Gospel of Holy Mother Sarada Devi
Important Events of later Life
Let us resume the thread of the events of her life. During this period of her life from 1888 to 1920, her time was mostly divided between Jayrambati and Calcutta besides what she spent on short pilgrimages. Thus in April 1888 itself she went to Gaya and in November 1888 to the temples of Puri, both being places which the Master had not visited and to which he had advised her to go. In 1893 she performed the Panchatapa, an austere practice in which one has to subject oneself to the heat of five fires, these being four fires on the four sides with the hot sun above. In 1894 she again went to Banaras and Vrindaban. In November 1898 the first of her monastic attendants Swami Yogananda, a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, as also her own youngest brother Abhay Charan passed away, to the great sorrow of the Holy Mother. In 1900 was born Radhu or Radharani who became the prop of her life thenceforth. In 1906 her mother Shyamasundari Devi passed away.
The year 1909 was a great landmark in the Holy Mother's life, because that year saw the opening of the Udbodhan House Ever since Swami Saradananda took up the responsibility of the Holy Mother after the demise of Swami Yogananda, he was feeling the great inconvenience the Mother felt in being lodged in Calcutta in rented houses or in devotees residences, especially because with the passing of time, her entourage increased in number. So, raising a loan, the Swami built a city house for her in the Baghbazar area. It was called Udbodhan Office, because the Udbodhan, the Bengali magazine of the Ramakrishna Order was published from there. In the upper storeys of the house the Mother and the ladies of her party stayed, while on the ground floor her monastic attendants and other disciples stayed. Swami Saradananda stayed in a room at the entrance as the 'gate keeper' of the Mother. While the Mother stayed at Calcutta, Swami Saradananda met all the expenses of her and her party. When she went to her village home with the ladies, Swami Saradananda put one monastic in charge of her to look after her safety and convenience. He also sent substantial contributions of money, though the Mother herself was supposed to meet the expenses of her household in the village with contributions from disciples and devotees.
At Jayrambati she stayed at the houses of one or the other of her brothers, until Swami Saradananda built a separate cottage-for her. The city folk could meet her at Calcutta easily, but such meetings could be very formal only. On the other hand when she was at her village home, she was readily accessible and mixed freely with the devotees. So, many preferred to meet her in the village. As their numbers increased, a separate establishment for her became necessary. The Ashrama at Koalpara, situated about five or six miles from Jayrambati, provided a mid-way resting place for the Mother on her journey to Jayrambati. The monastic disciples of the Mother who stayed there looked upon themselves as the out-post to guard and serve the Mother through manual labour, shopping, going on errands etc.
Pilgrimage to Rameswaram
Towards the end of February 1911, the Holy Mother started on a pilgrimage to Rameswaram, the trip being organised by Swami Ramakrishnananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and head of the Madras Centre. In spite of the language difficulty, she freely communicated with people and during her stay of a month in the city of Madras, gave initiation to several devotees. From Madras she went to Rameswaram where she was allowed the unusual privilege of entering the sanctum sanctorum and worshipping the Deity with her own hands. Returning from Rameswaram, she visited Bangalore towards the end of March, where also the President of that Ashrama Swami Nirmalananda, extended a very hearty and respectful reception to her. Her stay at Bangalore created a great enthusiasm among the people. On her way back to Calcutta she halted at Rajahmundry for a holy bath in the Godavari. She reached Calcutta back on 11th April, 1911. One more pilgrimage she undertook, and that was her third visit to Banaras, extending from November 1912 to January 1913. She went with a fairly big party consisting of monks, devotees and some relatives.
Her life from 1888 up to her demise in 1920 was one of active spiritual ministry. The Master had commanded her to carry on the work he had started. Speaking on this point, she said: "I have received all these Mantras from the Master himself. Through these, one is sure to achieve perfection." In his last days at Cossipore, Sri Ramakrishna said to her feelingly: "Well, won't you do something? Am I to do all?" To this the Holy Mother replied, "I am but a woman. What can I do?" But the Master replied: "No, no, you have much to do." The Master's vision, in this respect was prophetic. She was his partner in life and in ideals, and he left her in this world to continue and add momentum to the work of spiritual regeneration of man that he had started.
Her spiritual ministry had begun, in a way, even during the life-time of the Master. Many of the women, who flocked to the Master, gathered round her and felt inspired by her. It is known that the Master himself asked his would-be Sannyasin disciple Sarada (Swami Trigunatita) to take initiation from her. But it is doubtful whether the initiation actually took place: but Swami Trigunatita was one of her earliest caretakers and attendants till he left for work in the West. Yogen, Swami Yogananda, another disciple of the Master, was initiated by her at Vrindaban according to the instruction given to her and Yogen by the Master himself in dreams.
During her stay at Jayrambati and Calcutta, the stream of initiation-seeking disciples increased from a trickle to a voluminous flow as time went on and the Master's name and message began to spread far and wide. She was very liberal in accepting disciples, without insisting too much on their competency, not because she could not assess the same, but because her motherly heart responded with sympathy and affection to whoever went to her calling 'Mother' and seeking refuge. In the ocean of her universal love, the relative statures of individual seekers had no meaning as far as their fitness to receive her blessings was concerned. Consequently the number of her disciples increased and many of them were not of any high standard of excellence. Referring to this, her companion Yogin-Ma once said: "Look at the Master's disciples. Each one of them is a spiritual giant. And look at your disciples, Mother." To this the Mother replied: "Is it to be wondered at? He picked up the best type, and with what care he selected them! And towards me he has pushed all this small fry, coming in their hundreds like ants! Don't compare his disciples with mine," Further she spoke to one disciple about the significance of her initiation: "Whatever I have to give, I give at the time of initiation. If you want peace immediately, practise the spiritual discipline prescribed. Otherwise you will achieve it only after the fall of the body." Another disciple protested against her liberality, saying that she was giving initiation sometimes even to boys of ten and twelve who might not even remember the Mantra, and that the number of these was so many that she hardly remembered them. Her reply to this was: "My child, the Master never forbade me to do so. He instructed me on many matters. Could he not have told me something about this as well? I give the responsibility of my disciples to the Master. Every day pray to him, saying, 'Please look after the disciples wherever they may be.' Further I received these Mantras from the Master himself. Through them one is sure to achieve perfection,'"
Once when she was badly ill a disciple noticed her getting up at 2.00 a.m. So he asked her whether she was not sleeping well. Her reply was, "How can I, my child'! All these children come to me with much earnestness and take initiation, but most of them do not practise Japa regularly. Why regularly'? They do not do anything at all. But since I have taken their responsibility, should I not see to their welfare? Therefore I do Japa for their sake and pray to the Master constantly, saying, 'Oh Lord! Awaken their consciousness. Give them liberation. There is a great deal of suffering in the world. May they not be born again!'"
How seriously she looked on her spiritual ministry, especially her work of initiation, is evident from her words quoted above. She practically assumed the spiritual responsibility of the disciple whom she initiated. Besides, it is believed that she took upon herself the sins of the disciples and vicariously suffered for them. Every disciple was a 'son' or a 'daughter' to her.
