3.1 SRI RAMAKRISHNA IN BHAVAMUKHA
The mental states derived from Sattva, those from Rajas and
those from Tamas verily proceed from Me. But I am not in them; they are
in Me. Deluded by these three states, the modifications of the Gunas,
all this world is ignorant of Me, who am beyond them and changeless.
Many have now come to know that at the end of the extraordinary austerity practised continually for twelve years, the Master was bidden by the Mother of the universe to “Remain in Bhavamukha”, which command he obeyed. But it is very difficult to understand and explain what it is to remain in Bhavamukha and how deep its meaning is. Twenty-eight years ago Swami Vivekananda once said to a friend,1 “Basketfuls of philosophical books can be written on each single sentence spoken by the Master.” The friend was surprised to hear it and said, “Is that so? We, however, do not find so deep a meaning in his words. Will you please explain to me any of his utterances in that manner?”
The Swami: “You would have understood it, had you the brains! Take any saying of the Master and I will explain.”
Friend: “All right, please explain the story of the elephant-god and the mahout-god related by the Master to illustrate his instruction on seeing God in all beings.”
The Swami at once took up the controversy over the doctrines of free will and of pre-destination or personal effort and God’s will, raging perpetually among the scholars of both the East and the West without their approaching any conclusion, and continued for three days to explain to the friend, in simple language, that this story of the Master was a wonderful solution to that controversy.
On reflection one is amazed to find such profundity of meaning in the ordinary daily conduct of the Master and in his teachings. This is true of every one of the incarnations of God. One has to study their lives to be convinced of this truth. Leaving aside the instances of one or two great souls like Sankaracharya, who had to re-establish religion by tearing to shreds the whole fabric of the opponents’ perverse arguments, we find in the lives of other great souls that they said and explained, in simple language and in short parables touching the heart and in homely similes and allegories, the truths they had to teach. They kept themselves at a safe distance from grandiloquent bombast or elaborate rhetoric. But their simple words and plain similes have so much meaning and power in them for elevating ordinary people to high ideals, that even now we have not become able to comprehend their meanings in full or find a limit to their power, though we have been attempting to do so for thousands of years. The more we study them the more do we find deeper and deeper meanings; and the more we muse over them, the more does the mind renounce the transient, inauspicious realm of the world and ascend to higher and higher regions. And the farther one proceeds towards “the realiza-tion of the supreme goal”, “the existence in Brahman”, “liberation” or “the vision of God”, as has been variously called by the great souls, the more does one comprehend in one’s heart of hearts the deep significance of those simple words.
This is the law. We do not find any exception to the operation of this law in the Master’s words and conduct. Oh, what a profound depth of content do the Master’s words reveal and how little of it did they appear to possess at the first hearing! It is enough to give here one example. After meeting the master a few times, one day Girish offered himself completely to him and said, “What shall I do from now on?”
The Master: “Go on, be doing what you have been doing. Now keep to both sides, this (God) and that (the world). When one side (i.e., the world) drops off, whatever is ordained to happen will happen. But continue to remember and think of Him every morning and evening.” Saying this, he looked at Girish, as if waiting for a reply.
At this, Girish was sad and thought, “The nature of my work is such that I cannot keep regular time even for satisfying my daily physical needs such as eating, drinking, sleeping, etc. I am certain to fail to remember and think of God morning and evening. Oh, what a calamity! It will be very wrong to transgress Sri Guru’s words and evil will certainly befall me. So how can I agree? It is certainly wrong to fail to keep one’s promise to any person in this world, much more so a promise to a person whom one is going to accept as one’s guide for the next world.”
Girish was hesitating even to express his thoughts. He continued to think that surely the Master had not asked him to do a very difficult task. Had he said this to anyone else, he would have at once agreed. But what could Girish do? As he knew correctly the state of his mind, which was full of outgoing tendencies, he found that it was, as it were, beyond his power to practise even that little of religious duties everyday. Again, looking at his own nature he found that he felt suffocated even to think that he was to submit himself to an obligation binding him for ever to a vow or a rule and that the mind would feel no peace till that vow or rule was broken. That was true all through his life. There was no difficulty in voluntarily doing anything good or bad but his mind rebelled at the thought that he was bound to do such and such a thing. Realizing his very weak and helpless condition, he felt distressed and kept silent. He could neither say he would do it, nor could he say he could not. How could he be so shameless as to say he could not do so easy a task? And even if he said so, what would the Master and others present there think? They would not perhaps realize his extremely helpless condition and would think, even though they might not express their thought, that it was a pretence.
Finding that Girish remained silent, the Master looked at him and, knowing his thoughts, said, “Very well, if you cannot do that, remember Him once before taking food and once before going to bed.”
Girish continued to be silent. He asked himself if he could do even that. He took his food at 10 a.m. on some days and at 5 p.m on others, and there was the same irregularity about his night meals. There were days on which although he was taking his meal he was not at all conscious of the fact, on account of troubles and worries regarding the cases pending in the courts, such as that he had no information whether the fee sent by him to the barrister had reached him in time and how it would be a calamity indeed if he did not appear at the time when the case was to be taken up, and so on and so forth. If, however, such days repeated themselves — and this was not impossible — he would surely forget to remember and think of God on those occasions. Alas, the Master was asking him to do such an easy thing and yet he could not say that he would do it. Girish was in a very sorry plight and remained motion less and speechless; but there raged, as it were, a storm of anxiety, fear and despair in his heart. The Master looked at Girish again and said smilingly, “You will say, ‘I cannot do even that’; very well, then give me the power of attorney.2" The Master was then in a state of divine semiconsciousness.
This was to Girish’s liking. His mind was now calm And there swelled in his heart an infinite onrush of love for and reliance on the Master for his infinite grace. He felt relieved that the bondage of rule, which was a terror to him, was now gone for ever. It was now sufficient to have the firm faith that whatever he might do, the Master would save him some way or other by his divine power.
Giving the power of attorney to the Master meant then to Girish nothing more than this: that he would not have to give up anything by means of personal efforts or to bother about spiritual practices and that the Master would remove the last vestige of worldliness from his mind through his own powers.
