2.20 THE WORSHIP OF SHODASI
Mathur passed away. But the tenor of life in the Kali temple at Dakshineswar went on as before. Days and months passed and the year 1872 arrived. There happened a special event in the Master’s life at that time. We must now go to the house of the Master’s father-in-law in the village of Jayramvati if we want to understand the series of events ultimately leading to it.
When the Master went with the Bhairavi Brahmani and Hriday to Kamarpukur, his native village, in 1867, the women relatives, as we mentioned before, had his wife brought there. That was, in reality, the first occasion when the Holy Mother met her husband. Anyone who has had the opportunity of comparing the young girls of towns like Calcutta with those of villages like Kamarpukur, will have noticed that the bodies and minds of town-bred girls become developed at an earlier age than those of the villages. In villages, girls of fourteen, and sometimes fifteen or sixteen, do not have the physical signs of their youth fully developed. Their minds also, like their bodies, develop late. This is so perhaps because they have not to live in small places cribbed and cabined like birds confined in cages, but live their lives in a natural way, breathing pure air and roaming freely about in their villages.
The Holy Mother, therefore, was very young when, at the age of fourteen, she met her husband for the first time. Her powers of understanding, the profound ideal and responsibility of married life were just at the point of unfolding themselves. At that time the pure girl was delighted, experiencing an indescribable celestial bliss in having the divine company of the Master, devoid of body-consciousness, and enjoying his selfless love and attention. On many occasions she used to describe that delight of hers to the women devotees of the Master, saying, “My heart remained incessantly so very full of an indescribable bliss that I have always felt since then, as if a jar of bliss, full to overflowing, was installed in my heart.”
When, in a few months, the Master returned to Calcutta from Kamarpukur, the girl went to her father’s home feeling at heart that she was in possession of an infinite wealth of bliss. The feeling of that delight, we clearly understand, produced a change in all her conduct, speech, movement, work, etc. But, it is doubtful whether people in general could notice it; for, it made her calm and not fickle, thoughtful and not pert, selfless and not self-seeking; and by removing from her heart the feeling of all kinds of want, made her infinitely sympathetic to the sorrows and miseries of humanity, converting her by degrees into an embodiment of compassion itself. On account of the influence of this joy, even endless physical suffering now appeared to her to be of no consequence and she felt no pain at all if her care and affection for others were not returned. Thus, content with the barest physical necessities and lost in herself, the girl lived then in her father’s house only physically, her mind dwelling far away at Dakshineswar at the feet of the Master. Although a strong desire arose now and again in her mind to go to him and see him, the girl controlled it, and was patient, thinking all the while that he, who graciously loved her so much at her first meeting with him, could never forget her and would surely call her to him at the proper time. Thus passed days, one after another, and the girl, firm in her faith, awaited that auspicious day.
Four long years passed one after another. But the strong current of hope and longing kept on flowing uniformly in the girl’s mind. Her body, however, did not continue in the same state as her mind, but, changing daily, it made her a young woman of eighteen in 1872. Although the bliss due to her first meeting with her godlike husband kept her high above daily pain and pleasure, is there the possibility of pure, unadulterated bliss in this world? In their gossip, the menfolk of the village made cutting remarks that her husband was mad, that he cast away even his wearing apparel and roamed about naked repeating “Hari, Hari,” etc.; and the women of her age alluded to her as a mad man’s wife and looked upon her as an object of pity or contempt. She was much pained at heart by all this, but said nothing. Absorbed in the thought of the Master, she sometimes yielded to doubts, “Is he then not the same person as I saw before? Has such a change as people say really come on him? If by the decree of Providence it has actually happened, I must no longer be here; I must be by his side and serve him.” She reflected a great deal and came to the conclusion that she should personally go to Dakshineswar and have all, her doubts cleared in the light of facts and do what she ought to.
Sri Chaitanya was born on the full moon day of the month of Phalgun, the day of the Dol-yatra, a day of festivity in which Sri Krishna is swung in a swing. Many people from the farthest end of Bengal come every year to Calcutta to bathe on that occasion in the holy waters of the Ganga. A few women distantly related to the Holy Mother had decided that they should go there on that occasion that year. She went to them and expressed her desire to go for a bath in the Ganga. Thinking that it was not reasonable to take her with them without her father’s permission, the ladies asked her father Ramchandra Mukhopadhyaya about it. As soon as the intelligent father heard it, he understood why his daughter wanted to go to Calcutta, and made all arrangements to take her himself there.