She was not very particular to observe any formal rituals when she gave initiation, although she generally gave it after her daily worship of the Master to previously fixed candidates. But often she overlooked all these conventions and initiated disciples at any hour and under any condition. There are instances of her initiating a lady, who was her intimate friend in her girlhood, while both were resting on a bed after lunch: of initiating another during the time of mourning which is considered as one of defilement; of still others on a verandah, beneath the eaves of a house, on an open meadow, or even in a railway yard with an umbrella to serve as roof and the rain water from a pit as purificatory water. It would look that she sometimes gave initiation as the result of an instantaneous impulse, as when she imparted a Mantra occasionally while standing, or when some one held her feet weeping with a heart yearning for initiation. Further there have been cases of devotees who had never seen even a picture of hers before, but on seeing her afterwards had recognised her as the 'human goddess' whom they had seen in dream affording them protection in critical situations of life. Some received initiation from her in dream, and found the Mantra given them tallying exactly with what she gave afterwards in the waking state.
An initiation took her only a very short time a minute or two. This was so, not because she did it casually, but because her spiritual insight was so quick and unerring, resembling an inspiration. On this point she said once, "As soon as I want to impart a Mantra to some people, there arise in the mind such thoughts as, 'Give this' or 'Give that', whereas in other cases, it appears as though I know nothing, and nothing seems to come up. I keep on sitting. Then after some cogitation I visualise the Mantra. In the case of good aspirants, the Mantra springs up instantaneously."
It is said that the Great Master left the Holy Mother on earth to demonstrate the Motherhood of God. If one prefers, one can understand it in a theological sense, but it will be evident that if universal love is the nature of God, then that trait is amply exhibited by the Holy Mother in her remarkable life on earth. Her spiritual ministry too exemplifies this. Just as a mother's affection for an offspring is never inhibited by any weakness he may have, so the Mother too accepted all devotees who went to her for protection, irrespective of their merits. All were alike in the infinitude of her love their comparative status in the moral and spiritual scales being obliterated in the very immensity of it.
Her Exit from the World
After her pilgrimages in 1911 and 1912, there are no major incidents to record in her life. She spent her days partly in Calcutta and partly at Jayrambati, engaging herself in active spiritual ministry. From the end of 1919 her health declined fast. She was getting an intermittent fever, the seriousness of which was not at first recognised. All local treatment was at first tried, but as it had little effect, she was brought to Calcutta in a very emaciated condition. It was diagonised as Kala-Azaar (Black-water Fever) by doctors. There was no effective treatment for it in those days and she succumbed to it on 20th July 1920. Two remarkable happenings have to be recorded in connection with her last days. It has been mentioned that her attachment for Radhu was the main prop for her to sustain her physical life. Now it was noticed that a few days before her demise, she became entirely free from her strong bond of affection for Radhu. She, who could not till then remain in a place without Radhu by her side, now asked her not to come near her. On the other hand she wanted her to go to Jayrambati immediately. When Radhu's infant child went near her, she asked it to be carried away. When disciples and devotees pleaded with her on behalf of Radhu, she openly declared that she had completely taken her mind away from her. For Swami Saradananda and others, who knew the esoteric side of the Mother's personality, it was an indication that she was leaving her physical frame soon.
She was now fast sinking. Five days before her passing, an old devotee named 'Mother of Annapurna' was called into her room. When the lady expressed her fears about the future, the Mother remarked: "Why do you fear? You have seen the Master. But I tell you one thing-if you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger. The whole world is your own." Perhaps this embodies her last message to the world also.
During the last three days she practically spoke nothing beyond calling Swami Saradananda to her side and saying: "Sarat, I am going. Yogin, Golap and the rest are here. You look after them."
Just before passing away, her face and body became dark and shrivelled, but to the astonishment of all, a great change took place after life was extinct. Her shrivelled form was found to relax, and her face swelled up and assumed a radiant hue. Her countenance seemed to resemble the face of the image of the Goddess Durga used in worship-mellow and golden in colour, with the expression of calmness and serenity writ large on it. This expression lingered on her face for a long time...
The body was taken in procession to the Belur Math compound where it was cremated on the bank of the Ganga. A small beautiful temple now stands on the site. Another temple with a monastery attached stands at Jayrambati, the place of her birth, to commemorate her life and doings.
In her the world found a unique figure in its history, who combined in herself the roles of a perfect wife, nun, mother and teacher at the same time. In the endless procession of the members of the human species on this planet of ours, the Holy Mother stands out as a unique example, whose utter innocence could melt even the hardest of hearts, who never looked at the fault of others, whose love never made any distinction between the deserving and the undeserving, in whose eyes the saint and the sinner were alike her precious children, whose wide heart held all humanity in its maternal embrace, and who considered it a privilege to labour and to suffer for even the least of them. If we cannot see here the face of the all-loving Universal Mother, of God the Redeemer, where else can we? Only we should have the sensitiveness to recognise that the subtle potency of love transcends the obtrusive display of power.
SECTION - I
Translated by Swami Nikhilananda
CONVERSATIONS: FIRST SERIES
RECORDED BY SARAYUBALA DEVI
UDBODHAN OFFICE, CALCUTTA.
ONE Friday morning Sriman K-came to our home at Pataldanga in Calcutta and said: "We shall go to Baghbazar tomorrow afternoon to pay our respects to the Holy Mother. Please be ready at that time." Well, after all, I shall now have the good fortune to prostrate myself at the feet of the Holy Mother! Such was my exuberance of joy that I could hardly sleep during the night. I had been living in Calcutta for the last fourteen or fifteen years. And after such a length of time the Mother was gracious enough to afford me this opportunity to pay my respects to her.
Next day in the afternoon we hired a carriage, fetched Sumati from the Brahmo Girls School, and set out to the Holy Mother's house at Baghbazar. I can hardly describe the eagerness and fervour which I felt at the time of this pilgrimage. I reached her house at Baghbazar and found her standing at the door of the shrine room. She was standing with one foot at the door-sill and the other on the door-mat. There was no veil on her head. Her left arm was raised high and placed on the door, while the right one was hanging by the side. The upper part of her body was bare. She had been looking wistfully as if expecting somebody. As soon as I prostrated myself at her feet, she asked Sumati about me. Sumati introduced me as her elder sister. She had been visiting the Holy Mother for some time past. Then the Mother looked at me and said, "Look here, my child, how much I am troubled by these people here! My sister-in-law and her daughter, Radhu, are all down with fever. I do not know who will look after them and nurse them. Will you wait for a minute? Let me wash my cloth and come back." We waited and she returned after a few minutes. Then she offered us two handfuls of some sweets and asked me to share those with my sister. Sumati had to go back to her school. Therefore we could not stay for a longer time. We saluted her and took leave of her. The Mother said, "Come again." This interview of five minutes could not satiate the inordinate hankering of my soul. I returned home all the more thirsty.
12th February, 1911
When I went to the Udbodhan Office on this day, I found that the Holy Mother had gone to the house of Balaram Bose. I had not to wait long before she returned. As soon as I saluted her she asked me with a smile "Who has accompanied you to-day?" "One of my nephews," I replied.
Mother: How are you today? How is your sister? You did not come for a long time. I was anxious about you and thought you might not be doing well.
I was surprised because I had met her once only and that just for five minutes. But she had not forgotten us. My eyes were filled with tears of joy.
The Mother said with great tenderness, "You have come here, and I was feeling restive at the house of Balaram."
I was completely taken aback. My sister Sumati had sent two woollen caps through me for 'Khude', the baby nephew of the Holy Mother. I handed them over to her. She expressed much joy at these trifles. She sat on the bed and said, "Sit by me here." I sat by her side. The Mother said with great tenderness, "It seems, my child, as if I have met you many a time before, as if we know each other for a long time." "I do not know," said I, "I was here one day only for five minutes."
