I shall now tell you, O best of the Kurus, the principal forms which I have become and which are unknown to men, (for) there is no end to those forms.
—Gita X. 19
We have already said that the gradual manifestation of the mood of the spiritual teacher in the life of the Master took place to a great extent before the eyes of Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu. “A large flower”, said the Master, “takes a long time to blossom Trees having pith take a longer time to grow.” It took not a little time and discipline for the unprecedented mood of the spiritual teacher to manifest itself in the Master’s life also. It required a continual and austere discipline for twelve years. This is not the place for bringing out a description of that Sadhana. Here we are specially concerned with the Master’s mood as the spiritual teacher, the flower that blossomed in its full beauty and glory under the rays of the Sun of consciousness universal; we shall particularly describe it here. But certain other topics will of course come in by the way, as we describe from beginning to end the manifestation of that mood. A description of those devotees connected with the unfoldment of this mood of the Master will also inevitably come in.
2. The strange relation of the Master with Mathur; the nature of Mathur as a man
The relation of the Master with Mathur Babu was a strange one. Mathur was wealthy and magnanimous; though a man of the world, he was a devotee; though a man of discrimination who knew the distinction between the permanent and the impermanent, he liked the things of the world; and though prone to anger and rashness, he had patience and strong determination. Mathur was not unacquainted with the knowledge and the view of life that the English brought to the land. He was given to much argumentation and yet was open to correction. Though a devotee having faith in God, he was not the man to accept anything without exercising his reason, even if the speaker be his spiritual teacher or God Himself. Though of a liberal nature, he was not a man to be deceived like a fool in worldly affairs; rather the shrewd intellect of a crafty politician, and lack of scruples in the choice of means, as in other worldly landlords, which lead to the increase of possessions, were sometimes seen in him; As a matter of fact, Mathur Babu, the youngest of her sons-in-law, was the right-hand man of the Rani, who was without male issue, in looking after and making proper arrangement for all worldly affairs, though she had other sons-in-law living. And it was only because the intellects of both the mother-in-law and the youngest son-in-law co-operated that the name of Rani Rasmani became so very well known then.
3. The unconscious help rendered by Rani Rasmani and Mathur in the manifestation of the Master’s power as the spiritual teacher. All persons connected either as enemies or as friends help the manifestation of the power of the incarnations of God
The reader will perhaps say, “Why this ‘song of Siva while husking paddy?’1 Why bring in Mathur while you are speaking of the Master?” In answer, it may be said that it was Mathur who caught just a little glimpse of the future beauty of the object, and became its helper and protector, when the Master’s mood of spiritual teacher was just cutting open the cocoon and was about to come out. Under a very pure, sacred urge, Rani Rasmani built a fit place where this unique character could unfold itself freely; and under a similar noble urge Mathur helped its further development by supplying whatever else was necessary. It is of course only now, after the lapse of many years, that we can understand it all. But although both of them got a little inkling of it from time to time, it does not seem that either of them ever could have had a full understanding as to why they were doing those things. This fact is borne out by the study of the lives of all great souls of all ages. It is seen that a strange unknown Power, remaining unobserved in an unknown realm, clears their paths in all endeavours, protects them at all times, in all circumstances and in all respects and, controlling other peoples’ powers, brings them under the control of those great souls. Yet the former cannot even know that whatever they do, either of their own accord or out of love for or hatred towards the latter, is for the sake of the latter, contributing to their work and bringing out the power surging within them by the removal of all obstructions. All this is done with so much of secrecy, so to say, that people are amazed long afterwards when the discovery is made. See the result of Kaikeyi’s sending away Sri Ramachandra to the forest; see the ultimate result of the lifelong efforts of Kamsa in keeping Vasudeva and Devaki imprisoned; see the result of the building up of the pleasure-garden by King Suddhodhan lest Siddhartha should be overcome by dispassion; see the result of the cruel Kapalika Bauddhas’ effort at killing Acharya Sankara by means of incantations; see the result of the acts of enmity, with the help of Government officials, towards Sri Chaitanya’s preaching of the religion of love; and see the result of killing the supremely glorious Jesus on a false charge of having committed a crime. Every one of these cases turned out to be the opposite of what had been intended, like the story1 of “Rama took it contrariwise”. Yet the very powerful and intelligent adversaries and the affectionate friends both always thought “otherwise” and acted from their own motives—and will do so in future— applying the whole stock of their subtle policy and worldly wisdom. But, as recorded in the Bhagavata and other books, one acting as an enemy has to remain completely ignorant of the actions and purpose of that divine power; while one can sometimes have a little knowledge of this power if one follows it with faith and devotion. And with the help of that knowledge he becomes a fit person to attain liberation and eternal peace by becoming gradually free from desires. Mathur’s conduct towards the Master was of the latter type.
