1. The co-existence of the divine and human aspects in the Master

Blessed by the opportunity of being in the holy company of the divine Master, we have been charmed to notice the wonderful co-existence of both the aspects of divinity and humanity in him The more we have contemplated his life and character, the more have we been convinced of this fact. If we had not seen him, we could never have had the conception that such contrary ideas could exist in such sweet congruence and harmony in the same person. It is because we observed it in him that this conviction has grown in us that he was God and man in one, that he was exactly what the infinite being of God and His power are when manifested behind the veil of a human body and human feelings. It is because we saw it that we have come to understand that he feigned neither aspect, but actually assumed human nature for the good of humanity and showed us the path leading to divinity. Again, it is because we saw it that we have become convinced that there were certainly such wonderful manifestations of both these aspects in the lives of the incarnations of past ages also.

2. The same is the case with all incarnations

We shall meet with the same truth if we study with reverence the life of any one of the incarnations of God. We shall find that, impelled by a wonderful unknown power, they are sometimes in the same plane of consciousness as other human beings are and behave like ourselves with all the objects and persons of the world; but, at other times, ascending to higher planes, bring to us information about the unknown. Although they do not long for it, someone adjusts and arranges everything and makes them act that way. And it is so from their childhood. But getting, as they do get sometimes, an indication of that power in them in their childhood, they cannot detect and understand that it is their own, and lies deep within them. Also they cannot apply that power at will in order to ascend to higher spiritual planes and see all things and persons of the world in the light of the divine consciousness and behave with them accordingly. But as they go on getting more frequent experiences of that power in their lives day after day, a strong desire to be fully acquainted with it arises in their minds. It is this desire that endows them with a unique ardour and enthusiasm and induces them to undertake spiritual discipline.

3. Incarnations of God have no desire for selfish enjoyment

However, there does not exist the slightest tinge of selfishness in that desire of the incarnations of God. Not to speak of their not having any yearning for the enjoyment of the petty pleasures of the senses here or hereafter, even the idea that they themselves might become liberated and enjoy the infinite bliss, irrespective of others’ fate, does not exist in them, the only thing that is observed to exist at the root of that desire is the inquiry whether that unknown, extraordinary power really exists in the background of the universe or it is a mere fabrication of their own imagination—that power, under whose guidance and direction they experience from their birth unique ideas, unintelligible to man, and sometimes feel that everything in the realm of ideas has an existence as real as that of the things and persons known in the gross world. For, by comparing their knowledge and experiences with those of others, they become convinced in a very short time that the latter do not have the same knowledge about the nature of the things and persons of the world as they themselves have all their lives, and that others lack almost completely the power to see the world from a higher plane of consciousness.

4. Their compassion: they undertake Sadhana for the welfare of others

That is not all. They become convinced simultaneously of another fact through that comparison. They can understand that because they see the world in two different forms from the two planes of consciousness, the ideal and the real, objects of senses like sight, taste which are pleasant for the time being, cannot allure them as they do human beings in general, and the dense shadows of despondency and peacelessness that arise from the reverses of fortune cannot cloud their intellect. Therefore, their compassionate minds become completely absorbed in the struggle to gain complete control over that power. Thereby they ascend to higher and higher planes of consciousness and remain there as long as they like, in order to teach the people of all classes and conditions, from the highest to the lowest, to do so themselves and become endowed with peace. So, two mighty streams, of sadhana and compassion, are always seen to flow side by side in their lives. Although that compassion may increase a hundred-fold on account of the vast difference between their own condition and that of human beings in general, it may be said that the source of their unique compassion has not been identified. It has to be said that it is inborn. Nothing further can be added. Let us quote an illustration cited by the Master:

