5.12b THE MASTER’S STAY AT SHYAMPUKUR
It cannot be said that the devotees were free from anxiety after the arrangement had been made for medicine, diet and the twenty-four hour nursing, in the way mentioned above. For, they had the opinions of the famous physicians of Calcutta and clearly understood that, although the Master’s throat-disease was not altogether incurable, it was undoubtedly very difficult to cure and it would take him a long time to be free from’ it. It was, therefore, the object of their thought now, how the expenses could be met for continuing the service till he finally recovered. This was natural. For, of Balaram, Surendra, Ramchandra, Girishchandra, Mahendranath and others, who brought the Master to Calcutta and took charge of his treatment no one was rich. No one of them by himself had the means of taking the full responsibility for meeting the Master’s expenses, together with those of his attendants, after defraying his own family expenses. Urged by the current of the heavenly hope, light, bliss and peace that flowed in their hearts from the Master’s presence, they took up that work without any consideration whatever for the future. But it was quite unreasonable to expect that the said holy current would have only a flood-tide all along, and would know no ebb, when the thought of the future would disturb their peace and bliss. And as a matter of fact the current did not flow uniformly. But it is wonderful that as soon as such moments came, they experienced marvellous spiritual manifestations in the Master which made that anxiety vanish altogether, and their hearts were again filled with new zeal and strength. An experience of unrestrained bliss carried them to a plane far beyond the reach of the intellect and they saw, in a divine light, that he, whom they accepted as the supreme guide on life’s dreary path was not only a super-human being, but also the support of the spiritual world, the supreme goal of all living beings — the very God as man, Narayana himself — and that his birth, austerities, and other ordinary acts, even the suffering due to physical illness, were all for the good of humanity. Otherwise how could there be bodily illness in the Supreme Person, all of whose resolves came true and who was beyond the miseries due to birth and death, disease and dotage? They were convinced that he was feigning illness and staying there in order that those who had not the leisure and opportunity to go up to Dakshineswar to see him might come and get the light of the spirit kindled in their hearts, that the disciples might get the privilege of serving him and thereby have the ideal of their lives fulfilled. The Master had come to the conclusion that the persons with the materialistic outlook resulting from Western education might be inspired to take the path of renunciation, whereupon they would lead their lives in the higher light of metaphysics based on the direct experience of the Divinity as illustrated in his life, and realize the utter futility of the life of enjoyment based on the knowledge of natural sciences, on the strength of which they heretofore fondly considered themselves all-knowing and all-safe and made enjoyment the only goal of life. Why then, the disciples thought, should there be any apprehension about the scarcity of funds? He who had given them the privilege of serving him will also give them the power to see it through.
Let the reader not think that the above words are but an outburst of emotionalism on our part. We have to record these words, only because we actually saw the devotees day in and day out feeling and discussing these things by virtue of the Master’s company. We have seen it with our own eyes many a time that, greatly perturbed lest there should be defects in the service of the Master for want of money, they assembled for consultation and returned as many times fully reassured under the impulse of the aforesaid spiritual moods of their minds. One of them said, “The Master will make his own arrangements; and heaven is not going to fall if he does not; well, what anxiety is there as long as there is one brick upon another there (showing his own house)? I’ll mortgage my house and defray the expenses of his service.” Another said, “I’ll be able to manage the service just as I do at the time of the marriage or illness of my sons and daughters; there is no cause for apprehension as long as there are a few ornaments on the person of my wife.” A third again, instead of giving expression to such a feeling, curtailed the expenditure of his household and met unstintedly the expenses of the Master’s service. It was under the influence of such moods alone that Surendra personally bore the entire house-rent and Balaram, Ram, Mahendra and Girish together, supplied whatever else was necessary for the Master and his attendants at that time.
The divine bliss that the devotees thus felt in their hearts had its support in the Master and helped very much now in drawing the devotees together and binding them with the cord of love. Although the Order of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna is said to have started at Dakshineswar, it took form at Shyampukur and the Kasipur garden and grew so fast that many of the devotees were of the opinion that one of the purposes served by the Master’s disease was to bring about that development.
As time passed on, we find, that the loose talks and imaginations of the devotees about the purpose of the Master’s disease and the time of his recovery, took definite shape and divided them into several well-defined groups. The discussions on these points were strongly reinforced by the account of extraordinary events of the Master’s early life and brought the devotees to wonderful conclusions. One party thought and expressed openly to all that the physical disease of the Master, an incarnation of God, was simply a feigning and no reality. He had assumed it knowingly in order to accomplish some particular purpose and when that purpose was fulfilled he would again show himself as before. Girish, with his very great power of imagination, was the leader of that party. Another party was of the opinion that the Mother of the universe, in complete compliance with whose infinite will the Master was accustomed to live and do all kinds of acts, kept him ill for some time, in order to fulfil a particular hidden desire of Her own, which would bring about the good of humanity. It could not be said whether even the Master himself was able to unravel that mystery. As soon as that purpose of Hers should be fulfilled, he would come round. Still another party expressed the view that birth, death, old age, disease, etc., were natural to the body; all these would occur as long as the body lasted that was the explanation of the Master’s bodily disease. So, what was the necessity for so much talk and speculation on it and of bringing in a supernatural, hidden cause? They were not ready to accept any conclusion about the Master without analysing it by means of reasoning and inference, and gaining the immediate knowledge of it. They would serve him at the risk of their lives to bring him round and do their best to cast their lives in the moulds of the high ideals of human life he had held before them and would engage themselves in religious exercises for that purpose. It is superfluous to say that Narendranath, as the representative of the young disciples of the Master, expressed the last-mentioned view.
