2.11 TANTRIC SADHANA
The Brahmani did not arrive at the above conclusion about the uncommon nature of the Master through reason and inference only. The reader may remember that she told the Master during her first meeting with him that she was to meet three persons, Sri Ramakrishna and two others, and help them in developing their spiritual life. She had that command from the Mother of the universe long before she had the privilege of meeting the Master. It is therefore clear that her divine insight produced by spiritual practices, brought her to Dakshineswar and helped her in understanding the Master. As time passed since her first meeting with the Master and as she became more and more closely associated with him, the clearer did it appear to her how far and in what way she was to render him assistance in his Sadhana. Therefore, she did not now spend her time in merely removing the erroneous conception of the people about him, but also engaged the Master in performing various disciplines according to the strict injunctions of the scriptures, so that he might have the perfect vision of the universal Mother and, endowed with Her infinite grace and favour, might become firmly established in his own divine power, that is, in his real nature.
When the Brahmani, herself an advanced aspirant, saw the Master and talked with him, it did not take her long to understand that the Master could not free himself from doubts regarding his own condition, because he had proceeded so far to attain the divine Mother’s vision with the help, of his extraordinary devotion only, instead of strictly following the traditional paths of spiritual teachers. Therefore, the doubt was crossing his mind now and then whether his visions of the divine Mother were the results of a derangement of brain and whether his extraordinary physical and mental changes were the symptoms of a virulent disease. The Brahmani reflected on what has been mentioned before and induced the Master to follow the path of discipline prescribed in the Tantras. As soon as the Master followed the path of discipline trod by previous Sadhakas, and had experience of the spiritual states similar to those experienced by them, she knew, he would understand that those states of his were not produced by any disease. When he saw it already recorded in the Tantras that particular results were produced by the performance of particular rites, and when he himself obtained those results through the practice of those rites, he would gain a firm conviction that through discipline man had uncommon experiences by ascending to higher and higher planes of consciousness in the internal realm, and that his own physical and mental states had been produced in that way only. The result would be that, whatever uncommon experiences he might have in future, he would know them all as true, and proceed towards his goal without being at all troubled by them The Brahmani knew that the scriptures, therefore, advised the aspirant always to compare the experiences of his own life with the words of the Guru and the Sastras and see whether they tallied or not.
Why did the Brahmani, it may be asked, engage herself in making the Master practise these disciplines, though she knew that he was an incarnation of God? Does not one who understands the glory of the incarnations of God accept the conclusion that they are perfect, and that disciplines are altogether unnecessary for them? Had the Brahmani, it may be said in reply, been conscious at all times of that glory of the Master, she would have entertained that mental attitude; but that was not the case. We have already said that the Brahmani felt from the very first meeting a maternal affection for the Master. There is nothing on earth more powerful than love to obliterate in one the consciousness of power in the object of one’s love and to impel one to do what one considers good for him There is no doubt, therefore, that moved by a genuine affection for him she induced the Master to undertake spiritual practices. We come across the same thing in the lives of all god-men, the incarnations. Although the persons intimately related to such men are sometimes overawed by their knowledge of the extraordinary spiritual powers in them, they, it is seen, forget all about it the next moment, and, charmed with the attraction of their love, feel content with merely offering their heart’s love to them and seeking their welfare. Similarly, the Brahmani, amazed time after time at the extraordinary ecstasies and the manifestation of powers in the Master, forgot them as quickly and as often, blinded, so to say, by maternal love. It is needless to say that the Master’s genuine filial affection for her and his absolute dependence on and faith in her played no small part in raising waves of tender, though austere, maternal affection in the Sannyasini’s heart and made her oblivious of his powers, thus impelling her to undergo endless troubles for making the Master happy even to the slightest degree, and protecting him from others’ tyranny and helping him in his Sadhana.
When there is an opportunity of teaching an exceptionally brilliant pupil, there naturally arises in the Guru’s heart a supreme contentment, and self-satisfaction. The Brahmani had never even dreamt that in the spiritual world such an excellent and very competent person as the Master could be born at the present time. Therefore we can very well infer that a wonderful joy filled her heart when she got the opportunity of teaching the Master. It was no wonder, therefore, that she was eager to make the Master experience in a very short time all the results of her study and austerity.
