3.5 THE MOOD OF THE SPIRITUAL TEACHER IN YOUTH
Veiled by the ignorance consisting of the three Gunas I am not manifest
to all (except to some of My devotees). The deluded world does not know
Me, the unborn and the immutable.
— Gita VII. 25.
A special manifestation of the mood of the spiritual teacher in the Master’s life began on the day he engaged himself to perform the sacred daily worship of the divine Mother at Dakshineswar. It was then the period of his Sadhana. He was in a state of divine madness on account of love of God. In spite of all these, one who is a spiritual teacher is always so and one who is a leader is so from childhood. It is not as if people form a committee, consult one another and accord him the position of the spiritual teacher or the leader. As soon as he appears before society, the minds of people are filled with respect for him and, bowing their heads before him, they immediately begin to learn from him and obey his commands. This is the law. Swami Vivekananda said, “A leader is always born and never made.” It is therefore seen that the acts which call forth irrevocable punishment from an angry society when they are committed by ordinary people, make the same society follow them fondly, when they are performed by the teachers of people. Bhagavan Sri Krishna says in the Gita,1 “People follow whatever he (a teacher of people) sets as the standard by his own action.” Strange as it may appear, it has all along been a fact and will continue to be so. “Let the worship of Indra”, said Sri Krishna, “be stopped from today and that of Govardhana2 commenced” and people began to do that. “From today,” said Buddha, “let animal sacrifice be stopped” and immediately society discarded the injunction “Yajnarthe pasavah srishtah” — animals have been created (to be killed) for the purpose of sacrifices. Jesus gave permission to his disciples to have their meals on the Sabbath day. That became the rule. Mohammad married many wives, and, still people respect and follow him as a religious hero and a selfless teacher. In all things, great or small, that is the case — whatever they say and do become the standard of moral conduct.
We have already said3 why that happens. The limited self, the “I” of the spiritual teachers of people is completely destroyed for all time and its place is occupied by the universal “I”, which is the origin of all thoughts and beings. It is the nature of that I to seek the good of the many. And just as the bees come to know of the blossoming of flowers and, eagerly desirous of getting honey, gather round them, though the flowers do not send a loving invitation to the bees, so, as soon as the universal “I” manifests itself in any person; the afflicted people of the world, somehow or other, know it and run uninvited to him for peace and bliss. It is with great difficulty and after a good deal of austerities, that a little, a drop or two so to speak, of the manifestation of that unlimited “I” takes place in the ordinary perfected man; whereas, in the lives of the spiritual teachers of the world, there is some manifestation of it from the very beginning of their lives; in youth there is a greater degree of manifestation; and at last its fullest manifestation is found in the wonderful acts and deeds, witnessing which, men, in awe and amazement, look upon the spiritual teacher as one with God. For, the manifestation of that superhuman mood then becomes as natural to them as their common daily actions like breathing, eating, drinking and walking. What can, therefore, an ordinary man do? Unable to fathom the depth of their divine nature with his plumbline of selfishness, — poor man, perplexed — what can he do but look upon them as God Himself and with absolute reliance and devotion take refuge in them?
When we study the Master’s life we also find the gradual unfoldment of this mood daily in his life when he was in the state of a Sadhaka in his youth: and at the end of austere spiritual practices for twelve years, it became fully manifested in him and cast a halo of naturalness around it. At that time the ordinary human intellect was at a loss to know which I-consciousness the Master was in at any particular moment and when the mood of the spiritual teacher was manifested in him through his identification with the universal “I”. But when this mood attained its full development is a distinct story and it will be told at its proper place. Now, it is necessary to tell the reader here a little of how he behaved on many occasions in his youth at the time of his Sadhana when he was beside himself with the divine mood.
We find the first manifestation of the mood of the spiritual teacher during his youth in connection with Rani Rasmani, the foundress of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar and her son-in-law Mathuranath. None of us have had the good fortune of seeing either of the two. But, from what we have heard from the Master himself, it is very clear that at the very first sight, a love for the Master grew in their hearts and gradually it assumed unusual depth. It will perhaps appear to our minds to be a fairy tale instead of a fact that man can love an ordinary man so much and have so much reliance on and devotion to that man; for, on superficial observation the Master was then an ordinary, insignificant priest and they were leaders in society, great in wealth, respect, learning and intelligence, though not of a high caste.
