4.7 SRI RAMAKRISHNA IN THE
THE RETURN CHARIOT JOURNEY IN A.D. 1885 AND THE STORY OF GOPALA’S MOTHER - II
of undivided minds who worship Me and always remain
united with Me, I bring and preserve all the things they require.
— Gita IX. 22
The Master came to Balaram Babu’s house at Baghbazar in Calcutta on the occasion of the Chariot festival some time after the Brahmani of Kamarhati had had the vision of the divine Lord in the form of Gopala. There was a crowd of devotees and, beside himself with joy, Balaram Babu was receiving and welcoming all duly. He was a devotee belonging, to an ancient family of devotees, who had been devoted to God generation after generation, and not for one generation only. The Master’s grace bestowed on his and his family was also unbounded.
At one time, we were told by the Master himself, when he had a desire to see Sri Chaitanya’s Sankirtan through the streets of the town, he had a vision of it. It was a wonderful affair. It was a boundless crowd and there were unrestrained love-inebriation and the maddening attraction of Sri Gauranga intoxicated with love of God, in the centre of that tidal wave of maddening love. That limitless concourse of people began to proceed from the side of the Panchavati slowly forward in front of the Master’s room The Master, said that in that procession Balaram Babu’s face, serenely bright with the light of devotion, was one of the few faces which he saw and which were imprinted for ever in his memory. On the day on which Balaram Babu came to the Dakshi-neswar Kali temple to see the Master, as soon as the latter saw him he recognized him to be that person seen in that procession.
Balaram Babu had an estate at Kothar, Orissa; the service of God was carried on in the image of Shyamchand (Krishna) there. He had a bower in Vrindavan, where the worship of Syamasundara (the beautiful Krishna) was conducted. There was also the image of Jagannath1 in his Calcutta house and; service was performed there. “The food”, said Sri Ramakrishna, “given by Balaram is pure. They have been serving God, guests and Sadhus for generation after generation. His father has renounced everything and is living in the holy Vrindavan repeating the name of Hari. I can take with pleasure the food given by Balaram; as soon as it is put into the mouth it goes down automatically as it were.” Indeed, of the food of all the devotees, it was Balaram’s that, we have noticed, he took with the greatest pleasure. The Master had his midday meal invariably at Balaram’s house whenever he came to Calcutta in the morning. It is doubtful whether he ever took food in anyone else’s house except those of Brahmin devotees. But it was a different matter if it was the Prasada of Narayana or of any other image of God.
There exists an indescribable, uncommon element in even the ordinary activities, daily or occasional, of great souls, who are indeed few and far between. Any one, who was in the company of Sri Ramakrishna, even for a day, would specially comprehend the truth of this statement. If only we analyse the simple matter of the Master’s taking food given by Balaram, it will be quite clear. At one time during his Sadhana, the Master prayed and said to the Mother, “Mother, don’t make me a dry and austere monk; keep me above want.” The divine Mother also showed him that four suppliers of provisions for him had been sent to the world. The Master used to say that, of those four, Mathur, the son-in-law of Rani Rasmani, was the first and Sambhu Mallick, the second. Surendranath Mitra, whom the Master called Surendar and sometimes Suresh, was, he said, a “half supplier”. We had not the good fortune to see with our eyes the service of Mathuranath and Sambhu Babu, for we came to the Master long after they had passed away. But we have heard from the Master himself that it was a wonderful affair. We do not remember the Master to have ever mentioned Balaram to be one of the suppliers of his provisions. But the privilege of his service, which we witnessed, appeared to us to be very extraordinary. It was not inferior in any respect to that of the other suppliers, except that of Mathur Babu. We shall try to describe these things some other time. Let us now say only this, namely, that Balaram Babu supplied all the food necessary for the Master — rice, candy, farina, sago, barley, vermicelli, tapioca, etc., — from the day he first went to Dakshineswar to the day when the Master passed beyond our gross vision. And Surendra or Suresh Mitra, as he was called, shortly after he had met the Master, used to make arrangements for the food and bedding for those devotees who spent nights with the Master at Dakshineswar to serve him.
Who can say what hidden relation these persons had with the Master? And who can explain why they had that high privilege vouchsafed to them? We have understood this much that they were rare, fortunate persons, especially marked by the Mother of the universe. They would not otherwise have been born with the privilege of being helpers to the present Lila of Sri Ramakrishna. Otherwise their faces would not have been so deeply imprinted in such a way in the ever-free, pure and awakened mind of Sri Ramakrishna as to enable him to recognize them as soon as he saw them. He said, “They belong to here (i.e., to him); they are born with this special privilege.”
