PREFACE This is in response to a great demand for ashorter biography of Sri Ramakrishna whosemessage is spreading far and wide with ever-increasing rapidity. The matter is taken mostly fromthe Life of Sri Ramakrishna, published by us, thoughother available books have been consulted and theplan is quite different. A few sayings of SriRamakrishna have been given towards the end ofthe book, so that a complete picture of the Mastercan be had, as far as possible, within a smallcompass. We hope this short volume will arouse inmany readers an interest for studying the life of SriRamakrishna in detail.Advaita Ashrama PUBLISHERMayavatiFebruary 13, 1940
CONTENTS Chapter Page I INTRODUCTORY 7 II PARENTAGE 9 III BIRTH AND BOYHOOD 14 IV IN THE TEMPLE-GARDEN OF DAKSHINESWAR 23 V THE DIVINE MOTHER 28 VI GOD-INTOXICATION 35 VII BHAIRAVI BRAHMANI AND A VAISHNAVA SAINT 46 VIII ONE WITH THE ABSOLUTE 54 IX TRAVELLING INTO OTHER FAITHS 62 X FINDING DIVINITY IN THE WIFE 69 XI PILGRIMAGE 74 XII CONTACT WITH SOME NOTABLES 79 XIII THE COMING OF THE DEVOTEES 85 XIV MONASTIC DISCIPLES 91 XV WOMEN DEVOTEES 97 XVI LAST DAYS 100 XVII END OF THE DRAMA 107XVIII AFTER THE PASSING 117 SOME SAYINGS 122
I INTRODUCTORY The history of a nation is not made in a day. Itis the result of centuries of silent working of mani-fold creative forces. It is in this way that the dis-tinctive culture of a nation is formed. The historyof India proves that a nation which stands loyal toits cultural traditions can never die. Religion is the backbone of Indian nationallife. From the hoary past India has passed throughnumberless vicissitudes. That she has survived themis due to the fact that the nation has remained trueto its spiritual instinct. At every time of spiritualcrisis in Indian national life there has been born asaint or a prophet who has saved the nation fromthe impending danger. Sri Krishna, Buddha,Shankara, Nanak, Chaitanya—each fulfilled a greatdemand of the age in which he was born. The nineteenth century saw India faced witha great crisis. With the British conquest of Indiacame the invasion of Western civilization upon thecountry. Awed by the material power of theconquering nation, Indians hailed everything
8 SRI RAMAKRISHNAWestern as a thing to be welcomed. In the mean-while Christianity—one of the greatest proselytiz-ing religions of the world—began to work silentlyfor a thorough cultural conquest of the land. At this psychological moment appeared SriRamakrishna, the embodiment of the spirit ofIndia’s culture and religion. He opened the eyes ofthe Indians to the beauty, grandeur, and strengthof Hinduism at a time when their faith in it hadgreatly slackened. His life stood as a bulwarkagainst those alien forces which attempted toundermine the spirit of Indian civilization. Sri Ramakrishna was born not only to saveHinduism from a dire calamity, but also, as it were,to resuscitate all faiths. As a result of his havingpractised other religions besides his own anddirectly experiencing all to be true, any manbelonging to any religion will find his faith in hisown system strengthened. As such Sri Rama-krishna’s life is sure to stem the tide of the generaldisbelief in religion all the world over. Already theinfluence of his spiritual realizations has travelledabroad. Who will doubt that it will gather strengthas years roll on? For Sri Ramakrishna representednot only Hinduism but all faiths.
II PARENTAGE Towards the middle of the eighteenth centurythere lived in the village of Derepore in the Districtof Hooghly, Bengal, a Brahmin family of whichManik Ram Chattopadhyaya was the head. He wasa pious and kind-hearted man. With fifty acres ofland at his disposal, he was able to meet the needsof his family as also to lend a helping hand to thepoor and distressed of the village in times ofcalamity. In about 1775 he was blessed with a sonwho was named Khudiram. Two other sons and adaughter were also subsequently born to him. Afterthe death of Manik Ram, the entire charge of thefamily devolved on his eldest son, Khudiram, who,trained in the family traditions of an orthodoxhouse, was eminently fitted to attend to the mani-fold religious and secular duties of the household.Both Khudiram and his wife, Srimati Chandramani,were exceptionally devoted to their tutelary deitySri Ramachandra, and soon earned the love,respect, and admiration of the villagers for theircharity, truthfulness, and kindness.
10 SRI RAMAKRISHNA In 1814 an incident of the great importanceoccurred in the life of Khudiram. He was calledupon by the local zamindar to give false evidencein support of a case which the latter had broughtagainst one of his tenants. But so fearless wasKhudiram’s integrity that he was prepared to stakehis all rather than deviate an inch from the path oftruth and rectitude. His stout refusal to comply withthe request of the landlord entailed on him in itsturn a heavy persecution which ultimately led himto leave his ancestral house for good. Penniless andhomeless, Khudiram bade adieu to Derepore andmade his new home in a neighbouring villagenamed Kamarpukur, where, through thebenevolence of one of his friends, he got half anacre of very fertile land, which supplied the simpleneeds of the family. The village of Kamarpukur is situated in thewestern extremity of the District of Hooghly, onthe road leading to the holy place of Puri orJagannath. The village was highly prosperous andnoted for its manifold arts and crafts. Theflourishing condition of the place is even nowtestified to by the debris of its old buildings andthe ruins of great walls and temples as also by theexistence of some large tanks. Khudiram began hislife anew in the midst of the quiet and peacefulsurroundings of this village, and soon attracted thenotice and gained the respect of his neighbours.
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 11One day, while returning from a neighbouringvillage, Khudiram strangely came into possessionof the emblem of his tutelary deity Raghuvir in apaddy field. He took it home and began to worshipit as his own Ishta. Both Khudiram and Chandramade a profound impression upon the villagers bytheir exemplary life and unswerving spirit ofdevotion to their beloved deity as also by theiroverflowing kindness to all who came to their doorfor help and succour. Thus though the home ofKhudiram never smiled in affluence, it was a sourceof great solace to many an aching heart. After six years’ residence in Kamarpukur,Khudiram got his son and daughter married. Ram-kumar, which was the name of the son, in the mean-while had become quite proficient in Hindu lore,and was able to relieve, to a certain extent, hisfather ’s family burden by earning something. SoKhudiram had now more time at his disposal todevote himself to religious practices. In the year1824 he went on foot on a pilgrimage toRameshwaram in South India, which lasted abouta year. Twelve months later, in 1826, his wifeChandra gave birth to her second son, who wasnamed Rameshwar. About eleven years later, in1835, Khudiram went on another pilgrimage—thistime to Gaya. Here, after the performance of thesacred rites, he had a strange vision at night. Hedreamt that he was in the temple of Vishnu, where
12 SRI RAMAKRISHNAhis forefathers were feasting on the sacred offeringshe had made. Suddenly a flood of celestial lightfilled the holy precincts of the shrine, and the spiritsof the departed fell on their kness to pay homage toa Divine Presence seated on a throne. The effulgentOne beckoned to Khudiram, who, coming near,prostrated himself before Him and heard theluminous Person saying, ‘I am well pleased at yoursincere devotion. I shall be born in your cottageand accept you as my father.’ Khudiram awoke withhis heart thrilled with joy. He understood that aDivine Being would bless his house very soon. About the same time Chandra Devi was alsohaving strange visions at Kamarpukur. One nightshe dreamt that a luminous person exactly like herhusband was lying by her side. Another day, whilestanding with Dhani (a village blacksmith woman)before the Shiva temple adjacent to her house,Chandra saw a bright beam of divine effulgencedart from the image of Lord Shiva and enter her.Chandra was overpowered, and fell unconsciouson the ground. Dhani nursed her back toconsciousness, but from that time Chandra beganto feel as if she were quick with child. OnKhudiram’s return to Kamarpukur, Chandranarrated this event to her husband with hercharacteristic candour and simplicity. ButKhudiram, who had already had the strange visionat Gaya, was now completely convinced that they
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 13were soon to be blessed with a divine child. Headvised her not to speak of her visions to any one.Chandra was greatly consoled, and passed her daysin complete resignation to the will of Raghuvir.
