VI

GOD-INTOXICATION

All these but confirmed the belief of the temple officials that Sri Ramakrishna must be mad. So they sent a detailed report about these things to Mathur at Calcutta. Soon after this, Mathur paid a surprise visit to the temple, and he was struck with wonder at what he saw. It did not take Mathur long to decide that Sri Ramakrishna's method of worship was the outcome of a genuine and profound love for the Divine Mother, the like of which is seldom encountered. Convinced that the object of building and maintaining the temple had been attained, he returned to his home and sent an order the next day to the temple Superintendent that the young priest was to have complete freedom to worship in any way he chose, and that he was not to be interfered with.

Rani Rasmani was greatly attracted to Sri Ramakrishna, for she felt that his strange behaviour bespoke the fullness of devotion rather than any mental derangement. One day she came to Dakshineswar and after bathing in the Ganga entered the temple to worship and meditate. She later requested Sri Ramakrishna to sing some songs to the Mother. Slowly the music arose from the heart of the devotee; like a fountain of heavenly bliss it bathed his whole being with ecstasy. After a time, the Rani began thinking of some important lawsuit. Noticing her inattentiveness, Sri Ramakrishna gave her a sharp rebuke. At this the Rani's heart was filled with remorse that worldly thoughts could so influence her mind as to turn it away from the divine bliss which the young priest was lavishly showering on her. Rasmani retired to her room. When her attendants complained of Sri Ramakrishna's insolence towards her, she answered, 'You do not understand; the Divine Mother Herself punished me and thus illumined my heart.'

This incident, however, led Mathur to suspect that there might be some nervous trouble in Sri Ramakrishna. So he arranged for his treatment by an expert physician, Kaviraj Ganga Prasad Sen of Calcutta. The treatment, though continued for some time, brought no relief. Mathur tried to persuade Sri Ramakrishna to keep his feelings within bounds and to regulate his life in accordance with fixed standards. As Mathur came in closer touch with Sri Ramakrishna and saw more of the Master, he inwardly began to look up to him as a Guru. The relation between the two soon grew to be one of mutual trust and confidence. Sri Ramakrishna would candidly tell of his extraordinary visions to Mathur and also ask his opinion. Mathur, finding in him a happy combination of prophetic wisdom with the innocence of a child, concluded that Sri Ramakrishna's body was to be his special care, just as in the subtle spiritual domain he himself was protected and guided by the Master. Mathur counted it a rare privilege to be of the least service to the Master, and served him for fourteen years with uncommon zeal and devotion.

Sri Ramakrishna had a catholic spirit from the very beginning. He made no distinction between one form of God and another. The realization of one aspect of the Reality inspired him to take up another and to follow it with unflinching devotion till that aspect of Truth revealed itself. He now felt a strong urge to realize Sri Rama, who is regarded as an Incarnation of the Lord Himself. He therefore took upon himself the task of reproducing as faithfully as possible the attitude of Hanuman towards Rama—that of the faithful servant towards the master.

At the end of this Sadhana (spiritual endeavour) he had a wonderful vision, so exceedingly vivid and so different from any of his previous ones that it remained long in his memory. One day while he was seated in the Panchavati, a luminous female figure of exquisite grace slowly advanced from the north towards him, looking graciously on him all the while. The idea soon flashed within him that she must be Sita whose whole life had been centred in Rama. She suddenly entered into Sri Ramakrishna's body with the significant remark that she bequeathed the smile on her lips unto him. This was the first vision Sri Ramakrishna had with eyes wide open, without meditating on anything. Ultimately this Sadhana was crowned with the realization of Rama as an Incarnation of God.