But he did not then realize that he had put voluntarily round his neck a noose of love a hundred times stronger than the bondage of rule which, he thought, was so unbearable. He did not then dive sufficiently deep, nor had he the power then to realize that whatever be the circumstances, good or bad, he might find himself in, whatever be the fame or infamy that might attend him, however agonizing be the pain or misery that dogged his steps, he had nothing more to say or do than to bear them all without a murmur. All other thoughts vanished from his mind and he was feeling the endless grace of Sri Ramakrishna — in fact, a new ego rooted in Sri Ramakrishna was born and was fast developing in him A spirit of divine defiance of the world came upon him and he thought that whatever the world might speak of him, even if it despised him, it was quite immaterial; for, the Master was undoubtedly his in all circumstances and at all times. How could he then know that the constant feeling of this new egoism is regarded in devotional scriptures3 as a kind of spiritual practice and comes to human beings, they say, from an abundance of good fortune. Girish, however, was now free from anxiety. And while eating, drinking or being engaged in any other activity, he had but one thought, viz., Sri Ramakrishna had taken upon himself all his responsibility, a soothing thought, a balm to his mind, which through its deepening impression was gradually gaining mastery over his whole being and involuntarily making him meditate on the Master, thus bringing about a revolution in him, in all his thoughts and actions. He was happy, though he did not understand all that.
For, he thought, was it not a fact that he (Sri Ramakrishna) loved him and was more than his own?
The Master always taught that “nobody’s spiritual attitude of mind should be interfered with” and he used to act accordingly in his daily dealings with devotees. Knowing well Girish’s spiritual mood, he began to give instructions from then on in accordance with that mood. One day when Girish said in the presence of the Master, “I will do it” in respect of a trifling matter, the Master remonstrated suddenly Saying, “What is that? Why do you thus say ‘I will do it’? Suppose you cannot do it. What then? You should say, ‘I shall do it if God so wills’.” Girish on his part felt, “This is quite right. I completely placed on God all my responsibility and He has accepted it. I can do a thing if only He thinks it proper and good for me and allows me to do so. How can I do it by my own power? “Realizing this, he gradually gave up such words and ideas as “I will do it”, “I will go”, and so on.
Thus days rolled on and at last the Master passed away. Girish met with various calamities, e.g., the death of his wife, son and others; but his mind began to assert every time, “He (Sri Ramakrishna) is allowing these events to happen, only because they are good for you. You have transferred your responsibility to him and he has accepted it; but he has given you no assurance regarding the path along which he will take you. Knowing that this path is easy for you, he is leading you along it. You have no reason to say ‘no’ or repine for it. Were they then empty words, that you gave him the power of attorney or transferred your responsibility to him?” Thus as more and more days passed, the hidden meaning of “giving the power of attorney” was more and more realized by Girish. Was its meaning completely understood even at last? Asked about it, Girish said, “Much remains to be understood even now. Did I know then that so much lay hidden in the simple giving of the power of attorney? I now find that at some time there is an end to the spiritual practices like Japa, austerities and devotional exercises, but there is no end to the work of a person who has given the power of attorney; for, he has to watch every step and every breath to know whether he does so depending on Him and His power or on this wretched ‘I’.”
Many thoughts occur to our mind in connection with accepting the power of attorney. We find in the history of the world that it is great souls alone, such as Lord Jesus, Chaitanya and others, who sometimes gave assurance of this kind to some people. Ordinary teachers have no power to do so. They can at the most teach others the Mantras, particular ceremonial functions, etc., with the help of which they themselves made spiritual progress; or they can attract people towards purity by living pure lives themselves. But when paralysed by various kinds of worldly bondage man reaches the state of complete helplessness and, when asked to do even a trifling thing, he pleads his inability to do it and asks for help in utter despair, it is beyond the power of ordinary teachers to help him. It is beyond the power of any man to say to another that he would take upon himself all the responsibility for the latter’s evil actions and that he himself would experience their results on the latter’s behalf. It is when such a decline of spirituality is manifested in humanity that the Lord out of His grace incarnates Himself and suffers the results of man’s evil actions on his behalf and saves him from the constraint of that bondage. Although He does so, He does not absolve him altogether, but makes him put forth some little effort, so that he may learn. The Master used to say in this connection, “Man finishes the experiences of ten lives in one by their (the incarnations’) grace.”
This is as true of an individual as of a nation. It is this which has been called in the Gita (XI. 8), “the attainment of the divine eye” by Arjuna for the purpose of having the vision of the universal form of Brahman; in the Puranas, “being blessed with the grace of God the Lord”; in the Bengal Vaishnava scriptures, “the saving of Jagai and Madhai or the crushing of the unbeliever in them”; and in Christian scriptures, “the vicarious atonement” of Jesus through taking upon himself the sufferings of others. We could never have realized that there is truth in all this, if we did not get an indication of it in the life of Sri Ramakrishna.
When the Master came and lived at Shyampukur in Calcutta for treatment, one day he had a vision that his subtle body came out of his gross one and was walking up and down, Regarding the vision the Master said, “I saw that it had sores all over its back. I was wondering why they were there and Mother showed that it was because people came and touched my body after committing all kinds of sins; and because out of compassion for their sufferings, I had to take upon myself the results of their evil actions, I had all these sores. That is why this (showing his throat4) is there. Why, otherwise, should there be so much suffering, though this body never did any wrong?” We were dumb-founded and thought, “Is it a fact then that one can undergo the results of another’s actions and make the latter free to make spiritual progress?” Hearing the Master’s words, many thought, out of love for him, “Ah, why did we touch the Master after committing various evil acts like lying, cheating, etc.? He is suffering so much, undergoing so much pain, because of us. We will never again touch his divine body.”
