Swami Vivekananda Attained Maha Samadhi on 4th July 1902, His Inspiration Continues

4th July is a memorable day, as on this day in the year 1902, Swami Vivekananda, thinker, youth leader and a great prophet of modern India attained Maha Samadhi at about 9:00 pm while he was in meditation. The flame of his life-lamp, which brightened the spiritual world, suddenly blew out in the deep darkness of night. 

His last day was like any other normal day. On his last day, Swamiji woke up early and went to the shrine for meditation. Unlike other days he took more time to complete his meditation. After finishing his meditation at 11:00 am he went out and asked his disciples to arrange a Puja for Mother Kali. In the afternoon, he enjoyed a hearty lunch. After lunch, he took 3 hour class on Sanskrit Vyakaran for the math inmates. Perhaps, he knew that it was his last day with his disciples. He made the class very interesting and educative, as though he wanted to give out everything he knew in ‘one’ day

In the evening Swamiji returned to his room tired and exhausted. He meditated for an hour or so. After his meditation he felt a strange suffocation- as though his breathe were getting heavier. He asked his attendant to open all the doors and windows. Swami ji lied down on his bed with a rosary in his hand chanting the name of his guru. As his attendant was massaging his feet, he went into a deep sleep at 9:10 pm. Blood came down rushing from his nostrils and mouth. His body had become still and cold. .‘According to Yoga scriptures, an enlightened yogi passes out through the opening on the top of the head, causing blood to flow in the nostrils and the mouth.’

Swami Vivekananda’s Bed and other furnitures inside his room

Swami Chetananda writes, “It was proposed that a final photograph of Swamiji be taken, but Swami Brahmananda would not allow it, saying, ‘There are many good photographs of Swamiji; this sad picture will break the hearts of all.’ Afterwards, Swami Brahmananda, the other monks and brahmacharins offered flowers at Swamiji’s feet. Finally, Haramohan Mitra (a classmate of Swamiji’s) and other devotees offered flowers. Later, Swamiji’s feet were painted with red dye (alta) and footprints were made on small pieces of cloth. Sister Nivedita also took a footprint on a new handkerchief. I took a beautiful rose (not fully open), smeared it with sandal paste, touched it to Swamiji’s feet and put it in my front pocket as a memento. Swami Brahmananda cried like a child over Swami Vivekananda’s body. When Saradananda lifted him up, Brahmananda said: “It is as if the whole Himalayan mountains have disappeared from before my eyes!”

Swami Vivekananda’s Cot

Sister Nivedita, introducing many significant facts in connection with the Swami’s passing away and his foreknowledge of it, writes:

“When June closed, however, he knew well enough that the end was near. ‘I am making ready lor death!’ he said to one who was with him, on the Wednesday before he died. ‘A great Tapasya and meditation has come upon me, and I am making ready lor death!’

“And we who did not dream that he would leave us, till at least some three or lour years had passed, knew nevertheless that the words were true. News of the world met hut a far-away rejoinder from him at this time, hven a word of anxiety as to the scarcity of the rains, seemed almost to pass him by as in a dream. It was useless to ask him now for an opinion on the questions of the day. ‘You may be right,’ he said quietly, ‘but I cannot enter any more into these matters. I am going down into death! “

Swami Vivekananda’s Room

“Once in Kashmir, after an attack of illness, I had seen him lift a uutple of pebbles, saying, ‘Whenever death approaches me. all weakness vanishes. I have neither fear, nor doubt, nor thought of the external. I simply busy myself making ready to die. I am as hard as that’- and the stones struck one another in his hand ‘for T have touched the Feet of God!’

“Personal revelation was so rare with him, that these words could never he forgotten. Again, on returning from the cave of AmarnAlh, in that same summer of 1808, had he not said, laughingly, that he had there received the grace of Amarnath—not to die till he himself should will to do so? Now this, seeming to promise that death would never take him by surprise, had corresponded so well with the prophecy of Shri Ramakrishna—that when he should know who and what he was, he would refuse to remain a moment longer in the body—that one had banished from one’s mind all anxiety on this score, and even his own grave and significant words at the present time did not suffice to revive it.

Belur Math

“Did we not remember, moreover, the story of the great Nirvikalpa Samadhi of his youth, and how. when it was over, his Master had said, ‘This is your mango, book! I lock it in my box. You shall taste it once more, when your work is finished! ’

“ ‘—And we may wait for that,’ said the monk who told me the tale. ‘Wo shall know when the time is near. For he will tell us thaj, again he has lasted his mango.’