5. The Master always said “here” and “of this place” instead of I and mine. Its reason2
The Master used to say, “They belong to here” instead of “They are mine”. For, not the slightest I-consciousness could find a place in Sri Ramakrishna’s pure mind. It was, therefore, very difficult for him to use the words ‘I’ and ‘Mine’. Or, why say difficult? He could not at all use these two words. When it became absolutely necessary to utter them, he would say them in the sense of “I am the servant or the child of the Mother”. And this also could only be said if the mind had this attitude beforehand in full. That is why, when in any case it was necessary to say “mine” in the course of conversation, the Master almost always pointed to his body and said “of this place”. The devotees also could understand from it what he meant. For example, when he said “such and such a person is not of this place”, “it is not the attitude or idea of this place” and so on, we knew that he meant to say, “he or she was not his”, “it was not his attitude or idea.”
Now we shall say something about the suppliers of the Master’s provisions. The Master’s first supplier, Mathuranath, was engaged in serving the Master for fourteen years from the time of his first auspicious advent to the Kali temple to some time after his Sadhana was at an end. The second one, Sambhu Babu, lived and served the Master from some time after Mathur Babu passed away to some time before Kesav and other devotees of Calcutta went to him. The “half supplier”, Suresh Babu, lived, served and took care of him and his Sannyasin devotees from six or seven years before the Master passed away to four or five years after that event. The Baranagar monastery (which was later converted into the Belur Math) was founded in 1886 in the old, dilapidated house of the Munsi Babus at Baranagar, at the eager request of this Suresh Babu and with his money. There are one and a half suppliers yet to be accounted for; where are they? The American lady Mrs. Sara. C. Bull, who helped Swami Vivekananda so much in establishing the Belur Math and Balaram Babu of whom we are speaking, — are they these one and a half? Who will now decide the question in the absence (in gross forms) of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda?
Ever since Balaram Babu went to Dakshineswar, he used to invite Sri Ramakrishna to his house at the time of the Car festival every year. His house or rather his brother Rai Harivallabha Basu Bahadur’s (who was a famous advocate of Cuttack, Orissa) was situated on Ramkanta Basu’s street at Baghbazar. Balaram Basu used to live in his brother’s house. The number of the house was 57. It cannot be ascertained how many times the house, 57 Ramkanta Basu’s street, was sanctified by the presence of the Master. Who will ascertain how many people have been blessed with the privilege of seeing him there? The Master sometimes jokingly called the Dakshineswar temple, the fort of Kali the Mother. It will not be an exaggeration to call this house Her second fort. “All the members of Balaram’s family”, said the Master, “are strung to the same tune.” Every one of the house, from the master and the mistress to the little children, was the Master’s devotee. They did not take anything, even water, before performing the Japa of the name of the divine Lord. They had equal regard for the pious acts of worship, holy reading, service of monks, gifts for good causes, etc. It is seen in many families that while one or two of the members are religious, the others are of a different nature — foreign elements, so to say. But in this family it was different; all were of the same nature. Rare, perhaps, are the families in the world who are selflessly religious; rarer still are those in which all the members have love for the same ideal and help one another in realizing it. That this family was, therefore, the Master’s second fort and that he enjoyed being there, were not matters for surprise.
We have already said that there was the service of Jagannath in this house; so a chariot used to be drawn at the time of the Chariot Festival. But everything was an expression of the love of God and there was nothing of external pomp and grandeur; noise, decoration of the house, music, the din and bustle of the rabble — there was nothing of all these. A small chariot used to be drawn in the quadrangular verandah in the first floor of the outer apartment facing all the four quarters and overlooking a square court below. A party of Kirtan-singers came. They sang Kirtan as the chariot was drawn. And the Master and his devotees joined in the singing. But in what other place will one have that bliss, that profusion of the love of God, that God-intoxicated mood, and that sweet dance of the Master! Pleased with the pure devotion of the Sattvika family, Jagannath, the Lord of the universe, manifested Himself in the image on the chariot and in the body of Sri Ramakrishna. In what other place would one meet with that wonderful sight! Carried away by the current of pure devotion, even the hearts of godless men melted into tears, not to speak of those of devotees. After a few hours of such Kirtan, cooked food was offered to Jagannath and after the Master had had his meal, all others took Prasada. Afterwards, late in the night, that fair of bliss came to an end and all, except a few, went home. The writer had the taste of this bliss only once in his life. It was on that occasion that at the Master’s request, Gopala’s mother was invited. We are speaking of the festival of the return Chariot-journey of the year 1885. The Master came to Balaram Babu’s house on that day, spent there two days and two nights and returned by boat to Dakshineswar on the third day at eight or nine in the morning.
The Master came in the morning to that house. He sat for some time in the outer apartment and then he was taken to the inner one for a little refreshment. Many men devotees assembled in the outer apartment, coming in twos and threes, and in the inner apartment also came all the women devotees of the Master from the neighbouring houses. Many of the latter were Balaram Babu’s relatives or acquaintances. He used to send for them and have them brought to his house whenever the Master came there. And also whenever he used to go to Dakshineswar to pay a visit to Sri Ramakrishna, he had them brought to his house and took them there with him Many women devotees — the lady Bhavini, Asim’s mother, Ganu’s mother and grandmother, or again this man’s mother, that person’s aunt, a third’s husband’s sister, a fourth’s neighbour and so on and so forth — all came that day.
