JJ’s Time with the Swami Vivekananda
Unfortunately no family records have survived from this time so I have little to add to the scholarly account of this period given by Pravrajika Vrajaprana in her book “My Faithful Goodwin” beyond a few observations of my own.
That Goodwin was a conscientious worker and an able organiser is evident, and shows how closely he followed his father’s example. He was less good at handling the jealousies and rivalries that surrounded Vivekananda. His closeness to the Swami was a source of friction particularly to Kripananda who also had a background in journalism and found himself totally outshone by this energetic young man.
Another rivalry that Goodwin was too young and inexperienced to be able to handle effectively was that between the New York ladies and Mrs Ole Bull. The mother and son style relationship that developed between JJ and Mrs Bull was instantaneous and deep. The rift that this caused between New York and Boston was to affect the way that Vedanta was organised throughout the world.
Thirdly there seems to have been a deep and bitter rivalry between JJ and Alasinga. Alasinga had been responsible for making sure that the Indian world knew of Vivekananda’s successes in America and Europe. He organised the dissemination of information that led to the triumphal return to India. He must have been furious at having a young man foisted on him who presumed to tell him what to do. JJ in his turn was frustrated by the slow old fashioned ways of the older man. The clash was between cultures and it was the Englishman who, rejected by the traditional Hindus (who spat in their food and threw it away if Goodwin so much as looked at them while they ate) retired hurt to the cool of the mountains. He did not endorse some of the values of the English community and found life there dull after the excitements of the previous two years, but at least they gave him social acceptance, and credit for his energy.
The importance of Goodwin’s efforts in getting Vivekananda’s spoken word into print is only one of his achievements. He also undertook a considerable amount of organisation behind the scenes during Vivekananda’s time in The USA and London, and letters written to and from him provides an important resource for the scholar of Vivekananda’s teaching. It is also important that there was a young Englishman accompanying Vivekananda to India. The crowds lining the street had physical evidence that an Englishman regarded an Indian with reverence and humility. JJ was the representative of the multitudes in the USA and Europe who had been moved by Vivekananda’s powers. This helped to give the Indian people pride in their nationhood, a sense of pride that was to grow and magnify through the years and sow the seeds among the ordinary people for an effective independent India.