It is not only in the life of great souls like incarnations of God that the play of this divine power is seen. But we can know of this play in their lives more easily and feel a greater wonder; that is all. We also find just a little indication of it when we study the history of our own daily lives and that of the practical life of the world. As the result of various experiences and by a comparative study of various events of human life it becomes very clear that man is always a mere puppet in the hands of that divine power. It is not an extraordinary matter that a great similarity exists between the lives of the great souls, the incarnations of God, and those of ordinary human beings. For, the divine lives serve only as the types or models for the formation of other ordinary lives. It is after the ideals of their lives only that ordinary men are trying to pattern their own lives and will for ever do so. Do you not see that a few great souls, Rama, Krishna, Chaitanya and others have retained a hold on the lives of the people of India, the vast meeting ground of the various ideals of various people? Again, see how quickly the ideal of the life of Sri Ramakrishna, the incarnation of the present age, the unique mould formed by the combination of the ideals of all the previous great souls, is spreading its own influence and in a very short time getting a hold on the lives of the men and women of this country and abroad. How far this influence will spread in course of time, O reader, you may guess if you can. We are, however, unable to conjecture and express this.
5. Though a devotee, Mathur was not foolish
Another point in Mathur’s character needs a little analysis when we are told of the manner in which he had more than hundred per cent love and reverence for the Master, Our minds, clouded with doubts, think at the very outset: “The man must have been an absolute fool. Can a man otherwise have such love and reverence for another man? Had it been we, we would have defied Ramakrishna to generate by the strength of his character so much love and reverence in our hearts,”—as if it were a matter to be condemned to have love and reverence! We are therefore trying here to state and explain to the reader exactly as much about Mathur as we heard from the Master and can say that Mathur was not a man of an over-naive nature. He was not in any way less intelligent or suspicious than we. He also was suspicious of the Master’s character and actions unintelligible to man and did not spare himself in testing him at every step in the beginning. But of what avail was it? How could the Airavata1 of Mathur’s scepticism withstand the force of the strong and furious current of the very powerful Mandakini of the Master’s unprecedented and unheard-of spiritual mood, with knowledge for its roar and divine love for its eddies? The animal shook, slipped, was crushed and defeated, turned over and carried off to an unknown destination. So was Mathur’s scepticism rendered useless. Completely defeated, Mathur had to take refuge at his holy feet wholeheartedly. It will not, therefore, take long to understand that we are describing the Master’s mood of the spiritual teacher, though we are speaking of Mathur.
6. Mathur’s first attraction towards the Master— its cause and gradual development
Mathur was attracted towards the Master at the very first sight on account of his straightforwardness like that of a boy, his sweet nature and good looks. Afterwards, during the first stage of Sadhana, the state of the divine madness began to come on the Master and he sometimes lost control over himself. While he was worshipping the universal Mother, he was beside himself with joy at the vision of Her within his heart, and worshipped himself. Then, on account of the force of the strong current of the love of God, he overstepped the limits of ceremonial devotion and became an object of opprobrium and suspicion to the people of the temple for performing in his daily life various acts of great devotion in a way contrary to scriptural injunction and having no meaning in the public eye. The keen intelligence and the sense of justice in Mathur, a man of the world, suggested immediately: “Nothing against him shall be entertained without seeing things with my own eyes, for I knew him to be of a beautiful and straightforward nature at the first sight.” That is why Mathur came secretly to the Kali temple, observed all his actions minutely and as a result came to the conclusion, “Young Gadadhar is a living embodiment of divine love and straightforwardness; on account of the excess of devotion and faith he is acting thus.” This is why Mathur, an intelligent man of the world, tried to convince him thus: “It is good to do what suits one, if only it can last. It is good to have faith and devotion, but will it do to be completely overwhelmed? You cannot but be an object of condemnation to others for this. Moreover, there is a chance that you might lose your wits and become mad if you behave as you like without paying heed to what people say.” But although he tried to persuade him in this way, the feeling of devotion lying dormant within Mathur became awakened by virtue of good company and sometimes he would suddenly exclaim: “But this kind of behaviour, as of mad people, issuing from intense devotional feelings has been heard of in the case of Ramprasad and of other earlier Sadhakas; may not the similar behaviour and condition of Sri Ramakrishna also be of that nature?” Therefore, instead of placing any obstacles in the way of the Master, Mathur decided to go on observing how all these would take shape and to take the proper step at the proper time. Such behaviour on the part of an employer, expert in worldly matters, towards a petty employee is an indication of not a little patience.
