4.5 SRI RAMAKRISHNA
THE COMPANY OF DEVOTEES
FOR 9 DAYS: THE NAVAYATRA IN A.D. 1885
becomes righteous and attains eternal peace. Proclaim,
O son of Kunti, that my devotee is never destroyed.
— Gita IX. 31
If one wants to understand a little of the wonderful character of Sri Ramakrishna established in Bhavamukha, one should see him in the company of his devotees. A little of his play in that mood will be comprehended when one knows and deeply understands how and in what different moods he used daily to stand and sit, speak and talk, joke and laugh and experience ecstasy in the company of his devotees of various natures. We shall present the reader here with the story of such play of the Master for a few days with the devotees.
Even very trifling acts and efforts of this extraordinary soul were not, so far as we know, aimless or useless. It is extremely rare to find such an extraordinary harmony of divine and human natures in any one else. We, on our part, have not met such another, during our travel in many places of the world for the last twenty-five years. “One does not understand the value of teeth as long as they are there”, runs a Bengali proverb; it has exactly been so with many of us with regard to the Master. When the devotees had brought him for the treatment of his throat-disease to Shyampukur in Calcutta for some time, one day Sri Vijaykrishna Goswami came to see him and said to us the following words:
While meditating in his own room with closed doors during his stay at Dacca a few days previously, Vijay had had the vision of Sri Ramakrishna and, in order to know whether it was a fancy of his brain, tested it by continually pressing for a long time the body and the limbs of the form that was before him with his own hands. He mentioned this fact openly to the Master and us that day. “I have travelled”, said Sri Vijay, “in various parts of the country, on hills and mountains, and seen many great holy souls, but I have never met such a one (showing the Master) anywhere else. I have seen somewhere two annas, somewhere one anna, somewhere one pie and somwhere half a pie of the power that I see fully manifested here; I have not seen even four annas anywhere.” “What does he say?” said the Master to us smiling. “The other day”, said Vijay to the Master, “I saw you at Dacca in such a way that I’ll not believe you if you say ‘no’. It is only because you are so easily available that you have created so much confusion. Dakshineswar is very near to Calcutta; we can come and pay a visit to you whenever we like. There is also no trouble in coming here — there are enough boats and carriages. We are unable to understand you only because you are thus so easily available near home. If you had been sitting on the peak of a mountain and one had to meet you after walking a long distance without food and climbing the high altitude by clambering up the roots of trees, one would have understood your worth; but now, because such a one exists near home, we think that better ones are there in remote places, a great way off. This is why we run hither and thither to experience endless troubles.”
It is truly so. The compassionate Master received as his own almost all those who came to him and did not part company with them even if they tried to do so. He endowed them with eternal peace by withering and burning up now with a heavy hand, now with a gentle smile, the impressions accumulated in their past lives and by casting them anew into new forms after his unprecedented ambrosial pattern. There will remain no doubt about it, if devotees tell plainly the stories of their own lives. Overwhelmed with worldly sufferings and out of wounded feelings — because, though he had taken refuge in the divine Lord so long ago, he had not realized Him, and the Master also had not done anything for him — Narendranath secretly made himself ready to renounce the world, when the Master, it was seen, did not allow him to do so. Knowing his intention through his divine power, he persuaded him to come to Dakshineswar with him that day and touching his person afterwards, sang in a spiritual mood, “I am afraid to speak and also not to speak; I am afraid, lest I should lose you, O Rai.” And instead of allowing him to renounce the world and go away, he kept him with him consoling him in various ways. Although he had the aim of his life fulfilled by the Master’s accepting his “power of attorney”, Girish retained the force of his past impressions and was unable to shake off his fear and anxiety on that account. Then we see again the Master, granting him freedom from fear with these words, “Is it a water-snake, O wretch, that has caught you? You have been caught by a venomous snake — you have to die, even if you flee into your hole. Have you-not noticed that, caught by water-snakes, frogs croak a thousand times before they die; and some of them are able to free themselves and flee; but, when caught by cobras and black-snakes, they have not to croak more than three times, the struggle being over by that time; if, however, a rare one flees by chance, it dies even after it has re-entered its hole. Know, the same is the case here.” But who then understood the meaning and the purpose of those words and actions of the Master? Every one thought, perhaps, that persons like him existed everywhere. Just as the Master was humouring everybody’s whim and was going about, unasked, from door to door with his free gift of boons and freedom from fear in his hands, so, everybody thought that there were persons in plenty of this nature to be met with everywhere. Sheltered by the compassionate Master’s affectionate wing, how strong the devotees felt, how insistent they were on the satisfaction of their childish whims and how easily they felt wounded! Almost all felt that the practice of religion was a very easy thing. It was quite certain that they could realize any mood or vision whatever in the spiritual realm at any time they liked. There was nothing more necessary than to ask the Master importunately for it with a little eagerness — the Master would easily make them attain it immediately by his touch or words or will only!
