2.8 THE LAST PART OF THE
THE FIRST FOUR YEARS
When we study the period of the Master’s Sadhana, we must first of all remember what he himself told us about it. It will not then be difficult to ascertain its date. The reader has already been told that we have heard from him that he was engaged in the disciplines of various faiths and doctrines for twelve long years continually. It is ascertained from the deed of gift executed by Rani Rasmani, regarding the temple endowment, that the Kali temple at Dakshineswar was consecrated on Thursday, May 31, 1855. At the end of the same year the Master assumed the office of the priest. It is therefore perfectly certain that the period of his Sadhana extends practically from 1856 to 1867. But, although this period is clearly ascertained as the period of his Sadhana, we shall see that he went on a pilgrimage to some holy places at the end of the period and engaged himself in Sadhana there and again at Dakshineswar after his return.
We proceed to divide this period of twelve years into three divisions, each of which we are to study separately — first, the four years from 1856 to 1859, the main events of which period we have already studied; secondly, the same number of years from 1860 to 1863 when, under the instruction of the Brahmani, he went through, according to the scriptural injunctions, all the disciplines prescribed in the sixty-four main Tantras; and thirdly, an equal period from 1864 to 1867, during which he was initiated in the Mantra of Rama by the monk of the Ramawat denomination, named Jatadhari, and got the image of Ramalala; and again he was engaged in Sadhana in a woman’s apparel during this period for six months in order to realize the spiritual attitude of a female friend of God; spoken of in the Vaishnava books; he also received at this time the Vedic Mahavakya from Totapuri and ascended the Nirvikalpa plane of consciousness; and at last he was taught the religion of Islam by Govinda.1 During the period of these twelve years, he practised the discipline of the Sakhya-Bhava according to the Vaishnava scriptures and came in contact with the secondary Vaishnava denominations of Kartabhaja, Navarasika, etc. That he was closely acquainted with these denominations is very clear from the fact that Vaishnavacharan Goswami and other Sadhakas following these faiths came to the Master for spiritual help. If we divide the period of his Sadhana into the three divisions mentioned above and consider the matter deeply, we shall find that there is a clear difference of kind between the Sadhanas of the first division and those of the other two.
We see that the only external help he got at the beginning of his Sadhana was the initiation he had from Sri Kenaram Bhattacharya. He straightway proceeded to practise that discipline. The extreme eagerness of his heart for the realization of God was his main support during that period. This eagerness became gradually stronger and stronger, shattered his body and mind in a short time and recast them into an unexpected new mould. Besides, it produced in him a great love for his chosen Ideal and made him pass beyond the firm steel-frame of the rules and regulations of ritualistic devotion, led him forward on the path of Ragatmika devotion and thus conferred on him the wealth of the immediate knowledge of the universal Mother and endowed him with Yogic powers.
4. Why had the Master to practise Sadhana over again, though he had the immediate knowledge of the divine Mother at that time? Peace is realizable when one sees the identity of one’s own immediate experience with the teachings of the Guru and of the Sastras.
The reader may perhaps say, “What then was left, over? The Master had the aim of his life fulfilled at that very time; why did he then practise Sadhana afterwards?” We should like to say in reply that although this is true in a way, Sadhana was necessary afterwards. The Master used to say, “Trees and creepers flower first and bear fruit next, according to the usual law of nature; but, there are a few; among them whose fruits come out first and flowers next.” The development of the Master’s mind in the field of Sadhana took place exactly like that of the latter class of trees and creepers. Therefore, that objection of the reader is true in a way. But although the Master had such visions etc., at the beginning of his Sadhana he could not become perfectly sure whether they were real and whether he had reached the ultimate goal, till he could compare them with the experiences of the Sadhakas recorded in the scriptures and realize once again those experiences of his by following the practices sanctioned by the scriptures. Therefore Sadhana was afterwards necessary for him. It became necessary for him to realize again, by following the path and procedure described in the scriptures, what he had experienced before by the incomprehensible grace of the divine Mother, with the help of only the eagerness of his heart. The scriptures say that the aspirant cannot be absolutely convinced till, by comparing the divine visions and the extraordinary experiences of his own spiritual life with the truth taught by his Guru and with the experiences of the Sadhakas of past ages recorded in the scriptures, he finds them to be perfectly identical. Having his doubts completely dispelled the aspirant becomes endowed with infinite peace as soon as he compares the three, namely, the truth taught by his Guru, the experiences of the ancient race of Sadhakas recorded in the scriptures and those realized by himself, and finds them identical.
As an example of what has been said above, we may point to an event in the life of Sukadeva, the foremost of Paramahamsas, the son of Vyasa. Sukadeva, untouched by Maya, used to have various divine visions and extraordinary experiences in his life from his birth. For the purpose of ascertaining whether they were real and whether he had reached the goal, he studied the Vedas, the six branches of study2 auxiliary to them and other Sastras with his father, Vyasa, knower of all the scriptures. When his studies came to an end, he said to his father, “I have been experiencing from my birth, all the spiritual states recorded in the scriptures; but I cannot be perfectly sure that these states and experiences are the ultimate truth. So, please tell me now what you yourself have experienced regarding those things.” Vyasa, of supreme knowledge, reflected within himself, “I have always been teaching Suka the goal of spirituality and the ultimate truth telling him the experiences of my own life resulting from spiritual practices, but doubts have not been removed from his mind. He thinks that although he has been desirous of knowing the truth, I, being overpowered by fatherly affection, have not given him the whole truth and so have not removed his mental anxiety. Therefore it is good for him to hear these things from some other wise man.” Thinking so, Vyasa said, “I am unable to remove your doubt; it is not unknown to you that Janaka, the king of Mithila, is truly a man of knowledge; go to him and have all your problems solved.” So directed by his father, Suka, it is written in the Mahabharata, went immediately to Mithila. Taught by Janaka, a sage among kings, who told him of the experience that knowers of Brahman have, Suka found a complete identity between the instruction of the Guru, the words of the scriptures and the experiences of his own life.