5. An illustration of it: the Master’s story of three friends having the vision of the ‘grove of bliss’

“Three friends went for a walk in a field. They went to the middle of the field and saw an area enclosed by a high wall. Sweet sounds of music, both vocal and instrumental, were coming out of it. Attracted by the music, they wished to know what was going on within. They went round the wall and found that there was not a single entrance to it. What could they do? One of them somehow procured a ladder and climbed up the wall, while the other two stood below. The first man got up on the wall and was beside himself with joy on seeing what was happening within. He laughed loudly and jumped within. He could not at all wait to tell the other two standing below what he saw within. They thought, ‘Ah, our friend is a fine man! He did not even tell us once what he saw! However that may be, we have to see what there is inside.’ Then one of them climbed up that ladder. The moment he got to the top, he also, like the first, burst out laughing and jumped within. What was the third man to do then? He climbed up that ladder and saw the fair of bliss within. When he saw it, his first thought was to join it. But immediately afterwards he thought, ‘If I now join it, the public outside cannot know that there is a place here for the enjoyment of such bliss. Shall I enjoy it alone?’ Thinking so, he forced his mind to turn back and came down. Then he began to proclaim to one and all, to whomsoever he happened to see, ‘Listen, there is a place of bliss here. Come, let us enjoy it together.’ He thus took all the people with him and joined in the enjoyment. You see now, just as we cannot find out the cause of the third friend’s inclination to share the enjoyment with many, so also we cannot point out why the desire to do good to humanity is present in the incarnations from their very childhood.”

6. The incarnations of God have to practise self-control like ordinary men

From what has been said, some perhaps may come to the conclusion that the incarnations of God have never to fight like ourselves with the unruly senses, that perhaps they remain under their control throughout their lives and that they follow them like meek children, and thus they can easily make their minds turn from worldly sights, tastes, etc., and direct them to high ideals. We say in reply that it is not so. In this respect also they act in their human play like men. Here also they have to come out victorious from the fight and then proceed on their paths.

7. Innumerable desires of the mind

Anyone who has tried to know even a little of the nature of the human mind has seen that, beginning from the gross, there exist in it infinite strata of desires — subtle, subtler, and still subtler. If you are somehow able to go beyond one, another comes and obstructs your path; and when you conquer the latter, still another takes its place. When you have left the gross ones behind, the subtle ones come and oppose you. If you give up lust of woman, that of gold arises; if you refrain from indulging in both in a gross way, attachment to outward beauty, desire for name and fame, and the like come to you! Or, if you carefully renounce all worldly attachments, they come and occupy your heart in the guise of idleness or compassion.

8. The Master urged us to give up desires

The Master spoke of this dangerous nature of the mind and always warned us to shun the net of desires. In order to carry conviction to us he would sometimes cite examples from his own life of how he thought and acted under similar circumstances. And he narrated them repeatedly to all the women devotees as he did to the men and kindled the love of God in their hearts. The following incident will make this clear: Whoever, men or women, went to the Master, they felt in their heart of hearts attracted by his amiability, courtesy and his extraordinary love free from the slightest tinge of lust, and became anxious to have the blessing of meeting him once more whenever there was any opportunity. Not only did they themselves visit him again and again, but they also took with them all their acquaintances, so that they too might enjoy pure bliss in his company. One afternoon, one of our acquaintances went to the Master at Dakshineswar with her step-sister and a sister of the latter’s husband. They saluted him and took their seats. The Master then inquired about their welfare and started a conversation, leading to the thought that the only aim of human life should be to have a loving devotion to God. “Can one”, continued he, “easily take refuge in the divine Lord? Inscrutable are the ways of Mahamaya! Does She allow this to happen? She makes one who has no relative in the world rear up a cat and live a worldly life. One then goes round to procure milk for the cat and says, ‘What can I do? The cat does not take anything but fish and milk.’

9. Instruction to women devotees about it

“Perhaps one comes of a rich and noble family. The husband and children have all died. Those who are left behind are so many widows, lingering as if there is to be no death for them. Some parts of the house are falling to pieces, others have already given way. On the roof trees have grown and along with them a few plants of spinage. The widows gather them, make a curry and go on with their worldly life! But why? Why do they not take refuge in the divine Lord? Theirs is indeed the time for that. But that is not to be!