7. The change of Mathur was due to the infectious power of devotion
Devotion has a catching power. We see daily that, like physical changes, mental moods also are contagious. For it is no longer necessary to refer to the experiences of the Vedic seers to prove—for modern science has all but proved it now—that the entire universe, both gross and subtle, is made up of modifications of one substance and is governed by the same laws. Is it therefore surprising that the modification called devotion when awakened in one person will awaken a similar mood lying dormant in another? This is why the scriptures have declared so earnestly that the company of spiritual men is a great help to the awakening of spirituality. It can very well be inferred that owing to his good luck it happened so in the case of Mathur also. The more he began to observe day after day, the actions and behaviour of the Master, the more was the mood of devotion in him awakened without his knowledge. We find clear signs of this in his successive actions. But it is certain—just one moment his mind entertained a feeling of devotion and the next moment doubt intervened— that Mathur’s mind, like that of the worldly people, was for a long time oscillating between doubt and devotion, before the Master’s seat was firmly fixed in Mathur’s heart. So, we see that, although at the outset the Master’s behaviour, eager longing for God and so on, appeared before Mathur’s eyes to be due to an excess of devotion, when they went on increasing daily, Mathur began to doubt if the Master was not going out of his wits. But that doubt kindled kindness in him and Mathur applied his mind to improving the Master’s general health and thereby curing these mental derangements, and engaged a good physician for the purpose.
Mathur had a fair knowledge of English and he acquired not a small amount of that peculiar idea of independence (viz., that he was not an insignificant man but equal to any other) which is the product of the Western temperament and manner of thinking. Therefore we find Mathur trying to dissuade the
Master with the help of persuasion and argument from going far along the path leading to mental derangement due to an exuberance of love of God. A conversation between the Master and Mathur on whether God has to obey His own laws as regards natural phenomena may be mentioned as an example of it. The Master said, “Mathur was of the opinion that God had also to obey His own laws. Even He had not the power to overrule the laws He had once made. I said, ‘What do you mean? He who makes a law can as well unmake it if he so desires, or replace it by another.’ He would by no means accept this. He said, ‘A plant producing red flowers invariably produces red ones and never white ones; for it is His law. Well, let Him, if He can, produce a white flower in a plant bearing red ones.’ I said, ‘He can, if He wills, do everything, including that.’ But he did not accept the proposition. The next day I went to answer a call of nature towards the cluster of tamarisk trees, when I found that in two twigs of one and the same branch of a red chinarose plant there were two flowers, one red and the other brilliantly white, without the tiniest red spot in it. No sooner had I seen them than I broke the branch together with the flowers, brought it and placed it before Mathur and said, ‘Here you are.’ Mathur then said, ‘Yes, father, I am defeated’.” Mathur sometimes believed that physical illness produced in the Master a sort of mental derangement which manifested itself as devotional feelings in excess, and tried by reasons and argument to turn that mood of the Master away.
9. Mathur was compelled daily to discuss the Master’s condition
Thus the worldly-minded Mathur would, it is clear, spend a long time with him thinking and discussing a great deal about his condition, partly out of curiosity, partly out of kindness—for he mistook the Master’s overwhelming mental condition for symptoms of a physical disease—and partly again out of wonder and devotion regarding it as an outcome of genuine divine love. And how could he remain calm and free from anxiety? For, the Master, carried away by the current of his newly coursing divine love, would everyday bring about something strange and unexpected. One day he saw a vision of the divine Mother within himself and seated himself on the seat for worship and employed all the articles of worship in his own honour; the previous day he had performed Arati of the universal Mother continuously for three long hours and made the officers of the temple restless, and the day before he had rolled on the ground and rubbing his face against the dust on the earth, at not having realized God, had wept so piteously that people gathered round him Ah, how many indeed are the stories connected with different events of his life on different days that we heard from the Master!
10. Mathur and the Master’s recital of the Mahimna-stotra and his Bhavasamadhi
One day the Master entered a Siva temple1 and began to recite the hymn on the glory of Siva called the “Mahimna-stotra”.2 In the course of his recital, when he came gradually to the following verse, he was immediately beside himself with an ecstatic mood:
“Asitagirisamam syat kajjalam sindhupatre Surataruvarasakha lekhani patramurvi;
Likhati yadi grihitwa Sarada sarvakalam Tadapi tava gunanamisa param na yati.”
—O Lord, if the blue mountain be the ink, the ocean the ink-pot, the biggest branch of the heavenly tree be the pen, the earth the writing leaf, and taking these, if the goddess of learning writes for eternity, even then the limit of Thy virtues will not be reached.
