5.2 THE BEGINNING OF THE
THE MASTER’S DEVOTEES
PREVIOUSLY SEEN IN VISIONS
We have already told the reader how the Brahmo leaders like Acharya Kesavchandra, Vijaykrishna, Pratapchandra, Sivanath, Chiranjiv, Amritalal, Gauragovinda and others were greatly benefited by coming in contact with the Master and observing in him the glorious ideals of devotion to one’s faith and the total renunciation of one’s all for the realization of God. Now, the question arises, “Did the Master, already possessing the immediate knowledge of Brahman and established in Bhavamukha, learn anything from his contact with Kesav and other Brahmos?” Many of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna will not at all hesitate to say “no” to this in reply. But the law of “give and take” is seen always to exist everywhere in the world. Even when we go to teach a very ignorant and fickle boy, we in turn learn many things, such as the mode of teaching best suited to an intellect like his, the degree to which the past impressions of such a mind help or hinder the understanding of the subject, the process of removing the hindrances, and so on and so forth. It is therefore not reasonable to say that the Master learnt nothing when he came in contact with the Brahmo Samaj established on the basis of Western ideas and ideals. Our impression, therefore, is quite different. We say, the Master himself learnt much when he tried to impart to the Brahmo society and church his own knowledge and spiritual experiences obtained through his extraordinary Sadhana. It is therefore proper to discuss a little of the things he learnt as the result of that contact.
Before he came in contact with the Brahmos, the Master was living his life far from the influence of the Western ideas and ideals. He saw all people, who came to him up to that time, with the exception of Mathuranath, making efforts to guide their lives after the ancient ideals of performing actions that are beneficial to society as well as to themselves or of realizing immortality through total renunciation of all possessions and desires, which was the eternal, immutable ideal of India. Although he saw Mathuranath, educated in the Western manner, possessing a nature different from that of others, he had no opportunity to study and understand that the life of every one of this country, so educated, was thus coloured with an ideal that was contradictory to the ancient one. For, the nature of Mathuranath changed in a short time on account of his holy company. So, there was no occasion for him to study the new situation. Coming in contact with the Brahmos, however, he saw that, although they were making efforts to realize God, they had deviated from the ancient national ideal of renunciation. His mind, therefore, engaged itself in finding out its cause. It was thus that he became acquainted for the first time with the mass of exotic ideas entering into the lives of the people of India because of Western education and training.
The Master, it seems, thought at first that, when Kesav and other Brahmos became acquainted with the living religious ideas realized directly by him, they would unreservedly accept them in a short time. But days followed one another and he found that, in spite of their coming in close contact with him, they could not get rid of the influence of Western education and place perfect faith in his direct spiritual experiences. So he came to understand that the Western ideas had struck their roots deep into the nature of young Indians, that the thinkers and scholars of the West had come to occupy the place of their Gurus and would continue to occupy it for a long time to come and that without comparing the direct spiritual experiences of the ancient seers of India with the ideas of those scholars, the Indian disciples of the latter would never accept them as true and beneficial. This was why, immediately after giving instruction to them, the Master used to say, “I have said whatever came to my mind; you accept what portions suit you” or, in his own phraseology, “minus the head and tail”. It is needless to say that whatever ideas and experiences of the Master they accepted, they did so only because he gave them absolute freedom to pick and choose.
But the Master, the consolidated incarnation of the ideas and ideals of the seers of this country, was not at all disturbed by this attitude of theirs, for he had felt in his heart of hearts that the will of the universal Mother was the only cause of all kinds of events taking place in the world and that no event could ever influence a person who was possessed of Her command and was habituated to guiding himself under all circumstances accordingly. Maya, the divine Power, capable of making the impossible possible, had revealed to him Her own real nature, explained it to him and endowed him for ever with an inviolable, unchangeable Peace. The Master, therefore, could perfectly comprehend that it was only owing to the divine Mother’s will that Western ideas and ideals had entered India and that by Her will alone had the Brahmos and other educated communities become mere toys in their hands. So, how could he be annoyed at that weakness of theirs or withhold from them his infinite love and affection? He, therefore, remained free from anxiety and thought, “Let them accept as much of the immediate knowledge of the seers as is possible for them; the Mother of the universe will bring forward in future such persons as will fully accept that knowledge.”
