2.18 THE MASTER’S PILGRIMAGE AND THE STORY OF HRIDAYRAM
Mathuranath and his wife were now getting ready to visit the principal holy places of northwestern India. A day for the starting on the journey was fixed in the month of January and it was settled that many persons, Mathur’s Guru’s son and others, should go with him. Mathur and his wife made importunate requests to the Master to go with them. Consequently, he agreed to accompany them with his aged mother1 and his nephew, Hriday.
Mathur started with the Master and others on an auspicious day — January 27, 1868. We have told the reader many things about the Master’s pilgrimage elsewhere.2 We shall, therefore, briefly mention here what we heard about it from Hriday.
About one hundred and twenty-five persons in all — Sri Ramakrishna, his mother, Mathur, his wife, his daughter-in-law, his Guru’s son, Hriday, a Brahmin cook, a gatekeeper and men servants and women servants, — started to visit the places of pilgrimage on that occasion. One second class and three third class carriages were reserved for them by the Railway Company and it was arranged that, whenever Mathur liked, they should detach those four bogies at any place between Calcutta and Kasi.
Mathur and others visited Sri Vaidyanath at Deoghar on the way and rested a few days there, where an important event occurred. The Master’s heart became filled with compassion on seeing the miserable plight of men and women of a poor village there. He requested Mathur to feed them one day and to give a piece of cloth to each of them3, which he did.
From Deoghar Mathur went direct to Kasi. Nothing of importance happened on the way, except that when Sri Ramakrishna and Hriday got down at a certain station near Kasi, the train started before they could get into it. Mathur became anxious and wired from Kasi that they should be sent by the next train. But they did not have to wait for the next train. Rajendralal Bandyopadhyaya, an important officer of the Railway Company, arrived there on supervision duty in a special train shortly afterwards and seeing them in that plight, took them with him up to Kasi. Rajendralal Bandyopadhyaya was a resident of the Baghbazar quarter of Calcutta.
When he reached Kasi, Mathur Babu hired two houses side by side on the Kedarghat. He behaved there like a prince in all respects.4 Whenever he went out, a silver umbrella was held over his head and servants would carry silver maces and other paraphernalia before and after him.
While he was staying there, Sri Ramakrishna went in a palanquin to pay his obeisance to Viswanath, the principal deity of Kasi, almost everyday. Hriday accompanied him on foot. Even on the way to the temple, the Master used to pass into ecstasy, not to speak of the time when he saw the deity. Though he entered into ecstasy in all the temples, he especially experienced it in the temple of Kedarnath.
Besides visiting the temples, the Master went to see the eminent holy men of Kasi. Hriday always accompanied him The Master paid a few visits to the famous Trailanga Swami, one of the foremost of Paramahamsas. The Swami was then observing the vow of silence and was staying at the Manikarnika Ghat. On their first meeting, the Swami placed his snuffbox before the Master for his use by way of giving a cordial reception to him. Examining his sense organs and the limbs of his body the Master told Hriday that he bore the signs of a true Paramahamsa and that he was, so to say, the living image of Siva. The Swami had resolved to have a Ghat built near Manikarnika. At the request of the Master, Hriday helped that work forward by placing a few spadefuls of earth there. One day, afterwards, the Master invited the Swami and brought him to Mathur’s residence and treated him to rice-porridge with his own hand.
The Master stayed at Kasi for five or six days and then went to Prayag with Mathur. He bathed in the holy confluence and stayed there for three nights. Mathur and all others shaved their heads there according to scriptural injunction, but the Master did not do so, saying, “It is not necessary for me to do it.” From Prayag they returned to Kasi, where they stayed for a fortnight before proceeding to Vrindavan.
Mathur stayed in a house near Nidhuvan at Vrindavan. He displayed his pomp and power there also, as in Kasi. He would go with his wife to visit temples where he offered a few gold coins as a token of respect while saluting the deities. Besides visiting Nidhuvan, the Master paid visits to Radhakunda, Shyamkunda and the Govardhan hill, ascending to the peak of that hillock in an ecstatic mood. He heard of the eminent holy men of the place and paid visits to them. He was highly pleased to meet Gangamata at Nidhuvan. He indicated to Hriday the signs on her person and said that she had attained a very high state of spirituality.
