2.16 EPILOGUE OF THE
AND HIS PRACTICE OF ISLAM
Now the Master’s strong body was shattered and he suffered from illness for a few months, either as a result of his curing the fatal disease of Jagadamba Dasi, as mentioned above, or of his superhuman efforts for six long months to dwell continually in the plane of the non-dual consciousness. We were told by him that he had then a severe attack of dysentery. His nephew Hriday engaged himself in nursing him day and night. Mathur placed him under the treatment of Gangaprasad Sen, the famous physician, and made special arrangements for his diet etc. Although his body was so severely ill, the extraordinary calmness and the incessant bliss enjoyed by his mind, freed from all body-consciousness, beggared description. His mind would separate itself from the body, the disease and all other objects of the world at the slightest suggestion,1 and would soar to the far-away Nirvikalpa plane at once. No sooner did it hear the word Brahman, Self or Isvara than it merged in its content, forgetting all other things and its own separate existence for some time. Therefore, it is clear, that in spite of that severe pain in his body owing to the fury of the disease, he actually felt very little of it. But that pain due to the disease, we heard from the Master himself, brought down his mind at times from high planes of spiritual experience and made it conscious of his body. The Master said it was during this period, that the foremost of the Paramahamsas, the followers of the Vedanta, used to come to him. His room was then always reverberating with the sounds of their utterances on the discussion of the Vedantic truths, “Not this, not this”, “Being-Revealing-Rejoicing”, “This Self in Brahman”2, and so on and so forth. When, during the discussions of those high Vedantic dicta, they could not arrive at the right conclusion on any question, the Master had to become the umpire and decide it. Need we say that had he been always distracted like other people on account of the disease, it would never have been possible for him constantly to take part in those abstruse philosophical discussions?
By the end of the period when he was continually in the Nirvikalpa plane, the Master had, we have said elsewhere,3 a wonderful auditive experience, a realization — he was now commanded for the third time “to remain in Bhavamukha” Though we call it an auditive experience, the reader should understand by it a realization in his heart of hearts. For, the Master did not hear it, unlike as he did twice before, from the mouth of any visible figure. But the Master’s mind had the immediate consciousness of the existence of that idea or will in the cosmic mind of the omnipresent Brahman, as it was remaining most of the time in complete oneness with the Absolute, the non-dual Being; and, at times, getting separated from It partially, was realizing that it was a part of the all-pervading Brahman with attributes, the Mother of the universe.4 On account of that realization, the future purpose of his life stood completely revealed to him.
For, not standing in need of a body, nor at all desirous to continue in life, yet commanded again to “remain in Bhavamukha”, according to the inscrutable will of the universal Mother, the Master now came to know that he had to live in the body thenceforward in accordance with the will and purpose of the sportive Divine, and that he had been so commanded because his body could not continue to live, were he to remain eternally identified with Brahman. He also came to know his former lives, through Jatismaratwa (the power of remembering past lives) and that he was an Adhikarika person, or rather, an incarnation of God, eternally pure in nature, who now assumed a body and performed austerity etc., in order to rescue the modern age from the decline of religion and to bring about the well-being of humanity. He came to know, moreover, that, it was with a view to accomplishing some special purpose of Hers that the universal Mother had brought him down on earth into a poor Brahmin family, as one devoid of all grandeur of external powers. He came to know, further, that only a few people would be able to know and understand, during his lifetime, the mystery of that play of the divine Mother and that as soon as the generality of people would begin to understand it, the Mother would absorb Her child into Her own Person; but that the spiritual waves, which his body and mind would generate, would go on surging with ever greater momentum and would bring after his passing away plenitude of well-being to humanity for all time.
We must remember some of the statements in the scriptures, if we are to understand how the Master could have those extraordinary experiences. The aspirant, say the scriptures, attains Jatismaratwa5 before he becomes fully established in the Pure Consciousness Itself with the help of the non-dual mood. In other words, with the fullest development of this remembrance, his memory reaches such a mature state that the entire history of his transmigration — how, where and how many times he had had to be encased in bodies and what actions, good or evil, he had performed — is revealed with a terrible vividness. Consequently, the transitoriness of everything in the world and the futility of the pursuit of worldly enjoyments, and of being born again and again under the same general conditions, are driven home to him. The intense detachment which then arises in his heart frees him from all desires whatsoever.
The Upanishad6 says that the resolves of such persons always come true. And their minds through Samadhi can perceive any sphere they like, whether of gods or of forbears or of any other beings. Patanjali, the great sage, mentions in his Yoga-sutras that all kinds of Yogic powers are attained by such persons. Again, the author of the Panchadasi, synthesising this apparent contradiction coexisting in the same person viz., the attainment of Yogic powers and the absence of desires, says that although they attain such wonderful powers, they never apply them to further their own interests for the simple reason that they do not have any such desire. Absolutely dependent on the will of God, the Adhikarika persons alone amongst them apply at times those powers for the well-being of the many. That is why the author of the Panchadasi says that such a person has the power, but not the urge, to change the worldly circumstances in which he attains the knowledge of Brahman, and spends his time in that state.