Baburam, afterwards known as Swami Premananda, had the desire to have ecstasy. He went to the Master and said to him importunately weeping, “Do secure it for me.” The Master consoled him and said, “Yes, I’ll ask Mother; does anything happen by my will, my child?” But he scarcely gave ear to what the Master said. Baburam repeated the same words, “Do secure it for me.” A few days after he made that importunate prayer, Baburam had to go to Antpur, his native village, on some business. It was the year 1884. In the meantime, the Master was anxiously wondering how Baburam was to have his ecstasy. He said to this person and that person, “Baburam wept much and asked for ecstasy before he left—what will happen? If he does not have it, he will have no regard for the words of this place (meaning himself).” He then said to the divine Mother, “Please ordain, Mother, that Baburam may have a little Bhava or other spiritual experience.” The Mother replied, “He will not have Bhava. He will have knowledge.” The Master was again anxious when he heard those words of the universal Mother. He went the length of saying to some of us with deep concern, “I told Mother what Baburam asked for; but She said, ‘He will have no Bhava, he will have knowledge.’ Anyway, let him have at least that, so that he may have peace; that is all; I was much worried for him. He wept bitterly before he left.” Ah, how anxious he felt in order that Baburam might have some kind of spiritual experience! Again, while expressing that anxiety, how the Master repeated the words, “If that does not come to pass, he will have no regard for the words of this place”, as if the Master’s life and all depended on Baburam’s regard or disregard!
He said now and then with reference to the boy-devotees, “Well, can you tell me why I feel so very anxious for all these and think about what one has realised and another has not and so on? They are mere ‘schoolboys’;1 they are penniless, they have not the means of offering me a piceworth of sugarplum. Why do I still feel so very anxious for them? If anyone does not visit this place even for two days, my heart immediately feels extremely restless to see him and have news of him. Why is it so?” The boy, so asked, perhaps answered, “I do not know, sir, why it happens; but, it is surely for their good that you feel like that.”
The Master said, “The reason is this; these are all pure in heart. Lust and gold have not yet touched them If they apply their minds to God, they will be able to realize Him Mine is the nature of a hemp-smoker. A hemp-smoker does not find satisfaction in smoking hemp all alone; it is necessary for him to hand over the bowl to another when he enjoys the intoxication, so is it with me. Although it is so with regard to all the boys, I don’t feel so much for anyone as I do for Naren. If he should be late by two days, my heart would feel the pain of being wrung like a towel. Thinking what others would say, I went aside under the Tamarisk trees2 and wept loudly. Hazra3 said (at one time), ‘What is this strange nature of yours? You are in the state of a Paramahamsa; why do you worry yourself over, why has Narendra not come, what will happen to Bhavanath? and so on, instead of remaining identified with the divine Lord by applying your mind to Him in Samadhi?’ Then I thought he was right and that I must not do so again. When afterwards I was coming back from under the Tamarisk trees, I was shown (by Mother) a vivid picture of Calcutta, as if the city was present before me and all the people were night and day immersed in lust and gold and were suffering miserably. When I saw it, compassion welled up in my heart. I thought, ‘Were I to suffer a million times greater misery for the good of these people, most gladly will I do that. ’ I returned and said to Hazra, ‘I choose to think of them; what is that to you, wretch?’”
“Naren said at one time, ‘Why do you think so much of Narendar?4 If you do so excessively, you will have to become like Narendar. King Bharata continually thought of a deer and had to be born a deer. ’ I have, you know, much faith in Naren’s words. I was afraid to hear this. I reported it to Mother. She said, ‘He is a mere boy; why do you give ear to his words? You see Narayana in him; therefore you feel attracted towards him.’ I was much relieved to hear it. I came and said to Naren, ‘I don’t take your words seriously; Mother has said that I feel attracted towards you because I see Narayana in you; I’ll not even look at your face, wretch, the day I shall not feel His presence in you.’ ” So each action of the wonderful Master was strange to us but had a meaning; and he used to explain it to us lest we should think otherwise and be harmed.
We saw the Master always value the good qualities of all persons and pay due respect to men of honour. He said, “The divine Lord is displeased if due respect is not paid to men of honour. It is by His power that they have risen to rank and position; it is He who has made them such. When they are dishonoured, He is slighted.” Therefore, whenever he heard of a man of special good qualities residing anywhere, we found the Master eager to see him somehow or other. If the person came to the Master, well and good; otherwise, he would himself go to him uninvited, meet, salute and converse with him; then thus satisfied, he would return. He heard of the especial good qualities of Padmalochan, the court-pandit of the prince of Burdwan, Pandit Isvarchandra Vidyasagar, Mahesh, the famous Vina-player of Kasi, Gangamata of Vrindavan, who was inspired with the spiritual mood of a friend of God, Kesav Sen, the eminent devotee and innumerable others, whose names might be mentioned. He sought each of them out and himself went to their doors to see them.
It is, of course, no wonder that the Master went unasked to anyone’s door. There never arose in the Master’s mind such egotistic ideas as “I am so great a man”, “I shall lower myself in the estimation of others if I thus go to any and every man”, “I will lose respect”, and so on and so forth. For, he had altogether burnt up pride and egoism to ashes for ever. He carried on his head the leaf-plates, out of which the poor people had taken their food, threw them outside the temple, and washed clean the place. At one time he even partook of the leavings of those people, regarding them as Narayana Himself. Again, he washed and cleaned with his hair5 the place where the temple servants answered the calls of nature and prayed earnestly to the divine Mother, “Mother, see that I may never entertain the idea that I am superior to them” Therefore, we are not at all surprised to see that extraordinary lack of egoism in him, though we cry out “wonderful”, when we see others surrendering their egoism even to the smallest degree, for, the Master was indeed not a person of this world like ourselves.
