4.3 PILGRIMAGE OF THE MASTER AS
HIS COMPANY WITH THE HOLY MEN
Know that all beings, that are great, prosperous and powerful, have for
their origin a part of My power.
— Gita X. 41
It is not in the power of man to record everything about the divine play of the Master (as the spiritual teacher established in Bhavamukha) enacted with so many people in so many places and in so many ways. We have already made a present of a little of it to the reader. It was also in accordance with the same mood that he went on pilgrimages. We shall now try to narrate them to the reader.
As far as we saw, no action of the Master was aimless or useless. If we study even the very ordinary daily actions of his life, not to speak of the special events, they are found to be full of profound meaning. Again, in the modern age we have not seen a single life in the spiritual world so full of unusual occurrences. Man cannot attain the complete experience of any one of the innumerable aspects of God even by the practice of lifelong efforts and austerities, let alone his realizing Him and having visions of Him in various aspects, his direct perception, by dint of Sadhana, of all kinds of religious doctrines as true and his helping the aspirants in following all those doctrines and in going forward along their own paths. Far from having any peer in the spiritual world, he stands out as one really unheard of. Each of the great souls of the ancient ages, the seers, the teachers and the divine incarnations resorted to the means of a particular spiritual mood, realized God thereby and proclaimed that to be the only path, leading to the vision of God. They had not the opportunity of knowing that God might be known through various other moods also. Or, they themselves might have realized that truth, more or less, but they did not publicly declare it, thinking that such preaching might undermine the firm faith and devotion of the people to their chosen Ideals and thereby thwart or harm their realization of spirituality. But, whatever may be the motive, history bears testimony to the fact that they preached as the Guru, narrow religious doctrines only, which became in course of time a perennial source of jealousy, hatred and even of bloodshed on many occasions.
That was not all. The narrow sectarian ideals gave rise to various doctrines contrary to one another and made the path to realization of God so intricate that it appeared impossible to the human intellect to disentangle that intricacy and have the vision of God, the Truth. Again, taking the time to be propitious, so to say, Western materialism, which regarded this worldly life and enjoyments as all in all, entered through education into India with irresistible force. It denied the minds of the boys and young men of impressionable intellect and flooded the country with those baneful foreign ideas and ideals of atheism and worldliness. Who can say how wide-spread that wretched condition would have become, had not religion been re-established by the advent of this extraordinary Master, a glowing example of purity, renunciation and love of God?
He himself practised all religions and showed that none of the different aspects of God, which were realized in ancient ages, by the great souls, the seers, the teachers and the incarnations, born in India and abroad, and none of the various methods of knowing Him preached by them was false, but all were perfectly true; that the aspirant, who has faith, may become blessed by realizing God even today by proceeding like them along those paths; that, although there existed a mountain-like wall of partition between the Hindus and the Muslims on account of mutually contradictory social manners, customs, etc., the religious faiths of both were true and, worshipping the same God in different ways and going forward along different paths, both of them would be, in course of time, one in love with Love Itself; that standing on the foundation of that truth alone, they would in course of time bind each other in the embrace of love, forget the age-long quarrels and attain peace; and that believing in the truth of the religious doctrines preached by the seers and the incarnations of India and of other countries including that preached by Jesus, the West, running headlong towards the enjoyment of pleasures, would realize in course of time that there was peace only in renunciation and become blessed by harmonizing its life of action with religion. The more we proceed with the study of the life of this wonderful Master, the more shall we see that he does not belong to any particular country, community, nation or religion. All the peoples of the world will have to take refuge in his liberal doctrine some day, for they cannot afford to forgo peace. Established in Bhavamukha, the Master will enter into all sects and groups in the form of those liberal ideas and, breaking asunder the limitations produced by all kinds of narrowness, will cast them in his new mould, will bind them together with a cord of unity never known before.
That the aspirants of all the mutually contradictory and cantankerous religious denominations of India came to the Master, saw in him the perfect ideals of their own respective spiritual moods and were convinced that he was a traveller on their own particular path, is proof of what has been said above. The work of the spiritual teaching of the Master as the Guru, thus started in India for bringing about unity between the religious communities here, will not stop with the removal of the religious quarrels in this country or Asia alone but, overcoming slowly the lack of religion and the hatred thereof in Europe with a serene and tranquil step, it will establish all over the world a reign of peace never experienced before. Do you not notice how quickly this work has been proceeding since the passing away of the Master? Do you not notice, again, how the ideas of the Master have entered America and Europe through the revered Swami Vivekananda, to whom his Guru was as dear as his life, and how they have, during this short period, produced a revolution in the thought-world? In the irresistible march of time, this unfailing body of ideas will spread its influence over all peoples, all religions and all societies and bring about a wonderful revolution. Who has the power to resist its progress? Who can withstand the influence of this body of ideas glowing with the benevolent power of unprecedented purity and austerity? The instruments, through which it is being spread at the present time, will be broken. Many will not perhaps be able to detach themselves and understand its source. But it is certain that all the peoples of the world will, in order to feel blessed, have to cast their lives in this mould, have carefully to cherish in their hearts this mass of ideas glowing with the serene light of infinite glory.
Therefore, do not, O reader, stop merely with reading, like tales, the facts just narrated about the aspirants of different religious denominations of India, who came to the Master and were blessed with the realization of true spirituality. Try first of all to grasp and understand as far as possible the mass of divine ideas of the extraordinary Master established in Bhavamukha and then, diving deep into these stories, see how the movement sprang up and developed and spread its influence at first over the people educated according to the old system, then over those educated in the new method, and afterwards, crossing the boundaries of India, entered into other countries, and produced a revolution in the thought-world.
The first spread of the mass of ideas of the Master took place amongst the aspirants of the various religious communities of India. Whenever the Master practised any particular doctrine and realized perfection in it, the followers of that very doctrine, as we said before, came to him of themselves, saw in him their perfect ideal and got help from him before they left. Besides, at the request of Mathur Babu and the devout Jagadamba Dasi, his wife, the Master went on a pilgrimage up to Vrindavan. There is no lack of monks and devotees in places of pilgrimage like Kasi and Vrindavan. Therefore, it is not merely a guess-work of ours, but we had some indication of the fact from the Master himself, that eminent Sadhakas of those holy places met him and became blessed through the help of his power as the Guru. It is necessary to record here a little of what he said.