Having stayed at Vrindavan for about a fortnight, Mathur and others returned to Kasi. In order to see Viswanath, the universal Lord, adorned in a special dress and ornaments, they stayed there till the middle of 1868. The Master saw the golden image of Annapurna during this period.
The Master, Hriday said, met the Bhairavi Brahmani named Yogeswari at Kasi. He went several times to her house in the quarter called the “Sixty-four Yoginis.” The Brahmani was living there with a lady named Mokshada. The Master was pleased to see the faith and devotion of that lady. The Brahmani accompanied the Master to Vrindavan, where he asked her to live permanently. She passed away there shortly after the Master returned from Vrindavan.
During their stay at Vrindavan, the Master had a desire to listen to the playing of the stringed instrument, the Vina. But his desire was not fulfilled, as no Vina-player was available there at that time. That desire again arose in his mind when he returned to Kasi. Accompanied by Hriday, he went to the house of the expert Vina-player, Maheshchandra Sarkar, whom he requested to play on the Vina for him. Mahesh lived in the quarter called Madanpura in Kasi. At the request of the Master, he played that day for a long time on that instrument with great delight. As soon as he heard the sweet ringing sound of the Vina, the Master was in ecstasy. When he regained partial normal consciousness, he was heard to pray to the divine Mother, saying, “Mother, give me normal consciousness; I want to listen attentively to the Vina.” Immediately afterwards, he was able to stay in the external plane of consciousness, when he listened to the music with delight and now and then sang to the accompaniment of the Vina. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m he spent his time delightfully there, when he was requested by Mahesh to take a little refreshment, which he did, and returned to Mathur. Mahesh used to come daily to see the Master thereafter. The Master said, “He completely lost himself in playing on the Vina.”
Mathur expressed his desire to go to Gaya, the abode of Vishnu. But, as the Master had a strong objection, he gave up the idea and came back to Calcutta. After this pilgrimage to the principal places for about four months, the Master, said Hriday, returned to Dakshineswar in the middle of 1868. The Master brought from Vrindavan some earth and dust of Radhakunda and Shyamakunda. When he came to Dakshineswar he scattered, with the help of Hriday, a little of the earth and dust round the Panchavati and dug in the remainder with his own hands in his Sadhana-cottage, saying, “This spot becomes from today a holy place like Vrindavan.” He requested Mathur, shortly afterwards, to invite Vaishnava teachers and devotees from various places. They came and the Master celebrated a festival at the Panchavati. Mathur paid sixteen rupees to each Vaishnava teacher and one rupee to each devotee at the time of farewell, thus showing his respect for them
Hriday’s wife died a short time after he had returned from the pilgrimage. On account of that event his mind was filled with dispassion for some time. Hriday, we said before, was not a man of a contemplative temperament. His ideal of life was to improve his worldly condition and spend his life enjoying the pleasures of the world as far as possible. Though other moods came on him from time to time because of keeping the constant company of the Master, they could not last long. Whenever there came an opportunity to satisfy his desire for enjoyment, he forgot everything else, pursued the thing longed for, and until it was achieved, no other thought could enter his mind. Therefore, though all the Master’s Sadhanas were performed during Hriday’s stay at Dakshineswar, the latter had little opportunity to see and understand them. However, Hriday truly loved his uncle and did not fail to render whatever service was necessary for him at any time, and as a result of it he developed great courage, adroitness and intelligence. The more the holy men came and spoke of the super-human nature of his uncle and the more he observed the manifestation of divine powers in him as the result of his spiritual practices, the greater was his feeling of strength within himself—thanks to his nearness to his dear uncle. He thought that as his uncle was so much his own and as he had become a favourite of his by his services to him, all the achievements in the spiritual world were already his too in a way. Should he ever make an effort to have them, his uncle, by his divine powers, would enable him to attain them. He, therefore, did not feel that he was under any obligation to think of the next world. He would at first enjoy this world a little and apply his mind to the other afterwards. Grief-stricken at the death of his wife, Hriday now thought that the proper time for the latter had arrived. He applied his mind more steadfastly than before to the worship of the Mother of the universe, and used to put off his cloth and the sacred thread during the time of meditation and importunately requested the Master to help him to have spiritual experiences similar to his own. The Master assured him strongly that he had no need to do those things; for all the results would be his by just serving the Master. He told him that if both of them were filled with divine inspiration day and night and forgot everything concerning the body such as eating, sleeping, etc., neither of them could look after the other. But Hriday did not give ear to those words. The Master at last had to yield, and said, “Let Mother’s will be done. Does anything happen by my will? It was Mother who turned my mind away from the world and brought about those conditions in me and made me have strange experiences; if Mother wills so you will also have them.”