Although the Master’s disciples, having different temperaments, thus held different opinions about him, giving rise to different attitudes towards him on one point they were in perfect agreement — they had the fullest faith in the fact that they would come to the supreme good if they could live their lives according to his highly liberal teachings and could attain his grace by engaging themselves in his service with all their heart. That was why there was amongst them no lack of love for one another, though one party believed him to be an incarnation of God, another the Guru or superman and a third a god-man.
We are now going to mention a few events that we have witnessed ourselves and that are corroborative of the various kinds of spiritual manifestations of the Master to the disciples. Those events were seen also by persons who could not be classed as disciples but who simply came to see him at that time.
While Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar was in charge of the treatment of the Master, he, we have said before, put his very heart into curing him. Coming to him consecutively for a few days to see how he was in the morning, at midday and in the evening, the doctor would prescribe medicines etc., and having finished his duties as a physician, spend some time in religious conversation with him on those days. And as he repeated his visits, he was being slowly attracted by the liberal spiritual ideas of the Master and, whenever he had leisure, spent two or three hours in his company. One day, when the Master was about to express his gratefulness to the doctor for spending such a great portion of his valuable time there, the doctor hurriedly stopped him and said in his blunt way, “Well, do you think I spend so much time for your sake only? I have also a personal interest in it. I derive great joy in talking with you. Although I met you before, I did not find time to mix with and know you so intimately, busy as I was with many things. I like you so much, you know, because of your love of truth. You cannot deviate a hair’s breadth in your speech and actions from what you know as true; I find elsewhere that they say one thing and do another. I cannot at all put up with that. Don’t think I am flattering you. I am not a fellow of that sort. I am a graceless son of my father, as they say; I would speak out plainly even to him, if he should do anything wrong. That is why I have gained notoriety for a sharp tongue.”
The Master smiled and said, “Yes, I have heard it, but so far I have got no proof of it, though you have been coming here so long.”
The doctor replied smiling, “That is a piece of luck for both of us. Otherwise, had anything appeared to be wrong, you would have found that Mahendra Sarkar was not a soft person to keep mum However, don’t think we have no love for truth. I have run hither and thither all my life only to establish what I knew to be true; that is why I have taken to Homoeopathy; that is why ‘The Association for the Cultivation of Science’ has been founded; so also with all other works of mine.”
Some of us, as far as we remember, hinted at that time that, although the doctor had love for truth, he had love for the discovery of only relative truths (Apara Vidya), not leading direct to the realization of Brahman, but the Master had love all his life for supreme Knowledge (Para Vidya) leading to the immediate knowledge of Brahman.
A little excited, the doctor said, “That is the very bee in your bonnet. What are Para and Apara with regard to knowledge? What is higher or lower in connection with the revelation of truth? Again, even if you make an imaginary distinction, it must be admitted that one will have to attain Para Vidya through the Apara. We can comprehend God, the primeval cause of the universe, more clearly through the truths we know directly from the study of the natural sciences; I don’t take into consideration those fellows, the atheistic scientists. I cannot even understand what they say; they are blind though they have their eyes intact. But, if anybody says that he has understood the whole of the endless and the beginningless God, he is a liar and a cheat; a lunatic asylum is his fit residence.”
The Master smiled and said with a look of pleasure at the doctor, “Right you are; those who ascribe a limit to God are low-minded; I cannot bear their words.”
Saying so, the Master asked one of us to sing the song of Ramprasad, the foremost of devotees, “Who knows how Kali is? The six philosophies cannot see Her.”1 While he was listening to the song he explained at intervals its import to the doctor in a low voice. When the singer sang, “My heart rests satisfied but not the intellect”, the Master stopped him saying, “Oh! It is all topsyturvy there; it should be, ‘My intellect rests satisfied but not my heart.’ In trying to know God, the intellect easily understands that it is not for it to comprehend the endless and the beginningless God; but the heart is reluctant to feel it; it continues in its attempt to realize Him”
The doctor was charmed to hear it and said, “That’s it. That fellow, the intellect, is extremely mean; meeting with a slight difficulty it asserts, ‘It cannot be.’ But the heart does not approve of it; and that is how all the discoveries have been made and many more will be.”