If one studies the Master’s life of this period in the light of the scriptural sayings quoted above, the how and why of most of the extraordinary realizations, if not all of them, stand fully revealed. One can understand how as a result of his whole-hearted offering of himself at the lotus feet of the divine Lord, he could attain perfect desirelessness and how in so short a time he ascended and firmly established himself in the Nirvikalpa plane of knowledge of Brahman. One can understand how he attained Jatismaratwa, as a result of which he had the immediate knowledge that the One, who had manifested Himself as Rama and Krishna in past ages and did good to humanity, had again assumed a body and manifested Himself in the present age as “Ramakrishna”7 One can understand why he never applied the divine powers for the comforts of his own body and mind, though their manifestations for the good of humanity were matters of almost daily occurrence; why he could and did awaken in others the power of realizing spiritual truths by a mere glance or wish; and why his extraordinary influence is slowly and surely spreading into and acquiring mastery over all the countries of the world.
Thus did the Master know the past and future of his life at the time of his coming down to the realm of ideas from the non-dual state, though he was finally established in that state. But all those experiences do not seem to have come to him on one day or all of a sudden. He, we infer, had the perfect knowledge of all these things in a year after his coming down to the realm of ideas. During this time the Mother of the universe was removing, as it were, veil after veil from before his eyes, explaining clearly those things to him day after day. If we are asked why all those experiences were not revealed simultaneously to the Master’s mind, we reply that, established in the non-dual state of consciousness and completely lost in the bliss of Brahman, he had no time or inclination to know them, till the modification of his mind took an outward direction. Thus was fulfilled the Master’s earnest prayer to the Mother of the universe at the beginning of his Sadhana, “Mother, I do not know at all what I should do; I’ll learn what Thou Thyself wilt teach me.”
Firmly established in the plane of the non-dual consciousness, the Master had the realization of another fact also. He came to feel in his heart of hearts that the realization of non-duality was the ultimate aim of all kinds of disciplines. For, having performed Sadhanas according to the teachings of all the main religious denominations prevalent in India, he had already been convinced that they all took the aspirants towards the non-dual plane. Asked about the non-dual state, he, therefore, said to us over and over again, “It is the finale, my child, the acme, which comes of itself in the life of all aspirants as the ultimate development of their love of God. Know it to be the last word of all faiths, and the faiths are only paths (and not the goal).”
Having thus had the direct experience of non-duality, the Master’s mind was filled with unbounded catholicity. He had now an extraordinary sympathy for all the religious communities which taught that the aim of human life was the realization of God. But he did not realize at first that the said catholicity and sympathy were his discoveries8 and that no aspirant, not even the foremost of them, in the past could attain them as fully as he. He (such is our impression) became gradually acquainted with that fact by coming in contact with the wise Sadhakas belonging to various religious communities at the Kali temple at Dakshineswar and at other well-known places of pilgrimage. But, thenceforward, he was very much wounded whenever he came across one-sidedness in religion, and he tried in all ways to remove that mean attitude.
We can clearly understand from an event of this time how liberal the Master’s mind which was firmly poised in the non-dual knowledge, now became. The Master, we have seen, was ill for a few months after he had reached the zenith in the Practice of the non-dual mood. The event came to pass when he had come round. A short time previously one Govinda Ray had been in search of truth for some time. Hriday told us that he was a Kshatriya by birth. He was perhaps learned in Persian and Arabic. Having studied various religious doctrines and come in contact with different religious communities, he was at last attracted by the liberal doctrine of Islam and was formally initiated into it. Govinda, thirsting for truth, accepted the Islamic faith, but we cannot say how far he followed its social manners and customs. But, since he became initiated, he, we were told, engaged himself ardently in the reading of the Koran and in religious practices according to the process prescribed by that scripture. Govinda was an ardent lover of God. The method of worshipping God according to the teaching and mental attitude prevalent amongst the Sufis, followers of a sect of Islam, seems to have captivated his mind; for he now became engaged day and night in practising devotional moods like the Dervishes, the devotees belonging to that sect.
Somehow or other Govinda now came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar and began to spend his time there with his “seat” spread under the peaceful shade of the Panchavati, which he thought, was a place favourable to religious practices. Muslim Fakirs, as well as Hindu Sadhus, who had renounced the world, were welcome at Rasmani’s Kali temple and the hospitality of the temple was equally accorded to both of them Therefore, while staying there Govinda had not to go round for alms. He spent his days joyfully meditating on his chosen Ideal.
The Master was attracted towards the devout Govinda, and happening to converse with him, was charmed with Govinda’s sincere faith in and love for God. Thus was the Master’s mind now attracted towards the Islamic religion. “This also”, thought he, “is a path to the realization of God; the sportive Mother, the source of infinite Lila, has been blessing many people with the attainment of Her lotus feet through this path also. I must see how through it She makes those who take refuge in Her, attain their desired end. I’ll be initiated by Govinda and engage myself in the practice of that spiritual mood.”