The Master said, “A piece has to move through all the squares before it reaches ‘home’. When one experiences all the states from that of sweepers to that of emperors, and is really convinced of their worthlessness, one can be in the state of a real Paramahamsa, a true knower of Brahman.” This is true so far as the realization of the ultimate knowledge by a particular aspirant himself is concerned. But, as regards what one should be like, if one were to become a real teacher of humanity, he used to say, “One can commit suicide with a nail-parer; but one requires a shield and a sword in order to kill another (to conquer an enemy).” If one is to become a true spiritual teacher, one has to pass through all kinds of experiences and become endowed with more power than the generality of people. The Master said to us again and again, “It is in the degree of power only that an incarnation of God, on the one hand, and a perfected man and Jiva, on the other, differ.” Do you not see that, in the practical world of politics, geniuses like Bismarck and Gladstone have to keep an eye on the past and present history and events of their countries and develop foresight far more powerful than ordinary people? And it is because they do so that they can understand what prevailing ideas and movements would develop in a particular way and have a baneful influence and effect on the generality of the people of their country fifty years or more hence. So they set free counter forces which prevent those ideas from becoming powerful in course of time and bringing misery to their countries. It must be understood that the case is the same in the spiritual world also. Incarnations, the true teachers, have to set afoot, before they pass away, new movements after a careful study and correct grasp and understanding of the spiritual ideas introduced in past ages by the ancient seers — what forms those ideas have assumed in the course of that long period; how much good or evil they have done and are doing to the people in general in their not-all-beneficent present forms; what causes have contributed to their degradation; what forms the new spiritual ideas prevalent in the country at the present time, when gradually vitiated, will assume some two centuries hence; and whether or not they will grow more harmful to the people. For if they cannot rightly grasp these things, how can they understand the present condition of people? And if they cannot rightly diagnose the disease, how can they prescribe the medicine? Therefore, besides acquiring the power of prescribing that medicine by practising intense austerities and the like, spiritual teachers have to pass through a great variety of conditions in the world and gain more experience than others. Do you not see, with how many kinds of states the Master had to be acquainted? Born in a poor cottage, he suffered intense poverty during his childhood, was appointed a priest in the Kali temple, passed through the mean condition of serving another during his youth and, absorbed in a search for God, met with harsh treatment from his relatives and became an object of pity and contempt for the worldly people who regarded him as mad, during the period of his Sadhana. Again, he experienced the respect worthy of a king when Mathur Babu entertained the greatest possible reverence for him and showed the intensest devotion to him; and he had the supreme splendour worthy of the gods when the aspirants of various denominations poured out their hearts’ love and devotion at his lotus feet, knowing him to be an incarnation of God. Thus experiencing all these and numerous other states, he had to stand the test of remaining perfectly unperturbed under all those circumstances. Just as, on the one hand, his undivided divine love engaged him intensely in practising extraordinary austerities and opened his super-sensuous, subtle Yogic vision, so, on the other, his acquaintance with all those worldly states enabled him rightly to grasp and understand the mental attitudes of people under all circumstances in the gross external world, gave him his skill in dealing with them, and made him sympathize with all kinds of misery and happiness. For, it was through all these internal and external states that the Master’s power as the teacher was seen to blossom and manifest itself more and more every day.
There is no doubt that similar results were produced in the life of the Master by his pilgrimages. It was necessary for the Master, the spiritual teacher of the age, to be acquainted with the spiritual condition of the generality of the people of the country. This need was, no doubt, met to a great extent through the pilgrimage he undertook with Mathur. For, the Master’s eye of wisdom, which could always penetrate into all the veils of Maya and have a direct vision in the inward world of the One indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss without a second, the quintessence of all, made him in the everyday life of the external world, an expert in grasping the mental attitudes of people from a few casual words of theirs and in understanding the state of the country and society by the observation of a few events. It must, of course, be understood that we say this with respect to the Master’s normal state of consciousness. But, when he ascended to higher planes through the power of Yoga and with the help of divine vision saw and understood the individual, social and regional conditions and fully ascertained the means by which their present plight might come to an end, he was beyond the necessity of knowing anything in the manner of ordinary people, who do so by observing things with the gross eye and comparing with other things. It was then not at all necessary for him to ascertain the truth about things in this manner. We saw the Master, the god-man, ascertain the truths about all things with the help of both the ordinary outward eye and the extraordinary Yogic vision. Therefore, if we cannot make the reader acquainted with the perfect manifestation in him of both the divine and the human aspects, a partial picture only of that divine character will be imprinted in the reader’s mind. That is why we are making an effort to study the life of this god-man in both those aspects.
Seen from the scriptural angle of vision, there is another reason why the Master went on a pilgrimage. The persons who have realized the goal of life by the attainment of the vision of God go, say the scriptures, to holy places of pilgrimage and enhance their quality of holiness. As they come and reside in those places with eager hearts to have special visions of God, they leave behind them either new manifestations of special aspects of God or enhance and illumine the previous manifestations already in existence there. So, when others come there, they experience easily a little at least of those aspects of God. This scriptural evidence is with regard to ordinary perfected souls; how much more powerful would be the influence of the incarnations of God like the Master? The Master explained to us on many occasions in his simple language what has been said before about holy places. He said, “Know for certain, my children, that there is God’s manifestation where people have practised for a long time austerities, Japa, meditation, steady abstraction of mind, prayer and worship in order to have His vision. Their thoughts of God have become solidified there, so to speak, on account of their devotion; that is why holy thoughts and visions are so easily attained there. Numberless Sadhus, devotees and perfected souls came from age to age to these holy places in order to realize God, gave up all desires and called on Him with all their heart. So, there is a special manifestation of God in these places, though He is uniformly present everywhere, like water which is easily accessible in wells, pools, ponds or lakes, though it can be had in other places also, if one digs for it there.”
Again, the Master taught us to “chew the cud” after our visits to these places endowed with a special manifestation of God. He said, “Just as cows eat their fill, become free from anxiety and then, resting in one place, chew the cud, so after one has visited temples and places of pilgrimage, one should sit in a secluded place, think on and merge oneself in those pure thoughts of God that rose in the mind while one was in those places; one should not apply one’s mind to sights, tastes and other worldly objects, immediately after visiting them Those thoughts of God do not, in that case, produce permanent results in the mind.”
On one occasion, some of us accompanied the Master to Kalighat, to pay our obeisance to the Mother of the universe. It is superfluous to say that the special divine manifestation of the Pithasthana1 and the living manifestation of the universal Mother, in the mind and body of the Master, combined to produce an extraordinary joy in the hearts of the devotees. On our way back, one of us had to go to his father-in-law’s place in response to a special request and to spend that night there. On the morrow, when he came to the Master, he asked him where he had passed the previous night. And hearing that he had had to pass the night in the house of his father-in-law, he said, “Ah, what is this? You saw Mother and came back; what a great difference between ‘chewing the cud’ of the vision and thoughts of Her, which you ought, to have done, and passing the night like worldly people in your father-inlaw’s house instead! One should chew the cud, in other words, continue to cherish the thoughts that arise in one’s mind in temples and holy places of pilgrimages. How can those divine thoughts stay in the mind otherwise?”
