A few years ago, Vish a friend who had lived for a long period in the US and had come back to resettle in Mysuru and I were talking about Swami Vivekananda and how his message had inspired me. Our talk drifted to how Swamiji was a tireless worker and how so much was done by him in such a short time. We started talking how the Vedanta Society in New York was established by Swamiji in 1894 even before he set up the Ramakrishna Math in Belur. Vish suddenly asked me if I had visited the Ridgley Manor in the state of New York, a place that Swami Vivekananda had visited in April 1894.
The entrance to the Retreat The Manor house
Ridgley Manor was the farm house that Francis Legget (husband of Betty McLeod and the brother-in-law of Josephine MacLeod) had built in Stone Ridge, a few hours’ drive from the city of New York. While I had read all about how Swamiji had visited this place three times and how he had once spent 10 weeks recuperating here, I had not known that the property was now in the possession of the Ramakrishna Math and they had made this into a Retreat Center. Since this little discussion, I have always been wanting to visit this place every time I visited the USA but could never do so. I had mentioned this to Arun Karpur (a good friend and someone who has taken on the role of ensuring that I have a comfortable and safe stay in the US every time I come) and he too was excited and wanted to join me. We had been planning on this trip for over three years now and could make it only this year. The two days (Sept 29 & 30, 2018) spent here is something that I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life.
With Arun on the porch on which Swamiji was photographed (see photo collection below)
This place is also special because three direct disciples of Bhagwan Ramakrishna spent time together – Swami Vivekananda, Swami Turiyananda and Swami Abhedanananda.
Sister Nivedita too visited this place and stayed during one of the visits of the Swamiji. All this and more can be read in the wonderful journey of Swami Vivekananda captured by Marie Louise Burke (Sister Gargi) in the chapter “The Great Summer,” which is a part of the fifth volume of the six volume work SWAMI VIVEKANANDA IN THE WEST: NEW DISCOVERIES.
The couch that Swamiji liked to take his rest and the bed used by him
Visiting this place and reliving the moments, thinking how it must have been then transported me to another dimension. The place is one endless stream of holy vibration and one can only experience it. Words are surely inadequate to describe what I went thru on those two days. Seeing the couch that Swamiji used to sit on, the bed that he slept in, the room that he stayed in and more than anything – his favourite spot for mediation.
Swamiji loved meditating under a large oak tree (the original tree is no longer there, but another one exists in its place) and this spot has been carefully preserved. Meditating on the same spot was and will continue to remain a life-changing experience for me.
All this might seem emotive and sentimental, but for someone whose entire life and existence is driven by the energy and inspiration drawn from Swami Vivekananda, this visit is life-giving. Spending time in a place where you can feel and perceive Swamiji’s presence – this was my way of re-charging not just my spirits but also reaffirming to myself the purpose of my existence.