Now, the Master had a strange nature from his childhood. Wealth, respect, learning, intelligence, big titles and appellations at the end of one’s name because of which people regard one as great, were never held in great regard by him. The Master used to say, “When one ascends the monument4 — the three or four-storeyed buildings, the tall trees and the grass growing low on the ground — all look alike.” We also find that from his childhood the Master’s mind generally dwelt on such a high plane, because of his devotion to truth and love of God, that from there differences in wealth, respect, learning, etc., on account of which we get puffed up and “the vast earth appears to us to be but a saucer”, are not seen. Or, the Master’s mind would always discriminate before undertaking anything and arrive at a definite conclusion by deep thinking as to why a thing should be done, where the relation with a particular person would ultimately lead and where it had led others under similar conditions. Therefore, those things could, by no manner of means, hide their purpose and final development from him under a charming guise and deflect him from the right course even for a short time. The reader may say, “But this kind of discriminating intellect will bring first of all the defects of all things before the eyes and paralyse all urge for activity and make all undertakings impossible.” It is exactly so. If the intellect were not purified before and freed from desires and if it were not turned to the high ideal of the realization of God, it would undoubtedly render man aimless and inactive and sometimes self-willed and reckless. If, on the contrary, the intellect is turned to purity and high ideals, it alone probes all things to the very bottom and finds their defects, thereby leading man quickly forward along the path to the realization of God. Therefore Sri Krishna in the Gita5 has asked only men of such faith and devotion only to find out the painful evils inherent in birth, death, decrepitude and disease, and thereby attain dispassion. Let us observe how well-developed was that faculty of finding the hollowness of worldly things in the Master’s character from his childhood. Admitted into school he was not attracted by such titles as Tarkalankara, or Vidyavagisa, by name and fame, but found out instead, that these big Tarkavagisas and Nyayachanchus were dancing attendance at the doors of the rich, parading their learning by long quotations from Nyaya and Vedanta for the “bundling of rice and plantain”, for their mere livelihood. Having got married, he was not at all attracted by worldly pleasures and amusements, but found out instead, the evils in committing oneself once for all, to worldly life, in order to have an ephemeral, uncertain happiness, and in running after money by increasing one’s wants. Seeing that everything in the world could be achieved and every position gained by money, he was not thereby induced to devote himself heart and soul to the earning of money, but found out instead, that mere rice, pulses, cloth, brick, earth, wood etc., might be had for money but not the realization of God. And, again, he was not attracted towards acquiring name and fame as a man of charity, a philanthropist6, etc., but found out instead, that as a result of lifelong efforts there might be established at the most a few free schools, a few charitable dispensaries or a few rest-houses and that then would follow death, when the philanthropist would leave the world behind in as much want and joylessness as before. And the same was the spirit manifested regarding everything else!
Therefore, it was very very difficult for ordinary men, especially for the people proud of their learning and wealth, to rightly recognize and understand the Master who had such a peculiar nature; for as nobody is plain with them, they lose very often the power of listening to straightforward talks on account of their purse-proud nature and the public honour accorded to them. So it is not at all surprising that, unable to recognize him, they should take him to be vulgar, mad or proud. It therefore adds to our surprise to see Rani Rasmani’s and Mathuranath’s love and reverence for him. It seems to us that it was a unique stroke of good fortune that, by the grace of God, not only did they keep intact their first love for him but surrendered themselves entirely at his holy feet when they were being daily acquainted with his divine mood as a spiritual teacher. Otherwise, it would not have been easy for Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu to give up egoism and pride of wealth and contract a love for the Master at the first sight and maintain and develop it to the last to a surprising degree; the more so as the Master was so queer and old fashioned. For example, he went without food on the day of the dedication ceremony of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar, and later, when he had to stay in the temple, he would day after day rather do his own cooking on the river bank, of the provisions supplied from the temple-stores, than partake of the food offered to the Deity and sanctified by Her — all because the cooked food belonged to the low caste people which, as he thought, would pollute him, though his own brother had performed the worship, offered the food and partaken of the Prasada. Mathur’s love and vague admiration for the Master led him to seek an opportunity to appoint him as a priest of the Mother Kali, but the eccentric Master avoided talking with the worldly Mathur, the latter’s repeated attempts notwithstanding. Is it not extraordinary that under such circumstances the love of Mathur and the Rani went on steadily increasing?
The Master had by now got married. He was in the hey-day of his youth. He had returned to Dakshineswar after his marriage and had taken charge of the worship of Kali, the divine Mother. And as soon as he had done so, the divine madness was again upon him.7 In his agony at not having realized God, he rolled on the ground restlessly and rubbed his face mercilessly against it, crying piteously all the while, “Mother”, “Mother”. People would gather round him in multitudes and in sympathy would say, “Ah, the poor man must be suffering from a terrible colic. Nothing else can make one so restless.”