Throwing the end of the front fold of his lower garment on his shoulder, the Master was once walking in the garden of the Kali temple. A gentleman thought he was an ordinary gardener and said to him, “Hallo, just pluck those flowers for me.” The Master did not utter a word, did what he was told and slipped away from that place. Once the late Trailokya Babu, son of Mathur Babu, became annoyed with Hriday, the nephew of the Master, and ordered him to leave the temple. In his rage, he gave an indication to others that the Master also need not stay at the temple any longer. As soon as this reached the Master’s ears, he placed his towel on his shoulder smiling and was immediately ready to leave the place. He had gone almost to the gate when, afraid that evil might befall him, Trailokya Babu came up to him and requested him to come back saying, “I did not mean that you should leave; why are you going away?” The Master also came back smiling as before, entered his room and sat down, as if nothing had happened.
Many such examples can be given. We do not feel so much astonished at such actions of the Master, though we applaud greatly a man of the world whose conduct remotely resembles his. For, we have once for all unalterably settled in our minds — whether we say it in so many words or not — that, if we want to live in the world, we must look to our own interests, elbow out the weak to clear our own path, proclaim unabashedly our own glory and conceal as far as possible our own weaknesses from others. We think that one will be condemned to become absolutely useless and good for nothing, if one is sincere and depends wholly on or believes in God or man. And it is a thousand pities that the case is the same with politics, social etiquette, individual morals, international policies, and so on. Even those who have not eaten your Dead Sea fruit repent, let alone those who have eaten it.
It was the year 1885. That was a time when the Master had become very well known. Attracted wonderfully towards him, many newcomers came daily to Dakshineswar then, and had the privilege of seeing him and feeling blessed. Everybody, old and young, in Calcutta, had then heard the name of the “Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar” and many had seen him also. And flooding the minds of the generality of the people of Calcutta, a religious current was incessantly flowing, of course, a little below the surface. The city of Calcutta was then filled with a Harisabha here,6 a Brahmo Samaj there, singing of God’s names here, an expounding of religious doctrines there and so on and so forth. The Master knew well the cause, though others did not. He spoke about it now and then to us as well as to other devotees of both sexes. A woman devotee tells us that one day the Master said to her in this connection, “Hallo! Know that the many Hari-sabhas and the other religious institutions that you see are due to this (referring to his own person). Did they formerly exist? Everything had been lifeless, but since this (referring to his person again) came, all these have come to life again and a current of religion is now flowing just a little below the surface.” On another occasion the Master said to us, “Did the young Bengal, that you see, care for devotion and such other things? They did not even know how to salute with their heads bent. I went on saluting them with my head bent and then they gradually learnt how to bow down their heads in salutation. I went to Kesav’s house to see him I saw him sitting in a chair. I saluted him with my head bent. At that, he just gave a nod in return. At the time of my leaving later on, I saluted him with my head completely touching the ground. He then folded his hands and once touched his head with them The more the intercourse between us increased, the more he listened to talks and the more I saluted him with my head bent, the more did he begin to bow down his head in salutation. Did they otherwise know devotion and such other things or had they any regard for them?”
When the Brahmo Samaj, called the New Dispensation, had the company of the Master, and big congregations were gathering in Calcutta, Pandit Sasadhar came there for the purpose of giving expositions of the Hindu religion and trying to explain the daily religious duties of the Hindus from the standpoint of Western science. The saying, “As many sages, so many opinions” is always true in all matters. The Pandit’s scientific exposition of religion was not an exception to this. But, in spite of that there was no lack of an audience. There were great crowds of clerks and others returning from office and of the students of schools and colleges. The Albert Hall, where he used to explain orthodox Hinduism, was packed with people. Every one was calm and eager to hear at least a little of the extraordinary exposition of religion by the Pandit. We remember that one day we also stood in that way for some time and heard a few words. On one occasion we too thrust in our heads with difficulty and had the privilege of seeing somehow the elderly Pandit’s beautiful face, adorned with a black beard, and a part of his breast bedecked with ochre coloured Rudraksha-beads. The exposition of religion by Pandit Sasadhar was the one talk everywhere in Calcutta.
Words travel by ears, as they say. It was, therefore, not long before the news of the great soul of Dakshineswar reached the Pandit and that of the accomplishments of the Pandit reached the Master. Some of the devotees came to the Master and stated, “He is a great scholar and also speaks well. The other day he explained the couplet on Hari consisting of thirty-two letters, to mean the Devi. All heard and cried ‘Bravo’.” The Master heard this and said, “Is that so? I feel like hearing it once.” Saying so, the Master expressed to the devotees a desire to see the Pandit.
When any desire arose in the pure mind of the Master, it could not but be fulfilled somehow or other. Some unseen power cleared the path to its fulfilment by removing all the obstacles to it. It is true, we heard before, that constantly entertaining sacred and pure ideas in the mind and being always truthful in body, mind and speech, man reaches a state where he can in no way have any kind of false idea in his mind even if he makes an effort; whatever desire arises in his mind then becomes fulfilled in due course; but we could never lead ourselves to believe that it would be possible with a mortal man. We came gradually to believe, in it on seeing the desires of the Master’s mind being fulfilled over and over again in unexpected ways. But, in spite of that fact, did we have perfect faith in him during the lifetime of the Master? He said, “I saw within Kesav and Vijay flames of knowledge flickering like those of lamps but in Naren I saw the very sun of knowledge.” “Kesav”, continued he, “has stirred up the world with one power; Naren has eighteen such powers in him” Those words were not the expression of the mere thoughts of his mind; they were his experiences in ecstasy. But did we even then have perfect faith in them? Sometimes, we thought, “It may be true; he sees people’s hearts; when he says so, there is some mystery hidden in it.” Again, sometimes we wondered, “What a great difference is there between the world-renowned Kesav Chandra Sen, the eloquent devotee, and a mere school-boy like Narendra! Can what the Master has said about them be true?” When we had such doubts about the facts of the Master’s experiences, how can we say that there arose no doubt in our minds about the fulfilment of his desires which he expressed as simply as we do, “I have this desire”?
