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The Irish daughter of Mother India

Sister Nivedita

Of the many disciples of the great Guru Swami Vivekananda, there were a few from outside India who became famous and did some phenomenal work in the spiritual upliftment and education of the masses. Sister Nivedita from Ireland was one such famous devotee and disciple of Swami Vivekananda and that too during his times. Her 143rd birth anniversary falls this month on the 28th Oct 2010.

Sister Nivedita, also known as Margaret Noble, was born in Ireland in 1867. After finishing her education, she settled down in England as a teacher. During this period, she happened to meet Swami Vivekananda at a London home in the year 1895. Greatly attracted by his teachings, she accepted him as her Master and followed him to India. It was the Swami, who called her by the name “Nivedita” meaning highly dedicated to the almighty God.

Swami Vivekananda’s principles and teachings had an imprint on her mind and heart and this brought about a major change in the way she lived her life. She became so inspired with the teachings and vision of the Swami that she forsake her career in England and travelled to India.

Sister Nivedita wrote in 1904 to a friend about her decision to follow swami Vivekananda: “Suppose he had not come to London that time! Life would have been like a headless dream, for I always knew that I was waiting for something. I always said that a call would come. And it did. But if I had known more of life, I doubt whether, when the time came, I should certainly have recognized it. Fortunately, I knew little and was spared that torture….Always I had this burning voice within, but nothing to utter. How often and often I sat down, pen in hand, to speak, and there was no speech! And now there is no end to it! As surely I am fitted to my world, so surely is my world in need of me, waiting — ready. The arrow has found its place in the bow. But if he had not come! If he had meditated, on the Himalayan peaks! I, for one, had never been here.”

In India, Sister Nivedita studied and truly understood the deep Indian culture, serving the Indian people and living the Hindu religion. Sister Nivedita used to say that those who knew Swami Vivekananda understood that he was one who had experienced in his own life all the truths about which he spoke.

Sister Nivedita’s life and works are of great importance to us as she leaves behind a legacy of service born out of spiritual practice. Her multidimensional personality was also helpful in guiding and inspiring some of the movements that led to India’s freedom.

Besides spiritual practice, she also engaged in activities that promoted and brought forth the cause of India’s Independence. Her writings expressed her pan-Indian nationalist views. Her lectures and various discourses gave people, direction on how to lead their lives. Sister Nivedita was also held in high regard by Rabindranath Tagore, who felt she was an exceptional soul.

Some of the books written by Sister Nivedita are: * Kali the Mother. * The Web of Indian Life. * Cradle Tales of Hinduism. * An Indian study of love and death. * Select essays of Sister Nivedita. * Studies from an Eastern Home. * Myths of Hindus and Buddhists. * Footfalls of Indian history. * Religion and Dharma. * Civic & national ideals.

Here are a couple of quotes from Sister Nivedita’s writings which helps us understand her ideals and admiration for Indian spirituality.

“Hinduism would not be eternal were it not constantly growing and spreading, and taking in new areas of experience. Precisely because it has this power of self addition and re-adaptation, in greater degree than any other religion that the world has even seen, we believe it to be the one immortal faith.”

“Beauty of place translates itself to the Indian consciousness as God’s cry to the soul. Had Niagara been situated on the Ganga, it is odd to think how different would have been its valuation by humanity. Instead of fashionable picnics and railway pleasure-trips, the yearly or monthly incursion of worshipping crowds; instead of hotels, temples; instead of ostentatious excess, austerity; instead of the desire to harness its mighty forces to the chariot of human utility, the unrestrained longing to throw away the body, and realize at once the ecstatic madness of Supreme Union. Could contrast be greater?”

Throughout her life, sister Nivedita served the people of India and the society at large. She left her mortal coils on October 13, 1911 in Darjeeling. Over her grave is erected a humble memorial, which bears this simple epitaph. “Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India”.

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