III BIRTH AND BOYHOOD The blessed hour for which Khudiram andChandra were anxiously waiting at last drew near.In the early hours of the morning of February 18,1836, Chandra gave birth to a boy whom the worldwas to know afterwards by the name of SriRamakrishna. Learned astrologers predicted a greatfuture for the child, and Khudiram was overjoyedthat the prospective greatness of his son confirmedhis previous vision and the experience of Chandra.He named him Gadadhar in memory of hiswonderful dream at Gaya. Since his very birth Gadadhar cast a spell offascination not only over his parents and relativesbut also over his neighbours, who could not helppaying visit to Khudiram’s house whenever pos-sible just to have a look at ‘Gadai’—as he was lov-ingly called. The years rolled on, and Gadadhar was nowfive years old. He began to show wonderfulintelligence and memory even at this early age. Theprecocious boy learnt by heart the names of his
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 15ancestors, the hymns to various gods andgoddesses, and tales from the great national epics.As he grew to be very restless, Khudiram sent himto the village school. At school Gadadhar made fairprogress, but he showed great distaste formathematics. He directed all his attention to thestudy of the lives and characters of spiritual heroes.Constant study of those subjects often made himforgetful of the world and threw him into deepmeditation. As he grew older, he began to havetrances whenever his religious feelings wereroused. Soon it was found that not only religioussubjects but beautiful scenery or some touchingincident was also sufficient to make him losehimself. Once an occurrence of this kind causedgreat anxiety to his parents and relatives. SriRamakrishna in later years narrated this incidentto his devotees in the following way: ‘In that part of the country (that is, Kamar-pukur) the boys are given puffed rice for snack.This they carry in small wicker baskets, or, if theyare too poor, in a corner of their cloth. Then they goout for play on the roads or in the fields. One dayin June or July, when I was six or seven years old, Iwas walking along a narrow path separating paddyfields, eating some of the puffed rice which I wascarrying in a basket. Looking up at the sky I saw abeautiful sombre thunder cloud. As it spreadrapidly enveloping the whole sky, a flock of snow-
16 SRI RAMAKRISHNAwhite cranes flew overhead across it. It presentedsuch a beautiful contrast that my mind wanderedto far-off regions. Lost to outward sense, I fell down,and the puffed rice was scattered in all directions.Some people found me in that plight and carriedme home in their arms. That was the first time Icompletely lost consciousness in ecstasy.’ But thiswas not the only time he had such an experience.On two other occasions also in his boyhood—oncewhile accompanying a group of elderly ladies ofthe village who were going for the worship of adeity in a neighbouring village, and again, whileplaying the role of Shiva in the village dramaticperformance on a Shivaratri night—the boyGadadhar passed into deep trance, and it was withgreat difficulty that he could be brought back tothe plane of normal consciousness. In the year 1843 Khudiram died, and the entireburden of the family fell upon the shoulders ofRamkumar, his eldest son. The death of Khudirambrought a great change in the mind of Gadadhar,who now began to feel poignantly the loss of hisaffectionate father as also the transitoriness ofearthly life. Though very young, he began tofrequent the neighbouring mango-grove or thecremation ground in the vicinity and pass longhours there absorbed in thought. But he did notforget his duty to his loving mother. He becameless exacting in his importunities, and tried every
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 17means to lessen the burden of his mother ’s grief,and to infuse into her melancholy life whateverjoy and consolation he could. Gadadhar soon found a new source ofpleasure in the company of wandering monks whoused to stay for a day or two in the rest-house builtby the neighbouring Laha family for wayfarers. Oneday Chandra was startled to find her dear boyappear before her with his whole body smearedwith ashes and with pieces of cloth put on like awandering holy man. Association with theseitinerant monks and listening to their readingsfrom the scriptures inclined the naturally emotionalmind of the boy more and more to meditation andkindled in him the latent spirit of dispassion for allworldly concerns. Gadadhar was now nine, and it was time toinvest him with the holy thread. A curious incidenthappened in this connection. It is the traditionalcustom in a Brahmin family that just after theinvestiture, the newly initiated should accept hisfirst alms from some relative or at least from aBrahmin of the same social standing. But Dhani,the blacksmith woman who had tended the childin the lying-in room, had long ago prayed toGadadhar to allow her the privilege of giving himthe first Bhiksha (alms), and the boy, moved by hergenuine love, had agreed. After the investitureceremony was over, Gadadhar, in spite of the
18 SRI RAMAKRISHNArepeated objections of other members of the house,kept his promise and accepted his first alms fromthis Shudra woman in contravention of the time-honoured custom of his Brahmin family. But theevent, however trifling, is not without significance.This unyielding love of truth and rising abovesocial convention at this tender age reflected in nosmall measure Gadadhar ’s latent spiritualpotentiality and foresight and disclosed the realstuff the boy was made of. It showed that true loveand devotion were more to him than socialrestrictions. Gadadhar’s inborn qualities of head and heartbecame manifest on more than one occasion at thistime. Shortly after the thread ceremony an incidentoccurred bringing him for the first time before thevillagers as a teacher. He was then only ten yearsold. One day he was listening with rapt attentionto an animated discussion held by certain scholarson some subtle point in the house of the localzamindar. The boy, understanding their difficultyin arriving at the proper solution, made asuggestion to one of the Pandits and asked whethersuch might not be the answer. The solution ofGadadhar was so appropriate and pertinent to thepoint under discussion that the scholars wereamazed at such mental maturity in one so young. But from now on the boys’ aversion for schoolincreased. He often played truant in the company
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 19of other boys of the school, and passed a greatportion of the day in various sports. Gadadhartrained a number of young boys in the histrionicart and held performances in the neighbouringmango orchard. Gadadhar’s favourite themes werethe various incidents in the life of Sri Krishna. Theboy, with his fair complexion and flowing hair, agarland about his neck and a flute to his lips, wouldoften play the part of Sri Krishna. Overwhelmedwith the emotion associated with these themes, hewould fall into frequent trances. At times the wholemango-grove would ring with the loud Sankirtanaswhich the boys sang in chorus. Thus, deeplyabsorbed in these divine sports, Gadadhar lost alltaste for school education and engaged himselfmore and more in the study of the epics, Puranas,and other sacred books, which gave him amplespiritual stimulus. But this other-worldly attitudeof the boy caused a great deal of anxiety to his elderbrothers. Soon another misfortune overtook the family.The wife of Ramkumar died, leaving an infant sonbehind to be taken care of by the aged grandmother.At this time Ramkumar’s income also unexpectedlydiminished, and being forced into debt, he went toCalcutta and opened a Tol (school for the study ofSanskrit) at Jhamapukur in the central part of thecity to earn some money to meet the financial needsof the family. The management of the house
20 SRI RAMAKRISHNAnaturally fell on Rameshwar. But as before,Gadadhar was unmindful of his school studies. Hespent a great portion of his time in worshippingRaghuvir or in reading passages from the holybooks, and in helping his aged mother in herdomestic duties. As days rolled on, his aversion toacademic education became more pronounced.And soon the idea dawned on him that he wasdestined to fulfil some great mission in life, thoughhe did not know what. The realization of God wasto him the only purpose worthy of consideration.Much as he would have liked to have taken up thebegging bowl and renounced everything for theLord’s sake, the thought of the plight of hisunprovided mother and brothers made him forgohis desire. In the struggle between the two ideas hewas powerless to decide, and could do nothingbut resign himself to the guidance of Raghuvir, fullybelieving that He would show him the way out ofthis distressing situation. Meanwhile, Ramkumar began to experiencegreat difficulty in managing alone all his duties inCalcutta. On one of his visits to Kamarpukur henoticed Gadadhar ’s peculiar indifference towardsschool, and when he learned that Gadadhar hadgiven up his friends and playmates, he decided totake him to Calcutta, where he might superviseGadadhar ’s studies and have him help in hismanifold works. Gadadhar readily agreed to this
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 21proposal, and on an auspicious day set out forCalcutta with the blessings of Raghuvir and hismother. When Gadadhar came to Calcutta, he wasentrusted with the duties of a priest, which he wasglad to discharge. Here too by his simplicity,integrity of character, and winning manners hesoon formed a circle of friends and admirers, allbelonging to respectable families. But when, aftersome months, Gadadhar still showed no interestin his studies, Ramkumar naturally got annoyed,and one day took the boy aside and admonishedhim for his apathy towards education and hisgeneral indifference. ‘Brother, what shall I do witha mere bread-winning education?’—was thespirited reply of the boy. ‘I would rather acquirethat wisdom which will illumine my heart andgetting which one is satisfied for ever.’ Ramkumarcould hardly understand the full import of thislaconic answer, as he was quite ignorant of thephenomenal mental transformation of this won-derful boy, who now more than ever, realized thathe was born for purposes different from those ofthe ordinary run of men. So Ramkumar waspuzzled to hear the straight and pointed reply fromhis youngest brother. All his arguments to prevailupon the boy to pursue his studies with zeal andenthusiasm proved fruitless. He had therefore noalternative but to leave everything to the will of
22 SRI RAMAKRISHNARaghuvir, until a new event, with far-reachingconsequences in the life of young Gadadhar, cameto pass in a most unexpected manner.
IV IN THE TEMPLE-GARDEN OF DAKSHINESWAR At that time there was living in Calcutta a richwidow of great piety named Rani Rasmani. In 1847she spent a fortune to found a temple to the greatgoddess Kali on the eastern bank of the Ganga atDakshineswar, which is four miles to the north ofCalcutta. In the midst of a rectangular pavedcourtyard stood the vast temple of Kali, thesovereign Deity, and another dedicated to Krishnaand Radha. Both were connected by an open terraceabove the Ganga between a double row of twelveShiva temples. In addition to the temples there werea spacious music hall, rooms for the temple-staff,two ‘concert-rooms’, and quarters for the Rani’sfamily. There was, besides, a beautiful garden withtwo tanks and a large banyan tree which played agreat part in Sri Ramakrishna’s life. The date for the installation of the image ofthe goddess Kali was fixed for May 31, 1855. TheRani was eager to spend any amount to make thisfunction a splendid success; but, unfortunately, she
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 25being a Shudra by caste, no orthodox Brahmin couldbe procured to officiate as her priest or partake ofthe sacramental food in her temple; for, accordingto the orthodox custom of the time, it wasderogatory to a Brahmin to worship for a Shudraor to accept gifts from such. The Rani made franticefforts to collect the opinions of renowned Panditsin her favour on this matter, but none of the answerswere acceptable, except that which came from theTol of Jhamapukur. Ramkumar informed the Ranithat if she made a gift of the Kali temple to a Brah-min, endowing it with adequate funds for mainte-nance, it would be quite in keeping with theinjunctions of the scriptures, and no Brahminwould be considered degraded by acting as a priestor partaking of the food offered there. The solutioncame to the Rani as a godsend in the hours of hergreatest mental agony and despair, and she even-tually succeeded in getting Ramkumar himself asthe priest in the temple of the goddess Kali. Thetemple was consecrated with great pomp to theunbounded joy and relief of the pious-hearted Rani.After a few days, Gadadhar also began to live withhis brother in the sacred temple-garden ofDakshineswar, in the calm and congenial atmo-sphere where he felt quite at home and foundgreater opportunities to pursue his spiritual prac-tices.