The Mother laughed and began to speak highly of the devotion and sincerity of mine and my sister's. But I do not know how far I deserve those compliments. Gradually many women devotees assembled. All of them looked wistfully and with great love at the smiling and compassionate face of the Mother. I had never seen such a sight before. My mind was feasting upon the spiritual joy, when someone reminded me that the carriage was ready for my return. The Mother at once left her seat and offered me some Prasada. She held these before me and said, "Eat these!" I felt shy of eating in the presence of others without sharing. The Mother said, "Why do you hesitate? Take these sweets." I accepted the offerings in my hand. I bowed down before her and took my leave. She said "Come again. Can you go down the steps alone, or shall I go with you '?" She came with me as far as the staircase. I said, "I can go alone. You need not take trouble." The Mother said in parting, "Come another day in the morning." I returned with a sense of fulfilment and thought, "What a wonderful love!"
14th May, 1911
No sooner had I prostrated myself before the Holy Mother today than she said, "It is fine that you have come. I was thinking all the time about you. Why did you not come all these days?"
Devotee: I was not in Calcutta. I was at my father's house.
Mother: What is the matter with Sumati? She has not come here for a long time. Is she very busy with her studies?
Devotee: Her husband was not here.
Mother: Well, she goes to school. Do they follow the duties of the world?
Devotee: We do not know, Mother, what the world is and what our duty is. You alone know that.
The Mother smiled. "What a warm day!" she said, and gave me a fan. "Ah dear, you took a hurried meal and ran up here. Now lie down by my side."
A mat was spread on the floor. I hesitated to lie on her bed. But she said, "Why do you hesitate? Lie down! Listen to my words!" I could not help lying down. The Mother became drowsy and I lay silent. A few women devotees and two nuns arrived. One of the nuns was middle-aged while the other was young: The Mother said, with her eyes closed, "Who is there? Is it Gaurdasi?" The young nun said, "How did you know it, Mother?" The Mother said that she felt so. After a few moments she sat up. The young nun then said: "We had been to the Belur Math. Swami Premananda fed us sumptuously. When he is there, one cannot return from the Math without being fed thus." The Mother gently reprimanded some one of the party for not having put the vermilion mark on her forehead, such a mark being obligatory on every married woman if her husband is alive.
Gauri-Ma learnt about me from the Holy Mother and invited me to her girls' school. About sixty girls were attending the school. She asked me if I knew how to sew. I said that I could sew a little, and she requested me to teach that much to the students of the Ashrama.
With the permission of the Holy Mother, I visited the school of Gauri-Ma one day. Gauri-Ma was very loving to me, and requested me to go there every day for an hour or two and give the girls some lessons. I said, "It is absurd for me to be a teacher with my little training. If you insist, I can just teach them the simple alphabet." But Gauri-Ma was inexorable. I had to yield.
One day, after leaving the school of Gauri-Ma, I went to see the Holy Mother. It was then summer and I was quite tired. The Mother was seated in her room, surrounded by a group of women devotees. As soon as I prostrated myself before her, she looked at me and at once took a small fan from the top of the mosquito-curtain. She began to fan me so that I might be refreshed. Then she said anxiously, "Take off your blouse quickly so that the body may be cool" What an unprecedented love! She began to caress me before many devotees. I felt ashamed. All eyes were fixed upon me. Seeing her eagerness, I had to take off the blouse. The more I requested her to hand over the fan to me, the more she insisted with great tenderness, "That is all right! Be a little refreshed!" She brought a tumbler of water and some sweets. Watching me partake of them, she became happy. The carriage from the school had been waiting for me. So I had to take leave soon.
3rd August, 1911
This morning I went early to Baghbazar. I longed to be initiated by the Holy Mother to-day; so I took a few articles with me for the purpose. Gauri-Ma gave me the list of articles and she also accompanied me to the Holy Mother's place. When I arrived there, I found her absorbed in worship. She asked me by signs to take a seat. After the worship was over, Gauri-Ma broached the subject of my initiation. I had also spoken about it to her one day. I had taken some good bananas with me. She was very pleased to see the fruits and said, "Ah, I see you have brought many bananas." One of the monks present expressed his desire for them. Then she added, "Take that carpet and sit on my left." I replied. "I have not yet finished my bath in the Ganges."
Mother: That does not matter. It is enough if you have changed your clothes.
I sat by her side. I felt my heart palpitating. The Mother asked the others to leave the room and then said to me, "Now tell me what Mantra was revealed to you in dream."
Devotee: Shall I utter those words or write them down?
Mother: You may tell them to me ...
At the time of initiation the Holy Mother explained to me the meaning of the Mantra that I had received in dream, She at first asked me to repeat that Mantra and then communicated to me a new Mantra, I was instructed to repeat the first Mantra a few times every day, and then repeat the second and meditate.
I saw the Mother absorbed in meditation for a few minutes before she explained the meaning of the Mantra to me. At the time of initiation my whole body began to tremble. I began to weep, for which I could not divine any cause. The Mother put a big mark of red sandalpaste on my forehead. I gave her a few rupees for offering at the shrine. She handed over the money to Golap-Ma.
I noticed the Mother to be severely grave at the time of initiation. Then she left the seat of worship. She asked me to repeat the Mantra for some time and meditate and pray, I did as I was asked to do. As I bowed at her feet, she blessed me with the words, "May you attain devotion to God!" Even now I remember those words and pray to her, "Please remember your blessing. May I not be deprived of its effect!"
The Holy Mother was going to the Ganges for her bath. Golap-Ma accompanied her. I also joined the party, taking with me the towel and the cloth of the Mother. It was drizzling. After finishing her bath, the Mother gave the priest on the ghat a coin and a mango. As she made these offerings, she said, "I am giving you the fruit, but it is the fruit of the gift that belongs to you." Ah! The priest could hardly realize who made this gift! He could hardly understand the significance of those words! Nor can we, puny creatures, torn as we are by millions of petty selfish desires!
The Holy Mother changed her dress and gave me the wet cloth to carry. Golap-Ma headed the party while I walked behind. The Mother was between us. She carried some water of the Ganges in a small vessel and offered a little of it at every sacred banyan tree that stood along the way. There was a water-jar near the cistern close to the tap on the ground floor. The Mother washed her feet with that water and said to me, "There is mud on your feet. Wash it off." As I was looking for some water, she said, "There is water in the jar. Why do you not wash your feet with that?" "You have touched that water. How can I use it?"1 said I with some reluctance. "Sprinkle a little over your head," replied the Mother. But I hesitated and said, "I cannot use that water." I took some water from the cistern in another jar and washed my hands and feet. She waited for me all the time. Then we went upstairs. She took some offered sweets and fruits in two leaf-plates, and asked me to sit by her. With great tenderness she fed me with the Prasada and also partook of it herself.
1 According to the Hindu custom, the water that has been touched by a revered person cannot be used for washing the feet.