We remember in this connection what the Master said on another occasion. Once, a man suffering from leucoderma came and said importunately to the Master that if he would only pass his hand over it, he would be cured of the disease. The Master had compassion on him and said, “Well, I know nothing, but as you desire, I shall pass my hand. It will be cured if Mother wills.” And he passed his hand over it. For the whole of that day, the Master felt so much pain in his hand that he became restless and said to the Mother of the universe, “I will never do such a thing again, Mother.” The Master used to say later, “He was cured of the disease but the suffering was experienced (showing his body) here.” These events of the Master’s life clearly show us that in this age the scriptures like the Vedas, the Bible, the Puranas, the Koran, the treatises on rituals, the sacred formulae, etc., can be easily understood, if studied in the light of Sri Ramakrishna’s life. The Master also told us, “My children, coins current in the time of the Nawabs are not legal tender in that of the Badshas”.
On a superficial view it may appear that the giving of the power of attorney is a very easy affair, as if the power waits ready to be handed over to another. Man is a slave to his inclinations, he looks for advantages even while practising religion. He likes to keep both, worldly pleasures and the bliss of God. He considers worldly enjoyments to be so sweet, so nectareous, that he feels as if the ground is cut from under his feet at the mere idea of having to renounce them. For, he wonders, what will he then have for the support of his life? It is for this reason that he is beside himself with joy when he comes to know that in the spiritual world the power of attorney can be given. He thinks, “Well, how grand! Let me enjoy pleasures in the world to my heart’s content and commit theft, cheating, robbery, etc., for that; and let Chaitanya, Jesus or Ramakrishna so arrange that I may be happy in the next world. I say the next world, because some day I have to die.” He does not then see that it is nothing but a deception committed by his wily mind, that it is nothing but shutting his eyes to the terrible pictures of his own evil actions and going headlong to destruction; and that some day he will be forced to open his eyes to see before him a shoreless sea. He will then realize that no one has accepted the power of attorney given by a deceiver. Ah, man, how many are the ways in which you are deceiving yourself, thinking that you have struck a splendid bargain! And hail Mahamaya, what a great delusion hast Thou created in the human mind! What Ramprasad says in his song addressing Thee is indeed perfectly true:
“Hail, O Mother Dakshina Kali,
Thou hast produced delusion in the world.
But hast made the magic wand of both Thy feet,
That destroy delusion, fall to the lot of Siva.
Thou art the daughter of such a magician,
Thou hast kept the Father (of the universe) in the
disguise of madness,
And assuming the three Gunas,
Thou hast transformed Thyself
into Purusha and Prakriti.
I apprehend therefore, O Prasad,5
That you have become mad, as, you hope to get
Those Feet, which could not be attained
By the destroyer of Tripura himself.”
The power of attorney cannot be given for the mere wish; man can rightly give it only when, as the result of much effort and perseverance, the mind realizes a state in which that is made possible. And it is only then that the divine Lord accepts it. Even when running after the various things of the world to become happy, man really feels that what he has attained is a shadow without reality; even when performing spiritual practices, Japa and austerities, he feels in his heart of hearts that it can never be an adequate price for the attainment of the infinite Lord; and even when employing unsparingly all means and methods with the hope and faith of moving mountains by the sheer force of perseverance, he realizes that he has no power to move a straw; it is only then that he begins to cry aloud in a plaintive voice, “O, Thou protector, whoever and wherever Thou art, save me,” and it is then that the Lord accepts his power of attorney.
On the contrary, when the mind takes a perverse attitude and says “I do not find joy in performing spiritual exercises or calling on the Lord but I find happiness in giving free reins to my whims and fancies and hence I shall follow them” and when objection is taken to this attitude, it comes out with the prompt reply, “Why, have I not given my power of attorney to God? What shall I do when He is making me act thus? Why does he not change my mind? “then one should know that giving the power of attorney in this manner is to deceive oneself as well as others and to lose the here and the hereafter.
This subject will be better understood, if discussed from another standpoint. Well, let it be granted that you have given the power of attorney and that you have no need to call on God or to adopt spiritual practices. If the “power of attorney” has been properly given, you cannot but constantly dwell upon His compassion in your heart of hearts. You will then feel that you fell into this shoreless sea of the world and have been for long helplessly struggling in it and that He has saved you by His grace. Just imagine how much gratitude, love and devotion of your heart you will pour on Him when you feel like that. Will it be necessary to ask you always to think of Him and remember His name? Filled with grateful love for Him, will not your heart naturally do so? Even a vicious creature like a snake feels grateful to the person who gives it shelter and it goes under the familiar name of a “house snake “and does not harm the household. Is your heart meaner even than that? And is it not filled with grateful love for Him who has taken upon Himself your responsibility both in this world and in the next? So, if you find after giving the power of attorney that you do not feel any joy in calling on God, then know for certain that you have neither given properly the power of attorney to Him nor has He taken upon Himself your responsibility. Do not deceive yourself any more thinking that you have given the power of attorney and do not attribute the stain of your own evil actions to the stainless divine Lord eternally free from the touch of any evil whatever. To do so is most maleficent and harmful to yourself. Remember the Master’s story of a Brahmin killing a cow:
A Brahmin succeeded, with much effort and great pains, in rearing up a beautiful garden. He planted various kinds of fruit-and-flower-bearing trees and felt great joy at their luxuriant growth. One day, finding the gate open, a cow entered the garden and was cropping the plants. The Brahmin was away on business. He returned and found that the cow was even then feeding on his plants. He violently assaulted the cow and gave her such a blow with a stick on a vital part of the body that she died. The Brahmin was seized with fear, and thought, “Alas, I, a Brahmin, have killed a cow — which is the greatest of sins.” The Brahmin had read a little of the Vedanta and remembered that human sense-organs derive their power of functioning from particular gods; for example, the eye derives its sight from the Sun-god, the ear its hearing from the Wind-god,6 the hand its movements from Indra, and so on. The Brahmin now recollected those words, and thought, “It is then not I who killed the cow. The hand was moved by the power of Indra; it is therefore Indra who has killed the cow.” The Brahmin felt relieved at this argument.
