5.7 THE MASTER’S METHOD OF TESTING AND NARENDRANATH
We have told the reader elsewhere that, finding uncommon characteristics in Narendra, the Master found him to be a person highly qualified for spiritual attainments and bound him to him by his extraordinary selfless love, ever since he met him first. He nevertheless, now and then, examined him, even as he proceeded with educating him in spiritual matters. It is necessary, therefore, to give here a short account of his modes and ways of testing Narendranath.
When the Brahmo Samaj was about to be split over the difference of opinion regarding the “Cooch-Bihar marriage”, the Master said to Kesav, “You take anybody and everybody without examining him in order to add to the number of your society. Is it surprising, therefore, that it will dissolve? I do not accept anyone without examining him thoroughly.” Astonishing indeed are the various ways through which the Master used to examine the devotees who came to him, with or without their knowledge, before he accepted them One wonders how and whence he who had passed himself off as an illiterate person acquired the mastery of those unseen and unheard of methods. Naturally the question crops up: “Was it the self-revelation in this life of knowledge acquired in his previous lives? Or was it the result of his acquiring super-sensuous vision and all-knowingness by dint of his Sadhana like those of the seers of old, or, again, was it the manifestation of that knowledge due to his prerogative of being an incarnation of God, of which he told his devotees of the inner circle?” Although these queries naturally arise in our minds, we are not now going to press them to a solution. We are merely concerned with giving as far as possible an accurate description of the series of events, and leave it to the reader to come to his own conclusion regarding them.
The reader will comprehend the extraordinary nature of the ways and means which the Master adopted to acquaint himself with the nature of people when we mention a few incidents concerning it. But before trying to understand them, he must know certain other things regarding those ways and means. As soon as someone came to him, the Master, we saw, looked at that person in a peculiar way. If his mind was attracted towards that person when he did so, he talked to him on religion in a general way and asked him to see him from time to time. As time passed and as the person repeated his visits to him, he engaged himself in coming to a sure conclusion regarding the dormant spiritual tendencies in him by observing minutely, without his knowledge, the form of the limbs of his body, his mental tendencies, the intensity of his desire for enjoyment, especially his attachment to lust and gold, as also how far his mind had been or was being attracted towards him He gathered these data by observing how he talked, acted and behaved. This observation was so keen and thorough that it took him but a few days to have a perfect knowledge of the character of that person. Afterwards, if it were at all necessary to know anything deeply hidden in the person’s mind, the Master knew it with the help of his subtle Yogic insight. One day he said to us regarding this, “When I am alone during the last hours of the night, I am engaged in thinking of your good. Mother reveals everything about you to me — how far each one of you has progressed, what blocks the further progress of any one to spirituality and so on.” Let not the reader think from these words of the Master that his Yogic eyes opened during those hours only. It is clear from his words spoken at other times, that he could at will ascend to higher planes of consciousness and attain that vision at any time. Take for example his words, “Just as one looking at a glass case sees all the things within it, so, as soon as I look at a person, I see all — his thoughts, past impressions, etc.”
This was the method which the Master generally adopted when he tried to acquaint himself with the nature of the ordinary devotees. From this, however he deviated more or less in the case of especial devotees of the inner circle. It was by the dispensation of Providence that he had his first meeting with them while he was in higher planes of consciousness. We have said elsewhere in this book, that the body and mind of the Master became, by the extraordinary power of his Sadhana, a wonderful instrument wherewith he could conserve spiritual powers in himself and know of their existence in others. This was literally true. As soon as the Master was a person with a particular spiritual mood in his mind, his own mind, we always noticed, would be coloured by that mood under some divine impulse. And no sooner had a person come to him having ascended to a particular plane in the spiritual realm, than his own mind would naturally ascend to that plane where the other’s was and reveal to him the ideas of that person’s mind. The reader will understand what we mean, if he recalls the Master’s experiences, as previously mentioned, when Narendra visited him first.
This did not, however, preclude him from applying the ordinary methods, adopted to know the character of the people in general, in the case of his devotees of the inner circle. When he dwelt in the normal plane of consciousness, he observed their talk and behaviour as well as those of other devotees, not even excepting Narendra; not until then could he be free from anxiety. The matter being so important, the reader must be made acquainted with it fully. We can divide the ways and means adopted by the Master to examine his devotees into four main divisions. As we have already stated their broad principles, we may now explain them to the reader with the help of illustrations:
Firstly, the Master ascertained the strong past impressions of a newcomer by observing his physical characteristics.
In the process of our thoughts being transformed into actions, they leave especial marks in particular parts of our brain and body. Modern physiology and psychology have proved a great deal of this fact and have confirmed our belief. The Vedas and other scriptures, however, have been telling us this for a long time past. The Vedas, the Smritis, the Puranas, the Darsanas and all other scriptures of the Hindus, have unanimously proclaimed that “mind creates this body”. With the current of a man’s thoughts moving constantly in a good or bad channel, his body changes and assumes forms helpful to the fulfilment of those thoughts. Many proverbs are current amongst us regarding the ascertainment of the character of people by the observation of the formation of their bodies and limbs. It has been regarded up till now to be absolutely necessary to examine the body as a whole and all its limbs, the form of the hands and feet etc., of the bride and the disciple at the time of marriage and initiation respectively.
It was, therefore, not surprising that the Master, a believer in all the Sastras, should observe the form of the bodies and limbs of his own disciples. But occasionally he used to say so many things in the course of conversation about it to us that we wondered whence he could get so much information. We sometimes asked ourselves whether there was any big book on the subject coming down from ancient times, reading or hearing which he had come to know all these things. But as we had not so far seen or heard of such a book, the idea had to be given up as having no basis. So we went on listening to him with astonishment as he narrated how the formation of each limb and sense-organ of the body of men and women resembled a particular thing of our daily knowledge and what good and bad effects were produced by such formations. Take, for example, the eyes of a person; speaking of them he would say that, in the case of some, they were like the petals of a lotus, in the case of others like the eyes of a bull and in the case of still others like those of Yogis. “A person having his eyes like the petals of a lotus has good thoughts in him; one whose eyes are like those of a bull has lust predominant in him; the Yogi’s eyes have an upward look and are reddish and the eyes like those of gods are not very large but long, reaching very near the ears. Those who are in the habit of looking through the corners of their eyes now and then at the time of conversation, are more intelligent than ordinary people.” Or he would start the topic of the nature of the general formation of people’s bodies and say, “A person of devotion has a soft body by nature and the joints of his arms and legs are not thick-set (that is, can be easily turned round); even if his body is thin, the bones, muscles, etc., in it are placed in such a way that the joints do not seem very angular.” In order to ascertain whether a person’s intelligence tends towards good or evil, the Master would hold that person’s forearm (from the elbow to the fingers) in his own hand and ask him to hold it loose. He would then feel its weight. If it was felt lighter than that of people in general, he regarded him as a person of beneficent intelligence. The Master, we mentioned before, thus caught hold of the forearm of Swami Premananda1 and weighed it on the day of his first visit to Dakshineswar. But as he did not say why the Master did so, we also did not mention there the purpose for which it was done. Our conclusion, however, was borne out by an incident on another occasion. We mention it below.