And sometimes he became motionless at the time of worship, on placing all the flowers for worship on his own head; and again, sometimes, like one mad, he went on singing for a long time the songs composed by Sadhakas. At other times, however, when he was somewhat in the normal mood, he behaved with all as he should. But when meditating on the divine Mother, such ecstasies would come, not once or twice but very often, not in small doses but with overwhelming intensity; then he would have no consciousness of the surroundings, nor hear anybody’s words nor reply to anybody. But even during those times people felt very often the exquisite beauty of his divine nature; for, even then if anybody requested him to sing a song or two on the Mother, he would begin immediately to sing in his exquisitely sweet voice and, filled with the spirit of the song, would lose himself in it.
Now, not only the lower officers but the cashier, the chief officer of the temple, brought many tales of the Master’s improper and unceremonious actions to the ears of Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu. It was reported: “The junior8 Bhattacharya is ruining everything; the Mother’s worship and the offering of food to Her are not done properly. Can the Mother accept anything that is done so improperly?” They complained, but the desired effect was not produced; for Mathur Babu used now and then to come suddenly to the temple without informing anybody and, remaining unobserved, noticed the longing devotional behaviour of the Master and his affectionate childlike importunities to the divine Mother during the worship, shedding tears of joy and devotion. He then ordered the officers of the temple: “You shall not obstruct the junior Bhattacharya or find fault with him in anything he may do. You shall inform me first and then act as I order.”
Rani Rasmani also would come from time to time to the temple and become so charmed with the floral decoration of the Mother and with songs of the Mother’s name and glory, sung by the Master in his exquisitely sweet voice, that whenever she came to the Kali temple she would call the junior Bhattacharya to her and request him to sing her a few songs. The Master also completely forgot that he was singing for any mortal and, filled with the spirit of the songs, went on singing as if he was doing it for the divine Mother Herself. Thus days were rolling on. As in the big household of the world, so in the small one in the temple, all were busy with their own affairs, relieving the humdrum monotony of their lives by indulging in such piquant subjects as speaking ill of others and carrying and inventing tales during the little leisure they could snatch from looking after their worldly affairs and thinking about their own selfish interests. Therefore, who was there to notice what changes were being brought about in the mind of the junior Bhattacharya on account of his love of God? “He is a mad fellow. The Babus (the proprietors) have somehow taken a fancy to him, and that is why he still retains the job. But how long can he retain it? He is sure to commit some strange act some day and will be driven away. Is there any certainty about the temper of the big folk? It takes very little time to please them or to displease them.” This was the kind of talk that sometimes went on among the officers. The Master’s nephew and attendant Hriday had joined him there by that time.
One day Rani Rasmani came to the temple; all the officers were very busy. The shirkers too were that day attending to their duties very carefully. After taking her bath in the Ganga, the Rani went to the Kali temple. The worship and the dressing up of the divine Kali were then finished. The Rani saluted the Mother and sat down on a seat near the holy image within the temple to perform her daily worship. She saw the junior Bhattacharya near and requested him to sing “Mother’s name”. The Master also sat down near the Rani and, filled with devotional emotions, began to sing the songs of Ramprasad, Kamalakanta and other mystics; she was listening to these songs while performing worship, Japa, etc. This went on for some time; but the Master suddenly got annoyed and stopped singing and sharply exclaimed in a harsh tone, “That thought alone! That thought even here?” Saying so, he immediately struck the tender person of the Rani with the palm of his hand. The Master was in that very mood now in which a father becomes angry and punishes his child on seeing something wrong in its conduct. But who understood that?
All the officers in the temple and the women attendants of the Rani raised a hue and cry. The gatekeeper ran hastily to catch hold of the Master. Wondering what the noise within the temple was due to, the officers came there out of curiosity. But those who were the main cause of this noise — the Master and Rani Rasmani — both were calm and tranquil, without taking any notice of the noise and the officers’ running hither and thither. The Master was calm and quiet with a gentle smile escaping his lips, serenely poised in his self. And finding on self-analysis that she had been thinking about the result of a particular case pending in the law court at that time instead of meditating on the universal Mother, the Rani was a little embarrassed, repentant and serious. Again, wondering how the Master could know her thought, the Rani had also an element of surprise in her mind. Brought suddenly to her senses by the noise made by the officers, she apprehended that there was a possibility of a great injury being inflicted on the innocent Master by the mean-minded people; she then commanded them in a serious mood. “Bhattacharya is not at all to blame. Do not find fault with him” Later, Mathur heard the whole story from the Rani and approved of her order. Some of the officers became very much disappointed; but what could they do? They thought, “What business have we with the big affairs of big people!” and remained quiet. When he reads this the reader will perhaps think, “What a strange mood of the spiritual teacher is this? What queer manifestation of that mood is this, that of assaulting people?”