We sometimes heard from the Master himself that he had asked the divine Mother about the propriety and necessity of the disciplines according to the Tantras before he began to practise them, and that he undertook them with Her permission. It was, therefore, not merely the eagerness and inducement of the Brahmani that engaged him in those spiritual exercises, but also the divine insight born of sadhana that made him feel in his heart of hearts that the opportunity of attaining the immediate knowledge of the divine Mother by resorting to scriptural methods had arrived. Therefore, the concentrated mind of the Master now advanced fast with full eagerness on the path of Sadhana taught by the Brahmani. It is not possible for us, ordinary mortals, to feel the measure and intensity of that eagerness. For, where are that tranquillity and that one-pointedness in our minds, distracted as they are by many things from many directions? Where is that unbounded courage on our part to jump headlong in order to touch the very bottom of the sea of deep consciousness instead of being deluded by the wantonness of its surface waves, the objects of normal consciousness? Where is the power in us to eradicate the attachment to all the things of the world including our own bodies, and to plunge with utter abandon into the depths of spiritual inwardness, to realize which the Master urged us over and over again, saying, “Dive deep down, dive to the depths of yourself.” Overwhelmed with the anguish of his heart, the Master, we were told, rubbed his face against the sandy bank of the Ganga under the Panchavati, saying, “Mother, reveal Thyself;” and was it a matter of a day or two? It went on unabated as days passed by. Those words only enter our ears, but do not rouse corresponding echoes in our hearts at all. And why should it be otherwise? Have we got that childlike all-consuming faith of the Master in the existence of the divine Mother and in the attainment of Her vision by renouncing everything and calling on Her with the eagerness of heart that was his?
One day while living at Kasipur, the Master astonished us by giving us a little indication of the measure and the intensity of his spiritual eagerness at the time of his Sadhana. We cannot say whether we shall be able to give the reader even a faint picture of what we then felt. However, we shall mention it here.
We were witnessing with our own eyes the intense eagerness of Swami Vivekananda for the realization of God, how the spiritual awakening came on him when he went to deposit the fee for his Law examination; how, goaded to restlessness by it, he ran, oblivious of the world outside, barefooted and with only one piece of cloth on, through the streets of the city to the feet of Sri Guru at Kasipur and, like one mad, laid bare to him the anguish of his heart, and obtained his grace; how, since then he spent his time night and day in Japa, meditation, devotional songs and spiritual study; how on account of his boundless enthusiasm for Sadhana, his usually tender heart turned adamant and remained quite indifferent to the sufferings of his mother and brothers; and how, advancing with single-minded devotion on the path of Sadhana pointed out by his preceptor, he was having vision after vision, culminating at last in his first enjoyment of the bliss of the Nirvikalpa Samadhi in a short period of three or four months. All these things took place before our very eyes and completely struck us dumb. Greatly delighted, the Master used to praise highly the Swami’s extraordinary devotion, eagerness and enthusiasm for spiritual practices. One day at that time the Master compared the Swami’s love and enthusiasm for Sadhana with his own and said, “Narendra’s devotion and enthusiasm are extraordinary indeed, but compared with the urge that came here (pointing to himself) at the time of Sadhana, his is most ordinary. It is not even one fourth of that.” Understand, if you can, O reader, with the help of your imagination what feeling arose in our minds at those words of the Master.
Thus the Master took the hint from the universal Mother, forgot everything else and merged himself in Sadhana. And the learned and adroit Brahmani took endless pains to collect from various parts of the country, things specifically necessary for particular rites, and ‘gave the Master instructions regarding their application at the time of Sadhana.
The skulls1 of five dead beings, including that of a man, were brought from the parts of the country far away from the Ganga; and two altars2 propitious for Tantric Sadhanas were constructed, one, under the Vilva tree situated at the northern boundary of the temple garden, and the other, under the Panchavati planted by the Master himself; and sitting on either of these ‘skull-seats’, according to need, Master spent his time in Japa, meditation, etc. This extraordinary Sadhaka and his guide were not conscious, for a few months, of how days and nights slipped by. The Master used to say,3 “In the day-time the Brahmani went to various places far away from the temple, garden and collected and brought various rare articles prescribed by the Tantras. Placing them under the Vilva tree or under the Panchavati at night, she called me, taught me how to make use of those things, and helped me in the performance of the worship of the divine Mother according to the prescribed rules with their aid, asking me at last to merge in Japa and meditation. I acted accordingly. But I had to perform almost no Japa; for, hardly did I turn the rosary once when I merged completely in Samadhi and realized the results proper to those rites. There was thus no limit to my visions and experiences, all very extraordinary. The Brahmani made me undertake, one by one, all the disciplines prescribed in the sixty-four main Tantras, all difficult to accomplish, in trying to practise which most of the Sadhakas go astray; but all of which I got through successfully by Mother’s grace.