When the Master was staying in the garden at Kasipur, one day, the author’s younger brother2 came there to see him. The Master was highly pleased to see him. He made him sit beside himself, made many kind enquiries and gave him various religious instructions. When the author came there, the Master asked him, “Is the boy your brother?” When the author said “yes”, the Master continued, “He is a nice boy, a little more intelligent than you. Let me see whether his intelligence tends towards good or evil.” Saying so, he immediately held in his hand the said part of the boy’s right arm, weighed it and made the remark, “beneficent intelligence”. Afterwards he asked the author affectionately once more, “Shall I attract him too? (that is, shall I make his mind turn away from worldly life towards God?) What do you say?” “It will be good, Sir,” replied the author, “please do so.” The Master thought a little and said, “No; let me not do it; I have taken one, and if I take another now, your parents, especially your mother, will be much pained. I have offended many Saktis3 during my life; no more of it now.” Saying so, the Master gave him religious instructions and some refreshments and bade him good-bye.
The Master said that, like the formation of the limbs etc., sleep, calls of nature and other ordinary physical actions of persons possessed of different past impressions differed widely. Therefore, experienced people, he used to say, found clues in these acts also for ascertaining the character of men; for example, he said, during sleep all did not breathe in the same way; a worldly man did it in one way and an all-renouncing one did it in a different way; at the time of answering calls of nature the former had his stream of urine deflected to the left, while the latter to the right; that the faeces of a Yogi were not touched by hogs and so on.
The Master described to us an event pertaining to this. A man named Hanuman Singh was appointed to guard the Dakshineswar temple during Mathur Babu’s time. Although he was one of the several gate-keepers, Hanuman Singh enjoyed greater respect; for, not only was he a well-known wrestler but also a single-minded devout aspirant. Another wrestler came to Dakshineswar in order to defeat Hanuman Singh (who was a worshipper of Mahavira) and to take his place. Hanuman Singh saw his sturdy body, physical strength, etc., but he did not hesitate to accept the challenge. A day was fixed and persons like Mathur Babu were appointed judges to decide which of them was superior.
The wrestler, the new-comer, began to eat heaps of nutritious food and practise physical exercise for about a week before the day of wrestling. On the contrary, Hanuman Singh took his bath in the morning, repeated as usual the Mantra of his chosen Ideal during the whole of the day and took one meal a day in the evening. Everyone thought that Hanuman had got frightened and had given up hopes of success. The Master loved him and, therefore, asked him the day before the competition, “You have not prepared your physique by practising bodily exercise and eating nutritious food; do you think you will succeed in the competition with the new man?” Hanuman bowed down to him with devotion and said, “ I’ll certainly win if your grace is bestowed on me; it is not by eating a heap of food that strength comes to the body; the food must be digested. I secretly saw the faeces of the other wrestler and found that he was eating food beyond his power of digestion.” The Master said that Hanuman Singh actually defeated that man in wrestling on the day of the competition.
The Master said many things about the formation of the limbs of women’s bodies as well as those of men. Observing these, he specified some women as Vidya Saktis, in other words, as those helping men in their Godward progress, and others as Avidya Saktis, that is, those who drag men towards worldliness. He said, “The Vidya Saktis take a small quantity of food, require a little sleep and have naturally little attachment to the senses; their hearts are especially filled with joy to hear their husbands talk of God; they themselves talk of the Lord, and give their husbands a high spiritual impulse, always protecting them from mean inclinations and actions and assisting them in all matters, so that they may be blessed by realizing God at last. The nature and actions of the Avidya Saktis, on the other hand, are of quite an opposite kind. They are seen to hanker after many physical comforts, such as food, sleep, etc., and their chief aim is to prevent their husbands from paying attention to anything except contributing to their own happiness; if their husbands speak to them about spiritual things, they become displeased and annoyed.” The Master sometimes said that the external form of that particular sense-organ, with the help of which women acquire the prerogative of motherhood, indicates their inward attachment to sensual enjoyment. He also said that its forms varied. Some of its forms indicated a very small amount of beastliness. Again, he said that those whose buttocks bulge out like the hind parts of black ants have that inclination to an inordinate degree.
Thus, there is no limit to what the Master told us about ascertaining human character by physiognomical observations. He regarded it as one of the means of knowing the character of people and he examined Narendra and all other devotees with its help. On thus examining Narendra, he was pleased and said to him one day, “All the parts of your body have good characteristics. The only defect is, that you breathe a little heavily when asleep. Yogis say that one breathing so heavily is short-lived.”
Secondly and thirdly, the observation of mental states revealed by ordinary actions and that of the attachment to lust and gold so revealed were regarded by the Master as the second and third means of knowing the nature of a particular person. The Master used to observe a new-comer silently for some time; then, when he had decided to take him into his circle, he would try to make him give up those defects by giving him various instructions and a gentle scolding, if necessary. Again, along with the decision of choosing the man, he would settle whether he would mould his life as a monk or a lay disciple and would impart instruction accordingly from the beginning. The Master, therefore, asked every visitor if he was married, if the financial condition of the family was sufficient for providing plain living and if there was any near relation who could take up the responsibility of maintaining his family if he renounced the world.
