2.12 THE SADHU WITH MATTED HAIR
THE MASTER’S SADHANA OF THE VATSALYA BHAVA
Sri Yogeswari, the Bhairavi, came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar after the virtuous Rani Rasmani had passed away in the latter part of 1861. The Master applied himself particularly to the Tantric disciplines from that time to 1863. Mathur Babu had the privilege of serving the Master and thereby feeling blessed, when the Master plunged himself in those disciplines. Just as before that period Mathur had become firmly convinced, by repeatedly testing him, of his extraordinary love for God, wonderful self-control, and glowing renunciation and detachment, so, during this period of his Tantra Sadhana, as a result of experiencing time and again divine powers manifested in him, he came to the firm conclusion that it was the Devi, his chosen Ideal Herself, who, in the person of Sri Ramakrishna, had become pleased to accept his services1 and was protecting him in all respects and accompanying him everywhere, maintaining his influence and authority over the estate and covering him with ever-increasing honour and respect. He thought so because, during this time, he succeeded in whatever he undertook, and regarded himself as exceedingly befriended by the Divine through the Master. It was, therefore, no wonder that Mathur spent unstintingly large sums of money in supplying articles conducive to the Master’s Sadhana and for serving God and performing other virtuous deeds according to his wish.
As the manifestation of the spiritual powers of the Master increased day by day through the Tantric practices, Mathur, who had taken refuge at his holy feet, found his ardour, courage and strength correspondingly developed. His feeling was now similar to that of a devotee who reposed his faith in God and experienced in his heart extraordinary enthusiasm and accession of strength when he attained His grace and felt safe under His protection. But the devotion of the worldly Mathur in whose nature Rajas predominated, remained quite satisfied with rendering service to the Master and performing virtuous acts, never wishing to advance far into the spiritual realm Although this was so, Mathur was perfectly convinced that the Master was the only source of his strength, his intelligence and his hope, that he alone was his prop and support in this world and in the next, and that he was at the root of his worldly prosperity, exalted position, etc.
The undertakings that Mathur carried out at that time prove that he now considered himself fully secure in his worldly affairs through the grace of the Master. We read in the book entitled “A story of the life of Rani Rasmani” that Mathuranath performed the very expensive religious ceremony called the Annameru, the gift, of a “mountain of food” and other necessaries, in 1864 at Dakshineswar. Hriday said that besides plentiful gold, silver, etc., he gave away to the Pandits a thousand maunds of rice and an equal amount of sesame, and appointed Sahachari, the well-known songstress, to sing the glory of God and Rajnarayan to sing the songs of Chandi, converting the Kali temple into a festive ground for some time. Hriday said further that Mathur saw the Master enter repeatedly into ecstasy listening to the highly devotional songs rendered by those singers. In fact, he took the varying degrees of the Master’s appreciative reaction in this respect to be the measure of their talents and accordingly gave them as reward precious shawls, silks and hundreds of rupees.
Attracted by the humility and innumerable other qualities of Padmalochan, the then principal court-pandit of the Maharaja of Burdwan, the Master had gone to see him some time before the gift of the “mountain of food” was made by Mathur. We were told by the Master that Mathur had a great desire to have that famous scholar brought to the meeting of Pandits, convened at the time of that religious ceremony, and make him accept gifts. Knowing that the Pandit was greatly devoted to the Master, Mathur sent him an invitation through Hriday. But Padmalochan could not accept at that time the respectful invitation of Mathur. We have narrated in detail the story of Padmalochan elsewhere.2
The Master became attracted towards the disciplines of the Vaishnava doctrines after he had finished the Tantric ones. We find, as the result of our inquiries, some obvious reasons leading to that. Firstly, the devout Bhairavi Brahmani was an expert in the disciplines of the Panchabhavas spoken of in the Vaishnava scriptures, and spent long periods of time in mastering one or other of them. We have mentioned before that she fed the Master in the same affectionate spiritual attitude as Yasoda used to feed her boy Gopala. Therefore it is not improbable that she encouraged the Master to undertake the discipline of the Vaishnava doctrines. Secondly, it was but natural for the Master, born as he was in a Vaishnava family, to have love for the disciplines of the spiritual modes of the Vaishnavas. He had had great opportunities for cultivating reverence for those Sadhanas which were prevalent at and around Kamarpukur. The third and the most important of those reasons, however, was that there was in the Master an extraordinary blend of the natures of both man and woman. Under the influence of one of them, he appeared to be the best of austere, valorous men, fearless like a lion, who would not rest satisfied without probing everything to the very bottom; while, under the influence of the other, he became possessed of a wonderful feminine nature, tender yet severe, applying himself to seeing and weighing things and persons in the world through his own heart; he became by nature deeply attached to or detached from certain things and could bear with ease endless troubles when the heart responded, but unlike ordinary people he could do nothing when it did not.