Thought was immediately followed by action. The Master expressed his desire to Govinda, became initiated and engaged himself in practising Islam according to its prescribed rules. The Master said, “I then devotionally repeated the holy syllable ‘Allah’, wore cloth like the Muslims, said Namaz thrice daily and felt disinclined even to see Hindu deities, not to speak of saluting them, inasmuch as the Hindu mode of thought vanished altogether from my mind. I spent three days in that mood, and had the full realization of the result of practices according to that faith.” At the time of practising Islam, the Master at first had the vision of an effulgent, impressive personage with a long beard; afterwards he had the knowledge of the all-pervading Brahman with attributes and merged finally in the attributeless Brahman, the Absolute.
At the time of practising Islam, the Master wanted, said Hriday, to take Muslim food. It was Mathur’s solicitous request only that made him refrain from doing so. Knowing that the childlike Master would not abstain from it if that desire of his were not at least partially fulfilled, Mathur had a cook brought, under whose instruction a Brahmin cook prepared food in the Muslim manner, which was given to the Master to eat. The Master did not even once enter the inner courtyard of the Kali temple while practising Islam, but remained in the mansion of Mathur situated outside.
From the event mentioned above, it becomes clear how sympathetic the Master’s mind became towards other religious communities after he had attained perfection in the Vedantic discipline. It also becomes clear how, by having faith in the Vedantic knowledge alone, the Hindus and the Mohammedans of India may become sympathetic towards one another and develop a brotherly feeling. Otherwise, as the Master used to say “There is, as it were, a mountain of difference between them Their thoughts and faiths, actions and behaviour have remained quite unintelligible to one another in spite of their living together for so long a time.” Does the practice of Islam by the Master, the divine incarnation of the age, indicate that the said difference would some day disappear and both the Hindus and the Muslims would embrace one another in love?
As the result of his being established in the plane of Nirvikalpa consciousness, the memory of nonduality used to be suddenly awakened in him off and on even by the sight of things and persons within the bounds of the plane of duality, merging him in the Absolute. We saw that state brought on him by the slightest association of ideas even without his desiring it. It is, therefore, superfluous to add that he could ascend any moment to that plane by a mere wish. It will be clear from the trifling events to be just mentioned, how deep and wide was his non-dual mood and how dear it was to him.
The gardeners found it inconvenient to sow kitchen vegetables in the spacious temple garden at Dakshineswar when it became covered with growing grass in the rainy season. Therefore, grass-cutters were allowed to cut and take away grass from there. One day, having got the permission to take away grass without paying any price for it, an old grass-cutter cut grass joyfully, bundled it and was about to go to sell in the market. The Master saw that the old man had cut so much grass out of avarice that it was beyond his power to carry or even lift up that load of grass. But the indigent grass-cutter refused to acknowledge it and in spite of his repeated efforts in various ways to lift that big bundle upon his head, he failed miserably. While looking on it, the Master was inspired with spiritual emotion and thought, “Ah, the Self, the knowledge infinite, abides within and so much foolishness and ignorance without!” “O Rama, inscrutable is Thy play,” said he and entered into ecstasy.
(ii) an injured butterfly
One day at Dakshineswar the Master saw a butterfly flying with a tiny stick stuck into its tail. He was at first pained to think that some naughty urchin had done it, but the next moment he was inspired and burst into laughter saying, “O Rama, Thou hast brought Thyself to this plight!”
(iii) the new Durva grass trampled
At one time a particular spot of the garden of the Kali temple was covered with newly grown Durva grass and was beautiful to look at. While he was looking at it, the Master transcended the normal consciousness and was feeling identified with that spot when a man just happened to walk across that field at which he became very restless, feeling unbearable pain in his chest. Mentioning that event, he said to us later, “I then felt just that kind of pain which is felt when anybody tramples on one’s chest. That state of Bhavasamadhi is very painful.- Although I had it for six hours only, it became quite unbearable.”
(iv) the Master’s body was injured by the blow dealt at a boatman’s body
One day the Master while in Bhavasamadhi was looking on the Ganga, standing at the spacious Ghat with the open portico. Two boats were at anchor at the Ghat and the boatmen were quarrelling over some matter. The quarrel became gradually bitter and the stronger man gave a severe slap on the back of the weaker. At that, the Master cried out suddenly with pain. Hriday heard it from the Kali temple, went there quickly and saw that the Master’s back had become red and swollen. Impatient with anger, Hriday said repeatedly, “Uncle, show me the man who has beaten you; I’ll tear off his head.” When afterwards the Master quietened down a little, Hriday was astonished to hear of the event and thought, “Is it ever possible?” Girish Chandra Ghosh heard the event from the Master’s lips and narrated it to us. Innumerable events of this nature regarding the Master may be mentioned but we refrain from doing so to avoid superfluity.