Besides the above-mentioned reasons, there was another profound reason why the Master practised Sadhana later. We shall merely mention it here. The aim of the Master’s Sadhana was not the attainment of peace only in his own life. The divine Mother of us all made him assume a body for good of the world. He had therefore, to be acquainted with the Sadhanas of all religions and their ultimate goal, so that he might be in a position to become a true spiritual teacher. Therefore an extraordinary effort is seen on the Master’s part to ascertain, by actual practice, the truth or falsity of all the religious doctrines. That is not all. By producing in a natural way in the life of this unlettered person, through his practices, the spiritual states recorded in the scriptures, the divine Mother proved to the modern age the truth of the Vedas, the Bible, the Puranas, the Koran, and all other religious scriptures. That was why there was no cessation of his Sadhana even after he had personally attained peace. The more we proceed to study this extraordinary life, the more clearly shall we understand that, with a view to accomplishing the specific end mentioned above, the universal Mother brought to the Master, at the proper time, perfected men and scholars of every denomination and, making him hear from them all about religious teachings and practices, gave him the power of mastering them through his wonderful memory, which retained everything heard only once.
We have said before that during the first four years of his Sadhana the Master depended for God-realization mainly on his intense eagerness. No one came to him at that time to help him in his spiritual progress by guiding him along the path prescribed by the scriptures. Therefore, the only means he had recourse to was the intense eagerness which is the common requisite of all sadhanas. As the Master had the vision of the divine Mother with the help of eagerness only, it is also proved that an aspirant may have God-vision similarly, even without any external aid. But we forget very often to reflect how great must be the degree of intensity of this eagerness in order that one may reach one’s end that way. This becomes clear to us if we study the Master’s life at this time. We have seen that under the impulse of that intense eagerness, his firm physical and mental habits and impressions expressed in his actions and feelings, such as eating, sleeping, shame, fear, etc., vanished into thin air. He paid no attention even to the preservation of his life, let alone physical health. The Master said, “As there was no attention at all at that time to the cleaning of the body, the hairs of the head became long and got matted owing to dirt and dust adhering to them At the time of meditation the body used to become motionless like the trunk of a tree. Thinking it to be an inert thing, birds came and remained sitting on the head without any hesitation and stirred up the dust in the hair in search of small particles of rice! Again, impatient on account of the separation from the divine Lord, I rubbed my face against the ground so vehemently that it got cut and bruised and bled in many places. I had no consciousness of how the whole day slipped away in prayer, meditation, devotional exercises, offering of the self, and so on. When afterwards, at the approach of the evening, conch-shells were blown and bells rung, I remembered that the day was at an end. Another day passed in vain; and I had not yet seen the Mother. Intense sorrow seized me and made the heart so restless that I could no longer remain calm. I threw myself violently on the ground saying, ‘Mother, Thou hast not shown Thyself to me even yet.’ I filled the quarters with wailing and struggled on account of pain. People said, ‘He has got colic pain and that is why he is crying so much.’ ”
When we were with the Master, he told us time and again those events of the time of his Sadhana in order to bring home to us the necessity for intense eagerness of heart for the realization of God, and said regretfully, “People shed floods of tears at the death of their wives, children, and the like, or at the loss of worldly possessions, but who do so because they have not realized God? Yet they say, ‘We called on Him so much and still He did not show Himself. ’ Let them but once weep for God with such eagerness and let me see whether He keeps Himself back without revealing Himself.” These words used to sting us to the quick. When we heard them, it became clear to us that he could speak so assuredly, only because he had found them true early in his life.
The Master did not rest satisfied with having only the vision of the divine Mother during the first four years of his Sadhana. His mind was naturally attracted towards Raghuvir, his family Deity, after he had had the vision of the divine Mother when he was in the Bhavamukha3 state. Knowing that with the help of devotion it was possible to have, like Mahavir, the vision of Ramachandra, he engaged himself in Sadhana, assuming Mahavir’s attitude, for the purpose of attaining perfection in the Dasya-bhava. The Master said that, thinking of Mahavir incessantly at that time, he became so much absorbed that he forgot altogether for some time his separate existence and individuality. “At that time,” said the Master, “I had to walk, take my food and do all other actions like Mahavir. I did not do so of my own accord, but the actions so happened of themselves, I tied my cloth round my waist so that it might look like a tail and walked jumping; I ate nothing but fruits and roots, which again I did not feel inclined to eat when skinned. I spent much of my time on trees and always cried, ‘Raghuvir, Raghuvir’, with a deep voice. Both my eyes assumed a restless expression like those of the animals of that species, and it is marvellous that the lower end of the backbone lengthened at that time by nearly an inch.”4 When we heard the last mentioned fact, we asked, “Sir, does that part of your body continue to be so even now?” He said, “No, in course of time it assumed slowly its previous natural size when the mastery of that mood over the mind had ceased.”