We are unable to express what a sweet relation the Master, devoid of the slightest tinge of desire, had with these chaste and virtuous women devotees. Many of them knew the Master even then as their chosen Ideal. Every one had that faith in him. Again, some fortunate ones among them knew this directly like Gopala’s mother through visions etc. So they knew the Master as more than their own and did not feel any fear or hesitation in his presence. When they had prepared any nice food at home, in the first instance they set apart a portion of it for the Master before using it for the household and either sent it or themselves took it to him at Dakshineswar. It cannot be calculated how many times these ladies walked to Dakshineswar and back home during the Master’s lifetime. On some occasions they returned home after sunset, on others, at 10 p.m., on still others, later than midnight after the Kirtan and festival etc., were over at Dakshineswar. The Master, like a boy, eagerly consulted some of them regarding the medicine for his stomach trouble. If any one smiled to see him do so, he said, “What do you know? She is the wife of a great doctor; she cannot but know a few medicines.” About some one among them, when he saw her intense love towards Him, he said, “She is a Gopi perfected by God’s grace.” Of some other, when he had tasted the food cooked by her, he said, “She is a cook of Vaikuntha; she has a perfect hand in cooking Sukta” and so on.
While he was taking refreshments, the Master spoke of the good fortune of Gopala’s mother to the lady devotees. “That daughter of a Brahmin,” said he affectionately to them, “who comes from Kamarhati and who has motherly love for God as Gopala, has had various visions. She says that Gopala stretches his hand to take food from her. The other day she came here love-intoxicated on account of experiencing many such things. When she was fed she became a little pacified. I asked her to stay for the night, but she did not. She was equally inebriated on her way back. The cloth on her person became loose and was being dragged along the ground; she had no consciousness of it. I raised the cloth and passed my hand over her heart and head to calm her down a little. She has great devotion and she is very good. Why don’t you send for her?”
As soon as this reached Balaram Babu’s ear, he sent a man to bring Gopala’s mother from Kamarhati for there was much time yet for coming; the Master would be staying there for that day and the morrow.
The Master finished taking refreshments and came back to the outer apartment and was having various talks with the devotees.
Before long, the Master’s midday meal was finished. The devotees also took Prasada. He took a little rest before he sat in the hall in the outer apartment and conversed with the devotees on various topics. When it was about to be dusk the Master was in ecstasy. All of us must have seen the metal image of the boy Gopala — it is in the posture of crawling, with this difference that its right hand is raised in the gesture of asking for some food and its face is turned upwards as if it is looking at the face of some one with wistful eyes expressing delight and wanting something. The Master’s body and limbs assumed exactly that posture under the influence of Bhava, except for the two eyes which remained in a half-shut, indrawn condition, not seeing anything outside. Immediately after the Master’s state of Bhava began, the carriage carrying Gopala’s mother arrived and stood at the gate of
Balaram Babu’s house; and Gopala’s mother came upstairs and saw the Master in the form of her chosen Ideal. The devotees understood that it was the devotion of Gopala’s mother that had brought about the sudden infusion of the Gopala-spirit into the Master. All those present there showed her great respect and reverence, thinking how very fortunate she was. All said, “Ah, the wonderful devotion! The Master assumed the form of Gopala Himself on account of the urge of her devotion!” and so on. Gopala’s mother said, “But I don’t like such a stiff and rigid posture, like a log of wood, under the influence of Bhava. My Gopala will laugh, play, walk and run. Ah! What is this? This stiff-as-wood posture! I don’t want to see such a Gopala.” On the day on which she first saw the Master thus lose normal consciousness in ecstasy, she really became overwhelmed with fear and said, as she pushed the Master’s holy person, “Why are you in such a condition, my child?” That happened when the Master went to Kamarhati for the first time.
When we first went to the Master, he was nearly forty-nine years old — perhaps it was yet five or six months to his forty-ninth year. Gopala’s mother also went to him at that time. Before we met the Master, our idea was that people would enjoy the artless dancing and gestures of a child, but that it would be nothing but ludicrous or disgusting to them when a grown-up robust youth performed such antics. Swami Vivekananda used to say, “Does one appreciate a rhinoceros dancing a dancing-girl’s dance?” But, coming to the Master, we had to change our opinions. Though he was advanced in age, the Master danced, sang, made various gestures — and ah, how sweet they were! “We never dreamt”, said Girish Babu, “that a grown-up robust youth looked so well when dancing.” But how beautiful was the posture of his body and limbs under the influence of the infusion of the spirit of Gopala into him today at Balaram Babu’s house. We did not understand then why all these looked so beautiful. We only felt that they were beautiful and nothing more. We now understand that, whenever any mood came on him, it came on fully without the admixture of any other mood with it, and with no touch of insincerity or showing off. He was then completely inspired by, absorbed or, as he jokingly said, ‘diluted’3 in that mood. It, therefore, could not at all strike in the minds of the people that a man of advanced age was acting as a boy or a woman! The strong waves of Bhava within burst out and completely changed his body or made it assume a different form altogether.