We reply, “Read the religious history of the world and you will see such events recorded in the lives of the religious teachers of the world. Remember the event in the life of Sri Chaitanya of bringing the Kazi to his senses and of transmitting devotion to Acharya Advaita by beating them.
Think and you will find that such events were not lacking in the life of Jesus also. Surrounded by his disciples, Jesus came to visit the temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem and to offer worship, sacrifices, etc., there. What doubt is there about the fact that the Jewish mind would feel the same pure and wonderful devotion at the time of visiting the temple at Jerusalem as is felt by a Hindu mind in visiting the holy places like Varanasi, Vrindavan and other centres of pilgrimage? Over and above that, the mind of Jesus was also in Bhavamukha.9 Completely filled with the love of God, he ran to have the direct vision of the Deity as soon as he saw the temple from a distance. Many people were there outside the temple, at the gate and in the courtyard, variously busy in worldly affairs, such as earning money, deceiving others, etc., regardless of whether the pilgrims had the vision of the Deity or not. The temple priests were attentive only to their pursuit of extracting a little money out of them and the shopkeepers and others were all much given to considering how they could gain a little more than usual by selling animals, flowers and other accessories of worship. Who felt the necessity of thinking that he was in the presence of God in the temple? While he was entering the temple nothing of these things, however, attracted the attention of Jesus, who was filled with spiritual emotions. Going straight into the temple and having the vision of the Deity, he was beside himself with joy to see that He was within him as the Life of his life and the Self of his self. He began to feel that the temple and all the persons and things in it were more than his own; for it was on coming here that he was blessed with the vision of the source and solace of his life. When, however, coming down again, the mind was looking for the manifestation of the inner mood in the persons and things outside, he found that everything was the opposite of congenial; that no one was engaged in the service of the solace of his life; but that every one was given to the enjoyment of lust and gold. His heart was then filled with despair and sorrow. He thought, “What is this? Why don’t you do whatever you like in the world outside? Why are all these worldly affairs here, where there is an especial manifestation of God? Instead of thinking of Him while you are here and doing away with your worldly anguish, why have you brought in the world here too?” Thinking thus, he was seized with divine anger and he assumed a terrible appearance and with a cane in hand drove off all the shopkeepers and others out of the temple by force. Having got a momentary awakening of the spirit from his words, they also went out without offering any resistance whatsoever, thinking that they had been indeed committing misdeeds. The men fully tied down to the world, who could not be awakened by words, got it by being flogged and went out. Neither were they angry, nor did they dare harm him in any way.
In the life of Sri Krishna also many events of this nature are found; for example, a man was beaten by him, and forthwith got an awakening and recited hymns and praises to him as the divine Lord Himself. Again, extremely earth-bound men came to harm him and got perplexed and stupefied by his words and laughter. Enough now of these incidents of the Puranas.
This event is a bright example of the way in which the Master, under the impulsion of the divine power manifested as the spiritual teacher, used to lose his individuality and teach and behave towards others. If we probe the event to the bottom, it does not seem to be a very ordinary matter. What a great difference do we find between the two; the one, insignificant temple-priest receiving a very small pay, and the other, Rasmani, the Rani whose wealth, respect, intelligence, patience, courage and power astounded even the then very intelligent people of Calcutta. One is led to believe that such a poor Brahmin would find it difficult to approach her; or, if somehow he could do so, he would seek an opportunity to please her a little by flattery and such other methods and would consider himself blessed if he succeeded. But, what actually happened was quite the contrary. There was not only a protest against her wrong action but the infliction of punishment on her person! Just as looking at the incident from the Master’s side, it seems to be a matter for no little surprise; so, from the Rani’s side also, it does seem very surprising that anger, egoism and an idea of doing injury to him did not cross her mind even though she met with that kind of behaviour. But, as we have already said, when the mood of the spiritual teacher thus appears in the minds of great souls identified with the universal I, devoid of the slightest tinge of selfishness, ordinary men have to bow their heads before them even against their will, not to speak of the people of Sattvika nature like the Rani who was a devotee; for, raised by the teacher’s grace and power, the limited human minds, with attention fixed on their own interest only, can understand of themselves that whatever the teacher says conduces to their true interest. And there remains no alternative but to act in accordance with his directions. Again, as the Master used to say, “A man cannot become great in anything, nor can he digest10 fame, power, position, etc., if he has not a special part of God in him.” The Rani could receive the grace of the Master, manifested as it was in that harsh manner, only because that kind of divine power was present in her, who was of a Sattvika nature. “Rani Rasmani”, said the Master, “was one of the eight Nayikas (attendant goddesses) of the divine Mother. She came down to the world to spread the worship of the divine Mother. ‘Sri Rasmani Dasi desirous of realizing the feet of Kali’, were the words engraved on the seal to mark the documents and other papers of her estate. A steadfast devotion to the divine Mother was manifested in every action of the Rani.”