An extraordinary vision and experience came to pass in the life of the Master when he practised the Dasya-bhakti. That vision and experience was so novel, so different from his previous ones, that it was deeply imprinted on his mind and was always fresh in his memory. He said, “One day at that time I was sitting under the Panchavati — not meditating, merely sitting — when an incomparable, effulgent female figure appeared before me illumining the whole place. It was not that figure alone that I saw then, but also the trees and plants of the Panchavati, the Ganga and all other objects. I saw that the figure was that of a woman; for, there were in her no signs of a goddess, such as the possession of three eyes, etc. But the extraordinary, spirited, and solemn expression of that face, manifesting love, sorrow, compassion, and endurance, was not generally seen even in the figures of goddesses. Looking graciously at me, that goddess-woman was advancing from north to south towards me with a slow, grave gait. I wondered who she might be, when a black-faced monkey came suddenly, nobody knew whence, and sat at her feet and someone within my mind exclaimed, ‘Sita, Sita who was all sorrow all her life, Sita the daughter of king Janaka, Sita to whom Rama was her very life!’ Saying ‘Mother’ repeatedly, I was then going to fling myself at her feet, when she came quickly and entered this (showing his own body). Overwhelmed with joy and wonder, I lost all consciousness and fell down. Before that, I had had no vision in that manner without meditating or thinking. That was the first vision of its kind. I have been suffering like her all my life perhaps because I saw first of all Sita, who was miserable from her birth.”5
Feeling the need for a suitable sacred place for practising austerities, the Master expressed to Hriday a desire to plant a new Panchavati6 at that time. Hriday said, “The small pond called the Duck pond near the Panchavati was then re-excavated and the piece of land near the old Panchavati was filled up with the mud from that pond and made level. The Amalaki tree, therefore, under which the Master used to meditate before, was destroyed.” The Master then planted with his own hands a holy fig tree to the west of the place where the Sadhana-hut now stands and made Hriday plant the saplings of a banian tree, an Asoka tree, a Vilva tree and an Amalaki tree.7 And planting saplings of the holy basil and Aparajita creepers, he had the whole place hedged with the help of a temple gardener named Bhartabhari, in the wonderful way described elsewhere.8 The holy basil plants and the Aparajita creepers grew up so high and dense in a short time on account of the Master’s regular watering and care bestowed on them that no one from outside could see him when he sat for meditation within the enclosure.
After Rani Rasmani consecrated the Kali temple, the holy travellers such as monks desirous of visiting Puri and Gangasagar began to accept the hospitality afforded by the devout Rani and to rest for a few days at the Dakshineswar temple when going to and returning from those two places of pilgrimage.9 The Master said that many perfected souls and great Sadhakas used to come there from that time. Instructed by one of them, he seems to have practised at this time Pranayama and other exercises of Hathayoga. One day while he was describing to us the following incident regarding Haladhari, he hinted at it. He forbade us later to practise the Hathayoga exercises, because he himself practised them and knew their results. Approached by some of us for instruction on it, he said to us, “These practices are not for this age. Living beings are shortlived and their lives depend on food in the Kaliyuga; where is the time in this age to practise Rajayoga, in other words, to call on God, after making the body firm by the practise of Hathayoga? Again, if one wants to practise those exercises, one has to live constantly with a teacher perfect in that Yoga and follow for a long time very hard rules regarding food, rest, exercises, etc., according to his instruction; the slightest deviation from those rules produces diseases in the Sadhaka’s body and, on many occasions, causes even his death. Therefore, it is not necessary to practise these things. Besides, is it not for the purpose of restraining the mind that one has to restrain the vital air by practising Pranayama, etc.? You will see that both mind and vital forces will of themselves be gradually restrained by meditation and devotion to God. Human beings have short lives and possess little capacity in the Kaliyuga; this is why the divine Lord has graciously made their path to realization of Him so easy to tread. In this age if the feelings of anxiety and void, like those felt at the death of one’s wife or son, are felt for God and these last even for twenty-four hours only in one’s mind, He is bound to reveal Himself.”
We have told the reader elsewhere in the Lilaprasanga10 that the devout Sadhakas who are the followers of the Smritis very often have recourse to Tantras in practice. Such persons, belonging to the Vaishnava denomination, pursue the path of Sadhana of Parakiya11 love. We have also told the readers that Haladhari was a very learned Vaishnava and a faithful observer of the scriptural rites and practices; he also pursued secretly that path of Sadhana some time after he was employed for the worship of Radha and Govinda. People came to know this in time and started whispering; but there was a belief prevalent that whatever he said of anybody came true; so, nobody was bold enough to discuss or cut jokes on it in his presence lest he should incur Haladhari’s displeasure. The Master too came to know of that practice of his elder cousin. Finding that people were talking of it and calumniating him behind his back, the Master, outspoken and fearless as he was, told Haladhari everything plainly. Thereupon the latter became very angry and said, “Dare you, though being younger, despise me thus? Blood shall gush out of your mouth.” The Master tried to appease him in various ways by explaining the reason for his speaking so to him, but he did not give ear to whatever the Master said.
One day, shortly after this event, at at about 8 or 9 p.m the Master felt a creeping sensation in his palate and actually blood began to gush out of his mouth. The Master said, “The colour of that blood was like that of the juice of kidneybean leaves. It was so thick that a portion of it fell away from the mouth, and a portion coagulated within, and was hanging like the aerial roots of a banian tree from the lips near the front teeth. I tried to stop the bleeding by pressing a piece of cloth against the palate but the bleeding could not be stopped. I was much afraid to see it. All came running when they heard of it. Haladhari was performing the service in the temple then. He also was apprehensive and came quickly when he heard of it. When I saw him I said to him with tears in my eyes, ‘Cousin, just see the condition you have brought on me by your curse.’ He also wept to see that sorrowful condition of mine.