The Master had spent two delightful days and nights in the company of the devotees at the house of Balaram Babu. It was the third day and he was to return to Dakshineswar. It was about eight or nine in the morning. A boat was ready at the Ghat. Gopala’s mother and another woman devotee, it was settled, should go by that boat to Dakshineswar with the Master, besides one or two boy-devotees, who had come with him for his service. Kali (Swami Abhedananda) was perhaps one of them.
Going to the inner apartment the Master bowed down to Jagannath, received the salutations of the devotee-family, went out and got into the boat. Gopala’s mother and others also followed him there.
Some members of Balaram’s family respectfully presented Gopala’s mother with clothes etc., and knowing that she was in need of a ladle, tongs for gripping hot cooking pots, and some other articles, they made presents of them to her; a bundle containing them was put in the boat. The boat started.
While he was going by the boat, the Master noticed the bundle and knew on inquiry that it belonged to Gopala’s mother. As soon as the Master heard that it was the bundle containing the things given to her by the devotee-family, his face assumed a serious attitude. Instead of addressing Gopala’s mother, he began speaking on renunciation to the other woman devotee, mother Golap. “One, who is a person of renunciation”, said he, “realizes God. One, who, after taking one’s food in people’s houses comes away empty-handed, sits leaning against the body of the divine Lord, that is, can exert force, so to say, on the Lord because of his renunciation and dependence on Him”, and so on. The Master did not speak a single word with Gopala’s mother on the way that day and looked at the bundle now and again. Seeing that attitude of the Master, Gopala’s mother thought, “Let me throw the bundle into the water of the Ganga.” The Master used to joke, play and make merry with the devotees like a five-year-old boy but, when it was necessary, he could be very strict with them. He could not put up with the slightest improper conduct on the part of any devotee. Nothing, not even the smallest thing escaped his keen eye; as soon as anyone behaved improperly even in the slightest degree, his keen eye fell on him and the latter at once put forth his best efforts to correct himself. The Master had not to make much effort either; for, if he but looked stern and refrained from speaking with one a while, one would feel restless and repent the fault committed. A word or two of scolding from the Master’s holy mouth were enough to set right those who had not corrected themselves even with this. The wonderful Master’s wonderful way of dealing with, and his way of imparting instruction to, each devotee were to occupy the heart of the devotee first by his divine selfless love and then explain, just in a few words, what was to be done.
As soon as she reached Dakshineswar, Gopala’s mother anxiously went to the Holy Mother at the Nahavat and said to her, “O daughter-in-law, Gopala has been angry to see this bundle; what is the remedy now? I think I should not take the articles with me but distribute them here.”
The supremely revered Holy Mother had boundless compassion. Seeing the old lady worried and pained, she consoled her and said, “Let him say so, mother. There is no one to give you these things. What will you do under the circumstances? Have you not brought these things only because you require them?”
In spite of what the Holy Mother told her, Gopala’s mother gave out of those articles one piece of cloth and one or two other things. Then harried with fear, she cooked with her own hand one or two curries and went to feed the Master. The Master, who knew all people’s hearts, did not make any other remark when he saw her repentant. He then treated her as before, speaking with her smilingly.
Gopala’s mother also was consoled, fed the Master and returned to Kamarhati in the evening.
Since her first vision, Gopala’s mother, as we said before, had been seeing the ideal form of Gopala for two months without a break. But this did not continue so afterwards. Let no one think on that account that, after that period, she had the vision of the form of Gopala only very rarely, at long intervals. She saw Him daily time and again whenever her heart wanted to see Him Again, whenever anything had to be taught her, Gopala would suddenly appear before her and make her act accordingly by signs or words or by doing things Himself, thus showing her how to do them Merging in the Master’s holy person again and again, Gopala taught her that He and the Master were not different. He taught her how He should be served, by asking her for things to eat and things to lie on. Again, strolling together with some eminent devotees of Sri Ramakrishna or moving with them with especial intimacy, in her presence, He convinced her that He and they were not different, that the devotee and the Divine were one. Therefore, the hesitation she felt in eating things touched by them gradually vanished.