“On one occasion, I saw, that the Brahmani had brought at night — nobody knew whence — a beautiful woman in the prime of her youth, and said to me, ‘My child, worship her as the Devi.’ When the worship was finished, she said, ‘Sit on her lap, my child, and perform Japa.’ I was seized with fear, wept piteously and said to Mother, ‘O Mother, Mother of the universe, what is this command Thou givest to one who has taken absolute refuge in Thee? Has Thy weak child the power to be so impudently daring?’ But as soon as I said so, I felt as if I was possessed by some unknown power, and an extraordinary strength filled my heart. And no sooner had I, uttering the Mantras, sat on the lap of the woman, like one hypnotized, unaware of what I was doing, than I merged completely in Samadhi. When I regained consciousness, I saw the Brahmani waiting on me and assiduously trying to bring me back to normal consciousness. She said, ‘The rite is completed, my child; others restrain themselves with very great difficulty under such circumstances and then finish the rite with nominal Japa for a trifling little time only; but you lost all consciousness and were in deep Samadhi.’ When I heard this, I became reassured and began to salute Mother again and again with a grateful heart for enabling me to pass that ordeal unscathed.
“On another occasion, I saw that the Brahmani cooked fish in the skull of a dead body and performed Tarpana. She also made me do so and asked me to take that fish. I did as I was asked and felt no aversion whatever.
“But, on the day when the Brahmani brought a piece of rotten flesh and asked me to touch it with my tongue after Tarpana, I was shaken by aversion and said, ‘Can it be done?’ So questioned, she said, ‘What’s there in it, my child? Just see, I do it.’ Saying so, she put a portion of it into her mouth and said, ‘Aversion should not be entertained,’ and placed again a little of it before me. When I saw her do so, the idea of the terrible Chandika Form of the Mother Universal was inspired in my mind; and repeatedly uttering ‘Mother’, I entered into Bhavasamadhi. There was then no aversion felt when the Brahmani put it into my mouth.
“Having initiated me thus in Purnabhisheka, the Brahmani made me perform daily Tantric rites too numerous to mention. I now don’t remember all things at all times. But I remember the day when I was able by the grace of Mother to view with perfect equanimity, the supreme pleasure of a pair of lovers, seeing nothing in it but the blissful sport of the Divine; the mind instead of descending even to the neighbourhood of ordinary human feelings, soared higher and higher merging at last in deep Samadhi. After regaining normal consciousness, I heard the Brahmani say, ‘You have reached the desired end of a very difficult Tantric Sadhana and become established in the divine mood. This is the ultimate Sadhana of the (heroic) mode of worship. ’
“Shortly afterwards, when I performed the worship of the female figure according to the Tantra rites, I did it with the help of another Bhairavi in the open music hall of the temple in the presence of all, during the day-time. When it was over I saluted her according to Sastric prescription. This was the last rite connected with the heroic mode of worship, which I completed in that manner. Even as my mental attitude towards all women, namely, that of a child towards its mother, remained intact during the long period of the Tantric Sadhana, so also I could never take a drop of wine at that time. The mere mention of the name of Karana4 (wine) would inspire in me the immediate experience of the universal Cause and I lost myself in it completely. Similarly, as soon as I heard other words of that kind, the Cause of the universe would present Itself before me and I would be in Samadhi.”