“Again, perhaps one loses one’s husband soon after one’s marriage and becomes a child-widow. She is now a childless grown-up widow. Why does she not call on God? But that she will not do. She becomes the guardian of her brother’s household. With her hair fastened in a knot over the crown of her head and a bunch of keys tied at the end of her cloth, she wags her finger at every one and exercises her authority over all. The whole village is afraid of her, the terror of all. And she goes about saying, ‘My brother cannot have even a meal if I am not there.’ Ah, that wretch of a woman! Why does she not look at what has happened to her — what, after all, has she gained for herself!”

Well, there was a peculiar coincidence here. The third lady of the party, who was meeting the Master that day for the first time, was one of this type of women-guardians to their brother’s household. Nobody had told the Master of it before. But in the course of conversation the Master referred to that example and began to explain the powerful influence of desires and the existence of endless strata of desires in human minds. Needless to say, these words entered into the very heart of that lady. Hearing of the examples, the sister of the lady of our acquaintance nudged her and whispered, “Sister, just fancy, that such words should come out of the Master’s lips today of all days! How will my sister-in-law take these words?” To this our acquaintance replied, “What can we do about it? It is his pleasure. Nobody tutored him.”

10. The struggle of incarnations with their subtle desires

It becomes very clear from a study of human nature that the higher a man’s mind ascends, the more intensely do the subtle desires pain him. One, who has committed thefts, uttered falsehoods or indulged in licentiousness innumerable times, is not much pained by repeating those actions; but an honest and high-minded man considers himself guilty and becomes distressed even at the thought of such things. Although incarnations of God are often seen to refrain from gross worldly enjoyments all their lives, they fight with the subtle desires of their minds to the same extent as we do and feel the pain a hundred times keener than we, when they see those desires take shape within their minds—a fact which they themselves clearly admit. How can we, therefore, regard their struggles to withdraw their senses from sights, tastes, and other objects of the senses as feigned?

11. An objection regarding human feelings in incarnations, and its refutation

Perhaps, even now some reader acquainted with the scriptures may say: “But how can I accept what you say? Don’t you see what Sankara, the paragon of monists, says in the beginning of his commentary on the Gita regarding the birth and the assumption of a human body on the part of Sri Krishna? He says there, ‘God the eternally free, eternally awake and eternally pure in nature, the controller of all living beings, devoid of birth etc., is born as it were, is possessed of a body as it were, through Maya, His own power, in order to do good to humanity. ’ When Sankara himself says so, how does your statement hold good?” Without contradicting Sankara we say that we still have reason to take our stand on. In order to understand him, we must remember a thing. Just as he regards God’s possession of name and form as apparent, so does he, consider our possession of them equally false. He regards the whole universe as a false superimposition on the reality of Brahman, and does not admit its real existence.1 Therefore, his conclusion will be understood if we take both those statements together. It is not his intention that we should regard the incarnation’s embodiment and experience of pain and pleasure as a false appearance and regard such things on our part alone as real. If we accept our own feelings and perceptions as real, we must accept those of an incarnation also as real. Therefore, what we have said before still stands.

12. This is discussed from another standpoint

This will be clearly understood if we discuss it from another standpoint. The scriptures say that two distinct conceptions of the world arise in us when we look at it from the two planes of consciousness, the non-dual and the dual. If we ascend to the former plane and try to understand to what extent the thing we call the universe is real, we get the immediate knowledge that it does not exist and has never existed. There is nothing but the reality of Brahman, ‘One only without a second’; while if we look at it from the dual plane, the world with the aggregate of various names and forms, appears to be real and eternally existent, even as it is now with us, ordinary human beings. Although possessed of bodies, the incarnations and the persons liberated in life, devoid of body-consciousness, dwell very often in the non-dual plane of consciousness. Therefore, they have the conviction, even when they live in the plane of duality, that the world is unreal like a dream Though, compared with the waking state, a dream is known as unreal, the dream of a dreamer at the time of dreaming cannot be called absolutely unreal. Similarly, compared with the state of their absorption in Brahman, the semblance of the world in the minds of the incarnations and persons liberated in life, is unreal; but when they are not in Samadhi, it cannot be regarded as absolutely unreal.