The Master was always seen to have a great compassion for students of schools and colleges. He said, “Their minds have not yet been distracted by wife, children, fame, etc. (If rightly educated) they could apply their whole mind to God.” He, therefore, made a great effort to impart spiritual ideas to them He expressed that opinion with the help of various illustrations. He said, “The mind is like a bundle of grains of mustard seed; once scattered, it becomes almost impossible to collect them together”, “Once the coloured ring appears round the neck, it is very difficult to teach the parrot to pronounce ‘Radhakrishna’,” “Footprints of cows on unburnt tiles can easily be effaced but when the tiles are burnt, those marks cannot be obliterated”, and so on. He, therefore, put questions particularly to the students of schools and colleges, inexperienced in worldly life, and gathered whether the natural tendency of their minds was towards worldly enjoyment or renunciation and, if he thought them fit, guided them on the latter path.
The Master did not stop simply with making out the mental state of a particular person by observing all his actions minutely; but he would investigate closely and see how simple and truthful he was, how far he translated into action what he expressed in words, whether he performed every action with proper discrimination, how and how far he was convinced of the truth of what was taught and so on. Here are a few examples:
A boy had been frequenting Dakshineswar for a few days, when one day the Master asked him suddenly, “Why don’t you get married?” “Sir,” replied he, “my mind has not yet come under my control; if I am married now, I shall get attached to my wife and that will destroy my power of discrimination between what is beneficial and what is not. If I can ever conquer lust, I shall get married.” The Master knew from this that, although there was attachment within, the mind of the boy had been attracted towards the path of renunciation and said smiling, “There will be no necessity for marriage when you conquer lust.”
Talking to a boy one day at Dakshineswar on various topics, he said, “Will you please tell me what it is: I can by no means keep a piece of cloth always on my loins — it does not remain there; I don’t even know when it has fallen off; I, a man so advanced in age, go about naked. But, nevertheless, I don’t feel my nakedness. Formerly I had no consciousness at all of who saw me in that state. Knowing that those who see me feel shame, I now keep a cloth on my lap. Can you stand (naked) like me in the presence of people?” The boy replied, “Sir, I am not sure, but I can put off my cloth if you ask me to.” He said, “Just let me see; go round the courtyard of the temple with your cloth tied round your head like a turban.” The boy said, “I cannot do that but I can do so before you only.” The Master heard it and said, “Many others also say so. They say, ‘We don’t feel shame in putting off the wearing-cloth in your presence but feel it before others’.”
We remember another event in this connection. It was a night flooded with moonlight — the second or the third night of the dark fortnight. The flood-tide came to the Ganga shortly after we went to bed.
The Master left his bed and ran to the embankment, calling everyone, “Come you all to see the tide.” He danced like a boy to see the calm white water of the river convert itself into high waves crested with foam, come like one mad with a terrible force and upward surge and leap upon the embankment. We were drowsy when the Master called us. We were a little late in following him for we had to get up and take care of our clothes. Therefore, scarcely had we reached the embankment, when the tide passed away. Some of us saw a little of it while others saw nothing at all. The Master was so long happy by himself. When the tide went away he looked at us and said, “Well, how did you witness the tide?” Hearing that the tide went away when we were putting on our cloth, he said, “Ah, fools, will the tide wait for you to put on your cloth? Why did you not leave your cloth behind like me?”
In answer to the Master’s questions such as, “Do you wish to marry?”, “Will you serve?”, some of us said, “Sir, I don’t wish to marry but I shall have to take service.” But the answer seemed to the Master, who was a great lover of freedom, to be extremely unreasonable. He said, “If you will not marry and perform the duties of a family-man, why should you be a servant of another for life? Offer your whole heart and mind to God and worship Him A man, born in the world, cannot do anything greater than that. If you find it quite impossible to lead a single life, marry; but know once for all that God-realization is the ultimate aim of life. Tread the path of righteousness and live a householder’s life.” This was his definite opinion on the matter. Therefore, he felt a severe blow at heart when he heard that any one of those whom he considered to be the best of moderate aspirants in the spiritual world, had married or was wasting his energy by taking service like ordinary people without any special reason for earning money, or by engaging himself in any other worldly occupation with a view to acquiring name and fame. Hearing that one4 of his boy-devotees had taken service, one day the Master said to him, “You have taken service for maintaining your old mother; so, I can put up with it. Otherwise, I could not have looked at your face.” When another boy-devotee5 married and came to see him at the Kasipur garden, he threw his arms around his neck, as one does when mourning the loss of a son, and shed incessant tears, saying over and over again, “May you not forget God and completely sink in the sea of the world.”
Under the impulse of new love for God, some devotees put a wrong interpretation on the saying, “No one can progress in religion without faith”, and started believing anything and any person. As soon as the keen eye of the Master fell on them, he understood their condition and warned them. He, no doubt, advised people to tread the path of religion with faith alone as the guide. But he, nevertheless, advised, them not to give up discrimination between what was desirable and what was not. His opinion, we believe, was that one should proceed on the path of religion exercising discrimination, and one should not be ready to do any worldly action without deliberating whether it was desirable or otherwise. One6 of those who had taken refuge in him, one day, after warning a shopkeeper of divine chastisement of all dishonest persons, purchased an iron pan from him. When he came home he found that the pan given by the shopkeeper had a crack in it. The Master came to know of it and scolded him saying, “Should one be a fool because one has to be a devotee of God? Has the shopkeeper set up a shop to practise religion? And should piety be the reason for you to believe him and bring the pan without once examining it? Never do so again. If you want to buy articles, you should ascertain their real price from a few shops, examine them thoroughly at the time of buying them, and you should not come away without taking the extra quantity of those articles, which it is usual to give the customer when the transaction is over.”
The tendency to mildness on the part of people of certain temperaments increases so much while they practise religion, that it becomes at last the cause of their bondage and sometimes leads them to stray away from religion. It happens very often with men and women of tender nature. Therefore the Master always taught such people to be stern and those of the opposite nature to be tender. The heart of one6A of us was too tender. It is doubtful whether we ever saw him being angry or using harsh words even when there was good reason for it. Unable to see his mother shed tears, one day he suddenly bound himself with the tie of matrimony though it was completely against his nature and though he had not the slightest desire for it. The protecting power and the words of assurance of the Master alone saved him on that occasion from the terrible despair and overmuch repentance his heart fell a victim to, owing to that action of his. The Master kept a careful eye on him so that he might control his tendency to tenderness and mildness and do every action with due deliberation. How the Master taught him with the help of trifling things will be clear when one or two incidents are mentioned here. One day a cockroach was seen in the case in which the Master’s clothes and other things were kept. The Master said to him, “Catch the cockroach, take it outside the room and kill it.” He caught it and went out but set it free instead of killing it. As soon as he came back, the Master said, “Well, have you killed the cockroach?” Embarrassed, he said, “No, sir, I set it free.” The Master scolded him and said, “Ah! I told you to kill it and you set it free! Act exactly as I tell you; otherwise, you will follow your own whim in serious matters in future and will have to repent.”