One day while living at Dakshineswar, the Master made mention of his lifelong filial attitude towards all women and told us a story from the Puranas. How firmly the knowledge of filial relation with all women without exception was established in the heart of Ganesh, the chief of the perfected persons of divine knowledge, was described in the story. Before we were told that story, we had no excess of devotion to and reverence for this pot-bellied, elephant-faced god with the exudation flowing from his temples. But, since we heard the story from the Master’s holy mouth, we have the conviction that Ganesh was truly fit to be worshipped before all the gods, as indeed he is worshipped. The story is this:
One day, in his tender age, Ganesh, while playing, saw a cat, which he, in his boyish playfulness and restlessness, beat and tortured in various ways and covered with wounds. The cat escaped somehow with life, and limb. When Ganesh became quiet and came to his mother, he saw to his surprise marks of injury in various parts of the holy person of the Devi. Very much pained to see that condition of his mother, the boy asked her the reason of it. The Devi answered in a melancholy mood, “You yourself are the cause of this sad condition of mine!” More afflicted than surprised at it, the devoted Ganesh said with tears in his eyes, “How strange! Mother, when did I beat you? And I don’t remember that this child of yours, ignorant as he is, has done any wicked action for which you have to suffer such insults at the hands of anyone.”
Parvati Devi, whose gross external form is the universe, said, “Try to remember if you have beaten any living creature today.” “Yes,” said Ganesh, “I did so; I beat a cat a short time ago.” Ganesh thought that the person to whom the cat belonged, beat his mother that way. Ganesh’s mother took the repentant boy to her bosom and consoled him saying, “It is not so, my child; nobody beat this body of mine; but it is I who have assumed the form of the cat; that is why you see the marks of your beating on my person. You have done so without knowing it; so, don’t be sorry for it; but remember henceforward that all the Jivas of the world having female forms are parts of me and those having male forms are parts of your father. There are no persons or things in the world other than Siva and Sakti.” Ganesh had faith in those words and enshrined them in his heart. When he reached the marriageable age, he did not consent to marry lest he should have to marry his mother. Ganesh thus maintained continence all his life and became foremost among the persons of divine knowledge, inasmuch as he always had the conviction in his heart that the universe was of the nature of Siva and Sakti, Brahman and Its Power.
After narrating the preceding story the Master told the following one, also indicative of the greatness of Ganesh’s knowledge.
Showing once the precious garland of gems hanging from her neck to Ganesh and Kartik, Parvati Devi said to them, “I will give this garland of gems to the one who will circumambulate the universe comprising the fourteen worlds and come back to me first.” Kartik, the commander of the celestial army, having for his vehicle a peacock, smiled a smile of derision thinking of his elder brother’s fat and heavy body and pot-belly, and of the small power and slow movement of the mouse, his vehicle, and became cocksure that the garland had already become his, and started immediately on the circumambulation of the universe. Long after Kartik had started, the sedate Ganesh left his seat calmly and, seeing with the eye of knowledge the universe consisting of Siva and Sakti, situated in the body of Hara and Parvati, went round them with a gentle gait, worshipped them and took his seat. Long after this Kartik returned, when, pleased with the knowledge and devotion of Ganesh, Parvati Devi placed the garland of gems affectionately round his neck as a token of her grace.
Thus mentioning the greatness of Ganesh’s knowledge and his filial relation with all women without exception, the Master said, “My attitude to women is also the same; that is why I had the vision of the maternal form of the universal Cause in my wedded wife and worshipped her and bowed down at her feet.”
We have not heard of any other Sadhaka in any age who having kept intact that filial attitude towards all women, had resorted to the Tantric disciplines according to the prescribed rules of the heroic mode of worship. Following this heroic mode the aspirants have all along been taking a woman companion at the time of Sadhana. As they do not see any aspirant of the heroic mode deviate from that practice, people have got a firm conviction that the realization of the desired end of the discipline, that is, the attainment of the grace of the divine Mother, is quite impossible if that practice is not followed. It is doubtless that, under the influence of this conviction, people condemn the Tantra scriptures.
It is only the Master, the incarnation for this epoch, who told us repeatedly that he never in his life kept the company of a woman even in a dream. That the accomplishment of a hidden purpose was the intention of the divine Mother is evident from the fact that She made the Master take up the filial attitude towards all women from the beginning and engaged him in the discipline according to the heroic mode.