During the first four years of the Master’s spiritual practices when he did not accept any external help, he undertook the disciplines of the modes of Santa and Dasya and sometimes that of Sakhya like that of Sridama, Sudama and other friends of Sri Krishna at Vraja and attained success in all of them. The reader perhaps remembers that the Master had recourse to Dasya Bhava and passed some time in the mode of Mahavir to whom Ramachandra was as dear as life, and that he had the vision of Sita, Janaka’s daughter who suffered misery all her life. He, therefore, now applied his mind to the disciplines of the two principal devotional modes of Vatsalya and Madhura practised by the Vaishnava teachers. During that period he looked upon himself as a woman friend of the divine Mother, and engaged himself in fanning Her with a Chamara. Dressed in a woman’s apparel and surrounded by ladies, he paid obeisance to the Devi during Her autumn worship at the Calcutta house of Mathuranath, and on account of the absorption in feminine feelings, often forgot that he had a male body.3 When we began to visit the holy feet of the Master at Dakshineswar, we sometimes saw this female nature manifested in him. But it did not then last so long as at the time we are speaking of. And there was no need of it; for, it then became easy for him, by the grace of the divine Mother, to dwell at will in any mode whatsoever, of a man or a woman or in that of non-duality, which is beyond all modes and is the source of them all. He then stayed, for the good of the visiting devotees, as long as he liked in any particular mood.
Be that as it may, if the reader wants to form a conception of the greatness of the Master’s life during his Sadhana he must, first of all, consider deeply with the help of his imagination the uncommon elements his mind was made of from his birth, the manner in which it moved about daily in the world and the nature of the changes produced in it by the impact of the fierce spiritual storm that raged for the last eight years of his life of Sadhana. We were told by himself that he sincerely believed until he came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar in the year 1855 and for some time afterwards, that he would lead, like his forefathers, the life of a strict and virtuous householder. As he was free from egoism from his birth, it never crossed his mind that he was superior to anyone in the world in any respect, or possessed nobler qualities than anyone. But his extraordinary speciality began to manifest itself at every step when he stepped into the field of action. He felt as if an unknown, divine Power accompanied him every moment and painting in lurid colours the transitoriness and worthlessness of sights, tastes etc., held them before his eyes and forced him to orientate his life in an opposite direction. A selfless seeker after unalloyed truth, the Master very soon accustomed himself to move about in the world at the promptings of that Power. It is clear that it would have been difficult for him to do so, if he had a strong desire for attaining any objects of enjoyment in the world.
What we have said will become clear if one remembers the Master’s lifelong behaviour on all matters. He discontinued his studies when he understood that the aim of the Brahmins in acquiring this learning was only “bundling of rice and plantain”, in other words, earning money. He accepted the post of a priest thinking it would be of help in managing worldly affairs; but he soon realized that the aim of worshipping God was something quite different, viz., to see Him and live in Him; and at once he became mad after it. He knew that realization of God depended on perfect self-control and, although married, he refrained from having any sexual relations with his wife through body, mind or speech; he understood that no man could have perfect reliance on God if he stored anything for future use, and at once he eradicated completely from his mind the idea of laying up even trifling things, not to speak of hoarding gold and other precious materials. Instances like these could easily be multiplied from his life. When one thinks of these facts, it becomes clear how little his mind was influenced by ingrained tendencies that produce delusion in people’s minds. The Master’s power of understanding ideas and making them practical was so strong that his Samskaras could not stand against it and make him deviate from his path.