Seeing that one or two young men were in a trance and lost normal consciousness while they were listening to the song, the doctor came to them and examined their pulse, saying to the Master, “It seems they have no consciousness of external objects like those in a fainting fit.” Observing them to regain their previous normal consciousness when the Master passed his hand over their breasts and uttered the name of God into their ears in a low tone, he said to the Master once more, “It seems to be all your play.” He smiled and said, “It is not my play, but His will. Their minds have not yet become distracted by wife, son, money, name, fame, etc., and that is the reason why they become merged in the thought of God as they listen to the glory of His name.”
The previous topic was raised again and the doctor was told that although he himself accepted God and did not ascribe a limit to Him, some scientists had done away with God; and yet others, while accepting His existence, proclaimed at the top of their voice that He was what they said and could not do what they did not credit Him with the power of doing. The doctor said, “Yes, that is mostly true; but is it knowledge? It is the ‘heat’ generated by learning; it is an indigestion of knowledge. They think that they have solved the whole mystery of the universe because they have been able to know a trifling few things of His creation. Those who not only have studied much but also got much experience are free from that defect. As for myself, I can never entertain such an idea.”
“You are right,” said the Master, “with the acquisition of knowledge there comes egoism: ‘I am a scholar, what I have understood is the only truth; others’ opinions are wrong.’ Man labours under many bondages. The pride of learning is one of them You are so learned but fortunately you have escaped that pride. That is due to His grace.”
“What I have known and understood”, said the doctor, a little warmed up, “seems to be very little, which may well be called nothing, giving no occasion for being proud of it. So many things are there for one to learn that I think, or rather actually see, that every man knows many things which I don’t know. I, therefore, don’t feel humiliated to learn anything from anybody. It appears to me that I may have many things to learn even from them (pointing to us). I am ready to take the dust of the feet of all out of this consideration.”
The Master heard it and said (showing us), “I also say to them, ‘O friend, as long as I live so long do I learn’.” Pointing to the doctor then, the Master continued, “Do you see, how free from pride he is? He has certainly substance in him and hence such an attitude.”
The doctor then bade good-bye.
As the doctor’s faith in and love for him increased, the Master took greater care to lead him on spiritually. Besides, knowing that cultured people like talking with the cultured, the Master sent now and then choice persons like Mahendranath, Girishchandra and Narendranath from among his disciples to have talks with the learned doctor. When he had become acquainted with Girish, the doctor witnessed the Buddha-charita staged on one occasion and extolled the play to the skies, and also saw some other plays of his. Similarly, he was charmed by a talk with Narendra, and invited him to lunch one day. Again, when he came to know of Narendra’s proficiency in the art of music, he requested him to sing some devotional songs for him some day. A few days afterwards, when one afternoon the doctor came to see the Master, Narendra sang such songs for him for two or three hours and kept his promise. The doctor was so pleased with the singing on the occasion that, before bidding good-bye, he blessed Narendra, embraced him and kissed him, saying to the Master, “I am very happy to see a boy like him come to realize God; he is a gem; he will improve whatever he sets his hand to.” Thereupon the Master looked at Narendra with evident pleasure and said, “Gauranga, it is said, came down to Nadia at the loud calls of Advaita; this time everything indeed is for him alone.” Whenever thenceforward the doctor came to see the Master and Narendra happened to be present there, he would invariably listen to a few devotional songs sung by him
It was autumn, the time for the worship of Sri Durga in Bengal. At that time the illness of the Master varied from day to day, increasing on some days and decreasing on others. The medicine was not producing the desired result. One day the doctor came and noticing that the disease was aggravated, ventured a remark, “There must have been some irregularity in diet; well, will you please tell me what you ate today?”
He had had his usual rice-gruel, soup and milk in the morning, and milk and liquid food like barley-water in the evening. He told him so. The doctor said, “No, I can’t take it; there must have been some departure from the prescription. Well, tell me please what vegetables were used for the soup.” The Master replied, “There were potatoes, green plantains, eggfruits and also a piece or two of cauliflower.”
“Ah!” exclaimed the doctor with a start, “you have taken cauliflower! Here, you see, is grave irregularity. Cauliflower is very hot and difficult to digest. How many pieces have you eaten?”
“I did not eat a single piece,” was the mild protest of the Master, “but then, I saw, they were in the soup.”
The doctor replied, “It is immaterial whether you have actually eaten them or not; but there was certainly the juice of cauliflower in the soup. Your digestion has, therefore, been impaired and the disease has increased today.”
The Master said, “How is that? I have not taken cauliflower nor have I had disorder of the bowels; it is difficult to accept that the disease has worsened because of a little juice of it in the soup.”