Thanks to the railways, the distance between Calcutta and far off Kasi or Vrindavan has now vanished. But, not having that blessing in those days, Kamarpukur, the birthplace of the Master, and Jayramvati, the birth-place of the Holy Mother lay as far as ever from Calcutta.
This is so even now,1 let alone those times. In those days the railway lines had not yet been laid either via Vishnupur or via Tarakeswar, nor was Ghatal connected with Calcutta by steamer.
Therefore the people of those villages had no other course than to travel by palanquin or on foot. And all people, except the rich, such as zamindars and others, used to have recourse to the latter. So accompanied by his daughter and other companions, Ramchandra started on the long journey on foot. All of them walked with delight for the first two or three days. They saw one paddy field after another and ponds full of lotuses, and enjoyed the cool shades of trees like the peepul and the banian. But that delight did not continue up to the destination. Unaccustomed to the fatigue of journeys, Ramchandra’s daughter had a severe attack of fever on the way, which made the father very anxious. Knowing it impossible to proceed farther when his daughter was in that condition, he halted at an inn and stayed there.
What a terrible anguish the Holy Mother felt in her heart on account of the illness on the way cannot be described. But she had a wonderful vision which consoled her. She sometimes used to describe this vision in the following way to her women devotees:
“I lost all consciousness on account of high temperature and was lying, unable even to look to the propriety of my dress, when I saw a girl come and sit beside me. The girl was black in complexion, but I never had seen such beauty before. She sat by me and began to pass her hand over my head and body. Her hand was so soft and cool that the heat and the burning sensation of my body began to subside. I asked her affectionately, ‘May I know where you come from?’ The girl said, ‘I come from Dakshineswar.’ Astonished to hear it, I said, ‘From Dakshineswar! I thought of going there to see him and serve him (the Master); but as I have got this fever on my way, I shall not have the good fortune of, fulfilling that desire.’ ‘Why not?’ said the girl, ‘You will surely go to Dakshineswar. Getting well you will go there and see him. It is for you that I have detained him there.’ I said, ‘Is that so? Pray, tell me, are you related to us?’ ‘I am your sister,’ said she. I said, ‘Indeed? That is why you have come!’ I had this conversation with her, when I fell asleep.”
Ramchandra rose in the morning to see that his daughter’s fever had subsided. He thought it better to continue the journey slowly with her instead of helplessly waiting on the way. Encouraged by the vision of the previous night, the Holy Mother approved his idea eagerly. Scarcely had they walked a little distance when a palanquin became available. She had fever again. But, as it was not severe as on the previous night, she did not lose control over herself. Neither did she mention it to anybody. They gradually reached the journey’s end and the Holy Mother came to the Master at Dakshineswar at 9 p.m
The Master was somewhat worried to see her thus suffering from fever. He arranged for her a separate bed in his own room, lest fever should increase on account of cold, and said with a sigh, “You have come at long last. Alas! my Mathur is no more. Who will take care of you?” On account of the good arrangements made for medicine, diet, etc., the Holy Mother came round in three or four days. The Master kept her in his own room for three or four days and personally supervised everything. He then made arrangements for her to live with his mother in the Nahavatkhana, the music room.
Thus were removed the worries caused by rumours. The dust of doubt raised by rumours which was about to cloud her faith, were now scattered in all directions and vanished, when the loving care and anxiety of the Master for her confirmed her in her faith that he was just his former self and that it was only the worldly-minded with no power of discrimination that had spread those false rumours. Her god was the same god, thus mused the Holy Mother, and far from having forgotten her, was as gracious to her as before. Therefore, she decided in no time what she should do. She lived in the Nahavat with a joyful heart and engaged herself in the service of her lord and his mother. Her father, happy in the happiness of his daughter, stayed there for a few days and returned home joyfully.
We have told the reader about the series of thoughts that arose in the Master’s mind on the arrival of the Holy Mother at Kamarpukur, when he was staying there in 1867. Remembering the words of Tota Puri regarding the thorough knowledge of Brahman, he was then ready to do his duty by his wife and to test the knowledge attained through his Sadhanas. But he had to come back to Calcutta just when he had begun to accomplish those two purposes. Having her beside him now, he applied his mind again to those two things.