The time of Sri Jagannath’s Rathayatra (chariot festival), arrived a few days after the Master had had a talk about Pandit Sasadhar. It is called “Navayatra”7, on account of the chariot festival continuing for nine days. Many things about the Master during the Navayatra of 1885 now arise in our memory. In deference to the etiquette of responding to an invitation, he went to the house of Ishan Chandra Mukhopadhyaya of Thanthania, on the morning of the day of the forward trip of the chariot in that year and went from there to see Pandit Sasadhar in the afternoon. The Master participated in the Chariot festival after sunset at Balaram Babu’s Baghbazar house, where he spent the night. On the morrow, he came back to Dakshineswar with a few devotees in a boat. Shortly afterwards Pandit Sasadhar came to a certain place at Alambazar, otherwise called north-Baranagar, to lecture on religion and from there came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar to pay a visit to the Master. Afterwards, on the morning of the day of the return trip of the chariot, the Master came again to the Baghbazar house of Balaram and stayed there delightedly with the devotees for that night and the following day and night. He returned by boat to Dakshineswar on the morning of the third day with Gopala’s mother and some other devotees. On the day of the return chariot trip, Pandit Sasadhar came to Balaram Babu’s house to see the Master and, dissolved in tears, prayed to him with folded hands, “My heart has dried up by discussing philosophy; please endow me with a drop of devotion.” The Master entered into ecstasy and touched the Pandit’s heart that day. It will not be out of place here to give in detail an account of the events of that time.
In the morning, when the chariot started, the Master, it was mentioned before, came to Ishan Babu’s house at Thanthania in Calcutta. With him were Yogen, Hazra and a few other devotees. Rarely does one meet with a devotee, kind and liberal like Ishan, having so great a faith in God. His three or four sons were all educated. The third son, Satish, was a fellow-pupil of Narendra. As Satish was a great expert on the Pakhoaj, the sweet voice of Narendra was very often heard from that house. Speaking of the kindness of Ishan Babu, one day Swami Vivekananda said to us, “It was by no means less than that of Pandit Vidyasagar.” The Swami saw with his own eyes Ishan Babu give on many occasions the whole of his own meal of rice and other preparations (there being no other food ready at home) to beggars, and go practically without food. The Swami also said that he saw Ishan Babu shedding tears many a time at others’ sufferings, the removal of which, he found, was beyond his power. Ishan was not only kind but equally devoted to Japa. Many of us knew that he practised Japa from sunrise to sunset regularly at Dakshineswar. He was very dear to and a favourite with the Master. After finishing his Japa one day, Ishan came, we remember, to offer his salutation at the feet of the Master, who in ecstasy placed his holy foot on Ishan’s head. When afterwards the Master regained normal consciousness, he said emphatically to Ishan, “O Brahmin, dive, dive deep.” (that is ‘be absorbed in the name of God instead of practising Japa superficially’). Ishan’s Japa and morning worship at that time continued till four in the afternoon, when he took a light meal. He spent his time till sunset in talking with others or in listening to devotional songs, and then sat for his evening Japa for several hours. His sons took upon themselves the responsibility of looking after his worldly affairs. The Master blessed Ishan’s house now and then with his holy presence. Ishan also during his stay in Calcutta came to see him at Dakshineswar very often or went to the sacred temples or places of pilgrimage and spent his time in practising austerities.
On the day of the chariot festival this year, 1885, the Master came to Ishan’s house and had a talk on religion with some scholars of Bhatpara. Swami Vivekananda said that Pandit Sasadhar was staying in the neighbourhood. On hearing that, the Master went to see him that day. The Swami had come to know that the Pandit was in Calcutta, for he was already acquainted with those at whose respectful invitation the Pandit had come to lecture on religion and frequented their College Street house. Again, as the Swami was convinced that the Pandit’s figurative exposition of religion was full of errors, he came a little more frequently to that house with a view to reason it out to the Pandit. Swami Brahmananda says that he (Swami Vivekananda) knew many things about the Pandit and told them to the Master, who, at his request, went with him to see the Pandit, and gave the Pandit much valuable instruction on that occasion. The Master told the Pandit during his very first visit to him that if one makes an attempt to preach religion without having the “badge”, the power of authority, from the Mother of the universe, it becomes fruitless and increases one’s pride and egoism and sometimes leads one to ruin. It was, it is needless to say, as the result of these glowing, powerful words, that the Pandit gave up preaching a little later and went to Kamakhyapitha to practise austerities.
The Master took leave of the Pandit that day and went with Yogen to Balaram Babu’s house at Baghbazar in the evening. Yogen was then so much devoted to established rites and practices that he did not take even water in anybody’s house. He, therefore, took light refreshments at home before he came with the Master, who on his part also never requested him to take food anywhere; for, Yogen’s devotion to established rites and practices was not unknown to him He knew also that Yogen used to take fruits, milk, sweets, etc., in Balaram’s house, because Balaram Babu, Yogen found, had love and devotion to, God and reverence for the Master. Therefore, a little after his arrival, the Master said to Balaram and the others, “He (Yogen) has not taken anything today; please give him something to eat.” Balaram Babu took him lovingly to the inner apartment and gave him a light meal. We mention this here as one of the examples of how great was the Master’s observation of the mental and physical conditions of the devotees although he was often absorbed in ecstasy.
