2.17 THE MASTER’S VISIT TO HIS NATIVE VILLAGE
The Master suffered for six months and then his body was rid of the disease, and his mind became to a great extent habituated to dwell in Bhavamukha, the plane of consciousness consisting of both duality and non-duality. But his body was not as strong and healthy as before and it was feared that his dysentery might recur for want of pure drinking water when the waters of the Ganga become saline during the rainy season. It was therefore settled that he should go to Kamarpukur, his birthplace, for a few months. This was in 1867. Arrangements were made. The devout Jagadamba Dasi, wife of Mathur Babu, knew that the Master’s household was ever poor like that of Siva. So she made arrangements with much care about all the necessary articles so that “father” might not have inconvenience of any kind.1 The Master then started at an auspicious moment. Hriday and the Bhairavi Brahmani accompanied him But his aged mother stuck to her previous resolve of living on the Ganga and stayed at Dakshineswar under Mathur’s care.
The Master had not come to Kamarpukur for the past eight years. Therefore, his relatives, it is superfluous to add, were eager to see him And it needs no mention that there were special reasons for it, for many strange rumours had reached their ears from time to time viz., that he was crying “Hari, Hari” in a woman’s dress, that he had become a monk, that he was repeating “Allah, Allah” continually, so on and so forth. But, as soon as the Master was in their midst, they all found how baseless were the rumours; for, they found that he was just his old self. The same amiability, the same loving merriment, the same austere truthfulness, the same profound religious care and the same surging of overwhelming emotion at the name of Hari — all these old qualities of his were seen in him in the fullest measure as before. The only change they found in him was that his body and mind were glowing with such an indescribable, heavenly effulgence that they felt a great hesitation to appear before him suddenly or to broach worldly topics when he did not start them himself. Again, they all felt that their worldly anxieties disappeared into thin air, so to say, when they were near him and that there flowed in their hearts a serene and tranquil current of bliss and peace. But when they were away from him, they experienced a strong inexpressible desire to go to him once more. Thus, there was an incessant flow of bliss in that poor family when they had him in their midst after so long a time.
And in order to fill the cup of happiness to the brim, a messenger was sent under the instruction of the ladies, to Jayaramvati, the village of the Master’s father-in-law, to bring his wife. The Master knew it, but did not express either approval or disapproval. It had fallen to the lot of his newly married wife to have seen her husband once only after their marriage. It was when, according to the custom of the family, the Master was taken to Jayaramvati on one occasion when she was seven years of age. But she was then too young to understand what marriage meant. Therefore, the only thing regarding the event that was retained in her memory was that, when the Master came to her father’s house with Hriday, the latter brought a good many lotus flowers from somewhere, sought her out from a secluded part of the house where she had hidden herself and, while out of bashfulness she shrank into herself, worshipped her feet. Six years after this event, she was taken to Kamarpukur in her thirteenth year. This time she spent a month there. But she had not the good fortune to see either the Master or her mother-in-law as both of them were then away at Dakshineswar. She came again six months later to her father-in-law’s house but could not see either of them, for the same reason, during her stay of a month and a half. Three or four months had already elapsed since her return to her father’s house when news came that the Master had come and she was to go to Kamarpukur. She had reached her fourteenth year, six or seven months before. Therefore, this was practically the first occasion when she met her husband after her marriage.
It seems that the Master stayed at Kamarpukur for six or seven months on this occasion. The friends of his early days and all the men and women of the village known to him mixed with him as before and tried to make him happy. The Master also was very pleased to see them after such a long time. In mingling with men and women of Kamarpukur, in their circumscribed worldly lives, the Master felt at that time a joy similar to that felt by great thinkers and scholars when, during their leisure after hard toils; they join with children in their aimless and meaningless amusements. But it may be said without contradiction that he was always anxious that they should become conscious of the transitoriness of this life and, although living in the world, they should gradually attain self-control and learn to depend on God in all matters. We may infer this from the manner in which he always taught us the very same things through play and fun, mirth and merriment.
On finding that, even living in the little world of the little village, some had made unexpected progress in religious life, he was struck with wonder at the inconceivable glory of God. He told us many times of an event to illustrate this.