Since she became firmly convinced that Sri Ramakrishna was her chosen Ideal, Gopala’s mother did not very often have the vision of the form of Gopala. Instead, she had the vision of Sri Ramakrishna very frequently and through his form, the divine Lord, who assumed the form of Gopala, taught her whatever was necessary. Deprived of the frequent visions of the form of Gopala in the beginning, she went to Sri Ramakrishna and said weeping, “What have you done to me, Gopala? What fault have I committed? Why do I not have your vision (in the form of Gopala) as I used to have before?” and so on. Sri Ramakrishna replied, “If, in the Kaliyuga, one has such vision continuously, one’s body does not last. It lasts twenty-one days only and then falls off like a dry leaf.” Gopala’s mother used always to be under the influence of divine inebriation of Bhava for two months after having the first vision of Gopala. She did everything — cooking, bathing, taking food, repeating continually God’s name, meditating on Him and the like — on the strength of past habits and also as it had to be done. Owing to past habits her body managed somehow or other to go through them; that was all. But she herself always remained highly intoxicated, as it were. How long, therefore, could the body last in this way? It is a matter of surprise that it continued even for two months. The influence of that intoxication diminished a great deal at the end of two months. But, as she could not see Gopala as before, there came on her an intense eagerness to have the vision repeatedly. As a result of that, the humour of wind prevailed in her constitution and she felt a great pain within her heart. She, therefore, said to Sri Ramakrishna, “Owing to the prevalence of the humour of wind, I feel as if my heart is being sawn through.” The Master consoled her and said affectionately, “It is not the humour of wind but the humour of Hari (God). What will be the support of your life if it goes? It is good that it abides. Please eat something whenever you feel too much pain.” So saying the Master fed her with various good things that day.
Just as many of us, men and women, used to go to the Master, many Marwari men and women also visited him from time to time. They came in a good number of carriages to Dakshineswar garden and, after bathing in the Ganga, collecting flowers and performing the worship of Siva and other deities, assembled under the Panchavati, where they dug a fire-place and cooked various preparations and offered them to the deity. They then gave at first a part of all those things to the Master and afterwards took Prasada themselves. Many of them brought for the Master candy, grapes, almonds, guavas, raisins, pistachios, dry dates, betel leaves, pomegranates, etc., offered them and bowed down to him. For, they were not like most of us; all of them knew that one should not come empty-handed to the hermitages of holy men or the places of deities and, therefore, they would without fail bring something or other with them But Sri Ramakrishna did not himself take any of these things given by them, with the exception of one or two of the Marwaris. He said, “If they give one roll of betel, they join with it sixteen desires — ‘may I win the law-suit in the court’, ‘may I recover from my disease’, ‘may I make profit in my trade’ and so on.”
The Master himself did not eat these things nor did he give them to the devotees to eat. But sometimes he would eat as sacred food a little of the cooked food which they had offered to the deity and then brought for him; and he would also give it to us to eat. The only person who was thought fit to take the candy, fruits, etc., given by them was Narendranath. The Master said, “He has the sword of knowledge ever unsheathed with him He will not be harmed if he takes these things. His spiritual insight will remain unimpaired.” The Master, therefore, sent these eatables to Narendranath’s house through some one or other of the devotees who was available. He sent them through his nephew, Ramlal, the priest of the Kali temple, on those days on which no one else was available. One day, after his midday meal, the Master, we were told by brother Ramlal, said to him, “Well, have you no business in Calcutta?” He spoke thus lest Ramlal should be annoyed to be sent too often with those things.
Ramlal: “I have no business there at present. But if you ask me, I will of course go.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, I was just asking; you have not gone for a walk to Calcutta for a long time; you may have a desire to go. Why don’t you go just once? If you go, please take the money; that is there in that tin box and take a carriage on share from Baranagar; you will otherwise fall ill on account of the sun. And give Narendra these candy, almonds, etc., and bring me his news. He has not come here for a long time. My mind is extremely eager to have his news.”
Brother Ramlal said to us, “Ah, what hesitation, lest I should get annoyed!” It is needless to say that brother Ramlal took those opportunities to come to Calcutta and, add to the happiness of the devotees.
There thus came one day many Marwari devotees to Dakshineswar. Much candy, fruits, etc., accumulated that day, as usual, in the Master’s room, when Gopala’s mother and some other women devotees came unexpectedly to pay a visit to the Master. He saw Gopala’s mother and came and stood beside her. Then, while passing his hand all over her body from head to foot, he began to express his love like a child when it meets its mother. Pointing at Gopala’s mother’s body, he said to all, “This case is filled with Hari only; this body consists of Hari alone.” Gopala’s mother stood still; she was not at all shrinking, though the Master touched her feet. Afterwards the Master brought all the nice things that were there in his room and fed the old lady with them Whenever Gopala’s mother went to Dakshineswar, the Master behaved similarly and fed her. One day she asked him, “Why do you like so much to feed me, Gopala?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “For, you fed me so much in the past.”
Gopala’s mother: “In the past? When did I feed you?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “In a previous life.”
Passing the whole day at Dakshineswar, Gopala’s mother took leave of the Master before returning to Kamarhati, when the Master brought and gave her all the candy given by the Marwaris and asked her to take it with her. Gopala’s mother said, “Why do you give me so much candy?”
Sri Ramakrishna: (affectionately touching the chin of Gopala’s mother) “You were at first molasses; you then became sugar and now you have become candy. Now that you have become candy, eat candy and be happy.”
All were surprised when the Master gave to Gopala’s mother the candy given by the Marwaris. They felt that, by the grace of the Master, the mind of Gopala’s mother could no more be tarnished. Having no other course left open to her, she took all the candy; what else could she do? Gopala would otherwise not cease importuning her. Besides, as long as the body lasted, one required everything, as Gopala’s mother used sometimes to say to us, “So long as the body lasts, all things, even cumin-seeds, fenugreek-seeds, are necessary. A very strange state indeed!”