Now, the sin of killing of the cow came to enter the body of the Brahmin, but the Brahmin’s mind drove it away. He said, “Go away, you nave no place here; Indra has killed her, go to him.” So the sin went to seize Indra. Indra said to the sin, “Wait a little please, let me go, speak a word or two with the Brahmin and come back. Seize me then if you like”. Saying so, Indra assumed a human form, entered the Brahmin’s garden and saw him standing close by and looking after the plants and trees. Indra began to praise the beauty of the garden in the Brahmin’s hearing; and, slowly proceeding towards the Brahmin, said, “Oh, what a beautiful garden this is! With what good taste have the plants and trees been planted, each in its proper place!” Saying so, he approached the Brahmin and said, “Sir, can you tell me whose garden this is? Who is it that has planted the trees and plants so beautifully?” Hearing the praise of the garden, the Brahmin was beside himself with joy and said, “Sir, this is my garden; it is I who have planted all these. Come, let me show you round.” While he was thus taking Indra round and talking many things about the garden, praising himself all the time, he came inadvertently to the place where the dead cow was lying. Startled, as it were, Indra asked, “Oh! Who has killed the cow here?” The Brahmin who was all the while speaking of everything in the garden saying, “I have done this”, “I have done that”, was at a loss and did not know what to say and remained utterly silent. Indra then assumed his own form and said, “Ah, you hypocrite, you have done whatever is good in the garden and it is the killing of the cow alone that devolves on me! Is that so? Here is your sin of cow-killing. Take it.” Saying so, Indra disappeared and the sin came and took possession of the Brahmin’s body.
So much for the power of attorney. Let us now follow the main topic.7 Ask any devotee of the Master and he will unhesitatingly declare that with the passage of time, he finds through the Master’s grace, deeper and deeper meanings in his words. Further, we are now amazed to find wonderful meanings and sentiments in many of the Master’s words and actions, which at the time of hearing or seeing them yielded no clear meaning and which we simply took in, charmed by his personality. The favourite saying of the Master was, “Ah, my children, you will succeed at the right time, you will understand at the proper time. Can you get a fruit immediately you sow the seed? First there is a sprout, then a sapling, then it grows into a plant, next it produces flowers and at last it yields fruits; it is just like that. But one has to persevere and not give, it up. Listen to what is said in this song.”
Saying so, the Master would sing in his melodious voice:
“Oh brother, persist joyfully,
You will succeed gradually,
What went wrong will be set right.
Anka was saved, Banka was saved,
And the butcher Sujan was saved,
Teaching the parrot, the prostitute was saved,
So was saved Mira Bai.
Having the wealth and treasure of the world,
The trader still drives the bullock,
When misfortune overtakes him,
No trace (of all these) will be left.
Have such deep devotion in your mind,
Give up hypocrisy and craftiness,
The King of the line of Raghus will be attained easily,
By virtue of service, worship and surrender.”
He would then say, “His service, worship and surrender, i.e., humility; everything will come right, if one has faith and adheres to these things; His direct vision is certain. But if one gives these up, there stops one’s progress. There was a man who had a job and with considerable difficulty he saved some money, little by little. One day, counting, he found that there was a saving of a thousand rupees. He was at once beside himself with joy and thought, ‘Why should I be in service any more? There is already a saving of a thousand rupees. What more is necessary? Saying so, he gave up the job. A puny man with a puny ambition! He was puffed up on account of this paltry sum and looked down upon others. But how many days will it take to spend a thousand rupees? It got exhausted in no time. He then fell on evil days and danced attendance on office superintendents for a job. It will not do to act thus; one has to wait patiently at His door. If one is prepared to do that, then alone will one succeed.”
Again while he was singing, “You will succeed gradually”, the Master would suddenly say, “Ah, why gradually? One should not practise such lukewarm devotion. One should have the burning faith in one’s heart, realization must come just now, I will see Him this very moment. Can half-hearted devotion help one to realize Him?”
Whenever we looked at the Master, we felt that he was the very embodiment of spiritual moods. We felt that we saw his form because the spiritual moods had consolidated them selves in him, so to say. We talk glibly of physical changes taking place simultaneously with the changes of mental moods, but come across only a little of such phenomenon. But we could not imagine even in a dream that the surge of mental moods could bring about so much of change in the body, as in the case of the Master. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the Master’s “I” consciousness disappeared totally and along with it his pulse, heartbeat, etc., also stopped simultaneously. Mahendralal Sarkar and other doctors examined him with the help of instruments and found no sign of the functioning of his heart.8 Not satisfied with that, his friend, another doctor, went further and touched with his finger the Master’s eyeball, and found it insensitive to touch like that of a dead man. At the time of practising “Sakhi-bhava” the Master continually meditated on himself as a woman servant of Sri Krishna and became so much identified with that idea that womanly behaviour, woman’s mode of standing, walking, sitting, talking, etc., were naturally manifested in his body, so much so that Mathuranath and others who were his constant companions, mistook him on many occasions for a woman guest.9 We have heard so much from the Master and have ourselves seen so many similar phenomena, that the laws of modem Psychology and Physiology so far considered to be conclusive have to be re-enunciated. “Will people believe these occurrences even if they are told?
But the most striking thing we have seen in him is his power of roaming everywhere in the realm of ideas; his power of understanding all ideas, great or small, of all persons, of a boy or an adult, of a monk or a householder, of a devotee or a Vedantin, of man or woman; his power of grasping the inner thoughts and sentiments of each spiritual aspirant, of knowing how far he had advanced in the realm of spirituality, what path he had adopted, what his current needs were for taking him further along his own line of progress; and what is most important, his wonderful power of prescribing just the course needed and suitable. When we deeply think of these things, it seems to us that the Master had previously experienced in his life the whole range of ideas past, present and future without exception; that he had stored his memory in great detail with the entire history of each of the states from the time of its appearance to that of its disappearance; and that it was owing to this fact that whenever anyone came and told him of his mental state, he grasped and understood it by comparing it with what was stored up in his mind and gave the appropriate prescription then and there. This was his rule in everything. When anyone came to him as an humble inquirer, confronted with extremely trying situations like worldly attachment, worldly turmoil, the persistence of some idea or emotion contrary to the practice of renunciation etc., and unable to find a way out, the Master would invariably give him the proper direction and, by way of encouragement, tell him his own experiences under similar conditions. He would say, “My child, such and such events came to pass then and I adopted such and such means.” It is needless to add that great hope filled the inquirer’s heart when the Master said so and with much faith and perseverance he went forward along the path specified by the Master. That was not all; but he felt how great the Master’s love for him was when he saw him confiding his heart’s secrets to him One or two examples will make this clear.
