2.3 THE FIRST
ATTITUDE OF A SADHAKA
Besides the events already mentioned, many other facts regarding the Master’s absorption in spiritual moods in childhood are known. We get indications of that nature of his mind in connection with many small matters.
Take for example: The village potter was making images of Siva, Durga, and other deities. The Master went there with his friends in the course of a walk. He looked on the images for some time and suddenly said, “What is that? Do the eyes of a god look like that? They should be made thus.” Saying so, he explained to the potter the manner in which the lines should be fashioned and the eyes portrayed, so that the expression of superhuman power, compassion, inwardness, and bliss may be shown in the eyes and endow the image with a living, divine look. All were amazed to think how the boy Gadadhar could understand and explain all this without being taught that art. But none could find out the reason.
Or, desiring to worship some deity in boyish play with his friends, he made the image of that deity or delineated it on canvas so beautifully that people, seeing it, came to the conclusion that it was the handiwork of a skilful potter or painter.
Again, a voluntary and unexpected utterance of the Master to somebody removed a very longstanding doubt from his mind. The latter got the clue and the power to regulate his future life wondering whether it was his chosen Ideal in the person of Gadai that out of compassion showed him the path.
Or else, the boy Gadai astonished all by solving with one word the problem which scholars, well versed in the scriptures, had failed to solve.
It is not true that every one of the wonderful events of the Master’s early life which we heard proved the manifestation of his divine power as he passed into high planes of consciousness. Although some of them were of this nature, we may classify the others into six broad divisions, namely, those indicative of his wonderful memory, of his strong power of judgment, of his steadfastness and strong determination, of his infinite courage, of his love of merriment, and of his unlimited love and compassion. But purity, selflessness and unique faith were found running through all of them It looks as if his mind was naturally made up of faith, purity and selflessness, and the various actions and reactions of the world in it gave rise from time to time to waves of memory, judgment, determination, courage, merriment, love and compassion. The reader will have a correct understanding of what we say when we give a few examples here.
There had been in the village a theatrical performance on the theme of Rama’s or Krishna’s life. Many people including Gadadhar had witnessed it. All of them forgot the songs and the sacred words of the Puranas the next day and were busy following their selfish ends. But there was no end to the waves of spiritual emotions produced by them in the mind of Gadai. The boy assembled his friends in the neighbouring mango grove in order to rehearse them and enjoy the bliss thereof. He made all his friends get by heart, as far as possible, the parts of different characters of the play, and took upon himself the leading role and began to enact the drama. Simple-hearted cultivators, ploughing in the neighbouring fields, were charmed to see that play of the boys, and wondered how, after hearing them only once, they could get by heart almost all the words and songs of the play.
At the time of his investiture with the sacred thread, the boy persisted, against the custom of his family and society, that he must have his first ceremonial alms from a blacksmith woman Dhani by name.1 Or, charmed with her affection and devotion, and being aware of the desire of her heart, the boy forgot the restrictions of society, snatched curry, sauce, etc., cooked by that woman of low caste and ate them In great fear, Dhani forbade him to do it, but could not make the boy desist.
Fear always arises in the minds of the boys of towns and villages when they see Naga Fakirs, with their matted hair and bodies covered with ashes. There is a belief current everywhere in Bengal that those Fakirs entice young boys; or, when opportunity arises, they abduct them to distant places and add to their own number. Groups of such Fakirs and Vairagis travelled daily in those days by the path to the south of Kamarpukur, leading to Puri, the abode of Jagannath. They would come to the village, beg their food, rest there for a day or two, and then start for their destination. Although Gadai’s friends remembered that tradition and were frightened, he was not a person to be afraid of this. He mixed with the groups of mendicants as soon as he saw them and pleased them by his service and sweet conversation. He used to spend much time with them in order to observe their conduct and behaviour. Requested lovingly by them, he took, on some days, the food offered by them to their deity before he returned home to tell it to his mother. Desirous of being dressed like them, out of love for the holy men, he one day put on Tilakas all over his body, and tearing the new piece of cloth given by his parents into Kaupina and loin-cloth, wore them in their fashion and came to his mother.
Many of the people of the low class in the village did not know to read the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. When they had a mind to hear those books read out, they invited a Brahmin or one of their own class who could explain the epics to them. When that person arrived, they offered him water to wash his feet, a smoke of tobacco, a good seat to sit on while reading, and lacking this, a new mat. Honoured thus, he swelled with pride and egotism Fond of merriment, the keenly intelligent boy observed how he occupied an elevated seat before the audience and how many were the odd gestures and tones with which he read the books and displayed his superiority to them. All these the boy would sometimes mimic before others with a grave face which would give rise to great fun and peals of laughter.
By a study of these facts of the Master’s early life, we realize the nature of the mind with which he was equipped to undertake spiritual discipline. We feel that such a mind could not but accomplish whatever it undertook, would never forget what it heard, and would at once throw away mercilessly whatever it came to know to be an obstacle in its path to the realization of its desired end. We realize that such a heart would perform all actions in the world placing firm reliance on God, on itself, and on the divine nature hidden within all human beings. No ideas having the slightest tinge of narrowmindedness would be acceptable to it, let alone mean, impure ones; and love, purity, and compassion alone would regulate it all the time in all matters. It will also be realized that no idea, either within his own heart or within those of others, would be able to deceive him by disguising its nature. Before proceeding to study his Sadhanas we shall be able to understand their uniqueness if we closely remember what has been said about the constitution of his heart and mind.