There flowed a ceaseless current of bliss in the company of the Master during the chariot festival at Balaram Babu’s house. Immediately after sunset, the holy image of Jagannath was adorned with garlands, sandal-paste, etc., and brought out from the shrine in the inner apartment. It was placed on the small chariot, already bedecked with cloth and flags and was worshipped again. Sri Fakir, who belonged to Balaram Babu’s priestly family and was a devotee of the Master, performed this worship.
When studying at school, Fakir, who devoutly conformed to religious practices, lived under the care of Balaram Babu and looked after the study of the latter’s only son Ramakrishna. He had great devotion to the Master from the day he first saw him. The Master loved to hear hymns etc., recited by him One day he taught Fakir how to recite properly the hymn to Kali by Acharya Sankara. At sunset on that occasion, the Master took him to the northern verandah of the room in which he stayed, touched him in ecstasy and asked him to meditate. As a result, Fakir had wonderful visions and other experiences.
The chariot now began to be drawn forward to the accompaniment of Sankirtan, the singing of God’s glory. The Master himself took hold of the rope attached to the chariot and pulled it for a short time. Afterwards, he danced beautifully to the music. Charmed with that dance and the exciting roar arising out of spiritual emotion born of Sankirtan, all lost themselves in the love of God. Dancing;, singing and pulling the chariot, all went for a long time round and round, along the verandah of the outer apartment on the first floor, overlooking the courtyard below. With salutations, the Kirtan was then brought to a close with the uttering of “Jay” (victory), separately taking the names of Jagannath, Govinda, Radharani, Chaitanya and the devotees of his inner circle and others. The holy image of Jagannath was then brought down from the chariot and installed for seven days in a different place, a small room on the second floor over the flight of steps. It was as if Jagannath had made a chariot-journey to a different place and he would have a return journey to his own place again after seven days. After Jagannath had been installed in the place mentioned before, an offering of food was made and Prasada was given first to the Master and then to others. The Master and Yogen passed that night at the house of Balaram Babu. Many of the other devotees went home.
At eight or nine on the morrow a boat was engaged; the Master would go back to Dakshineswar. When the boat came, the Master went to the inner apartment and paid his obeisance to Sri Jagannath. He received the salutations of the family of the devotees and was coming towards the outer apartment, when women devotees followed him to the end of the roof in front of the kitchen situated on the eastern side of the inner apartment, from where they went back with sad hearts; for, which is the mind that would like to part with that wonderful living god? Taking a few steps forward from there, and then going up three or four steps, one found a door beyond which was the verandah on the first floor, overlooking the courtyard below. Though all other women devotees returned from the end of that roof, one of them forgot herself, as it were, and followed him to the said verandah, as if she was not at all conscious of the presence of unknown people there.
After the Master had taken leave of the women devotees, he, in spiritual mood, walked along with such indrawn mind that he did not at all know that the ladies followed him for a certain distance and then returned and that one of them was even then following him that way. Those only who with their own eyes have seen the Master walking in that manner will be able to understand it; it is difficult to explain it to others. As the result of practising mental concentration for twelve years, nay for the whole of his life, the Master’s mind and intellect became so very one-pointed that they remained exactly where they were placed or exactly in whatever action they were employed; they did not at all digress in any other direction. Again, his body and senses were so much under control that they expressed to the utmost the emotion present in the mind for the time being; they could not play pranks with him It is very difficult to explain this, for, when we look at our own minds, we find that they are the battlegrounds of contending thoughts; and that, led by habits, our bodies and senses run after the powerful impulses in spite of our best efforts to curb them So very different are the constitutions of the Master’s mind and our mind!
Many more events can be mentioned here as examples of this: The Master started from his own room at Dakshineswar to pay his obeisance to Mother Kali. He came to the eastern verandah of his room, got down the steps to the courtyard of the temple and went straight towards the Kali temple. The temple of Radha-Govinda was on the way to that temple; while going to the Kali temple, he might, if he so chose, first enter the temple of Radha-Govinda, pay his obeisance to the holy image-and then go to the temple of Mother Kali; but he could never do that. He went direct to the temple of Kali and made his obeisance there. He would go to the temple of Radha-Govinda only on his way back. We thought in those days that the Master did so because he loved Mother Kali more. One day, the Master himself said, “Hallo, can you tell me why it is so? When I intend to go to the temple of Mother Kali, I have to go there absolutely direct. It becomes impossible for me to go there after taking a stroll this side or that side or after going to the temple of Radha-Govinda and making my obeisances there. Someone, as it were, drags me by my feet and takes me direct to the temple of Mother Kali and does not allow me to bend even a little this way or that. I can go wherever I like after I see Mother Kali. Can you tell me why it is so?” We confessed our ignorance, but thought to ourselves, “Is it possible? He can first pay his obeisance to Radha-Govinda if he likes and then go to the Kali temple. But it is so perhaps because his desire to see Mother Kali is more powerful.” But, we could not speak it out openly all at once. The Master himself sometimes answered the questions thus, “Do you see? I have to do a thing just whenever I have a mind to do it; the slightest delay can’t lie brooked.” Who knew then that a one-pointed mind had to be in that state and behave that way? Who knew that the Master’s mind had long become absolutely one-pointed, leaving no loop-hole anywhere, and that all crosscurrents of thoughts and sentiments had long been stopped and there remained only one master-current there? Again, he sometimes said, “Look here; when I am in the Nirvikalpa state of consciousness, nothing remains — neither ‘I’ nor ‘you’, neither seeing nor hearing, neither speaking nor keeping mum; even when I come down two or three steps from there, I have so much of divine intoxication that I cannot turn my attention to a multitude of persons or things. If I sit down to take my meal at that time and I am given a meal of fifty dishes, my hand would not go towards them all; it will take food to the mouth from one spot only of one plate. Such states come, when rice, pulses, vegetables, rice-porridge — all must be mixed together and then taken.” We were astounded to hear of the state two or three steps below that absolute sameness. He continued, “Another state comes on me when I cannot touch any one. If any one of these (pointing to the devotees) touch me, I have to cry out in pain.” Who amongst us could then understand the mystery of it, that such an overwhelming amount of pure Sattva-guna was then there in the Master’s mind that he could not bear the touch of the slightest impurity. He also added, “Such a state, again, sometimes comes on me during ecstasy that I can then touch him (Baburam) only. If he catches hold8 of me then, I don’t feel pain. If he feeds me I can eat.”