“A good Sadhu had come that day to the temple. He also came there when he heard the noise and, examining the colour of the blood and the spot within the mouth through which it was coming out, said, ‘There is no fear; it is very good that the blood has come out. I find you practised Yoga. As the result of that practice the mouth of your Sushumna opened and the blood of the body was flowing to the head. It is very good that, instead of flowing to the head, it of itself made a channel leading to the mouth, and came out. Had this blood reached your head, you would have been in Jada-samadhi which could by no means have come to an end. The Mother of the universe has some especial purpose to accomplish with your body. That is why, I think, She has saved it.’ Hearing these words of the holy man, I was, as it were, brought back to life.” Haladhari’s curse thus came true by way of accidental coincidence and was transformed into a boon.
There was an element of sweet mystery in the Master’s behaviour towards Haladhari. We have said before that he was the Master’s uncle’s son, and was older than he. He came to Dakshineswar probably in 1858 and was appointed priest to worship Sri Radha-Govinda. He held that post till some time in the year 1865. Therefore, he lived at Dakshineswar for the second four years of the Master’s Sadhana period and for more than two years after that, and had the opportunity of knowing him intimately. But he could not form a definite opinion of the Master’s high spiritual state. Haladhari was a man devoted to the rites and practices ordained in the scriptures; he, therefore, did not like the Master’s lack of regard for his dress and sacred thread at the time of ecstasy. He thought that his younger cousin had become mad or non-conformist in ritualistic conduct. He went sometimes the length of telling Hriday, “Hriday, he gives up his wearing-cloth and the sacred thread; that is very bad. It is due to a great accumulation of the results of virtuous actions in previous births that one is born in a Brahmin family. Yet he considers the state of a Brahmin to be a trifling thing and wants to give it up. Has he realized a state high enough to do this with impunity? Hriday, he has some faith in your words, so you should keep an eye on him that he may not behave thus. It will be proper to restrain him from doing all this even by binding him hand and foot.”
Again, he was charmed to see the floods of tears flowing from the Master’s eyes at the time of worship, his wonderful joy on hearing songs praising the glory of the Divine, and his extraordinary eagerness for the realization of God. He thought all those states of his younger cousin were certainly due to an infusion of divine spirit; they were not seen to come otherwise on human beings. Haladhari became surprised to see and hear all these things and sometimes said to Hriday, “Hriday, you must have felt some extraordinary power in him; you would not other wise have served him so faithfully.”
Always assailed by doubts, Haladhari’s mind could not come to any assured conclusion about the Master’s real state and kept oscillating between regard and pity, if not hatred. The Master said, “Haladhari became charmed to see me at the time of worship in the temple and said on many occasions, ‘Ramakrishna, I have recognized your real nature.’ To that I often replied jokingly, ‘Beware lest you should get confused once more.’ He said, ‘You can by no means throw dust in my eyes again; there is surely a charge of divinity in you; I have understood it thoroughly this time.’ I heard his words and said, ‘Very well, let me see how long the conviction lasts.’ When, however, Haladhari, after finishing the service in the temple, took a pinch of snuff and started a discussion on the Bhagavata, the Gita, the Adhyatma-Ramayana or some other books, he became immediately a different man on account of egoism. I then went there and said, ‘I have realized all the states of which you read in the scriptures; I can understand all these.’ No sooner had he heard it than he said, ‘Indeed! You are a big fool. Is it for you to understand all these things?’ I said, ‘I say in truth, One who is within this (showing his own body) explains everything regarding the One of whom you spoke just now.’ Hearing this Haladhari got irritated and said, ‘Hence! queer, big fool! Which scripture speaks of an incarnation of God except Kalki, in the Kaliyuga? You have become insane and so you think as you do.’ I laughed and said, ‘Did you not say just now that there would be no confusion again?’ But who would give ear to all that then? This happened not once or twice but on many occasions. One day he saw me sitting naked on a branch of the banian tree of the Panchavati and passing water. He became thenceforward absolutely certain that I was possessed by a ghost who had been a Brahmin in his mortal life.”
We have spoken of the death of the son of Haladhari who was a follower of Vishnu. Since that event he had the conviction that Kali consisted of Tamoguna. One day he went to the extent of saying to the Master, “Can there be spiritual progress resulting from the worship of a deity consisting of Tamas? Why do you worship that goddess with so much care? “The Master heard this, but did not then give him a reply; but pained to hear his chosen Ideal slandered, he went to the Kali temple and asked the Mother of the universe with tears in his eyes, “Mother, Haladhari, a scholar, well versed in the scriptures, says Thou consistest of Tamoguna; art Thou truly such?” When he was told the real truth about it by the divine Mother, he was filled with joy and ran immediately to Haladhari. Jumping then straight on his shoulders he said again and again in an excited voice, “You say, Mother consists of Tamas. Is it so? Mother is all — She has become the three Gunas and again She is the pure Sattvaguna.” Haladhari then had his inner eye opened, as it were, by the words and touch of the Master, who was in ecstasy! Seated then in the worshipper’s seat, Haladhari accepted heartily what the Master said. And having seen the manifestation of the divine Mother Herself in him, he took a handful of flowers mixed with sandal paste and offered it with devotion at his lotus feet. Shortly after, Hriday came and asked him, “Do you not say, uncle, that Ramakrishna is possessed by a ghost? Why then did you worship him?” “I don’t know why,” replied Haladhari, “he came back from the Kali temple and astonished me in such a way that I forgot everything and saw the light of God in him! Whenever I go to Ramakrishna at the Kali temple he produces such feelings in me! Oh, that bewildering incident! I cannot understand anything.”