The Master said, “It did not take me more, than three days to succeed in any of the disciplines. When I took up a particular discipline and asked the divine Mother importunately with a glowing eagerness of heart for the realization of its result, She benignly crowned me with success in three days only.” It is clearly proved that the company of a woman is not an indispensable auxiliary of those practices, inasmuch as the Master became successful in those disciplines in a very short time without taking a woman. It is by being overcome by his own weak nature, that an aspirant destitute of self-control acts in that way. It is only by way of a concession that the Tantras teach that an aspirant who takes a woman will be established in the divine state in future as the result of his repeated practice of discipline. This assurance of success to them shows only the supremely compassionate nature of the scriptures and not the obligatory character of those rites.
The common aim of all the Tantric practices, it is inferred, is to accustom the aspirant, through selfcontrol and repeated efforts and perseverance, to the conviction that those very objects — sights, tastes, etc., which tempt human beings, make them experience repeated birth and death, and prevent them from attaining self-knowledge by realizing God — are none other than the veritable forms of God. Taking into account the difference in the aspirants’ self-control and conviction, the Tantras have dealt with three different modes of worship, namely the “animal”, the “heroic” and the “divine”, and have advised them to worship God according to the first, second or third mode. In course of time people almost completely forgot that the results of the Tantric practices could only be obtained if the aspirants resorted to austere self-control as the basis of those disciplines; they engaged themselves in many evil practices, for which the Tantras themselves were held responsible by all and were ridiculed by the common run of people. The success of the Master, remaining in full possession of the filial attitude towards all women throughout those practices, has been of immense benefit to both the true aspirants and the Tantric scriptures — to the former, by pointing out to them the right way to the goal of their lives; to the latter, by bringing out their real glory and firmly establishing their authenticity.
Although the Master practised the disciplines according to the Tantric mysteries for three or four years, he, it seems, did not tell any of us their consecutive order or give any one of us a detailed account of them. But in order to encourage us on the path of Sadhana, he told many of us of these facts on many occasions, or according to individual needs, and made a rare few of us perform some of those practices. The Mother of the universe, it appears, made the Master fully acquainted with this path at that time, because if he had not himself had the uncommon experiences resulting from the Tantric practices, he would not have been able to detect the mental states of the devotees of different nature who came to him in his later life, and to lead them forward on the path of Sadhana. We have elsewhere5 given a little indication of how the Master guided the devotees who came to him and took refuge in him along various paths of discipline. The reader going through them will easily understand the reasonableness of what we have said above. Therefore it is needless to mention that here again.
Besides telling us, in this manner, of the Tantric practices, the Master sometimes mentioned to us many of his visions and experiences. We shall now tell the reader a few of them. A root-and-branch change, the Master said, came over his former nature at the time of the Tantric Sadhana.
When he was told that the divine Mother sometimes assumed the form of a jackal, and that the dogs were the carriers of Bhairava, he regarded the remnants of food taken by those animals as pure and sacred and partook of them as Prasada without feeling the slightest hesitation.
Offering heartily, as oblations to the lotus feet, of the divine Mother, his body, mind, life and all — the Master saw himself incessantly pervaded, inwardly and outwardly, by the fire of knowledge.
The Master saw during this period that the Kundalini was awakened, and it proceeded upwards to the head. All the lotuses from the Muladhara, the basic centre, to the thousandpetalled Sahasrara in the head, turned upwards and opened fully. As soon as they did so one after another, he got strange and wonderful experiences.6 He saw for example that a celestial luminous male figure went through the Sushumna, the Canal Centralis, to those lotuses, now turning upwards, and made them open by touching them with his tongue.
At one time, when Swami Vivekananda sat for meditation, there appeared before him a very large, wonderful triangle of light which, he felt, was living. One day he came to Dakshineswar and told the Master this, when the latter said, “Very good; you have seen the Brahmayoni; while practising Sadhana under the Vilva tree, I also saw it; what was more, I observed it giving birth to innumerable worlds every moment.”
At that time the Master heard, arising naturally and unceasingly everywhere in the universe, the Anahata Dhvani, the great Pranava sound, which is the aggregate of all the different sounds of the universe. Some of us heard this from the Master himself and also heard him say that he could at that time understand the meanings of the cries of all animals.