Why then, it may be asked, did he not bring his wife to Dakshineswar before and test his knowledge? It may be said in reply that an ordinary man, no doubt, would have done so. But the Master did not belong to the class of ordinary human beings and therefore his conduct was different. Those who are accustomed to do everything depending entirely on God at all times, do not previously draw up a plan of what they want to do. Instead of depending like us on the limited, little intellect, they await help and hint from the all-pervading intellect of the divine Lord in order to do good either to themselves or to others. They, therefore, are strongly averse to courting a test of their own accord. They go on behaving continually in full accord with the universal will and if the time for such a test comes of itself, they proceed forward gladly to submit to it. The Master did not go forward of himself to test the depth of his own divine knowledge. But when he saw that his wife had come to him at Kamarpukur and that, if he was to perform his duty by her, he must stand that test, then alone was he ready to submit. Again, when by the will of God that opportunity was gone and he had to come to Calcutta and live away from his wife, he did not voluntarily try to bring about the same opportunity once again. Until she herself came, he did not make the slightest effort to bring the Holy Mother to Dakshi-neswar. We can thus find even by means of our ordinary intellect, a congruity running through all the phases of the Master’s behaviour towards her. Besides, he knew, it may be urged, with his Yogic vision, that such was the will of God.
Now when the Master saw that the time to submit to the test in the matter of discharging his duties to his wife had arrived once again, he was perfectly ready to do so. Whenever an opportunity arose, he used to teach the Holy Mother everything about the aim and duties of human life. It is said that during this time he told the Holy Mother, “Just as ‘uncle’ moon is the uncle of all children, so, God is everybody’s own. Every one has the privilege of calling on Him Whoever calls on Him, will be blessed by His vision. If you call on Him, you also will see Him.” The Master’s teaching did not end with merely giving instructions to the disciple. He would keep the disciple with him, make him in all respects his own, through love and affection and then give him instructions. Even at that, the Master would not stop. He would keep a keen eye on how far the disciple carried them into practice; and if the disciple acted by mistake contrary to his instructions, he would correct him by pointing it out to him He, it is clear, now adopted the same method with respect to the Holy Mother also. How far he made her his own through love from the very first day is clear from the facts that he asked her to live in his own room as soon as she came and that, when she had recovered from illness, he gave her permission to share his own bed every night. We have told the reader elsewhere2 about the Master’s pure and immaculate behaviour towards the Holy Mother at that time, and we shall not repeat it here. We shall say a word or two not mentioned there.
One day during this period, while she was massaging the Master’s feet, the Holy Mother asked him, “How do you look on me?” Out came the reply “The Mother who is in the temple, the Mother who has given birth to this body and is now living in the Nahavat—the same Mother is now massaging my feet. Truly, I always look upon you as a form of the blissful divine Mother.”
On another occasion, seeing the Holy Mother asleep by his side, the Master addressed his own mind and started discriminating, “This is, O mind, a female body. People look upon it as an object of great enjoyment, a thing highly prized, and they die for enjoying it. But if one goes for it, one has to remain confined in the body and cannot realize God who is Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. Do not, O mind, harbour one thought within and a contrary attitude without. Say in truth whether you want to have it or God. If you want it, it is here before you, have it.” He discriminated thus; but scarcely had he entertained in his mind the idea of touching the person of the Holy Mother, when his mind shrank and at once lost itself so deeply in Samadhi that it did not regain its normal consciousness that night. He had to be brought back with great effort to normal consciousness the next morning by the repeated utterance of the name of God in his ears.
What we have heard from the Master’s lips about the divine sport of himself and the Holy Mother at that time, when he was in the full bloom of his youth and she in her new bloom, is not known to be true of any other incarnation of God in the spiritual history of the world. Charmed to hear these things, the human heart comes naturally to believe in the divine nature of the couple and feels compelled to have heart-felt love and reverence for them. The Master, free from body-consciousness, passed whole nights in ecstasy at this time. And, even when he used to come down to the plane of normal consciousness at the end of his ecstasy, his mind dwelt in such an exalted state that body-consciousness like that of ordinary people never arose in it even for a moment.
Thus months rolled on and more than a year passed away. Still, the self-control of the wonderful Master and of his equally wonderful holy spouse, did not give way. Not even for a moment by way of inadvertence did their minds consider physical union to be pleasing and desirable. Remembering what happened at that time, the Master said to us now and again, “Had she (the Holy Mother) not been so pure and had she, losing herself, assailed me, who knows if my self-control would not have broken down and body-consciousness arisen? I had importunately asked the divine Mother after my marriage to keep her mind absolutely free from lust. Having lived with her at that time, I knew that the divine Mother had really heard and granted that prayer.”