13. Different conceptions of the world when looked at from higher and higher planes of consciousness

Just as the thing called the world is seen in two different ways from the two above-mentioned planes, so also a particular person in it is seen as two different beings from those two planes of consciousness. Seen from the plane of duality, he is known as a man in worldly bondage; and seen from the infinite non-dual plane, as Brahman, eternally free and eternally pure. The infinite non-dual plane is the highest region in the realm of ideas. The human mind passes through higher and higher planes of consciousness, before it reaches the non-dual plane, which is the goal. While the mind of the aspirant ascends to those higher and higher regions, both the universe and a particular individual in it assume for him different forms, and his previous conceptions of them change in various ways: for example, to him the world then seems to be made up of ideas only, and that particular individual appears to be separate from the body and endowed with extraordinary powers, or made up of mind or of the light celestial.

14. Man attains an exalted plane of consciousness through the power of incarnations and finds them devoid of human nature

If an ordinary man approaches an incarnation of God with devotion and reverence, he ascends unknowingly to the higher and higher planes of consciousness spoken of before. Of course, he gets that power of ascension owing to the incarnation’s wonderful powers. It is therefore clear that the devout aspirant seeing the incarnations from the vantage-ground of the mental height newly scaled by him, comes to the conclusion that divinity endowed with wonderful powers is their real nature, and that they feign the assumption of human nature out of compassion for the ordinary man. As his devotion grows deeper, the devout aspirant is seen at first to have that conception about these devotees of God and afterwards about the whole world, His creation.

15. The evolutions of the minds of the incarnations of God. Jivas and incarnations of God differ in power only

It has already been said that as firm a belief in the reality of objects seen in the world of ideas in higher planes of consciousness as in that of things and persons seen in the ordinary world, is found from time to time in the lives of incarnations from their very childhood. As in course of time such visions very often repeat themselves in their lives, their faith in the existence of the world of ideas, as against that of the gross external world, grows in firmness. Ascending to the highest non-dual plane of consciousness, and getting the immediate knowledge of the reality of the “One only without a second” from which has manifested the universe of various names and forms, they at last realize perfection and reach the acme of their lives. The case is the same with persons liberated in life. But they have to make a lifelong effort to realize the truth, whereas the incarnations of God arrive at it in a very short time. Or, even if they can reach the non-dual plane in a short time, they get a very small amount of power, as compared with the incarnations, of making others ascend to that plane. Remember the Master’s teaching on this matter: “The difference between a Jiva and an incarnation consists in the manifestation of powers only.”

16. An incarnation, a god-man, is all-knowing

Enjoying the immediate knowledge of the cause of the universe, the incarnations dwell for a while in the non-dual plane and then descend to the lower planes of the mind. In the eyes of the ordinary people they still appear as human beings, but in reality they are not such; they have become supermen or god-men. After having the direct knowledge of both the universe and its cause, they feel the universe to be of a comparatively shadowy existence. The uncommon high powers of their minds then continue to manifest of themselves through them for the good of humanity. They have at that time the knowledge of the beginning, middle and end of all things, and attain, omniscience. It is then only that we, weak men, see their extraordinary character and action: their ambrosial words infuse hope in us and indicate to us that the realization of the ultimate truth or the immediate knowledge of the cause of the universe and the attainment of peace, are never possible, as long as we have outward mental modifications caused by persons and things of the external world.