Again, the Master said to us on many occasions that one could not derive much benefit from visiting places of pilgrimage and other holy places without devoutly cherishing from beforehand holy thoughts in the mind. When he was living, many of us at different times expressed our desire to go on a pilgrimage, when he said to us affectionately, “One, who has it here (i.e., in the heart) has it there; one who has it not here, has it not there either.”2 He said further, “The devotional moods, when they exist in one’s mind, get accentuated through association in places of pilgrimage; but what special benefit will one derive there if one has not got those moods in one’s mind? Often it is said that so-and-so’s son has fled to Kasi, or some other holy place; shortly after, he writes home that he somehow secured a job there and has sent some money. Again, many go to live in places of pilgrimage but start shops, business, etc., there. When I went with Mathur to the north-western parts of India, I found that what was here was there also. The same mango trees, tamarind trees, clusters of bamboos, were there as here. I saw all that and said to Hridu, ‘What, O Hridu, have I then come to see here? Whatever is there, is here. The only difference is that the power of digestion of the people of these parts seems to be greater than that of the people there, when one sees the ordure in the fields here.’”3
The devotees, we said before, brought the Master for the treatment of his throat-disease to a hired house at first at Shyampukur in Calcutta and afterwards to a garden house at Kasipur, a little to the north of that city. Accompanied by two of his co-disciples, Swami Vivekananda went away to Buddha-gaya without the knowledge of anybody a few days after the Master came to the Kasipur garden. At that time the study of the extraordinary life of Lord Buddha and conversation about his detachment from the world, his renunciation and austerity, were going on night and day amongst us. On the wall of the small room on the southern side of the ground floor of the garden house, which we always used, was written the verse from the Lalitavistara, indicative of the firm resolve of Buddha, “I will sit continuously on the same seat and practise meditation and steady abstraction of mind till truth is realized; let the body be destroyed in the attempt, if it is to be so.” Flashing before our eyes day and night, these words always reminded us that we also would have to sacrifice our lives for the realization of God, who is of the nature of Truth. We also must follow the maxim:
Ihasane sushyatu me sariram twagasthimamsam pralayaneha yatu,
Aprapya bodhim bahukalpadurlabham, naivasanat kayamataschalishyate.4
Thus having had endless discussions on Buddha’s detachment from the world, the Swami suddenly went away to Buddhagaya. But, he did not inform anyone where he would go or when he would return. So, we thought, he would not perhaps return to the world any more and we would not see him again. Word came afterwards that he had put on ochre-cloth and gone to Buddhagaya. The minds of all of us were so much attracted towards the Swami that it was very painful for us to be without him even for an hour; therefore, the minds of many became restless and they felt a constant desire to join him there. Gradually news of this reached the Master’s ears also. Knowing that resolve of one of us, one day Swami Brahmananda told the Master of it. The Master heard it and said to him, “Why are you anxious? Where can Naren go? How long can he be away? You will see he will come back very soon.” Afterwards he said smiling, “Although you journey even to all the four corners of the world, you will find nothing (no true spirituality) anywhere. Whatever is there, is also here (showing his own body).” The word “here”, it seems, was used by the Master in two senses: firstly, that the manifestation of religion and spirituality did not, at that time, exist anywhere else in such an especial manner as in himself; and secondly, that God existed within every one, and that if love for and devotion to Him within one could not be awakened, there was no benefit derived from travelling to various places outside. Two or more meanings are thus met with in many of the Master’s words. Why speak of the Master alone? It is the same case with all the incarnations of God appearing in the world from age to age; and human beings in general accept one or two of those meanings according to their individual liking or past impressions. The person to whom the Master addressed the aforesaid words took them in the former meaning and, firmly convinced that the manifestation of spirituality was nowhere to be found in the same degree as it was in the Master, stayed with him with his mind free from anxiety. Swami Vivekananda also actually came back to Kasipur in a few days.
At one time, a little before the passing away of the Master, a supremely devout woman devotee expressed to the Master her desire of going to Vrindavan and practising austerities and other religious exercises for some time. The Master, with a movement of his hand, said to her, “Ah! Why should you go? What can you do there? One who has it here, has it there and one who has it not here, has it not there either.” The woman devotee could not accept those words of the Master on account of the attraction of her heart for that place and bade good-bye to him. But, she, we were told by her, could not derive much benefit from the pilgrimage on that occasion. Besides, she lost the opportunity of being with the Master in his last days, since he passed away shortly after she went away on the pilgrimage.
Many a time we were told by the Master, the embodiment of all spiritual moods, that his journeys to the holy places were undertaken with special mental attitudes. He used to say, “I thought, I would find every one in Kasi merged in Samadhi, in the meditation of Siva all the twenty-four hours; and all in Vrindavan beside themselves with devotion and divine love in the company of Govinda! But, when I was there I found everything quite the reverse.” The extraordinary simple mind of the Master used to accept and believe everything like a five-year-old boy. We have learnt to view all persons and things with a suspicious eye from our childhood; how can that kind of simple faith arise in our crooked minds? We look upon a man as a foolish, half-witted person, when we see him believing anything straightway. It was from the Master that we heard for the first time, “My children, people become simple-minded and liberal as the result of many austerities and Sadhana; if one is not simple-minded, one cannot realize God. It is to these men of simple faith that He manifests His real nature.” Again, lest anyone should think that one must be a simpleton to have sincere faith, he said, “You should become a devotee; but why should you be foolish on that account?” “Always”, continued he, “discriminate in your mind between what is real and what is unreal, and what is eternal and what is transitory. And then give up what is transitory and fix your mind on the thing eternal.”
Unable to harmonize these two statements, many of us got scolded by him now and again. Swami Yogananda had not then renounced the world. He required an iron pan for his house and went to Barabazar to buy one. He reminded the shopkeeper of the evil consequences of irreligiousness and said, “Look here; take the just price and give me a good thing; see that it has no cracks or holes”. The shopkeeper, in his turn, said, “Rest assured, sir, I’ll of course do that”, and chose for him a pan and gave it to him He believed in the words of the shopkeeper and brought it without examining it. But, when he came to Dakshineswar, he found that it was cracked! When the Master heard of this, he said, “How is that? You have bought the article, but why did you not examine it? The shopkeeper was there to conduct his business, not to practise religion. Why did you believe him and get deceived? You should no doubt be a devotee, but should you be foolish on that account? Should you be deceived by people? First examine whether the right thing has been given and then give the shopkeeper the price. See that the article does not weigh less than it should, before you receive it. Again, there are some articles for which it is customary for the sellers to give a little more than the quantity stipulated. Never neglect to take that extra quantity also.” Many such examples can be given. But this is not the place for them. Let us here mention only the Master’s extraordinary exercise of shrewdness, which co-existed with his wonderful simplicity, and resume our previous topic.
Mathur spent, we were told by the Master, more than a lakh of rupees on that occasion of travelling to holy places. As soon as he came to Kasi, he gave cooked food away to Brahmin Pandits. Afterwards, one day he invited them together with their families, fed them their fill and gave each one of them as farewell present, a piece of cloth and a rupee. Again, when he came back to that place after visiting Vrindavan, he played one day the part of the “wish-fulfilling tree” at the injunction of the Master and gave to everybody whatever necessary articles he asked for—metal pots, cloth, blankets, sandals, etc. When the Master saw quarrels, tumults and even fighting amongst the Brahmins on the very first day on which cooked food was distributed, he was extremely annoyed. He was seized with despair when he saw people attached to lust and gold in Varanasi as well as in other places. Dissolved in tears, he said to the divine Mother, “Why have you brought me here, Mother? I was happier at Dakshineswar.”
Although the Master was thus pained to see worldly attachment even amongst the people living in holy places, he had extraordinary visions and other experiences there, and was firmly convinced of the glory of Siva and the greatness of Kasi. From the time when he entered Varanasi by boat, the Master saw, with his spiritual eye, that the city of Siva was actually made of gold, that there was actually nothing made of earth and stone there. It was indeed the manifestation, in the present, of the invaluable golden mass of spiritual emotions of the hearts of holy devotees, deposited stratum after stratum and solidified through ages, so to speak, into this city. That effulgent form, the embodiment of spiritual emotions, is its eternal nature. And what is seen outside is its shadow only.
It does not take much effort to understand, on the whole, the meaning of the phrase “the golden Varanasi”, with the help of our gross vision too. Who will not admit that, from very ancient times, all the parts of India combined to pour out incessant showers of gold to construct that wonderful city of Siva, when he sees in Kasi innumerable temples and big buildings, more than two miles on the bank of the Ganga paved with stone, numberless bathing-ghats with wide flights of steps, countless metalled roads, bedecked with gates, innumerable aqueducts, oblong or circular reservoirs of water, such as ponds, wells, etc., monasteries, gardenhouses, and, above all, many a place where there is the free distribution of food for the maintenance of Brahmin students, Sadhus and the poor? Who will not feel astounded to think that the heart-felt devotion of about three hundred million people of India has contributed for such a long time uniformly to bring about that external manifestation of the beautiful city? Who will not be charmed to see the irresistible force of this mighty current of spiritual feelings and will not lose himself in an attempt to discover its origin? And who will not be wonderstruck and say with his head bent and heart melting with devotion, “This indeed is an incomparable creation. It is surely not manmade. It has actually been brought into existence by the infinite compassion of the divine Lord, the refuge of the humble and the deliverer of the afflicted.” And His Sakti Herself, in the form of Sri Annapurna, is for ever presiding here to nourish both the bodies of the Jivas, their gross bodies (formed by the assimilation of food) and the vital force, by the free distribution of food to them, and their subtle bodies, consisting of mind, intellect and bliss, by fully charging them with the power of spirituality, quickly bringing liberation to them, in other words, giving them the knowledge of their oneness with the divine Lord of the universe. It is, therefore, no wonder that, as soon as the Master, ever abiding in Bhavamukha, came here, he saw that celestial, golden current of spiritual emotions pervading the city of Siva and realized as golden that city, the solidified manifestation, so to speak, of that current.