Reciting the above verse, the Master was completely beside himself with the intense feeling in his heart of the glory of Siva, forgot the hymn, the language of the hymn, the recitation of the verses in their order and all other things and cried out loudly saying again and again, “O great God, how can I express Your glory?” And tears flowed profusely from his eyes down his cheeks, breast and clothes, to the floor, which got wet. The servants and officers of the temple came there running from all sides, at that noise produced by weeping, the half-uttered words in a choked voice as of a madman, and that extraordinary behaviour. When they saw him in that state some were surprised, and waited to see what would happen next, saying, “Oh! it is the madness of the junior Bhattacharya.” Said one, “I took it to be something else; I see, it is very much in excess today.” “Will he not,” said another, “ride on the shoulder of Siva? What do you say? It is better to pull him away by the hand”, and so forth. And it is needless to say that there was much merriment over it too.
But the Master had no consciousness of the external world at all. Merged in the feeling of the glory of Siva his mind had then gone up very high beyond the external world, where the tainted ideas and words of the world never reach. How could, therefore, the words of derision or fun expressing their thoughts, reach his ears?
At that time Mathur Babu was at the Kali temple. Hearing that uproar in connection with the Bhattacharya he came there immediately. The officers hastened respectfully to make way for him. Mathur Babu came and saw the Master in that mood and was at once charmed with it. When some one of the officers suggested that the Master should forcibly be removed from the place where he was, i.e., near Siva, he was very much annoyed and said, “Leave him alone. Let him who has a head to spare go and touch the Bhattacharya now.” The officers were, therefore, frightened and dared not say or do anything. A little afterwards the Master regained the consciousness of the outer world, and seeing Mathur Babu standing there with the officers of the temple, he looked afraid like a boy and asked him. “Did I happen to do anything wrong when I had no control over myself?” Mathur saluted him and said, “No, father, you were reciting a hymn; I stood here lest some one should disturb you unthinkingly.”
11. An example of how others could easily have spiritual progress in the company of the Master
Recalling his condition at the time of Sadhana, one day the Master said to us, “Those who used to come here at that time had the idea of God kindled very soon in the company of ‘here’ (i.e., himself). Two youths used to come from Baranagar; they were low by birth; may be Kaivarta or Tamli; they were very good; they had great love and reverence for ‘here’ and used to come very often. One day I was sitting with them under the Panchavati when a certain state came on one of them I saw that his breast grew red, eyes deep red; streams of tears were rolling down; he could neither speak nor stand; he was just like one who had drunk two bottles of wine. That mood of his was in no way coming to an end. I was then afraid and said to the Mother. ‘What have you done to him, Mother? People will say I have done something and brought about that condition in him. He has his father and others, he will have to go home just now.’ I passed my hand over his chest while I was saying so to Mother. He then became somewhat calm and went home a little afterwards.”
We have heard from the holy mouth of the Master that at one time, in his infectious company, Mathur also got into a wonderful state and his reverence and devotion increased a thousandfold. Always indrawn and informed with the spiritual mood and oblivious of surroundings, the Master one day was pacing up and down the verandah extending east to west, to the north-east of his room. Mathur was then sitting by himself in one of the rooms of the separate house which stood between the temple and the Panchavati and which is even now called the “Babus’ mansion”. The place where the Master was pacing was within an easy range of vision from where Mathur was sitting. Mathur was, therefore, sometimes, observing him walking in an indrawn mood, and thinking of him and sometimes speculating on the future trend of his own worldly affairs. The Master was not at all conscious of the fact that Mathur was sitting in the parlour observing him that way from time to time. And what would it have mattered even if he were conscious of it? The disparity between the domestic, social and other conditions of the two was so great that there was no cause for either of them feeling any concern for the other. Rather it would have been reasonable for the Master to feel hesitant and move away from the place had he known of Mathur’s presence there and not been merged in that divine mood which had made him inattentive. For how could the Master, who was an ordinary, insignificant, poor temple-priest, whom people knew to be foolish and mad, paying little heed to ritualistic formalities, and a butt of all ridicule, help feeling hesitant in the presence of Mathur, who was a wealthy, respectable, learned and intelligent Babu (gentleman), who might well be regarded as the proprietor of the temple and the whole estate of the Rani? That he happened to view the Master with a benevolent eye, was the only reason why the latter had not so far been driven away from the temple. But the event turned out to be something unthinkable and incomprehensible, for, Mathur himself ran up in a great flurry to the Master, bowed down to him, clasped with his hands both the feet of the Master and started weeping.
The Master said, “I asked, ‘What is this you are doing? You are a Babu, the son-in-law of the Rani, what will people think if they see you act like this? Be calm and get up.’ But did he give ear to it? Afterwards when he became collected, he narrated everything without any reserve. He had had a strange vision. He said, ‘Father, you were walking, and I saw distinctly that it was not you but my Mother in the temple over there as you were coming forward in this direction and that it was Mahadeva Himself immediately when you turned about. I thought at first that it was an optical illusion; I rubbed my eyes well and looked, but saw the same thing. This happened as often as I looked.’ He repeatedly said this and wept. I said, ‘Why, as a matter of fact, I know nothing.’ But would he listen? I was afraid lest some one should come to know of it and tell the Rani of it. What would she think? She might perhaps say that I put a spell on him He became calm when I consoled him in various ways. Was it for nothing that Mathur did so much for me and loved me so much? Mother gave him many visions and experiences about ‘here’. It was in fact written in Mathur’s horoscope that his chosen Ideal, the divine Mother, would be so very compassionate on him that She would assume a body, accompany and protect him wherever he went.”