Walking along with mind absorbed, the Master came to the verandah of the outer apartment, where the chariot was drawn, and happened suddenly to look behind to see that woman devotee following him that way. As soon as he saw her, he stood and saluted her again and again, saying, “Blissful Mother”, “Blissful Mother”. The devotee also placed her head on the Master’s feet and saluted him in return. When she did so, the Master looked at her face and said, “Why not come, O mother, why not come with me?” He uttered the words in such a way and the devotee also felt such an attraction that without considering whether it was right or wrong, she (who was then about thirty years old and had never before gone from one place to another except in a palanquin), followed the Master to Dakshineswar. Before she started, she delayed just long enough to run to the inner apartment and say to Balaram Babu’s wife, “I am going with the Master to Dakshineswar.” Hearing that the aforesaid devotee was thus going to Dakshineswar, another woman devotee also gave up all work and started with her. Asking the woman devotee to follow him, the Master in that spiritual mood went straight to the boat with Sri Yogen, the junior Naren and other boy-devotees and sat down there. The two women devotees also ran to the boat and sat down on the plank-flooring outside the covering of the boat. The boat started.
While going, the woman devotee said to the Master, “I feel a desire to call on Him much and to apply my whole mind to Him, but the mind by no means obeys the reins. What should I do?”
The Master (affectionately): “Why not surrender yourself to Him? One should live in the world like a leaf before the wind — a leaf thrown out after food has been eaten out of it, cast-off to be blown by the wind whithersoever it likes. Do you know how it is? The cast-off leaf lies at a neglected corner; it flies as the wind carries it. It is just like that. One should depend on Him and live one’s life — the mind should move as the wind of divine consciousness moves it. That’s all.”
While this talk was going on, the boat reached the temple-ghat. As soon as the Master got down from the boat, he went to the house of Kali.9 The women devotees went to the Holy Mother at the
Nahavat10 on the northern side of the temple compound. They saluted her and then started for the temple to pay their obeisance to Kali the Mother. In the meantime the Master came with his boy-devotees to the temple of Kali and offered salutations to Her. He then came, sat down in the music hall in ecstasy and began to sing in his sweet voice.
“O Mother, O enchantress of Siva, Thou hast deluded the world. Thou entertainest Thyself by playing on the Vina at the great lotus in the basic centre, near the sacral plexus.
O Thou Great Mantra, who movest in the three scales in the form of the three Gunas, striking the three cords, Sushumna etc., of the musical instrument, the body.
O Mother, Thou art of the form of the mode Bhairava in the basic centre, Sriraga in the six-petalled lotus at the Swadhishthana centre, Mallara in the Manipura, Vasanta (in the Anahata) illumining the heart.
Hindola in the Visuddha and Karnataka in the Ajna, O Thou, who art manifest as the thrice seven notes under the stress of pitch, tempo, rhythm and diatonic note.
Sri Nandakumar11 says, ‘The supreme Truth cannot be ascertained.’ For, the empirical reality, the triple Gunas, have veiled the vision of the Jiva, blinded alternately by pains and pleasures.”
The Master sat in the northern part of the music hall in front of the Mother and was thus singing the song. The devotees, some sitting, some standing, were charmed to listen to the song. In the course of singing, the Master went into ecstasy and stood up suddenly. The singing stopped. An extraordinary smile on his lips filled the place with bliss. The devotees were looking motionless on the holy person of the Master. When he saw that the Master’s body, inclined a little, junior Naren was going to hold it straight, lest he should fall down. But no sooner had he touched him than the Master screamed out in terrible pain. Finding that his touch was not then liked by the Master, he stood aloof, when Ramlal, the Master’s nephew, heard the scream from within the temple, came out quickly and caught hold of the Master’s person. The Master remained in that state for some time and after listening to the names of God came back to normal consciousness. But he was not able to stand in the natural way, as if he was dead drunk. His legs were trembling very much.
In that condition he crawled down the steps on the northern side of the music hall to the courtyard of the temple and began to speak like a boy, “I shall not fall down, Mother; what do you say?” Seeing the Master then, one actually thought that he was a child of three or four years. Gazing at the Mother as he spoke those words and keeping his eyes fixed on Hers, he was confidently getting down the steps. Shall we see elsewhere such an attitude of wonderful reliance on God even in small matters?