During that period, the Master saw the divine Mother Herself dwelling in the female form. In the latter part of this period the Master felt in himself the presence of the miraculous powers, like the one of becoming as small as an atom One day he went at the instance of Hriday to the universal Mother to know, the propriety and utility of applying them and saw that they were to be shunned and discarded like excreta. The Master said that since then it appeared loathsome to him to hear the term “miraculous power”.
We are reminded of one thing about the Master’s possession of the ‘eight miraculous powers’. One day he called Swami Vivekananda privately to the Panchavati and said, “Look here I have got the well-known ‘eight miraculous powers’. But I decided long ago that I will never make use of them; nor do I see any need for applying them; you will have to do many things like preaching religion; I have made up my mind to give them to you; here they are.” The Swami said to him in reply, “Sir, will these help me in any way in realizing God?” When afterwards he came to know from the Master’s reply that, although they could be of some help in such activities as preaching religion, they would not in any way assist him in realizing God, he declined to accept them, at which, the Swami told us afterwards, the Master was highly pleased with him
There arose in the Master’s mind during this period, a desire to see the deluding power of the Mother of the universe when he Saw that a female figure of extraordinary beauty rose from the waters of the Ganga and came with a dignified gait to the Panchavati. Presently he saw that the said figure was in an advanced stage of pregnancy; a few minutes later he saw that she gave birth to a beautiful baby in his very presence and suckled the baby very affectionately; the next moment he saw that the same figure assumed a very cruel and frightful appearance and, taking the baby into her mouth, masticated it and swallowed it! She then entered the waters of the river whence she had appeared.
Besides the visions mentioned above, there was no limit to the number of the Devi’s forms, ranging from the two-armed to the ten-armed, that he saw during this period. Again, some of those engaged themselves in conversing with him and gave him various instructions. Although all those forms of Hers were of extraordinary beauty, we were told by him that they were not worth comparison in that respect with that of Sri Rajarajeswari, otherwise called Shodasi. The Master said, “I saw in a vision the beauty of the person of Shodasi which melted, and spread all around illumining the quarters.” At that time the Master had the visions of various male figures like Bhairava and also visions of celestial beings. From the time of his Tantric Sadhana, there were so many extraordinary visions and experiences in the Master’s life day after day that it is beyond the power of man to mention all of them It is therefore needless to spend any more time in making that attempt.
We heard from the Master himself that from the time of his Tantric Sadhana, the orifice of his Sushumna was fully opened and his nature was permanently converted into that of a boy. From the latter part of that period, he could not, in spite of his efforts, retain his cloth, sacred thread, etc., on his person for any length of time. He did not feel where and when all these things slipped off. It is needless to mention that this condition was caused by the absence in him of body-consciousness, on account of his mind remaining always absorbed in the lotus feet of the divine Mother. We have it from the Master himself that, unlike the ordinary Paramahamsas he never practised wandering or remaining naked — it naturally came to him with his gradual loss of body-consciousness. The Master said that at the end of those disciplines his knowledge of non-duality with regard to all things increased so much that he felt that those things which he considered to be trifling and worth discarding from his childhood, now appeared to be as pure as the purest. He asserted, “The holy basil and the legumen of Sajina (drumstick)7 were felt by me to be equally holy.”
Again, the splendour of the Master’s person increased so much for a few years from that time, that he became the cynosure of all eyes at all times. As he was devoid of egoism, he was so much annoyed at it that he prayed on many occasions to the divine Mother to be rid of that celestial beauty, and imploringly said, “Mother, I have not the slightest need of this external beauty; please take it away and give me instead the inward spiritual beauty.” We have told the reader elsewhere8 that this prayer of his was fulfilled afterwards.
Just as the Brahmani helped the Master in his Tantric Sadhanas, so did the Master help the Brahmani later in developing her spiritual life. We have already given an indication of the fact that, but for the Master’s help, she could not have established herself in the divine mood. The name of the Brahmani was Yogeswari who, the Master said, was a part of Yogamaya (the mystic power of the Lord).
Attaining divine powers on account of his Tantric Sadhana, the Master came to know another thing. He came to know by the grace of the divine Mother that many persons would come in later days to him and get spiritual enlightenment from him and thus their life’s purpose would be fulfilled. He told this to Hriday and also to Mathur, who was greatly devoted to him; Mathur replied, “How very good, Father! we shall all make merry in your company.”