Although Haladhari saw divine light in the Master over and over again, he, when he took snuff and sat for scriptural discussion, got intoxicated with the egoism arising from scholarship and became his former self again, like the rat of the story “Punarmushika”12
It is clear from the behaviour of Haladhari narrated above that until the attachment to lust and gold vanishes, the practice of external cleanliness and the knowledge of the scriptures are not of much avail and cannot produce in man the knowledge of the ultimate truth. Looking upon the poor People who came to take Prasada at the Dakshineswar temple as Narayana, God Himself, the Master, we said before, ate a little of the remains of the food left in their plates. Annoyed at this, Haladhari said to him, “I shall see how you marry your children.” Intensely irritated with anger by those words of Haladhari, who was proud of his Vedantic knowledge, he said, “Don’t you, then, O wretch, say that the Sastras enjoin us to look upon all beings as Brahman and the world as unreal? Do you think I shall say like you that the world is unreal and at the same time beget children? Fie on your Sastric knowledge.”
The childlike Master, confused sometimes by Haladhari’s scholarship, ran to the universal Mother for Her opinion on what should be done. One day, we were told, he proved that the divine experiences in ecstasy were all untrue and pointed out, with the help of the scriptures, that God was beyond existence and non-existence. Great was the Master’s perturbation. Narrating this incident he said later, thought that all the divine forms I saw and the divine words I heard during Bhavasamadhi were then all a delusion. Mother, I saw, had indeed deceived me. Extremely anxious, I cried with the feeling of wounded love and said to Mother, ‘ Shouldst Thou, O Mother, deceive me so, because I am unlettered and ignorant?’ That cry and agony would not stop. I sat and wept in the ‘mansion’. What I saw some time afterwards was a fog-like smoke rising suddenly from the floor and filling some space in front of me. I saw later in that smoke a beautiful living face of golden complexion, with beard reaching to the breast! That figure looked steadfastly at me and said with a profound voice, ‘My child, remain in Bhavamukha. ’ That figure repeated those words thrice and immediately dissolved in the fog, and the fog-like smoke also vanished into the void. When I had that vision, I got back my peace of mind.” One day the Master himself described this event to Swami Premananda. The Master said that the same doubt arose in his mind once again when he remembered those words of Haladhari. “Sitting for worship,” said our Master, “I cried and pressed Mother importunately for a solution of the problem; Mother then appeared near the worship jar in the guise of a woman named ‘Rati’s mother’ and said, ‘Do remain in Bhavamukha.’ ” Again when Tota Puri, the travelling teacher, left Dakshineswar after imparting to him the Vedantic knowledge and the Master dwelt in the Nirvikalpa plane of consciousness continually for six months, he heard in his heart of hearts at the end of that period the incorporeal voice of the divine Mother, “Remain in Bhavamukha.”
Haladhari lived for about seven years in the Dakshineswar temple. Therefore he saw with his own eyes all these — the Sadhu of perfect knowledge behaving like a ghoul, the Brahmani the holy man of the Ramawat denomination named Jatadhari, and Sri Tota Puri, coming to Dakshineswar one after another. We were told by the Master himself that Haladhari and Tota Puri sat occasionally together and read the Adhyatma-Ramayana and other scriptures. The above-mentioned events concerning Haladhari occurred at different times while he was in the Dakshineswar temple. But we have told the reader all of them here together for the sake of convenience.
It is clear beyond doubt, from the discussion of the Master’s life of Sadhana so far, that, although he was then considered mad by the ordinary people, he was in fact not so; neither did he suffer from any disease or derangement of the brain. An intense eagerness for the realization of God arose in his heart. He could not then control himself, on account of the impulse of that eagerness. People said that he had gone mad, for, with an intense eagerness for the realization of God incessantly consuming his heart, he could not mix with people or spend his time laughing and weeping over ordinary matters. And who can do so? When the anguish of the heart transcends the normal power of endurance, who can control himself and who can, with mind and speech at variance with each other, keep pace with a world running amuck for lust and gold? But the limit to the power of endurance, one might say, is not the same for all; some become overwhelmed with a little misery or happiness; others, again, remain firm and steady like a rock in spite of there being a profound agitation in their hearts arising from either of them Therefore, how can one know the limit of a man’s endurance? In reply let us say that his power of endurance was extraordinary. This will be very clearly understood if we reflect on the other events of his life. Need the extraordinary endurance of the mind and body of a person like him be mentioned — a person who could remain calm in spite of being half-fed or unfed, and sleepless for twelve long years, who rejected the offers of immense wealth as many times as they came, because they were an obstacle on the path to the realization of God? There are innumerable other instances; but we desist from mentioning them here. The careful reader will meet with them at every turn, as he goes on with this life.