Gradually many women devotees arrived. I did not know them. They would take their meal at noontime at the Mother's place. After the worship was over, we all sat for lunch. The Mother also occupied her seat. She took three morsels of food and then gave me some Prasada, which was also distributed among all others. The Mother now became her former self. She became jolly again. Since the time of initiation she had been altogether in a different mood, grave and introspective-a veritab1e goddess ready to grant favour and punish iniquity. I had been trembling with awe. I have seen her, later on, giving initiation to many devotees, but I have never again seen her in such a grave mood. Laughing and joking, she initiated many persons. They were also happy and satisfied. Goaded by curiosity, I sometimes asked the devotees how they found her at the time of initiation. One middle-aged widow once said in reply, "Just as we see her always. Nothing very particular. I had been initiated before by my family Guru. Afterwards I heard of the Mother and came to her for initiation. She at first asked me to repeat ten times the Mantra I had received from my family preceptor. Then she gave me initiation. She pointed out Sri Ramakrishna as my Guru and another deity as my Ishta. She instructed me to pray thus to Sri Ramakrishna: '0 Lord, please relieve me of all sins committed in this and in previous lives', and so on.' I am greatly troubled now-a-days. Can you explain it? I cannot repeat the Mantra for more than half an hour. Someone, as it were, pushes me out of the seat. Do you also feel like that? I often think of asking the Holy Mother about it. But I cannot do so. You are so free with her. Has the Mother deceived me then?" I never wanted to know all these details. But as the lady spoke out all this very frankly, I said, "Please open your heart to the Mother. At first you may fed a little constraint. But it will be easy by and by. We also could not be so free with her at first. Even now she, at times, becomes so serious that we cannot approach her."
In the evening the women devotees took their leave of the Mother one by one. She asked her nieces to meditate and pray. They were late, and she said in a tone of displeasure, "It is evening. Instead of meditating, they are gossiping!" Golap-Ma, Yogin-Ma and other devotees prostrated themselves at her feet. She blessed them all, laying her hand on their heads, or touching the chins, or kissing them. She bowed before the image of Sri Ramakrishna and then took her seat for meditation. After she finished her meditation, I took leave of her and returned home.
I was not able to visit the Holy Mother for some days on account of the pressure of my school duties. No sooner had I saluted her today than she began to show her love for me in countless ways. Bhudev was reading the Mahabharata. He was a mere boy, and therefore could not read fluently. The Mother had her other duties also to attend to. It was almost evening. She said to Bhudev, pointing to me, "Give her the book. She will read it quite easily. The reading cannot be stopped without finishing this chapter." It was her order; so I began to read the Mahabharata. Never before had I read a book in her presence. At first I felt a sort of shyness, but somehow I finished the chapter. The Mother saluted the book with folded hands. We went to the shrine to witness the evening worship. The Mother took her wonted seat and soon became absorbed in meditation.
The Mother completed her Japa, uttering the name of God in a loud voice, and bowed down before the image of Sri Ramakrishna. The Prasada was then distributed to all. After this the conversation drifted to our daily duties. The Mother, referring to her own busy days at Jayrambati, said: "Always be engaged in some work or other. It is conducive to the health of both the body and the mind. In my early days at Jayrambati I was always busy with some work or other and would never visit my neighbours; for, people would blurt out at the very sight of me 'Dear me, Syama's daughter has been married to a lunatic!' I avoided meeting anybody in order to escape such criticism."
Just in the open square in front of the Holy Mother's house, there lived some people belonging to some parts of India outside Bengal. They earned their livelihood by hard manual labour. One of them had a mistress. They lived together. Once the mistress was seriously ill. Referring to her illness the Holy Mother said, "He nursed her with such great devotion! I have never before seen anything like it. He has shown a real spirit of service." She began to speak highly of the devotion of this man.
The idea of a mistress would certainly have made us turn up our noses in disgust. Ah, how often we fail to recognize goodness when veiled in an evil garb!
A poor up-country woman from the house across the street came to the Holy Mother, carrying a sick child in her arms. She solicited her blessings. The Mother was gracious to that child. She said that the child would soon recover, and blessed it. Two big pomegranates and some grapes had been offered in the shrine. She handed over all these fruits to the poor woman, saying, "Give these to your sick child." The woman was overjoyed at this generosity of the Mother and repeatedly bowed down before her.
11th February, 1912
The moment I met the Holy Mother today and sat down after saluting her, she began to say with great sorrow, "Alas! Girish Babu is dead. Today is the fourth day. His relatives came here to invite me to go to their house. Is it possible for me to go there any more? What devotion for, and faith in, Sri Ramakrishna Girish had! Have you heard this incident? He begged Sri Ramakrishna to be born as his son. Sri Ramakrishna said in reply, 'Why should I care to be born as your son!' But who knows, my child, the inscrutable ways of the Lord! A son was born to Girish some time after the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna. A strange boy, indeed! Even when he was four years old, he would not exchange a word with anybody. People could know his mind only from his gestures. His parents looked upon him as Sri Ramakrishna himself. They kept apart everything belonging to him-his dress, plate, cup, glass, etc. Nobody else would use those things....
"One day the boy became extremely restive to see me. My picture was in the upper floor of the house. He dragged the whole household there, and uttering a cry, pointed out the picture to them. At first they did not understand him. Then they brought him to me. Though he was but a little child of four, he prostrated himself before me. Then he went to the first floor and began to pull his father by his cloth. He wanted that his father also should see me. Girish wept bitterly and said, 'I cannot, my darling, see the Holy Mother. I am a great sinner!' But the boy was inexorable. So Girish had to yield. He took the boy in his arm. With his whole body trembling and tears trickling down his cheeks, he came up and prostrated on the ground before me. He said, 'Mother, this boy has made me see your holy feet!' But the boy passed away when he was four years old.
"Once Girish and his wife were taking the air on the roof of their house. I had been staying then at the house of Balaram. The houses were near each other. I also went to the roof that day. I did not notice that Girish could see me from the roof of his house. His wife said to him, 'Look there, the Holy Mother is pacing on the roof of the house.' Girish at once turned his back on me and said to his wife, 'No, no, I cannot thus stealthily look at the Holy Mother. My eyes are vicious!' He at once came down from the roof. I heard this from his wife."
15th June, 1912
The Holy Mother was seated with a number of women devotees. I was acquainted with some of them. The Mother was very cheerful in their company. She welcomed me with a smile. I requested Gauri-Ma to bring from the library two books, the life of Sister Nivedita and the Indian lectures of Swami Vivekananda. I wished to read something from the life of Sister Nivedita. The Mother agreed and said, "Please read Nivedita's life. I also received a copy of the book the other day. But I have not yet looked into it." I felt a little shy to read the book in the presence of so many people. At the same time I was eager to read to the Mother the beautiful biography of the Sister written by Saralabala. So I obeyed her order. The Mother as well as the other devotees began to listen with rapt attention. Their eyes became moist on hearing of the wonderful devotion of Nivedita. Tears trickled down the cheeks of the Mother. Referring to Nivedita, she said, "What sincere devotion Nivedita had! She never considered anything too much that she might do for me. She would often come to see me at night. Once seeing that light struck my eyes, she put a shade of paper around the lamp. She would prostrate herself before me and, with great tenderness, take the dust of my feet with her handkerchief. I felt that she even hesitated to touch my feet." The thought of Nivedita opened the floodgate of her mind and she suddenly became grave.
Those present began to give their reminiscences of Sister Nivedita. Durga-didi said, "It is the misfortune of India that she passed away at such an early age." Another lady said, "She looked upon India as her motherland. She herself said so, many a time. On the day of the Saraswati Puja she would walk bare-footed, putting on her forehead the mark of the sacred ash of the sacrificial fire." I finished reading. The Mother now and then expressed her feelings towards the Sister. She said at last, "The inner soul feels for a sincere devotee."