Again, although he found that the Brahmos could not accept everything he said, he did not give them a partial picture of his spiritual experiences. He always told them without reserve all the hidden truths of the spiritual world, viz., “The blessed vision of God will never be had unless one renounces one’s all for Him”, “All the faiths are (true) paths (to the realization of God)”, “At the end of each path, the worshipper becomes identified with the worshipped”, “To see that one’s words agree fully with one’s thoughts is the most important Sadhana”, “The path leading to Him is to discriminate the real from the unreal, to be free from all desires, and to perform all worldly duties with full faith in and reliance on God”, and so on and so forth. He explained to Kesav and some others that it was never possible to be completely unattached to the body and experience higher truths of the spiritual world unless continence was practised with body, mind and speech, as a result of which they made efforts to observe it. When, however, he found that they were unable to grasp his words fully even after repeated explanations, he came to the conclusion that, once the past impressions became deep-rooted, it was almost impossible to make one imbibe new ideas; that the effort was as futile as to teach a parrot to repeat “Radhakrishna” when once the ring of colour had appeared round its neck. He understood that those persons in whom the desire to enjoy the world had taken deep root, whether due to the influence of Western materialism or otherwise, would never be able to accept the eternal ideas of renunciation preached by this country, far less to carry them out into practice. That is why he burst into an earnest prayer, “Bring here, Mother, Your all-renouncing devotees, with whom I am to have the joy of talking about Thee without any reserve.” Therefore, it will not be unreasonable for us to say that as a result of this observation the conviction grew in him that it was only the minds of boys, unspoiled by deep-seated impressions, that would fully grasp and accept his ideas and ideals without hesitation and go boldly forward to realize the truths contained in them.
Anyway, it did not take the general public of Calcutta long to observe how far the Brahmo leaders accepted the Master’s new spiritual ideas and what changes were brought about in them Again, when Kesav and other persons began to publish in the Brahmo periodicals some account of the extraordinary nature of his spiritual views and his ambrosial words, the people of Calcutta were much attracted towards him and began to pour in to Dakshineswar to have the blessed privilege of meeting him It is in this way that the Master’s marked devotees came gradually to the Kali temple there. The two householders devotees of the Master, Ramchandra Datta and Manomohan Mitra, we were told, read about him in the periodical conducted by Kesav and came to him at about the end of 1879, about four years after the Master’s first meeting with Kesav. Ramchandra Datta has himself told us through some details in his book Sri Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Deber Jivan Vrittanta, what a great revolution gradually took place in their lives on account of their good fortune in coming in contact with him. We need not repeat them here. It will be enough to say here that, although unable to accept fully the Master’s ideal of the total renunciation of lust and gold for the realization of God, they covered a pretty long distance on the path of renunciation under the influence of their devotion to and faith in him. The intensity of the devotion and faith of a householder devotee can, to a great extent, be ascertained by noticing his unstinted expenditure of hard-earned money in a good cause. Putting the Master at first in the place of his Guru and then in that of his chosen Ideal, Ramchandra invited him and his devotees again and again to his house at the Simla quarter of Calcutta and spent money so unstintedly during festivals on those occasions that one could fathom easily the depth of his faith and devotion. The Master said about him from time to time, “You now see Ram so splendidly generous. But his miserliness when he first came beggars description. I asked him to bring some cardamom, and one day he brought a pice worth of it, placed it before me and bowed down. Guess from it what a great change has come over Ram’s nature.”
It cannot be expressed in words how blessed Ram and Manomohan felt themselves to be when the Master’s grace fell on them; and they were accepted and given eternal refuge at his feet, all fear being dispelled from them for ever. It was beyond their wildest dream that such a refuge could be ever found in the world! So was it a matter of surprise that they should now try to make their relatives and friends seek the same refuge? They brought gradually their own families and other relatives to the Master’s lotus feet at Dakshineswar within a year of their meeting with him It was thus that the all-renouncing devotees, the eternal playmates of the Master in his Lila, began coming to him one by one from the last quarter of B.E. 1287 or A.D. 1881. Of these, Swami Brahmananda, well known in the Order of Sri Ramakrishna, was the first to come to the Master. In his premonastic days, his name was Rakhalchandra. He had married Manomohan’s sister and it was from this family that he first heard the name of the Master and came to him shortly after his marriage. Sri Ramakrishna said, “Before Rakhal came, I had seen in a vision that the Mother of the universe suddenly had brought a boy and, placing him on my lap, said, ‘He is your son.’ I started in terror to hear it and said, ‘How is that? How can I have a son? ‘She smiled and explained, ‘He is not a son in the ordinary, worldly sense of the term, but your all-renouncing spiritual son. ’ Thus assured, I was consoled. Rakhal came immediately after I had had the vision and I recognized him at once as the boy.”