About this time one evening Sri Ramakrishna felt an irritating sensation in his palate, which after a minute began to bleed. He described the incident as follows: 'The colour of the blood was dark like the juice of bean leaves. It was so thick that only a little portion fell to the ground and the rest clotted and hung like a string from my teeth... .I was sorely perplexed. Fortunately, at that time there was staying in the Kali temple a Sadhu (holy man) who, hearing of the incident, came and examined the colour of the blood and the place from which it came. He said, "Thank God! There is no cause for anxiety. This haemorrhage has done you great good. I see you were practising Yoga. This opened your Sushumna canal and a quantity of blood was rushing to the head. It is excellent that this blood, instead of reaching the brain, made a passage through the palate; or you would have entered the Jada Samadhi (the highest form of concentration mentioned in the Yoga-Shastra) from which you could never again have come down to the plane of ordinary consciousness. It must be that the Divine Mother has some great mission to be done through you, and She has saved your body." I was reassured by his words and was at peace.'

One day Haladhari (Sri Ramakrishna's cousin who acted as priest of the Kali temple for some time) cast aspersions on the truth of Sri Ramakrishna's God-visions and said, on the authority of the scriptures, that God is beyond the reach of the human mind. That gave rise to grave doubts in the mind of Sri Ramakrishna. He thus described his feelings and the subsequent experience to one of his disciples, Swami Premananda: '.. .With sobs I prayed to the Mother, "How couldst Thou have the heart to deceive me like that because I was a fool?" A stream of tears flowed from my eyes. Shortly after, I saw something like a volume of mist rising from the floor and filling the space before me. In the midst of it appeared a fair face, calm and highly expressive, with a flowing beard. Fixing its steady gaze upon me the figure solemnly said, "Well, remain on the threshold of relative consciousness!" Repeating this thrice the face gently disappeared in the mist, which also dissolved. The vision reassured me.'

Stories travelled to the people at Kamarpukur that Sri Ramakrishna had gone completely mad. Naturally this news made his mother Chandra as well as Rameshwar extremely anxious. Chandra repeatedly wrote to Dakshineswar asking her God-intoxicated son to come to Kamarpukur, where under her maternal care and in the salubrious climate of the country his strained nerves might be soothed and his health regained. Sri Ramakrishna obeyed the call and found himself once again in the midst of the calm and peaceful surroundings of his native village. But even here, notwithstanding all the tender care of the affectionate mother and other relations, Sri Ramakrishna was at times overwhelmed with the same feelings as those of the Dakshineswar days when he was struggling to obtain a vision of the Divine Mother. There were two cremation grounds at Kamarpukur. Sri Rama-krishna intended to practise stern Tapasya (austerity); and choosing one of those places for this purpose, he began to spend the whole day and a great part of every night there in worship and meditation. However, a few months' stay at Kamarpukur did him much good, and he soon recovered his normal state of mind to the great relief and joy of his aged mother.

Sri Ramakrishna was now twenty-three years of age, and he was as indifferent as ever to all worldly concerns. His mother and brother wanted to get him married so as to interest him in domestic affairs, and began to search for a suitable bride. The search was vigorously made but with no definite result. Sri Ramakrishna, finding his mother and brother in a dejected state, said to them in a semiconscious mood: 'It is useless to try here and there. Go to Jayrambati (a village three miles to the northwest of Kamarpukur) and there you will find the bride providentially reserved for me in the house of Ram Chandra Mukhopadhyaya.' His prophetic words proved true to the letter. A girl was found there who was five years and a few months old. But Chandra Devi agreed to accept the girl as no other bride was available, and the happy nuptial ceremony was performed without delay. After his marriage Sri Ramakrishna stayed at Kamarpukur for about a year and a half, as Chandra Devi would not allow him to leave her until he was completely cured. Then taking leave of his mother and brother Sri Ramakrishna returned to Dakshineswar.

On his return to Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna resumed his office, but after a few days he was seized anew with the madness of God-realization. Mathur placed him again under the treatment of Kaviraj Ganga Prasad Sen, but with no result. Another famous physician was called in, whose diagnosis proved to be correct. He declared that it was a case of divine madness—the after-effect of some Yogic practices, which no medicine could cure.