All luminous things, without exception, are, in the eyes of the Hindus, pure, made of Sattva Guna. All things derive their manifestation from light, which is, therefore, pure in our eyes. We can understand this from the Sastras which prescribe the placing of the Jyotpradipa, the sacrificial lamp, near the deities, and forbid the putting out of lights before them and so on. It is perhaps owing to this principle that we have been enjoined to look upon bright things like gold etc., as pure, and forbidden to wear gold ornaments about the lower part of the person. Seeing that Varanasi was golden, the boylike Master was at first worried to think that the gold would be soiled if he were to answer nature’s calls there. We heard from the Master himself that Mathur arranged a palanquin to take the Master across the small stream, Asi, to answer calls of nature beyond it. When afterwards that mood of his came to an end, he had not to do so any more.
We were told by the Master of another especial vision of his in Kasi. Many people take a trip on the Ganga by boat to see the five holy places, Manikarnika and the others. Accompanied by the Master, Mathur took a similar trip. The main burning-ghat of Kasi is situated near Manikarnika. When Mathur’s boat came to the Manikarnika-ghat, it was seen to be full of smoke rising from funeral pyres; dead bodies were being burnt there. As soon as he happened to cast his eyes in that direction, the Master, the embodiment of spiritual emotions, was completely beside himself with joy and the hairs of his body stood on end. He walked quickly out of the covered portion of the boat, stood on the very verge of it and entered into Samadhi. The guides of Mathur, the boatmen, and others of the crew, ran to catch hold of him lest he should fall down into the water and be carried away by the current. But that was not necessary for he was seen to be standing calm and quiet, absolutely motionless; and a wonderful light and smile illumined his face and made that place pure and effulgent, as it were. Hriday and Mathur, stood carefully beside the Master. The crew stood at a distance and viewed the strange mood of the Master with an astonished eye. When, some time afterwards, that divine mood of the Master came to an end, all got down into Manikarnika, bathed, made gifts and performed other ceremonies that were to be performed there, before they went elsewhere by boat.
The Master then described his wonderful vision to Mathur and others. He said, “I saw a tall, white person with tawny matted hair walking with solemn steps to each pyre in the burning-ghat, raising carefully every Jiva and imparting into his ear the Mantra of supreme Brahman. On the other side of the pyre, the all-powerful Mahakali was untying all the knots of bondage, gross, subtle and causal of the Jiva produced by past impressions and sending him to the indivisible sphere by opening with Her own hands the door to liberation. Thus did Visvanatha, the divine Lord of the universe, endow him in an instant with the infinite Bliss of experiencing non-duality, which ordinarily results from the practice of Yoga and austerity for many cycles. Thus did He fulfil the perfection of the Jiva’s life.”
The Pandits, well versed in the scriptures, who were with Mathur, heard of the aforesaid vision and said to the Master, “It is written in general in the Kasikhanda, that if a Jiva died here, the Lord of the universe granted him Nirvana, the state of infinite Bliss; but it is not written in detail how He granted it. From your vision it is clear how it is accomplished. Your visions and experiences have gone beyond even what is recorded in the scriptures.”
While he was staying in Kasi, the Master went to pay visits to the famous holy men there. He was much pleased to see Trailanga Swami, who was one of them He spoke many things about the Swami occasionally. He said, “I saw that the universal Lord Himself was using his body as a vehicle for His manifestation. Kasi was illumined by his stay there. He was in an exalted state of Knowledge. There was no body-consciousness in him Sand there became so hot in the sun that no one could set foot on it, but he lay comfortably on it. I cooked rice porridge, took it with me to him and fed him with it. He did not speak then, as he had taken a vow to remain silent. I asked him by a sign whether God was one or more. In reply he hinted that, when one was in Samadhi, one knew Him as one; otherwise, as long as there was the knowledge of diversity, such as I, you, the Jiva, the universe, etc., He was many. Pointing at him, I said to Hridu, ‘This is what is called the true state of a Paramahamsa.’”
After a short stay at Kasi, the Master went to Vrindavan with Mathur Babu. He, it is said, was in a wonderful Bhavasamadhi to see the image of Vankavihari — he lost himself and ran to, embrace Him When he saw cowherd boys returning from pastures and crossing the Yamuna with herds of cattle at sunset, he became filled with spiritual emotion, inasmuch as, among them, he had the vision of the cowherd Krishna, dark-blue like a newly formed cloud and bedecked with the feathers of a peacock’s tail on his head. The Master visited Nidhuvan, Govardhan and a few other places of Vraja. He liked these places more than Vrindavan. Having various visions of Sri Krishna and Sri Radha, the supreme lady of Vraja, he felt intense divine love in those places. Mathur, it is said, sent him by a palanquin to go and see places such as Govardhan. On one side of the palanquin he spread a piece of cloth on which he piled in stacks rupees, half-rupees, quarter-rupees, two-anna-pieces, etc., so that the Master might give them away to the poor and to the places of worship. But the Master became so much filled with spiritual love and affection while he was going to those places, that he could not take them in his hand to give them away. Having no alternative left, he pulled one end of the piece of cloth and scattered them amongst the poor people of those places.
In those places of Vraja, the Master saw many world-renouncing Sadhakas sitting within Kupas5 with their backs to the doors and immersed in Japa and meditation by withdrawing their eyes from outward things. The Master’s mind was much attracted by the natural and other beauties of Vraja, adorned with fruits and flowers, the small hillock, Govardhan, deer and peacocks, free from fear, roaming everywhere in the forests, the holy men engaged in austerity and spending their days in incessant thought of God, and the inhabitants of Vraja, whose behaviour was simple, sincere and respectful. Besides, at Nidhuvan, the Master was much charmed to see Gangamata, a perfected lover of God, an aged lady of great austerity. He enjoyed her company so much that he thought he would not leave Vraja and go anywhere else, but spend the rest of his life there.
Gangamata was then about sixty years old. Seeing her overwhelmed with spiritual love in her constant relationship with Radha and Krishna for a very long time, the people of that place regarded her as Radha’s principal companion, Lalita, who had assumed a body for some reason or other and come down on earth to teach Jivas divine love. As soon as she saw him, she, we heard from the Master himself, could recognize the signs of Mahabhava, the great mood, manifested in the Master’s body like those in Radhika’s. She, therefore called him Dulali, the darling friend, thinking Radhika had incarnated Herself as the Master and come down on earth. Gangamata considered herself blessed in having the privilege of meeting “the darling friend” without seeking him and thought that her long heart-felt service and love had borne fruit that day. The Master also forgot everything else when he met her and, as one long familiar with her, lived in her hermitage for some time. They were so much charmed with each other’s affection that Mathur and the others, we were told, were afraid lest he should refuse to return to Dakshineswar with them We can well infer how anxious Mathur, who was so very obedient to the Master, became, on account of that thought. But the filial love of the Master towards his mother became victorious after all, and conquered his resolve of remaining at Vraja. The Master said to us in this connection, “I forgot everything when I went to Vraja. I thought I would no more return here. But, a few days later, I remembered my mother. I thought she would be in difficulty —who would look after her and serve her in that old age? That thought arose in the mind and made it impossible for me to live there.”