Besides, the Master was from his childhood a Srutidhara, a person of wonderful retentive memory, one who could repeat word for word in due order what he had heard but once and who could retain it for ever. The reader already knows how in his childhood he, along with his friends, used to rehearse, in the fields and pastures of Kamarpukur, the songs, Yatras, and stories of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and other books on listening to them but once. So we see that the Master entered upon his life of spiritual practices with the rare possession of an extraordinarily wonderful memory, love of truth and of putting ideas into practice as the very bases of his practices, — the three qualities, which it is not easy for an ordinary aspirant to acquire even by a whole life’s effort. It was, therefore, no wonder that he attained in a short time great success in his spiritual life. The reason why we were amazed to hear that he succeeded in each of his disciplines even in three days, was that we did not then understand an iota of his uncommon mental constitution.
The reader will understand this statement of ours when we mention a few events of the Master’s life. In the beginning of his spiritual practice as soon as the Master discriminated between the real and the unreal and threw into the Ganga a few coins along with lumps of earth, repeating “rupee-earth, earth-rupee”, the attachment to gold, which spreads its influence down to the very bottom of the human heart, became eradicated for ever from his mind; no sooner had he cleaned with his own hands those abominably filthy places, at whose contamination people could not rest satisfied without a bath, than his mind gave up the egoism due to his Brahmin birth and he became convinced for ever that he was in no way superior to those persons who were regarded in society as untouchables; as soon as he was convinced that he was a child of the divine Mother and “all the women of the world were parts of Her”,4 it became impossible for him to look upon any woman as other than the divine Mother Herself, and to have the ordinary conjugal relationship with any. When one ponders over these instances one clearly feels that the Master could not have achieved those results if he had not had an extraordinary power of understanding ideas and making them practical. The reason why we cannot fully believe in the events of the Master’s life, or are astonished to hear them, is that we look into our own hearts and find that our attachment to gold will not vanish if we throw into water coins and lumps of earth a thousand times, that the egoism of our mind will not be washed off even if we clean dirty places the same number of times and that the filial attitude towards every woman will not arise in our minds at the critical moment even if we are told all our lives, of the manifestation of the divine Mother as women. We cannot attain the results as the Master could in these things in spite of our efforts, because our power of understanding ideas and making them practical is chained down by the impressions of our past Karma. We enter the realm of Sadhana with minds devoid of self-control and retentive power and full of such adverse traits, and of course, we meet with corresponding results as well.
It is doubtful whether even in the course of four or five centuries there will come into the world one with a mind of such extraordinary powers as the Master. It is impossible for minds like ours even to imagine how unique the Master’s mind was, how by nature it was endowed with full self-control and perfect retentive power and was devoid of all evil traits, and how much greater power and subtler insight it attained by the impulsion of an extraordinary loving eagerness and endeavour for the realization of the complete vision of the divine Mother, which made him forget food, sleep etc., for such a long period.
We have already said that no falling off was observed in the service of the divine Mother in the temple at Dakshineswar after the death of Rani Rasmani. Mathur, to whom Sri Ramakrishna was as dear as life, was not only not averse to spending the stipulated amount in Her service, but generously spent unusually large sums of money at the Master’s behest. Besides performing the services of deities, he was greatly fond of serving holy men. For, owing to the teaching of the Master, Mathur, who had taken refuge at his feet, looked upon devout holy men as the exact images of God. Therefore, when the Master asked him to make arrangements for offering to the Sadhus clothes, blankets, water-pots and other necessaries, besides food, for their daily use, Mathur purchased all those articles and stored them in a room to its fullest capacity, so that they might be given to the holy men to their full satisfaction. He told his officers that the articles in the new store should be distributed according to the Master’s orders. Again, when he came to know soon afterwards that a desire had arisen in the Master’s mind to serve the devout holy men of all denominations, by giving them articles useful to their spiritual practices, Mathur made due arrangements about, it too.5 All these gifts were probably made in the year 1862-63, when the wonderful hospitality at the Kali temple of Rani Rasmani became widely known everywhere among the Sadhus. Although, even during the Rani’s lifetime, the Kali temple had been regarded by the travelling holy pilgrims as a resting place on their way to their destinations, its reputation now spread to a wider region, and devout monks, the foremost of all denominations, came there in large numbers. Pleased with the hospitality accorded to them, they went their way blessing the manager for the services so devotedly rendered. We have recorded elsewhere, all that we were told by the Master himself, of the eminent holy men who came there in this way. We mention it here again, only because we want to tell the reader about the time of the arrival at Dakshineswar of the holy man of the Ramawat denomination named “Jatadhari”, by whom the Master was initiated in the Mantra of Rama and from whom he got the image of the child Rama called “Ramalala” It was probably in the year 1864 that he came to the Master.