While he was coming to Dakshineswar one day in a boat, Yogin, when questioned by one of the passengers, said that he was going to the Master at Rani Rasmani’s Kali temple. Hardly had that man heard this when he started calumniating the Master thus: “What else is that but a feigning? Ah! That’s a fine deceit perpetrated on the public! He eats good food, lies on cushions and turns the heads of the school-boys.” Yogin was touched to the quick to hear those words; he thought of giving the man a bit of his mind. But under the influence of his mild nature, the next moment he thought, “Many people, without exerting themselves in the least to understand the Master, have quite a wrong conception about him and speak ill of him. What can I do in the matter?” Thinking so, he did not make the slightest protest against what that man said and remained silent. When he came to the Master, he related to him, in the course of conversation the event from beginning to end. Yogin was under the impression that the Master, who was never seen to be moved by praise or blame being fully devoid of egoism would laugh it away when he heard about it. But the effect produced on the Master was very different. Seeing that event in a different light, he remarked, “Ah, he spoke ill of me without any reason and you came away, listening silently without doing anything! Do you know what the scriptures say? One should cut off the head of the man speaking ill of one’s Guru or leave that place. And you did not utter a single word of protest against that calumny!”
The reader will understand how the Master’s instructions varied according to the temperaments of the taught, when we mention here another such event. Niranjan was, by nature, of a harsh temperament. While coming to Dakshineswar in a boat one day, he heard the passengers speak ill of the Master in the same manner as above. He at first protested very strongly against it. But as his protest did not make them desist, he became terribly angry and was ready to retaliate by sinking the boat. Niranjan was very strong and stout and was an expert swimmer too. All shrank in fear to see him getting purple with anger, begged his pardon and implored him to refrain from sinking the boat. The Master came to know of it afterwards and scolded him, saying, “Anger is a most dangerous and reprehensible sin. Should one be under its spell? The anger of a good man is like a mark on water, which vanishes as soon as it is made. Mean-minded men speak many improper things. If one is to quarrel over them, one has to spend one’s whole life that way. Consider such men as no better than insects and be indifferent to their words. Just think what a great wrong you were going to commit under the influence of anger. What offence did the helmsman and oarsmen give you for which you were ready to cause harm even to those poor people?”
The Master gave such instruction to women devotees as well as to men. He, we remember, warned a lady of mild temperament in the following words: “Suppose you feel that a certain acquaintance of yours takes great trouble and helps you in all matters, but, unable to control the infatuation for beauty, his weak mind begins pining for you; should you in that case give a free rein to your kindness to him or be severe upon him, deal him hard kicks and live far away from him? So, take note that one cannot afford to be kind to anybody and everybody under all conditions. There should be a limit to one’s kindness. One should take into consideration the time, place and person in bestowing one’s kindness.”
We remember another incident bearing on this topic. Harish was a strong young man. He had a beautiful wife and a young child. His financial condition was good on the whole. He had paid but a few visits to the Master at Dakshineswar, when his mind became filled with the great idea of renunciation. Seeing his straightforward nature, steadfastness and calm mood, the Master was pleased with him and became his protecting angel. From that time, Harish began to spend most of his time at Dakshineswar in the Master’s service, continual meditation, Japa, etc. Nothing — pressure from his guardians, loving invitations from his father-in-law’s family, or the bewailing of his wife — could move him He took almost a vow of silence and proceeded along his path instead of taking notice of any remark from anybody. With a view to drawing our attention to his calm and steadfast temperament, the Master sometimes said, “Those who are men in the true sense of the term like Harish, as for example, remain dead to all provocations and do not give rise to any reaction.”
As Harish had given up all his worldly affairs and engaged himself in Sadhana and devotional exercises, one day word came that all the members of his family had become much grieved and his wife, unable to bear his separation any longer, had become overwhelmed with sorrow and had almost given up food and drink. Harish heard it but remained silent as before. With a view to knowing his mind, the Master took him aside and said, “Your wife is so much grieved. Why don’t you go home and let her see you once? In a way it may be said that there is no one7 to look after her. So, what is the harm if you are a little kind to her?” Harish said humbly, “Sir, this is not a case for showing kindness. If I am to be kind here, it is possible that I may become overwhelmed with worldly attachment and forget the main duty of life. Pray, don’t command me so.” The Master was highly pleased with what he said and used to quote his words to us from time to time and praise his detachment.
Many examples can be given to show that the Master observed our ordinary daily actions and thus knew the good and bad qualities of our minds. Seeing Niranjan take too much of ghee (clarified butter), he said, “To take so much of ghee! Will you at last abduct people’s daughters and daughters-in-law?” Once the Master became displeased with a person for some time because he slept too much. When another person, led by the strong desire to study the medical science, neglected to obey him, the Master said, “Far from giving up desires one after another, you are adding to them; how then can you expect to make spiritual progress?” We have placed before the reader many examples of this nature from time to time in connection with other topics. It is therefore needless to multiply them here.
Knowing with the help of the aforesaid methods the natural temperament of those who had taken refuge in him, the Master not only instructed them how to modify or rectify the defects, but tried again and again to find out how far the instructions were carried out. Besides, he was seen to adopt a particular means in order to ascertain the degree of the spiritual progress of certain persons. The means was this:
Fourthly, the Master made it a rule to observe whether the attitude of devotion and reverence, under the impulse of which a particular person came to him for the first time, was daily increasing or not. With a view to knowing it, the Master sometimes asked how far a particular person understood a particular spiritual state or conduct of his; at other times he observed whether that person had perfect faith in all his words or not; and at still other times he helped him in various ways, such as introducing him to those of his order, close relationship with whom would deepen his spiritual mood. So, the Master could not be free from anxiety regarding the realization of spirituality on the part of that person, till the latter could, by the natural impulse of his mind, accept him as the manifestation of the highest spiritual ideal in the modern world.