A promising son of Manimohan Mallick of Sinduriapati, Calcutta, died. No sooner had he performed the ceremonies connected with the cremation than Manimohan came to the Master. Saluting the Master he sat with a heavy heart in a corner of the room. He saw many inquiring devotees, seekers after truth, men and women, sitting in the room and the Master was talking to them on various spiritual topics. He had sat for a short time when the Master’s eyes happened to fall on him and with a nod of his head, he asked him, “Well, why do you look so sad today?” In a choked voice, Manimohan answered, “So-and-so (naming his son) died today.” Seeing his haggard appearance and hearing his choked voice, everyone in the room was dumbfounded and sat speechless. Everyone felt that any word of consolation could not assuage the deep pain and agony raging in his heart. Nevertheless they began to console him in words such as “Such is the way of the world, everyone must die some day, whatever has happened cannot be undone by shedding tears a thousand times; therefore give up grief, have patience.” Man has been consoling men and women struck with grief from the beginning of creation in these words. But, alas, how few are the hearts that are thereby consoled! And how can they be? It is only when the three things viz., our minds, words, and actions are inspired by the same feeling that our words can touch others’ hearts and raise similar waves of feeling there. But with us this qualification is altogether wanting; we say, “The world is transitory,” but every thought and action of ours is contrary to this idea. Though we advise others to consider this world to be transitory like a dream, we always regard it in our heart of hearts as eternal and make arrangements for living here for ever. How can our words acquire that power?
Although all the others poured forth the hackneyed phrases of consolation to Manimohan, the Master was all the time merely listening to his words of grief without speaking anything whatever. When they saw that indifferent mood of his, some were surprised and thought how hard, how devoid of compassion, his heart was.
As he was listening to the words of the old man, the Master gradually passed into ecstasy — a state of divine semi-consciousness. Suddenly with the pose and energy of a wrestler he struck his left arm just below the shoulder with the palm of his right hand, stood up and began singing with an unprecedented vigour:
O man, prepare yourself for battle.
There, see Death entering your house in battle array;
(Therefore) ride on the chariot of great virtue,
Harness to it the two horses of devotion and spiritual practice,
Stretch up the bow of knowledge,
And set the unfailing arrow of the love of God.
Listen, there is another plan of good strategy;
All the enemies can be killed without a chariot or a charioteer,
If Dasarathi10 takes the field on the bank of the Bhagirathi.
The tune of the song expressing great vigour and the appropriate gesture coupled with the spirit of heroic renunciation and strength coursing from the Master’s eyes produced in the hearts of all a current of wonderful hope and energy. The heart of every one was raised from the realm of grief and delusion, and filled with a wonderful divine bliss which was beyond the senses and beyond the world. Manimohan too felt it in his heart, forgot the agonizing grief and was now calm, grave and in perfect peace.
The song came to an end; but its few words, so sung by the Master, generated waves of spirituality, which filled the room for a long time and were palpably felt like a presence by all. All were still and lost themselves in the spiritual mood: “It is God alone who is our own, we offer our heart and life to Him May He bestow His compassion on us and reveal Himself to us.” When the Master’s ecstasy came to an end a little later, he sat by the side of Manimohan and said, “Ah! What burning pain is there on earth which can compare with the grief at the death of a son? A son is born of this sheath (body); isn’t he? So his relation with the body persists as long as it lasts.” Saying so, the Master began to describe to him the death of Akshay as an example, so touchingly that it seemed as if he was visualising before his eyes the death of his relative. He said, “Akshay died. I felt nothing at the time. I was standing and was witnessing how man dies. I saw there was, as it were, a sword in a sheath and the sword was brought out of it. The sword was not at all affected. It remained as it was and the sheath lay there. I felt great joy to see it. I laughed and sang and danced. They then burnt the boy and returned. The next day I was standing there (pointing to the verandah to the east of the room and near the courtyard of the Kali temple), and do you know what I felt? I felt as if my heart was being wrung in the way a wet towel is wrung. My heart was feeling for Akshay like that. I thought, “Mother, this (his body) has no relation with even the cloth it wears; ah, how great was then the relation with the nephew! When it is so even here (with himself), how agonizing the pain must be to the householders! Thou art showing that, aren’t you?”
“But do you know? “continued: the Master, a little later, “Those who take refuge in Him do not go down to the bottom even on account of this unbearable grief. They regain their balance but after a few tossings. Persons of small capacity, like small vessels, lose their control, their balance, altogether and go down. Haven’t you noticed the plight of the small fishing boats when steamers pass through the Ganga? It looks as if they are lost and are gone. Some are capsized altogether. The bigger vessels carrying tons of load regain their balance after a few tossings. But a toss or two must be felt by all.”
After a short pause of serious gloom, the Master added again, “How few are the days during which the relationship among all these (sons, parents, etc.) in this world exists! Desiring happiness a man enters the world; he marries, begets a son; the son grows; he gets his son married; thus a few days pass pleasantly. Then one gets ill, another dies, still another goes astray, and the man is beside himself with worries and anxieties. The more the frustration, the louder the lamentation! Haven’t you noticed how the wet fuel burns in a sweetmaker’s oven? It burns well at first. Then as it is burning, the sap begins to ooze out through its hinder part and assumes the form of froth which bubbles and bursts and produces various kinds of hissing sounds. It is just like that.” He was thus consoling Manimohan by speaking to him on a variety of topics such as “the transitoriness and hollowness of the world”, “taking refuge in the divine Lord, the only source of happiness” and so on. Manimohan felt consoled and said, “This was why, Sir, I came running to you. I knew that there was no one else who could assuage this fire of grief.”