The more we think the more do the words and actions of this extraordinary person appear wonderful indeed, and the more amazed we are to see the unprecedented harmony in him of apparently contradictory qualities. Do you not see that, although he offered everything, body, mind, etc., at the lotus feet of the universal Mother he could not offer truthfulness to Her. Although he gave up worldly relation with all persons, he could not forget his affection and duty to his mother. And although he never retained the slightest tinge of carnal relationship with his wife, he never forgot always to maintain, in the mood of the Guru, a loving relationship with her. Ah, how many are the examples that can be given of his extraordinary actions! Who are the teachers, or incarnations of God, of past ages, in whose lives so many contradictions meet in such sweet harmony? Who will not say that such a harmony was never seen anywhere else? One may not take him as an incarnation of God, but, can one find a parallel in the spiritual world, search as diligently as one may? His aged mother, we heard from the Master himself many a time, lived the last few years of her life at Dakshineswar under his care when he performed daily with his own hand all kinds of service to her and considered himself blessed. Again, when his adorable mother passed away, great was the Master’s grief and he was seen to shed such profuse tears in sorrow as very few in the world are seen to do. But, although he was so much grieved at the death of his mother, the Master never for a moment forgot that he was a Sannyasin. He had the obsequies and funeral ceremonies of his mother performed by his nephew Ramlal, as he, being a Sannyasin, was precluded by the scriptural injunctions from performing them and he himself sat in a secluded place and paid off, as far as possible, his debt to his mother by weeping for her. The Master said to us about this on many occasions. “In the world, O children, the parents are worthy of supreme veneration; they should be served, according to one’s power, as long as they live, and after their death their funeral ceremonies should be performed according to one’s means. One, who is poor, and has no resources to perform them with, should go to the forest, remember the parents and weep; it is in this way alone that the debt due to them is paid off. It is only for the sake of God that one may disobey one’s parents; one does not incur any blemish thereby. Prahlada, though forbidden by his father, did not give up taking the name of Krishna; and Dhruva, though forbidden by his mother, went to the forest to practise austerities; and they did not incur any blemish on that account.” We felt blessed to see the wonderful manifestation of the Master’s power as the spiritual teacher of people through his filial devotion to his mother in this way.
The Master bade good-bye to Gangamata with difficulty and returned to Kasi with Mathur. He lived there a few days when, on the occasion of the Dipavali, the new moon night of illumination, he saw the golden image of Sri Annapurna and was beside himself with love and devotion. Mathur had a desire to pay a visit to Gaya from Kasi. But the Master dissented and Mathur gave up that desire when the Master’s father had come to Gaya, the abode of Gadadhar, he, we were told by the Master himself, had come to know in a dream that Gadadhar would be born in his family. And that was why, when the Master was born, he was named Gadadhar. He sometimes said to us that he refused to go to Gaya with Mathur lest, when he saw the lotus feet of Gadadhar there, he should become overwhelmed with love, completely forget to live in a body separate from Him, and unite with Him for all time to come. It was the firm conviction of the Master that the One who, in past ages had incarnated Himself as Rama, Krishna, Gauranga and others, had come down to the world in his own person. Therefore, there arose in him, we observed, an indescribable feeling at the talk of his going to Gaya, the place of the origin of his body and mind as known from his father’s dream, mentioned before. He had also a similar feeling about visiting the places where other incarnations of God had brought to an end their divine play. The Master said that, if he went to those places, he would enter into such a profound absorption that his mind would not come down from there back to the sphere of mortals. The Master expressed a similar feeling, on another occasion, at the proposal of his going to Puri, otherwise called Nilachala, where the divine sport of Gauranga had ended. It was not a feeling regarding himself alone. When he knew through Yogic vision, that any one of the devotees was a part or a manifestation of a particular deity, he expressed that kind of feeling regarding him also at the proposal of his going to the particular place of the divine play of that deity, and forbade his going there. It is difficult to explain to the reader that feeling of the Master. It is not reasonable to call it “fear”, for, even those ordinary persons who experience ecstasy in their lives recognize how at death the soul merely leaves the body, and become, thereupon, free from fear, knowing death to be a particular transition like any one of the physical transitions from one stage to another such as childhood, youth, etc. So, it is no wonder that the incarnations of God, able to enter into profound ecstasy at will, conquer death and become absolutely fearless. Neither can we call it an eagerness to live or to have the body saved, such as people in general have. For, it is for the purpose of having selfish pleasure or enjoyment that the generality of people express that eagerness. This explanation cannot be applicable to those from whose mind selfishness has for ever been washed off. How then can we explain the aforesaid feeling of the Master? Words are our instruments; that is, they are there to express the ideas that rise in our minds. Where is the power in those words to express the very exalted divine ideas in the minds of great souls like the Master? We have therefore, O reader, no alternative but to give up the idea of argumentation, to listen with faith to the exact words in which the Master described them and try, as far as possible with the help of imagination, to paint pictures of those exalted ideas in our minds.
The Master said, and there are many examples of it in the scriptures, that a manifestation arising from a place, thing or person would merge into that wherefrom it originated when it happened to come very near it. The Jivas owe their origin or manifestation to Brahman; when they acquire right knowledge and approach It, they merge into It. The limited minds, of you, me and all other individuals have originated from the infinite Mind, in other words, they are the manifestation of that Mind. If the little mind of any one of us grows in purity, compassion, non-attachment and other noble qualities and approaches that infinite Mind, that is, becomes similar, it merges into It. This is the law in the gross world also. The earth has come out of the sun, into which it will immediately merge if it approaches it (the sun), drawn by some force or other. It must, therefore, be understood that, behind that conviction of the Master, there is a particular feeling unknown to us. And, if there actually exists a Thing or a Person called Sri Gadadhar, and if the mind and body of the Master had, for some reason or other, originated or manifested itself from Him, what was there irrational in the faith that, attracted towards each other on account of love, they would unite again when the approach was close enough?
No inference or reasoning is necessary to explain that the lives of incarnations are not like those of ordinary men. Seeing in them the manifestation of unthinkable, unimaginable power, men’s heads are bent down in reverence to them; they offer their heart-felt worship and take refuge in them. The Philosophers of India, like the great Rishi Kapila and other geniuses, made the utmost effort to pierce the mystery of the lives of those extraordinary, powerful personages. Trying to ascertain what led to such a vastly greater manifestation of power in them than in ordinary people, they saw at the very outset that the law of Karma, common to all, was quite inappropriate to solve the mystery. For, it is in search of their own selfish pleasures that ordinary people perform good and bad actions. But, when the actions of those other persons are studied, that motive is seen to have been absolutely lacking. The desire to remove the misery of others produced in them an irresistible effort therefor and at the altar of that desire they completely sacrificed all their own enjoyment and pleasures. Again, it was also seen that the quest for honour, for name and fame in the world, never nourished the root of that desire. For, it was always their habit to give up in all respects the desire to attain higher worlds and worldly honour, which they shunned as they would the droppings of crows. Do you not see that the two Rishis, Nara and Narayana, spent ages in practising austerity in the hermitage of Badarika, in order to ascertain the means to do good to humanity? Ramachandra banished even Sita, dear to Him as His life, so that His subjects might be happy. Krishna performed each action of His with a view to establishing truth and religion. Buddha renounced the wealth of a king so that he might deliver men from the pain arising from birth, old age, death, etc. Jesus gave up His life on the cross, so that the kingdom of Heaven might come down to this world of grief and misery, that the realm of love of the Father in Heaven, who was Love Itself, might prevail over hatred, jealousy and bloodshed. It was against irreligion that Mohammad took up the sword. Sankara applied all his powers to explain to men that true peace consisted in the realization of non-duality. And, knowing that all the power conducive to the good of men lay in the name of Hari alone, Chaitanya renounced worldly pleasures and enjoyment and dedicated his life to the preaching of the name of Hari through loud singing and unrestrained dancing. What selfishness impelled them to perform all those actions, what pleasure attracted them to undergo such sufferings?
