Chicago has a special place in the hearts of devotees and students of Swami Vivekananda because it was in Chicago that the seeds of the Vedanta movement in the West were first planted. Ganges has a special place in their hearts as well, for the delightful coincidence of having a Vedanta retreat in a place with a name that spontaneously draws the veneration and love of all Hindus.
Once when I was eight years old, Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) came to our house for a meal. I was playing around, being naughty, and my mother told the servant to catch me. Thakur asked my name. Mother told him: “Hubi.” (“one who speaks late,” meaning a child who took long in learning to speak.) Thakur wanted to change the name. It was the custom then to give a girl the name of a flower, but he named me Bhavatarini, after the Divine Mother at Dakshineswar.
Christopher Columbus came to America in the year 1492—and his arrival here was considered the discovery of a new world. Not everyone apparently agreed with that. A Native American chief of the Onondaga Iroquois is reported to have said: “You cannot discover an inhabited land. Otherwise I could cross the Atlantic and ‘discover’ England.”
I am so pained to learn that there is a great famine in this place. Only God knows what his will is, but you on your part should try to help the people to your utmost capacity. There shouldn’t be any slackening of your efforts.
When you transcend the three gunas—the elements such as earth, air, water, etc.—they will serve you. Heat and cold, hunger and thirst will obey you. Now you are their slave, but at that stage they will be under your control. What will then be the state of your mind? You will remain indifferent to praise and blame, good and evil, and all the opposites of life.