The doctor continued, “None of you have any idea as to how much harm can be done by some such slight alteration. Let me tell you an event of my life; you will understand the matter when you hear it. My power of digestion has always been bad; I have suffered from dyspepsia from time to time. Therefore, I am very careful about my food and strictly observe dietic rules. I take nothing brought from the market; I have Ghee and oil made at home. Still, at one time I caught a bad cold and contracted bronchitis of a stubborn nature, which refused to be cured. It then crossed my mind that there was certainly something wrong regarding my food. I inquired but could not find out any defect in it. Afterwards, one day, it suddenly came to my notice that the servant was feeding with a quantity of kidney-bean the cow whose milk I took. On inquiry I came to know that a few maunds of that kidney-bean had been had from a certain place. As no one liked to eat it lest one should catch cold, it was given to the cow to eat for some days. The two events, namely, my catching cold and feeding the cow with kidney-beans coincided perfectly. I then stopped feeding the cow with that and true to my guess, the cold subsided. It took me a long time on that occasion to be completely cured and I had to spend about four or five thousand rupees on change of climate etc.”
The Master smiled to hear it and said, “Oh dear! It is I see, like the case of the man who passed by a tamarind tree and caught cold!” All laughed. Though that inference of the doctor seemed a little too far-fetched, nobody raised any question about it, as they saw his firm faith in it. His prohibition was accepted and cauliflower was at once discarded from the ingredients of the Master’s soup. The Master’s love for him and his simple sincere behaviour and spiritual nature attracted the doctor towards the Master and a sort of reverence was slowly filling his heart. His words and actions on one occasion clearly bear it out. He was now regarding not only the Master but also his devotees with a loving eye and became convinced that they had not made of the Master a false idol. But it is not easy to say how he looked upon their profound faith in and great devotion to the Master. It seems that it appeared to him to be a little excessive. Yet he could clearly understand that they did not adopt their attitude for show or for any selfish motive. He, therefore, seemed to have regarded it as something eluding his comprehension. Although he mixed intimately with the devotees and his keen intellect was engaged in solving the problem, it remained still an enigma to him. For, in spite of his being a believer in God, he was so deeply influenced by Western education that he was unable to understand how one could worship or pay reverence to a man as Guru or an incarnation of God even when one actually saw in him an extraordinary manifestation of divine Power. He was against this attitude only because he could not understand it. The cause of this general antagonism of the educated modern to it is not far to seek. Generations of disciples of those who are being worshipped in the world as incarnations of God, exaggerated certain things connected with their lives in such a way that they have made it impossible for others to believe these. The disciples, no doubt, did so in their zeal to propagate the glory of their Masters. But this false zeal has evoked antagonism. One day the doctor said plainly before the Master in this connection, “I can understand love, worship, etc., or whatever else you say regarding God, but a world of confusion arises as soon as that infinite God is said to have come down as man. It is difficult to understand that He incarnated Himself as the son of Yosoda,2 the son of Mary,3 the son of Sachi4 and so on. That host of ‘sons’ has ruined the country.” The Master smiled at these words and said to us, “What does he say? It is, however, true that low-minded fanatics many a time wanted to make them appear so great and act in such a way that these reactions are naturally produced in people’s minds.”
Girishchandra and Narendranath had from time to time many controversies with the doctor on the aforesaid opinion of his about God’s incarnations, as a result of which he became a little wary of giving expression to such an opinion without due consideration. For, it was proved that many reasonable arguments might be given against it. But what could not be accomplished by reason was done by the extraordinary love and sweetness of the Master and by the wonderful spiritual manifestations in him, which the doctor saw with his own eyes. And that opinion of his gradually changed to a great extent. The sudden appearance in the Master of the extraordinary manifestation of Power that we witnessed5 during the annual worship of Durga at the juncture of the eighth and the ninth days of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Aswin that year, gave the doctor also an opportunity to witness and examine it. He was present there that day with another doctor friend of his and examined the heart-beats etc., of the Master with instruments. His doctor friend did not refrain even from poking his finger into the open eyes of the Master to see if they would wink. As a result of their examination, they were amazed and had to admit that science could not throw any light so far on the state of Samadhi in which one appeared to be dead externally to all intents and purposes, as was the case with the Master and that the Western psychologist, in calling this state unconsciousness and in expressing his contempt for it, had but revealed his ignorance and had proved his stubbornness by not accepting the existence of any world other than this, and that there existed many things in God’s creation, the mystery of which had not at all-been explained by Western science and philosophy so far. Nor was there any likelihood of their ever being solved in future. As it has been mentioned elsewhere, it is needless to repeat here how factually true were the mental experiences of the Master on that occasion, when he externally appeared like one dead.
The month of Aswin passed and that of Kartik and the day of the worship of Kali were approaching; but no improvement in the physical condition of the Master was seen. The good effect the treatment produced at first was fast disappearing and there was apprehension lest the disease should assume a serious turn. But the bliss and the cheerfulness of the Master’s mind appeared to the devotees to increase rather than decrease. Although Dr. Sarkar visited him frequently now as before and changed medicines repeatedly, he did not get the expected result and considered the change of the season to be the cause; and that condition, he thought, would pass as soon as the cold of winter increased a little.