It was the hour for afternoon worship. The Mother changed her clothes and sat on the carpet before the image of Sri Ramakrishna. She had made some flower garlands with her own hands to decorate the image. Rash Behari, a young Brahmacharin, had kept near the garland some sweets for offering. Ants gathered around the sweets. Some ants were seen also in the garlands. Mother said, with a laugh, "See what Rash Behari has done! Sri Ramakrishna will be bitten by these ants." She removed the ants and tenderly decorated the image with the garlands. Seeing her thus decorate the picture of her husband with flowers before others, Surabala, her sister-in-law1 laughed. Later the Prasada was distributed to all.
1 This is the crazy sister-in-law who figures so often in these conversations. She was the mother of Radhu.
One lady devotee said, "Mother, I have five daughters. I cannot find suitable bridegrooms for them. I am so anxious about it."
Mother: Why do you worry about their marriage? If you cannot find suitable husbands for them, please send them to the Sister Nivedita Girls' School. They will be trained there. They will be very happy in the school.
Another lady devotee: If you have faith in the Holy Mother, then do as she asks you to do. That will be for your good. If you listen to her, you will have no worry.
Needless to say, the mother of the five girls could hardly appreciate the advice.
Third devotee: It is very difficult to find suitable bridegrooms now-a-days. Many boys refuse to marry.
Mother: Yes, the boys have learnt how to discriminate. They are gradually realizing that the happiness of the world is transitory. The less you become attached to the world, the more you enjoy peace of mind.
It was quite late before I took leave of her that night.
* * * *
Another day I went to Baghbazar and found the Holy Mother resting after her lunch. She was gracious enough to request me to fan her. Suddenly I heard her speaking to herself: "Well, you all have come here. But where is Sri Ramakrishna?" I said in reply, "We could not meet him in this life. Who knows in which future birth we shall be able to see him? But this is our greatest good fortune that we have been able to touch your feet." "That is true, indeed." was the brief remark of the Holy Mother. I was rather amazed at this confession. Very seldom would she speak of herself in such a way.
I could hardly realize at that time that people might possibly have their secrets to confide to the Holy Mother. I was a foolish girl, so I could not comprehend that. Therefore if I happened to miss her on entering her room, I would search the house for her; I could hardly wait for her to come. One evening two pretty young ladies had been taking the Holy Mother into their confidence in the northern porch of her room when I suddenly presented myself there, not finding her anywhere else. I heard the Mother saying to them "Lay the burden of your mind before Sri Ramakrishna. Tell him your sorrows with your tears. You will find that he will fill up your arms with the desired object." I could at once understand that the ladies were praying to be blessed with children. They were abashed at the sight of me. My state of mind was even worse. But I was taught a great lesson that day. I took a vow that I would never again go to the presence of the Holy Mother without previously intimating my arrival. A few months later I again met those ladies in the house of the Holy Mother. I was glad to find that their cherished desire was going to be fulfilled soon.
Gauri-Ma was present there. In reply to our request, she gave us some of her reminiscences of Sri Ramakrishna. She said, "I had visited Sri Ramakrishna long before many devotees began to go to him. I saw Naren and Kali while they were quite young." It was evening. The conversation had to be cut short. Gauri-Ma took leave of the Holy Mother. I also had to go. As I was about to take leave of her, she called me to the porch and gave me some Prasada. She said, "Come again. You do not stay here long at a time. Come one morning at seven o'clock and have your noonday meal with us."
18th September, 1912
I was a little busy with some work in Gauri-Ma's Girls' School. Therefore I was not free to go to the Holy Mother according to my desire. It was an auspicious day when, one morning, I arrived at her place. She was getting ready to go to the Ganges for her bath. At the very sight of me she said with evident pleasure, "I am very glad you have come today. It is an auspicious day, being the birthday of Radhika. Wait here till I return from the Ganges." I expressed my desire to accompany her and she first agreed. It was drizzling and Golap-Ma sternly objected to my going, as I would be exposed to the rain. The Mother supported Golap-Ma and said, "Please wait here. I shall return presently." We often noticed her behaving like a gentle young girl. She would never press her views over those of others. As soon as she came to the street, the rain stopped. She returned home after finishing the bath and said, "Well the rain stopped as soon as I came out into the street. You also wanted to accompany me. I thought it would have been nice if you had come with me. You could have had a sight of the Holy Ganges." To tell the truth, I was not so eager for the Ganges as for her holy company. For, as we are involved in a thousand and one duties of the world, we can hardly find time to visit her. On those few days when we can fortunately go to her, we do not like to leave her presence even for a minute. Golap-Ma, however, heard the words of the Holy Mother and remarked, "What does it matter if she has not seen the Ganges! All desires will be fulfilled by touching your holy feet." I also nodded assent to these words. But the Mother said at once, "Do not say so! Ah, it is the Mother Ganges after all!" The Mother would seldom reveal her divine greatness through any word or deed. She would always act in such a way that people might take her to be an ordinary human being like themselves. Only on rare occasions would she, out of grace for some fortunate devotee, reveal her divine aspect. She entered the room, sat on the bed and said, "Look here. I have finished my bath in the Ganges!" I understood that she had come to know of my innermost desire of worshipping her lotus feet. I said to myself, "Thou art ever pure. It is not necessary for Thee to bathe in the Ganges to purify Thyself." When I sat at her feet with flowers and sandalpaste, she said, "Don't put any Tulasi leaves." I worshipped her feet with flowers and sandal paste. I bowed down to her. Afterwards she began to take her breakfast. She made me sit near and began to give me, with infinite love, half of every article of food she took. I ate the Prasada with great joy. As I was eating from the leaf plate, I was reminded of Saint Durga Charan Nag. I said to the Mother, "This leaf-plate often reminds me. of Nag Mahasaya."
Mother: What wonderful devotion he had! Look at this dry leaf-plate. Who can eat it? But he had an exuberance of devotion, and would swallow the leaf which had touched the Prasada. Ah! What loving eyes he had! Slightly reddish and always moist with tears! His body was emaciated by hard austerities. He would come to see me. He could hardly climb the steps. His emotions would well up at the very sight of me. He would tremble like a leaf. He would stagger while walking. I have never seen such devotion in anybody.
Devotee: I have read in his biography that he gave up his medical practice and was absorbed, day and night, in his meditation on Sri Ramakrishna.One day his father said in an angry mood, "You are so indifferent to the world. What will be your fate? You will not have a piece of cloth to cover your body with! And you will have to eat frogs to satisfy your hunger!" There was a dead frog in the courtyard. Nag Mahasaya threw away the cloth that he had been wearing and ate the frog. Then he said to his father, "I have fulfilled your two prophecies. Please banish all your anxieties regarding my food and clothing and devote yourself to the thought of God."
Mother: What a wonderful devotion to his father! He did not make any difference between purity and impurity. This speaks of his high spiritual realization.
Devotee: Once, on a very auspicious day, he came home from Calcutta. The father reprimanded him and said, "You were in Calcutta near the Ganges. How foolish of you to have come home away from the Ganges on such an auspicious day! You should have stayed in Calcutta and taken bath in the holy river." But just at the auspicious moment of that day, all noticed water rising in a spout from the courtyard. Every place was flooded. Nag Mahasaya became mad with ecstasy and cried, "Come, Mother Ganges!" He sprinkled that water on his head. The people of his locality bathed in that water and felt as if they had bathed in the Ganges.