17. The acquisition of the knowledge of the cause of the universe is impossible through the study of the natural sciences with the help of outward mental modifications

The reader, well versed in Western learning, will say, “Everything is spoilt now, you have only made your position weak by speaking like the frog-in-the-well of the fable. He who knows how far man’s knowledge has progressed and is daily progressing as the result of investigations into the things and persons of the external world, can never assert what you do.” To this we reply, we admit what you say about the progress of material sciences, but the ultimate truth can never be realized by you through them, for you are content to look upon the cause of the universe as insentient or as an entity inferior to, and of less consequence than yourselves. And with the progress of science, you have made the ever increasing enjoyment of sights, tastes, etc., the only aim of your lives. Therefore, even if it can be proved in future with the help of instruments that all the things of the world, sentient and insentient, owe their origin to one single insentient substance, the objects of the subjective realm will for ever remain for you unverified. Unless it is realized by you that the path of man’s liberation lies through the renunciation of the desire for enjoyment and through the acquisition of inwardness, you can never know the indivisible truth beyond time and space, and attain peace.

18. Spiritual absorption of incarnations even from their childhood

It has been said that all the incarnations were from time to time immersed in spiritual states from their childhood — e.g., from time to time Krishna made his parents and friends realize his divinity in various ways even in his childhood; while strolling in the garden, Buddha entered into ecstasy under the holy fig tree in his childhood and attracted the notice of gods and men; Jesus attracted, by his love, sylvan birds in his childhood and fed them with his own hands; Sankara while a boy charmed and assured his mother by the influence of his spiritual power and renounced the world; and in his early years Chaitanya became inspired with spiritual emotions and gave the indication that a lover of God sees the manifestation of God in all things, good or bad. There is no lack of such events in the Master’s life also. We mention a few here as examples for the reader to understand the point. These were recounted by the Master himself and we understood that it was very early in his life when for the first time he became merged in the realm of ideas. He said:

19. The Master’s spiritual inspiration at the age of six

“In that part of the country (Kamarpukur) children are given parched rice to eat, in small baskets. Those who have no such baskets in their houses, eat it from the folds of their cloth. While loitering in the fields some boys eat it from baskets and others from the folds of their cloth. I was then six or seven years old. One morning I took parched rice in a small basket and was eating it while walking on the narrow balks in the corn fields. It was the month of Jyaishtha or Ashar. In one part of the sky there appeared a beautiful black cloud charged with rain. I was looking at it while eating the rice. Very soon the cloud covered almost the whole sky, when a flock of milk-white cranes flew against that black cloud. It looked so beautiful that I became very soon absorbed in an extraordinary mood. Such a state came on me that my external consciousness was lost. I fell down and the rice got scattered near the balk. People saw this and carried me home. This was the first time that I lost external consciousness in ecstasy.”

20. The Master’s ecstasy for the second time while he was going to pay obeisance to Visalakshi

The village called Anur is situated about two miles north of Kamarpukur, the birth-place of the Master. Goddess Visalakshi of Anur is a living presence. The people of the surrounding villages, far and near, promise worship and offerings to the goddess for the fulfilment of various desires. And when they are fulfilled, they come to offer worship and sacrifices at the proper time. It needs no mention that women are comparatively more numerous amongst the visiting pilgrims. The desire for recovery from illness attracts here more people than other desires. It is even now seen that groups of village ladies of high families while coming to pay obeisance to her sing songs and tell stories about the first appearance and self-revelation of the goddess and travel across the fields without fear. Kamarpukur and neighbouring villages were more populous and prosperous during the Master’s childhood than now. This becomes evident to us when we find the deserted broken brick-built houses overgrown with jungles, dilapidated and decayed temples, the platforms for religious dances, and the like. Therefore, we infer, that the pilgrims to the goddess2 at Anur were then very numerous.

The goddess resides under the open sky, in the field. The cultivators build every year an ordinary covering of leaves to protect the place from rain and sun. There is an indication in the neighbouring heap of ruins that there was a brick-built temple at one time. Asked about it, the villagers say that the goddess has broken it down of her own accord. They narrate a story:

“The cowherd boys of the village are the dear companions of the goddess. They come there in the morning, let loose the cows and sit there; they tell stories, sing songs, and play games. They pluck wild flowers and decorate her. They take the money and the sweets offered to the goddess by pilgrims and wayfarers and enjoy themselves. She cannot do without these sweet pranks. Once a rich man of a village, having had his desire fulfilled, built that temple and installed the goddess in it. The temple priest came as usual every morning and evening to perform the worship. But he now closed the door of the temple when he went away after the worship. Those who came to pay obeisance at times other than those of worship, offered their respectful presents to the deity through the trellis of the door. Consequently, the cowherd boys could no longer collect the money, buy sweets, offer them to the goddess, eat them, and make merry. Grieved in their hearts, they prayed imploringly, ‘Mother, you have deprived us of our feast. Your money enabled us to have sweets daily. Who will now give us these things to eat?’