On many occasions we have heard from the Master himself of Jatadhari’s extraordinary love and attachment to Ramachandra. The image of the child Ramachandra was very dear to him. As a result of his serving that image for a long time with much love, his mind ascended to the realm of divine love and reached an inward state, in which it lost itself so much that even before he came to the Master at Dakshineswar, he saw the form of the luminous child Rama actually before him accepting his services which were purified by devotion. At first that vision appeared before him for a moment, time after time, and overwhelmed him with bliss. But the more he advanced in Sadhana with the passing of time, the more did the vision become intense and continue for long periods, till at last it became as vivid and continuous as ordinary objects of sight are. Thus established in loving spiritual contemplativeness, he had the child Rama for almost a constant companion. Engaging himself daily in the services of that image, Ramalala, with the help of which he had realized that divine vision in his life, Jatadhari travelled at pleasure to the various places of pilgrimage in India and came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar.
Jatadhari, who applied himself whole-heartedly to the service of Ramalala, did not divulge to anyone that he had the privilege of having every now and then the vision of the form of the child Rama, the embodiment of love. People could only see that he always served a metal image of a child with extraordinary steadfastness every day. They knew that much and nothing more. But the insight of the Master, the matchless lord of the realm of spiritual moods, pierced the gross external curtain at his very first meeting with Jatadhari and ascertained the hidden inward mystery. Therefore he had a great respect for that monk and joyfully supplied him with all the articles necessary for his service of Ramalala. Besides, the Master spent long hours with him every day and devoutly witnessed his service of Ramalala. The Master did so only because he, as we have said elsewhere,6 had the divine vision of Rama’s celestial form, the embodiment of spiritual love, which Jatadhari also used to have. Accordingly the relation of the Master with Jatadhari gradually became intimate and respectful.
We have already mentioned that the Master spent some time in the mood of a woman to satisfy an urge to develop this aspect of his dual personality. Looking upon himself as the eternal female companion of the universal Mother, he applied himself wholly for a pretty long time to Her service. He would adorn and decorate Her with flower-garlands prepared with his own hands and with new gold ornaments got ready by Mathur at his request, fan Her with a Chamara to cool Her person, and sing and dance before Her in a woman’s dress to please Her. It is needless to say that the Master undertook to perform all these, because a strong urge to do so arose in his mind of his own accord.
The Master’s love and devotion to Rama revived in his mind when Jatadhari came and he had talks with him The form of Rama that he now saw in the image of Ramalala under the revived impulse, was that of Rama, the embodiment of spiritual love. Therefore, it is no wonder that his mind was now filled with maternal affection for that divine Child. The Master began to feel towards the divine Child that wonderful love and attraction which a mother feels towards her young child. That love and attraction alone, doubtless, made the Master now sit beside the child-image of Ramalala, and look at it so intently that he did not know how time slipped away. For, by means of various sweet childish pranks, the Master said, the extraordinary effulgent Child made him forget everything else, tried to detain him daily near It, watched his path in expectation of his coming and accompanied him everywhere in spite of his requests not to do so.
The active mind of the Master could not leave any work half-finished. That nature of his manifested in the concrete fields of work, was also seen in the sphere of the subtle ideal world. It was seen that if any idea arose of its own accord in his heart, he could not rest satisfied without reaching its ultimate limits. On studying that nature of his, some readers may think, “But is it good? Is it beneficial to a man to run in pursuit of any and every idea that may arise in his mind at any time and become a tool in its hands?” Although that nature of the Master did not lead him astray, it should not be imitated by the people in general inasmuch as all ideas, good and bad, always arise in the minds of weak humanity. Man should never have such a faith in himself as to believe that only good ideas will arise in his mind. Therefore it should be the aim of man to rein back his desires. We admit that this is a reasonable argument, but we have something to say in fuller explanation of this.