Mother: True, even the impossible becomes possible through devotion. Once I gave him a piece of cloth. He always tied it around his head. His wife also is very good and devoted. She came to see me the other day during the summer season she is still alive. At this time some devotees arrived and the conversation was stopped. They prostrated themselves before the Holy Mother. She asked me to prepare some rolls of betel leaves. I prepared two and handed them over to her. She ate one herself and returned the other to me. I left her again to prepare the rest of the betel leaves. The Mother, after a while, came to our room with two devotees. They started to help me and the work was over very quickly. The Mother separated a few leaves to make a present to them. She was very happy and said, "Ah! my good girls have finished their job so quickly"
The Holy Mother retired to the room of Golap-Ma on the second floor. I went there a few minutes later and saw that she was lying on the floor, resting her head on the door sill. So I could not step over the door-sill and enter the room. She looked at me and said, "Come in. It is all right!" She was always so free and informal. She raised her head from the sill and I entered the room. I sat by her side and began to fan her. She asked me various things regarding the school of Gauri-Ma. I gave her suitable replies. Just then the two women devotees came there. One of them began to dress the Mother's hair. She separated one or two grey hairs and tied them in the skirt of her cloth. She said, "I shall preserve them as a souvenir." The Holy Mother felt abashed and said with hesitation, "Why are you doing so? I have thrown away so much hair before." She went to the roof to bask in the sun. We also followed her. There were many clothes drying in the sun. She asked me to take them away to the room.
Later, when the worship was over, the Holy Mother asked me to make the necessary preparation for the noonday meal of the devotees. We all sat together for the meal. The Mother took a morsel or two. The Prasada was then distributed among us. The two women-devotees mentioned above were with us. One of them was old and had her husband. She had seen Sri Ramakrishna. The other one was her daughter-in-law.
The old lady said, "Sri Ramakrishna gave us many instructions. But we have carried out very few of them. Had we followed his advice, we would not have suffered so much in the world. We are attached to the world and are always running after this or that work."
The Mother said, replying, "One must do some work. Through work alone can one remove the bondage of work, not by avoiding work. Total detachment comes later on. One should not be without work even for a moment."
After the meal the Mother was resting for a while. She lay down on the bed. All the devotees were eager to do her some personal service. But she asked them all to take some rest. They all therefore went away to their respective places as they had various things to attend to. I remained there with an old widow who was a contemporary of Sri Ramakrishna. I was massaging the Mother's body. The widow sat by her side and began to narrate the various incidents of her family life. "Mother!" said she, "you always excuse my shortcomings but my people are so exacting." I asked her if she had seen Sri Ramakrishna. "Yes, dear," she replied. "I have seen him. He often visited our place. The Holy Mother was quite young at that time."
Devotee: Please tell us something about Sri Ramakrishna.
Widow: Not I. Ask Mother to tell us something about him.
The Mother was resting with her eyes closed, so I did not ask her. After a while, the Mother herself said, "He who will pray to God eagerly will see Him. The other day one of our devotees, Tej Chandra, passed away. What a sincere soul he was! Sri Ramakrishna used to frequent his house. Some one had deposited Rs. 200 with Tej Chandra. One day he was robbed of that amount by a pick-pocket in the tram car. He discovered the loss after some time and suffered a terrible mental agony. He came to the bank of the Ganges and prayed to Sri Ramakrishna, with tears in his eyes, '0 Lord, what have you done with me!' He was not rich enough to make up that amount from his own pocket. As he was thus weeping, he saw Sri Ramakrishna appear before him and say, "Why do you weep so bitterly? The money is there under a brick on the bank of the Ganges." He quickly removed the brick and really found there a bundle of banknotes. He narrated the incident to Sarat (Swami Saradananda). Sarat said, 'You are lucky to get the vision of Sri Ramakrishna even now. But we do not see him.'
Why should Sarat and others like him see him any more? They have had enough of him and all their desires have been fulfilled. Those who have not seen him with their physical eyes are most anxious for his vision. When Sri Ramakrishna was staying at Dakshineswar, Rakhal and other devotees were very young. One day Rakhal (Swami Brahmananda) came to Sri Ramakrishna and said that he was very hungry. Sri Ramakrishna came to the Ganges and cried out, '0 Gaurdasi, come here! My Rakhal is hungry.' At that time there was no refreshment stall at Dakshineswar. A little later a boat was seen coming up the Ganges. It anchored near the temple. Balaram Babu, Gaurdasi and some other devotees came out of the boat with some sweets. Sri Ramakrishna was very happy, and shouted for Rakhal. He said, 'Come here. Here are sweets. You said that you were hungry.' Rakhal became angry and remarked, 'Why are you broadcasting my hunger?' Sri Ramakrishna said, 'What is the harm? You are hungry. You want something to eat. What is wrong in speaking about it?' Sri Ramakrishna had a childlike nature."
Bhudev, the nephew of the Holy Mother, just then returned from school. He was having fever. The Mother asked me to arrange a bed for him. She was preparing to go to Balaram Babu's house to see his son who was suffering from an attack of dysentery. She finished the evening worship and offered me some Prasada. I said that I would eat it later on. She agreed and asked Nalini, her niece, to give me the Prasada later. A carriage was brought for her. She asked me to wait there till her return. Golap-Ma accompanied her. They returned after an hour. The Holy Mother was glad to see me and said, "I have come back quickly for you. Have you eaten the Prasada?" When I replied in the negative, she remarked, "Nalini, why did you not give her the Prasada as I had asked you?"
Nalini: I forgot to do so. I shall bring it presently.
Mother: You need not worry about it any more. I shall give her that Prasada myself. (To me) Why did you not ask for it yourself? This is your own home.
Devotee: I was not very hungry. Had I been so, I would have asked for it. The Mother, shortly after, brought some sweets that had been offered in the shrine and gave them to me. I partook of them joyously. I prostrated myself before her and asked her leave. She said, "Come again, dear child. Durga! Durga! Shall I come with you to the ground floor? Can you go alone? It is night." I said, "I shall be able to go alone, Mother,". Still she began to repeat the name of God and accompanied me as far as the staircase. "You need not take any more trouble," I said "It will be easy for me to find the way."
It was the Akshaya Tritiya - a very auspicious day with the Hindus. I came to see the Holy Mother. The old lady with her daughter-in-law, mentioned before, was also there. She was about to give the Mother, as is the practice on such holy occasions, some fruits and a piece of sacred thread. The Mother interrupted her and said, "Why do you give these to me? Give them to Bhudev." Then in the course of her conversation she looked at us and said, "I bless you on this holy day that you may attain to liberation in this life. Birth and death are extremely painful. May you not suffer from them any more!"
* * *
It was the day of the sacred Car Festival.1 At seven o'clock in the morning I went to Gauri-Ma's Ashrama. She had invited me there for lunch. I had a desire to go to the Holy Mother from the school as soon as possible. We finished our meal at two o'clock. When Gauri-Ma and I came to the place of the Holy Mother, it was four o'clock. The Mother had been performing the evening service in the shrine room. We prostrated ourselves before her. Gauri-Ma took her aside and whispered something in her ears. I was asked to join them later on. I had taken with me a piece of silk cloth for her. I placed it near her feet and said, "Mother, will you kindly use it?" "O yes, darling," she said with a laugh. Just then some men devotees came to bow down before her. We retired to the porch. One devotee brought with him some hibiscus flowers and roses, a garland of jasmine, fruits and sweets. He placed these offerings near her feet and began to worship her. What a soul-enthralling sight! The Mother was seated quietly with a sweet smile playing on her lips. The garland was hanging round her neck. The flowers adorned her feet. After the worship was over, the devotee took a little from every fruit and sweetmeat and prayed to her to eat it. Gauri-Ma said with a laugh, "You are in the grip of a staunch devotee. You must eat a little of everything." The Mother also was laughing and said, "Not so much. I cannot eat so much!" She ate a little from every article of the offering. The devotee took the Prasada in his hand and touched his forehead with it. He beamed with an indescribable joy. He prostrated himself before the Mother and then came away. The Mother took off the garland from her neck and gave it to Gauri-Ma. The offered flowers were distributed among the devotees.
