The child Narendranath4

Swami Vivekananda’s earlier name was Narendranath and his nickname was Bile. During his childhood and even in his adolescent years, he was extremely mischievous. This did not diminish his divinity. But his parents, especially his mother, sometimes would get puzzled and worry about him.

She used to say, “O Lord Shiva, I prayed to you to grant me a son like you. But instead of coming into my life, you have sent me your ghost. He is nothing but a ghost, my Bile, always breaking things and creating problems for me. How long can I tolerate his endless mischief?”

But there were quite a few good qualities that his mother also saw in him, so inwardly she was satisfied. But outwardly she always told everyone, “My Bile is so notorious!”

One day, when he was only five years old, Vivekananda saw in the living room a few Indian hookahs or smoking pipes. One was for the Brahmins, one for the Kshatriyas and one for the Muslims. He tasted each one, and to his surprise discovered that all the hookahs tasted the same.

Alas, he was caught by his own father. “What are you doing, Bile?” he asked.

Vivekananda replied, “Father, I was just examining the smoking pipes. I thought that the one for Brahmins would be better than the one for Kshatriyas, because Brahmins are so great. And the Muslims are so heroic and spirited, so I thought that the Muslim pipe would be special. But they are all the same. I wish to tell you, Father, that they are all the same. No one pipe is superior to another.”

Vivekananda’s parents were simply shocked. “How is it that you have started smoking at such a tender age?” they asked. “And what kind of things is a small boy like you saying?”

Then his mother said, “My son, you are too spoiled. You have become too smart. Come here.” The child came to the mother and she took him upstairs to his room and closed the door from outside.

In two hours’ time the maid came running to the mother, screaming: “Bile is throwing away all his clothes. Everything he has in his room he is throwing out through the window! There are a few beggars below who are grabbing his garments as they fall. And he himself is so happy!”

At this the mother ran upstairs and demanded, “What is the matter with you, Bile? Such expensive clothes you are throwing away!”

Vivekananda replied, “Mother, we are so rich. We can have whatever we want, whenever we want. But these are poor people. They have nothing, nothing. If we do not give to them, then who will give to them? We have enough, more than enough; so my heart wants to give these things away. They need them more than I do.”

His mother’s heart was full of joy and delight. She embraced her son and shed tears of delight that his heart was so sympathetic, so vast and so all-giving, and that he had so much oneness with the poor and with the Supreme Pilot in all.

GIM 84. 22 January 1979