The reader will no doubt be surprised to hear the above-mentioned words. But a little thought will make it clear that there is nothing to be surprised at; on the contrary, it was but reasonable and natural for the Master to say so. He had no alternative, but had to behave that way, because he actually felt that in him there was a manifestation of spirituality to an extent never known before. We have tried to explain to the reader elsewhere that, when as a result of the long practice of austerity, meditation and Samadhi, his egoism was completely destroyed and the very possibility of an error and delusion in him vanished for ever, eternal memory and illumination of infinite knowledge appeared in his mind and made him realize in his heart of hearts that such a new and wonderful spiritual ideal was manifested through his body and mind as had never before been witnessed anywhere else in the world. Therefore, he had naturally to believe that all those who properly comprehended it and tried to illumine their lives with the light of that ideal would easily make spiritual progress in the modern age. It was, therefore, not surprising that he should try to find out thoroughly whether those who came to him understood properly what has been stated before about him and whether they were making efforts to mould their lives after the highly liberal ideas manifested in him
The Master expressed the above-mentioned conviction of his mind in various ways. He used to say, “A coin of the time of the Nawabs is not legal tender during the period of the Badshas”; “You will straightaway reach the goal if you move on as I say”; “He who is living his last life, who has come to the end of the series of transmigrations, (i.e., who is to be liberated in this life) shall have to come here and accept the liberal doctrine of this place”8; “Your chosen Ideal is residing here (showing himself); if you meditate on this, you will be meditating on Him” and so on.
We shall give here a few examples to explain how the Master used to make inquiries regarding others’ faith in himself. The reader will then be better able to understand what we have said.
Whoever has had the blessing of meeting the Master and receiving his grace knows that the Master, when alone or in the company of the select few, would suddenly put this question to a fortunate devotee, “Well, what is your idea about me? Who am I?” This question was put to a person who had for some time been coming to him at Dakshineswar and had become a little closely related to him Although this was generally so, it was not as if the Master never asked this question of anyone on his first visit or very shortly after. He, we know, put that question immediately on their arrival to those devotees of whom he had known long ago through his Yogic visions that they would come to him. What a variety of answers he used to get from them cannot be described. “You are a true Sadhu”, “a true devotee of God,” “a great soul”, “a perfected man”, “an incarnation of God,” “Sri Chaitanya himself”, “Siva Himself”, “the divine Lord”, — are but a few specimens of them Some Brahmos, who did not believe in an incarnanation of God, said, “You are a lover of God, equal to Krishna, Buddha,
Jesus, Chaitanya and other foremost devotees.” Again asked thus, a person named Williams9, a Christian, expressed his opinion that the Master was “Jesus himself, the Son of God, the embodiment of eternal Consciousness.” We cannot say how far all these persons understood him; but they, in doing so, expressed their own ideas of the Master and of God at the same time. The Master for his part looked at those answers of theirs in the light mentioned above and behaved towards them and gave them instructions according to the spiritual attitude of each. For, instead of destroying anybody’s spiritual attitude, the Master, an embodiment of all spiritual attitudes, helped everyone to develop his own mood and attitude to the highest degree, and ultimately realize the divine Lord whose real nature is Truth and who is beyond time and space. But he was very particular to notice whether the man expressed his own idea or was prompted by another.
It may well be said that Purna10 was a mere boy when he came to the Master. It seemed he was just a little over thirteen then. Sri Mahendra, the great devotee of the Master, was then the headmaster of the school at Shyambazar, established by the broad-minded Vidyasagar. He used to bring to the Master at Dakshineswar those boys who by nature were found to possess love of God. Thus he took to him, one after another, Tejchandra, Narayan, Haripada, Vinod, (junior) Naren, Pramatha (Paltu), and other boys of the Baghbazar quarter, who took refuge in the Master. Some of us, therefore, called him in fun “the kidnapping teacher”. Hearing it, the Master would say smiling, “It is the right appellation for him”. One day while teaching the boys of the class three of the school, his mind was attracted by the fine nature and sweet talk of Purna and shortly afterwards he made arrangements for introducing the boy to the Master. The arrangements were of course made secretly. For, Purna’s guardians were men of a harsh temperament; so if they should know it, both teacher and pupil were sure to be insulted. Purna, therefore, came to school at the usual time and went to Dakshineswar in a hired carriage and, returning to the school before it was closed for the day, he went home at the usual hour.
The Master was highly pleased to see Purna that day and, giving him instruction and light refreshments with great affection, said at the time of his return, “Come whenever it is convenient for you; come in a carriage; there will be arrangements here about the payment of your carriage hire.” He said to us afterwards, “Purna is a part of Narayana and a spiritual aspirant possessing a high degree of Sattva. In this respect, he may be said to occupy a place immediately below Naren. With the coming of Purna the circle of devotees of that class, whom I saw long ago in Yogic visions, coming here for the purpose of realizing God, is complete. Therefore, no one of that class will come here any more.”
Purna had an extraordinary change in his mental state that day. The memory of his past relation with the Master was awakened, and made him completely calm and indrawn. Incessant tears of bliss streamed forth from his eyes. For fear of his guardians, he had to make a great effort to control himself before he went home that day. There appeared since then a very great eagerness in the Master’s mind to see Puma often and feed him He sent him various kinds of food whenever there was an opportunity. He instructed the man who took them to Purna to hand them over to him secretly. For, if that were known in his household, there was a possibility of his being ill-treated.
On many occasions we saw the Master shedding incessant tears at his eagerness to see Purna. Seeing us full of surprise owing to his behaviour, one day he said, “You are amazed to see me thus attracted towards Purna; I don’t know how you would have felt had you seen the longing that arose in my heart when I first saw Naren and how very restless I was on that occasion.” Whenever he was eager to see Purna, the Master would come to Calcutta at midday, and going to Balaram Basu’s house at Baghbazar or to the house of anyone else of that quarter, would send word and have him called from school. It was at one of such places that Purna had the privilege of seeing the Master for the second time and was completely merged in his self that day. The Master on that occasion fed him with his own hand like an affectionate mother and asked him, “Well, what’s your idea about me? Who am I?” Overwhelmed by an extraordinary impulse of the heart and swelling with devotion, Purna replied, “You are the divine Lord, God Himself.”
