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12 September 1896 Swami Vivekananda arrived at the Amsterdam Central Station with Dr Paul Deussen, a renowned German philosopher of those days, and the English couple, Captain and Mrs Sevier. The group booked two rooms at the Victoria Hotel This was where they stayed for the next three days. Swami Vivekananda visited several museums. Of them, the Rijksmuseum was one. The Rijksmuseum was built between 1877 and 1885 and was inaugurated in 1885. At the museum, Swamiji must have enjoyed Rembrandt’s famous works, especially the “Nacht Wacht”. Swamiji also visited the Tower of Tears (Schreierstoren) and the Royal Palace. There are no records of his visiting other museums like the Het Grachtenhuis (Canal House Museum). However, Swamiji enjoyed seeing the canals in the sarada. The party left Amsterdam and Holland on 16th September for England.
The Netherlands contributed enormously to Vedanta and the Ramakrishna Movement by offering its great son to Vedanta. Cornelis Johannes Heijblom (Gurudas Maharaj) was born in house number 725 (now 534), Keizersgracht, Amsterdam on the 7 february 1870. He went to the United States in 1893. There, he read Raja Yoga by Swamiji. He listened to Swami Abhedananda’s lectures, and entered the New York Vedanta Society in 1899. Cornelis trained under Swami Vivekananda, Swami Turiyananda, Swami Abhedananda and all the other direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. He received the vows of Brahmacharya and became Gurudas. Later, he went to India. There, he received spiritual initiation from Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. Gurudas became a monk in 1923 and performed intense austerities in Rishikesh for decades. From 1923 onwards, he continuously stayed in India till the end. He attained mahasamadhi in 1966.
Henry J. van Haagen was an immigrant Dutch-American, living in New York City. He loved the Bhagavadgita..It was this scripture that brought Henry to Swami Vivekananda. He heard Swamiji and became deeply inspired. After meeting Swamiji and hearing his talks, Henry van Haagen became Vivekananda's admirer, and would walk with him in the Central Park or elsewhere and absorb his ideas. In 1899, Henry received the vows of Brahmacharya (novitiate) from Swamiji. He had a printing press at 1267 Broadway, New York. He was a draughtsman (draftsman) too. He printed several pamphlets, books and photos related to Vedanta. And here goes the story of how Henry van Haagen became responsible for something important:
Swami [Vivekananda] was sitting at the breakfast table one morning when the printer arrived. He said he was making a circular for the [Vedanta] Society [of New York] and wished to have an emblem to go on it. Could the Swami suggest something? Swamiji took the envelope from a letter he had just received, tore it open and on the clean inner surface drew the waves, the swan, the lotus, and the sun circled by a serpent - the four Yogas wrapped about by eternity, it seemed. He threw the bit of paper with the design on it across the table and said, "Draw it to scale." Henry van Haagen, the printer, was an able draughtsman as well as printer. He converted the rough sketch into a finished drawing.Thus, this Dutch gentleman gave the final shape to the Emblem of the Ramakrishna Order according to his guru's wishes.
Henry van Haagen eventually became a renowned publisher. He was known as: "Publisher & Bookseller of Oriental, Metaphysical, & Vedanta Philosophy. Books, Periodicals, etc." Henry's shop was at 1267 Broadway. He published Swami Vivekananda's "The Song of the Sannyasin" for the first time. He also printed (in 1897)Vedanta Philosophy: Lectures by the Swami Vivekananda on Raja Yoga and Other Subjects,and Swami Abhedananda's Reincarnation.Henry published some cards. "Message from India...to you in America", "Onward", "Values", and so on. Henry also published, in 1911, Emily Stoke'sYou are the One.
Please read Henry J. van Haagen's reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda: here. REMINISCENCES
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Protestant Minister and author of En Hindoe Heilige in de 19e eeuw The first ever known publication about Sri Ramakrishna or Swami Vivekananda in Dutch came as early in 1906. A Protestant Minister, Dr. Louis A. Bähler, published a book in 1906 titled, A Hindu Saint of the nineteenth century: Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna. Soon, an admirer of Swamiji, by name Dr. G. H. Mees, visited India and Belur Math as early as 1913, and after his return published a book titled The Message of Sri Ramakrishna. Next, Mr J. Dutric and Mrs T. Jelgersma translated Romain Rolland’s books on Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda into Dutch. Later, the Theosophical Society also published a Dutch translation of Swami Abhedananda’s book ‘The Power of the Mind’. Thus a strong foundation by way of publication of literature had already been laid. The Ramakrishna Order’s Vedanta work in Holland, having had the blessings of Swamiji by way of his three-day stay in Holland, practically started in the 1930. Swami Yatiswarananda was a disciple of Swami Brahmananda. He worked mostly in Germany, Switzerland, France, Holland and other places, by way of giving discourses on Vedanta to different groups of people. Swami Yatiswarananda visited Holland too. The Swami had to leave Europe during the Second World War, but he came back again in 1950, when he initiated some people. His disciples, Mrs Elly Ter Laan and Mr. Ter Laan, used to organize retreats at their residence. Swami Yatiswarananda left a lasting impression on the devotees and admirers of Vedanta in the Netherlands.