It was a long-standing habit with Gopala’s mother to come and tell the Master everything she experienced while practising Japa and meditation. He said, “One should not tell any one else his or her visions. In that case visions cease to appear.” So advised, one day Gopala’s mother said to him, “Why? Those are facts regarding vision of you, of no one else. Should they not be told even to you?” The Master replied, “Though they are visions regarding this place, they should not be told even to me.” Gopala’s mother said, “Indeed.” She did not, except on very rare occasions, speak of her visions to any one since then. A sincere and simple soul as Gopala’s mother was, she had an absolute faith in whatever Sri Ramakrishna said. And doubting souls like ourselves? The whole of our lives is spent in testing the truth of his words. Therefore it did not fall to our lot to translate them into practice and be happy in the enjoyment of their results.
One day, at this time, both Gopala’s mother and Narendranath were present at Dakshineswar. Narendranath had even then a great inclination towards the Brahmo Samaj doctrine of a formless God. He had even then a great dislike for so-called idolatry, for deities, images, etc. But then he had by that time had this conviction that even if people had resort to idols, images, etc., they might reach in time the formless Divine residing in all beings. The Master had a keen sense of humour. On the one hand, there was the very learned, intelligent Narendranath endowed with all the good qualities, fond of discussions and devoted to the divine Lord, while, on the other, there was the poor, indigent Gopala’s mother, of simple faith, who hoped to have the grace and vision of God bestowed on her by resorting to His name only, who never had had any literary education whatever and never knew what discussions and argumentations were even for acquiring divine knowledge. The Master got them both together and brought about great fun. He asked Gopala’s mother to narrate to Narendra how she first had the vision of the divine Lord in the form of the boy Krishna and how He had been having His divine play with her since then. So asked, she said, “Will that not be harmful, Gopala?” Afterwards, assured by the Master and dissolved in tears, she began to narrate, in a choked voice, from the beginning to the end the whole story of the sport with her of the divine Lord in the form of Gopala for two months since her first vision of Him She narrated how Gopala was on her lap with his head on her shoulder, how she came all the way from Kamarhati to Dakshineswar, how she distinctly saw his two purple feet dangling on her chest, how he entered the Master’s body from time to time, came out again and then came to her, how he was grumbling when he did not get a pillow when going to bed, how he collected wood for cooking and how naughtily he behaved in order to get food. While narrating these events, the old lady was filled with emotions and began to visualize the divine Lord in the form of Gopala. Although Narendranath had an external-covering of rigid argumentation and the hope to acquire divine knowledge through that, inwardly he was always full of intense love of God. He could not refrain from shedding tears when he heard of the ecstasy, vision, etc., of the old lady. Again, as she was narrating the story, she artlessly asked Narendranath all along, “My child, you are learned and intelligent, I am miserable and indigent; I know nothing, understand nothing; please say if these things regarding me are mere imaginations or “realities.” Narendranath also assured the old lady every time and said consoling her, “Mother, what you have seen are all true.” The reason why Gopala’s mother questioned Narendranath about it so anxiously was perhaps that she was not then having the vision of Gopala continuously as before.
One day at this time the Master came to Gopala’s mother at Kamarhati with Rakhal; it was about ten in the morning. For, Gopala’s mother had a great desire to cook nicely with her own hand and feed him once. The old lady was beside herself with joy to have the Master with her. She gave them for refreshment whatever she could procure. When they had finished taking it, she spread a bed comfortably in the Babu’s parlour, asked them to rest there and girding up her loins, went to cook. She had procured various good things from others. She made various kinds of preparations and fed the Master to her full satisfaction at noon. She then affectionately made a bed for him to rest on, by spreading a sheet of cloth washed clean over her own quilt in the southern room on the first floor of the ladies’ apartment. Rakhal also lay beside the Master. For, the Master looked upon Rakhal as his own child and treated him accordingly. The Master saw a strange thing there at that time. We venture to state it here only because it was heard from the Master himself; otherwise we would have suppressed it. The Master used to have only a little sleep during the whole of day and night. He was, therefore, lying quiet. Rakhal fell asleep by his side. The Master said, “A bad smell was felt. Then I saw two figures in a corner of the room. Their appearance was hideous. Out of their bellies, the entrails were hanging down and their faces, hands and feet were exactly like the human skeletons arranged in the Medical College, which I saw at some time. They said to me humbly, ‘Why are you here? Please go away from this place; we feel much pained (perhaps to remember their own condition) to see you.’ On the one hand they were thus supplicating and, on the other, Rakhal was sleeping. Seeing that they felt pained, I was going to get up and come away with my small bag and towel when Rakhal woke up and said, ‘Where are you going?’ Saying, ‘I will tell you later on’ and catching hold of his hand, I came downstairs, and taking leave of the old woman (she had just finished taking her food), I went and got into the boat. I then said to Rakhal, ‘There are two ghosts there. The Mill of Kamarhati is situated near the garden. They live in that room by smelling (for, with them smelling is eating) the bones etc., thrown away by the Europeans after they have taken their meal.’ I said nothing of it to the old woman lest she should get afraid for she had always to live alone in that house.”