We can by no means deny that the mind of a man, excessively desirous of enjoying lust and gold and completely fettered to them, should not repose so much faith in itself. Therefore, it is ignorant and short-sighted people alone who can raise any doubt regarding the need for people in general to control their desires. But with some rare Sadhakas, the Vedas and the other scriptures say, selfcontrol becomes, by the grace of God, as normal a function as breathing. Therefore, completely freed from the attraction of lust and gold, their minds get converted into repositories of good and healthy ideas alone. The Master also said that no evil desire can, by the grace of the divine Mother, raise its head and have mastery over the mind of a man who has taken perfect refuge in Her. “Mother,” said he, “prevents him from taking a wrong step.” A man who has reached such a state can perfectly trust each and every impulse of his; then it not only does him no harm but becomes a source of immense good to others. For, it becomes absolutely impossible for that man to seek his self-interest in that state, inasmuch as the little “I”, born of the identification with the body, which produces selfishness and is not contented even with the attainment of all the pleasures of the world, is merged for ever in the all-pervading “I” of God. Therefore the will of God, whose nature it is to do good to all, then manifests itself as various desires in the mind of that man for universal welfare. Or the Sadhaka, in that state, always feels in his heart of hearts, “I am the machine, Thou art the mechanic”; and making sure that the desires in his own mind are the will of God, the all-pervading Person, he does not at all hesitate to act according to their urge. And consequently, it is seen that others are greatly benefited by such actions of his. Such a state comes very early in the lives of uncommonly great souls like the Master. Therefore these great souls, we read in their biographies, trust completely the desires of their minds and very often undertake actions without having recourse to reasoning or inference at all. Keeping their little wills identified with the universal Will, they can always detect and understand things beyond the minds and intellects of the ordinary people, inasmuch as these are manifest from eternity to eternity as subtle ideas in the universal Mind.
Again, coming down to the normal state of humanity these great souls remain always dependent on the universal Will and, therefore, are free from fear and self-interest. Hence, although during the previous state of their identification, they knew beforehand how and by whom or by what the combination of their limited bodies and minds would be destroyed, they entertain no aversion to those persons or objects; rather they gladly help them to the utmost in carrying out the work. The reader will understand what we mean if we give a few examples. Conscious of the inevitability of Sita’s banishment, Rama sent her away to the forest, though He knew that She was innocent. Though He knew that the forsaking of Lakshmana, who was dearer than His life, would inevitably bring His Lila as a human being to an end, He carried it out. Knowing beforehand that the race of Yadu, to which He belonged, would be destroyed, Krishna did not make the slightest attempt to prevent it. On the contrary, He acted in such a way as to bring it about at the proper time. Again, knowing it for certain that He would meet with His death at the hands of the hunter, He concealed His whole body carefully behind the leaves of a tree and kept the two reddish feet dangling in such a way that, as soon as the hunter saw them, he mistook them for a bird and shot them with his arrow. He then blessed and consoled the hunter, who was repenting his mistake, and gave up His body.
Although he already knew that he would attain Parinirvana, body-lessness in the final beatitude, if he accepted the hospitality of the Chandala, Buddha accepted it and ascended to that state, having protected the Chandala by his blessing and consolation from other’s hatred and reproach. Again, conscious that the religion preached by him would soon be polluted if he gave his approval to women’s initiation into Sannyasa, he permitted the venerable Gautami, his aunt, to be so initiated.
In spite of knowing that Judas, his disciple, would betray him into the hands of the enemy who would put an end to his life, Jesus, another incarnation of God, remained uniformly affectionate to him and engaged himself, all his life, in doing him good.
We meet on investigation with many such events even in the lives of persons perfected and liberated in life, not to speak of the incarnations of God. If we want to find a rational explanation of the happy synthesis between the uncommon Personal effort and the absolute dependence on the universal Will, which is invariably noticed in the lives of these personalities, we are inevitably led to the conclusion that their personal efforts are but the manifestation of the same all-pervading Will. Therefore it is clear that all the selfish impressions in the minds of these persons who depend absolutely on God’s will, are destroyed once for all; their minds ascend to a holy plane of consciousness where pure desires alone, absolutely untarnished by selfishness, arise in them So freely reposing their faith in the desires of their minds and acting under their impulse, these Sadhakas, in that state, do not incur any blame. Such actions of the Master, it goes without saying, should not be imitated by the ordinary people. But the Sadhakas, in the unique state mentioned above, will, no doubt, be much enlightened by them in guiding their lives. The scriptures have compared their desires for eating, drinking, etc., which are necessary for the preservation of life, to fried seeds. Just as roasted seeds of trees, creepers, etc., lose their vital power and cannot germinate, so the worldly desires of those persons, roasted over the fire of self-control and divine knowledge, can no more draw them towards enjoyment and lead them astray. The Master also said about it, “coming in contact with the philosopher’s stone, a steel sword becomes golden; it retains unchanged its formidable form, but it can inflict no injury.”