The Master said that one day during that period, he was resting in his room after his midday meal. Some ladies, his neighbours, came to see him, sat near him and became engaged in spiritual conversation with him The Master suddenly happened to be in ecstasy and felt that he was a fish joyfully swimming and sporting, sometimes coming to the surface, and sometimes sinking deep — all in the ocean of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. The Master happened to be in ecstasy very often while talking with others. Therefore, not at all mindful of it, the ladies expressed their own opinions, which created a sort of noise. One of the company forbade the others to do so and asked them to be quiet till his ecstasy came to an end. She said, “He has now become a fish and is swimming in the sea of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. If you make a noise, that Bliss of his will be interrupted.” Although many of them did not then believe in her words, all remained quiet. When he came down from that state and was asked about his experience, the Master said, “Yes, what she said is true. How strange! How could she know it?”
It seems to us that the daily rounds of the men and women of the village of Kamarpukur now appeared new to the Master to a great extent. He now felt like a man who had returned home from a far off place and to whom every person and object of his village appeared to be new. For, although the Master had been away from the place of his birth for a short period of eight years only, a violent storm of spiritual strivings had raged in his heart during that period and produced a radical change in it; for, those eight years he had forgotten himself, forgotten the world and ascended far beyond the bounds of time and space. But while descending from there, he came tranfigured with the knowledge that Brahman existed in all beings, and found all persons and things mellowed by an extraordinary new light. It is well known in philosophy that our consciousness of time and the measurement of its duration arise from the succession of our mental functions. Therefore, a short period during which a great many thoughts rise and sink in our minds appears to us to be very long. One is astonished to think what tumultuous waves of thoughts and emotions surged in the Master’s mind during this period. Is it, therefore, surprising that the said period should appear to him to be an age?
One is astonished to think of the wonderful relation of affection in which the Master bound up all the people, men and women, of Kamarpukur. The men and women of all families including those of the Lahas, the Brahmins, the blacksmiths, the carpenters, the gold-merchants and so on, were all bound to him in a relation of reverential love. We were charmed to hear the Master, on many occasions, speak with great pleasure about the devotion and affection for him, of a large number of men and women, e.g., the simple-hearted and devout Prasanna, the widowed sister of Dharmadas Laha, the Master’s friend Gayavishnu Laha, the son of Dharmadas, Srinivas Sankhari of sincere faith, the devout ladies of the Pyne family, the Master’s Bhikshamata Dhani, the blacksmith woman, and others. All of them remained at this time almost always beside the Master. Those who could not do so on account of household duties or other business used to come in the morning, or midday, or evening, whenever they had leisure. When they came, the ladies brought with them various sweet and delicious dishes and felt delighted in feeding the Master. We have given the reader elsewhere2 an indication of how the Master, although living in the family at home, and surrounded by the people of the village who behaved so sweetly, always remained divinely inspired. It is, therefore, needless to repeat it here.
The Master paid attention to the performance of another great duty when he came this time to Kamarpukur. At first, the Master had been indifferent to his wife’s coming to Kamarpukur, but now he was intent on giving her education and training for her well-being. Knowing that the Master was married, Tota Puri, his teacher, who initiated him in Sannyasa, had said to him at one time, “What does it matter? He only may be regarded as really established in Brahman whose renunciation, detachment, discrimination and knowledge remain intact in all respects in spite of his wife being with him He alone may be regarded as having really attained the knowledge of Brahman, who can always look equally upon both man and woman as the Self and can behave accordingly. Others who have the knowledge of difference between man and woman, may be Sadhakas, but are still far away from the knowledge of Brahman.” The above remark of Tota Puri came to the Master’s mind and induced him to test his knowledge attained by spiritual practices extending over a long period, as well as to look to his wife’s well-being.
The Master could never neglect or leave half-finished anything he considered to be a duty. The same held good here also. He did not stop at partially educating his girl-wife who depended entirely on him regarding everything of this world and of the other. He was, from now on, especially mindful that she should learn household duties, know people’s character, put money to good use, and above all, surrender her all to God and be an expert in behaving correctly according to place and time and circumstance.3 We have, in many other places, hinted how far-reaching was the result of that teaching which the Master imparted to her, placing before her his ideal life of unbroken continence. Therefore, suffice it to say here that the Holy Mother (as she is called by the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna) was happy, and continued in all respects to have the Master’s pure love, devoid of the slightest tinge of lust, and could offer her life-long worship to him as her chosen Ideal, and follow his footsteps and mould her life accordingly.