“How strange it seems now, looking back on that time, to realise in how many ways the expected hint was given, only to fall on cars that did not hear, to reach minds that could not understand!

“It would seem, indeed, that in his withdrawal from all weakness and attachment, there was one exception. That which had ever been dearer to him than life, kept still its power to move him. It was on the last Sunday before the end that he said to one of his disciples, ‘You know the Work is always my weak point! When I think that might come to an end, I am all undone!’

Swami Vivekananda’s Shrine at Belur Math

“On Wednesday of the same week, the day being Ekadashi, and himself keeping the fast in all strictness, lie insisted on serving the morning meal to the same disciple. Each disii as it was offered—boiled seeds of the jack-fruit, boiled potatoes, plain rice, and ice-cold milk—formed the subject of playful chat ; and finally, to end the meal, he himself poured the water over the hands, and dried them with a towel.

“ It is I who should do these things for you, Swamiji! Not you for me!’ was the protest naturally offered. But his answer was startling in its solemnity—‘Jesus washed the feet of His disciples!’

“Something checked the answer- ‘But that was the last time!’—as it rose to the lips, and the words remained unuttered. Ibis was well. For here also, the last time had come.

Swami Vivekananda’s Samadhi

“There was nothing sad or grave about the Swarrii during these days. In the midst of anxiety about over-fatiguing him, in spite of conversation deliberately kept as light as possible, touching only upon the animals that surrounded him, his garden experiments, books and absent friends, over and beyond all this, one was conscious the while of a luminous presence, of tvhich his bodily form seemed only as a shadow or symbol. Never had one felt so strongly as now, before him, that one stood on the threshold of an infinite light. Yet none was prepared, least of all on that last happy Friday, July the 4th, on which he appeared so much stronger and better than he had been for years, to see the end so soon.’’

Building that houses Swami Vivekananda’s Room

On the day of the Mahasamadhi itself, whether consciously or intuitively, his actions were most deliberate and full of meaning. His solitary’ meditation for three hours in the morning from eight to eleven was the most striking. He rose rather early that day and after partaking of his tea entered the chapel of the monastery. After some time it was noticed that he had closed all the windows and had bolted all the doors. What transpired there, no one will ever know. In his meditation his own Master and the Divine Mother—to his own realisation One and the Same Personality—must have been present for when he had finished he broke forth in a touching song in which the highest Jnana mingled with the highest Bhakti.

Swami Vivekananda’s Paduka

Descending the stairs of the shrine, he walked backwards and forwards in the courtyard of the monastery, his mind withdrawn. Suddenly the tenseness of his thought expressed itself in a whisper loud enough to be heard by Swami Premananda who was near by. The Swami was saying to himself, “If there were another Vivekananda, he would have understood what Vivekananda has done! And yet, how many Vivekanandas shall be born in time! ! ” This remark startled his Gurubhai, for never did the Swami speak thus, save when the flood-gates of his soul were thrown open and the Living Waters of the Highest Consciousness rushed forth.

Another unusual incident took place when the Swami. who was not in the habit of taking his food with his Gurubhais and disciples, dined with them in the refectory. Still more strange was his relish of food. He had never felt better, he said.

This same Friday morning he expressed a desire to have the Kali Puja performed at the monastery on the following day. that being an auspicious day for the worship of the Mother. Soon after, Swami Ramakrishnananda’s father, a devout worshipper of Kali, came. On seeing him. the Swami was delighted and explaining his intention to him, he called Swamis Shuddha-nanda and Bodhananda and instructed them to secure all the necessaries for the intended ceremony, which they hastened to do.

The Swami then asked Swami Shuddhananda to fetch the Shukla-Yajur-Veda from the library. When the latter had brought it, the Swami asked him to read therefrom the Mantra beginning with the words, “Sushumnah Suryaraslimih”, with the commentary on it. The disciple read the Shloka together with the commentary. When he had finished a part of it, the Swami remarked, “This interpretation of the passage does not appeal to my mind. Whatever may be the commentator’s interpretation of the word ‘Sushumna’, the seed or the basis of what the Tantras, in the later ages, speak of as the Sushumna nerve channel in the body, is contained here, in this Vedic Mantra.