28. Conclusions drawn by Indian philosophers when they saw the signs of liberated persons manifested in incarnations from childhood. Incarnations belong, according to the Sankhya philosophy, to the class of persons “merged in Prakriti”
The signs spoken of in the scriptures and admitted to be produced in the bodies of persons liberated-in-life, owing to extraordinary feelings experienced by them, were, the philosophers found, clearly manifested in the lives of incarnations too. They were, therefore, forced to regard them as belonging to a new class. Kapila, the author of the Sankhya, said that they had in their minds a kind of very generous desire to do good to humanity. Therefore, though already liberated through the power of austerity practised in their past lives, they did not dwell in the state of Nirvana, infinite Bliss. They merged in Prakriti; in other words, they spent the period of a cycle, knowing that all the powers of Prakriti were theirs. And, therefore, that one among that class who knew himself possessed of such powers in any particular cycle, appeared to the people in general to be Isvara during that period. For, any one who knew all the powers of Prakriti as his, would be able to apply or withdraw those powers at will. Just as we can use all the powers of Prakriti that exist in our limited bodies and minds only because we know them as ours, so can they use all its powers at will inasmuch as they know them as belonging to themselves. Although Kapila does not admit the existence of an eternal Isvara, he has admitted the existence of all-powerful persons each of whom exists for a cycle, and called them Prakriti-lina Purushas, i.e., persons merged in Prakriti.
29. The Vedanta calls these persons the Adhikarikas or persons authorized. And according to it, there are, in this class of persons, two divisions, the incarnations of God and the eternally free Isvarakotis
Again, the authors of the Vedanta admit the eternal existence of the only Person called Isvara and accept that He exists manifested as the Jivas and the universe. They are, therefore, of the opinion that those extraordinary, powerful persons are born of especial parts of Isvara, who is by nature eternally pure, eternally awakened and eternally free. That is not all; but each of those persons is born, as the world’s needs demand, for a particular purpose conducive to the good of humanity. As he comes down on earth possessed of the necessary powers to accomplish his mission, he is called in the Vedanta an “Adhikarika,” a person entrusted with a mission and possessed of the “Adhikara” the authority, to accomplish it. Again, seeing a higher and a lower manifestation of power in these persons and observing that the actions of some of them are performed for the permanent good of all the people of the whole world and those of others for the people of one country or a part of it only, the authors of the Vedanta have recognized the former as incarnations of God and the latter as eternally free Isvarakotis endowed with less authority. With this opinion of the authors of the Vedanta as the basis, the authors of the Puranas afterwards came forward in their effort to ascertain, with the help of imagination, how large a part of God each one of the incarnations was, and made a little too much of their business of calculation: the author of the Bhagavata wrote such verses as, “These are one-sixteenth or smaller parts of the all-pervading One, but Krishna is the divine Lord Himself.”
We have already tried to explain to the reader6 that the Power of the Guru is that of God Himself. Finding the Jiva who has fallen into delusion produced by ignorance, unable to overcome it by his personal efforts, He Himself becomes, on account of His infinite mercy, eager to deliver him from it. The compassionate eagerness of God and the efforts born thereof are what are called Sri Guru and his Gurubhava or Power of spiritual teaching. The Power, the Guru, has been manifesting Itself now and again to us in the forms of especial human beings from time immemorial, so that the people in general might grasp and understand It. It is these persons that are being worshipped by the world as the incarnations of God. It is, therefore, clear that these persons, the incarnations of God, are the true Gurus of humanity.
30. The bodies and minds of Adhikarikas are made of materials different from those of ordinary people. This is why their desires and actions are also different from those of others and are so astonishing to us
Therefore, the bodies and the minds of Adhikarika persons are seen to be made of such stuff as enables them to hold and retain the divine love and devotion and to manifest the powers of higher planes, quite naturally and without any sense of elation. The Jiva becomes egoistic and is beside himself with joy when he gets a little of spiritual power and respect from people. But the Adhikarika persons do not get at all unsettled or have their power of discrimination destroyed or become egoistic, even if they get those powers a thousandfold. The Jiva never likes to return to the world for any reason whatever if, being free from all kinds of bondage, he can somehow attain, in Samadhi, the knowledge of the Self. But as soon as the Adhikarika persons feel this bliss, there arises in their minds the question how they can share it with others. After the realization of God the Jiva has no duty whatever left. But it is only after that realization that the Adhikarika persons grasp and understand the especial purpose for which they were born and begin to accomplish it. Therefore, the law regarding Adhikarika persons is that, until they execute the specific mission for which they are born, there never arises in their minds, as does in the mind of ordinary, liberated persons, the attitude that if the body is to drop, it might well be allowed to drop without any harm; but, rather, there is seen in them an eagerness to live in this sphere of the mortals. But there is, it is seen, a tremendous difference between the will to live of the incarnations and that of the Jivas. Moreover, the Adhikarika persons know when it is that their mission has been executed and delightfully give up their bodies in Samadhi without remaining for a second more in the world. A Jiva cannot even know when the duties of his life would come to an end, let alone the power of giving up his body at will in Samadhi. Rather, he feels that many desires remain unfulfilled in this life of his. There are similar differences between them in all other respects also. Therefore we shall be falling into a great error if we try to judge the purpose and actions of the lives of incarnations by our own standard.
The aforesaid views of the scriptures must be understood a little by the reader if he wants at all to understand the sayings of the Master, “The body will cease to live if I go to Gaya”, “An eternal Samadhi will result if I visit Puri”, and so on. That is why we have discussed the subject here very briefly. The reader will have also understood from the above discussion that no mood of the Master is without scriptural authority.
The Master, we said before, refused to go to Gaya with Mathur. Therefore, no one could visit that holy place during that trip. All returned to Calcutta via Vaidyanath. It was at Vaidyanath that, seeing the poverty of the people of a certain neighbouring village, the Master, when the party was going towards Kasi, was filled with compassion and Mathur, in accordance with his wish, fed them to their fill one day, and gave each of them a piece of cloth. We have mentioned the incident in detail in another place.7
Besides visiting the places of pilgrimage like Kasi, Vrindavan, etc., the Master at one time went to Navadwip, the birthplace of Chaitanya, the great lord. Mathur Babu took the Master with him there also. From what the Master told us on one occasion about Gauranga, it is clear that all truths do not always remain revealed even to the minds of incarnations of God. But, whatever truth of the spiritual world they want to know and understand, comes very easily within the range of their mind and intellect.
Many among us were then sceptical about Gauranga being an incarnation of God, so much so, that the word “Vaishnava”, meant for us but the low class people. They also questioned the Master about it in order to remove their doubt. In reply, the Master said to us, “I also had that attitude formerly; I thought, ‘How could Chaitanya be an incarnation as there was not the slightest mention of it in the Bhagavata and other Puranas? The shaven-headed Vaishnavas have set him up to be an incarnation.’ I could never believe that. I went to Navadwip with Mathur. I thought that if he were an incarnation, there must linger there a little at least of the manifestation; I shall understand it when I see it. In order to detect even a little manifestation (of divinity) I took walks hither and thither — to the house of the senior Gosain, to that of the junior Gosain and so on; but I saw nothing particular anywhere; everywhere I found a wooden figure standing with its arms raised upward! I felt dejected to see it. I regretted my going there. Afterwards, I was going to step into the boat for my return trip when I saw a wonderful vision: Two beautiful boys of tender age, — I never saw such beauty; they had the complexion of molten gold — each having a halo of light round his head, raising their hands and looking at me, were running towards me through the sky. And I cried out immediately, ‘There they come, there they come.’ Scarcely had I uttered these words before they came and entered here (his own body); I lost normal consciousness and fell down. I would have fallen into the water but for Hridu who was beside me and caught hold of me. I was shown many such things convincing me of their really being incarnations, the manifestations of the divine power.” The Master said many such things. One day he told us of his vision8 of Gauranga’s Sankirtan in the streets of the town. We have mentioned it elsewhere in this book. Repetition is unnecessary.