1 A sacred festival when the Lord Vishnu at Jagannath is taken in procession in a chariot
As I have already stated, it was the sacred day of the Car Festival. Bhudev improvised a car for the occasion. Arrangements were made for taking the image of Sri Ramakrishna in this car. Gauri-Ma had an important engagement in the school, so she had to leave us. The conversation drifted to Gauri-Ma. The Mother said, "She devotes her energy to bring up the girls in the school. She nurses them when they are ill. She has no family of her own. Her motherly instinct has been finding expression through these girls. This is her last birth; therefore she has been passing through all these experiences."
The image of Sri Ramakrishna was taken in the car. The Mother from her bed looked at the image intently. She was very happy. The car with the image was taken down. The procession went along the streets and along the bank of the Ganges. The party returned after dusk. The women-devotees pulled the car in the porch of the upper floor. The Mother, her two nieces and I joined them. When the car was going along the street, the Mother remarked, "All cannot go to Puri to see the Car Festival.1 Those who have seen Sri Ramakrishna in this car will realize God."
1 The popular belief is that by seeing the image of Vishnu in the car at Puri one realizes God.
One morning, during the Durga Puja holidays, I went to visit the Holy Mother. I found her very busy. I sat near her. She sent for a devotee who had come from Ranchi. He had brought with him many flowers, fruits, a piece of cloth and a garland of linen flowers. He requested the Mother to wear the garland on her neck. As she did so, Golap-Ma took him to task, for the iron wire of the garland might hurt her. The Mother said tenderly, "No, I have put on the garland over my cloth." I had taken with me some fruits and sweets. The Mother asked me to offer them to the Lord. She ate a grape and said that it was very sweet.
The Mother had on her person the cloth which I had given her a few days ago. Pointing that to me, she remarked, "See, I have used it and now it is dirty." I was amazed to see this and thought what infinite tenderness the Mother had for even such an unfit devotee as myself.
Nalini, the Mother's niece, was in an angry mood. The Mother reprimanded her and said, "Women should not get angry so easily. They must practise forbearance. In infancy and childhood their parents are their only protection and in youth their husbands. Women are generally very sensitive. A mere word upsets them. And words also are so cheap now-a-days. They should have patience and try to put up with parents or husbands in spite of difficulties."
Radhu sat near us with her cloth, pulled above her knees. The Mother reproved her and said, "Dear me! Why should a woman pull her cloth above her knees?" She cited a verse which says, "It is as good as being naked when the cloth is pulled above the knees."
Chandra Babu's sister came to see us. She asked me in the course of a conversation, "Is the husband of the Holy Mother still alive? Are these his children and daughters-in-law?" "Goodness gracious!" said I, "Have you not read the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna? He always exhorted people to renounce lust and gold." The lady was nonplussed and said, "Excuse me, I took them for her own children."
It was the time of the Durga Puja. The Mother had a bundle of new clothes before her. She separated the clothes intended for the husbands of her three nieces. She took a cloth in her hand and said, "G. will put on this new cloth at the time of the Puja and go to the Belur Math".
After the noon day worship, we had our meal. The Mother was resting. I sat by her side and began to fan her. She said with great tenderness, "There is a pillow there. Bring it and lie down near me. I do not require any more fanning." I hesitated to use her pillow and brought one from Radhu's room. The Mother said with a smile, "This pillow belongs to Radhu's mother, that crazy woman. She will make a fuss. Please use my pillow. There is no harm in it." Then she said to Radhu, "Please come here and lie by your sister." The conversation drifted to the remarks of Chandra Babu's sister, narrated above. The Mother said, "Well, you could have easily replied that her husband is there in the shrine room, and that all of you are his children." I said, " All the men and women of the world are his children!" The Mother laughed and remarked, "People come here with various selfish desires. Someone comes with a cucumber, offers it to Sri Ramakrishna, and prays for the fulfilment of selfish desires. This is the nature of average people."
After a little rest we got up. A few women devotees were in the adjacent room. Two of them wore ochre robes. They prostrated themselves before the Mother. They brought some sweets for offering. We came to know they were the disciples of Siva-Narayan Paramahamsa of Kalighat. Their teacher was just then engaged in performing a grand sacrifice.
One of the nuns asked, "Is there any truth in image worship? Our teacher does not approve of it. He instructs people in the worship of the fire and the sun."
Mother: You should not doubt the words of your own teacher. Why do you ask me about it, when you have heard the opinion of your Guru in the matter?
The nun: We want to know your opinion.
The Mother refused to give any opinion. But the nun was stubborn and began to press for a reply. The Mother said at last, "If your teacher were an illumined soul-you have forced me to say-then he would not have made such a statement. From time immemorial innumerable people have worshipped images and thereby attained spiritual knowledge. Do you want to deny this fact? Sri Ramakrishna never cherished any such parochial and one-sided view. Brahman exists everywhere. The prophets and incarnations are born to show the way to a benighted humanity. They give different instructions suited to different temperaments. There are many ways to realize the Truth. Therefore all these instructions have their relative value. Take, for instance, a tree. There are birds perched on its branches. They have different colours, white, black, yellow, red, etc. Their sounds are also different. But we say that these are the sounds of the birds. We never designate a particular sound as that of birds and refuse to acknowledge other sounds as such."
The nuns desisted from argument after some time. They then inquired about the Calcutta address of the Holy Mother and said that they would like to see her again. After they had left, the Mother said, "It does not become a woman to argue like that. Even the wise could hardly realize the nature of Brahman by argument. Is Brahman an object of discussion?"
A few days after, the Mother was to leave for Banaras, and I might not meet her for some time. She was extremely kind to me when I took leave of her, and I was so overpowered by her love that I did not exchange a word with anyone that night.
31st January, 1913
The Holy Mother had returned from Banaras on 17 January. I went to her place one morning and found her absorbed in worship. After the worship was over, she left the seat and said, "I am glad to see you, my child. I was thinking of you and feared lest I should miss you again. We shall soon be leaving for our country home."
It was late in the morning. Radhu, her niece, was ready to go to the Christian missionary school of the neighbourhood. Golap-Ma came and said to the Mother, "Radhu is now a grown-up girl. Why should she go to school any more?" She asked Radhu not to go to school. Radhu began to cry. The Mother said, "She is not quite grown-up. Let her go to school. She can do immense good to others if she gets education and learns some useful arts at the school. She has been married in a backward village. Through education she will not only improve herself but will be able to help others." So Radhu was allowed to go to school.
Annapurna's mother brought a girl with her to be initiated by the Holy Mother. She said, "Mother, this girl is pestering me to be taken to be initiated by you. I could not avoid her. Therefore I have brought her to you."
Mother: How will it be possible to give initiation to-day? I have already taken my breakfast.1
1 The general custom is that initiation is given before the teacher takes his or her meal.
A's mother: But the girl is fasting. It does not matter at all if you have eaten anything or not.