Again, the above-mentioned state of the Master appeared to be due to a disease, in the eyes of those people alone who were extremely attached to worldly objects. No one except Mathur, it is clear, was then present at the Kali temple at Dakshineswar, who could, with the help of reason and imagination, ascertain partially at least, the mental state of the Master. We cannot say where Kenaram Bhattacharya vanished immediately after initiating the Master; for, nothing was heard of him from Hriday or any one else after that event. Therefore, the ignorant, covetous officers of the Kali temple were the only persons left to judge the actions and mental states of the Master at that time. What they said cannot at all be regarded as proof. It is, therefore, certain that the words of the holy men who came to Dakshineswar at that time are the only reliable proofs of it. From what has been heard from the Master and others, it is known that those Sadhakas and perfected men, far from deeming him a victim of insanity, had always a very high opinion of him
When we study the events following this period, we see that he followed immediately any advice given by any one for the good of his health, till, led by the impulse of the intense eagerness for the realization of God, he completely lost consciousness of his body and of the world outside, and hence lost all care for his own life. He never tried to persist in his own resolve. When people said, “Let him be under treatment”, he agreed; when they said that he should be taken to his mother at Kamarpukur, he readily consented; neither, again, when his marriage was proposed, did he dissent. Considering all these how can we take his actions and behaviour to have been prompted by insanity?
Moreover, though he tried indeed to keep himself aloof from worldly people and worldly affairs, on many occasions he not only had no objection to going and mixing with people, but eagerly sought and joined them whenever they came together to worship God and sing His glory. This is clearly seen when we find that he used to visit the temple of the ten Maha-vidyas at Baranagar, went sometimes to pay his obeisance to the universal Mother at Kalighat, and joined the great annual festival at Panihati. In those places also, he sometimes met and had conversations with Sadhakas well versed in the scriptures. We have understood from the little we know of these things, that those Sadhakas held him in great veneration.
We may mention, for example, the fact of the Master’s visit to Panihati during the great festival in A.D. 1859. There, on that day, he saw Vaishnavacharan, the son of Sri Utsavananda Goswami for the first time. Some of us have heard from Hriday and also from the Master himself that he went to Panihati and sat for some time in the Master Manimohan Sen’s temple, when Vaishnavacharan came and saw him and he immediately came to the definite conclusion that the Master was in a high state of spirituality and that he was one of the rarest of great souls. Vaishnavacharan spent on that day the greater part of his time with the Master in the festival ground, and, purchasing at his own expense, mangoes, fried rice, curds and sweets, offered to the Lord a delicious mixture of them in earthen plates, and made merry, partaking of the Prasada along with the Master and the devotees. Again, while returning to Calcutta after the festival, Vaishnavacharan got down at Rani Rasmani’s Kali temple for the purpose of having the privilege of seeing him again and inquired about him there. When he was told that the Master had not returned from the festival, he felt disappointed. We have described elsewhere13 how Vaishnavacharan met the Master again three or four years later and how an intimate relationship grew up between them.
23. Other kinds of Sadhana of the Master at this time — (1) “rupee-earth, earth-rupee”,14 (2) cleaning unclean places, (3) regarding night-soil and sandal-paste as the same
During this period of four years, he often took in his hands a few coins and clods of earth and used them to practise discrimination between the real and the unreal, with a view to completely removing from his mind the attachment to gold. He came, with the help of reasoning, to the sure conclusion, that the person who had made the realization of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, the only goal of his life, could not derive any help whatsoever from gold any more than from a lump of earth. Therefore, repeating again and again “rupee-earth, earth-rupee”, he threw them both into the Ganga, in order to make that conclusion firmly fixed in his mind. With a view to having the firm conviction that all things and persons without exception from Brahma down to a blade of grass, were the manifestations and parts of the divine Mother, the Master partook of the leavings from the plates of the poor and cleaned the place where they took their food. For the purpose of completely removing pride and egoism from his mind and of having the conviction that he was not superior in any way even to the object of universal aversion, he cleaned, like a sweeper, the abominably dirty places with his own hands; again, in order to completely obliterate from his mind the feeling of aversion and to have the conviction that both ordure and sandal-paste were the same in nature, as they were derived from the same five elements, he touched with his tongue others faeces with perfect equanimity. All these and many more extraordinary and unheard of disciplines, associated with the name of the Master were performed during this period. When we ponder over those practices and divine visions of the Master during the first four years, it becomes clear what a unique, intense eagerness for the realization of God had seized him and with what an extraordinary faith he plunged himself into Sadhana. And simultaneously this conviction also grows in us that unaided by any outside help and by dint of his sheer eagerness for the realization of God, he succeeded in attaining the perfect vision of the divine Mother and had the ambition of his life fulfilled. And having thus achieved the results of his spiritual disciplines he proceeded to compare them with the teachings of the Guru and the Sastras.
The Master said that when the aspirant becomes purified and sanctified by completely controlling his mind and senses by means of restraint and renunciation, his own mind occupies the position of the Guru. The waves of ideas that arise then in his mind never lead him astray; on the contrary, they show him the right path and bring on him quickly to the goal of life. During this period, the pure and holy mind of the Master became his Guru and taught him what was and what was not to be done. It did not, however, rest satisfied there, but on many occasions, assuming a form, as it were, of a different person, it came out from his body, appeared before him and encouraged him to go forward with his Sadhana. Sometimes it threatened him with punishment if he did not dive deep in a particular discipline, explaining why it should be performed and what its result would be. This is why the Master saw at the time of meditation a Sannyasin with a sharp trident in his hand come out of his body and say, “If you do not fully give up all other thoughts and meditate wholeheartedly on your chosen Ideal, I’ll pierce your heart with this trident,” This is why when the Papa-purusha, the embodiment of desires for enjoyment, emerged from his body, this young Sannyasin whom the Master saw also came out immediately and killed that villain. Desirous to see the images of deities or listen to the singing of God’s glory in distant places, this young Sannyasin came out of the Master’s body in an effulgent, form similar to his and arrived at those places along a luminous path and returned along the same path and entered his gross body. We have been told by the Master himself of many such visions.