The devotees witnessed an extraordinary spiritual manifestation at the time of the annual worship of Kali also, as at the worship of Durga. At one time Devendranath had a desire to bring an image and worship Kali in it. Thinking that it would be a matter of great joy if he could carry that resolve into practice in the presence of the Master and his devotees, he made a proposal to perform that worship at the Shyampukur house. But the devotees thought that the Master’s body would get more exhausted on account of the zeal, excitement and noise at the time of the worship and tried to dissuade him. These words of the devotees appeared to be reasonable to Devendra, who consequently gave up that idea. But on the day before the worship, the Master said all of a sudden to a few devotees, “Collect all the ingredients for a brief worship; Mother Kali must be worshipped tomorrow.” Happy to hear him say so, they began consulting others. But as they had no other instruction from the Master regarding the preparation for the worship except the aforesaid words, all kinds of suggestions were offered. Unable to come to a decision regarding such important matters as whether the worship was to be performed with sixteen ingredients or five, whether cooked rice was to be offered or not, who was to officiate as priest, etc., they decided at last to keep ready sandal-paste, flowers, incense, light and fruits, roots and sweets only, and wait for further instruction from the Master, which they might afterwards follow. But the Master gave them no more instruction even when the whole of that day and a half of the following day on which the worship was to take place had passed.
It was sunset and it was 7 p.m. Seeing that the Master did not suggest to them anything more regarding the worship and was sitting quiet on his bed, they washed clean a portion of the floor to the east of his bed, brought the collected articles and placed them there. While he was at Dakshineswar the Master sometimes worshipped himself with sandalpaste, flowers and other ingredients. Some of the devotees had witnessed it. At last they came to the conclusion that on that occasion also he would worship the universal Consciousness and Its Power in the symbol of his mind and body or perform the scriptural worship of the self as one with the Mother of the universe. It was therefore no wonder that they should place the ingredients of the worship near the Master’s bed in the aforesaid manner. The Master did not in any way dissuade them from doing it.
All the articles were gradually brought. Incense was burnt and lamps were lighted and the room became illumined and filled with fragrance. Seeing that the Master was still sitting quietly the devotees sat beside him; some among them awaited his command and looked at him with a concentrated mind and some others meditated on the divine Mother of the universe. The room was thus completely silent; and although there were thirty or more persons in it, the room seemed to be vacant altogether. Some time passed that way; but the Master even then sat quietly without himself beginning to perform the worship or asking any one of us to do it.
The elderly devotees, Mahendranath, Ramchandra, Devendranath, Girishchandra and others, as well as the young devotees, were present. Of them all, Girishchandra, the Master sometimes said, had a super-abundance of faith.6 Many of them were now surprised to see the Master take that attitude regarding the worship. But Girish had a different sentiment surging in his heart. It struck him that the Master had no need to worship Kali for his own sake. If it was suggested that he had a desire to perform the worship under the impulse of selfless devotion, why was he sitting thus quietly without doing so? It did not seem so. Might it not be then that these preparations were meant for the devotees so that they might be blessed by worshipping the Mother of the universe in the living image of the Master’s person? It was certainly that. Thinking so, he was beside himself with joy and, suddenly taking the flowers and sandal-paste that were lying there before all, offered handfuls of them at the lotus feet of the Master uttering, “Victory to Mother”. At this all the hairs of the Master’s body stood on end and he entered into profound ecstasy. His face radiating effulgence, his lips adorned with a divine smile and both his hands assuming the attitude of granting boons and freedom from fear — all indicated the manifestation of the divine Mother in him. These events occurred in such a short time that many of the devotees who were near Girish, thought that he saw the Master in ecstasy first and then offered flowers etc., at his holy feet over and over again, and to those who were a little farther away it seemed that the luminous image of the Devi suddenly appeared before them in the body of the Master.
It is superfluous to say, that there was no limit to the joy of the devotees. Each of them managed to take flowers and sandal-paste etc., from the tray, and uttering a Mantra according to his liking, worshipped the lotus feet of the Master and filled the room with the repeated sounds of ‘Jai’ (Victory). Some time passed this way when the ecstasy of the Master came to an end and he was in a state of partial consciousness. The fruits, roots, sweets, etc., collected for the worship were then brought before him and were given him to eat. He, on his part, took a little of all those things and blessed the devotees so that their knowledge and devotion might increase. Afterwards they took his Prasada and sang the glory of the Devi and the greatness of Her name till a late hour in the night.
The devotees experienced a joy they had never felt before, at this especial worship of the divine Mother that year, the memory of which remained fresh in their minds ever after. And whenever sorrows and miseries came and they became dejected, that serene face of the Master, brightened with a divine smile and his hands promising boons and freedom from fear, appeared before them and reminded them that they were all under the protection of the Divine.
It was not only on especial days of religious ceremonies that the devotees experienced the divine power and the divine nature of the Master during his stay at Shyampukur. They had the opportunity of seeing the manifestation of that nature burst forth at any time on any day, which strengthened their faith in him as a god-man. However, events similar to those mentioned above did not take place again before all and sundry. It was given to only a few devotees to witness them They in their turn, communicated them to other devotees with similar results. This will be clear to the reader when we mention here a few events as examples.