He crossed the courtyard, came to his room, went to the western verandah and sat down there. He was still in ecstasy. That mood would not leave him. Now it diminished a little, now increased. When it increased, he lost normal consciousness. Remaining in that condition for some time he began to say in that state of Bhava to the devotees who were with him, “Have you seen the snake? It gives me a lot of trouble.” Again, as if forgetting the devotees immediately, he addressed the snake-like coiled Power (for it is needless to say that the Master saw Her just then in ecstasy) and said, “Go now. I will smoke and wash my mouth; my teeth have not been cleaned.” Now speaking thus with the devotees, and now with the figure seen in ecstasy, the Master came back to the normal consciousness of ordinary people.
When the Master remained in the normal state of consciousness, he used to be anxious for the devotees; he sent some one to the Holy Mother to know whether there were any vegetables etc., in the house. She sent word in reply that there was nothing and the Master became again concerned, considering who would go to the market then. How could the men and women devotees who had come from Calcutta be fed if some vegetables etc., were not brought from the market? After some reflection he asked the two women devotees, “Can you go and make purchases in the market?” They said, “Yes” and went to the market and purchased and brought some greens, potatoes and two large brinjals. The Holy Mother cooked all these. From the temple also there came, as usual, a large plateful of Prasada. When the Master had finished taking his food, the devotees took Prasada. Afterwards, the reason why the Master had felt so much pain when junior Naren held him during his ecstasy was ascertained. It was found on inquiry that on his left temple he (junior Naren) had a small tumour which was gradually becoming bigger. Doctors applied medicine to produce a sore there, lest it should prove painful. It is true, we had heard before, that one should not touch the form of a deity, if one has a sore in one’s body; but whoever thought that the saying would thus prove true before our very eyes? He undoubtedly suffered pain, but it was beyond our power to understand the divine power within the Master, which impelled him suddenly to behave so even when he was absorbed in a spiritual mood and bereft of normal consciousness. It was known to us how high an opinion the Master expressed about junior Naren’s purity of character. In his normal state of consciousness the Master touched Naren as he did all others, in spite of that sore in his body, allowed him to touch his feet and sat and stood with him. So, how could Naren know that, at the time of ecstasy, the Master would not be able to bear his touch because he had a sore in his body? He, therefore, did not touch the Master during ecstasy till the said sore was healed.
No one felt how the whole of the day slipped away in the company of the Master in the course of various religious conversations. Afterwards, at the approach of dusk, the men devotees started home. The two women devotees also took leave of the Master and the Holy Mother and walked back to Calcutta.
Two or three days had elapsed since the events spoken of above had taken place. Pandit Sasadhar was to come to see the Master at the Dakshineswar Kali temple that afternoon. The Master, who had a boyish nature, got afraid on many occasions like a boy whenever he heard that any famous person would come to see him He thought that he could not even read and write; moreover, there was no knowing when ecstasy would come upon him; and when he lost the consciousness of his body, his cloth, the only garment he had on, might drop off. Under such circumstances what would the newcomer think and say? What, we thought, did it matter to him what the new-comer might say or think? He had himself taught many people again and again, “People are nothing but worms; nothing spiritual will be attained as long as shame, hatred and fear abide.” Did he then hunger for name and fame? But whenever we tried to test him, we found that the above-mentioned attitude of his was very like that of a boy, who shrank through fear and shyness from seeing a stranger; but as soon as there grew up a little familiarity, he freely indulged in various kinds of jolly pranks with him, such as riding on his back and shoulder, pulling him by the hair and so on. The Master’s attitude also was similar. He could not have talked with Maharaja Yatindramohan and the famous Krishnadas Pal in the way he did, had he had the slightest desire in his mind for name and fame.12
Again, the Master, it was sometimes seen, was afraid because he thought that the person who came to him might be harmed. For, it was true that it would not at all matter to the Master whether the newcomer could appreciate his conduct and manners or not; but if, unable to understand them, he slandered the Master, he was sure to meet with evil. Knowing this, he felt afraid. That was why, when Girish at one time spoke various harsh words about him in his presence with resentment and wounded feeling of love, the Master said, “Look here, let him speak of me whatever he likes; has he not abstained from speaking ill of my Mother?”
There was no limit whatever to the Master’s fear when he heard that Sasadhar would come to see him He said to Yogen, junior Naren and several others, “Please be present then (when the Pandit comes).” What the Master meant was this: he was an illiterate man; he might not be able to speak rightly with the Pandit. So we all should be present and speak with the Pandit and save the Master himself from lapses. Ah, how difficult it is to explain to others his childlike fear. But when Sasadhar actually arrived, the Master became, as it were, a different person. He was in a state resembling partial normal consciousness; while one looked at him with steadfast eyes his lips were seen slightly quivering with a smile. He then addressed the Pandit and said affectionately, “You are a Pandit; please say something.”
Sasadhar: “Sir, my heart has dried up because of my study of philosophy. So, I have come to you in order to have a little of the sap of devotion. Therefore, please say something yourself and let me listen.”
The Master (affectionately): “What shall I say? No one can say what Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute is. That is why He at first became half-male and half-female. Why so? Because He wanted to show that both Purusha and Prakriti were He. He then came down another step from there and became the separate Purusha and the separate Prakriti.”