You my disciples should try to discover the true import of these Shlokas and make original reflections and commentaries on the Shastras.” The passage above referred to is the fortieth Shloka in the eighteenth chapter of Madhyandina recension of the Vajasaneyi Samhita of the Shukla-Yajur-Veda. The purport of Mahidhara’s commentary on this may be put as follows:

“That Chandra (Moon) who is of the form of Gandharva, who is Sushumna, that is, giver of supreme happiness to those who perform sacrifices (Yajnas), and whose rays are like the rays of the Sun—may that Chandra protect us Brahmanas and Kshatriyas! We offer our oblations to him (Svaha vat)! His (Chandra’s) Apsaras are ihc stars, who are illuminators (hence called Bliekurayas)—we offer our oblations to them (Svaha)!”

At 1 p.m., a quarter of an hour after the midday repast, the Swami entered the Brahinacharins’ room and called them to attend the class on Sanskrit grammar. One who attended this class writes:

“The class lasted for nearly three hours. But no monotony was felt. For he (the Swami) would tell a witty story, or make bons mots now and then to lighten his teaching, as he was wont to do. Sometimes the joke wotdd be with reference to the wording of a certain Sutra, or he would make an amusing play upon its words knowing that the fun would make it easier for recollection. On this particular day, he spoke of how he had coached his college friend, Dasharathi Sanyal, in English history, in one night by following a similar process. He, however, appeared a little tired after the grammar class.”

Some time later, the Swami, accompanied by Swami Prema-nanda, went out for quite a long walk, as far as the Belur Bazar. He spoke with his Guruhhai on many interesting subjects, and particularly on his proposed scheme of founding a Vedic college in the monastery. In order to gain a dearer view of what the Swami felt on the matter, Swami Premananda asked, ’‘What, Swamiji, will he the good of studying the Vedas?” To this the Swami replied, “It will kill out superstitions!”

Returning to the Math the Swami talked for a while with the monks. Oh, if they had but known that these were the last words they would ever hear from the lips of their beloved and blessed Leader, their all in all!

As evening came on, the Swami’s mind became more and more withdrawn, and when the bell for the evening service rang, he retired in the evening stillness to his own room. There he sat in meditation facing the Ganga. What occurred on that memorable day has been best told in detail by some members of the Order, and a few of these different versions about the passing of the Swami are given below.

That written by Swami Saradananda on July 24. to Dr. Logan, the President of the San Francisco Vedanta Society, reads:

“We sent a cable to the New York Vedanta Society with directions to communicate to you and to all friends in the United States, about the Nirvana of our beloved Swami Vivekananda. He entered into the Life Eternal on July 4. Friday evening at ten minutes past nine. It came upon us so suddenly that even the Swamis in the rooms next to his in the Math had not the slightest intimation of it. The Swami was meditating in his own room at 7 p.m., leaving word that none was to come to him until called for. An hour after, lie called one of us and requested him to fan his head. He lay down on his bed quietly, and the one tending him thought he was cither sleeping or meditating. An hour after, his hands trembled a little, and be breathed once very deeply. Then all was quiet for a minute or two. Again he breathed in the same manner, his eyes becoming fixed in the centre of his eyebrows and bis face assuming a divine expression, and all was over.

“All through the dav be felt as free and easy as possible, nay, freer than what he had felt for the last six months. He meditated in the morning for three hours at a stretch, took his meals with a perfect appetite, gave talks on Sanskrit grammar, philosophy and on the Vedas to the Swamis at the Math for more than two hours and discoursed on the Yoga philosophy. He walked in the afternoon for about two miles, and on returning enquired after every one very tenderly. While resting fo a time ho conversed on the rise and fall of nations with his companions, and then went into his own room to meditate—you know’ the rest.”

A monastic disciple of the Swami writes:

“The Mahasamadhi took place a few minutes after nine p.m. The supper bell had just been rung when the inmates were called to see what had happened to the Swami. Swaniis Premananda and Nishchayananda began to chant aloud the name of the Master, believing that he might be brought to consciousness thereby. But he lay there in his room on his back, motionless, and the course proved fruitless. Swami Advaitananda asked Swami Bodhananda to feci the Swami’s pulse. After a vain attempt for a while, he stood up and began to cry aloud. Swami Advaitananda then told Nirbhayananda. ‘Alas, what are you looking on! Hasten to Dr. Mahcndra Nath Mazuindar and bring him here as soon as you can.’ Another crossed the river and went to Calcutta to give information to Swamis Brahmananda and Saradananda who were there on that day, and bring them to the Math. They arrived at about half past ten. The doctor examined him thoroughly, found life suspended, and tried to bring him back by artificial respiration. At midnight the doctor pronounced life extinct. Dr. Mazumdar said that it might have been due to sudden heart-failure. Dr. Bipin Bihari Ghosh who came from Calcutta the next day said that it was due to apoplexy. But none of the doctors who came afterwards and heard of the symptoms could agree. Whatever they might say, the monks of the Math have the unshakable comiction that the Swami had voluntarily cast off the body in Samadhi, when he did not want to remain any longer in the world. as predicted by Shri Ramakrishna.