When, even at the end of a year, body-consciousness never arose in him for a moment and he could not look upon or think of the Holy Mother as any other than a part of the universal Mother or as Brahman, the Master became convinced that the divine Mother had made him successfully stand the test and by Her grace, his mind was now established in the divine state in an easy and natural way. He now felt in his heart of hearts that his Sadhana, by the grace of the Mother, had been perfectly completed and that his mind was so much absorbed in Her lotus feet that there was no possibility of any desire contrary to Her will arising in it knowingly or unknowingly. Ordained by the divine Mother, an extraordinary desire arose in his heart now, which he carried into practice without the slightest hesitation. We shall now tell the reader in a connected way what we heard about it now and then from the Master and the Holy Mother.
A little more than half of the month of Jyaishtha, B.E. 1280 (A.D. May 25, 1873) had elapsed. It was the new-moon day, the holy occasion for the worship of the Phalaharini Kali Devi. It was the day of a special festival at the Dakshineswar temple. The Master had made special preparations on that day with a view to worshipping the Mother of the universe. These preparations, however, had not been made in the temple, but, privately, in his own room at his desire. A wooden seat painted with Alimpana, the pigment of rice powder, for the Devi to sit on at the time of worship, had been placed to the right of the worshipper. The sun had set. The new-moon night veiled in deep darkness had alighted on the earth. Hriday, the Master’s nephew, had to perform a special worship of the Devi in the temple. He had, therefore, helped as much as possible in the preparations of the Master’s worship and had gone away to the temple. Having finished the nocturnal service and worship of Radha-Govinda, the first priest, Dinu, came to help the Master in the preparations. It was 9 p.m. when all the preparations for the mystery-worship of the Devi were completed. In the meantime, the Master had sent word to the Holy Mother to be present during the worship. She came to the room and the Master started the worship.
The articles of worship were purified by the Mantras and all the rites preliminary to the worship were finished. The Master beckoned to the Holy Mother to sit on the wooden seat decorated with Alimpana. While witnesing the worship, the Holy Mother had already entered into a divine semiconscious state. Not clearly conscious, therefore, of what she was doing, she, like one charmed with Mantras, sat facing north to the right of the Master, who was seated with his face to the east. According to scriptural injunctions the Master sprinkled the Holy Mother repeatedly with the water purified by Mantras from the pitcher placed before him. He then uttered the Mantra in her hearing and then recited the prayer:
“O Lady, O Mother Tripurasundari, who art the controller of all powers, open the door to perfection; purify her (the Holy Mother’s) body and mind, manifest Thyself in her and be beneficent.”
Afterwards the Master performed the Nyasa of the Mantras in the Holy Mother’s person according to the injunctions of the Sastras, and worshipped her with the sixteen articles, as the Devi Herself. He then offered food and put a part of it to her mouth with his own hand. The Holy Mother lost normal consciousness and went into Samadhi. The Master too uttering Mantras in the semiconscious state, entered into complete Samadhi. The worshipper in Samadhi became perfectly identified and united with the Devi in Samadhi.
A long time passed. The second quarter of the night had long passed. The Master, happy only in the Self, now showed a little sign of regaining normal consciousness. Returning to the semiconscious state again, he offered himself to the Devi. He now gave away for ever at the lotus feet of the Devi his all — the results of his Sadhanas, his rosary etc. — along with his self, and saluted her uttering the Mantras:
“O Thou, auspiciousness of all auspicious things, O doer of all actions, O refuge, O three-eyed One, O Thou fair-complexioned spouse of Siva, O Narayani, I bow down to Thee, I bow down to Thee.”
The worship was at an end. The Master’s Sadhana reached its culmination with the worship of the Ruler of the universe, the divine Mother in the body of a woman, the embodiment of spiritual knowledge itself; the god-man attained perfection in all respects.
The Holy Mother stayed with the Master for about five months after the worship of Shodasi. She now, as before, engaged herself in the service of the Master and the Master’s mother, spent the daytime in the Nahavat and shared the same bed with the Master at night. The Master had continual Bhava samadhi night and day. Sometimes his mind suddenly merged in the Nirvikalpa Samadhi in such a way that signs of death were manifested in his body. Apprehensive of the uncertainty of the time when such a state might come on him, the Holy Mother could have no sleep at night. When on one occasion the Master did not come down to normal consciousness from Samadhi for a long time, she was alarmed, and not knowing what she should do, disturbed the sleep of Hriday and others. His Samadhi came to an end when Hriday came and uttered the names of God in his ears for a pretty long time. Coming to know of all this after his Samadhi broke, and also of the disturbance of the Holy Mother’s sleep every night, the Master made arrangements for her taking her bed with his mother at the Nahavat. She lived thus for about a year and four months with the Master at Dakshineswar and returned to Kamarpukur probably some time in October 1873.