N. Kluwer Deventer published a book by Swami Yatiswarananda in Dutch, titled Vedanta Yoga Religie.
Swami Siddheswarananda, the founder of the Gretz Vedanta Centre, also visited the Netherlands and gave some discourses before 1957, when he passed away. His successor, Swami Ritajananda, also visited Holland and he even initiated several aspiring admirers of Holland. Further, Swami Bhavyananda, the former head of the Vedanta Centre in UK, paid visits to the Netherlands upon invitation. Meanwhile, more books in Dutch began sell.Ramayanaand Mahabharata were published in Dutch. From the 1950s onward, all the four Yogas of Swami Vivekananda were gradually brought into the Dutch language. Italo De Diana and George Hulskramer published in Dutch ‘Sri Ramakrishna, Man and Message’ (1973). Ms Jenny Cochius of Netherlands translated The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna(abridged edition) into Dutch (from English) and published it with her own expenses (1987). These books must have had a great influence over some thoughtful people who were eager to know more about Vedanta and Hindu religion. One of them was Dr. Rama Polderman, who invited Swami Ranganathananda (the 13th President of the Ramakrishna Order) to the Netherlands almost every year from 1970 onwards (till 1986) to speak to the students of Dutch Hatha Yoga Foundation, of which Dr. Rama was the Director. Earlier the Swami visited the Netherlands once in 1961 during his lecture tour in some of the European countries. The Swami used to stay at Prof. Jo van Orshovens’ house at that time close to Amsterdam. Jo’s wife Harma and their three sons Rakhal, Naren and Tarak (evidently the Swami has given the names to them) became great admirers of the Swami and all of them became very dear to him. The Swami used to stay for about a fortnight in their house, where many devotees would come to meet and talk to him. Prof. Jo used to translate Swami’s speeches into Dutch. Harma’s friend Mrs. Maria Tromp (also Secretary of the Yoga Foundation) used to drive the Swami to places where spiritual retreats were arranged—mostly in some church or convent. Gradually many people – both men and women – were attracted to those Retreats and they became familiar with the Swami. Swami Ranganathananda encouraged them to have a permanent Vedanta Centre in the Netherlands with a Swami of the Ramakrishna Order.
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By the grace of Sri Ramakrishna and the inspiring guidance of Swami Ranganathananda, the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society Netherlands was founded by some earnest devotees on the sacred day of Sri Ramakrishna’s 150th Birth Anniversary on 12th March 1986. In 1990 a disciple of Swami Ritajananda, Mr. Frank Leemans of Amsterdam visited Belur Math and requested the authorities of the Ramakrishna Math to send a Swami to the Netherlands to reside permanently. He assured them that he will take care of the Resident-Swami. As there was no separate house to house the Vedanta Centre, the gentleman moved with his wife to a rented house close to his workplace and gave his house (flat) for the Swami to stay and conduct services.
That Swami was Swami Chidbhasananda. The Headquarters, Belur Math, sent him in May 1990 to the Netherlands, and he started giving regular discourses on Sundays and conducting a scriptural class on Thursdays. A Dutch man began helping him in doing his marketing and other necessary things. The Centre continued there for 3 years, and in 1993, the devotees found a bigger place in Amstelveen, whereto the Centre moved. Mr Douwe started staying permanently at the new house of the Centre. Mrs Jenny Cochius donated many books to the Centre, due to which a library could be started. Apart from Swami Atulananda, whose exemplary saintly life is an example for all to follow, there have been two or three attempts by the Dutch to be monks in the Ramakrishna Order. While one returned to the householder’s way of life, another continues independently. Swami Chidbhasananda became seriously ill in 1999 and had to go back to India for treatment and rest. Mr. Douwe escorted him to Belur Math and continued to stay there for about a year. As a result, nobody was living at the Centre for more than a year until another Swami could be sent by the Belur Math authorities to substitute him. Swami Sarvatmananda came to the Netherlands in Chidbhasananda's place. Due to various reasons, particularly owing to the delay in getting his visa for the long stay in the country, Sarvatmananda could reach Amstelveen only at the end of May 2000. Swami Sarvatmananda had served the Order in the United States for over a decade before coming to the Netherlands.
Swami Sarvatmananda continued to guide the Centre ably for over a decade. Owing to health reasons and age, he wished to retire. The authorities of Belur Math accepted his request and he returned to Belur Math in September 2014, after visiting Australia and Malaysia. Belur Math chose Swami Sunirmalananda to succeed Swami Sarvatmananda. After having obtained his visa, Sunirmalananda arrived in Holland on 10 May 2014. Swami Sarvatmananda handed over charge of the Centre on 25 May 2014. Swami Sarvatmananda passed away in India on 10 October 2015.
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