We mentioned elsewhere certain things about Balaram Some of his relatives became ill disposed towards him because he and his family had contracted love and reverence for the Master. They had sufficient reason to become so. Firstly, they held religious doctrines that were too narrow and they were too much given to the observance of external rites and ceremonies, according to the training and education prevalent in the Vaishnava families in which they were born. They could not, therefore, comprehend the liberal doctrine of the Master, for he had the firm conviction that all churches and denominations (as means for realizing God) are true, and he was not putting on any kind of external emblem of religion. Nor did they feel the need for any exertion towards comprehension. They, therefore, regarded Balaram’s liberal tendencies, acquired through the Master’s grace and company, as lack of and deviation from religiousness. Secondly, wealth, respect, noble birth and other kinds of worldly superiority very often develop in man a peculiar kind of pride and egoism It was a matter of pride and glory to them to have been born in the family of the late Krishnaram Basu of holy memory. It is superfluous to say that they felt wounded at heart when they heard that Balaram forgot that great reputation of the family and went at any time, like an ordinary man, to the Master at Dakshineswar to learn religion and that, worst of all, he did not hesitate to take his wife, daughters and other ladies there. They were, therefore, determined to dissuade him now from it.
Pride is generally seen to have recourse to dishonest means when honesty proves unavailing. Some of the relatives of Balaram were in that state of mind. When they found that neither the high praise of the single-minded devotion and great love for the chosen Ideal of Bhagavan Das of Kalna, and other Vaishnava “fathers”, nor the repeated reminders of the greatness of the family could dissuade him from going to the Master, they assumed an attitude of hatred towards the Master and did not even hesitate to calumniate him sometimes. It must of course be said that they received their reports about the Master at secondhand and regarded him as devoid of single-minded devotion to his chosen Ideal, heterodox in matters of food and drink and customs and usages, and antagonistic to the use of marks on the forehead and other emblems of the Vaishnava religion. Seeing that this did not produce any effect, they at last brought various distorted accounts of the Master and Balaram to the ears of his cousins Nimai Charan Basu and Harivallabh Basu.
The noble quality of kindness and the spirit of renunciation and dispassion which were prevalent in Balaram convinced him that estates etc., could not be managed properly without occasional recourse to cruel means; so he left his estate and other property in the charge of Nimai Babu. Although what he got from him as the income of his property was not always sufficient, he somehow managed his worldly affairs with it. He was also not physically fit to look after those things. At one period after reaching youth, he became so ill of dyspepsia that he had to give up taking rice for twelve years at a stretch and live on barley water and milk. He spent a great part of that period at Puri for regaining his health. He then passed his time in Japa, worship, holy company and paying daily obeisance to the image of the divine Lord and so on. He had thus opportunities for being well acquainted with whatever good or bad there was in the Vaishnava community. Shortly after, he came to Calcutta on some business and met the Master. We have already given an indication of how his life changed day by day by virtue of his living in the Master’s holy company.
Balaram had to come to Calcutta for a few weeks at the time of the marriage of his eldest daughter. His peace of mind during his full eleven years’ life at Puri was not otherwise disturbed. His cousin Harivallabh Basu purchased the house at 57, Ramkanta Basu Street, shortly after that event. His father and cousins secretly conferred together and asked him to live in that house, lest he should renounce the world on account of his intimate relation with the holy men at Puri. Deprived of the sacred company of holy men and the daily visits to the temple of Sri Jagannath, he felt dejected and came to live in Calcutta with a heavy heart. He seems to have intended at first to go back to Puri somehow or other after a short stay; but he completely gave up that resolve when he met the Master and arranged to live permanently in Calcutta. Now he would feel much worried from time to time, lest Harivallabh Basu should ask him to vacate the house or Nimai Basu should call him to Kothar to look after the estate and other property and thus deprive him of the holy company of the Master.
Anxious thoughts sometimes foretell future events. This held good of Balaram now. His apprehension came true. At the secret instigation of his relatives, both his cousins sent him letters hinting that they were displeased with him. And the news that Harivallabh Basu would soon come to Calcutta and stay with him for a few days with a view to settling some important matters in consultation with him also reached him duly. Although the soul of Balaram was not distressed on that account since he felt that he had done nothing wrong, he was dejected lest the force of circumstances should take him away from the Master. After a great deal of anxious thought he at last came to the conclusion that he would not leave the Master behind during the Master’s illness and go elsewhere even though his cousins decided against him. Harivallabh Basu came to Calcutta in the meantime. Balaram made every arrangement to ensure that his cousin had no trouble or inconvenience during his stay with him. He then remained firm in his own resolve, and without fear or anxiety continued visiting the Master openly every day.