The Bhairavi Brahmani did not, on many occasions, understand the Master when he went forward to do his duty to his wife. We have seen that she tried to make the Master give up his resolve of being initiated into Sannyasa when he came in contact with Tota Puri.4 For, love of God, she thought, would be completely uprooted from the Master’s mind if he was so initiated. Some such apprehension took possession of her heart even now. She, it seems, thought that it would be prejudicial to the Master’s continence if he mixed so intimately with his wife. But the Master could not now, any more than on the earlier occasion, comply with the Brahmani’s instruction, which greatly wounded her feelings. This gave rise to egoism, which was aggravated into pride and vanity, which now made her often lose faith in the Master. We were told by Hriday that she openly expressed her feelings from time to time. For example, if any one raised a question before her on any spiritual matter and said that he would ask Sri Ramakrishna and have his opinion on it, she would flare up and say, “What can he say? It is I who have opened his eyes.” Or, she would scold the womenfolk of the family for trivial reasons and, at times, for no reason at all. But the Master remained calm in spite of such words and oppressive behaviour of hers and did not cease having devotion or paying reverence to her now as before. Instructed by the Master the Holy Mother paid the Brahmani the respect due to her own mother-in-law and always engaged herself in her service with love and devotion; and knowing herself to be an ignorant girl, she did not protest against any of her words or actions.
When pride and egoism increase, the intelligence of even a clever man gets clouded. It does not, then, take long for that pride to get knocks and bumps at every step. When, however, it is knocked about in that way, a man with some sense left in him, knows its evil effects, gives it up and follows the rising curve of his life again. Such was the case with the learned Brahmani now; for unable to behave rightly with reference to persons and circumstances, under the influence of that pride, one day she created an awkward situation. The incident came about thus:
We have already mentioned Srinivas Sankhari. Although not born in a high family, Srinivas was higher than many Brahmins in respect of devotion to God. One day during this period, he came to the Master for the purpose of having Raghuvir’s Prasada. It needs no mention that the Master and all the members of his family became very happy with Srinivas in their midst. The devout Brahmani also was pleased to see Srinivas’s faith and devotion. They talked on various devotional topics till midday, when the offering of food to Raghuvir and other services were finished and Srinivas sat down to take food. When he finished and was ready, according to the prevalent custom, to clean the place where he had taken his food, the Brahmani forbade him to do so and said, “We’ll do it ourselves.” At the Brahmani’s importunities Srinivas had no alternative but to leave the matter there and go home.
In villages dominated by strict observance of social rules and regulations, great quarrels and party feelings are often roused on account of the breaking of those rules. And such an event was going to happen now also. For, the Brahmin women who came to visit the Master raised great objection to the cleaning of the leavings of Srinivas by the Bhairavi who was a Brahmin woman. The Bhairavi did not admit the propriety of their objection. The quarrel gradually increased. Hriday, the Master’s nephew, heard of it. Knowing that a great quarrel might arise over that trifling event, Hriday asked the Brahmani not to violate custom, but she paid no heed to his words. Hriday got incensed and there grew up a noisy quarrel between him and the Brahmani. Hriday said, “If you do so, we won’t allow you to remain inside the house.” The Brahmani also was not the sort of person to let the matter drop and she said, “What harm if you don’t? Manasa5 will go to bed in Sitala’s room”6 All other members of the house mediated and entreating the Brahmani to refrain from the cleaning, brought the quarrel to an end.
Although she refrained, the Brahmani’s pride was severely wounded that day. When her anger subsided, she thought calmly over the matter and understood her own mistake. She thought that when she was committing such blunders again and again, she should no longer continue to stay there. When the eyes of an aspirant possessed of keen insight fall somehow or other on his own heart, no impure ideas can conceal themselves from him That was the case with the Brahmani now. She studied the change of her attitude towards the Master and found herself at fault there too and became very repentant. A few days passed, when one day she made garlands of various flowers with her own hands and smeared them with sandal-paste and having beautifully adorned the Master as Sri Gauranga, asked his forgiveness with all her heart. Afterwards, controlling herself carefully and offering her heart and soul to God, she left Kamarpukur and took the path to Kasi, the abode of the Lord of the universe. Thus did the Brahmani take final leave of the Master after having spent six long years with him at a stretch.
The Master spent about seven months in various spiritual moods at Kamarpukur, and returned to Dakshineswar (probably at the end of 1867) when he had regained his health and was almost as strong and healthy as before. An important event happened in his life shortly after his return. We will present it to the reader now.