In the late 1870s a teacher named Mr. Hastie at Scottish Church College, Kolkata found it difficult to explain the meaning of the word “trance” in the poem ‘The Excursion’ by Wordsworth. An honest teacher he was, he knew that the word has to be felt and experienced. A poor teacher merely translates the word by an explanation. Mr. Hastie revealed to his students that the priest at the Dakshineswar temple, Sri Ramakrishna is a great soul who has experienced “trance” like state and those interested can meet him. You know, very few discussions and thoughts persist even after the teacher leaves the class. Most of them go out of priority for most of the students as soon as the teacher steps out. But there would be one or two who would follow the lecture even after the bell and make a difference.

There was a boy in Mr. Hastie’s class who caught the word “trance” and went in search of its meaning and experience to Sri Ramakrishna. He carried a question with him “Have you seen God?” which had been put to many by him and never received a satisfactory answer. A question transforms your life when it becomes a quest. Three questions that became an intense quest transformed Siddhartha into Buddha. A foreigner who visited Ramana Maharshi at Thiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu found his life taking a U-turn for one question from the Maharshi which he was unable to answer, “Who are you?” Every answer he gave was a list of social identities like name, profession, nationality etc. These three words transformed him and he made them his quest for the rest of his life. Isaac Newton came out with the theory of Gravitation with one question that emerged in him when the apple fell and the same is with Einstein or other scientists. The boy from Hastie’s class entered Sri Ramakrishna’s living room “through the western door with his western doubts” (as Sri Ramakrishna would describe the maiden visit later) and was surprised to hear from him that “yes, I have seen God just like I see you”

The boy could find no word to counter him but tried to test the sincerity in his words and went into a trance like experience by the mere touch of Sri Ramakrishna. Though he didn’t want to come to him who appeared to be enigmatic, destiny had it otherwise for him. The boy named Narendranath couldn’t resist visiting Sri Ramakrishna and he found his guru and a great spiritual master in him.

The boy, no doubt, grew up to be Swami Vivekananda, the clean shaved monk who voiced the spirit of India and the holy legacy of the east at Chicago’s Parliament of Religions on Sept, 11th, 1893.

Dear students, discover your question and make it your quest. To quote Swami Vivekananda from one of his finest writings on education titled EDUCATION, a small but path breaking insight into what is education, “The biggest library in the world is the human mind”. We often use only the tip of the iceberg called the human mind but the one who delves deep into the profound, submerged potentials of it would find many questions (?) transforming themselves into exclamations!! The halo that we find around the Buddha or other great souls is a graphic representation of the infinite potential of the submerged mind awakened. After all an exclamation mark is the straightened form of a question mark??!!!

 (A century is past after the historical address by Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 11th September, 1893 but still one can feel the electrifying effect of his words)

by Santhosh Kumar Kana