Yet this was only a foretaste of the intense experiences to come. The first
glimpse of the Divine Mother made him the more eager for Her uninterrupted
vision. He wanted to see Her both in meditation and with eyes open.
But the Mother began to play a teasing game of hide-and-seek with him,
intensifying both his joy and his suffering. Weeping bitterly during the
moments of separation from Her, he would pass into a trance and then find
Her standing before him, smiling, talking, consoling, bidding him be of good
cheer, and instructing him. During this period of spiritual practice he had
many uncommon experiences. When he sat to meditate, he would hear
strange clicking sounds in the joints of his legs, as if someone were locking
them up, one after the other, to keep him motionless; and at the conclusion
of his meditation he would again hear the same sounds, this time unlocking
them and leaving him free to move about. He would see flashes like a
swarm of fire-flies floating before his eyes, or a sea of deep mist around him,
with luminous waves of molten silver. Again, from a sea of translucent mist
he would behold the Mother rising, first Her feet, then Her waist, body,
face, and head, finally Her whole person; he would feel Her breath and hear
Her voice. Worshipping in the temple, sometimes he would become exalted,
sometimes he would remain motionless as stone, sometimes he would almost
collapse from excessive emotion. Many of his actions, contrary to all tradition,
seemed sacrilegious to the people. He would take a flower and touch it to
his own head, body, and feet, and then offer it to the Goddess. Or, like a
drunkard, he would reel to the throne of the Mother, touch Her chin by
way of showing his affection for Her, and sing, talk, joke, laugh, and dance.
Or he would take a morsel of food from the plate and hold it to Her mouth,
begging Her to eat it, and would not be satisfied till he was convinced that
She had really eaten. After the Mother had been put to sleep at night, from
his own room he would hear Her ascending to the upper storey of the
temple with the light steps of a happy girl, Her anklets jingling. Then he
would discover Her standing with flowing hair. Her black form silhouetted
against the sky of the night, looking at the Ganges or at the distant lights
Naturally the temple officials took him for an insane person. His worldly well-wishers brought him to skilled physicians; but no-medicine could cure his malady. Many a time he doubted his sanity himself. For he had been sailing across an uncharted sea, with no earthly guide to direct him. His only haven of security was the Divine Mother Herself. To Her he would pray: "I do not know what these things are. I am ignorant of mantras and the scriptures. Teach me, Mother, how to realize Thee. Who else can help me? Art Thou not my only refuge and guide?" And the sustaining presence of the Mother never failed him in his distress or doubt. Even those who criticized his conduct were greatly impressed with his purity, guilelessness, truthfulness, integrity, and holiness. They felt an uplifting influence in his presence.
It is said that samadhi, or trance, no more than opens the portal of the spiritual realm. Sri Ramakrishna felt an unquenchable desire to enjoy God in various ways. For his meditation he built a place in the northern wooded section of the temple garden. With Hriday's help he planted there five sacred trees. The spot, known as the Panchavati, became the scene of many of his visions.
As his spiritual mood deepened he more and more felt himself to be a child of the Divine Mother. He learnt to surrender himself completely to Her will and let Her direct him.
"O Mother," he would constantly pray, "I have taken refuge in Thee. Teach me what to do and what to say. Thy will is paramount everywhere and is for the good of Thy children. Merge my will in Thy will and make me Thy instrument."
His visions became deeper and more intimate. He no longer had to meditate to behold the Divine Mother. Even while retaining consciousness of the outer world, he would see Her as tangibly as the temples, the trees, the river, and the men around him.
On a certain occasion Mathur Babu stealthily entered the temple to watch the worship. He was profoundly moved by the young priest's devotion and sincerity. He realized that Sri Ramakrishna had transformed the stone image into the living Goddess.
Sri Ramakrishna one day fed a cat with the food that was to be offered to Kali. This was too much for the manager of the temple garden, who considered himself responsible for the proper conduct of the worship. He reported Sri Ramakrishna's insane behaviour to Mathur Babu.
Sri Ramakrishna has described the incident: "The Divine Mother revealed to me in the Kali temple that it was She who had become everything. She showed me that everything was full of Consciousness. The image was Consciousness, the altar was Consciousness, the water-vessels were Consciousness, the door-sill was Consciousness, the marble floor was Consciousness — all was Consciousness. I found everything inside the room soaked, as it were, in Bliss — the Bliss of God. I saw a wicked man in front of the Kali temple; but in him also I saw the power of the Divine Mother vibrating. That was why I fed a cat with the food that was to be offered to the Divine Mother. I clearly perceived that all this was the Divine Mother — even the cat. The manager of the temple garden wrote to Mathur Babu saying that I was feeding the cat with the offering intended for the Divine Mother. But Mathur Babu had insight into the state of my mind. He wrote back to the manager: 'Let him do whatever he likes. You must not say anything to him.'"
One of the painful ailments from which Sri Ramakrishna suffered at this time was a burning sensation in his body, and he was cured by a strange vision. During worship in the temple, following the scriptural injunctions, he would imagine the presence of the "sinner" in himself and the destruction of this "sinner". One day he was meditating in the Panchavati, when he saw come out of him a red-eyed man of black complexion, reeling like a drunkard. Soon there emerged from him another person, of serene countenance, wearing the ochre cloth of a sannyasi and carrying in his hand a trident. The second person attacked the first and killed him with the trident. Thereafter Sri Ramakrishna was free of his pain.
About this time he began to worship God by assuming the attitude of a servant toward his master. He imitated the mood of Hanuman, the monkey chieftain of the Ramayana, the ideal servant of Rama and traditional model for this self-effacing form of devotion. When he meditated on Hanuman his movements and his way of life began to resemble those of a monkey. His eyes became restless. He lived on fruits and roots. With his cloth tied around his waist, a portion of it hanging in the form of a tail, he jumped from place to place instead of walking. And after a short while he was blessed with a vision of Sita, the divine consort of Rama, who entered his body and disappeared there with the words, "I bequeath to you my smile."
Mathur had faith in the sincerity of Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual zeal, but began now to doubt his sanity. He had watched him jumping about like a monkey. One day, when Rani Rasmani was listening to Sri Ramakrishna's singing in the temple, the young priest abruptly turned and slapped her. Apparently listening to his song, she had actually been thinking of a law-suit. She accepted the punishment as though the Divine Mother Herself had imposed it; but Mathur was distressed. He begged Sri Ramakrishna to keep his feelings under control and to heed the conventions of society. God Himself, he argued, follows laws. God never permitted, for instance, flowers of two colours to grow on the same stalk. The following day Sri Ramakrishna presented Mathur Babu with two hibiscus flowers growing on the same stalk, one red and one white.
Mathur and Rani Rasmani began to ascribe the mental ailment of Sri Ramakrishna in part, at least, to his observance of rigid continence. Thinking that a natural life would relax the tension of his nerves, they engineered a plan with two women of ill fame. But as soon as the women entered his room, Sri Ramakrishna beheld in them the manifestation of the Divine Mother of the Universe and went into samadhi uttering Her name.