13. The result of this vision
Henceforward Mathur’s faith became very firm; for, it was for the first time that he got an indication that the Master was surely not an ordinary man; that the Master—towards whom he was attracted at first sight and whose mental attitudes he could very often detect and understand though others condemned him without understanding—was no other than the Mother of the universe Herself who, out of compassion for him, was residing in his body. It was from this time on that he believed that the One present in the stone image in the temple had perhaps assumed a body and was accompanying him wherever he went as it was written in his horoscope. From now on, Mathur’s relation with the Master became especially intimate.
14. The evidence of the scriptures regarding Mathur’s great good fortune
A great good fortune indeed smiled on Mathur. The scriptures say that not only ordinary people but even those who have become liberated in life cannot but experience the result of actions of both kinds, good and bad, as long as their bodies last. Ordinary men experience the results of their good and bad actions themselves. Now, who experiences the results of the good and bad actions done through the body of the liberated? For the liberated ones cannot do it inasmuch as the pride and egoism in them, which experience pleasure and pain, have for ever been completely burnt; who then does it? The results of actions again are inevitable and some good and bad actions cannot but be performed by the bodies of persons liberated in life till those bodies fall like dry leaves from trees. The scriptures say that those unliberated persons who serve and love the liberated ones enjoy the results of the good actions of the latter and those who hate them suffer the results of their bad actions done through their bodies.1 Who can say how great is the result of the loving devotional service rendered to the incarnations of God when great results are attained through the service of even ordinary liberated persons?
As days passed, Mathur’s vision of the spiritual mood in the Master became clearer and his devotion to him firmer. Meanwhile there happened many events: An extremely painful feeling of a burning sensation in the Master’s body on account of the separation from God and the treatment thereof; the Bhairavi Brahmani’s advent at Dakshineswar and the demonstration, in the presence of a circle of Pandits invited by Mathur, with the aid of evidence from Vaishnava books, that the Master was an incarnation of God; the arrival of Tota Puri, the great Vedantin and the Master’s initiation in Sannyasa; the coming of the aged mother of the Master to Dakshineswar and her stay there; and so on. But since the day on which the strange vision mentioned above took place, Mathur had become closely related with almost all the events that happened daily in the Master’s life. Mathur made arrangements for the Master’s treatment by Gangaprasad Sen, the famous physician of Calcutta, and Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar. The Master felt a strong loving desire to adorn the Mother with anklets and other ornaments of the same pattern as are used by ladies of the Uttar Pradesh; and Mathur had them made at once. Again at the time of practising the attitude of female friend of the divine Mother prescribed in Vaishnava books, he had a mind to put on the dress and ornaments such as those used by women and Mathuranath had a suit of diamond-cut ornaments, a Varanasi Sari, a wrapper and such other things brought immediately. When he came to know that the Master had a desire to go and see the festival at Panihati, Mathur made immediately arrangements for everything; but that was not all; he himself went in disguise with a body-guard with him in order to protect the person of the Master lest he should be put to inconvenience on account of big crowds. Just as, on the one hand, we have heard of Mathur’s wonderful service, so, on the other hand, we have also heard from the Master that he set dissolute women on him to see whether there arose in the Master’s mind any impure feeling; that he proposed to transfer in writing all the trust property of the temple to the Master, at which in a state of divine anger the latter was about to beat him saying, “Do you want to make me a worldly man?”; and that Mathur was once saved from the danger of being very severely punished by the court on the charge of homicide in connection with a riot over his estate, when in order to escape from that danger he confessed to him everything and took refuge in him We see from these facts that devotion to the Master was gradually taking firm roots in Mathur’s mind. And how could it be otherwise? Just as the Master’s wonderful character, unintelligible to human beings and rare even among the gods, stood all the tests of Mathur and appeared brighter as days passed, so, correspondingly, his never-failing selfless love completely captivated Mathur’s heart. Mathur saw that he could not be deflected from the path of renunciation even by an inch by an offer of a property worth lacs of rupees, that one could not produce a change in his mind with the help of beautiful women, that he could not be led astray or made egotistic by an offer of worldly respect and reverence (for no greater respect can a man offer to another than to worship him as God); and that he did not want anything in the world for himself and yet he did not look down upon Mathur, in spite of knowing all the weaknesses of his character, loved him as more than his own and saved him from dangers again and again and was always thinking of his welfare in all respects. Mathur put this question to himself, “Why all these?” And he felt that though in a human body, the Master was a person of “the country where there is no night”, that his renunciation was wonderful, his self-control, knowledge, devotion and actions were all wonderful, and, above all, his love and grace for a weak but vain mortal like himself was wonderful.
