Table of Contents



1. Adopting the name ‘Vivekananda’

My name, Chinmoy, was given to me by my brother Chitta when he applied for me to go to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Before that, I was known by my nickname ‘Madal’.

In Naren’s case, when he became a wandering sannyasin, he used many different names. When he journeyed to Delhi in 1891, he assumed the name Swami Vividishananda. Before that, he had also travelled under the name Bishikeshananda and Sachchidananda. Then, on the eve of his departure for America, he took the name Vivekananda. This is how it happened.

Vivekananda’s dearest friend, admirer and devotee came from Kerala in South India. His name was Alasinga Perumal. He was extremely, extremely devoted to Swami Vivekananda. He was supposed to take care of Vivekananda’s passport. So he went to the passport place in Madras and wrote down the name that Vivekananda had been using: Bishikeshananda. It means “the dancing waves of the ocean”. The meaning is so significant, but the word itself is not at all sweet.

“What a horrible name!” said Alasinga Perumal. Then he consulted with the other devotees and they were all of the same opinion. A few days later, he brought the passport to Vivekananda.

When Vivekananda looked at it, he said, “What is this? This is not my name!” Then all the devotees replied, “Yes, this is your name. We did not like that old name you gave yourself. Vivekananda has to be your name. It is far, far better. It has much more meaning around it.”

Swami Vivekananda could not argue with his disciples, so he signed his name Vivekananda. It means “the most powerful delight of all-pervading conscience”. If you develop your conscience, you cannot tell lies or do anything wrong or undivine. Your conscience will all the time poke you. Some people say that it means “discrimination”. But the actual meaning is “conscience”. Where does discrimination come from? From conscience. If you have conscience, then only can you discriminate. It is from the results of conscience that we get discrimination.

In most cases, disciples receive spiritual names from their Masters. But in Vivekananda’s case, it was just the opposite. He received his name from the disciples, and he surrendered to them.


2. Vivekananda’s Desire for Initiation

God plays such mysterious games with each individual. We have no idea at what point some unexpected event is going to happen in our lives.

Swami Vivekananda was a great, great spiritual figure. He was a towering giant in the inner worlds. Just one or two days prior to Sri Ramakrishna’s earth-departure – some even say a few hours – Naren said to his Master, “You are leaving us. What have you given me? What can you do?”

Sri Ramakrishna answered, “I am now giving you my all.” He concentrated on Naren and entered into trance. Afterwards, he told Naren, “Now I am a beggar. To you I have given everything. All my inner wealth I have given to you.”

Naren was Sri Ramakrishna’s dearest disciple. Sri Ramakrishna had brought Naren’s soul down to earth to do his work and the work of his consort, Sarada Devi. Sri Ramakrishna always showed Naren infinite affection and love. He often extolled Naren’s height to the other disciples.

On other occasions, after Swami Vivekananda had already conquered the heart of America and become world famous, all of a sudden a strong desire entered into him. At that time, Sri Ramakrishna had left the body, but Sarada Devi was still in the physical.

Swami Vivekananda said, “Thakur did not initiate me. I need initiation to make progress.” Can you imagine! With his Master’s compassion, blessings and grace, Swami Vivekananda had become one of the absolutely supreme spiritual figures. But now he sought initiation from another spiritual Master, Pavahari Baba, who lived in Ghazipur. Swami Vivekananda had disciples of his own by that time, but still he felt he needed initiation!

Swami Vivekananda went to Ghazipur. He visited Pavahari Baba in his cell and begged initiation from him not once, but sixteen times! Each time Vivekananda went to Pavahari Baba, he had a vision of his own Guru, Sri Ramakrishna, looking at him and offering a very sad face. Finally, Swami Vivekananda lost all his desire for initiation. He said, “I will not go again to Pavahari Baba or any other great Master. I will not torture my Master any more.”

When a person reaches a very, very high spiritual state, they must not think they are safe. Why things happen, we do not know. Only we must always pray to our Lord Beloved Supreme for His Protection.


3. Sarada Devi Consoles Swami Vivekananda

In 1898 Swami Vivekananda was in Kashmir with some of his disciples, including Sister Nivedita. There he had a most unusual and upsetting experience.

A disciple of a Muslim Fakir used to come and see Swami Vivekananda and listen to him speak. This disciple was greatly attracted to Swami Vivekananda. His own Master had a little occult power, but he was virtually unknown, whereas Swami Vivekananda was by that time so famous. One day the man asked to become Swami Vivekananda’s disciple, and Vivekananda accepted him.

When this man’s Guru, the Fakir, found out what had happened, he became absolutely furious. He told his disciple, “Vivekananda has taken you away from me. Tell him I am giving him two weeks. If he keeps you as his disciple for more than two weeks, I will use my occult power and he will vomit blood. You are my disciple! He has no right to accept you.”

When Vivekananda heard this powerful message, he told the seeker, “Fine! If you want to remain my disciple, I shall definitely keep you. You may stay with me. His threat will have no effect on me.”

The disciple did stay. Alas, after two weeks had elapsed, Swami Vivekananda became extremely ill. He started vomiting blood and he had severe stomach problems. His case was very serious. When that particular disciple saw what had happened, he hurried back to his original Master.

Meanwhile, Swami Vivekananda was so sad, depressed and furious. He came back to Bengal. He was still sulking and angry. In front of Sarada Devi, he said, “Thakur used to say that I was his dearest, his dearest! Then how is it that I have to suffer from this kind of humiliation? How could he allow this to happen? What was Thakur doing? Could he not see how much I suffered at the hands of that Muslim Master and his disciple? He did not help me at all. What use are all my realisations if I could not save myself from the Fakir’s occult powers?” Swami Vivekananda was so angry with Sri Ramakrishna and with himself.

Sarada Devi had such wisdom. She was absolutely the mother of compassion. She said to Vivekananda, “My son, this disciple had a spiritual father. If you had a disciple who went to somebody else, somebody who was greater than you, would you not feel sad? Again, when you go to other Masters and want to become their disciple, it breaks your spiritual father’s heart. Sri Ramakrishna is in the soul’s world, true. But if somebody has come into your life to be your spiritual father, you should remain faithful to him. Regardless of the height of the other Master, do not break the bond that God has created. God created one person as the Master and one as the disciple. This Muslim disciple belongs to his original Master. Similarly, those who are your disciples are meant to stay with you. If they go to some other Master, will it not affect you?”

The Mother continued, “If the Master who used his occult power had higher wisdom, if he had oneness with God’s Will, then he would have said, ‘Who cares if this disciple of mine goes to another Master? If he gets realisation with the help of another Master, then let him go. My only goal is to take people to the Goal.’ If that Master had higher wisdom, he would not have used his occult power to make your life miserable. He would have allowed his disciple to stay with you. He might have felt sad, but to use occult power to punish another Master is most painful and most objectionable. Finally, my son, I wish to remind you that Thakur believed in the synthesis of all religions, so do not feel sad that this disciple has gone back to his Muslim Master.”

In this way, Sarada Devi was able to console Swami Vivekananda. What she said is so profound. A Master should not try to take a disciple away from another Master. But if they want to come, it is up to the previous Master. If the first Master has higher knowledge, and if he feels that somebody else will be able to help the disciple more, then he should allow that disciple to go to the new Master.

In my own case, when my disciples go and join other Masters, I never try to bring them back from that Master. If they feel that the new Master is going to help them realise God, then let them stay with that Master. There are many roads to God. As long as a seeker feels sure that the new road will help him, then let him go.