Mati Jhil, the lake in front of the garden of the late Matilal Sil, a famous rich man of Calcutta, is situated on the road going north along the bank of the Ganga straight up to the Baranagar Bazar beyond the bridge. The garden house of Krishnagopal Ghosh, the son-in-law of Rani Katyayani (the wife of Lala Babu), is situated across the road to the east of the place, where the north part of this lake touches the road. It was in this garden that Sri Ramakrishna stayed for eight months, from the middle of December 1885 to the middle of August 1886, when he disappeared from the gross eyes of the devotees. It is this garden, called by them “the Kasipur garden”, which, alas, produces great grief, and delight too in their minds! You may say, “The Master was then in his sick-bed, why then do you speak of delight?” Though apparently he was in a sick-bed, it cannot be expressed in words with what a wonderful bond of love the external manifestation of that disease in the divine person of the Master tied the devotees together; for, it led to the grouping of the devotees into different classes — devotees of the inner and outer circles, monks and householders, those of the path of knowledge and those of devotion — the differences becoming clearer. Again, it was here that the firm basis of the conviction that all of them belonged to the same family, was established. Besides, who could ever have an idea of the number of persons who came there and became blessed by having an immediate knowledge of the light of spirituality? It was here that Narendranath experienced the Nirvikalpa Samadhi as the result of his Sadhana. It was here that the twelve boy-devotees including Narendra had ochre cloths from the holy hand of the Master. And it was here again, in the afternoon (from three to four p.m.) of the first day of January 1886, in the course of his last walk in the garden path, that the Master was in an extraordinary ecstatic state of mind to see the devotees and imparted direct spiritual power to them by touching the hearts of all with his holy hand and said, “What more shall I say to you? May you have spiritual awakening.” As in Dakshineswar, here also came every day crowds of people, men and women. Here also the Holy Mother was daily engaged in the service of the Master, preparing his food and doing other household work, and Gopala’s mother and other lady devotees also came to him and took part in the service of the Master and his devotees, some of them spending a night or two also before they returned. When, therefore, we think of the wonderful assemblage of the devotees at the Kasipur garden, it appears to us that the Mother of the universe produced the disease in the holy body of the Master only for the fulfilment of a great unknown purpose. It was here that, witnessing daily the Master’s divine sports — the coming of new devotees, the Master’s ever-blissful figure, the daily manifestation of his extraordinary powers — many devotees of long-standing thought that he only feigned his illness for the good of the people and he would discard the disease as soon as he liked and be in health again.
During the days in the Kasipur garden the Master took only liquid food made of barley, vermicelli, farina, etc. One day he expressed a desire to take thickened milk prepared by mixing with it the powder of zedoary, as was generally given to invited guests on special occasions in the houses of the Calcutta people. Nobody raised any objection to it. For, as it was possible for him to take barley, farina-porridge, etc., they thought there was little chance of thickened milk aggravating the disease. The doctors also did not raise any objection. It was, therefore, settled that Yogindra should go to Calcutta early on the morrow, purchase and bring a little of such thickened milk from the market.
Yogindra started at the appointed time. On his way he thought, “The thickened milk available in the market is adulterated with many other things along with the powder of zedoary; will it not increase the illness if he takes it?” All the devotees looked upon the Master as the life of their lives; therefore, all had only one thought in their minds since he fell ill. It was certainly for that reason that such a thought arose in Yogin’s mind. He thought again, “But I did not ask the Master about it before I left; therefore, will he not be annoyed if I were to have it prepared by some devotee and go back with it?” Thinking variously, Yogananda arrived at Balaram Babu’s house at Baghbazar, where when the devotees asked the reason of his coming, he said everything. All the devotees there said, “Why market milk? We ourselves will prepare it and give it to you. But it cannot be taken there at this time of the day, for it will require time to prepare it. So, please have your meal here now; in the meantime the milk will be got ready. Take it at three in the afternoon.” Yogin agreed, acted accordingly and came back to Kasipur at about four p.m with the home-made milk.
Sri Ramakrishna had wanted to take the milk at noon and waited a long time for it; but at last he took his usual food. Afterwards, when Yogin returned, the Master heard everything, became much annoyed and said to him, “You were told to buy the milk from the market; I wished to take market-milk. Why did you go to the devotees’ house and give them trouble over it? Besides, this milk is too thick and hard to digest; can this be taken? I’ll not take it.” And in fact he did not touch it even. He asked the Holy Mother to feed Gopala’s mother with the whole of it and said, “It is a thing given by the devotees; Gopala is there in her heart; her taking it will be the same as my doing so.”