The face is the best mirror of the mind. The Master understood that there was a struggle going on in Balaram’s mind as soon as he saw his face when he came to him on the day Harivallabh Basu came to Calcutta. The Master looked upon Balaram as very much his own; sympathizing with him in his trouble, the Master called him aside and putting a number of questions to him, came to know everything about the situation and said at last, “What sort of man is he? Can you bring him here some day?” Balaram replied, “As a man he is very good, sir; learned, intelligent, magnanimous and charitable; he gives away a lot and is a devoted soul too; his only defect is the one that the rich generally suffer from, namely, he is a little too credulous. He has guessed something from others’ words in this case. He is displeased with me, only because I come here. So I don’t know if he would come here at my request.” The Master said, “You need not then ask him; please call Girish here.”
Girish came and gladly agreed to bring Harivallabh. He said, “Harivallabh and I were class-mates for some time when we just stepped into our youth. So, I usually go to see him as soon as I know he has come to Calcutta. Therefore it is not at all difficult for me to do it. I’ll go to see him this very day.”
Girish came next day with Harivallabh Basu at about 5 p.m. and introduced him to the Master saying, “He is Harivallabh Basu, my boyhood friend. He is the Government pleader at Cuttuck. He has come to see you.” The Master welcomed him lovingly, seated him close to him and said, “I heard of you from many people and had a desire to see you; I had again a fear lest you should have a calculating intellect. (To Girish) But I now see it is not so. (Pointing at Harivallabh) He has the simplicity of a boy. (To Girish) Do you notice his eyes? One can never have such eyes if one’s heart is not full of devotion. (Touching Harivallabh suddenly) O yes! you seem to be very much my own; with you I don’t feel like keeping my distance.” Harivallabh bowed down to the Master, took the dust of his feet and said, “That is your grace.”
Girish said, “It is natural that he should have devotion for the Lord, for, he is born in a family of noted devotees. People think so highly of the devotion of the late Krishnaram Basu that he is considered worthy of being remembered every morning when they take the name of pious souls. The fame of his piety has brought glory to this part of the country. Who would have devotion if not they who are born in his family?”
There arose thus a discussion on devotion to the divine Lord. The Master was speaking variously to those present about the fact that the supreme achievement of human life was to have faith in God, devotion to Him and absolute dependence on Him, when he entered into ecstasy. When a little later he regained partial consciousness, he asked one of us to sing a devotional song and explaining in a low voice its import to Harivallabh, was in deep ecstasy once more. When the song came to an end, it was seen that two or three young devotees also were in a trance. And, completely charmed with the Master’s words that touched everyone’s heart, Harivallabh shed tears of love. He took leave of the Master on that occasion some time after it was dusk.
While we were at Dakshineswar, we very often saw the Master cleverly touch a new-comer in the course of conversation when the latter began arguing against his doctrine, or any one else who came in a mood of antagonism against him on account of some reason or other, and saw that they accepted his words thenceforward. Of course, he behaved that way only with those he felt pleased to see. One day he told us the reason of it of his own accord. He said, “Under the influence of egoism and the feeling that they are in no way inferior to anyone, people do not easily like to accept others’ words. As soon as they touch the Being who resides within this (his body), that tendency loses its force, that egoism cannot raise its head again on account of His divine power, even as a snake, touched with a particular herb at the time of raising its hood, bends its head low. That is why I cleverly touch their persons during talks with them.”
The above-mentioned words of the Master came to our mind on seeing Harivallabh Basu take leave of him with reverence in his heart and in an attitude completely contrary to that he had before. The thought, it is needless to say, that Balaram was doing something wrong in visiting the Master was never again seen to cross the minds of his cousins.
As the physical condition of the Master grew worse during his stay at Shyampukur, the number of people coming to see him and attain his grace increased daily. Householder devotees like Harish Chandra Mustafi and young devotees like Sarada Prasanna Mitra (who became afterwards well known in the Order of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna as Swami Trigunatita), Manindranath Gupta and many others saw the Master here for the first time. Again, although many like Swami Abhedananda had paid a visit or two to Dakshineswar, it was here that they got the opportunity of coming into intimate contact with him. The Master observed their nature and past impressions and guided them accordingly along the path of Sadhana where either pure devotion or devotion with discrimination between the Real and the unreal predominated. He never missed an opportunity to give them instruction in secluded places and urge them to go forward on those paths. The Master, it is known to us, was one day teaching a young man various kinds of sitting and other bodily postures fit for the meditation on God with forms and on God without forms. Sitting in the posture of Padmasana, placing on the palm of his left hand the back of his right, taking both the hands in that posture to his breast, shutting his eyes, he said, “This is the best posture fit for all kinds of meditation on God with forms.” And remaining seated in that posture of Padmasana, placing his right and left hands on his right and left knee respectively, bringing together the tips of the thumb and the forefinger of each hand keeping all other fingers straight and steadying his eyes between the eyebrows, he said, “This is the most commended posture for the meditation on God without forms.” Scarcely had the Master said those words when he entered into ecstasy and, bringing the mind forcibly down shortly afterwards to the plane of normal consciousness, said, “No more can be shown; as soon as I sit in that posture, the mind becomes absorbed and merges in ecstasy; the vital airs within the body go upwards and the sore in the throat gets hurt; the doctor, therefore, has especially enjoined that there must not be any ecstasy.” The young man became very sorry and said, “Why did you demonstrate all those things? I did not ask to see them” He replied, “That is true, but can I do without demonstrating or expounding a little to you?” The young man was surprised to think of his infinite grace and the great inclination of his mind to ecstasy.
