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New-York tribune. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, February 20, 1910, Image 17

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1910-02-20/ed-1/seq-17/

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\ \lt Ait f Veda nta Mission in
I s .
The Pacific Const is not :i strar.ci-r to -'■:■
Orient. San Fjiincisco, ---.■■ city that
:t is. ha- c learned to look without curiosity
upon the manners and customs <»f the many
peoples which make up its p>>pulati>>r. A year
ago, however, the dedication of the first Hindu
temple :r. the ... caused more
than a ;.;LS.^;:ig irct<?r»-st ;i.t the Golden Gate.
The planting of a mission a San Francisco for
the conversion of Christians to the theology
ar^3 philosophy of Ir.di^ was a trifle Mzarre to
the American mind, and the mysticism always
associated with the Far East and its religions
served I make :: doubly interesting.
T '-■'..-. y the temple i? a firmly established in
stitution, and its cult .-f Yedanta is apparently
taking r•• t. The curious visitor to one of the
*•'•■•• :r- -■ :.t the temple will see an audience
which - aerally :'.'.] p the small assembly hall,
and one undoubtedly interested in the doctrines
expounded from the platform. It is a fact
that the mrainis. or priests, of the San Fran
cisco temple are not there to minister to their
own people. Although every one is welcome to
the meetings, the audience is composed prac
tically entirely of whites, and the active par
tisans and financial helpers in the movement
are Ari'-rk-an citizens.
The Vt-danta Society of America ■ ._- founded
in thi^ country .some fifteen years ago by Yogi
£wan:i Vivekananda, and it first came to San
FrancL^o in 1900. The founder of the order In
America is now dead and his place is filled
22 the Gate City by two other swamis, Tri
sunatita and Prakashananda, quiet spoken
neru with a good command of English and
little to tell of •• nationality except their
dark sk:n. They rarely appear in the native
robe and turban and always deliver their ser
mons in the conventional English garb.
The temple stands at Filbert and Webster
street.*, well away from the centre of the city
It is a substantial wooden structure, and its
design was taken from that of the many gor
geous temples of Vedanta which are scattered
throughout India. Ideas -re borrowed from
the great Taj Mahal, of Agra, and from the
mass holy cities of India; from the temple
garden of Dakineswar. in Calcutta, where Sri
P.ain;ikr:shna, .-.• master of the religion, once
lived, and from temples of Shiva. The straight
lines of an American home are embodied in
the lower structure.
.'■ or*-r. balcony, with Moorish columns, runs
about the third story, and here the neophytes,
or Brahnacharins, of the monastery walk and
meditate i-mn the teachings of their master.
There are ten of these students, all white
raen, who are living: there in seclusion with
the swami teachers. Their life is hardly dif
ferent from that of Roman Catholic monks.
They aj-o sworn to celibacy and they have cer
tain parred work to do about the temple.
Neith-r the swamis nor their students accept
money, beyond that necessary for life. There
are others actively interested in the work, who
support it financially but do not reside in the
ten:;,:- itsell.
Above the temple rise the towers, and mina
• ta whiih are the- most inter-sting part of the
str ture. All have their .significance. The
canopy over the mosaic and marble entrance
to the auditorium represents the supposed thou
sand-2>etalled lotus of the brain. The tubuiar
— The CysianJor.
■■ lights on the side of the canopy are roughly
1 symbolic of Ida and Pingala. certain deities of
the faith. This temple being the first in Araer
| ica. the appreciation of the sect has been shown
' by carrying the architectural art of the temple,
j the Sushumna — the main channel of spiritual il-
nation — up to an American eagle. Each of
the towers is a copy of a distinctive part of some
"no of the great temples of India.
The interior of the temple is disappointing
from the standpoint of the spectacular. Noth
ing there is in keeping with the ancient temples
of the East. The assembly hall is neatly fur
nished in American style, with plain wooden
chairs and a small platform at one end. It
will hold two hundred persons, and the au
diences range from forty persons to its capacity.