When the Master passed beyond the ken of gross human eyes, there was no limit to the distraction of Gopala’s mother. She did not go anywhere outside Kamarhati for a long time. She lived alone in her solitude. Afterwards, when she had visions of the Master as before, that mood of hers came to an end. We heard much of such visions which Gopala’s mother had even after the Master was out of sight. One of these visions was that, on one occasion, when she went to witness the Chariot festival at Mahesh, on the other side of the Ganga, her bliss overflowed all bounds when she had the vision of Gopala in all beings. She said that at that time she saw that the chariot, Jagannatha Deva on the chariot and those who were drawing the chariot, that vast crowd of people—all were her Gopala. But He had assumed different forms; that was all. Inebriated with affection and intense love at getting this direct indication of the universal form of the divine, she lost normal consciousness. Once, personally describing it to a woman friend of hers, she said, “At that time I was not myself; I danced and laughed —created a second Kurukshetra (i.e., a battle scene).”
Whenever she felt the least restlessness in her mind, she used to come since then to the Sannyasin devotees of the Master at the Baranagar monastery and had peace whenever she came. Whenever she came to the monastery, the Sannyasin devotees asked her to offer cooked food to the Master and feed him Gopala’s mother also would be delighted, prepare one or two curries with her own hand and offer them to the Master. When the monastery was removed to Alambazar, and afterwards to Nilambar Babu’s house on the other side of the Ganga, Gopala’s mother came to those places also, remained the whole day there and enjoyed bliss. She spent the night also there on rare occasions.
When Sara (Mrs. Sara. C. Bull), Jaya4 (Miss J. Macleod) and Nivedita came to India with Swami Vivekananda on his return from the West, one day they went to Kamarhati to see Gopala’s mother and were highly pleased with her talk and courtesy. Gopala’s mother saw her Gopala residing in them too. She, we remember, touched their chins and kissed them affectionately. She then lovingly made them sit on her own bed and gave them parched rice, balls of coconut, etc., which were there in her room to eat and, asked by them, told them a little of her visions. The Western ladies also ate those things with delight and were charmed to listen to those words of hers. They asked of her some parched rice in order to take it to America.
Hearing the wonderful story of the life of Gopala’s mother, Sister Nivedita was so much charmed that, when in 1904 Gopala’s mother became very ill and incapable of doing anything and was brought to Balaram Babu’s house at Baghbazar, she expressed great eagerness to take her to her (Nivedita’s) Baghbazar house at 17 Bosepara Lane and keep her there. Gopala’s mother too agreed without the least hesitation, on account of Sister Nivedita’s eagerness, and went to her house. For, Gopala, we said before, had removed her idea of difference regarding everything. We remember another event as an example of it. One day at Dakshineswar, Narendranath ate a cupful of goat’s meat offered to the Mother Kali and went out to wash his hand. The Master asked a woman devotee to clean that place. Gopala’s mother was standing there. The moment she heard that word of the Master she removed with her own hand those leavings, the bones etc., and cleaned that place. When the Master saw it, he became happy and said to the above-mentioned woman devotee, “Just see how liberal she is daily becoming.”
Gopala’s mother lived at Sister Nivedita’s residence since then. Nivedita, the Swami’s spiritual daughter, served her as she would her own mother. The arrangement about her food was made in a Brahmin family hard by. Gopala’s mother went there at meal time every day and took a little rice. At night some one of that family personally brought to her room a few Luchis and some other preparations. She lived for about two years in this manner and passed away in the waters of the Ganga. When she was taken according to Hindu rites, during her last days to the bank of the Ganga, Nivedita decorated, with her own hand, her bed, covering it beautifully with flowers, garlands, sandal-paste, etc., and had a party of Kirtan-singers brought and dissolved in tears she personally went with her, barefooted, to the bank of the Ganga. Nivedita spent her nights there for the two days Gopala’s mother lived. Very early in the morning of the eighth of July 1906, when the eastern sky was assuming wonderful beauty on account of the reddish hue of the rising sun, when a few dim stars in the blue sky were twinkling and looking down on the earth and when the Ganga, the daughter of the “father of mountains”, was full with her high tide and flooding both the banks with white waves and flowing with a sweet, gentle murmur — Gopala’s mother’s body was gently and reverently placed half immersed in those waves, her five vital airs united with the feet of the Divine and she attained the eternal abode of fearlessness.
As there were none of her relatives present, a Brahmin Brahmacharin of the monastery at Belur performed her obsequies and observed the twelve-day-period according to the injunctions of the scriptures.
At the end of these twelve days, Sister Nivedita, with her heart pierced with grief, invited many ladies of the quarter known to Gopala’s mother to her own school building and arranged for Kirtan, festivals, etc.
Before she passed away, Gopala’s mother left to the care of the Belur monastery the picture of Sri Ramakrishna which she had been worshipping so long, to be kept in the temple there. She also gave a sum of two hundred rupees at that time for the service of the Master.
She considered herself to be a nun during the last ten or twelve years before she passed away and always used to put on ochre cloth.