26 SRI RAMAKRISHNA It was at this time that Hriday, a young mandestined to be a close companion of Sri Rama-krishna for twenty-five years and a faithfulattendant during the stormy days of his Sadhanaappeared on the scene. He was the nephew ofGadadhar. His presence at Dakshineswar delightedGadadhar’s heart beyond measure as he found inhim a trustworthy associate to whom he could openhis heart in moments of trouble and difficulty. Soon the eyes of Mathuranath Biswas, the son-in-law of Rani Rasmani, fell on young Gadadhar,whom he persuaded to take charge of decoratingthe image of Kali with flowers, leaves and sandalpaste in the morning, and costly jewellery andclothes in the evening. Thus entrusted with workquite suitable to his temperament, Gadadhar gavehimself heart and soul to the task, and in leisurehours entertained the goddess with devotionalsongs which kept everybody enthralled andspellbound. Shortly after his appointment in the Kalitemple, an incident occurred which enhanced theworth of Sri Ramakrishna in the eyes of RaniRasmani and Mathur. One day the priest of theRadha-kanta temple, while taking the image ofKrishna to the retiring room, suddenly slipped, andone leg of the image was broken. This gave rise to agreat commotion in the temple, and the priest wassummarily dismissed from service for his
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 27carelessness. The Pandits, who were called to advisethe Rani as to what should be done under thecircumstances, unanimously came to the decisionthat the image should be thrown into the Gangaand a new one installed in its place, as it wascontrary to the scriptures to worship the Lord in abroken image. This decision did not appeal to thepious Rani, who, at the suggestion of Mathur,sought the opinion of Sri Ramakrishna on thematter. After hearing the whole story, he exclaimedin an exalted mood, ‘Their solution is ridiculous. Ifa son-in-law of the Rani fractured his leg, wouldshe discard him and put another in his stead?Would she not rather arrange for his treatment?Why not do the same thing here? Let the image berepaired and worshipped as before.’ The Panditswere puzzled to learn the ruling of the young priest.It did not satisfy the scholars at first, but they finallyhad to accept it. The joy of the Rani knew nobounds. Sri Ramakrishna, who was an adept inmodelling, undertook to repair the limb at therequest of the Rani and did it so adroitly that evencareful scrutiny did not reveal where the break hadbeen. Sri Ramakrishna was now made the priest ofthe Radha-kanta temple, and Hriday wasappointed to assist Ramkumar in dressing anddecorating the image of Kali.
V THE DIVINE MOTHER Sri Ramakrishna adapted himself to his newstation and forgot everything else. Ramkumar, beingtroubled by Sri Ramakrishna’s love for solitude andgrowing indifference to the world, resolved to teachhim the elaborate procedure of the worship of Kali,so that, later, he might assume the task quiteefficiently. As it is not considered advisable toundertake the worship of Shakti, or Kali, withoutbeing properly initiated, Sri Ramakrishna, at theadvice of his elder brother, got the necessaryinitiation from a Brahmin in Calcutta namedKenaram Bhattacharya who was noted for hisdevotion and experience. It is said that as soon as thesacred Mantra was uttered in his ears, SriRamakrishna, overwhelmed with religious fervour,gave a shout and plunged into deep concentration,which greatly astonished the Guru. From this time forward Ramakumar asked hisbrother now and then to take over the worship ofthe Divine Mother, while he himself worshippedat the altar of Radha-kanta instead. Ramkumar wasnow aged and decided to go home for a change. Sri
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 29Ramakrishna was therefore permanently put incharge of the worship of Kali. But Ramkumar wasnot destined to see his home again for he breathedhis last at a place a few miles north of Calcutta. Hisdeath came to the young priest as a great shock anda revelation. It occurred at a time when he was fastrealizing the transitoriness of the world, and all hisenergies were now given to the search for somethingthat was real and imperishable. While those abouthim were wasting time in all sorts of frivolity, hewas burning day and night with a consuming thirstfor God. To Sri Ramakrishna the image of Kali was notan inert stone but the Mother Herself. The Goddesswears a gorgeous Varanasi Sari and is decorated withprecious ornaments from head to foot. From Herneck hangs a garland of skulls and round Her waista girdle of human arms—made of gold. In Her lowerleft hand She holds a decapitated human head, alsomade of gold, and in the upper one a sword. WithHer lower right hand She offers boons to Herdevotees; with the upper one is symbolized, ‘Fearnothing’. The skulls and the sword represent Herterrible aspect, and Her right hands—offering boonsand assuring fearlessness—the benignant aspect.She is both terrible and sweet—like Nature alter-nately destroying and creating. This is the Deitywhom Sri Ramakrishna worshipped, the Preserveras well as the Destroyer. But to him She was ever the
30 SRI RAMAKRISHNAaffectionate Mother—the Repository of allblessedness and power—sweet, tender, and full ofmotherly solicitude, the Mother who with lovingcare protects Her devotees from harm. To Her heoffered his whole-souled devotion, regarding Heras the only true guide in darkness and confusion. From now on he began to shun the company ofthe worldly people. At night, when everybody wasasleep, he would arise and repair to the adjoiningdense jungle, returning after day-break, with eyesswollen as though with much weeping, or showingthe effects of prolonged meditation. The realizationof God became the one absorbing passion of theyoung aspirant. He would shed profuse tears like achild at being denied the vision of the Mother andwould burst out crying, ‘O Mother! where art Thou?Reveal Thyself to me. Ramprasad saw Thee and ob-tained Thy divine grace. Am I a wretch that Thoudost not come to me? Pleasure, wealth, friends,enjoyments—I do not want any of these. I only desireto see Thee, Mother.’ When the peal of evening bellsin the temple announced the close of the day, hewould grow disconsolate and cry in the agony of hisheart, ‘ nother day is spent in vain, Mother, for I have Anot seen Thee! Another day of this short life haspassed, and I have not realized the Truth!’ Owing to this intensity of religious fervourhe could no longer conduct the worship regularly.He would sit before the image like a statue. While
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 31meditating in the course of worship, he would puta flower on his head and sit silent for a couple ofhours, or while offering the food he would gaze atthe Mother as if She were actually partaking of it.He was ridiculed at first for such strange acts, buthis steady devotion ended by commanding respectand admiration, though some still regarded him asunbalanced. Mathur was charmed to see the God-intoxication of the young priest and his ecstaticabsorption in the divine service. Sri Ramakrishnawas perfectly indifferent to what people thought,and directed all his energies to the realization ofthe goal he had set for himself. At last, when he wasat the limit of physical endurance, the veil waslifted, and he was blessed with the vision of theDivine Mother. Sri Ramakrishna described his firstexperience to his disciples afterwards as follows: ‘I was then suffering from excruciating pain,because I had not been blessed with a vision of theMother. I felt as if my heart were being wrung like awet towel. I was overpowered by a great restlessnessand a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her inthis life. I could not bear the separation any longer;life did not seem worth living. Suddenly my eyes fellon the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple.Determined to put an end to my life, I jumped up likea madman and seized it, when suddenly the blessedMother revealed Herself to me, and I fell unconsciouson the floor. What exactly happened after that, or how
32 SRI RAMAKRISHNAthat day or the next passed, I do not know, but withinme there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss alto-gether new, and I felt the presence of the DivineMother.’ Since then, his constant prayer was to have arepetition of this divine vision. He would cry sobitterly that people gathered about him to watch. ‘Iscarcely realized their presence,’ the Masterafterwards said, ‘they looked more like shadows orpainted pictures than real objects, and I did not feelthe least abashed at displaying my feelings beforethem. But the moment I lost outward consciousnessin a paroxysm of pain at separation from the Mother,I would find Her sanding before me in her matchlessradiant form, granting boons to her devotees andbidding them be of good cheer! I used to see Hersmiling, talking, consoling, or teaching me in variousways.’ From this time onward his attitude towardsthe Mother changed. He became like a child,confident that his inability to see Her whenever hewished was because She, in a playful mood waspurposely hiding Herself. His self-surrender wasnow complete. ‘O Mother,’ he would pray day andnight, ‘I have taken refuge in Thee; teach me whatto do or say. Thy will is paramount everywhereand is for the benefit of Thy children. Merge myego in Thy will and make me Thy instrument.’ Ashis realization deepened, the vision of the Mother
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 33became luminous. Formerly he regarded the stoneimage of Kali as possessed of consciousness, nowthe image disappeared, and in its stead there stoodthe Living Mother Herself, smiling and blessinghim. ‘I actually felt Her breath on my hand,’ theMaster used to say later. ‘At night when the roomwas lighted, I never saw Her divine form cast anyshadow on the walls, even though I looked closely.From my own room I could hear Her going to theupper storey of the temple, with the delight of agirl, Her anklets jingling. To see if I were notmistaken, I would follow and find Her standingwith flowing hair on the balcony of the first floor,looking either at Calcutta or out over the Ganga.’ Hriday was able to give many interesting detailsof these days. He used to say: ‘Whenever one enteredthe temple, a thrill would be felt, specially when myuncle was worshipping, as though there were aliving Presence there. I could never resist thetemptation of watching him. His strange manner ofworship filled me with wonder and reverence; atthe same time I often questioned his sanity, for hisactions were contrary to the injunctions of theShastras (scriptures). I was much afraid of what RaniRasmani and Mathur Babu would do if the news ofhis conduct reached them.’ Of Sri Ramakrishna’smethod of worship, he would say: ‘I noticed thatmy uncle, taking flowers and Bel leaves in his handwould touch his own head, chest, in fact, the whole
34 SRI RAMAKRISHNAbody, including the feet, and then offer them at thefeet of Kali. At other times, with eyes and chestflushed, he would move like a drunkard withtottering steps from his seat to the throne of thegoddess, touch her chin as a sign of endearment,and begin to sing, talk, joke, or laugh, or even dance,taking the image by the hand!! Sometimes he wouldapproach the throne with a morsel of food in hishand and putting it to Her lips, entreat Her toeat.…Again, at the time of worship he would becomeso deeply absorbed in meditation that there wouldbe no sign of external consciousness. Every morning,as he picked the flowers for the Divine Mother ’sgarlands, I saw him speaking to somebody, orloughing, or indulging in merriment! He neverclosed his eyes during the night; whenever I awokeI found him in an exalted mood, talking to someone, singing, or sitting in deep meditation wherethe Panchavati1 is now.’ 1 Meaning a cluster of the five sacred trees, namely,Ashwattha, Bel, Amalaka, Ashoka, and Vata or Banyan.Such a place is considered very holy and helpful tomeditation.
