Swami Vivekananda was known for his extraordinary knowledge of Advaita Vedanta. In fact, he gave a new interpretation. But, his knowledge was not just at the level of the intellect. He had literally experienced it through intense Sadhana. Not only that, he could hold on to this highest idea of oneness or consciousness in moments of great crisis. Once, during his wandering days he happened to pass through a dense forest. He was sitting under a tree and meditating. Soon the day passed into night and it had become very dark all around. Just at that time he heard the call of a tiger and could see at a distance the approaching animal.
His first reaction was to climb a tree and save himself. But, soon he reflected, had he not realized the highest consciousness and that he was not the body. He decided to stay at the same place and await the arrival of the animal. But, surprisingly the tiger came very near him but did not harm him in any way. It turned away and disappeared into the forest. Swamiji was sitting throughout the night at the same place expecting the tiger to come back, but it never did. On another occasion in America he was about to go out to lecture. He was standing before a huge mirror constantly adjusting his turban, his coat, etc. The lady, who was his host, was surprised by this behavior of Swamiji. She thought, here is a person who constantly says that he is the Atman and that he is beyond the idea of body, but I find that he is tending to it endlessly.
Immediately, Swamiji turned around and told her, “Madam, I am trying to get into the idea that I have a body. Otherwise, how can I go and lecture? But I find it impossible to bring about the idea of body consciousness”.
Such was the depth of Swamiji’s Advaitic realization.