The Master found no limit to his joy and astonishment that day when he knew that the boy Puma could accept him as the highest spiritual ideal as soon as he saw him He blessed the boy with all his heart and gave him instruction about the secret of spiritual practice and initiated him with a potent sacred Mantra. Afterwards, returning to Dakshineswar, he said to us again and again, “Well, Purna is a mere boy; his intellect has not developed; how has he understood it? Under the impulse of divine impressions some others also gave the same answer to that question. It is surely due to the impressions accumulated during previous lives that the picture of untarnished truth naturally appears to their pure Sattvika mind.”
Purna had to marry by the force of circumstances and live a family life. But all those who were closely related with him unanimously bear witness to his extraordinary faith, reliance on God, love of Sadhana, freedom from egoism and selflessness in all respects.
We shall give another example showing that the Master put that question to the devotees who took refuge in him. The Master showed the picture of the great lord Sri Chaitanya in Sankirtan kept in his room to a person very well known to us, shortly after that person came to Dakshineswar, and said,
“Do you see how all are filled with divine emotions?”
That person: “Sir, they are all low-class fellows.”
The Master: “How is it? Should one say so?”
That person: “Yes sir; I belong to Nadia; I know these Vaishnavas are generally low-class fellows.”
The Master: “You belong to Nadia; then I make another salutation11 to you. Well, Ram and others call this (showing his own person) an incarnation. Let me know what you think of it.”
That person: “Sir, have they used a word of such low import?”
The Master: “How is that? They say ‘incarnation of God’, and you say it is of low import!”
That person: “Yes sir; an incarnation is a part of God; to me it seems you are Siva Himself.”
The Master: “What do you say!”
That person: “That thought comes to my mind; pray, what can I do? You have asked me to meditate on Siva; but I cannot succeed in it, though I try daily to do so. As soon as I sit down for meditation, your gracious face appears radiant before me. I can by no means bring in Siva by removing it, nor do I feel inclined to. So, I meditate on you as Siva.”
The Master: (affectionately smiling) “Oh, what a thing to say! But I know I am like a tiny hair of yours. (Both laughed.) I had much anxiety about you; I am now freed of it today.”
We do not know whether that person understood at that time why the Master spoke the last of the quoted words. In such cases, it is known to us, our hearts swelled with joy to feel that the Master had become pleased and we had no desire left to try to understand those words of his. The Master, we feel, said those words to that person because he knew that that person had accepted him as the highest spiritual ideal.
The Master tried his best to see that the devotees who had taken refuge in him should observe minutely all his deportment and behaviour and knowingly accept him in that manner. For, very often he said to us, “Observe a holy man in the daytime, observe him at night and then have faith in him” The Master always encouraged us to observe whether a holy man practised what he taught others. He said that one should not believe a man whose thoughts, words and actions do not agree. We heard the Master sometimes tell a story in this connection:
There was a man whose young son always suffered from indigestion. One day the father took him for treatment to a famous physician in a remote village. The physician examined the boy and diagnosed his disease. But, instead of prescribing medicine for the patient, he asked him to come again on the morrow. When the father went to him the next day with his son, the physician said to the boy, “Give up taking molasses and the disease will be cured; there is no need to take medicine.” Hearing these words, the father said, “Sir you might have very well said this yesterday; in that case, I need not have taken so much trouble to come so far today.” The physician replied, “Don’t you see? I had a few jars full of molasses here yesterday; you perhaps noticed it. Had I forbidden the boy yesterday to take molasses, he would have thought that the physician was a peculiar person indeed; he takes so much of molasses himself and asks me to refrain from it! Thinking so, he would not have any faith in my words, not to speak of regard for them That is why, I did not tell you so before removing the jars of molasses.”
Encouraged by the teaching of the Master, all of us minutely observed all his deportment and behaviour. Some, again, did not hesitate to test him It was seen that he gladly put up with all the undue liberty we took with him, of course in all sincerity, for the increase of our faith and devotion. The following incident is a clear example of this.
We have already told the reader certain things about Swami Yogananda. He was the hero of this story and we heard it from him afterwards. We shall first give a brief introductory description of Swami Yogananda before we begin to narrate the story. The premonastic name of Yogananda was Yogindranath Raychaudhuri. He was born in the well-known family of Savarna Chaudhuris. His father Navinchandra was a rich zamindar at one time and the family had been living for generations in the village of Dakshineswar itself. Yogindra’s home always resounded with the recital of the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and other scriptures, worship, Kirtan and so on during his childhood and before that period. The Master said that he went to that house many times during the period of his Sadhana with a view to listening to the discourses on Hari and was acquainted with some of the members of the house. But scarcely had Yogindra passed his early boyhood when they lost a greater part of their property owing to domestic quarrels and various other reasons and the Chaudhuri family was fast approaching penury.
Yogindra was calm, mild and possessed of a sweet nature from his childhood. He was born with extraordinary good qualities. As the child grew up to have a sort of knowledge about himself and the world, the thought always came to his mind that he was not of this world; this was not the place of his true residence; his real residence was in a certain distant group of stars and his familiar companions were still living there. We never saw him becoming angry. Swami Vivekananda said, “If there is amongst us anyone who has conquered lust in all respects, it is Yogin.” Although he was sometimes scolded by the Master because he naively believed all sorts of people, Yogindra was not foolish. Though he was always seen quietly engaged in his own duties, the conclusions at which his active mind arrived by observing all actions of people proved invariably to be true. Therefore, he seemed to be a little proud of his intelligence.
Being a resident of Dakshineswar, he had the blessing of meeting the Master when he had hardly reached his youth. The Master was highly pleased to see him when Yogindra was introduced to him for the first time. He became convinced that Yogin was one of those who had been shown by the divine Mother long ago as destined to come to him for spiritual enlightenment; nay, he came to know a little after, by the grace of the universal Mother, that he was one of those six marked persons who were known as Isvarakotis.
