5. RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MASTER

And what was the attitude of Sri Ramakrishna towards her? Never for a moment did he look upon her as a wife, except for the fact that he owned a duty to her as regards her training in matters spiritual as well as earthly. His consciousness regarding Saradamani swung between anxious solicitude for one who needed care, and great reverence for one who was the embodiment of the Divine Mother. Though he would give her earnest instructions in all matters, with what reverence did he look upon her! 'My very devotion to God will take wings, if her feelings are even slightly hurt,' Sri Ramakrishna used to say. 'How do you look upon me?' Saradamani once asked Sri Ramakrishna as she was serving him massaging his feet. 'The same Divine Mother who is staying at the temple is now massaging me,' came the prompt reply from Sri Ramakrishna. To him there was no difference between Saradamani and the Deity in the Kali temple.

But this was not the outcome of mere religious sentimentalism—an artificial attempt to look upon all women as the embodiment of the Blissful Mother. Everything Sri Ramakrishna said or believed was the result of his personal experience, and he was always bold in his experimentation—sometimes dangerously bold. Did he see in the Image in the temple a living presence? Well, he must know for certain whether his vision was a fact or a hallucination. He placed a piece of cotton under the nostrils of the Image just to test whether there was any indication of life. Thus the simplicity of a child and the courage of a scientist were combined in him. With the same boldness and simplicity Sri Ramakrishna asked himself one day whether he had really forgotten the wife in Saradamani or whether there lurked any carnal desire in him. Saradamani was by his side in the same bed. But before he could think of any physical relationship with her, his mind was thrown into deep samadhi and his body-consciousness was absolutely gone. And in that state he passed the rest of the night.

'The credit for this was no less due to her,' Sri Ramakrishna used to remark afterwards. Saradamani's snow-white purity was his shield and armour. Sri Ramakrishna once prayed to the Divine Mother after his marriage that any least trace of carnal desire might be removed from the mind of his wife. Sri Ramakrishna would say in later times, 'When I lived with her (meaning Saradamani) from day to day at this period, I understood that the Divine Mother had really heard my prayer.'

One thing which Sri Ramakrishna greatly emphasized was the need of harmony between one's words and deeds, and this dictum expressed itself in every breath of his life. How literally Sri Ramakrishna looked upon Saradamani as the manifestation of the Divine Mother in the flesh can be judged from the following incident which happened one night at Dakshineswar during this time. It was a special day in the month of May for the worship of the Divine Mother. The temple of Dakshineswar wore an air of festivity. Everybody was busy with the worship that would be performed at night. Sri Ramakrishna expressed a desire to have personal worship of the Mother in his own room, and all arrangements were made for this. Twilight passed into evening, and the darkness of the new-moon night enveloped the surroundings. At the end of the first watch of the night Sri Ramakrishna sat for the worship. The seat where the Deity was to be installed was in front of him. He performed the preliminaries of the worship. Saradamani had previously been instructed to come and attend the worship. She came and was watching the whole thing. The spiritual atmosphere which was created by Sri Ramakrishna's intense devotion made

Saradamani oblivious of the outside world and she had already entered a mood of partial ecstasy. As he proceeded with the worship, Sri Rama-krishna beckoned to her to sit on the seat arranged for the Deity. In that semiconscious state, not knowing what she was doing, Saradamani took the seat reserved for the Mother. Sri Ramakrishna went on with the procedure of the ritual. But it was not long before he was in complete samadhi, and so also was the one who was being worshipped. In the stillness of the night both worshipper and worshipped became merged in the Absolute. Hours passed before either came down to the plane of consciousness even in a faint measure. After that Sri Ramakrishna finished the rest of the ritual, dedicating the fruits of all his past and present worship to the Deity. This was the culmination of the sadhana of Sri Rama-krishna. After this he performed no special form of spiritual practice.

The Holy Mother lived at Dakshineswar for another year after this worship. But what an ordeal it was to stay with Sri Ramakrishna! Often he would fall into samadhi and pass the whole night in that state, and she had an anxious time. One night Sri Ramakrishna was so deep in samadhi that one might take him to be dead. In great anxiety the Holy Mother had to send information to others for help. It was a long time before he could be brought down to the normal plane by the repeated utterance of sacred mantras. After regaining external consciousness, when Sri Rama-krishna knew all that had happened, he understood how the Holy Mother was passing night after night in sleepless anxiety on his account. Henceforth he arranged that she should stay at night with his mother at the Nahabat.

After staying in all for a little more than a year at Dakshineswar, the Holy Mother returned to Jayrambati via Kamarpukur in the middle of 1873. At Jayrambati she again began her usual work— helping the family in manifold household duties.

Within a few months, in March 1874, this happy family at Jayrambati suffered a great loss: Ram Chandra Mukhopadhyaya, the father of the Holy Mother, died leaving the already poor family virtually stranded. Shyamasundari, the pious wife of Ram Chandra, was not a soul to be daunted by any difficulty. With great faith in the goodness of God she shouldered the responsibility of the family calmly and bravely. To supplement the slender resources of the family, Shyamasundari began to husk paddy for a neighbouring family. During this hour of crisis the Holy Mother stood by her mother and was a source of great strength. She did all that was possible to relieve her mother's great burden. She would also take care of her younger brothers and help her unsophisticated mother with advice in many things. Gradually the financial condition of the family improved and the crisis was tided over.