Besides going to the holy places named above, the Master once went to Kalna with Mathur Babu. Many villages of Bengal on the Ganga have become places of pilgrimage because of the touch of the feet of Gauranga, the great lord. Kalna is one of them Again, every visitor, without exception, has felt that the glorious acts, like the setting up of one hundred and eight Siva temples by the family of the prince of Burdwan, have made Kalna a place of pomp and splendour. But, the Master had a different purpose in going to Kalna this time. His intention was to see Bhagavan Das, the respected Vaishnava “father”, the well-known Sadhu of that place.
Bhagavan Das, the respected Vaishnava “father” was then probably more than eighty years old. It is not known to us what family he sanctified by his birth. But his glowing renunciation, dispassion and devotion to God were known to a great many of the men, women and children of Bengal. Both his legs, it is said, became paralysed in the last stage of his life on account of his sitting day and night, in the same posture, at the same place practising Japa, austerity, meditation, etc. But although he was more than eighty years old and had become disabled for any work and almost destitute of the power of getting up, his great zeal in taking the name of Hari and shedding incessant tears of joy enjoying the bliss of divine love, did not decrease; rather it increased day after day. The Vaishnava community of that place had much of spiritual life infused into them on account of his company. Many of the Vaishnava holy men of renunciation got the opportunity of shaping their own lives after his bright example and according to his instruction. Whoever, it is said, came to pay a visit to the “father” at that time, felt in his heart of hearts the accumulated influence of his long practice of austerity, purity, devotion and renunciation, and enjoyed an extraordinary bliss before he returned. The people there took all his opinions on Sri Chaitanya’s religion of love to be infallible and engaged themselves in carrying them into practice. Therefore, the perfected “father” did not then keep himself engaged in his own Sadhana only, but spent much time in discussing and making practical what would conduce to the welfare of the Vaishnava community, what would lead the Vaishnavas who had chosen renunciation, to the right practice of it and make them blessed, and what would make the worldly people in general take refuge in the religion of love preached by Sri Chaitanya and make them attain Peace. People used to bring to the notice of the “father” whatever happened in any part of the Vaishnava community, such as the good or bad conduct of Sadhus in any place. He heard and reflected on them and gave instruction as to what should be done. There is always an invisible firm bond in the realm of renunciation, austerity and love; people obeyed the words of the “father” most submissively and would of themselves hasten to act accordingly. Although he had no spies, the keen eye of the perfected “father” fell on everything done everywhere in the Vaishnava community; and every person of that community felt his influence. While, on the one hand, the ardour of those of simple faith increased day by day under that protecting vision and influence, the insincere, on the other hand, felt a sort of unknown fear and, shrinking into themselves, tried to change their own nature.
Important religious movements, as we have mentioned, were going on in many parts of the modern India when, under the intense urge of divine love, the Master engaged himself in severe austerities for twelve years for the realization of God and a wonderful power as the spiritual teacher was beginning to be manifested in him The movements of the Hari-sabhas and the Brahmo Samaj in Calcutta and various places near it, the propagation of the “Vedic religion” by Swami Dayananda in the Punjab and the north-western part of India which has become famous later as the Arya Samaj, the movements of the pure Vedanta, of the Kartabhaja and the Radhasyami sects in Bengal and that of Narayana Swami in Gujarat — all these religious movements were founded and carried on shortly before and after that time. It is not our intention to discuss here in detail these movements and doctrines. We shall describe to the reader only one event about the Master in a Hari-sabha, situated at Kalutola in Calcutta.
One day the Master was invited and he went to that Hari-sabha. Hriday, his nephew, accompanied him Some say that Pandit Vaishnavacharan, whom we have mentioned before, was engaged in reading and explaining the Bhagavata there that day and the Master went there to listen. But we do not remember to have heard the circumstances from the Master himself. Be that as it may, the reading was going on and all were absorbed in listening to it when the Master arrived there. The Master sat amongst the audience and was listening to the reading.
The members of that Hari-sabha regarded themselves as having absolutely taken refuge at Sri Chaitanya’s holy feet. And, in order to remember constantly this fact, they spread a seat and, assuming the presence of the great lord on it, carried on before it worship, reading and all the other activities of the Sabha. That seat was called “the seat of Sri Chaitanya.” All devoutly made salutations to him in front of that seat. They never allowed anybody to sit on it. The reading was being done in front of that seat decorated with garlands of flowers, etc., that day as on all other days. The reader was reading devoutly, thinking that he was doing it for the great lord, and the listeners rejoiced to think that they were sitting in his divine Presence and were blessed with drinking the nectar of Hari’s words. The joy and the devotional mood of the reader and the listeners became, it is superfluous to say, intensified a hundredfold on the arrival of the Master.
The Master lost himself listening to the nectar-like words of the Bhagavata. He ran towards the seat of Sri Chaitanya, stood on it and entered into so profound a Samadhi that not even the slightest movement of the vital force was observable in him. Seeing that extraordinary loving smile on his effulgent face and the upward pointing of his finger in his uplifted hand, as in the images of Sri
Chaitanya, eminent devotees felt in their heart of hearts that the Master in Bhavamukha had become completely identified with the great lord — that, having ascended to a higher plane of consciousness, viz., that of Bhavamukha, he was not then at all conscious of the great distance of time, place and other things which, in gross eyes, separated his bodily and mental existence from those of Sri Chaitanya. The reader forgot to read and was motionless, looking at him; although unable to grasp and understand the Bhavasamadhi of the Master, the listeners also became overwhelmed with an indescribable, extraordinary awe and astonishment and remained calm and charmed. Nobody could then say anything, good or bad. Experiencing an indescribable bliss for the time being, all felt that they were carried away, so to speak, by the powerful current of the Master’s spiritual mood to an indefinable realm They did not at first know what to do, but later, impelled by that indescribable feeling, they raised a chorus of the loud shout of “Hari” and began singing His name. When discussing9 the nature of Samadhi, we have already said that the mind depended, for coming down from Samadhi and becoming conscious of the external world, on that particular name of God by which it realised an infinite divine mass of ideas at the time of entering. We daily observed this over and over again in the Master. While he heard the name of Hari sung, the Master became a little conscious of his own body. Filled with love and devotion, he then mixed with those who were singing in a chorus and sometimes danced charmingly in an unrestrained way and sometimes remained motionless in ecstasy on account of the excess of spiritual emotion. The zeal of all present increased a hundredfold owing to that behaviour of the Master. They became inebriated and began singing Kirtan. Who was then to judge whether it was right or wrong for the Master to occupy the seat of Sri Chaitanya? After singing the noble qualities of Sri Hari and of “the great lord” accompanied by unrestrained dancing for a long time, all cried out “Victory to the divine Lord” and brought that divine sport to a close for that day. The Master returned to Dakshineswar shortly afterwards.