“The goddess,” the villagers add, “heard the complaint of the simple-hearted peasant boys, and the temple developed such a big crack that very night that the next day the priest brought out the goddess hurriedly and placed her in the open lest the image should get buried under the debris of the temple. Since then, whoever has tried to build the temple again has been apprised in dreams or otherwise by the goddess that it is not to her liking.” The villagers say that some of them were threatened and deterred from it by the goddess. She said to them in a dream, “I am all right here in the midst of the fields with the cowherd boys; if you confine me in a temple I will ruin you. I will not keep any of your family alive.”

The Master was eight years old. He had not yet been invested with the sacred thread. One day many ladies of respectable families of the village went through the fields in a group, in the aforesaid manner, to fulfil their promise of offerings to Visalakshi. Among them were one or two ladies of the Master’s own family and also Prasanna, the widowed sister of Dharmadas Laha. The Master had a high opinion of her purity, amiability, simplicity, and spirituality. He told the Holy Mother many a time to follow her advice in all matters. He also spoke of Prasanna from time to time to his women devotees. Prasanna too had a genuine affection for the Master from his childhood. She looked upon him very often as God Himself. As a simple-hearted woman, she was charmed to hear the holy stories of gods and goddesses and devotional songs from him. She would now and again affectionately ask him, “Gadai, why is it that you often seem to me to be God Himself? Yes, truly I feel so.” Gadai heard it and sweetly smiled but said nothing; or, he brought in various other topics and tried to evade the question. But Prasanna could not be evaded with those words. She said seriously with a nod, “Whatever you may say, you are not an ordinary mortal.” Prasanna built a temple and installed in it the images of Radha and Krishna and used to do everything for their daily service herself. Dramatic performances with songs and dances were held in that temple on festive occasions. But Prasanna listened to very little of the songs. Asked about it, she would say, “I have heard songs sung by Gadai and no other songs sound sweet. Gadai has spoilt my ears.” Of course, these events belonged to a much later date.

When he saw the ladies starting, the child Gadai said, “I will also go.” Although the ladies thought it would be difficult for the child to walk that distance and forbade him to accompany them, Gadai did not lend ear to what they said and started with them. At this the ladies were happy rather than annoyed, for who is not charmed by a child who is always cheerful and merry? Besides, even at that young age, Gadai had got by heart all the songs and verses about gods and goddesses. On the way, he would certainly repeat a few of them at their request. Moreover there would be no difficulty if he felt hungry while returning, for then there would be with them the offered articles of food, milk, etc. What could then be the objection? What was there to be annoyed at, if Gadai went with them? Thus the ladies thought over the matter and without hesitation started on their way with Gadai. And Gadai also went cheerfully with them, and as they expected, told stories and sang songs of gods and goddesses.

But as he was singing the glory of Visalakshi, an unexpected event happened before they had crossed the field. The child stopped singing suddenly; his body and limbs became stiff and benumbed. Streams of tears flowed incessantly from his eyes and he did not even reply to their repeated and affectionate calls as to what ailed him The ladies were apprehensive that the child, unaccustomed to walking long distances, had a sunstroke. They brought water from a neighbouring pond and poured a little on his head and sprinkled some on his eyes. But he did not regain consciousness. They were anxious and felt very helpless. What was the way out? How was the promised offering to be given and the worship of the goddess performed? And how was another’s darling, Gadai, to be taken home safe? There was not a single man in the offing to help them. What was to be done? The ladies were in a great fix and forgot all about gods and goddesses. They sat round the child and sometimes fanned him, sometimes sprinkled water on him and again called him by his name.