Another thing that Mathur felt simultaneously in his heart of hearts was the sweetness of that unique character. The Master remained that simple boy though there was that unprecedented manifestation through him of divine power; there was not the slightest egotism! How strange! Like a boy of five, he did not conceal even a little of whatever thoughts arose in his mind. There was always the same mood within and without. Whatever was in the mind was wholly manifest in words and deeds in all sincerity; yet he never expressed anything which might be harmful to anybody even if he had to suffer bodily pain. Was such sweetness possible in man?
16. The priest Haldar’s conduct at seeing Mathur’s increasing devotion to the Master
Jealousy broke the heart of Haldar, the Kalighat priest of Mathur Babu, when he saw the latter’s firm devotion to the Master. He thought the man had charmed the Babuby means of incantations etc. “Ah, is this rogue of a man going to spoil my long attempt at getting this fellow, the Babu, under my control? He again feigns the mood of a simple child! If he be so simple let him tell me the incantation of ‘putting a man under a spell’. I had exhausted all my spells on this Babu and that fellow was about to obey the reins, when this interloper came between us.”
Now with the increase in Mathur’s devotion and reverence, he began to have a strong desire for keeping the Master’s company constantly and for serving him more and more. Therefore he extended pressing invitations, brought him to his house at Janbazar in Calcutta and enjoyed his company from time to time. In the afternoon he would take him for a drive to the Eden Garden and other places of interest in Calcutta. He thought, “Can any and every plate, cup, etc., be considered fit for ‘father’ to eat and drink from?” Thinking so, he had a new set of gold and silver things made in which he offered him food and drink; he dressed him in excellent clothes and said, “It is you, father, who are the owner of all these (his estate and other property); I am nothing but the steward; consider how you eat and drink from these gold plates and silver cups and glasses and then leave them behind without even looking at them, and I have them cleaned and placed in a safe place, so that you may use them again. Then again, I have to be busy taking care of them and seeing that they are not broken or stolen.”
17. The pitiable fate of a pair of Varanasi shawls
We heard from the Master, of the pitiable condition of a pair of Varanasi shawls which Mathur purchased for a thousand rupees at that time. To whom but the Master should he make a gift of them? —thinking thus, Mathur wrapped them around his holy person and was filled with great joy. The pair of shawls was indeed very valuable; for, their price even at that time being so high, such material is perhaps not at all available now. With the shawl on, the Master was at first going about very happily like a boy. He was looking at it again and again, calling others, showing it to them and telling them that Mathur had bought it for him at such a price. But the next moment the Master was like a boy in a different mood. He thought, “What is there in it? It contains nothing but an amount of goats’ hair. It is also a modification of the five elements of which all things are made. And as regards prevention of cold—why, quilts and blankets are equally adequate. Like all other things, it is also not at all helpful for the realization of God. Rather, when one puts it on, one thinks oneself superior to others and one’s mind turns away from God, since it increases pride and egotism. Ah, so many are its defects!” Thinking so and throwing the shawl on the ground, he said, “It does not help one in realizing Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. I spit on it.” Saying so, he actually started spitting on it and then rubbed it against the dust on the ground. He was at last ready to set fire to it when some one happened to come there and recovered it from his hands. When Mathur Babu came to know of the fate of the shawl he did not at all feel sorry; on the contrary, he said, “Father did very well to do so.”
18. The Master’s non-attachment
It is very clear, from the events recorded above, on what a high plane the Master’s mind always dwelt, in spite of Mathur’s best endeavour to keep him in the midst of comforts and enjoyments. But wheresoever it might dwell, it was always filled with ecstasy. That mind saw Light only—the Light that casts no shade, that is not liable to waxing and waning and before which “the brightness of the sun, moon, and stars and the flash of lightning, let alone fire, are very dim, nay, almost dark”.1 While other minds saw masses of darkness, his mind dwelt in that realm of Light. This other realm—the world filled with malice, hatred and crookedness, a permanent dwelling place of lust and anger— why, it was just a place to which he had come on a flying visit out of compassion; that was all. So, although he was living at Janbazar in Mathur Babu’s house abounding in all kinds of luxuries and worldly enjoyments, the Master was the same Master, unattached, devoid of egoism, beside himself night and day with his own divine mood.
