10. TRIALS AND SUFFERINGS

Shortly after, on 30 August 1886, accompanied by a party of devotees, the Mother started on a pilgrimage to North India to assuage her grief. On the way she stopped at Deoghar, Varanasi, and Ayodhya, and went as far as Vrindavan, where she stayed for about a year. While she was witnessing the evening service at the temple of Vishwanath at Varanasi, she fell into an ecstatic mood and that mood persisted even while she was returning to her place of lodging. At Varanasi she met the great saint, Swami Bhaskarananda, and was much impressed by him.

At Vrindavan she practised hard tapasya, and her feelings were greatly stirred by the sight of the places associated with Sri Krishna, Radha and his other companions. Was not her case exactly like that of Radha when she was separated from her Lord? When she met Yogin-Ma at Vrindavan, where she had gone earlier, she began to weep like a helpless child. That mood lasted for a few days till she was pacified by having a vision of the Master. At Vrindavan she would be so much

absorbed in japa and meditation that she was not conscious at the time that flies were making sores on her face. Sometimes in an exalted mood she would go alone to the sandy banks of the Yamuna, from where her companions had to bring her back. It is said that at Kala Babu's house she was so absorbed in samadhi that she could be brought down to the earthly plane only with considerable effort, by repeatedly uttering the name of the Lord in her ears. These high spiritual moods would alternate with simple and unsophisticated behaviour just like that of an innocent child. She visited almost all the important temples in that holy city, some of them several times. She once circumambulated the sacred area associated with Sri Krishna's life on foot, just like the orthodox Vaishnavas, although she was suffering from rheumatism. Her companions noticed that at many places sanctified by the memory of Sri Krishna she would experience an exalted mood.

While staying at Vrindavan, she once saw a vision in which the Master was asking her to give initiation to Swami Yogananda who was then staying with her as her attendant. At first she paid no attention to the vision, but the experience recurred on three consecutive days. Out of humility she hesitated to give initiation to anyone, but when she learnt that the Master had not given Yogananda any formal initiation and that he too had a vision similar to hers, she agreed and initiated him. Perhaps this was the first initiation she gave to anybody, for it is not definitely known whether she initiated Sarada (Swami Trigunatitananda) whom the Master sent to her for that purpose at Dakshineswar.

At the temple of Radharani in Vrindavan she fervently prayed that her eyes might not see faults in others. That her prayer was answered was borne out in her life. Just as a mother cannot see any fault in her child, she was incapable of seeing any blemish in anyone. Afterwards she would advise everyone to try not to see defects in others for, as she would say, one's own eyes become impure and one absorbs the defects of others.

After one year's stay at Vrindavan she went to Hardwar, and returned to Calcutta after visiting Jaipur, Ajmere, and Allahabad on the way.

After a temporary halt in Calcutta for two days, she started for Kamarpukur accompanied by Swami Yogananda and Golap-Ma, both of whom came back to Calcutta after a few days.

Now began a period of great trial and hardship for her. At this time she had no financial resources and almost nobody to take care of her. She felt a void in her heart at the physical absence of the Master, and she was lonely. She was faced with so much poverty that at times she had to eat rice without even salt. The disciples of the Master had been seized with spiritual longing and impelled by that spirit wandered from place to place; so they did not know the sufferings of the Holy Mother, nor did it strike any of them that there was a possibility that she might be in such great difficulty. The Holy Mother also would not speak of her personal hardships to anybody. Faith in God was her only refuge and support. Once at repeated invitations of her mother she went to Jayrambati. Shyamasundari Devi at once found out the abject poverty through which she was passing, but could not extract from her the actual condition. She tried her best to keep her daughter at Jayrambati, but the Holy Mother would not agree to stay. She returned to her husband's birthplace just to wait and see how circumstances would shape themselves for her.

Despite all her attempts to hide the real situation the news leaked out to the outside world that she was passing through a period of great privation. When the devotees in Calcutta heard about it they became alarmed and grave. After consulting among themselves they wrote to the Holy Mother earnestly requesting her to come to Calcutta. But there was this difficulty. Whatever might be her spiritual relation with the disciples of the Master, what would the villagers think if she went to Calcutta to stay among strangers, as they would say? At last, at the persuasion of an elderly woman in Kamarpukur who commanded great reverence from all, and also with the support of her mother, she went to Calcutta. Great relief and joy was felt by the devotees, especially the women disciples.

Henceforth she lived sometimes in Calcutta and sometimes at Jayrambati according to convenience and circumstances, except in the periods when she was on pilgrimage.