Swami Vivekananda in America—New Findings, builds on, consolidates, embellishes, and adds to the information that is already there in various articles and books published by the Ramakrishna Order. Even after exhaustive research by his predecessors, the author was able to find many “new findings” that he carefully, and with painstaking accuracy, weaved into the existing fabric of information that that is available on this great soul. Using a time-place-person oriented narrative, the author has included in the book numerous images of places, objects, and buildings for readers to experience visually what Swamiji saw—in most cases as he saw them.
It should be borne in mind that there is no end to tracing the footprints of a person as unique as Swami Vivekananda. The subject of his European travel has been addressed in parts by many, in the form of books or articles, including Swamiji himself in Memoirs of European Travel, but none has covered his wandering in all nine countries in Europe that he had visited. From that point of view this book is unique because its chapters have been organized to cover all the nine countries chronologically, according to Swamiji’s first visit to the country. All his wanderings and activities in a country have then been documented chronologically again in the chapter dedicated to that country. The book also pays special attention to the homes, places, buildings, and tourists’ attractions associated with Swamiji, that can still be identified after more than one hundred years.
London, Paris, Geneva, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, Athens, Rome ... are not just the names of major cities in Europe, they are also the cities Swami Vivekananda had blessed by leaving his footprints in them; the aura of his presence will endure in those cities. The Vedanta Movement in Europe owes its initial impetus and subsequent expansion to his visit.
In his two previous books, Swami Vivekananda in Chicago- New Findings and Swami Vivekananda in America-New Findings, author Asim Chaudhuri took his readers on a tour of America, where the "cyclonic monk" had first introduced himself to the world and then carried out his mission to spiritualize its citizens, rich and poor alike, by introducing them to the sublime concepts of Vedanta philosophy. In recognition of these two thoughtful books, which have been acclaimed in academic circles, he received the prestigious Vivekananda Award in 2009.
In this book, the author takes his readers along on a tour of Europe, although in a somewhat different fashion because Swmiji had treated England and Continental Europe differently.
In England he devoted almost his entire time giving classes and lectures, but he visited Continental Europe with a different perspective: to explore its rich heritage of art and culture, to feast his eyes on the breath-taking sceneries in some parts of the land, and to experience the grandeur of its truly historic monuments and religious edifices. In addition to the narrative, the author has included in the book numerous images of places, objects, and buildings for readers to experience visually what Swamiji saw-in most cases as he saw them. Whether it was Swamiji trying to spellbind his audience in London with his discourse on jnana yoga, or going down the treacherous steps toward a secluded church in Switzerland, or taking a boat ride on the River Rhine in Germany, or scrutinizing the inscriptions on the Trajan's Pillar in Rome, or attending the Selamlik ceremony in Istanbul, Chaudhuri makes his readers feel Swamiji's presence among them as he narrates his visit to England and Continental Europe.
I congratulate Asim Chaudhuri for consolidating information about Swamiji's extensive sojourn in Europe that have been scattered in various publications, including Swamiji's own travelogue Parivrajak (Memoirs of European Travel), and for bringing to light many facts that have been hidden from public eye, eluding the vigilant search by many devotees and researchers over the years. The chapters in this book have been organized by the individual countries Swamiji had visited, giving the residents of, or the visitors to, that country a chance to explore the details of all his travels and activities, and to follow his footprints and visit all the places and buildings touched by him that are still extant.
I am glad that Advaita Ashrama is publishing this book, which has culminated because of the author's painstaking re- search and extensive travel, far away from his home, to document every detail of Swami Vivekananda’s sojourn in England and Continental Europe, thus enriching the life history of this incomparably great soul, a born leader at his best. I wish the book success.
I left the shores of India in 1965 for higher studies abroad. My destination was Chicago, just as Swamiji's was in 1893. But at that time, it did not strike me as particularly significant. In 1993, during the 100th anniversary of his appearance at the World's Parliament of Religions, I was living in the Chicago area. Swami Vivekananda's magic was in the air then, and I got a whiff of it and sucked it all up. Just a little earlier, my employer had transferred me from Cleveland to Chicago; this seemed providential in retrospect.
Although I was exposed to Swamiji's life and teachings early in my life, the centennial celebration of his appearance at the Parliament of Religions rekindled my memory and inspired me to delve into his life and teachings all over again, especially into the details of his sojourn in the West. I then started tracing his footprints in America. This endeavor culminated in two books: Swami Vivekananda in Chicago-New Findings (published in 2000 by Advaita Ashrama) and Swami Vivekananda in America- New Findings (published in 2008, also by Advaita Ashrama). The first one documented his multiple visits to Illinois, which has Chicago as its major city, and a short visit to Indiana. The second book describes his wanderings in the other thirteen states (and Washington, D. C.) in America during his two trips to the country. To complete his sojourn in the West, my next endeavor naturally was to document Swamiji's visit, or visits, to Europe-leading to the writing of this book.