Referring to this period of his life Sri Rama-krishna often said afterwards: 'No sooner was one state transcended than another took its place. Before that whirlwind, the sacred thread was blown away. Not only that, even the wearing cloth hardly remained... .The idea of caste lost all meaning for me. A low-caste man sent me a curry cooked by his wife which I ate with relish. In the Panchavati I would sit in deep meditation with my body perfectly still—losing all consciousness of the outside world. At that time, for want of proper care, my hair was matted. Birds would perch on my head and peck the grains of rice left there during the time of worship. Often snakes would crawl over my motionless body, and neither I nor the snake knew it. Oh, what visions flitted past my eyes, day and night! As I sat down to meditate, I would find a Sannyasin emerging from my body with a trident in hand and directing me to concentrate my mind on God, leaving aside all other thoughts. He threatened to plunge his weapon into my body if I did not do so... .An ordinary man could not have borne a fraction of such tremendous fervour: his body would have been shattered by a quarter of that emotion. I could forget my indescribable pangs only by seeing the Mother in some form or other for the greater part of the day and night. Otherwise this body could not have survived. For six years these eyes remained wide open, not a wink of sleep visited them. I could not close the eyelids however much I might try to do so. I had no idea of time nor of the body. When the mind, at rare intervals, came down to a lower plane and I had a faint idea of the body, a shudder of pain would pass through me at the thought that I was going mad. Standing before a mirror I would put my finger into my eyes to see if the eyelids would close, but they would not. Horrified, I would often burst into tears and pray, "Mother, is this the result of praying and wholly surrendering myself unto Thee? Ah! Thou hast visited me with a fell disease!" But the next moment I would say, "Let it be as Thou wishest. Let this body go to pieces, but leave me not. Reveal Thyself to me, be kind to Thy helpless son. O Mother, I have taken shelter at Thy lotus feet. Thou art my only refuge." As I prayed thus, my mind would again be stimulated, this body would seem a trifle, not worth thinking about, and the blissful Mother would appear before me and console me with Her gracious words.'

One of his Sadhanas of this interesting period consisted in banishing from his mind all attachment for wealth and the pride of superior birth. Sitting on the bank of the Ganga, he took some earth in one hand and a few rupees in the other, weighing their value mentally as he passed them from hand to hand. Money, he said to himself, can at best give only a comfortable living and some facilities for charity—that is all. It cannot give realization of God, which is the only thing worth having in life. Hence it has no more real value than this handful of earth. Firmly impressing this idea on his mind, he finally consigned both to the Ganga. Gradually this spirit of renunciation became the very breath of his life. He could not even bear the touch of any coin. Any idea of material possession produced a terrible pain in his mind and body. When, on the death of Rani Rasmani, Mathur became the sole administrator of her vast estate, he one day proposed to Sri Ramakrishna that he would set apart a large property in his name. At this the Master thundered, 'What! Do you intend to make me a worldly man?' Mathur was dumbfounded and did not dare to raise such a topic before him during the rest of his life. One day a rich Marwari gentleman, Lakshmi Narayan by name, noticed a soiled carpet on the Master's bed at Dakshineswar and at once offered to deposit in the bank in his name a sum of ten thousand rupees, so that his needs might be supplied. The proposal was so painful to Sri Ramakrishna that he besought him with folded hands never to mention the subject again. The Marwari still insisted. Finding argument of no avail, the Master cried out in anguish, 'O Mother, why dost Thou bring such people here, who want to estrange me from Thee?' At this pathetic appeal the Marwari desisted. Referring to these incidents the Master afterwards remarked, 'At the offers of Mathur and Lakshmi Narayan, I felt as if somebody were sawing my skull.' Again, for the complete effacement of a sense of superiority from his mind, he would wash unclean places like an ordinary sweeper, viewing alike all objects of the world as but modifications of matter.