A few days after this talk, Hriday began to have, while worshipping, a few wonderful visions and states of divine ecstasy with partial consciousness. One day Mathur Babu saw Hriday in that state and said to the Master, “What is this state Hriday is in, father?” The Master explained it to him, saying, “It is no sham with him. He importuned Mother for a little vision; that is why he is having it. Mother will bring him back to his normal condition after giving him a taste of it.” “Father,” said Mathur, “it is all your play; only you have brought about this state on Hriday. So, please calm him again. Both of us should be with you like Nandi and Bhringi and serve you. Why should these abnormalities be with us?”
Shortly after this conversation between the Master and Mathur, one night Hriday saw the Master going towards the Panchavati. Thinking that he might require his water-pot and towel, he took them and followed him. As he was going, Hriday had an extraordinary vision. He saw that the Master was not a human being, that he was not composed of flesh and blood, that the Panchavati was illumined by the light coming out of his body and that while the Master was walking, neither of his feet, which were also of light, did touch the ground but carried him through the air. Taking all this to be an optical illusion, Hriday rubbed his eyes again and again, observed all the surrounding things in their natural state and looked at the Master once more. But to no purpose. Although he saw all other things — trees, creepers, the Ganga, the hut etc., to be what they were, he repeatedly saw the Master in that luminous form Extremely amazed at it, Hriday asked himself whether there was any change in his mind which made him have that experience. Thinking thus, he looked at his own body and saw that he too was an effulgent being, made of light, an attendant and companion of God Himself serving Him eternally, a part, so to say, of His person which was light embodied, and now having a separate existence for the sole purpose of serving Him When he had this experience and came to know the mystery of his own life, his heart was flooded with a strong current of bliss. He forgot himself, forgot the world and forgot to consider whether the people of the world would speak well or ill of him He was now in ecstasy with only partial normal consciousness and cried aloud repeatedly like one mad, “O Ramakrishna, O Ramakrishna, we are not mortal beings. Why are we here? Come, let us go from country to country and set souls free from bondage! I am also what you are.”
The Master said to us, “Hearing him crying out thus, I said, ‘Ah, stop, stop. What’s the matter with us that you are doing all this? People will run up here thinking some evil has befallen us.’ But did he give ear to it at all? I then came hurriedly to him, touched his heart and said, ‘Make the fellow dull and drab again, O Mother. ’ ”
Hriday said to us that no sooner had the Master said so than his bliss and vision vanished into the void and he was his former dull self once again. Thus, fallen suddenly from that state of ecstasy, his mind was filled with dejection. “Uncle,” sobbed out he, “why did you do this? Why did you say that I should become dull? I shall never again have such a blissful vision.” “Have I said,” replied the Master, “that you should for ever be dull? I said, ‘Be calm now.’ What a noise you made with such a small vision! That was why I had to say so. What a wealth of visions and experiences I have all the twenty-four hours! But do I make any noise? It is not yet time for you to have such visions. Now be at rest; when it is time, you will have various visions and experiences.”