VI GOD-INTOXICATION All these but confirmed the belief of the templeofficials that Sri Ramakrishna must be mad. So theysent a detailed report about these things to Mathurat Calcutta. Soon after this, Mathur paid a surprisevisit to the temple, and he was struck with wonderat what he saw. It did not take Mathur long to decidethat Sri Ramakrishna’s method of worship was theoutcome of a genuine and profound love for theDivine Mother, the like of which is seldom encoun-tered. Convinced that the object of building andmaintaining the temple had been attained, hereturned to his home and sent an order the nextday to the temple Superintendent that the youngpriest was to have complete freedom to worship inany way he chose, and that he was not to beinterfered with. Rani Rasmani was greatly attracted to SriRamakrishna, for she felt that his strange behaviourbespoke the fullness of devotion rather than anymental derangement. One day she came toDakshineswar and after bathing in the Ganga
36 SRI RAMAKRISHNAentered the temple to worship and meditate. Shelater requested Sri Ramakrishna to sing some songsto the Mother. Slowly the music arose from the heartof the devotee; like a fountain of heavenly bliss itbathed his whole being with ecstasy. After a time,the Rani began thinking of some important lawsuit.Noticing her inattentiveness, Sri Ramakrishna gaveher a sharp rebuke. At this the Rani’s heart wasfilled with remorse that worldly thoughts could soinfluence her mind as to turn it away from thedivine bliss which the young priest was lavishlyshowering on her. Rasmani retired to her room.When her attendants complained of SriRamakrishna’s insolence towards her, sheanswered, ‘You do not understand; the DivineMother Herself punished me and thus illuminedmy heart.’ This incident, however, led Mathur to suspectthat there might be some nervous trouble in SriRamakrishna. So he arranged for his treatment byan expert physician, Kaviraj Ganga Prasad Sen ofCalcutta. The treatment, though continued for sometime, brought no relief. Mathur tried to persuadeSri Ramakrishna to keep his feelings withinbounds and to regulate his life in accordance withfixed standards. As Mathur came in closer touchwith Sri Ramakrishna and saw more of the Master,he inwardly began to look up to him as a Guru.The relation between the two soon grew to be one
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 37of mutual trust and confidence. Sri Ramakrishnawould candidly tell of his extraordinary visions toMathur and also ask his opinion. Mathur, findingin him a happy combination of prophetic wisdomwith the innocence of a child, concluded that SriRamakrishna’s body was to be his special care, justas in the subtle spiritual domain he himself wasprotected and guided by the Master. Mathurcounted it a rare privilege to be of the least serviceto the Master, and served him for fourteen yearswith uncommon zeal and devotion. Sri Ramakrishna had a catholic spirit from thevery beginning. He made no distinction betweenone form of God and another. The realization ofone aspect of the Reality inspired him to take upanother and to follow it with unflinching devotiontill that aspect of Truth revealed itself. He now felta strong urge to realize Sri Rama, who is regardedas an Incarnation of the Lord Himself. He thereforetook upon himself the task of reproducing asfaithfully as possible the attitude of Hanumantowards Rama—that of the faithful servant towardsthe master. At the end of this Sadhana (spiritualendeavour) he had a wonderful vision, soexceedingly vivid and so different from any of hisprevious ones that it remained long in his memory.One day while he was seated in the Panchavati, aluminous female figure of exquisite grace slowly
38 SRI RAMAKRISHNAadvanced from the north towards him, lookinggraciously on him all the while. The idea soonflashed within him that she must be Sita whosewhole life had been centred in Rama. She suddenlyentered into Sri Ramakrishna’s body with thesignificant remark that she bequeathed the smileon her lips unto him. This was the first vision SriRamakrishna had with eyes wide open, withoutmeditating on anything. Ultimately this Sadhanawas crowned with the realization of Rama as anIncarnation of God. About this time one evening Sri Ramakrishnafelt an irritating sensation in his palate, which aftera minute began to bleed. He described the incidentas follows: ‘The colour of the blood was dark likethe juice of bean leaves. It was so thick that only alittle portion fell to the ground and the rest clottedand hung like a string from my teeth.…I was sorelyperplexed. Fortunately, at that time there wasstaying in the Kali temple a Sadhu (holy man) who,hearing of the incident, came and examined thecolour of the blood and the place from which itcame. He said, “Thank God! There is no cause foranxiety. This haemorrhage has done you great good.I see you were practising Yoga. This opened yourSushumna canal and a quantity of blood wasrushing to the head. It is excellent that this blood,instead of reaching the brain, made a passage throughthe palate; or you would have entered the Jada
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 39Samadhi (the highest form of concentration men-tioned in the Yoga-Shastra) from which you couldnever again have come down to the plane of ordi-nary consciousness. It must be that the Divine Motherhas some great mission to be done through you, andShe has saved your body.” I was reassured by hiswords and was at peace.’ One day Haladhari (Sri Ramakrishna’s cousinwho acted as priest of the Kali temple for some time)cast aspersions on the truth of Sri Ramakrishna’sGod-visions and said, on the authority of thescriptures, that God is beyond the reach of thehuman mind. That gave rise to grave doubts in themind of Sri Ramakrishna. He thus described hisfeelings and the subsequent experience to one ofhis disciples, Swami Premananda: ‘…With sobs Iprayed to the Mother, “How couldst Thou havethe heart to deceive me like that because I was afool?” A stream of tears flowed from my eyes.Shortly after, I saw something like a volume of mistrising from the floor and filling the space beforeme. In the midst of it appeared a fair face, calm andhighly expressive, with a flowing beard. Fixing itssteady gaze upon me the figure solemnly said,“Well, remain on the threshold of relative con-sciousness!” Repeating this thrice the face gentlydisappeared in the mist, which also dissolved. Thevision reassured me.’ Stories travelled to the people at Kamarpukur
40 SRI RAMAKRISHNAthat Sri Ramakrishna had gone completely mad.Naturally this news made his mother Chandra aswell as Rameshwar extremely anxious. Chandrarepeatedly wrote to Dakshineswar asking her God-intoxicated son to come to Kamarpukur, whereunder her maternal care and in the salubriousclimate of the country his strained nerves might besoothed and his health regained. Sri Ramakrishnaobeyed the call and found himself once again inthe midst of the calm and peaceful surroundingsof his native village. But even here, notwithstand-ing all the tender care of the affectionate motherand other relations, Sri Ramakrishna was at timesoverwhelmed with the same feelings as those ofthe Dakshineswar days when he was struggling toobtain a vision of the Divine Mother. There weretwo cremation grounds at Kamarpukur. Sri Rama-krishna intended to practise stern Tapasya(austerity); and choosing one of those places forthis purpose, he began to spend the whole day anda great part of every night there in worship andmeditation. However, a few months’ stay atKamarpukur did him much good, and he soonrecovered his normal state of mind to the great reliefand joy of his aged mother. Sri Ramakrishna was now twenty-three yearsof age, and he was as indifferent as ever to allworldly concerns. His mother and brother wantedto get him married so as to interest him in domestic
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 41affairs, and began to search for a suitable bride. Thesearch was vigorously made but with no definiteresult. Sri Ramakrishna, finding his mother andbrother in a dejected state, said to them in a semi-conscious mood: ‘It is useless to try here and there.Go to Jayrambati (a village three miles to thenorthwest of Kamarpukur) and there you will findthe bride providentially reserved for me in thehouse of Ram Chandra Mukhopadhyaya.’ Hisprophetic words proved true to the letter. A girlwas found there who was five years and a fewmonths old. But Chandra Devi agreed to acceptthe girl as no other bride was available, and thehappy nuptial ceremony was performed withoutdelay. After his marriage Sri Ramakrishna stayed atKamarpukur for about a year and a half, as ChandraDevi would not allow him to leave her until hewas completely cured. Then taking leave of hismother and brother Sri Ramakrishna returned toDakshineswar. On his return to Dakshineswar, Sri Rama-krishna resumed his office, but after a few days hewas seized anew with the madness of God-realization. Mathur placed him again under thetreatment of Kaviraj Ganga Prasad Sen, but withno result. Another famous physician was called in,whose diagnosis proved to be correct. He declaredthat it was a case of divine madness—the after-effectof some Yogic practices, which no medicine could
42 SRI RAMAKRISHNAcure. Referring to this period of his life Sri Rama-krishna often said afterwards: ‘No sooner was onestate transcended than another took its place. Beforethat whirlwind, the sacred thread was blown away.Not only that, even the wearing cloth hardlyremained.…The idea of caste lost all meaning forme. A low-caste man sent me a curry cooked by hiswife which I ate with relish. In the Panchavati Iwould sit in deep meditation with my bodyperfectly still—losing all consciousness of theoutside world. At that time, for want of proper care,my hair was matted. Birds would perch on my headand peck the grains of rice left there during thetime of worship. Often snakes would crawl overmy motionless body, and neither I nor the snakeknew it. Oh, what visions flitted past my eyes, dayand night! As I sat down to meditate, I would finda Sannyasin emerging from my body with a tridentin hand and directing me to concentrate my mindon God, leaving aside all other thoughts. Hethreatened to plunge his weapon into my body if Idid not do so.…An ordinary man could not haveborne a fraction of such tremendous fervour: hisbody would have been shattered by a quarter ofthat emotion. I could forget my indescribable pangsonly by seeing the Mother in some form or otherfor the greater part of the day and night. Otherwisethis body could not have survived. For six years
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 43these eyes remained wide open, not a wink of sleepvisited them. I could not close the eyelids howevermuch I might try to do so. I had no idea of time norof the body. When the mind, at rare intervals, camedown to a lower plane and I had a faint idea of thebody, a shudder of pain would pass through me atthe thought that I was going mad. Standing beforea mirror I would put my finger into my eyes to seeif the eyelids would close, but they would not.Horrified, I would often burst into tears and pray,“Mother, is this the result of praying and whollysurrendering myself unto Thee? Ah! Thou hastvisited me with a fell disease!” But the next momentI would say, “Let it be as Thou wishest. Let thisbody go to pieces, but leave me not. Reveal Thyselfto me, be kind to Thy helpless son. O Mother, Ihave taken shelter at Thy lotus feet. Thou art myonly refuge.” As I prayed thus, my mind wouldagain be stimulated, this body would seem a trifle,not worth thinking about, and the blissful Motherwould appear before me and console me with Hergracious words.’ One of his Sadhanas of this interesting periodconsisted in banishing from his mind all attach-ment for wealth and the pride of superior birth.Sitting on the bank of the Ganga, he took someearth in one hand and a few rupees in the other,weighing their value mentally as he passed themfrom hand to hand. Money, he said to himself, can
44 SRI RAMAKRISHNAat best give only a comfortable living and somefacilities for charity—that is all. It cannot giverealization of God, which is the only thing worthhaving in life. Hence it has no more real value thanthis handful of earth. Firmly impressing this ideaon his mind, he finally consigned both to theGanga. Gradually this spirit of renunciation becamethe very breath of his life. He could not even bearthe touch of any coin. Any idea of materialpossession produced a terrible pain in his mindand body. When, on the death of Rani Rasmani,Mathur became the sole administrator of her vastestate, he one day proposed to Sri Ramakrishnathat he would set apart a large property in his name.At this the Master thundered, ‘What! Do you intendto make me a worldly man?’ Mathur wasdumbfounded and did not dare to raise such a topicbefore him during the rest of his life. One day arich Marwari gentleman, Lakshmi Narayan byname, noticed a soiled carpet on the Master ’s bedat Dakshineswar and at once offered to deposit inthe bank in his name a sum of ten thousand rupees,so that his needs might be supplied. The proposalwas so painful to Sri Ramakrishna that he besoughthim with folded hands never to mention the sub-ject again. The Marwari still insisted. Findingargument of no avail, the Master cried out in an-guish, ‘O Mother, why dost Thou bring such peoplehere, who want to estrange me from Thee?’ At this
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 45pathetic appeal the Marwari desisted. Referring tothese incidents the Master afterwards remarked, ‘ t Athe offers of Mathur and Lakshmi Narayan, I felt asif somebody were sawing my skull.’ Again, for thecomplete effacement of a sense of superiority fromhis mind, he would wash unclean places like anordinary sweeper, viewing alike all objects of theworld as but modifications of matter.