Mother: Is she ready for initiation?
A's mother: Yes, Mother. She has come fully prepared for it. The Mother agreed. After the initiation was over, Annapuma's mother began to talk about the girl and said, "She is not an ordinary girl. After reading about Sri Ramakrishna, she became eager for practising spiritual austerities. She cut her long hair, dressed herself as a man and set out on a pilgrimage. She went as far as Baidyanath, over two hundred miles from Calcutta. She entered a wood and was resting there when the Guru of her mother happened to pass that way. The Guru inquired where she was staying and informed her father. In the meantime she was kept with the Guru. Later on, her father went there and took back the girl."
The Mother heard these words in silence and then remarked: "Ah! What devotion!" Other devotees present there, said, "Goodness gracious! Such a beautiful girl! How could she go out alone even with all her eagerness and devotion?" Nalini said, "It would surely have created a great scandal in our part of the country."
After the noonday meal all of us lay down to rest in the adjacent room. The Mother also requested her new disciple to rest for a while. She said that she was not in the habit of lying down during the day-time. I said that she should obey the order of the Holy Mother. She agreed but after a few minutes left the bed and went to the porch. The Holy Mother remarked, "She is restless. That is why she had left home." She asked the maid of the girl, "What is the occupation of her husband? Why does he not keep her near him?" "He gets a small salary," replied the maid, "besides there is no one in his family. He cannot keep the girl alone in the house. Therefore she lives with her father. The husband visits the house of the father-in-law every week-end." Annapurna's mother said, "This girl says to her husband, 'You are not my husband. The Lord of the world alone is my lord.'" The Holy Mother kept quiet without giving any reply.
The women devotees were talking in the northern porch of the shrine room. That created a great deal of noise. The Mother told someone, "Go and ask them to talk in low tones. They are disturbing Swami Saradananda." There was no one in the room. I asked her a few questions regarding spiritual practices. The Mother said, "Do not make any distinction between Sri Ramakrishna and me. Meditate on and pray to the particular aspect of the Divinity revealed to you. Worship ends with absorption in meditation. Start here (the heart) and end here (the head). Neither Mantra nor scripture is of any avail; Bhakti or devotion alone accomplishes everything. Sri Ramakrishna is every thing-both Guru and Ishtam. He is all in all."
Then the conversation drifted to Gauri-Ma and her disciple, Durgadevi. The Mother spoke highly of both. She said, "Listen, my child. Many may take the name of God after their minds have been hardened by the contaminating influence of the world. But he alone is blessed who can devote himself to God from very childhood. The girl is pure like a flower. Gaurdasi has moulded her character nicely. Her brothers tried their utmost to arrange for her marriage, but Gaurdasi took her from place to place and concealed her. At last she took her to Puri and made her exchange garlands with Jagannath and made her a nun. That is to say, she was married to Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe. Thenceforth she has been leading the life of a nun. Such a nice, pure girl! She has been well-educated. 'I have heard that she is preparing herself for a Sanskrit examination. I also heard from her many incidents of Gauri-Ma's early years and thus came to know that she also had to pass through a stormy life."
A little later, four or five women devotees came. They offered the Holy Mother green cocoanuts and some other fruits. One of them was about to approach and touch her feet. The Mother said, "Please salute me from a distance." They offered her a few coins. She forbade them to do so. They then wanted some spiritual instruction. The Mother replied with a smile, "What shall I instruct you about? The words of Sri Ramakrishna have been recorded in books. If you can follow even one of his instructions, you will attain to everything in life." After they had taken leave, the Holy Mother said, "Where is that competent student who can understand spiritual instruction? First of all, one should be fit; otherwise, the instructions prove futile."
Annapurna's mother entered the room and said. "Mother, I saw you in a dream asking me to take your Prasada, which would cure me of my disease. But Sri Ramakrishna had forbidden me to eat the Prasada of anybody. Still I shall be glad if you will kindly give me a little of your Prasada." The Mother refused to do so, but the woman began to insist upon it.
Mother: Do you want to disobey Sri Ramakrishna?
A.'s Mother: Sri Ramakrishna's words were applicable so long as I made a distinction between him and you. But I now realize both of you to be identical. So please give me your Prasada. The Mother had to yield. A little later we took leave of her.
Another day when I went to see the Holy Mother, she inquired about my husband. I said that he was not in very good health. She asked me to write a letter for her. She dictated it. After the noonday meal, the Mother had been resting for a while when a few women devotees came to her room. When the greetings were over, one of them said, "I have a nice goat. She gives four pounds of milk daily. I also keep three birds. I spend my time with these. I am now pretty old." I was reminded of the words of Sri Ramakrishna: "Mahamaya, the supreme power of cosmic illusion, makes us bring up a cat and thus forget God. This is how this world is going on." The Holy Mother simply nodded to the words of these devotees. Alas, what a great agony she had to bear for our sake! We did not allow her even to enjoy a little rest. We disturbed her with mere idle gossip. I took leave of her in the evening.
I went to see the Holy Mother again after many days. She had gone back to her country home on 26th February, and had returned to Calcutta in September, 1913, a few days before the Durga Puja. I visited her one afternoon and found a woman kneeling near her feet and begging with tears for initiation. The Mother was seated on her bedstead. She refused to comply with her prayer and said, "I have already told you that I would not be able to initiate you now. I am not well." The woman was insistent. The Mother felt annoyed and said, "You think only of yourselves. You are perfectly satisfied if you get the sacred Mantra. But you never think of the consequence." But the woman was inexorable. All of us felt disgusted. The Holy Mother at last asked her to come another day. Then the woman requested her to ask one of the monks to give her initiation.
Mother: Suppose they refuse?
Woman: What do you mean, Mother? They must obey you.
Mother: In this matter they may refuse to comply with my request.
Finding the woman unrelenting, the Mother said, "Well, I shall ask Khoka (Swami Subodananda). He will initiate you." But the woman started insisting again and said, "I shall be happy to be initiated by you. You can certainly fulfil my desire if you like." She brought out ten rupees and said, "Here is some money. You may purchase the necessary articles for initiation." We all felt mortified at her impudence. At last the Mother was angry and said severely, "What? Do you mean to tempt me with money? You cannot coax me with these coins. Take them back." The Holy Mother immediately left the room. Being hard pressed by the woman, the Holy Mother at last agreed to initiate her on the sacred Mahashtami day. She soon took leave of us. The Mother now found some leisure to talk to me. I came to see the Mother after two months and a half. She cried, "Oh! It is almost an age since I have seen you!" In the course of the talk I asked her about the woman whom she had consented to initiate.
Mother: She could not come here on the appointed day. I had said to her, "I am now ill. Let me be well and then I shall initiate you." My words came to be true. She could not come on the Mahashtami day as she herself fell ill. She came here many days later and was initiated.
Devotee: That is right. The words that are once uttered by you cannot but be fulfilled. We suffer as we go counter to your wishes. Many a time, you condescend to initiate people even while you are ill, and thus suffer all the more by transferring their sufferings to yourself.
Mother: Yes, my dear child. Sri Ramakrishna also used to say, "Otherwise why should this body have suffered at all?" The other day I was ill with an attack of diarrhoea.
My sister-in-law was with me. Referring to her, the Mother said, "A very nice and quiet girl. There is only one dish of vegetable. If that be not palatable, then the whole dinner is spoiled." She meant that I had only one sister-in-law in the family. My life could have been made unhappy if she had not been good to me.