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Ramakrishna Mission - Formation...
 Though the beginning was at Dakshineswar, with the coming of the intimate disciples like Narendra, Rakhal, Baburam and others, the Sangha coalesced at Cossipore around the deathbed of Sri Ramakrishna. At Dakshineswar, the disciples used to come once or twice a week, mostly on holidays. They did not have much scope for knowing each other intimately. The relationship among them was more or less formal. But at Cossipore, to attend on an ailing Sri Ramakrishna, they had to stay together round the clock and therefore came very close to each other. This development of intimacy among the disciples has been nicely expressed in Holy Mother's words. She says: So long (i.e. prior to Cossipore days), the disciples used to address each other as Mr so-and-so, but now (at Cossipore) they began to be on first-name terms. Along with the service of Sri Ramakrishna, the disciples did intense spiritual practices here. They had a single mind, a single goal, and they belonged to a single family as it were, with Sri Ramakrishna at its centre. Swami Saradananda says that the bond of love that grew among the disciples at Cossipore could rarely be found even among the members of the same family, and that not only Sri Ramakrishna alone, but Narendra's wonderful personality also was a factor behind this.
 
Just as the Sangha was crystallizing, Narendra also was emerging as its leader, gradually, but unmistakably, by virtue of his rare qualities of head and heart. Sri Ramakrishna must have been happy to see his dearest disciple coming up in that role. In fact, he was responsible for both - for the formation of the Sangha as well as for the shaping of its leader, though apparently he was playing a passive role - a dying man confined to his bed. As the last days were approaching, he was all the more restless about the Sangha. He would frequently say to Sarada Devi: 'If only I could bind them together before my departure!' Often he would call Narendra alone and instruct him in private about his future responsibilities. Just two days before his passing away, he said to Narendra in the presence of all: 'See Narendra, I place the responsibility for all these boys on you, for you are the most intelligent and powerful. Love them as much as possible and see that they do not go back home, but stay together at one place, engaging themselves in intense spiritual practices.
 
After Sri Ramakrishna's passing away, his monastic disciples began to live at a dilapidated house at Baranagore, which was rented with the financial help of one of Sri Ramakrishna's householder disciples, Sri Surendranath Mitra. There they spent their days in extreme hardship. Even the bare necessities of food and clothes were hard to get. Still there was no laxity in their spiritual practices. Narendra provided continuous inspiration to them, by his own example and also by drawing their attention repeatedly to Sri Ramakrishna's extraordinary life. When Narendra talked about Sri Ramakrishna, even the seemingly insignificant words or deeds of the Master would shine in a new light, and leave his brother-disciples enthralled.
 
But Narendra did not stay at the monastery for long. He went out as a mendicant monk travelling the length and breadth of India. During these travels, he discovered India in its entirety, with both its strong and weak points. He discovered that India's vitality lay in its spirituality. Had then India lost its spirituality? Was that why the country was almost dying? No - Swamiji saw that spirituality was still there in India. Only it had been the monopoly of the recluse. For long the truly spiritual men had chosen to stay away from the world, so the majority of people had no clear idea of what spirituality actually meant. What the common man practised as religion was mostly superstition and casteism. Swamiji felt that to reawaken India, religion must become a dynamic force in people's day-to-day life. The sacred must permeate the secular. The Vedanta of the forest must be carried to the doors of everyone so that a teacher could be a better teacher, a student a better student, and a clerk a better clerk. But who would accomplish this task? Such a task required tremendous courage and sacrifice, and above all, absolute purity of character, which, only the monks could have. Among the traditional monks there were many who were ready to weep for God but would shudder at the name of doing the same for man. To relate spirituality in any way with man and nation was something unthinkable to them, but the need of the hour was exactly that - the men of God must come close to the men of this world.
 
In the face of such a situation, Swamiji surely remembered his brother-disciples, about whom his Master once said that nowhere in the world one would find such monks, that each one of them was equal to a thousand monks. Why Sri Ramakrishna was so keen for an organization Swamiji now realized all the more and became restless to make it a reality. This was expressed in the letters he wrote to Mr Pramadadas Mitra at this time. Most probably Pramadadas Mitra was not in favour of monks staying together at one place. In reply to one his letters, Swamiji wrote that he had no other way than to try to establish an Order, even if that meant being a 'servant' to his monastic brother-disciples, for that was the explicit instruction of his Master to him.
 
Meanwhile, Swamiji came to know that a Parliament of Religions was going to be held at Chicago in America. Presuming that it would be a good opportunity for him to place India's message to the world, Swamiji sailed for the West. Several native kings, and particularly some young men of Madras, helped him a lot in this. The Parliament took place in September 1893. By virtue of his oratory and charismatic personality, Swamiji stole the whole show. He became the central figure of the Parliament. The West paid great tributes to him and through him, to India. Many of their misconceptions about India changed. They realized that the country which could produce a man like Vivekananda must be very rich spiritually and culturally.
 
For the next three years, Swamiji made a hurricane tour through various parts of America and the West, spreading India's message. People gave him the sobriquet 'The cyclonic Hindu'. But the thought of the organization never left him. He was all the more convinced of its need by seeing its Western examples. In his letters to Alasinga and his own brother-disciples he had repeatedly written about the Sangha, though it was still not clear to him exactly what form the Sangha should take.