We were amazed at this extraordinary behaviour of the Master and thought, “Is this the person whom we considered a short time ago to be hard-hearted and indifferent? One who is really great is not like the common run of people even in small matters. His greatness is discernible in every action, great or small. Is this the same person whose heart-beat stopped a little while ago while he was experiencing ecstasy or the nearness of God? Is he the same person, who, in sympathy with Manimohan’s condition, is behaving like an ordinary man? He could have altogether dismissed the words of the old man, saying, “It is all a mere delusion, a trifling matter”; it is not that he could not have done so. Had he displayed his greatness that way, we would have felt that he might be a great spiritual teacher or anything else, but that he was certainly not of this world; we would have felt that he had not the power to enter into the feelings of ordinary mortals and would have said, “We wonder how he could have remained indifferent to the play of Maya if he had fallen but once into the helpless condition into which we, weak human beings, have fallen owing to our attachment to wives and children.”
The very next moment, perhaps, a young man comes in a dejected mood and asks, “Sir, how can one be freed from lust? Passions and unhealthy emotions disturb the mind sometimes and make me restless in spite of me.”
The Master: “Ah, lust does not vanish till God is realized. So long as the body lasts, a little of it continues even after that realization; but then it cannot raise its head, Do you think I myself am altogether free from it? At one time, I thought I had conquered lust. When I was sitting under the Panchavati such an onrush of lust came that it seemed to be beyond my power of control. I then wept rubbing my face against the dust on the ground and said to the Mother, ‘I have done a great wrong, Mother, I shall never again harbour the idea that I have conquered lust.’ It was then only that it vanished. Do you know, you people are now passing through a high tide of youth. This is why you cannot stop it. When a high tide comes does it heed an embankment? It then swells up, breaks the embankment and rushes forward. Then water stands as high as a bamboo over the paddy fields. But it is said that a mental sin is no sin in the Kaliyuga. Again even if an undesirable feeling happens to arise once or twice in the mind why should you feel worried because of it? It is natural to the body, it sometimes comes and goes; pay no more heed to it than to the bodily functions, the calls of nature. Do people feel worried because of such functions? Similarly consider these feelings to be very trifling, unworthy of any attention and do not think of them any more. Moreover, pray to Him heartily, repeat continually the name of Hari and meditate on Him. Do not take notice whether they come or go. They will slowly come under control.” The Master had become, as it were, a youth speaking to a youth.
In this connection, we remember Swami Yogananda, who was amongst the very few whom we knew to have conquered lust. One day he asked the Master that very question at Dakshineswar. He was then young, about fourteen or fifteen years of age and had been visiting the Master for a short time. A Hathayogi named Narayan was then living in a hut under the Panchavati and was attracting some people’s curiosity by showing them the arts of Neti Dhauti.11 Yogen said that he was also one of those people and thought on seeing those arts that lust perhaps would not vanish and God could not be realized unless those were practised. He therefore hoped, when putting the question, that the Master would instruct him on some posture, advise him to take Haritaki or some other drug or teach him some process of control of the vital force. “In answering my question”, continued Yogen, “the Master said, ‘Go on repeating the name of Hari and it will vanish, nothing more will be necessary’. The answer was not at all to my liking. I said to myself, ‘I see, he does not know any process and that is why he has prescribed to me a useless something. Does lust vanish on repeating the name of Hari? Very many people are doing it; why does it not vanish in them?’ Another day I came to the Kali temple and instead of going straight to the Master, was standing near the Hathayogi at the Panchavati, listening eagerly to his conversation, when I saw that the Master himself came suddenly there; and no sooner had he seen me than he called me, took me by the hand to his room and said, ‘Why did you go there? Don’t do that. Your mind will stick only to the body if you learn, those processes of Hathayoga. It will not thirst after God’. I thought, ‘He is thus speaking to me lest I should give up visiting him’. I always had a high notion of my intelligence. What a free rein I gave to the intellect! It did not then occur to me that my visits mattered so little to him. Ah, such a roguish and suspicious mind I had. But there is no limit to the grace of the Master. In spite of harbouring such improper thoughts I was given refuge.12 Then came the thought, ‘Why don’t I do what he told me to do and see what happens?’ Thinking thus, I took the name of Hari with a concentrated mind. And as a matter of fact, I began directly to experience the result mentioned by the Master.”
Very many are the examples that can be cited of the Master’s ability to grasp the mental condition and needs of all. We have already introduced Mani Mallick of Sinduriapati. A relative of his, a woman devotee, frequently visited the Master. One day, she came and said to him with great humility that when she sat down to meditate on God, worldly thoughts, the words of one, the face of another, etc., came into her mind and she could not attain to restfulness. The Master at once understood the mood. He knew that she loved someone whose words and face came to her mind. He asked affectionately, ‘Well, whose is the face that comes to your mind? Whom do you love?” She replied that she loved a young nephew of hers, whom she was bringing up. The Master said, “Very well, whatever you do for him — feeding, dressing, etc. — do with the idea that he is Gopala; take this attitude that God resides in him in the form of Gopala and that it is He whom you are feeding, dressing and serving. Why should you think that you are doing all this for a human being? As is your mood, so will be your gain.” We are told that as the result of doing so, she made in a short time considerable spiritual progress, so much so that she attained even Bhavasamadhi.
It is explicable that the Master could comprehend and know the mental states of men because he had a man’s body. But one’s surprise is unbounded when one thinks how the Master could correctly know all the moods of women upon whom God has bestowed an extra capacity for experiencing tenderness, affection for children, etc. “The Master,” say his women devotees, “did not usually seem to us to be a man at all. It seemed to us that he was one of us. That is why we did not feel the slightest shyness or hesitation in his presence, as we do in the presence of men. Even if it came on rare occasions, we forgot it immediately and would express to him our feelings without any hesitation whatever.”