“Sister Nivedita came in the morning. She sat all the while by the Swami and fanned him, till the body was brought down at 2 p.m. to the porch leading to the courtyard, where the Aratrika was performed before taking it to the spot which had been indicated by the Swami himself for cremation.”

A Gurubhai of the Swami writes in the Udbodhan:

“He next meditated from 8 to 11 a.m. in the shrine. On other days he never meditated so long at one sitting. Nor could he meditate in an unventilated room, with doors and windows shut ; hut on this day he meditated after having shut and bolted all the doors and windows of the chapel.

‘‘After meditation he began to sing a beautiful song on ShyAraA (Mother Kali). The monks below were charmed to hear the sweet strains of it coming from the shrine-room. The song ran thus, ‘Is my Mother dark?—the dark featured Mother, who had dishevelled hair, illumines the lotus of the heart! . .

“He took his noonday meal that day with great relish. After meals he taught the disciples iMghukaumudi, a standard work on Sanskrit grammar, for more than two hours and a half. Then in the afternoon he look a walk for nearly two miles with a Gurubhai. For many days past he could not walk so far. He said he was very well that day. In the course of the walk he expressed his particular desire to establish a Vcdic school in the Math. After returning from the walk, he attended to some personal needs and afterwards said that he felt very light in body. After conversation for some lime, lie went to his own room and told one of his disciples to bring him his rosary. Then, asking the disciple to wait outside, he sat down to tell his beads and meditate in the room alone, lie had thought of worshipping Kali the next, day, which was a Saturday with Amavasya (new moon). He bad talked much alxmt this that day.

“Alter meditating and telling his beads ior about an hour he laid himself down on his bed on the floor, and calling the disciple who was waiting outside, asked him to fan his head a little. He had the rosary still in his hand. The disciple thought the Swami was perhaps having a light sleep. About an hour later, his hand shook a little. Then came two deep breaths. The disciple thought he fell into Samadhi. He then went downstairs and called a Saiinyasin, who came and found on examination that there was neither respiration nor pulse. Meanwhile another Sannyasiri came, and thinking him to be in Samadhi, began to chant aloud the Master’s name continually, but in no way was the Samadhi broken! That night an eminent physician was called in. He examined the body for a long time and afterwards said that lile was extinct.

“The next morning it was found that the eves were bloodshot and that there was a little bleeding through the mouth and the nostrils. Other doctors remarked that it was due to the rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain. This clearly leads to the conclusion that in the process of Japa and meditation, his Braliniurandlira must have been pierced when he left the body!

“After his Mahasamadhi several doctors came and examined his body minutely and tried to bring him hack to consciousness. They exhausted all the means and methods that they knew of rousing him but to no avail. They could not, in point of fact, make out the real cause ol his death. He died, in truth, of his own accord. He was horn a Yogi and he died a Yogi!”

Still another version says

“For a month before his passing away, the Swami used to meditate much more than usual ; and on these days it seemed as it he had no disease in the body. On this day before going for the afternoon’ walk with Swami Premananda he talked with him in a merry mood on various topics concerning the West. In the evening he went up to his room to meditate. After some time the Swami called in a disciple and asked him to open all the windows of the room as it was warm and to fan him. Next he laid himself down on the bedding on the floor. After the Brahmacharin had gently fanned him at the head for a while, the Swami said to him, All right ; no more need of fanning! It would be better if you rubbed the feet a little.’ Saying this, he seemed to have fallen asleep shortly after. In this way an hour passed; the disciple was rubbing him; the Swami was lying on his left side. He changed sides once within this time, and shortly after that, he cried in exactly the same way as babies cry out in dreams. The Brahmacharin noticed a little alter this, that the Swami breathed a deep breath, and his head rolled down the pillow. Another long deep breath like the preceding one, and then all was calm and still about him like death! The tired child slept in the lap of the Mother, whence there was no awakening to this world of Mitya!

“The Swami passed away at the age of thirty-nine years, five months and twentv four days, thus fulfilling a prophecy which was frequently on his lips, ‘I shall never live to see forty.’ “

A bolt from the blue could not have been more startling than the news of the death of Swami Vivekananda. Nothing could have been more appalling or unexpected. The monks at the monastery at Belur were struck dumb ; they were stupefied at the thought of their bitter, irreparable loss. The monastery was shrouded in gloom.