19. What the priest Haldar did at last
Just before dusk one day, the Master was lying in the divine semiconscious state in Mathur’s Janbazar house. There was no one near him. The Master’s ecstasy was coming to an end and he was gradually having a little consciousness of the outer world, when Haldar the priest happened to come in. When he saw the Master alone in that state, he thought that that was just the opportunity to serve his purpose. He approached him, looked around and said again and again while pushing about his holy person, “O Brahmin, tell me-how have you made him subservient to you? How is it that you are silent and feign ignorance? How did you captivate him? Ah! Why don’t you speak?” Although he repeated the questions again and again, the Master did not or could not say anything, for he had not then the power to speak at all. Haldar then became angry, kicked him with great force and said, “Go to, rascal, you have not told me anything,” and went away. Devoid of egotism, the Master made no mention of the incident since he knew that Mathur Babu was sure to be furiously angry and to inflict a very severe punishment on the priest, should he come to know of it. A short time after, the priest incurred Mathur’s anger by committing some other offence and was dismissed, and then one day, in the course of conversation, the Master mentioned this fact to Mathur. Hearing it, Mathur said in anger and anguish, “Had I known it before, father, the Brahmin would have indeed lost his head.”
If we want to know how deeply Mathur Babu and his wife felt in their heart of hearts the infinite grace of the Master as the spiritual teacher and how truly they surrendered themselves to him as God Himself, we have convincing evidence thereof in the fact that they did not conceal anything about themselves from the Master. Both of them knew and said, “Father is not a man (but God Himself); of what avail is it to conceal anything from him? He knows everything, the inmost secret of anybody’s heart.” These were not just empty words; they acted up to them How many were the occasions on which they did everything—eating, drinking, walking, together with “father”. What did it matter if “father” always and under all circumstances freely visited the inner apartment of their house? What mattered it again if he did not do so? For, on many occasions they got proof of the fact that he knew all kinds of thoughts in the minds of all. And “father” might very well be considered as good as a wall or some other insentient thing as regards the chief evil, the feeling of mental impurity arising from the free mixing of men and women. Was it not a fact that none of the ladies in the inner apartment had felt that kind of shyness and hesitation, as they did in the presence of other men? They felt that he was but one of them or a boy of five. We were surprised to hear many stories from the Master’s own lips about the wonderful loving relation that existed between Mathur’s family, including the members of the inner apartment, and the Master, who had converted himself thoroughly in thought and feeling into a female companion of the divine Mother by constant meditation for a long time on himself as such. Sometimes, he said, he would come out dressed as a woman in the company of the ladies of the family, with a Chamara in his hand to the place in the outer apartment where Mother Durga was being worshipped and would fan Her holy image. Sometimes again, when the husband of a young lady of the family arrived, he would adorn her with beautiful dress and ornaments. Just as, on account of his mood of the spiritual teacher, these ladies were firmly convinced of the Master’s divine nature and revered him as such, even so were they thoroughly acquainted with his immaculate selfless love for them and poured out their heart’s love to him and acted and behaved with him with a freedom rarely imaginable.
21. Contrary moods co-existed in the Masterl. III. 1. 35 & 36.—Tr.
On the one hand, we find the manifestation of this divine love devoid of the slightest tinge of lust and self-interest, like that of a female friend, towards the women of Mathur’s house in the inner apartment and, on the other, of his divine knowledge and incomparable intelligence in his behaviour with men and in circles of learned scholars outside; and we wonder how these various opposite moods co-existed1 in him. Who is this multiform Master?
At that time, at the Dakshineswar temple, the two images of Radha and Govinda used to be brought daily from the adjacent bedroom and seated on the throne in the main room of the temple and they were taken back to that bedroom for rest when the midday worship, food-offering, etc., were over. They were again brought to the throne from there after four in the afternoon and were taken back in the night after Arati at dusk and offering of food etc. One day the marble floor of the temple became slippery because water had been spilt on it and, as the priest was taking the image of Govinda to the bedroom, he fell down and a leg of the image got broken. There arose a great stir; the priest himself had got hurt and was again-trembling with fear. The news reached the proprietors. What would be the upshot of it all? The worship could not be performed with a broken image. What was the way out now? Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu respectfully invited to a meeting all the famous scholars of the city to ascertain what means should be adopted. The opinions of those scholars who were unable to be present owing to some business or other were also being collected. It was a matter of great sensation and there was also an unnecessary waste of money over the Pandits to maintain their prestige at the time of farewell. The Pandits opened their books, applied snuff, so to say, to the root of their intellects and gave the prescription, “Let the broken image be immersed in the water of the Ganga and a new image be installed in its stead.” And a sculptor was given orders to make a new image.