Although Hriday had to remain silent at the words of the Master, he felt much wounded. Under the influence of egoism, he thought afterwards that he would try to have that vision again somehow. Reflecting thus, he increased the period of his Japa and meditation and resolved that he should go at night to Panchavati and sitting under the tree, where the Master formerly used to sit for Japa and meditation, call on the Mother of the Universe. Thinking so, once, at dead of night, he left his bed, went to the Panchavati, and sat down on the-Master’s seat to meditate. The Master too felt a desire to come to the Panchavati and started for it. Scarcely had he reached the place when he heard Hriday piteously calling out to him, “Save, uncle, save me! I am about to be burnt to death.” The Master stepped forward quickly, came up to him and asked him, “What is the matter, Hriday?” Restless on account of pain, Hriday said, “Uncle, no sooner had I sat down here for meditation than some one threw, as it were, a plateful of live charcoal over my body. I am suffering from an unbearable burning pain.” The Master passed his hand over his body and said, “Don’t be afraid; it’s cool. Why do you do all this? Have I not told you again and again that you will achieve everything by serving me?” Hriday used to say that all his pain was immediately removed by the touch of the Master’s hand. He never afterwards went again to the Panchavati to practise meditation, and a conviction grew in his mind that it would not be good for him to act contrary to his uncle’s advice.
Hriday, no doubt, got some sort of peace from the words of the Master, but the daily duties of the temple now appeared distasteful to him His mind was in search of some novel action from which he could derive some pleasure. Seeing the advent of the autumn season of 1868, he resolved to perform the autumn worship of the Mother in his house. Ganganarayan, his elder half-brother had then passed away and Raghav, appointed to collect rent in the estate of Mathur Babu, was earning a decent income. With the change of time, when prosperity dawned, a new worship hall was built. Ganganarayan had expressed a wish that he should once bring the divine Mother and worship Her there. But he did not get an opportunity of fulfilling that wish. Hriday remembered that desire of his and tried to fulfil it. Knowing that Hriday, a man of action, might possibly get peace by celebrating the worship, the Master agreed to it, while Mathur rendered pecuniary help to him He helped him, no doubt, but expressed great eagerness to have the Master at his own residence during the worship. Wounded at heart on that account, Hriday made ready to go home alone to perform the worship. Seeing him thus wounded, the Master, Hriday told us, consoled him, saying, “Why are you pained? In my subtle body I shall daily go to see your worship; nobody except you will see me! Have as the Tantradharaka a Brahmin to dictate the Mantras to you and perform the worship yourself according to your own devotion. Instead of keeping a complete fast, at midday drink milk, Ganga water, and the syrup of candy. If you perform the worship in this way, the Mother of the universe will certainly accept your worship.” Hriday said that the Master gave him detailed instructions as to who should be ordered to make the image, who should be appointed Tantradharaka, and how all other things should be done. He then started home with great delight to perform the worship.
Hriday reached home and did everything according to the advice of the Master. He performed the rites pertaining to the sixth day of the bright fortnight such as the awakening of the Goddess, the preliminary consecration of the image, the invocation of the Devi, etc., and engaged himself in the worship. After completing the worship enjoined for the seventh day, Hriday saw the Master in a luminous body standing in ecstasy, beside the image during the adoration of the Devi with the waving of lights. Hriday said that he was filled with great zeal and ardour on having the divine vision of the Master near the image at that time every day and also during the Sandhi Puja, the “juncture” worship. Hriday came back to Dakshineswar shortly after the worship was finished and narrated to the Master everything concerning the worship. “At the time of the Arati and the ‘juncture’ worship”, said the Master to him, “I felt indeed a great yearning to see your worship and I went into ecstasy, and felt that I went along a path of light and was present in your worship hall in a luminous body.”
Hriday told us that once the Master, while in ecstasy, said to him, “You will perform the yearly worship thrice.” And it actually happened so. Disregarding the Master’s words, he was making preparations for the worship for the fourth time, when such a series of obstacles occurred that he had, at last, to give it up. Hriday married again shortly after the worship of the first year and applied his mind to the service of the Master and to the worship at the Dakshineswar temple as before.