As he spoke thus about the hidden truths of spirituality, he became excited and stood up and addressing Sasadhar, said:
“Until the mind is joined to the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, both prayer to God and worldly duties continue. When, afterwards, the mind merges in Him, there is no necessity for attending to one’s duties. Take, for example, the line of the song ‘My Nitai is a mad elephant’, sung in Kirtan. When the song commences, the words are sung with correct enunciation, tone, time, measure, tempo and rhythm. It is sung, as it should be, with attention to all these things. Afterwards, as the mind merges a little in the emotion produced by the song, the words, ‘mad elephant’, ‘mad elephant’ only are sung. As the mind enters more deeply into the emotion, ‘elephant’, ‘elephant’ only is sung. Again, when it goes deeper still, the singer, in trying to utter the word ‘elephant’ (Hati) can utter only the syllable ‘Ha’ (and remains with his mouth agape).”
Speaking thus, no sooner had the Master uttered the syllable ‘Ha’ than he became himself completely speechless and motionless and remained in that state for about fifteen minutes, bereft of consciousness, with his face bright and serene. At the end of the ecstasy, he addressed Sasadhar again and spoke affectionately.
The Master: “O Pandit, I have seen you through and through13 ; you are good. After finishing cooking etc., and feeding all, a housewife places her towel on her shoulder and goes to the pond to bathe and wash her clothes and does not return to the kitchen; so, you also will finish telling others of Him and will go, never to come back.”
Hearing these words of the Master, Sasadhar said, “It is all through your grace” and took the dust of his feet again and again. He heard the Master’s words quite astonished, and his heart melted into tears, as he had thought so long that he could not realize God.
We shall now narrate the incident as described by the Master to a great friend of ours when the latter came to him on the day following Sasadhar’s visit to Dakshineswar.
The Master (affectionately): “Don’t you see that there is nothing of the kind (literary) here? — (I am) a man without education etc. I was much afraid when I heard that the Pandit would come here. You see, I have no consciousness of even my cloth! I shrank into myself for fear that I might say something which might not be proper. I said to Mother, ‘I don’t know the scriptures and) philosophies; I know Thyself only, Mother; please protect me Thyself.’ Then I said to some one, ‘Be present then’; again, to some other I said, ‘I shall feel somewhat confident when I see you with me.’ Even when the Pandit came and sat down, fear continued. I sat silent, went on looking at him and listening to his words. Just then I saw the Pandit’s inner nature. Mother showed me that the study of the scriptures etc., was of no avail; if there were no detachment and discrimination, these things were of no use. Something crept immediately afterwards towards the head, and fear vanished in no time. I became completely overwhelmed; the face turned upwards and I felt a flow of words gushing out of my mouth. The more the words came out, the more were words pushed forward and supplied, as it were, by some one from within. It was as if a man was measuring paddy in that part of the country (Kamarpukur); one person counts the measures calling out one, two and so on, while another sits behind him and pushes forward the paddy and supplies him with heaps of it. But I did not know at all what I said. When a little consciousness returned, what I saw was that he (the Pandit) was weeping; he was completely changed. A state like this comes now and then; owing to fear, I was going again and again towards the Tamarisk trees (on account of urges for easing myself); it came also on the day when Kesav sent word that he would bring with him an Englishman (the missionary Cook on a tour to India) and take me in a steamer for a trip in the Ganga. When, however, they had come and I got into the steamer, I was in a state like this and there was a ceaseless flow of words. Afterwards they (showing us) said, ‘You imparted much instruction.’ But I knew nothing, my child.”
How can we understand such wonderful states of the wonderful Master? We are simply astounded and speechless and know not what we should say. Dwelling in his body and mind, a marvellous Power sported in these unprecedented ways, brought any one whom It liked to Dakshineswar with a wonderful attraction and gave him strength to ascend to higher planes of spirituality. One cannot understand all this though one witnesses it. But one can know from the results that these wonderful events did really happen. Beyond that none can know anything. Ah, on how many occasions did we see with our own eyes malicious men coming to the Master with inimical intentions and the Master touching them in a state of ecstasy; when, overwhelmed with the influence of that power, they acquired a new life, with their internal nature radically changed, and were blessed! Jesus gave new life to that unhappy woman, Mary, by a mere touch. Sri Chaitanya in ecstasy climbed on to the shoulders of some person, whereupon his heretical feelings of doubt and disbelief were destroyed and he acquired devotion to God. We had read of such events in the lives of incarnations and used to think that the fanaticism of generations of disciples conspired with the mean desire of adding to the number of their followers to give currency to such misleading lies which had acted as a stumbling block on the path to the proper realization of truth in the spiritual world. It was, we found, admitted in the book called the Bhakti-chaitanyachandrika, published by the New Dispensation, that Sri Chaitanya used to lose normal consciousness at the name of Hari and we remember how we took the author to be soft-headed. Ah, how pitiably narrow we were at that time, and how pitiable would have been our condition had we not had the good fortune to see the Master! Having had the blessing of meeting the Master, we are now in a position, as they say, “to detect wrong thatching though we do not know how to thatch ourselves!” Now we are at least saved from accepting anything and everything as religion, be it from our own wretched doubting minds within or from charlatans without. Knowing now that devotion, faith, etc., can be directly imparted to one, like ordinary things, we have hope instilled into our hearts and we are confident of attaining immortality, being blessed with a drop of the grace of the Master who is an ocean of grace.