On the walls hang pictures of leaders of the
sect and one picture of Jesus Christ in Yogi
costume, painted by a Hindu artist.
The services which are held in this room are
simpk-, consisting of an opening chant, a period
of silent meditation and a lecture by one of
the svvamis, with an invitation to ask ques
tions. Services are held daily. On Sunday three
services are open to the public, and there are
also classes for those who desire to become
initiated into the faith.
One indication of the growing importance of
the Vedanta is the recent establishment of v.
nunnery a abort distance from the temple-
About half a dozen American girls have taken
up their abode there and live the life of Catholic
nuns, under the supervision of the swamis. A
distinctly interesting feature of the life of the
cult is its yearly pilgrimage to its colony in the
San Antonio Valley, about twenty-five miles
from ?.lount Hamilton. In the midst of a large
grove the society has built a few small houses,
and for a month of each year the entire sect
is resident there engaged in "the practice of
It is perfectly clear that there is much about
the Vedanta which the observer will never un
derstand. The society lives a retired life, and
while questions are met with sincerity and i>o
liteness little is divulged. If there are rites
;'i;'i ceremonies which follow those of the East
they are kept carefully in the background, and
to all appearances the religion and practices
of the sect contain nothing of a strange or
mysterious nature.
Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, at a dinn r
in New York, defended the customs officials of
the port.
"These intelligent young men," he said, "in a
difficult position conduct themselves adr ►itly
The stori.s ar.- false that make them out !
brutal and indelicate. If it wer« Turkey now!
"In the days before Batoum fell to Ruse i."
he resumed, "a sailor on an English ~hl\- lying
in Batoum harbor went ashore and bought him
self a pair of trousers. He put the trousers on.
His old ones were quite worn out and he told
the dealer to throw them away. Then he start
ed forth into the street proudly.
"Soon he met a group of customs offi< ials.
They stopped him, and their chief said:
••'Those are new trousers you've got on?'
'•■Yes,' said the sailor. 'I just bought 11
"Then," said the customs chief, "you must. . ;\
duty on them.'
•••But I've got no money left.' said the ~:ii:": -
And this was true. His last copper had goi
pay the shopman's bill.
••'No money?" cried the chief. That's very
bad for you, then. You'll have to leave the
trousers with us in that case.'
"But I've got nothing under them," objected
the sailor.
'•■Nev-r rr.ind; we won't look.' and the :
and his men all repeated that there was do fear
they would aone of them look.
•"But other people may look:' shouted the des
perate sailor.
-The officials shrugged their shou'dors.
"That,' they said, 'is no concern of ours.'
"And so the- poor sailor was forced, willy rilly.
to leave his new purchase behind, and to gt
to his ship as best he could, making up in .-;■ 1
ft- hat he lacked in drapery."
John D. Rockefeller, jr.. was congratulated in
his office recently on the fact that he, !ik i the
poet Maeterlinck and other famous men, bis
taken to the motorcycle.
"And has motorcycling benefit.-. I your
health?" his congratulator, a journalist, ventured
to ask.
-I think it has." Mr. Rockefeller replied. "I
won't ask you. though, to take note of my
clear eye and good color, or I mighi find i t
in the food faddist's fix.
"A food faddist was lecturing to a large audi
ence on the marvellous results to be obtained
from chewing soup, or eating nut butter, >r
something of that kind. He was not a verj im
posing person physically, but, swelling oui hia
chest, he slapped it thrice with his palm and
cried :
"•Friends, two years ago I was a walking
skeleton, a haggard, miserable wreck. Now.
what do you suppose brought about this gr< at
change in me?*
"He paused to let his words sink in, and a
voice asked:
'■ -What changer"
James J. Corbett, in the smoking room of Th«
Mauretania, praised the "style" of "Jim" Jef
"It's a neat style." he said "neat, quick, to
the point. It getj there tike the remark of a
little girl, who said to the minister, in the
course of a quite interminable call:
" "Did you forget to bring your amen witrj
you, doctor?'

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