VII BHAIRAVI BRAHMANI AND A VAISHNAVA SAINT One morning in 1861 Sri Ramakrishna wasplucking flowers in the garden of Dakshineswarwhen he saw a country-boat coming towards thesmaller bathing ghat of the temple. A middle-aged,beautiful Bhairavi Sannyasini with longdishevelled hair stepped out of the boat. Thoughnearly forty years of age, she looked much younger.Sri Ramakrishna calling Hriday asked him to bringher from the Chandni (the roofed court which isthe main entrance to the temple compound) to hispresence. As soon as the Bhairavi met SriRamakrishna, she burst into tears of joy andsurprise and said in a tender voice, ‘My son, youare here! I have been searching for you so long, andnow I have found you’. ‘How could you know about me, mother?’asked Sri Ramakrishna. She replied, ‘Through thegrace of the Divine Mother I had come to knowthat I was to meet three of you. Two (Chandra andGirija) I have already met in East Bengal, and todayI have found you.’ She spoke with emotion, as
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 47though she had found her long-lost treasure at last.Sri Ramakrishna too was visibly moved. After a while she told all about herself. Shewas born in a Brahmin family in the District ofJessore (Bengal), and was well versed in Vaishnavaand Tantrika literature. She was a Vaishnava devoteeof a high order. Her intense spiritual practices hadbestowed on her wonderful realizations, whichprompted her to find out a suitable aspirant towhom she could deliver all her attainments for hisspiritual illumination. Sri Ramakrishna, like a boy,sat close by her and opened his heart to thisBhairavi, Yogeshwari by name, and related to herevery incident of his Sadhana. He further said thatpeople looked upon him as insane, because hisactions differed so widely from those of the com-mon run of men. Full of motherly tenderness, sheconsoled him again and again: ‘Who calls you mad,my son? This is not insanity. Your state is what iscalled Mahabhava (extraordinary state of religiousecstasy) in the Shastras. Sri Radha experienced thisstate and so did Sri Gauranga. All these are recordedin the texts of the Bhakti (devotion) schools. I shallshow you from books that whoever has sincerelyyearned for God has experienced this state, andevery one doing so must pass through it.’ Thesewords reassured Sri Ramakrishna. The relation of mother and son which sprangup between them from their very first meeting
48 SRI RAMAKRISHNAdeepened as they became better acquainted. Aftersome time the Bhairavi Brahmani fixed her abodeat Ariadaha, a couple of miles north of theDakshineswar temple. From there she used to comealmost daily and instruct her God-intoxicatedspiritual child. Every day she saw him go into atrance as they talked on spiritual matters, and sheobserved a strange similarity between the life of SriChaitanya and that of Sri Ramakrishna. Anotherincident happening at this time confirmed herbelief that the Lord was incarnated again in theperson of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna hadbeen suffering for a long time from a burningsensation all over his body. Though experts andlaymen all ascribed this malady to some internaldisorder, the Brahmani found quite a differentcause for it. She diagnosed it as the effect of hisstrong yearning for God. On scriptural authority,she prescribed a curious remedy. The patient hadonly to wear a garland of fragrant flowers and painthis body with sandal paste. Great was theastonishment when under this treatment SriRamakrishna completely recovered in three days. The Brahmani was now prepared to meet anyscholar to prove her contention that Sri Rama-krishna was an Incarnation of God. Mathur, partlyto satisfy his own curiosity and settle his owndoubts and partly to humour Sri Ramakrishna,called a meeting of the distinguished scholars of
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 49the time. Vaishnava Charan, who was one of theleaders of the Vaishnava society and reputed forhis Knowledge of various philosophies and devo-tional scriptures, and Gauri Kanta Tarkabhushanaof Indesh in the District of Bankura, who was a far-famed scholar and a great Sadhaka (spiritualaspirant) of the Tantrika school, also came toDakshineswar on invitation. The result of themeeting was that Vaishnava Charan subscribedheartily to all the conclusions of the Brahmani. AndGauri also felt in his heart of hearts that SriRamakrishna was no ordinary saint. He gravelyreplied, ‘I am firmly convinced that you are thatmine of infinite Spiritual Power, only a small frac-tion of which appears in the world from time totime in the form of Incarnations.’ Thus the two greatscholars and Sadhakas who came to test SriRamakrishna ended by surrendering themselvesat his feet. It has already been stated that the Brahmanifrom the very first bore a motherly affection towardsSri Ramakrishna. But she never forgot the divinemandate she had received to deliver her messageto him, and she did her best to act as a spiritualguide to Sri Ramakrishna. He, on his part,undertook the course of Tantrika Sadhana underher guidance with the zeal characteristic of him.Referring to this period the Master wouldafterwards say: ‘The Brahmani would go during
50 SRI RAMAKRISHNAthe day to places far from Dakshineswar and col-lect the various rare things mentioned in theTantrika scriptures. At nightfall she would ask meto come to one of the meditation seats. I would go,and after performing the worship of the MotherKali I would begin to meditate according to herdirections. As soon as I would begin to tell my beads,I would be always overwhelmed with divinefervour and fall into a deep trance. I cannot relateall the varieties of wonderful visions I used to have.They followed one another in quick succession,and the effects of those practices I could feel mosttangibly. The Brahmani put me through all the ex-ercises mentioned in the sixty-four principal Tantrabooks. Most of these were extremely difficultSadhanas—some of them so dangerous that theyoften cause the devotee to lose his footing and sinkinto moral turpitude. But the infinite grace of theMother carried me through them unscathed.’ The many fiery ordeals through which hepassed during this period enabled him to becomefirmly established on the highest level ofspirituality. The Brahmani declared that her divinedisciple had attained perfection in this system ofYoga and had passed through its extreme testssuccessfully—a thing which very few Sadhakasindeed could do. The most remarkable featureabout Sri Ramakrishna’s Tantrika Sadhana was thathe attained perfection in every course in an
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 51incredibly short time—three days being sufficient.Not only was Sri Ramakrishna’s perfection in thisSadhana unique and unprecedented, but to himalso was due the restoration of the purity of theancient Tantrika practices at the present age. The Kali temple of Dakshineswar was afavourite resort of devotees and Sadhus because ofits seclusion and holy association, as well as of RaniRasmani’s liberality. They would stop there for afew days on their way to Gangasagar or to Puri.That was before the opening of the railways. Atspecial times, Sadhus of a particular class wouldcongregate in large numbers. The meeting of thesedifferent classes of monks and devotees with SriRamakrishna was of great significance. The ideasof practical spirituality which originated with theprophet of Dakshineswar were disseminatedthrough these Sadhus to their own disciples andfollowers. Even those fortunate persons whom heaccepted as teachers were also greatly benefited bytheir close association with the Master. Among themany devotees and scholars who came in contactwith him at different periods, some took initiationfrom him and others were influenced by him invarious ways, as we have seen in the cases ofVaishnava Charan and Gauri Kanta. About this timeother great distinguished savants also, such asPandit Narayana Shastri of Rajputana, PanditPadmalochan Tarkalankara, the court Pandit of the
52 SRI RAMAKRISHNAMaharaja of Burdwan, and the like, were greatlyattracted towards Sri Ramakrishna, and receivedspiritual inspiration from the Master. It was probably about the year 1864 that onegreat Vaishnava devotee, Jatadhari by name, cameto Dakshineswar. He was a wandering monk and adevotee of Sri Rama. The Master often said thatJatadhari’s love and yearning for God were peerless.Ramlala, or the ‘Child Rama’ was his favouriteDeity. By long meditation and worship Jatadharihad made great spiritual progress, and had beenblessed with a wonderful vision of Rama—theeffulgent form of young Rama then became a livingpresence to him. ‘The Babaji (Father),’ said theMaster later to a group of disciples, ‘was the lifelongdevotee of Ramlala, whose image he carriedwherever he went. He actually found that Ramlalatook the food offered to him. Jatadhari was engagedday and night in the service of the image and wasin a state of constant bliss. I could see the actions ofRamlala; so I used to spend the whole day with theBabaji to watch him. Days passed in this way, andRamlala became more and more intimate with meand followed me to my room. I saw Ramlala as viv-idly as I see you all—now dancing gracefully beforeme, now springing on my back, or insisting onbeing taken up in my arms. Sometimes I wouldhold him on my lap. He would not remain there,but would run to the fields in the sun, pluck
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 53flowers from thorny bushes, or jump into the Ganga.When chastised, he would fix his beautiful eyes onme and smile, or like a naughty boy he would goon with his pranks, or pout or make faces at me.Sometimes I lost patience and slapped him. Withtearful eyes and trembling lips he wold look at me.Oh, what pain I would feel then for having pun-ished him! I would take him in my lap and consolehim. All these things actually happened. ‘One day Jatadhari came to me weeping andsaid, “Ramlala out of his infinite grace has fulfilledmy desire. He has revealed himself to me in theform I prefer, but he has told me that he will not goleaving you behind. I shall gladly leave him withyou and go my way. It gladdens my heart to thinkthat he is happy in your company.” With thesewords Jatadhari left Ramlala with me and badeadieu to Dakshineswar. Ever since Ramlala has beenhere.’
