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A possible spirituality


BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

A journey into the lives of Boshi Sen, one of India's foremost scientists and part of the Green Revolution, his American wife Gertrude Emerson (then regarded as the best woman editor in America), the influence of the philosophy of Sadananda and Vivekananda on them, and their life in the Himalayan town of Almora.
Boshi and Gertrude used to go out for walks every afternoon in the early days of her stay in Almora. At meal time in the evening she would say, "Today we did this or that." One day Christie burst out, "We, we, we!" Gertrude saw the intense resentment in her that Boshi and she would be doing something together from which Christine was excluded. Thereafter, Gertrude made arrangements to hire a dandi for her. Four men would come every afternoon and the three of them would go out together.
Catherine was already quite sick. She had a limited diet and could not walk much. She once had a severe pain in her chest in the night and it was not possible to get a doctor. But Boshi, long used to nursing his guru, had learned the knack to administer to the sick. He applied a hot cloth repeatedly wrung out in turpentine to her chest while Gertrude massaged her legs and feet. After a while she recovered.
Boshi, Christine and Gertrude would read Swami Vivekananda's works in the guest-room every evening. It was approaching October and a fire would burn in the fireplace to keep them warm. The atmosphere was truly inspiring and it was here that Gertrude had a few psychic experiences, if they could be called such.
One evening she suddenly saw Vivekananda standing in the room with his back towards them and she saw the fire through him! She exclaimed, "Why, there is Swamiji!" Presently they went to the dining room for supper but when they came back to the guest-room he was still there!
Gertrude had one of those oval crystals of Vivekananda, made in France. It was kept on the mantle shelf. Suddenly one night after she was in bed, he came out of the crystal, grew to life size, walked towards her and sat down in front of her in puja posture.
Gertrude would later recall that when she narrated this experience to Christine that was the first and only time that the latter considered the possibility of her having a little spirituality in her.
Living with Boshi and Christine in Almora, Gertrude also tried a psychic experiment about what Swami Vivekananda had said "" that if you can vividly enough project in your mind the mood of joy you will start feeling that joy. She tried it one night and it worked.
She had gone to bed with a splitting headache. She thought, "How would I fell if I did not have this headache?" She concentrated and after a moment, she did not have the headache any more.
Then she thought she did really have the headache and she immediately felt the pain. She turned the headache off and on three or four times. She proved to herself the truth of Swamiji's words, but somehow she felt that this was something one should not play with and she did not try a similar experiment ever again.
While Gertrude knew about Vivekananda and had read some of his works, she had not known anything about Sadananda and it was from Boshi that she first heard of him. She was drawn to him like a magnet and felt the same devotion towards him as Boshi had. Sister Christine used to lie on a couch in a corner of the front verandah while Gertrude watered the flower pots.
Thinking about Sadananda one day, as she was watering the pots, Gertrude had an unusual experience. She felt the immanent presence of Swampsee [Sadananda]. She heard him say to her, "You will get all four fruits of human life but you will have to care for them, just as you are taking care of these flower pots and watering them daily."
She recalled asking Boshi later, "What is the fourth fruit? I know only three "" artha and kama. Boshi replied the fourth was, of course moksha, release from the bondage of worldly existence. Gertrude did not feel she had striven enough to attain that yet.
The Life and Times of and Gertrude Emerson Sen
Author Girish N Mehra
PRICE Rs 995

First Published: Sun, March 18 2007. 00:00 IST