23. The Master’s decision and the last word on the matter
At the close of the meeting Mathur Babu said to the Rani, “But ‘father’ has not been consulted on the matter; what he says must be ascertained.” Saying so he asked “father” for his opinion. “If”’, said the Master while in ecstasy, “any one of the sons-in-law of the Rani had broken his leg owing to a fall, would he have been forsaken and another person placed in his stead or would proper arrangement have been made for his treatment? Let that procedure be followed here also; let the broken parts of the leg of the image be joined and the worship continued; why should the image be thrown away?” All were surprised to hear of the prescription. Ah, nobody had sufficient brains for this very plain reasoning. If it is to be admitted that the image is living on account of the divine manifestation of Govinda, that manifestation must surely depend on the deep love and devotion in the heart of the devotee and His grace or compassion for him So, why is that manifestation not possible in a broken image as well, if there are love, reverence and devotion in the heart? And the merit or demerit of the broken image can by no means touch that manifestation. Moreover, can the love for the image in which the worship of the divine Lord has been performed and to which one’s heart-felt love has been offered so long, vanish from the heart of a true devotee simultaneously with the breaking of a particular limb of that image. The Vaishnava teachers again teach that devotees should serve the divine Lord in the same way in which they themselves like to be served. They think that the divine Lord loves what one oneself likes in any particular condition and inculcate upon us that kind of service. The prescription to give up the image is not proper from that standpoint too. Therefore, the ban on worshipping the Deity in a broken image which is found in the Smritis is surely meant for the novice who is devoid of love for God and has just begun to tread the path of devotion. Some of the proud scholars, however, differed from the Master’s decision, some others did not clearly express their views lest their farewell gifts should suffer reduction, some others again who had acquired a little true knowledge and devotion through learning, very highly praised the decision of the Master when they came to know of it. The Master, with his own hands, joined the broken leg of the image afterwards and the worship of it went on as before. When the sculptor made a new image and brought it, it was merely placed on one side of the temple of Govinda but was never duly installed. After the passing away of the Rani and Mathur Babu, their descendants made preparations from time to time for the installation of that new image, but were compelled to put it off on account of some worldly mishap or other on each such occasion. The new image of Govinda is therefore, preserved in that condition even now.1
1. A proverb current in Bengal meaning introducing something irrelevant to the subject under discussion,—Tr.
1. This current proverb (in Northern India) has for its source the following story: There was a holy man of the Vairagi denomination who travelled from one place of pilgrimage to another for a long time. He himself carried the bundle of his paraphernalia of necessary articles like the metal cooking-pot and water-pot. One day the holy man thought that he might be free from the trouble of carrying the bundle if he could get a horse. As soon as the thought occurred to him, he began to go round to secure a horse on charity, crying out, “O Rama, please let me have a horse.” An army of the king of the country happened then to pass that way. On the way a mare foaled. “Whew,” thought the rider of the mare, “ the army will march from here immediately; the mare can walk, but how can I take the young one that is just born?” After a little deliberation, as soon as he went out in search of a man to carry the foal, he met with the holy man, crying out, “O Rama, please let me have a horse.” And finding him strong, the officer without any other consideration forced him to carry the young one. At this turn of events, the holy man was perplexed and began to repeat again and again, “Rama took it contrariwise, far from the horse carrying me and my bundle I am now to carry this foal,”
1. The metaphor is from the Hindu Purana. The story is: While Bhagiratha was bringing down Ganga on earth, she got into a place in the Himalayas surrounded on all sides by rocks, which she failed to pierce through or overflow. In her plight, she asked Bhagiratha to go to Indra’s elephant Airavata and to request him to pierce the rock with his tusk to make an outlet for her. When Airavata was approached with the request, he made an indecent proposal in his vanity. When from the sad face of her child—for Bhagiratha looked upon her as his mother— Ganga understood the matter, she sent him again to Airavata with a counterproposal that if he could withstand the strength of but three waves of hers, she would consent to his proposal. Airavata blinded by his vanity took his proposal to be already agreed upon, came and pierced the rock but could not withstand the very first wave of Ganga and was carried off. Ganga=Mandakini.—Tr.
1. There are twelve Siva temples facing the courtyard of the Kali temple at Dakshineswar.
2. The hymn is called after the first word in it, Mahimnah.
1. “Similarly there is the reading in the Shatyayani recension, ‘his sons come by the patrimony, friends, the results of his good actions and foes, those of his bad actions. ’ Again similarly the Kaushitakins read, he (the man of knowledge when dead) shakes off the results of his good and bad actions by that (by the strength of his knowledge); his dear gnaties, relatives, enjoy the results of his good actions and haters, those of his bad actions.”
Commentary of Sankara on the Vedanta Aphorisms. III. 3. 26 and 27.
1. Katha Upanishad 2. 2. 15 and Mundaka Upanishad 2. 2. 10.
1. III. 1. 35 & 36.—Tr.
1. Afterwards the new image was installed.—Tr