VIII ONE WITH THE ABSOLUTE Sri Ramakrishna had by now practised all thedifferent phases of devotion laid down in thescriptures of Bhakti, namely, Shanta, Dasya, Sakhya,Vatsalya, and Madhura,1 and realized the same goalthrough each one of them. His spiritual experience,hitherto gathered, had many forms. Sometimes hewilled himself into them, at other times the strongcurrent of his spiritual nature swept him into theminspite of himself. He would commune with invis-ible beings—forms of the Divinity or Divine Incar-nations of the past. Such visions, however, belongto the domain of personality, which is not the lastword in spiritual experiences. He was yet to reacha state where knowledge, knower, and known be-come one indivisible Consciousness—a state inwhich space disappears into nothingness, time isswallowed up in Eternity, causation becomes a 1 Shanta is the placid attitude of mind towardsDivinity, Dasya is the relation of servant to master, Sakhyais the attitude of friendship, Vatsalya is the relation ofparent and child, and Madhura, the highest, is the relationbetween two lovers.
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 55dream of the past. He only knows that state whohas experienced it. It is all stillness indefinable. Thesoul after a final struggle leaps over the last barrierof relative existence, shatters its prison of matter,and merges in the infinite glory of Brahman. Thisis called the Nirvikalpa Samadhi—the highestflight of Advaita philosophy. This is the crowningglory of man’s spiritual exercises—the last word inhis evolution. Then there is no more birth, no moredeath, nor any further identification with thechanges of the body. He leaves behind all themodifications of relativity like a cast-off garment.He realizes his identity with the Eternal Brahman,the One without a second. There is no doubt SriRamakrishna was the fittest person to realize thisstate. The field was ready ploughed, and waitedonly for the sowing of the seed. At this time there came to the garden ofDakshineswar a wonderful monk, Totapuri byname. He was a Punjabi by birth and hadrenounced the world while quite young. He hadbeen initiated by a Yogi who was the head of amonastery of the Naga sect at Ludhiana in thePunjab. It is said that he practised Sadhana in asecluded forest on the banks of the sacred Narmadaand attained to the Nirvikalpa Samadhi after rigiddiscipline extending over forty years. After thepassing away of his Guru, Totapuri took his placeas the head of the monastery. A liberated soul,
56 SRI RAMAKRISHNAindifferent to the joys and sorrows of the world, heintended to spend the remaining years of his life inmaking pilgrimages to holy places. Like a lion heroamed at will over the country. He had been toPuri and Gangasagar and on the return journeyalong the course of the Ganga, halted atDakshineswar, where he met with Sri Ramakrishna. The bright face of the Master at once arrestedthe attention of Totapuri, who came to understandthat Sri Ramakrishna was a highly advanced seekerafter truth. Greatly impressed by him Totapuri asked,‘Would you like to learn Vedanta?’ ‘I do not know. It all depends on my Mother. Ican agree to your proposal only if She approves ofit,’ was the quiet answer. ‘All right,’ said the monk, ‘go and ask yourmother. I shall not be here long.’ Sri Ramakrishna went into the Kali templeand spoke of the matter to the Mother and in a stateof trance heard Her command: ‘Yes, my boy, goand learn of him. It is for this purpose that he hascome here.’ In a state of semiconsciousness and witha beaming countenance, Sri Ramakrishna returnedand said to Totapuri that he had his Mother ’spermission. Totapuri could not help smiling at hisapparent superstition in addressing the image inthe temple as Mother, for, as a Vedantist, he lookedupon Shakti—the kinetic state of Brahman, whichSri Ramakrishna worshipped as Mother—as
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 57nothing but an illusion. However, he said nothingto Sri Ramakrishna on this point, thinking thatunder his training the disciple would soon learnthe truth and spontaneously brush aside all super-stitions. Sri Ramakrishna had to be initiated into thesacred order of Sannyasa, before he couldcommence studying the truths of Vedanta. He saidthat he had no objection provided he could do soin private, for it would be too much for his agedmother, who was living at that time in the sacredprecincts of the Dakshineswar Temple, to see herson shave his head and take the monk’s vow. Tothis Totapuri agreed. When the auspicious dayarrived, Totapuri asked his disciple to perform thepreliminary ceremonies. He went through all theseexactly as he was told. The night was almost spent.The teacher and the disciple entered the meditationroom. The Guru chanted the holy Mantras, whichthe disciple repeated as he put oblations one afteranother into the sacred fire, renouncing, as he didso, all desire for enjoyments, here and hereafter. Prostrating himself before his Guru, Sri Rama-krishna took his seat to receive his instructions inAdvaita (monistic) Vedanta. ‘Brahman,’ saidTotapuri, ‘is the only Reality, ever-free, beyond thelimits of time, space, and causation. When a seekeris merged in the beatitude of Samadhi, he does notperceive time and space, nor name and form—the
58 SRI RAMAKRISHNAproducts of inscrutable Maya. Pierce through themaze of name and form and rush out of it like alion. Dive deep in the search for the Self and befirmly established in It through Samadhi.’ Totapurithus tried that day to help Sri Ramakrishna to fixhis mind firmly on the Absolute. We describe it inSri Ramakrishna’s own words: ‘After the initiation“the naked one”1…asked me to withdraw the mindcompletely from all objects and dive into the Atman(Self).…I had no difficulty in withdrawing themind from all other objects except one, the all toofamiliar form of the Blissful Mother—radiant andof the essence of Pure Consciousness—whichappeared before me as a living Reality preventingme from passing beyond the realm of name andform.…In despair I said to “the naked one”, “It ishopeless. I cannot raise my mind to theunconditioned state and come face to face with theAtman”. He grew excited and sharply said, “What!you can’t do it! But you have to!” He cast his eyesaround, and finding a piece of glass he took it upand pressing the point between my eyebrows said,‘Concentrate the mind on this point.’ Then with astern determination I again sat to meditate, and assoon as the gracious form of the Divine Motherappeared before me, I used my discrimination as a 1 Sri Ramakrishna used to refer to Totapuri as Nyangta,i.e. the naked one.
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 59sword and severed it in to two. There remained nomore obstruction to my mind, which at once soaredbeyond the relative plane, and I lost myself inSamadhi!’ Totapuri sat for a long time, silently watchinghis disciple. Finding him perfectly motionless, helocked the door and went out of the room. Threedays passed, and still there was no call. In uttersurprise Totapuri opened the door and found SriRamakrishna sitting in the very same position inwhich he had left him. With breathless wonderTotapuri stood before this august spectacle. ‘Is itreally true?’ he said to himself, ‘Is it possible thatthis man has attained in the course of a single daythat which it took me forty years of strenuouspractice to achieve?’ Impelled by doubt, he made asearching examination. In joyous bewilderment hecried out, ‘Great God, it is nothing short of amiracle!’ It was undoubtedly a case of NirvikalpaSamadhi—the culmination of the Advaita practice!Totapuri immediately took steps to bring the mindof Sri Ramakrishna down to the world ofphenomena. Little by little he came to theconsciousness of the outside universe. He openedhis eyes and saw his Guru looking at him withtenderness and admiration. The Guru answeredthe worthy disciple’s prostration by locking himin a warm embrace. Totapuri usually did not stay at any one place
60 SRI RAMAKRISHNAfor more than three days. But he wished to establishhis wonderful new disciple firmly on the loftypinnacle of Advaita. So he remained eleven monthsin the garden of Dakshineswar. During this timeTotapuri also underwent some mentaltransformation. We have seen how he looked uponSri Ramakrishna’s praying to the Divine Mother asa superstition. But circumstances compelledTotapuri to believe in the existence of the DivineMother. Before he left Dakshineswar he realizedthat Brahman and Shakti are one and the samething—the two aspects of the same entity. After Totapuri had left Dakshineswar, theMaster was determined to remain in a state ofabsolute identity with Brahman, far above allsubjective and objective experiences. He remainedin that state for six months. Referring to this periodof his life the Master used to say: ‘For six months ata stretch I remained in that state whence ordinarymen can never return—the body falling off afterthree weeks like a sere leaf. I was not conscious ofday and night. Flies would enter my mouth andnostrils just as they do in a dead body, but I did notfeel them. The hair became matted with accretionsof dust. There was no chance for the body to survive,it would certainly have perished but for the kindministrations of a monk who was present at Dakshi-neswar at the time.…He would bring foodregularly to me…and as soon as he found me to be
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 61a little conscious, he would press some food intomy mouth, only a bit of which reached my stom-ach. Six months passed in this way. At last I receivedthe Mother’s command, “Remain on the thresholdof relative consciousness for the sake of humanity.”Then I was laid up with a terrible attack ofdysentery.…It went on for six months. Thus onlydid the mind gradually come down to a lower leveland to the consciousness of the body.…’
IXTRAVELLING INTO OTHER FAITHS As a result of the Advaita realization the mindof Sri Ramakrishna had acquired a wonderfulbreadth, accepting all forms of religion as so manyways of reaching perfection. Towards the end of1866, soon after his recovery from dysentery, SriRamakrishna was attracted by the faith anddevotion of a Sufi mystic, Govinda Ray by name,who had embraced Islam and lived atDakshineswar at this time. Gradually it came to themind of Sri Ramakrishna that, since Islam was alsoa means to the realization of God, he would seehow the Lord blessed the devotees whoworshipped that way. He therefore got thenecessary initiation from Govinda. To the practiceof this new religion the Master applied himself withhis characteristic thoroughness. Thus did he de-scribe his mentality at this period: ‘Then I used torepeat the name of Allah, wear my cloth in the fash-ion of the Mohammedans and recite the Namazregularly. All Hindu ideas being wholly banishedfrom the mind, not only did I not salute the Hindugods, but I had no inclination even to visit them.