Although Swamiji spent most of his time in the U.S. during his two visits to the West, his multiple visits to England, where he delivered many lectures and held numerous classes, were of no less significance. This book, which emerged as a natural extension of the first two "New Findings" books, builds on, embellishes, and adds to the information that is already there. Although he had reportedly visited nine countries in Europe (and went through some en route), Swamiji's lectures and classes were mostly confined to the city of London and its immediate vicinity.
This book has relied heavily on Marie Louise Burke's Swami Vivekananda in the West: New Discoveries, The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, and Swami Vidyatmananda's articles from Prabuddha Bharata published in the 1970s, forty years ago (which have recently been consolidated in a book titled Vivekananda in Europe, published by Advaita Ashrama in 2012). Vidyatmananda's book has two significant omissions; it does not cover England and Italy. This book, therefore, has been titled differently to differentiate it from his book. For Swamiji's sojourn in Rome, Italy, I have liberally drawn from Mrs. James Sevier's two articles in Prabuddha Bharata, appropriately titled "Round about Rome with Swami Vivekananda." There are a generous number of photographs in this book for people to identify places associated with Swamiji. The chapters in this book have been organized in such a way that they appear chronologically, country-wise, according to Swamiji's first visit to a country. That done, all his wanderings and activities in a particular country have been documented chronologically in the chapter dedicated to that country. This is intended to give the residents of the country, or the visitors to it, a chance to trace Swamiji's footprints there.
Again, the major differences between Swami Vidyatmananda's Vivekananda in Europe and this book lie in: (1) the addition of a whole chapter on England and Italy; (2) a more detailed and thorough treatment of Swamiji 's visit to Continental Europe; (3) a number of descriptive new photographs and additional information-some new findings, some reinterpreted; (4) and contemporizing the whole narration for current use. In 1996, after my first visit to Saas-Fee in Switzerland, I told Swami Vidyatmananda about my findings. His response was, "You were very enterprising at Saas-Fee and what you found out at the Grand Hotel adds to what I knew and what I have written." Swami Vidyatmananda, bless his departed soul, would have liked the way I have added to his findings that go beyond the Grand Hotel at Saas-Fee.
I have also drawn heavily from Karl Baedeker's guidebooks, especially for the continental part of Europe, without citing it in every instance. I have also used Mark Twain's A Tramp Abroad and The Innocents Abroad, his two tongue-in-cheek travelogues, which recounted the author's experience while traveling in Europe a few years before Swamiji, touching some of the same places as he did. Swamiji was familiar with Mark Twain's writings; he mentioned Twain's comments about Indian women during a lecture in Pasadena in 1900. Whether Swamiji, or his co-travelers, had Twain's books with them is not known, but the books were in publication during the last decade of the 19th century.
I have invoked Mark Twain occasionally to give readers some idea how Swamiji had felt at times during his travel. I have read Parivrajak, one of the very few Bengali books Swamiji had written that was later translated into English as Memoirs of European Travel and included in volume seven of the Complete Works, but I did not relate him to Mark Twain (even after reading Prachya o Paschatya) until I read A Tramp Abroad again and the following excerpt in Life:
Reading his Memoirs of European Travel, a good part of which he wrote on board ship, one gets the impression that the author was on an open-ended vacation without any serious business on hand or in view. His vast fund of knowledge, his wide-ranged information, his detailed observation of his immediate surroundings poured through his pen in a most entertaining manner, sparkling with wit and fun. Indeed, this unique production, which unfortunately loses in translation much of its native spirit and humour, shows that, if the Swami had wished, he could have been the Mark Twain of Bengali literature.
Like its two "New Findings" predecessors, I wrote this book also for two reasons. First, to stress the point that there is no end to tracing Swamiji's footprints. Longfellow once said, "Lives of great people remind us we can make our lives sublime and, departing, leave behind footprints in the sand of time." Swamiji did that, and his footprints, literally, had reached all the way from London to Istanbul in Europe. Second, this book, also like its predecessors, pays special attention to the homes, places, buildings, and tourists' attractions associated with Swamiji, that can still be identified after more than one hundred years. I sincerely hope the book can inspire his admirers to remember him and visit those places blessed by his footprints.
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