There is another thing to be mentioned. It is recorded in the scriptures that a mind completely merged in God exists in various moods. Sri Shankara has described it beautifully in his book Viveka-chudamani (540):
“Digambaro vapi cha sambaro va
Tvagambaro vapi chidambarasthah
Unmattavat vapi cha balavat va
Pishachavat vapi charatyavanyam.”
That is, persons who have had their lives’ purpose fulfilled by the realization of the Self, roam about in the world in strange attires — some with ordinary clothes on, some clad in barks of trees, others having knowledge or the points of the compass as their dress (i.e., stark naked), some like madmen, some like boys free from the slightest tinge of lust and gold; others again are similarly seen like ghosts.
These persons appear to be in such states in the eyes of the ordinary people inasmuch as the former remain always identified with the universal I; but, it is through them alone that the power of God in the form of the spiritual teacher, able to destroy the darkness of ignorance, is specially manifested. For we have already said that it is only by the destruction of the little selfish “I” that the immense “I” pervading the universe and the divine power as the spiritual teacher doing good to the people are manifested together. Those persons of self-knowledge, who remain always in the position of teachers of religion or Rishis, have to behave like ordinary men and seem, according to circumstances and for the training of others, to possess good conduct, steadfastness, restraint, power of argumentation, knowledge of scriptures, etc., in short, an intense attachment for everything that is good and moral and a strong detachment or aversion from everything that is bad and immoral. We have said “seem” because they spend their lifetime in these moods in order to indicate to others the path leading beyond the realm of Maya, though they ever live in the full awareness of the non-dual Brahman, oneness of all things and ideas, good or bad, religious or irreligious, moral or immoral, which belong to the domain of Maya. When ordinary religious teachers have very often to spend their time in this way, it is superfluous to mention that the incarnations of God or the teachers of mankind or the world teachers would spend their lifetime in the way mentioned above. That is why it is so difficult for ordinary human beings to understand and gauge their nature, their acts and endeavours. It is especially so in the case of Bhagavan11 Sri Ramakrishna, the incarnation for the modern age. For, the greatness, power, splendour, etc., so far recorded in the scriptures as manifested in the incarnations of God, were hidden in such a way in him that no one could get an inkling of these things by seeing him superficially a few times—not till they were intimately connected with him as genuine seekers of truth receiving his grace. Consider: What is the external quality in him by which you could feel attracted? By knowledge? — he was, so to say, wholly illiterate. How could you know that the Veda, the Vedanta and all other scriptures were read out to him and he had completely mastered them all by virtue of his prodigious memory? Will you gauge him by his intellect? What counsel would you seek from him, from whose lips are always heard words like, “I am nothing, I don’t know anything, my Mother knows everything?” And even if you seek his guidance, he says, “Ask Mother, and She will tell you.” Can you keep your faith steady and act according to his words? You will think, “Ah, what a piece of advice he has given us; we have all been hearing since we read the primers like Kathamala and Bodhodaya12 that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, formless and of the nature of pure consciousness, that He can, if He wills, give us the knowledge and understanding of everything. But will it do to act up to this teaching?” Will you make an estimate of him by wealth, name and fame? Ah, the Master himself had indeed plenty of all these! And he would again advise you from the very beginning to renounce them Such was the case with everything around him The only means by which to gauge him was by seeing his purity, love of God and goodwill. If you were attracted by these, well and good; if not, it was beyond your reach to gauge and understand him We, therefore, say that it was not a matter of small fortune for Rani Rasmani, that she, instead of rejecting the grace through egoism and pride because of the harsh way in which it was manifested, could understand and profit by the Master’s mood as the spiritual teacher and treasure it up in the innermost chamber of her heart.