Did this happen because the Master completely lost the consciousness “I am a male” by constant concentration for a long time on the thought, “I am a woman friend or servant of Sri Krishna, the divine Lord”, and by its realization? Patanjali says in his Yoga Aphorisms,“If the idea of doing injury to others completely vanishes from your mind, no one in the world, not even tigers and snakes, will injure you, not to speak of human beings. The very idea of doing injury to you will not cross their minds when they see you.” This must be understood to be equally true of all other functions of the mind such as lust, anger, etc. Many examples of this fact are found in the Puranas. One, however, will suffice here. The stainless young Suka, free from Maya and always merged in God-consciousness, was passing along having renounced the world; and Vyasa, his old father blinded by affection for his son, was running after him crying: “Where are you going, son, where are you going?” On their way the celestial damsels were bathing in a lake after leaving their clothes on the bank. They felt no bashfulness or qualms in their minds when they saw Suka, and went on bathing as before. But as soon as the old Vyasa arrived, all of them covered their bodies in great haste. Vyasa thought, “Ah, this is very proper indeed! My youthful son passed by before and they did not even stir; but they feel very shy seeing me, an old man.” Questioned about the reason, the ladies answered, “Suka is so pure that the only thought he always has in his mind is, ‘I am the Self of the universe.’ He is not at all conscious whether he has a man’s or a woman’s body. This was why shyness did not arise in our mind when we saw him. But you are old, you have been much acquainted with the gestures, postures and glances of women and have extensively described their grace and beauty. You do not, like Suka, look upon men and women as the Self and neither will you ever have the capacity to do so. That is why the idea of a male arose in our minds on seeing you; and simultaneously shyness also arose.”
This very idea comes up in our mind in connection with the Master. His illumining Self-knowledge and his vision of the Self in all beings both male and female kept the minds of all near him raised so high that the ideas such as “I am a man”, “This is a woman” etc. would not usually cross their minds as long as they were with him That is why, like men, women also felt no shyness in his presence! That is not all; that vision of the Self in them in the company of the Master became so deep-rooted at that time that at his request they performed easily and without any hesitation those actions which they considered to be compromising and which they could not perform at the request of anyone else. At the Master’s request ladies13 of very respectable families who never travelled anywhere except by carriage or palanquin, walked on foot through the main road at day-time to the bank of the Ganga, took boats and travelled to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar. What was more, they would perhaps go at the desire of the Master to the neighbouring market and make purchases for him and would return on foot to Calcutta at dusk. An example or two will make the matter clear.
It was towards the end of 1884. The Holy Mother was then at her father’s house at Jayramvati. Balaram Basu went to Vrindavan with his father. With them went Rakhal (Swami Brahmananda), Gopal (Swami Advaitananda) and several other devotees, men and women. A lady of a respectable family of Baghbazar, who had heard of the Master, had had a great desire to come and see him. She expressed this to a woman-acquaintance of hers. The latter was told of this because she had been frequently visiting the Master for the past two years. A plan was fixed; and in the afternoon of the very next day the two arrived at Dakshineswar. They saw the door of the Master’s room closed. They looked through the peep-holes in the northern wall of the room and saw the Master resting. Therefore they went to the Nahabat where the Holy Mother used to live and waited there. The Master got up a little later and on opening the northern door he found that they were sitting on the verandah of the first floor of the Nahabat. He called out to them, “Hullo! come here.” When the women devotees came and sat down, the Master got down from his wooden cot and sat near the woman devotee who was known to him. At that she felt shy and was going to move away a little when the Master said, “Why this shyness? Realization of God is not possible as long as the three, viz., shyness, aversion and fear, are there. (Making a movement of his hand) I am verily what you are. But (showing the hairs of his chin) you feel shy because these are there. Is it not so?”
Saying so, he started immediately a conversation on God and gave them various instructions. The women devotees also forgot the distinction between man and woman and put questions and listened to answers without any hesitation whatever. When they took leave after a long conversation, the Master said, “Come once a week. In the beginning visits should be more frequent.” Again, finding that they were poor, though belonging to respectable families and thinking they could not always get carriage hire, the Master added, “Three or four of you should join and take a boat while you come; and walk to Baranagar and share a carriage there while you return home.” It is needless to say that the women devotees acted accordingly since then.
Another woman devotee said to us one day, “There was nice Sar (sweet cream) in the shop of Bhola, the famous sweet-maker. As we knew that the Master liked Sar we purchased a big piece. Five of us then together hired a boat and arrived at Dakshineswar without notice. But we were informed that the Master had gone to Calcutta. We were at a loss to know what to do. There was brother Ramlal there. Asked to which place in Calcutta the Master had gone, he said that he had gone to the house of the ‘teacher’14 at Kombulatola. Hearing this, A’s mother said, ‘I know that house; it is near my father’s; will you go? Come, let us go, what is the good of waiting here?’ All agreed. We handed over the sweets to brother Ramlal and went away saying, ‘Please give it to the Master when he comes.’ We had already dismissed the boat. So we started on foot. But such was his will that hardly had we covered the short distance to Alambazar when an empty carriage returning to Calcutta was available. We hired the carriage and reached Shyampukur. There was fresh trouble awaiting us. A’s mother could not find out the house. After taking us from place to place she stopped the carriage in front of her father’s house and called a servant. He came with us and showed the house. Thus we succeeded after all in reaching the teacher’s house. How can I blame A’s mother either? She was three or four years younger than we — she was about twenty-six or twenty-seven then. A mere daughter-in-law, she never came out to a road. Moreover the house was in a lane and how could she recognize it?