On another occasion, the Master said to us about Sri Rakhal, “In those days Rakhal had the nature of a child of three or four, so to say. He looked upon me exactly as his mother. He would come running at short intervals and joyfully sit on my lap without any hesitation. He would not move a step from here, let alone going home. I was importunate and induced him to go borne now and then lest his father should disallow his coming here. His father was a Zamindar, immensely rich, but equally miserly. He tried at first in various ways to prevent his son from coming. Later when he found that many rich and learned men visited this place, he did not object to his son’s coming here. On some occasions he came here only to meet his son. For the sake of Rakhal, I was all attention to him and he was very pleased.
“But never was any objection raised against his coming here by his father-in-law’s family. For, Manomohan’s mother, wife and sister all used to visit this place very often. One day, shortly after Rakhal had started coming here, Manomohan’s mother came with his girl-wife; I was anxious lest his wife should stand in the way of his devotion to God and had her brought to me. I observed her physical features from head to foot minutely and became convinced that here was no cause for fear. Representing the auspicious aspect of the divine Sakti as she did, she would never be an obstacle on the path to her husband’s realization of God. Then I was pleased and sent word to the Nahavat (i.e., to the Holy Mother) asking her to present the daughter-in-law a rupee and see her veiled face.1
“It is impossible to describe what the childlike rapture that overcame Rakhal was like, whenever he was in my company; he simply lost himself. Every one who saw him then was wonder-struck. Inspired with spiritual fervour, I also used to feed him with thickened milk and butter, and played with him to cheer him. On many occasions I lifted him to my shoulders. Even that did not produce an iota of hesitation in his mind. But then and there I said, ‘Should he grow up and live in the company of his wife, this childlike nature of his will vanish.’
“I also scolded him when he did something wrong. One day he was very hungry and took butter, the Prasada brought from the Kali temple, with his own hand and ate it. I said, ‘How greedy! You took with your own hand and ate the butter, instead of controlling greed, which you ought to have learnt from here!’ He shrank into himself from fear and never did so again.
“Rakhal then had a child’s jealousy too. It was quite unbearable for him, if I loved anyone but him. He would feel wounded at heart. At that I felt greatly perturbed lest he should harm himself by being jealous of those whom Mother would bring here.
“Three years after he came here Rakhal fell ill and went to Vrindavan with Balaram. I had a vision a little before that, as if Mother was going to remove him from here. At this I eagerly prayed, ‘Mother, he (Rakhal) is a mere boy, quite ignorant; that is why he sometimes feels piqued. If, for the sake of Thy work, Thou removest him from here for some time, keep him in a good place and in a blissful mood.’ He went to Vrindavan shortly afterwards.
“I cannot express how very anxious I was when I was told that Rakhal was ill at Vrindavan. For, Mother had shown me before that Rakhal was in truth a ‘cowherd boy’2 of Vraja. If one goes to the place from where one came to assume a body, one very often remembers one’s past life and gives up the body. That was why I was afraid that he might pass away at Vrindavan. So I eagerly prayed to Mother and She comforted me with an assurance. Mother has thus shown me many things about Rakhal. Many of those things I am forbidden to express.”3
There are no limits to the things said on various occasions by the Master about this first boy-devotee of his. Whatever Mother showed the Master about him has proved true to the letter. He became, classed with the Sadhakas noted for their gravity and serenity as he advanced in age and renounced his all for the realization of God; the boy has now come to occupy the highest position in the Order of Sri Ramakrishna. Spared till now by the will of the Master, Swami Brahmananda is doing immense good to humanity.4 Thinking, therefore, that more things about him should not be said now, we stop here.5
Swami Vivekananda came to the Master three or four months after Swami Brahmananda had come to Dakshineswar for the first time. We shall now address ourselves to the narration of the incidents connected with his life.