We have said elsewhere that Yogindra married suddenly against his will on account of his mother’s pathetic weeping. He said, “As soon as I married, the thought came to me that the hope of God-realization is now a mockery; why should I go to the Master whose very first teaching was the renunciation of lust and gold? I have spoilt my life on account of the tenderness of my heart; it cannot be undone; now, the sooner I die the better for me. I used to visit the Master daily before; but, after this event, I had altogether stopped going to him and been passing my days in utter despair and repentance. But the Master did not forsake me. He sent word again and again, calling me to him; but when he saw that I did not go in spite of all that, he hit upon a peculiar device. A certain person of the Kali temple had given me a few rupees to buy some article for him before my marriage. There was a balance of a few annas left. I sent him the article through a man and sent word also that I would soon send him the balance. The Master knew of this and, feigning anger, one day sent a man to say to me on his behalf, ‘What sort of a man are you? You have neither returned the balance, nor even sent word when you will return it to the person who gave you the money to buy his article! What you ought to have done is to submit an account of the money spent and to pay up the balance.’ These words touched my pride; I was grievously wounded. I thought, ‘The Master has taken me to be a cheat after I have kept his company for so long a time! Well, I’ll go somehow today and put an end to the quarrel, and I’ll never again turn my steps towards the Kali temple.’ I was almost dead with despair, repentance, wounded pride, resentment, etc., when I betook myself to the Kali temple in the afternoon. I saw from a distance that the Master was standing outside his room as if in ecstasy with his cloth in his arm-pit. As soon as he saw me, he came quickly forward saying, ‘You have married; what of that? Marry a lakh of wives, no harm can touch you if you but have the grace of this place (meaning himself). If you want to live a family life and realize God at the same time, once bring your wife here; I’ll make both her and you fit for that; and if you want to renounce worldly life and attain Him, I’ll make that too quite possible for you.’ These words of the Master spoken in divine semi-consciousness penetrated deep into my heart and the former darkness of despair vanished into the void. I bowed down to him with tears in my eyes. He, too, affectionately caught hold of my hand and entered his room with me. He did not give ear to what I was going to say about the above-mentioned account and the balance.” Yogindra was born with the mood of an all-renouncing religious mendicant. He married, but that mood of his did not at all undergo a change. He devoted his time ever increasingly to the service of the Master, now his only refuge. Yogin’s parents began to complain when they saw their son indifferent to worldly affairs and to the earning of money. He said, “One day while mother was making that complaint, she remarked, ‘Why then have you married if you don’t like to apply your mind to the earning of money?’ I said, ‘I told you again and again at the time that I would not marry: I consented at last to do so, only because I could not bear to see you weep.’ Highly incensed at these words, mother said, ‘You don’t say so! you married for my sake without a desire for it! Who ever believes that?’ Absolutely stunned at these words of hers, I thought, ‘Ah, my Lord! She is the very person whose suffering I was unable to witness and for whose sake I was ready to forsake Thee! Away with it! There is no one else in the world except the Master whose thoughts and words agree.’ An absolute abhorrence for the world has possessed my mind ever since. I have started spending nights also with the Master since then.”
Spending the whole day with the Master, one day Yogindra saw that all the devotees who were at Dakshineswar temple, took leave of him just before dusk and went home, Yogindra gave up the idea of going home on that occasion, thinking that the Master might be in difficulty if he were in need of anything at night, when no one would be near him. The Master too became highly pleased to see Yogin pass the night there. Absorbed in spiritual talks they did not notice that the night was fairly advanced; it was ten. The Master then took some light refreshment. When Yogindra took his meal, the Master asked him to sleep within the room and himself went to bed. When it was past midnight, the Master had a desire to go out; he looked at Yogin and found him quite asleep. Thinking that Yogin would be troubled if he woke him up after his having just entered-into deep sleep, he proceeded alone towards the Panchavati and then went to the group of the Tamarisk trees.
Yogindra was noted all his life for his short hours of sleep. His sleep came to an end shortly after the Master had left. Seeing that the door of the room had been left open, he sat up in his bed and not finding the Master in his cot, wondered where he might have gone at that dead of night. He saw the Master’s spouted and other water-pots in their proper places and, therefore, thought the Master might be strolling outside. Yogindra came out, looked round in the moonlight, but saw no one. A terrible suspicion then gripped his mind, “Has the Master then gone to the Nahavat, where his wife lives? Does he also deny in action what he professes in words?”
Yogindra said, “No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than I became simultaneously overwhelmed with suspicion, fear and various other feelings. I decided that however cruel and unbecoming it might be, truth must be found out. I then stood at a place near at hand and began watching the door of the Nahavat. Scarcely had I done so for a couple of minutes when I heard the clattering sounds of slippers coming from the side of the Panchavati. Very soon the Master came up and stood before me and said affectionately, ‘Ah, you are standing here, I see.’ I shrank within myself in shame and fear. ‘Oh! I entertained such a terrible suspicion of his character.’ I stood there with my head hung down and could give no reply to him. The Master understood everything from my face, but instead of taking offence, at once reassured me and said, ‘Well, it is all right. Observe a Sadhu in the day-time as well as at night and believe him then only. ’ Saying so, he asked me to follow him and proceeded towards his room. I could sleep no more that night, thinking what a great offence I had committed under the impulse of a suspicious nature.”
Swami Yogananda fully atoned for the above-mentioned offence by surrendering himself to the Guru in all respects and laid down his life in the service, at first, of the Master and, after his (the Master’s) passing away, of the Holy Mother. A Yogi like Yogindra, having the experience of Samadhi, possessed of intense detachment and equally qualified for devotion and divine Knowledge, is scarcely seen. He passed away in the year 1899 to merge in the Supreme Self.
We mentioned before that the Master always observed minutely every action of Narendra since he came to Dakshineswar. Consequently, he knew that courage, valour, self-control, love of religion, self-sacrifice for a good cause and other good qualities were the innate virtues of Narendra’s heart. So abundant were the good impressions in his mind that the perpetration of any kind of mean action, to which ordinary people are prone, would, he knew, never be possible for him even if he were to fall into adverse circumstances and were greatly tempted. And as to his devotion to truth? Observing his austere devotion to truth, the Master was so much struck by it that he believed every word of his and had the firm conviction that he would very soon reach such a state that truth and truth only would come out of his mouth and an untruth would never escape it even by mistake, and that even the chance ideas crossing his mind would prove to be true. He, therefore, always encouraged him in his regard for truth and said, “One who clings to truth with body, mind and speech, is blessed with the vision of God who is Truth Itself. A man who never deviates from truth for twelve years attains whatever he desires.”