“We reached, it with great difficulty. We were not then acquainted with the teacher’s family. Entering the house, we saw the Master sitting on a small wooden cot in a small room There was no one near him. As soon as he saw us he laughed and said affectionately, ‘Ah, how could you come here?’ We saluted him and told him the whole story. He was very happy and asked us to sit in the room and began to talk on various subjects. Every one now says, he did not allow women to touch him or even to approach him. We laugh to hear it and think, ‘We are not dead yet.’ Who will know how kind he was? He had the same attitude towards men and women. But it is true that if women stayed near him long he would say, ‘Please go now and pay reverence to the presiding deities of the temples.’ We have heard him ask menfolk also to do likewise. However that may be, we were sitting and speaking with him Those two of us who were elderly sat very near the door and the rest, the three of us, in a corner within the room, when Pranakrishna Mukhopadhyaya, whom the Master called ‘the fat Brahmin’ came quite unexpectedly. Should we have gone out? No, there was no possibility of that. Where had we to go to? There was a window near the door. The two elderly ones took their seats there. And the rest, the three of us together made our way under the cot on which the Master was sitting and lay there. Each one of us had her whole body swollen on account of mosquito bites. What could we do? There was no possibility of movement. We were lying still. The Brahmin talked for about an hour with the Master and left. We then came out laughing.
“The Master was then taken to the inner apartment for light refreshments. We accompanied him there. The Master afterwards got into the carriage to go to Dakshineswar. We all then walked back home. It was about 9 p.m.
“The next day we went to Dakshineswar again. As soon as we were, there, the Master came near and said,’ Ah! I took almost all your sweets; there is only a little left over. There was no illness or anything of the kind; only the stomach was just a little heavy.’ I was surprised to be told so. Nothing suited his delicate stomach and to think he had taken a whole piece of Sar! Then I heard that he took it while in the state of divine semiconsciousness. I was told that the Master had taken his food at the house of the teacher and came to Dakshineswar at 10-30 p.m. Shortly after his arrival he got into ecstasy and said to Ramlal, ‘I am very hungry, give me whatever there is in the room.’ Told so, brother Ramlal brought the piece of Sar and placed it before the Master, when he ate up almost the whole of it. Then we remembered what we had heard from the Holy Mother and sister Lakshmi of his taking abnormal quantities of food sometimes in the ecstatic mood and digesting them. Ah! so much was the grace we had from him It cannot be expressed in words what that compassion was. And what attraction! Even we ourselves do not know or understand how we all used to go to him and do all those things. Why, we cannot now go in that manner on foot anywhere to unknown people’s houses without informing anybody, to see a holy man or listen to words on spirituality. Such things have vanished with him by whose power we acted that way. We do not know why we still live though we have lost him.”
Many similar examples can be given. Those who never went out of their houses were asked to go and make purchases in the market and also to beg from door to door in order that their pride and egoism might vanish. They were taken by the Master to the religious fair of Panihati and brought back after they had witnessed it and they also did all these and more, unhesitatingly and with great delight. It does not seem to be a small matter when we think deeply over it. The ideas which arise in the minds of all from the knowledge of difference of rank, sex, etc., and which restrain one’s behaviour had been for the time being washed away by the waves of spiritual consciousness. Every one saw the perfect ideal of his or her own spiritual mood in the Master, who was an embodiment of different divine moods. Men bowed down their heads to the perfect manifestation of manliness in him; and women found in him the fullest manifestation of all the noble womanly moods, regarded him as dearer than the dearest and cast away all hesitation in moving with him.
The Master would now and then mimic the gestures and postures of women much to our merriment. We were surprised to find he mimicry so exact. On one occasion a woman devotee said to us in this connection, “One day the Master began to show in our presence the gestures which women make when they see men—that pulling of the veil, pushing back of the tresses near the ear, pulling of the cloth over the breast, speaking various unnecessary and meaningless words. The imitation was perfectly accurate. We saw it and began to laugh, but we felt shame and pain, thinking that the Master was thus looking down upon women. We thought, ‘Why, are all women like that?’ After all we were women; we would naturally feel pained if anybody caricatured women like that. Ah, the Master immediately understood and said affectionately, ‘Well, I don’t mean you. You are not of the demoniac nature. It is women of that nature only who behave that way’.”
Every one of the devotees of the Master has more or less seen the co-existence in him of the moods of both men and women. Girish had an experience of this nature one day and took the liberty of asking the Master, “Sir, are you a man or a woman?” The Master laughed and said in answer, “I do not know”. Who would now decide in which sense the Master made that remark, whether in the sense of a man of self-knowledge who means he is neither male nor female, or in the sense that he found in himself a harmony or blending of both?
Dwelling in Bhavamukha, the Master became an embodiment of all moods and would thus exactly know all the mental states of all, men and women, appearing to either as one of their sex. He has himself expressed this to some of us. A highly devoted woman devotee15 told us that the Master said to her one day, “I know the nature of a man by a mere look; I know who is good and who is bad; who is of noble descent and who is not; who is a man of knowledge and who is one of devotion; who will realize God and who will not. All these things I know, but I do not speak it out lest they should feel pained.” As he was all along dwelling in Bhavamukha, the whole of the universe always, nay, every moment, appeared to him to be composed of nothing but ideas. He felt as if all things — men and women, cows and horses, wood and earth, etc. — were rising and merging as different aggregates of ideas in the universal mind and through those coverings of ideas the infinite indivisible ether of Existence-Consciousness was manifesting Itself in varying degrees, here less, there more; and in some other places the veils were so dense that it appeared to be nonexistent. Again, the Master, the immaculate son of the blissful Mother of the universe, often started to merge in Her for good, realizing through Samadhi the bodiless state of absolute Bliss after the voluntary offering of everything belonging to him — the body, mind, mental functions and all — at Her lotus feet; but reaching there he came to know that the divine Mother willed otherwise. In complete obedience to Her command, he forcibly covered his mind, which had got fully merged in the indescribable state devoid of duality and non-duality, with the veil of Vidya Maya, the force tending Godward and engaged himself in carrying out Her behests. The Universal Mother, the embodiment of infinite power, on Her part, became pleased with the Master; and although She kept him encased in a body, She always kept his mind keyed at such a pitch, a high state of oneness, that all ideas rising in the infinite universal Mind were always felt to be his own from there and were so much under his control that whoever saw him felt that the Mother was the son and the son was the Mother; both were Consciousness. “The abode is Consciousness, the name is Consciousness, and the Lord is Consciousness.”
We have said as much as we could; now reader, think and feel who this Master, the embodiment of infinite mood, is.