Although people’s natural tendency to pick holes in others became benumbed for some time when they reached a plane of higher spiritual emotion through the divine influence of the Master’s singing of the name of Hari and unrestrained dancing, all of them resumed their normal fault-finding attitude, like the mouse of the fable Punar-mushika, when the Master came away from that place. That is indeed the defect of all the religions that neglect knowledge and teach the aspirants for God-realization to depend on devotion alone. Though the travellers on the paths of those religions reach very easily high blissful states of spiritual moods for some time through singing the name of Sri Hari and other such devotional exercises, they come down the next moment to correspondingly low states of consciousness. They are not much to blame for it: for, it is the nature of the body and mind, the evolutes of Prakriti, to lapse into lassitude after stimulation. It is the law of nature that depressions follow crests or ridges and lassitude follows stimulation. Now, during the depression after that high current of spiritual mood, the members of the Hari-sabha also came under the influence of their own previous nature and impressions and busied themselves in criticizing the Master’s action. One party vindicated the Master’s occupying the seat of Sri Chaitanya in Bhavamukha and the other party engaged themselves in making strong protests. There was a great quarrel between the parties. But they arrived at no conclusion.
This controversy spread gradually from mouth to mouth everywhere in the Vaishnava community. Bhagavan Das also heard of it. That was, however, not the only thing that mattered; but, apprehensive lest, feigning divine emotion, selfish and cunning hypocrites, desirous of name and fame, should similarly occupy that seat, some of the members of the Hari-sabha went to him to ascertain how it might be prevented in future.
The perfected “father”, who had taken refuge at the feet of Sri Chaitanya, was very much annoyed ,on hearing of the occupation of the seat of his own chosen Ideal by the unknown Ramakrishna, and blinded by anger, he did not hesitate to call him names and even to describe him as a hypocrite. The annoyance and anger of the “father”, we can easily understand, now doubled to see the members of the Harisabha and he scolded them saying that they were culpable in having allowed that improper action to be done in their presence. When, afterwards, his anger abated, the “father” determined what arrangement should be made in order that none might behave similarly in future. But, he who was the occasion of all that commotion could not know much of it.
A few days after that event had taken place, Sri Ramakrishna, of his own accord, went to Kalna with Mathur Babu and Hriday. When the boat reached the Ghat very early in the morning, Mathur became busy with arrangements for board and lodging. Sri Ramakrishna, in the meantime, went out with Hriday to see the town and, ascertaining the “father’s” address from people, approached his hermitage.
When he was to go to the presence of an unknown person, it very often happened that the childlike Master at first felt an indescribable fear, shyness, etc. We have observed that mood of his many a time. That was the case also when he was going to see the “father”. Asking Hriday to go ahead, he covered almost his whole body from head to foot with a piece of cloth and followed him to the hermitage. Gradually Hriday went up to the “father”, saluted him and said, “My maternal uncle loses himself in the name of God. He has been experiencing that state for a long time. He has come to pay a visit to you.”
Hriday says that, as soon as he approached him, he became acquainted with a power of the “father” born of his Sadhana. For, before he had spoken the aforesaid words after saluting the “father”, he heard him say, “Some great soul, it seems, has come to the hermitage.” Saying these words, the “father” looked around. But, as he did not see any one except Hriday coming, he applied his mind to the topic he had been discussing with those before him. A particular Vaishnava Sadhu had done something wrong. What was to be done about him was the discussion then going on. The “father” was much annoyed at that improper action of the Sadhu and was scolding him, saying that he would snatch away his string of beads and expel him from the community and so on. Just at that moment Sri Ramakrishna came there, saluted the “father” and sat humbly beside the persons assembled there. His face was not clearly seen by any one as the whole of his body was covered with a piece of cloth. As soon as he came and sat down, Hriday spoke to the “father” his introductory words mentioned above. At the words of Hriday the “father” suspended the talk he was engaged in, returned the salutation of the Master and Hriday and made enquiries about them
Seeing that the “father” was counting his beads at intervals during his conversation with Hriday, the latter said, “Sir, why do you count your beads even now? You have become perfect, you have no necessity for that”. We are not sure whether Hriday put that question to the “father” according to the intention of the Master or of his own accord. But it seems that he did so on his own. For, being always engaged in the Master’s service and mixing with many people, high and low, in the company of the Master, Hriday had developed to a great extent presence of mind and the power of raising topics suitable to the time and circumstances. The “father” at first expressed humility at that question of Hriday and afterwards said, “Even though I personally do not require these things, they are very necessary for me in order to educate people. They will otherwise go astray by imitating me.”
Always depending entirely like a boy on the universal Mother in all respects, the Master had a reliance upon Her, so easy, natural and inward, that he felt a great pain to see or hear any person doing or intending to do anything under the impulse of egoism, let alone himself doing anything that way. Therefore, besides using the word “I” as the servant of God on rare occasions, he could never use that word in any other mood, as we do. Anyone who saw the Master even for a short time was charmed and astonished to see that trait of his, or to see his great annoyance at such apparently harmless egotistic expression used by any one else, as “I’ll do such and such an action.” He would be led to wonder what great offence he had committed to provoke such annoyance. Now, as soon as he came to Bhagavan Das, the Master heard him first of all say that he would snatch away the string of beads from some one and expel him from the community. Again, a little after that, he heard him say that he had not given up counting his beads and the putting on of Tilaka, so that he might teach people better. When the “father” said again and again, “I’ll expel him”, “I’ll teach people”, “I have not given up putting on Tilaka”, etc., the simple-hearted Master could not suppress his annoyance as we do following the ways of the so-called cultured people. He suddenly stood up and said to the “father”, “What, you are so egotistic even now? Will you teach people? Will you expel him? will you accept or reject things? Who are you to teach people? Will you teach them if He to whom the world belongs, does not do that?” The covering of the Master’s body had then fallen; the cloth he was wearing had become loose and had fallen from the loins and his face was illumined with an extraordinary divine effulgence. He was beside himself and was, it seemed, unconscious of what and to whom he was speaking. Again, hardly had he said those few words when he was motionless and speechless in Samadhi on account of the excess of spiritual emotion.
Everybody had been showing respect for and devotion to the perfected “father” till then; no one till then had been bold enough to protest against his words or point out his defects. He was at first astonished to see that action of the Master. But unlike ordinary people who, under such circumstances, become angry and determine to avenge themselves, the “father” had not that feeling in his mind. The sincerity born of Tapas came to his help and made him understand the truth of the words of Sri Ramakrishna. He felt that there was no other doer in the world than God, that however much a man might think in his egotism that he was doing everything, he was actually a slave of circumstances and could do only as much as he had been given to do and understand; and that although worldly people might do whatever they liked, a devotee should not forget this truth even for a moment, lest he should go astray. Thus the powerful words of the Master opened the “father’s” inward vision to a great extent, showed him his faults and made him humble and modest. Again, seeing that extraordinary manifestation of the spiritual mood in the person of Sri Ramakrishna, the “father” became convinced that he was not an ordinary person.
We can very easily infer that there flowed an extraordinary current of wonderful bliss, during their conversation on the divine Lord. During that talk the Master was experiencing Bhavasamadhi and enjoying unbounded bliss at short intervals; and the “father” was charmed to see that there was always manifested in the person of Sri Ramakrishna that great mood, in the study and understanding of which through the scriptures he spent so much of his time. Therefore his devotion to and reverence for Sri Ramakrishna became profound. When, afterwards, the “father” came to know that he was the Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar who, under the influence of a spiritual mood, had lost himself and occupied the seat of Sri Chaitanya at the Hari-sabha of Kalutola, there was no limit to his sorrow and repentance. He thought, “Is it this person whom I called names for nothing!” He saluted Sri Ramakrishna with humility and asked his pardon for it. Thus came to an end the play of love on the part of the Master and the “father” that day. Sri Ramakrishna came to Mathur with Hriday a little later, described to him that event from beginning to end and highly praised the exalted spiritual state of the “father”. Hearing all that, Mathur went to pay a visit to the “father” and made arrangements for the service of the images of the hermitage and a special festival for one day.