The seers of the Upanishads say that all the mental processes of the Sadhakas in that state correspond to facts. In other words, all the ideas arising naturally in their minds always prove to be objectively true and never otherwise. We could never have believed the above-mentioned words of the seers if we had not repeatedly tested the ideas of the Master established in Bhavamukha and found them to be true! If he felt hesitation about taking any food, it was, we have seen, found on enquiry to have been polluted before. If he felt his power of speech failing him suddenly when he was about to say anything spiritual to anybody, it was proved that the said person was, in truth, completely unfit for it. If he felt that a certain person would not realize religious truths or would realize but a few in his life, it actually came to happen so. If any particular mood, or a particular form of a deity appeared in his mind when he saw a certain person, it was known that the said person was a Sadhaka of that mood, or that deity. If he suddenly said anything to any person under the influence of an inward mood, that person got much light by it and his life became altogether changed, — innumerable incidents of this type can be cited.
Urged by that irresistible inward devotional mood, the Master as he used to do on many other occasions, now regarded himself as a woman, both in body and mind and acted accordingly. So when he had the vision of Rama as a sweet child, he assumed the attitude of maternal affection towards Him He had been, no doubt, initiated in the Mantra of Rama long ago in order to perform properly the worship and service of his family deity Raghuvir; but he was then not attracted towards Him in any mood except that of a servant towards his Master. Having the above-mentioned new mood towards the deity, he now became anxious to be initiated by a Guru according to the scriptures in a Mantra befitting the new mood and to reach the ultimate limit of realization in that discipline. Perfected in the Mantra of the divine Child, Jatadhari came to know the eagerness of the Master and gladly initiated him in the Mantra of his own chosen Ideal. Merged in the Sadhana of that Mantra in the manner taught by him, the Master succeeded in the course of only a few days, in having the divine vision of the child Rama constantly. Absorbed in the meditation of that divine form in the mood of maternal affection towards Him, he soon came to realize that: “Rama, who is the son of Dasaratha, is in every being; the same Rama is immanent in the universe and yet transcends it”. That is to say, Rama is not only Dasaratha’s son but also exists as a Jiva in each body. Again, entering the universe and eternally manifesting Himself as it, He is ever existent in His own attributeless nature devoid of Maya and beyond everything in the universe. We heard the Master reciting on many occasions the Hindi couplet given above.
Besides initiating the Master in the Mantra, Jatadhari, before he went away, made a gift to the Master of the image of Ramalala, which he had served so long with single-minded devotion. For, that living image expressed his desire to Jatadhari that he would henceforward live with the Master. We have described elsewhere7 in detail the extraordinary Lila of that image with the Master and Jatadhari. Therefore it is unnecessary to deal with that topic here again.
When the Master applied his mind, in the aforesaid manner, to perfecting his Vatsalya devotion and experienced its ultimate result, the Bhairavi Brahmani was staying at Dakshineswar. We were told by the Master himself that she was as highly experienced in the disciplines of the Panchabhavas spoken of in the Vaishnava books, as she was in those of the Tantras. Did the Master receive any particular help from her while practising the Vatsalya and Madhura Bhavas? We have not clearly heard anything about it from him But we were told by the Master and Hriday that, established in the mood of maternal affection towards God, the Brahmani treated the Master as Gopala, the child Krishna. Therefore it is inferred that the Master got at least some help from her, both at the time when he assumed the mood of maternal affection towards the child Krishna and had the ultimate experience in that mood, and when he practised Madhura Bhava, the sweet mood, himself adopting the attitude of a woman towards her lover. One might doubt whether he actually got any particular help from her; but this much is admitted without doubt, that a strong desire to practise the disciplines of those moods arose in his mind when he-saw the Brahmani engaged in them and heard her eulogize them.