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 63After three days I realized the goal of that form ofdevotion.’ First of all he saw a radiant Person witha long beard and of grave appearance, and then hismind, passing through the realization of theBrahman with attributes, was finally absorbed inthe Brahman without attributes. The very fact thathe practised Islam after attaining perfection in theAdvaita makes it clear that only through this—theunderlying basis of all faiths—can the Hindus andMohammedans be united with each other. Seven years later he had a similar realizationof Christianity. In 1874 Sri Ramakrishna came intointimate contact with Shambhu Nath Mallick ofCalcutta, who had a garden close to the Dak-shineswar Kali temple. Sri Ramakrishna used tospend a good deal of time in this garden-house ofShambhu Mallick, who came to regard the Masterwith sincere love and esteem, and after Mathur ’sdeath gladly supplied all his wants. Though not aChristian, he used to read the Bible to SriRamakrishna, who thus came to know about Christand Christianity. He felt a strong desire to realizethe Divine Mother by this new method, and it wasfulfilled in a strange way. One day Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in theparlour of a neighbouring house belonging toJadulal Mallick, a devotee of the Master. On thewalls were many beautiful portraits, one of thembeing of Christ. Sri Ramakrishna was looking
64 SRI RAMAKRISHNAattentively at the picture of the Madonna with theDivine Child and reflecting on the wonderful lifeof Christ, when he felt as though the picture hadbecome animated, and that rays of light wereemanating from the figures of Mary and Christ andentering into him, altogether changing his mentaloutlook. When he realized that his Hindu ideaswere being pushed into a corner by this onrush ofnew ones, he tried his best to stop them and eagerlyprayed to the Divine Mother, ‘What is it that Thouart doing to me, Mother?’ But in vain. His love andregard for the Hindu gods were swept away bythis tidal wave, and in their stead a deep regard forChrist and the Christian church filled his heart andopened to his eyes the vision of Christian devoteesburning incense and candles before the figure ofJesus in the churches and offering unto him theeager outpourings of their hearts. For three daysthose ideas held sway in his mind. On the fourthday, as he was walking in the Panchavati, he sawan extraordinary-looking person of serene aspectapproaching him with his gaze intently fixed onhim. He knew him at once to be a man of foreignextraction. Sri Ramakrishna was charmed andwondered who he might be. Presently the figuredrew near, and from the inmost recesses of SriRamakrishna’s heart there went up the note: ‘Thisis Christ who poured out his heart’s blood for theredemption of mankind and suffered agonies for
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 65its sake. It is none else but that Master Yogi Jesus,the embodiment of Love.’ Then the Son of Manembraced Sri Ramakrishna and became merged inhim. At this the Master went into Samadhi and lostall outward consciousness. Thus was Sri Rama-krishna convinced that Jesus Christ was anIncarnation of the Lord. It will be worthwhile to note here Sri Rama-krishna’s opinion of Buddha and other greatfounders of religion. About Buddha he shared thegeneral notion of the Hindus that he was anIncarnation of God. He used to offer him his sin-cere devotion and worship. Once he remarked,‘There is not the least doubt about Lord Buddha’sbeing an Incarnation. There is no differencebetween his doctrines and those of the Vedic Jnana-kanda.’ We have every reason to believe that hespoke thus because of his supernatural insight.About the Tirthankaras who founded the Jainreligion, and the ten Sikh Gurus, Sri Ramakrishnaheard a good deal in his later life from the lips ofrepresentatives of those communities and came toentertain a great regard for them. In his room atDakshineswar there were a small statue ofTirthankara Mahavira and a portrait of Christ,before which incense was burnt morning andevening. Of the Sikh Gurus, he used to say thatthey were all incarnations of the saintly king Janaka. Thus, as a result of his realization through all
66 SRI RAMAKRISHNAforms of discipline, he was firmly convinced thatall religions were true—that every doctrinal systemrepresented a path to God. The three great systemof thought known as Dualism, Qualified Monismand Monism—Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita andAdvaita—he perceived to be but different stages inman’s progress towards the goal. He held that theywere not contradictory, but complementary, beingsuited to different mental outlooks. Thus he used to say to his disciples: ‘I have practised all religions—Hinduism,Islam, Christianity, and I have also followed thepaths of the different Hindu sects. I have foundthat it is the same God towards whom all aredirecting their steps, though along different paths. ‘The tank has several ghats. At one Hindusdraw water in pitchers and call it jal; at anotherMohammedans draw water in leathern bottles andcall it pani; at a third Christians, and call it water.Can we imagine that the water is not jal, but onlypani or water? How absurd! The substance is Oneunder different names, and everyone is seeking thesame Substance. ‘Every religion of the world is one such ghat.Go direct with a sincere and earnest heart by any ofthese ghats, and you will reach the water of EternalBliss. But say not that your religion is better thanthat of another. ‘Different creeds are but different paths to reach
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 67the one God. Diverse are the ways that lead to thetemple of Mother Kali at Kalighat in Calcutta.Similarly, various are the paths that take men to thehouse of the Lord. Every religion is nothing butone of such paths. ‘The mind and intellect can comprehend andput in terms of language the range of thought up tothe Vishishtadvaita and no further. In its perfection,the Absolute and Manifestation are seen to beequally real. The Lord’s name, His abode, and Hehimself are found to be composed of the onespiritual substance. Everything is spiritual, thevariance being only in form. ‘The Advaita is the last word in realization. Itis something to be felt in Samadhi, for it transcendsmind and speech.’ Sri Ramakrishna now became convinced thathis extraordinary spiritual struggles andrealizations were not for himself, but to usher in anew era of spiritual unfoldment and to showmankind how to overcome the obstacles on the wayto God-realization. He looked upon himself as anIncarnation of God, though he disliked anyreference to it.
X FINDING DIVINITY IN THE WIFE As already stated, Sri Ramakrishna becamevery weak after the attack of dysentery. About themonth of May in the year 1867 he started forKamarpukur accompanied by Hriday and BhairaviBrahmani for a change. The Master stayed atKamarpukur for six or seven months. It was a greatrelaxation for him to enter into the joys and sorrowsof the simple village folk after the stormy days ofSadhana at Dakshineswar. Sarada Devi, his girl wife,was then staying with her father at Jayrambati.Shortly after Sri Ramakrishna’s arrival, she was sentfor. So Sarada Devi, or the Holy Mother as shebecame known later to the devotees of SriRamakrishna, arrived at Kamarpukur. Here was a chance for Sri Ramakrishna to testhis realizations. By allowing the rightful privilegesof her position to his wife, who was then a girl offourteen, he subjected himself to an ordeal fromwhich he emerged brighter than ever. He tookspecial care that she had an all-round training inthe discharge of her household duties. The Holy
70 SRI RAMAKRISHNAMother was charmed with the ideal of pure andselfless love that was shown to her by her saintlyhusband; she was content to worship him as herIshtadeva and by following in his footsteps todevelop her own character. Sri Ramakrishna trainedher not only in spiritual things but also in mundanematters that would make her an ideal mistress ofthe household. But the Bhairavi Brahmani did nottake kindly to the idea of Sri Ramakrishna’s doinghis duty towards his wife. Perhaps she feared thatthis would endanger his celibate life. But the Masterwould not listen to her remonstrances. Heremained unruffled and revered her as much asever. The Brahmani was seized with a sense of falsepride; and despite her attainments, she could notcontrol herself. But subsequently she came to realizeher mistakes. She one day approached Sri Rama-krishna with sandal paste and garlands of flowerswhich she had taken great pains to prepare, andwith these adorned him as an Incarnation of SriChaitanya. She implored his forgiveness and badefarewell to Kamarpukur. Sri Ramakrishna regainedhis former health as a result of his prolonged stayin the peaceful environs of his native village, andafterwards returned with Hriday to Dakshineswar. The holy association of Saradamani with herGod-intoxicated husband at Kamarpukur filled herpure heart with unspeakable delight. Referring tothis joy, she said later on, ‘I used to feel always as if
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 71a pitcher full of bliss was placed in my heart—thejoy was ineffable.’ Four years passed after that, andshe was now a young woman of eighteen. Wildrumours reached her to the effect that her saintlyhusband had gone mad. After much thought shedecided to go to Dakshineswar to see for herself,and reached the place in March 1872, in thecompany of her father. Sri Ramakrishna bestowedon her as much love and care as he had donepreviously. He sent her to live in the concert-roomwith his mother, who had already come there tospend the last days of her life by the side of theGanga. Convinced after a few days’ stay atDakshineswar that Sri Ramakrishna wasunchanged in his attitude towards her, Sarada Devidecided to remain there and give herself over tothe service of Sri Ramakrishna and his mother. Sri Ramakrishna now resumed his old task ofteaching his wife, testing at the same time his ownrealization and discharging his duties as a husband.His teaching covered a wide range of subjects fromhousekeeping to the knowledge of Brahman. Notcontent with merely giving instructions, he tookparticular care to see that she carried them out,lovingly correcting any mistake. A couple of months after the Holy Mother ’sarrival, there arose a curious desire in Ramakrishna’smind, which he lost no time in fulfilling. It was thenew moon of June 5, 1872, an auspicious night for
72 SRI RAMAKRISHNAthe worship of Kali, and Sri Ramakrishna madespecial arrangements for it in his own room, in-structing the Holy Mother to be present. She wentthere at 9 p.m. Sri Ramakrishna took the seat of thepriest. After the preliminaries were over, he beck-oned the Holy Mother to the seat which was re-served for the Goddess. Sarada Devi was in a semi-conscious state. Sri Ramakrishna went through theregular form of worship in which the Holy Mothertook the place of the Deity. During the ceremonyshe passed into Samadhi. The Master too, when hehad finished the Mantras, went into the super-con-scious state. Priest and Goddess were joined in atranscendental union in the Self. At dead of nightthe Master partially recovered consciousness; thenwith the appropriate Mantra he surrenderedhimself and the fruits of his lifelong Sadhana,together with his rosary, at the feet of the HolyMother and saluted her. With this sacred ceremony,called in the Tantras the Shodashi- Puja, or the wor-ship of the Divine Mother Tripurasundari, was fin-ished the long series of Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritualpractices. One day Sarada Devi, as she was stroking theMaster’s feet asked him, ‘What do you think of me?’Quick came the answer, ‘The Mother who isworshipped in the temple is the mother who hasgiven birth to this body and is now living in theconcert-room, and she again is stroking my feet at
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 73this moment. Verily I always look upon you as thevisible representation of the Blissful Mother.’ Months passed in this way, but not once didthe minds of the divine couple come down to thesense-plane. This was possible, because bothhusband and wife had their minds attuned to theInfinite. In later days Sri Ramakrishna compli-mented Sarada Devi in unequivocal terms. He usedto say: ‘After marriage I anxiously prayed to theDivine Mother to root out all sense of physicalenjoyment from her mind. That my prayer hadbeen granted I knew from my contact with herduring this period.’