In the morning people poured into the monastery from all sides. Carriages passed through the monastery gate and boats arrived at the Ghat bringing in a large number of passengers. Sadness reigned everywhere. The body lay in state in the room which only a day or two ago rang with the laughter and stirring eloquence of the inspired monk. Hundreds passed before the body in solemn silence, their eyes debating whether he was dead. Then they turned in a tempest of abandoned grief, from the lifeless form of him whom they had loved more than their own life, saying, “Is our Swami really gone?” And one looking at the face of Swami Vivekananda on this day, vowed then and there to devote his life thenceforth solely to the service of his country.

Not since the passing of their Master, Shri Ramakrishna, had the monks known such a bereavement. Never before had that undying scene of the cremation of the bodv of their Master at the burning-ghat in Gossiporc, on the opposite bank of the Ganga, been brought so forcibly to their minds. They felt that the bottom had fallen out of everything. When the Master himself had passed away, lie had given them to Narea’s charge. Now that both had left the mortal plane, the monks felt themselves as strangers in the caravanserai of this world.

In spite of the conclusion of learned doctors, there was a half-mad and unreasonable hope that Svvami Vivekananda might., after all, return to mortal consciousness. Perhaps this was the very highest Samadhi ; perhaps he might return from it. For this reason the body was left within the room upstairs until a late hour of the next day. But every moment the body became colder and more rigid and all were convinced beyond doubt that the Soul had sped for ever into the regions of Everlasting Light and Life. When they were forced to believe that he was physically no more, the elder monks despatched some of the disciples to Calcutta to herald the news. Some were sent to telegraph the message to different parts of India and the world. Some were sent for sandalwood, incense, flowers, etc. Incense was burned in many quarters of the monastery. The monastery grounds were crowded with people. Everyone in the monastery felt that this was the last time that they could have a look at the blessed form of the Prophet, who had preached the Modern Gospel to many peoples of near and distant lands, whose greatness had been felt everywhere.

Towards the afternoon the body was brought downstairs to the porch in front of the courtyard. There on a cot it lay, wrapped in the robes symbolic of poverty of the Sannyasin. I he soles of his feet were painted over with Alta, a kind of crimson pigment, and impressions were taken of them on muslin, to be preserved as sacred mementos. Then the Arati service was performed, this being the last rite of worship to that form which had been the instrument for the revelation of the Highest Truth. Lights were waved, Mantras were recited, conch-shells were blown, bells were rung and incense was burned. At the end of the ceremony some bowed low, others fell prostrate on the ground in salutation, and those who were disciples, touched with their heads the feet of their Blessed Master’s earthly form.

A procession was formed, and the cot upon which the body rested was slowly lifted. Again and again arose the thrilling shouts of “Jay Shri Guru Maharaj ji ki Jay ! Jay Shri Swamiji Maharaj ji ki Jay l” from the depths of the devotees’ hearts.

The procession moved slowly through the courtyard across the spacious lawn, until it reached the Bilwa tree which stands in the south-eastern corner ol* the grounds. There, slightly ahead and to the left, oil the very spot where the Swami himself had desired his body to be cremated, the funeral pyre was built. Finally the body was placed upon the funeral pyre by the monks and devotees. Reeds were lighted, and along with the monks scores of persons lighted the pyre until it was all ablaze.

In the deep dusk the flames died down, and in the souls of those who stood about, an intense calm prevailed. And when the flames had died out and the body had returned to its original elements, leaving only burning coals and smouldering embers behind, the monks poured Ganga water over the pyre, and in the darkness their prayers went up to the Lord for guidance and protection. A great, great peace came—and utmost resignation! All felt that the Lord knew best; and in their sorrow, they said in the depths of their hearts, “O Lord! Thy will be done!”

The next day, the monks gathered the sacred relics for themselves and the future generations. Today a temple stands upon the very spot. An altar has been built, and upon it a marble likeness of the Master has been placed. And here the monks are wont to pray and meditate in the silence of their inmost heart. The table of the altar stands on the very spot on which the body of the great Swami rested in the flames. Some of the relics are kept here, and a copper receptacle near the altar of Bhagavan Shri Rarnakrishna in the shrine contains the rest.

Swamiji’s last words were that he shall live with his devotees even after his death through the messages he had preached during his lifetime.