(ii) he saw the young Sannyasin within his own body and received instruction from him
The Master began to have the vision of this young Sannyasin within his body, almost from the commencement of his Sadhana. He became gradually accustomed to guide himself according to his advice regarding the performance or non-performance of all actions. In the course of a conversation on the extraordinary visions and experiences of his life during his Sadhana, one day, the Master said to us, “The figure of a young Sannyasin looking like me used to come out again and again from within me and instruct me on all matters; when he emerged, sometimes I had a little consciousness and, at other times, lost it altogether and lay inert, only seeing and hearing his actions and words; when afterwards he entered this gross body, I regained full consciousness. The Brahmani, Tota Puri and others came and taught me afterwards what I had heard from him previously—they taught me what I had already known. It seems from this that they came as Gurus in my life in order that the authority of the scriptures, such as the Vedas, might be maintained by my honouring their injunctions. No other reason can be found for accepting the ‘naked one’ and others as Gurus.”
and (iii) the vision of the Master on his way to Sihar. Bhairavi Brahmani’s decision about it
When the Master went to Kamarpukur during the latter part of this period of his Sadhana, another extraordinary vision occurred. This vision took place while he was going in a palanquin from Kamarpukur to Hriday’s house in the village of Sihar. Witnessing under the deep blue sky a vast expanse of open fields covered with paddy, green and dark-blue in hue, with rows of trees such as the fig, the banian, etc., affording cool shade along the path, he was proceeding with a heart full of joy, when two beautiful boyish figures of tender age suddenly came out of his body. Now advancing with a slow step, now running playfully hither and thither, sometimes going far in the fields in search of wild flowers etc., and at other times walking beside the palanquin, they laughed and joked and conversed and made merry as boys do. They thus proceeded happily for a long time and then they came back and entered his body. The learned Brahmani came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar for the first time about a year and a half after this vision had taken place. She heard of this vision from the Master and said without being at all surprised, “My child, what you have seen is all true; Chaitanya is manifest this time in Nityananda’s sheath (body) — Nityananda and Chaitanya have come together this time and are both residing in you, in one and the same receptacle.” Hriday said, “Saying so, the Brahmani recited the following lines from the Chaitanya Bhagavata: ‘Throwing his arms round Advaita’s neck Sri Chaitanya says again and again: I will manifest my wonderful play once more. My form will be that of bliss during the singing of the glory of God.’
“The Brahmani quoted again, ‘Gora acts his play even today. It is persons of the rarest good fortune that are privileged to witness it.’”
When we were visiting him one day, the Master said to us in connection with the topic of this vision, “It is true that I had that vision and it is also true that the Brahmani said so when she heard of it. But how can I say what the real meaning of it is?” From these words of the Master regarding that vision of his, we think that at this time the Master got some clear indication that, identified with his body and mind, some ancient soul known to the world for very long ages was dwelling here with a view to accomplishing some important purpose. It seems that the extraordinary indication he had about his individuality with the help of these visions and experiences clearly convinced him in course of time that the One, who manifested Himself in Ayodhya and Vrindavan as Sri Ramachandra, dear to Janaki, and Sri Krishnachandra, the beloved of Radha, respectively, for the purpose of establishing religion in past ages, has incarnated Himself once more as Sri Ramakrishna in a human body in order to impart a new ideal of religion to India and the world”. For, when we were with him, we heard him say again and again, whether he was in the full enjoyment of health or suffering acutely from a disease, “The One who became Rama and Krishna is now within this case (showing his body). But His advent this time is secret.”
If we want to test the truth of the vision mentioned above, no other means can be found than believing in the words of the Master himself spoken at other times to his devotees of the inner circle. Leaving out this vision, we can have the sure conviction of the truth of all other visions of his, for, the visions of this nature occurred daily in the Master’s life when we were visiting him And his sceptical English-educated disciples were defeated, as they tried to test the truth of these visions and experiences. Though we give a few such examples elsewhere,15 we shall record here one more for the satisfaction of the reader.
It was the end of 1885 when the people of Calcutta — men, women and children — were all filled with joy and enthusiasm, as usual, on the occasion of the great autumn worship and festival. Although the current of that bliss was being particularly felt in the hearts of the Master’s devotees, there was a great obstacle standing in the way of its manifestation; for he in whose company they felt the surge of delight was seriously ill — the Master was suffering from cancer of the throat. The devotees had hired a two-storeyed house at Shyampukur in Calcutta and had brought the Master there about a month previously. Mahendralal Sarkar, the well-known doctor, prescribed medicine and diet and was doing his best to cure the Master. But the disease had shown no sign of abatement so far; on the contrary it was worsening by degrees. The householder devotees would come to that house morning and evening, and supervise and make all necessary arrangements. Many of the young student devotees were engaged in the service of the Master at all times except when they went to have their meals. Some again would, whenever necessary, spend all the twenty-four hours there, without going home even for their meals.