There was such a unique sweetness in all the actions of the Master that many new-comers were simply overwhelmed by it. We mention below an event as an example. We heard of it from Atulchandra Ghosh, the great poet Girishchandra’s younger brother, who had exceptional love for his friends. We shall try to record it in his own language as far as possible:
“Upendra7 was an intimate friend of mine; he was a sub-judge living away from home. After my acquaintance with the Master I wrote to him, ‘When you come next, I shall show you a wonderful object.’ He came during the Christmas holidays and reminded me of that. I said, ‘I thought of introducing you to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa; but he is now ill and is staying at Shyampukur; doctors have forbidden him to talk; you are a new-comer; so, how can I take you there?’ That day passed. Another day, Upendra came to see my brother (Girishchandra) when there arose a talk about the Master. My brother said to him, ‘Why don’t you go with Atul some day and see the Master?’ Upendra said, ‘He has been telling me for the last six months that he would take me there; but when I came here and reminded him of it, he said, it would not be possible now.’ I heard these words and said to my brother, ‘Even we are not always allowed to go in now; how can I take a new-comer?’ My brother said, ‘Anyway take him once; that done, the Master will show himself to him and love him if he is lucky enough.’
“Later, one afternoon I took Upendra there. The Master’s room was packed with an audience sitting on two long mats spread on the floor, reaching up to his bed, and various kinds of useless talks were going on — talks on painting (for, the painter Annada Bagchi was there on that day), on melting gold8 in the goldsmith’s shop and so on. We sat for a long time, but there was not a single word except words of that nature. I thought, ‘I have brought this new-comer here today and it is this very day that all kinds of useless talks are going on! What an idea about the Master would he (Upendra) carry with him?’ I felt extremely difficult on thinking so. I was looking at him at intervals with apprehension. But, whenever I looked at him, I saw in his face an evident expression of pleasure as if he was enjoying those talks quite well. I then asked him by a sign to leave, but he signed back to me to wait a little more. I gave him such hints twice or thrice, when he rose and came up to me. I then asked him, ‘What were you listening to so long? What is there to listen to in these talks? Do we call you simple without a reason?’ We used to call him so because he had a tattooed mark on his forehead. He replied, ‘Oh! no; it was nice to listen to. I only heard of universal love before; but never saw it manifested in anyone. I have experienced it today in him (the Master) when I saw him making merry on trifling topics like that with all around. But I must come once again; I have three questions to ask.’
“I took Upendra with me the next morning. There was practically none with the Master then. Only one or two attendants and Sri Mallick, my brother-in-law, were there. I said to Upendra over and over again before we started, ‘Ask him personally what you have to ask; you will then get answers to your satisfaction; don’t ask these questions through anybody else.’ But he was of a bashful nature; he happened to do exactly what I told him not to do; he put the questions through Mallick. The Master gave answers which, I understood from the expression of Upendra’s face, were not to his satisfaction. I then said to him in whispers, ‘It is bound to be so; did I not tell you again and again to ask him personally what you had to ask? Why don’t you put questions personally? Why have you engaged a pleader to hold a brief for you?’
“He took courage and put personally one question to the Master, ‘ Sir, has God forms or has He not? And if both, how can two such contradictory natures be in Him at the same time?’ The Master answered immediately, ‘He is both with form and without form — like water and ice.’ Upendra had taken the science course at college; so, that example given by the Master was to his entire satisfaction. He was pleased to get that answer which he understood with the help of his knowledge of science. He asked that one question and refrained from asking two others, bowed down to the Master and took leave of him When we came out, I asked him, ‘Upendra, you said you had three questions; why did you put only one and come away’? He replied, ‘Don’t you understand? All the three questions of mine have been solved at once by that one answer. ’
“Brother Ram,9 perhaps you remember, used to take an early meal at home at that time and come very often to the Master with a small bundle containing his office dress. He spent an hour or two there before he changed his dress and went to office. When the Master was answering Upendra’s question, he came suddenly to that room while he was putting on his office dress and heard those words of the Master. As soon as we came out brother Ram ventured to say, ‘Brother Atul, bring him (Upendra) here; the Master’s answer to his question will be too difficult for him to understand. He will have to read this book10 of mine in order to understand the Master’s words.’ I was annoyed at those words and did not hesitate to say, ‘Is it not a fact, brother Ram, that you have been coming to the Master for the last seven years, long before we saw him? Ah! And you say he will not understand the truth from what the Master has said but will understand it through the perusal of your book! What the Master could not make clear, your book will! What a queer idea! But if you want to give Upendra your book to read, you may do so; that is a different matter.’ Brother Ram became a little embarrassed and handed over the book to Upendra.”