XI PILGRIMAGE About four years before the incidents narratedtowards the close of the last chapter—in 1868—Mathur and his wife arranged for a pilgrimage toNorthern India and wanted Sri Ramakrishna toaccompany them. At their earnest request the Masterconsented to be one of the party. They started on 27January, and halted for a few days at Deoghar tovisit the shrine of Vaidyanath. Here an interestingthing happened. One day while passing througha neighbouring village Sri Ramakrishna was greatlydistressed to see the wretched condition of itspeople. Moved with sympathy for them, he said toMathur, ‘You are the steward of the Mother. Feedthese poor people and give every one a piece ofcloth.’ Mathur at first hesitated saying, ‘This pil-grimage will cost a lot of money, and these peopleare very numerous. We may be short of funds onthe journey if we try to feed and clothe them. Sowhat do you say to this, father?’ But Sri Ramakrishna
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 75was inexorable. He shed tears at the sight of suchabject misery and said in anguish: ‘Fie upon you! Iam not going to Varanasi. I prefer to remain withthese helpless people.’ Like a petulant child he leftMathur’s company and sat with the poor villagers.At the sight of his compassion, Mathur was muchmoved; and he ordered bales of cloth from Calcuttato distribute among them, and fed them as well. SriRamakrishna then cheerfully started for Varanasi. As he approached Varanasi by boat across theGanga, the City of Shiva appeared to him to bemade of gold—‘a condensed mass of spirituality.’ Itseemed as if the precious thoughts of countlessmonks and devotees had accumulated there,making the place an abode of the gods. SriRamakrishna used to visit the shrine of Vishwa-natha, the presiding Deity of the place, almost daily.He would fall into a trance even on the way, aswell as in the presence of the Deity. He also went tovisit the noted monks of Varanasi. One day he paida visit to the famous Trailanga Swami, who wasthen under a vow of silence. The Swami beckonedhim to take seat and held out his snuff-box to himas a mark of welcome. Sri Ramakrishna asked himsome questions, which the Swami replied bygestures. Trailanga Swami was then constructing abathing ghat. At the instance of Sri Ramakrishna,one of his attendants dug a few spadefuls of earthfor the work, which pleased the Swami greatly. The
76 SRI RAMAKRISHNAMaster invited him one day to the home of Mathurand entertained him with great respect. After about a week’s stay at Varanasi the partymoved on to Allahabad, where all bathed in thesacred confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna.After three days the party returned to Varanasi. Atthe end of a fortnight the Master and his party wentto Vrindaban. During his stay there SriRamakrishna was always in high spirits. This sacredplace, rich in the countless sweet memories of SriKrishna, constantly filled his heart withunspeakable emotion. Even the slightest sugges-tion was enough to plunge him into an ecstasy ofdelight. It was with great difficulty that he couldmanage to keep his feelings under control.Sometimes they would break all barriers and throwhim into deep and prolonged trances. At Vrindabanhe visited Ganga Mata, a Vaishnava woman devotee,noted for her great spiritual realizations. Aboutsixty years old, she had spent the greater part of herlife at this holy place. At the very first sight sheunderstood the greatness of Sri Ramakrishna andconsidered herself blessed to have met him. SriRamakrishna also was charmed with her piety anddevotion. He stayed at Vrindaban for about afortnight. He visited Mathura also. As in Vrindabanso also in Mathura, Sri Ramakrishna was in anineffable spiritual mood—his mind constantlysoaring high—especially at the sight of the spots
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 77associated with the memory of Sri Krishna. The Master returned with the party to Varanasi,where they stayed till May. On his return journeyMathur had a mind to visit Gaya. But as SriRamakrishna declined to go there, he had to giveup the project. The Master thought that if he oncevisited that sacred place, his mind would leave thephysical plane for ever. He knew of his father ’svision at Gaya before his birth, and was convincedthat his mind would become permanently absorbedin God there. He considered himself an instrumentin the hand of the Mother, and bowed to Her decreethat his body should remain in the world to carryout Her divine purpose. Accordingly the partyreturned to Calcutta direct. It was now sixteen years since Mathur hadfirst met Sri Ramakrishna. A wonderful change hadbeen wrought in his mind during this period. Inthe month of July, 1871, Mathur was suddenly takenill with typhoid fever. From the beginning SriRamakrishna knew that this was to be the end forMathur. The fateful day arrived. Mathur wascarried to Kalighat. That day the Master fell into adeep trance, which lasted two or three hours. After5 p.m. Sri Ramakrishna regained outwardconsciousness and calling Hriday to him said thatMathur’s soul had gone to the Divine Mother. Lateat night the news reached Dakshineswar thatMathur had died exactly at five o’clock. With the
78 SRI RAMAKRISHNAdeath of Mathur there passed away a figure closelyassociated with Sri Ramakrishna during the mosteventful epoch of his life.
XIICONTACT WITH SOME NOTABLES Sri Ramakrishna would find delight inmeeting the leaders of thought and other promi-nent men of his time and in studying the spiritualcondition of their life. In 1875 he saw KeshabChandra Sen, who was the greatest figure of theBrahmo movement of the time. Hearing of his piety,Sri Ramakrishna wished to meet him. He had seenhim meditating long ago at the Adi Brahmo Samajand had remarked that of all the boys there he wasthe only one whose meditation was successful. One afternoon Sri Ramakrishna accompaniedby Hriday went to see Keshab, who was thenstaying with some of his followers in a place notvery far from Dakshineswar. Keshab and the otherBrahmos at first found nothing remarkable abouthim. Finally Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘I hear that youhave seen God, so I have come to hear about it.’ Theensuing conversation held Keshab and hisfollowers under its spell. Sri Ramakrishna then sanga song of Kali the Mother with his usual fervour, inthe course of which he fell into Samadhi. Hriday
80 SRI RAMAKRISHNAbrought his uncle back to ordinary consciousnessby chanting the sacred word Om in his ears. SriRamakrishna’s face was beaming with a divineradiance. A torrent of inspiring words flowed,which went straight to the hearts of the listeners.He spoke of the innumerable manifestations of oneand the same infinite God, illustrating it by thefollowing parables: ‘Some blind men happened to come across anelephant. Someone told them what it was and askedthem to describe it as it seemed to them. The onewho touched the leg said, “The elephant is like acolumn.” The second one said, “The elephant islike a winnowing fan”—he had felt one of its ears.Similarly, those who had touched its trunk or bellygave different opinions. So with God, everyoneconceives Him according to his experience. ‘A man who had seen a chameleon under atree returned and said, “I have seen a beautiful redchameleon under the tree.” Another said, “I wasthere before you. The chameleon is not red, butgreen. I have seen it with my own eyes.” A thirdsaid, “I too know it well. I saw it before either ofyou, and it was neither red nor green, but—and Isaw it with my own eyes—it was blue.” Othersdeclared it was yellow, or grey, and so on. Soonthey began to quarrel among themselves as to whowas correct. A man passing by asked what thetrouble was. When he was told the cause of quarrel,
SRI RAMAKRISHNA 81he said, “I live under that very tree, and I know thechameleon well. All of you are right, every one.The chameleon is sometimes green, sometimesblue, it is all colours by turn; and sometimes it isabsolutely colourless.”’ He ridiculed the attempt of the human mindto fathom the nature of God by comparing it to anant that desired to carry a whole sugar hill in itsmouth. The inspiring words of the Master soimpressed Keshab that he felt like a child beforethis man of realization and listened to him withthe utmost reverence. Henceforward he with someof his devotees began to visit the Master frequently,and long hours were spent in spiritual discussion.Sri Ramakrishna also sometimes visited Keshab inCalcutta. Nagendra Nath Gupta, an eye-witnessand formerly editor of the Tribune, gives aninteresting account of one of such meetings of thetwo remarkable personages. ‘By Keshab’s expressdesire,’ he writes, ‘I accompanied him on oneoccasion when he went to see the Paramahamsa atDakshineswar. The meeting did not take place inthe precincts of the temple. Keshab with a smallparty including myself went by river in a smallsteam-yacht belonging to Maharaja NripendraNarayan Bhup of Cooch Behar, Keshab’s son-in-low. At Dakshineswar, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa,accompanied by his nephew, Hriday, boarded thelaunch, which resumed its way up-stream.