A short time passed this way, when Prasanna felt suddenly in her heart: “Might it not be that an ecstatic influence of the goddess has come on the simple-hearted and devoted child? Have I not heard it said that the ecstatic influence of deities comes on men, women and children who are pure and simple-hearted like him?” Prasanna expressed this thought of hers to the other ladies, and asked them to repeat with concentrated minds the name of Visalakshi instead of calling “Gadai”. The ladies had a reverence for Prasanna on account of her pure character. They easily believed her words and addressed the boy as the goddess, and said again and again, “O Mother Visalakshi, be pleased; save us, Mother. Please be compassionate to us. Take us to a safe haven, Mother.”

Wonder of wonders! No sooner had they called on the name of the goddess a few times than the face of Gadai brightened up with a sweet smile and signs of a slight external consciousness were seen. They felt reassured and were certain that an ecstatic influence of the goddess had come upon the child. They saluted him again and again, addressed him as Mother and prayed to him.3

The child regained external consciousness by degrees and was in his normal state again. But strange to say, no fatigue or weakness was observed in his body owing to the change which had come on him just a little while before. With overflowing devotion, the ladies then arrived at the place of the goddess with Gadai. They offered the worship duly, returned home and told everything to his mother. She was frightened, and offered that day a special worship to Raghuvir for the good of Gadai. She offered salutations to Visalakshi and vowed a special worship to her also.

Another event in the life of Sri Ramakrishna bears ample testimony to the fact that since childhood he ascended to high spiritual planes at times. It happened thus:

There lived a family of Suvarna-vanikas4 a little to the south-west of the Master’s ancestral house at Kamarpukur. That the Pynes were then very prosperous can be known even now from their brick-built Siva temple decorated with artistic designs. One or two of the members of this family are still living; but the buildings are all in ruins. It is said by the people of the village that the Pynes were very rich then. The house was full of people. They were rich farmers also, having extensive lands and a large number of cattle and ploughs; they had also a decent income from their trade. But the Pynes were not rich like the landlords of the village. They belonged to the upper middle class of society.

The master of the Pyne family was a very religious man. He never tried to convert his dwelling house into a brick-built one, though he was in a position to do so. He always lived in a two-storeyed house5 of mud walls. But he got bricks burnt, employed a good mason and got the temple beautifully built. His name was Rasiklal. He had no sons but had many daughters. We do not know why all the daughters, although married, always lived in their father’s house. We are told that the youngest of them reached her youth when the Master was ten or eleven years of age. All the daughters were handsome and were devoted to the gods and the Brahmins. They had much affection for the boy Gadai, their neighbour. The Master spent much of his time in that religious family during his boyhood. And even now one is told of many “sports” of the Master in the house of the Pynes while in high planes of consciousness. But we heard from the Master himself of the event which we now describe.

It seems that the devotees of Vishnu and those of Siva lived together at Kamarpukur without bearing any ill-will towards each other. Even now the annual “seventy-two-hour singing of the glories of the names of Vishnu” is, like the “Gajan” of Siva, celebrated with great pomp. But the Siva temples and other places where Siva is installed, are greater than those of Vishnu. Many of the Suvarna-vanikas are bigoted Vaishnavas. The Vaishnava faith prevailed to a great extent among the people of this class since Lord Nityananda initiated Uddharan Datta and delivered him from worldly bondage. But the Pynes of Kamarpukur were the devotees of both Siva and Vishnu. On the one hand, the aged master of the Pyne family used to take the name of Hari thrice a day as prescribed, and on the other, he installed Siva and observed the vow of Sivaratri every year. At that time a dramatic performance was arranged so that it might help devotees keep vigil at night.