We see the first definite manifestation of the attitude of an aspirant in the Master’s life, when he was in his brother’s school in Calcutta — on the day when Ramkumar, his eldest brother, admonished him to apply his mind to the acquisition of learning, to which he clearly replied, “I do not want to learn, the art of ‘bundling rice and plantain’. What I do want is to have that which produces right knowledge and enables man truly to achieve the aim of his life”. He was then about seventeen years of age. Knowing that there was little chance of his education progressing in the village school, his guardians consulted one another and brought him to Calcutta. His religious-minded eldest brother, well versed in Astrology and Smriti, had started a Sanskrit school near the house of the late Digambar Mitra at Jhamapukur and was teaching some pupils. He took charge of the daily service of deities in some rich families of that quarter, besides the Mitra family. It took him most of his time to give lessons to students after finishing his daily religious duties. Therefore, it proved very difficult for him in a short time to go twice daily to different houses and perform the service. Nor was he at the same time able to give it up so hastily, for the income from the school by way of farewell gifts was very small and was daily decreasing. How could the household affairs be managed if he gave up what he was receiving as fee for the service of the deities? Weighing these ideas in his mind, at last he brought his youngest brother to Calcutta, placed him in charge of the service of the deities and applied himself to the work of teaching.
On arriving at Calcutta, Gadadhar got his favourite work and performed it with pleasure. Besides serving his eldest brother he also studied a little. Possessed of noble qualities, the pleasant-looking boy became dear to all the people in a short time. The veiled ladies of the respectable families of this place, even like those of Kamarpukur, did not feel any hesitation in appearing before him when they became acquainted with his smartness, guileless behaviour, sweet conversation and devotion to the gods. They were eager to get some odd jobs done by him and to listen to his devotional songs. Here also as in Kamarpukur, the boy became a centre of attraction of a group of loving people round him without any effort on his part. Whenever he had leisure the boy met those men and women and joyfully spent some time in their company. Therefore, it is clear that the boy made no better progress in his studies here.
Although Ramkumar observed all this, he could not suddenly mention it to his brother, for he had already deprived the mother’s dear youngest pet child of the pleasure of her affection and had brought him far away, practically for his own convenience. Should he, over and above this, put obstacles in the way of the boy’s enjoyment when, attracted by his noble qualities, people were lovingly inviting him to their houses and the boy too felt happy at that? And if he did so, would not the life of the boy in Calcutta be as unbearable as in a forest? If there were no wants in the family, it would not have been necessary at all to take the boy away from his mother. It would have been enough if the boy had been sent to some village near Kamarpukur to study under a learned scholar. In that case, the boy might have been with his mother and been educated at the same time. Although Ramkumar did not complain for some time on account of these considerations, still, urged by a sense of duty, he admonished the boy mildly one day and asked him to apply his mind to studies. For, some day, the simple-hearted, self-forgetful boy would have to fend for himself. If he did not now learn how to guide himself on the path leading to the improvement of his worldly affairs, could he do so in future? Therefore, it is clear that brotherly love and worldly experience moved Ramkumar to act that way.
Although he had fallen into difficulties arising out of the selfish, harsh ways of the world and acquired some experience, the affectionate Ramkumar did not know much of the extraordinary nature of the mind of his youngest brother. He could not realize even in his dream that, young as he looked, the boy could detect the cause of the lifelong labour and efforts of the worldly man and knowing ephemeral fame and enjoyment to be worthless, could fix a different aim for human life. Unmoved by the rebuke, when the simple-hearted boy told him the thoughts of his heart in the above-mentioned way, he could not comprehend his words. He thought that the boy, a pet of his parents, was piqued or annoyed at being thus scolded for the first time in his life, and had, therefore, answered him in that way. That day, the truthful boy tried his best to explain to him the thoughts of his heart; he expressed variously the idea that he did not feel inclined to go in for a bread-winning education. But who would listen to the words of the boy? A boy is after all a boy; if even a grown-up person is seen to be above selfish effort we solemnly declare that his brain has been deranged.
That day Ramkumar did not understand those words of the boy. Moreover, just as when we chastise an object of our love, we repent it the next moment and try to regain our peace of mind by loving him a hundredfold more than before, so also Ramkumar behaved with his brother for some time after this. But, when we see the series of Gadadhar’s actions, one after another, we get a clear proof of the fact that since then he was seeking an opportunity to fulfil the desire of his heart.
The current of events in the life of the Master and his eldest brother flowed a little fast during the next two years after this event. The pecuniary condition of his brother was daily deteriorating and although he tried in various ways, he could not improve it. He pondered much in his mind whether he should close his school and take to some other job. But he could not come to any decision. He could clearly understand in his heart of hearts that if he spent his days that way instead of soon adopting some other means for the management of his worldly affairs, he would be involved in debts and consequently suffer. But what means was he to adopt? For he had learnt no other occupation than those of teaching, performing sacrifices and officiating in them. And had he the energy and perseverance at this period of life to make an attempt to learn some lucrative profession suited to the times? Again, even if he did acquire an art of that nature and tried to earn money, it would surely be difficult for him to get time to perform worship, and his daily religious duties. So, deciding to “let Raghuvir shape his destiny according to His will”, he turned his mind from these thoughts and continued to do with a broken heart what he had been so far doing. For, we think, Ramkumar, who had great faith in God, was content with a little, and being good-natured, was not very pushing in worldly life. There now occurred, by the will of God, an event which showed Ramkumar a way out of that uncertainty and relieved him of all anxiety.