If the Master spoke much or went into ecstasy again and again, the blood in his body would flow upward, and constantly irritate the sore, which prevented the cure. Therefore the doctor advised the Master to check both the acts. The Master too was trying to follow the prescription but was in spite of himself reverting to them again and again; for, unlike ordinary men he failed to regard as precious the body, which he looked upon with contempt all his life as a trifling cage of flesh and bone, from which he had withdrawn his mind completely. As soon as a topic on God was raised, he would forget all about his body and everything about maintaining it, and joining the discussion of the topic almost with the same enthusiasm as before, would repeatedly go into ecstasy. There were many souls who came thirsting for spirituality. Unable to remain indifferent to the eagerness of their hearts, the Master taught them Sadhana in a low voice. Seeing his joy and enthusiasm in the work of ministration, to which he applied himself untiringly, many of the devotees thought that the Master’s disease was simple and could be easily cured, and became free from anxiety. Some, again, opined — a strange comprehension of spiritual matters! — That the Master had purposely assumed this physical disease for bestowing his grace on the new devotees and imparting religion to many.
The doctor was visiting him almost every day in the morning or in the afternoon. While he was examining the patient, writing the prescription and advising the attendants, he would be so absorbed in listening to the Master’s conversation on God that he could not take his leave even after the lapse of two or three hours. Again, putting question after question and listening for a long time to the wonderful solutions of these, he would sometimes say regretfully, “I made you talk much; it has been unwise, but don’t talk with anybody for the rest of the day, and then it won’t do you any harm; don’t you see, your words have such attraction that, whenever I come to you, I can’t leave this place for two or three hours and I have to neglect my profession. I don’t even know how time flies. Anyway, don’t talk so long with anyone else; (partly as a joke and partly with love and joy he said) talk thus with me only when I come, that will not do any harm.” At this the doctor and all others would laugh.
Surendranath Mitra, whom the Master sometimes called Suresh Mitra, was celebrating the Durga Puja that year in his residence at Simla. Formerly his family used to celebrate it every year, but there had once been a mishap and the worship had been discontinued since then. No one of the household was bold enough to perform it after that; and if any one tried to celebrate it, all others dissuaded him vehemently. Strengthened, however, by his faith in the power of the Master, Surendranath was absolutely free from fear of any mishap due to the interference of demigods etc., and did not care at all for anybody’s objections or obstructions when he had once resolved to accomplish anything. Therefore, although all the members of the household raised objections, they could not make him refrain from carrying out his resolve that year. He got the Master’s approval and brought the Mother of the universe to his house and bore all the expenses himself to the exclusion of other members of the joint-family. The only element of sadness in Surendra’s joy was that the Master would not be able to join the celebrations on account of his illness. Again as a few relatives fell seriously ill a few days before the commencement of the worship, he was held responsible for all that and incurred the displeasure of all the household. But unperturbed even on that account, Surendra devoutly began the worship of the divine Mother with great care and attention and invited all his fellow-disciples.
The worship pertaining to the seventh day of the lunar month had been finished the day before. It was the auspicious eighth day. Many devotees gathered together at the temporary residence of the Master at Shyampukur and were enjoying in his company the bliss and the talks and songs about the Divine. Narendranath began singing devotional songs immediately after the doctor’s arrival at four in the afternoon. All were charmed by those exceedingly melodious vibrations of tunes coupled with remarkable spiritual fervour, and lost themselves completely in them The Master was sometimes having ecstasy, at the end of which he was explaining briefly in a low voice the import of the songs to the doctor who sat beside him Some of the devotees lost consciousness in deep spiritual emotions. There flowed in the room a strong current of bliss, which was almost palpable. Time passed unbeknown to all and it was 7-30 p.m. The doctor was startled at last. He embraced the Swami with paternal affection, took leave of the Master and stood up, when the Master also rose from his seat smiling and entered immediately into deep Samadhi. The devotees began whispering, “Is it not the time for the Sandhi Puja? That is why the Master has entered into Samadhi. Is it a matter of little surprise that he has entered suddenly into it without knowing the time?” About half an hour after, the Master’s Samadhi came to an end and the doctor bade good night.
The Master now said to the devotees about his Samadhi: “I saw that there opened a luminous path from here to Surendra’s house. I saw, further, that attracted by Surendra’s devotion, the Mother had appeared in the image and that a ray of light was coming out from Her third eye. I also saw that rows of lamps were lighted in the front verandah and Surendra was sitting and weeping piteously in the courtyard in front of the Mother. Go you all together to his house now. He will feel much comforted to see you.”
All, including Swami Vivekananda, then saluted the Master and went to Surendra’s place. They questioned him and came to know that rows of lamps were actually lighted in that verandah and, unable to check his surge of emotion, Surendra sat in the courtyard before the image and wept loudly like a boy crying “Mother”, “Mother”, for about an hour at the time of the Master’s Samadhi. Finding the vision during the Master’s Samadhi correspond to the external events in detail, the devotees felt that there was no end to their joy and amazement.
At one time during the first four years of his Sadhana, Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu, her son-inlaw, thought that the derangement of the Master’s brain, produced by unbroken continence, was manifesting itself as spiritual restlessness! Considering that he might regain his health if his continence were broken and, desirous to do good to the Master thereby, they tried to tempt him through Lachmi Bai and some other beautiful harlots with their amorous gestures, first at Dakshineswar and afterwards in a house at Mechuabazar in Calcutta. The Master used to say that he saw the divine Mother in those women, and repeating “Mother” a few times, lost consciousness, and that his sense-organ became contracted and entered completely into his body like the limbs of a tortoise. There arose, we were told, a feeling of maternal affection in the hearts of those fallen women when they saw all that and they were charmed by the childlike behaviour of the Master. Thinking that they had committed a great sin by trying to tempt him to break his continence, they begged his pardon with tears in their eyes, saluted him again and again, and bade goodbye with apprehensive minds.