21. While acting as Siva on the occasion of the Sivaratri, the Master had ecstasy for the third time

Once on the occasion of the Sivaratri, there was an arrangement of dramatic performance. The troupe belonged to the neighbouring village; they were to play a few scenes indicative of Siva’s greatness and the play was to begin about half an hour after dusk. At dusk it was learnt that the boy of the troupe who was to play Siva’s role was seriously ill. No one else could be found to play that part, The proprietor gave up all hopes and proposed with humility that the performance be postponed. What was to be done? How could the vigil be kept during the night? The elderly people sat together for consultation. They sent word to the proprietor asking him whether he could conduct the drama that night if a person could be found to play the part of Siva. A reply came in the affirmative. The village council consulted again as to who might be asked to act as Siva. Although Gadai was young, he knew many songs of Siva and he had the appropriate looks for playing the part. So it was settled that he should be requested. As regards the speaking of a few words while playing that part, it would be managed by the proprietor somehow. Gadadhar was approached and when he saw that all were eager, he agreed. The play as arranged began about half an hour after nightfall. Dharmadas Laha, the landlord of the village, was a close friend of the Master’s father. So, his eldest son Gayavishnu and the Master also became friends. When Gayavishnu came to know that his friend would act as Siva, he and his friends began to dress him accordingly. The Master put on the dress of Siva, sat in the green-room and was thinking of Siva when he was called to appear on the stage. One of his friends came to lead him there. Called by his friend, the Master rose and without looking in any direction, in a preoccupied state of mind, approached the stage with a sedate and slow step, and stood there motionless. The audience felt a vague indescribable divine emotion and were filled with joy and wonder when they saw the Master in that dress, bedecked with ashes and matted hair, with a calm and dignified gait and in a fixed and motionless posture. They felt particularly charmed to witness that heavenly, indrawn and fixed gaze and that gentle smile on his lips. As the villagers are wont to do, they suddenly cried out the name of Hari. Some of the women uttered the auspicious sound of “ulu” and some blew conchshells. Afterwards, in order to restore order in the audience, the proprietor began reciting hymns to Siva even before the noise subsided. Although the audience became a little calm, they made signs to and nudged one another whispering in low tones, “Bravo, how beautiful Gadai looks! We never thought the lad would act the part of Siva so well; it will be very good if we can secure the boy somehow and form a Yatra troupe of our own”; and so on and so forth. But Gadadhar was all the while standing in that same posture. Moreover, incessant streams of tears were flowing down his cheeks. Some time passed this way, but Gadadhar did not speak or move. Then the proprietor and one or two elderly men of the village went to the boy and saw that his hands and feet were insensitive and that he had no external consciousness at all. The noise then doubled. Some cried out, “Water, water. Sprinkle water over his eyes and face.” Some said, “Fan him”, some others, “An ecstatic influence of Siva has come on him; utter His name”, while some others murmured, “The boy has spoilt the whole amusement; it is certain that the play cannot continue now.” At last, the audience dispersed when the boy could not be brought to consciousness by any means. Some people carried Gadadhar home on their shoulders. That ecstasy, we are told, did not come to an end that night in spite of much effort, and there was much agitation in the house. He regained normal state the next day after sunrise.6

  1. ^See Sankara’s commentary on Adhyasa in the Vedanta Aphorisms.
  2. ^It is difficult to ascertain whether the name of the goddess is Vishalakshmi or Visalakshi. Vishahari is another name of the goddess Manasa met with in ancient Bengali books. This word Vishahari may easily be transformed into Vishalakshmi. Again, in describing the form of Manasa, the word Visalakshi is used in books like the Manasamangala. So, Manasa is perhaps called by the names of Vishalakshmi or Visalakshi, who accepts people’s worship here. The worship of the goddess is seen in many places. We saw a beautiful temple of that goddess on our way from Kamarpukur to Ghatal. We were convinced that there had been a very good arrangement for worship there, when we saw the music hall, the tank, the garden, etc., attached to the temple.
  3. ^Some say the women, out of an intensity of devotion, offered the boy the articles they carried for the goddess.
  4. ^A trading class, originally traders (vanikas) in gold (suvarna). — Tr
  5. ^Made of bamboo, wood, straw and earth, but no bricks.
  6. ^Some say that he was in that ecstatic state continuously for three days.