We remember here a funny event regarding the Master’s firm faith in Narendra’s truthfulness. One day, in the course of a conversation he was explaining that the nature of a devotee is like that of a Chataka bird. He said, “just as a Chataka always looks to the clouds to quench its thirst and depends on them in all respects, even so, a devotee depends on God alone to quench the thirst of his heart and remove all manner of wants.” Narendra was then sitting there. He suddenly said, “Sir, although it is generally believed that a Chataka drinks no water except rain-water, it is not true; it quenches its thirst with waters of rivers and other reservoirs of water like all other birds. I saw a Chataka bird drink such water.” The Master said, “How is that? Does a Chataka drink water like other birds? Such a long-standing conviction of mine is then proved to be false, I see. As you have seen it, I can have no doubt about it.” The Master who was possessed of a boy’s nature, did not rest satisfied by merely saying so. He thought that just as that conviction of his was proved to be false, so, his other convictions might also prove to be so. Thinking so, he felt much dejected. One day, shortly afterwards, Narendra suddenly called the Master and said, “There, there, just see, Sir, yonder Chataka is drinking water from the Ganga.” The Master came in a hurry to see it and said, “Where is it?” Narendra showed a bird, which, the Master found, was a small house-bat, that was drinking water. He said smiling, “It is a house-bat. O rascal, you took a house-bat for a Chataka and caused me such great anxiety. I will no more believe in all that you say.”
The mind of an ordinary man very often assumes in the presence of a lady an attitude of undue tenderness — an attitude not always the result of the impulse of esteem, politeness, the appreciation of beauty, and other noble emotions. That it is due to a kind of hidden impressions of the heart is the opinion of the scriptures. Very little of such impressions was observed in Narendra’s heart. The Master noticed it with joy and was firmly convinced that Narendra would never be deflected from the path of self-control by the attraction of a woman’s beauty. Comparing Narendra with one12 who had received great respect from us at one time on account of his frequent trances, the Master said to us one day, “He loses himself in the care of and affection for ladies. But with Narendra it is quite different. I observed minutely, and found him in such situations saying, as it were, with his head turned about, ‘Why are they here’?”
The Master said on many occasions that, although there was an unusual manifestation of Vedantic Knowledge and sterner qualities in Narendra’s mind, there was no dearth of tenderness and devotion in it. He came to that conclusion by observing his mental states manifested through ordinary actions as well as his physical characteristics. Observing the loveliness of the features of Narendra’s face one day, he, we remember, said, “Can persons of ‘dry knowledge’13 have such eyes? You have within you the womanly emotion of devotion as well as knowledge. Those who have within them merely the sterner qualities do not have round their nipples the black marks like those produced by a marking-nut. Arjuna, the great hero, did not have those marks.”
The Master tested Narendra by other means known and unknown to us besides the four kinds of general means mentioned above. Of those means we shall now tell the reader one or two important ones only. The Master, we have said before, used to busy himself about Narendra when the latter came to Dakshineswar. The moment he saw Narendra at a distance, his entire mind would run out of his body, as it were, with great speed and bind Narendra in an embrace of love. It is impossible to say on how many occasions we saw the Master go into ecstasy saying, “There’s Na—, there’s Na—”. Still, there came a time, even before very close intimacy developed, when Narendra came to the Master, but the latter was supremely indifferent to him. Narendra came, bowed down to the Master, sat in front of him and waited long. The Master looked at him but once and sat wholly indifferent, without even inquiring about his welfare, let alone expressing his loving concern for him. Narendra thought that the Master was perhaps under the influence of spiritual emotions. Having waited long, he came out of the room and began talking to Hazra and smoking. Hearing that the Master was talking to others, Narendra came back to him. But the Master did not speak a word to him and lay down on his bed with his face turned in the opposite direction! The whole day passed in that manner and evening approached; still Narendra found no change in the Master’s attitude. So, he bowed down to him and returned to Calcutta.
Hardly had a week elapsed when Narendra came again to Dakshineswar to find the Master in the same mood. On that occasion also he spent the whole day in various talks with Hazra and others and started home before dusk. Narendra came for the third and the fourth time, without finding the slightest change in the attitude of the Master. But, without feeling at all distressed or wounded on account of it, he continued paying his visits to the Master as usual. The Master sent from time to time some one to bring him news of Narendra’s welfare when Narendra was staying at home but he continued to behave towards him in that manner for some time more, whenever he came to him. At the end of more than a month when the Master saw that Narendra did not desist from visiting Dakshineswar, he had him called to him one day and asked, “Well, I do not speak even a single word to you; still you come. Why so?” Narendra said, “Do I come here to hear you speak? I love you; I wish to see you; that is why I come.” Highly pleased with the reply, the Master said, “I was testing you to see whether you would cease coming if you did not get proper love and attention. It is only a spiritual aspirant of your order that can put up with so much neglect and indifference. Anyone else would have left me long ago and would have never come here again.”
We shall mention one more event and bring the present topic to a close. It will be well understood from this how intense the eagerness for the direct realization of God was in the heart of Narendra. One day the Master called him aside to the Panchavati and said, “As the result of practising austerities for long, I have got all the supernatural powers, such as assuming the minute dimension of an atom, etc. But where is the occasion for a person like me, who cannot even keep his cloth properly round his waist, to make any use of them? So, I am thinking of asking the Mother to transfer all these to you. For, She has told me that you will have to do much work for Her. If all these powers are imparted to you, you will be able to use them when necessary. What do you say?” Narendra had become acquainted with an infinite manifestation of divine power in the Master since the day he first saw him at Dakshineswar. He had, therefore, no reason to disbelieve these words of his. But the natural love of God in his heart did not prompt him to accept those powers without careful consideration. Narendra thought seriously and asked, “Sir, will they help me in realizing God?” The Master said, “They might be of no help to you in that respect, but they will stand you in good stead when you engage yourself in God’s work after realizing Him.” Hearing these words, Narendra said, “Sir, I have no need of these things. Let me realize God first and then it will be decided whether to accept them or not. If I obtain these wonderful powers now, and goaded by selfishness, forget the aim of life and happen to make improper use of them, it will be wholly ruinous to me.” It is beyond our power to say whether the Master was actually ready to impart such powers as assuming atomic dimension, etc., to Narendra, or spoke like that only to test his mind. But this much we know for certain, that he was highly pleased to see Narendra unwilling to accept them.