VII

BHAIRAVI BRAHMANI AND A VAISHNAVA SAINT

One morning in 1861 Sri Ramakrishna was plucking flowers in the garden of Dakshineswar when he saw a country-boat coming towards the smaller bathing ghat of the temple. A middle-aged, beautiful Bhairavi Sannyasini with long dishevelled hair stepped out of the boat. Though nearly forty years of age, she looked much younger. Sri Ramakrishna calling Hriday asked him to bring her from the Chandni (the roofed court which is the main entrance to the temple compound) to his presence. As soon as the Bhairavi met Sri Ramakrishna, she burst into tears of joy and surprise and said in a tender voice, 'My son, you are here! I have been searching for you so long, and now I have found you'.

'How could you know about me, mother?' asked Sri Ramakrishna. She replied, 'Through the grace of the Divine Mother I had come to know that I was to meet three of you. Two (Chandra and Girija) I have already met in East Bengal, and today I have found you.' She spoke with emotion, as though she had found her long-lost treasure at last. Sri Ramakrishna too was visibly moved.

After a while she told all about herself. She was born in a Brahmin family in the District of Jessore (Bengal), and was well versed in Vaishnava and Tantrika literature. She was a Vaishnava devotee of a high order. Her intense spiritual practices had bestowed on her wonderful realizations, which prompted her to find out a suitable aspirant to whom she could deliver all her attainments for his spiritual illumination. Sri Ramakrishna, like a boy, sat close by her and opened his heart to this Bhairavi, Yogeshwari by name, and related to her every incident of his Sadhana. He further said that people looked upon him as insane, because his actions differed so widely from those of the common run of men. Full of motherly tenderness, she consoled him again and again: 'Who calls you mad, my son? This is not insanity. Your state is what is called Mahabhava (extraordinary state of religious ecstasy) in the Shastras. Sri Radha experienced this state and so did Sri Gauranga. All these are recorded in the texts of the Bhakti (devotion) schools. I shall show you from books that whoever has sincerely yearned for God has experienced this state, and every one doing so must pass through it.' These words reassured Sri Ramakrishna.

The relation of mother and son which sprang up between them from their very first meeting deepened as they became better acquainted. After some time the Bhairavi Brahmani fixed her abode at Ariadaha, a couple of miles north of the Dakshineswar temple. From there she used to come almost daily and instruct her God-intoxicated spiritual child. Every day she saw him go into a trance as they talked on spiritual matters, and she observed a strange similarity between the life of Sri Chaitanya and that of Sri Ramakrishna. Another incident happening at this time confirmed her belief that the Lord was incarnated again in the person of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna had been suffering for a long time from a burning sensation all over his body. Though experts and laymen all ascribed this malady to some internal disorder, the Brahmani found quite a different cause for it. She diagnosed it as the effect of his strong yearning for God. On scriptural authority, she prescribed a curious remedy. The patient had only to wear a garland of fragrant flowers and paint his body with sandal paste. Great was the astonishment when under this treatment Sri Ramakrishna completely recovered in three days.

The Brahmani was now prepared to meet any scholar to prove her contention that Sri Rama-krishna was an Incarnation of God. Mathur, partly to satisfy his own curiosity and settle his own doubts and partly to humour Sri Ramakrishna, called a meeting of the distinguished scholars of the time. Vaishnava Charan, who was one of the leaders of the Vaishnava society and reputed for his Knowledge of various philosophies and devotional scriptures, and Gauri Kanta Tarkabhushana of Indesh in the District of Bankura, who was a far-famed scholar and a great Sadhaka (spiritual aspirant) of the Tantrika school, also came to Dakshineswar on invitation. The result of the meeting was that Vaishnava Charan subscribed heartily to all the conclusions of the Brahmani. And Gauri also felt in his heart of hearts that Sri Ramakrishna was no ordinary saint. He gravely replied, 'I am firmly convinced that you are that mine of infinite Spiritual Power, only a small fraction of which appears in the world from time to time in the form of Incarnations.' Thus the two great scholars and Sadhakas who came to test Sri Ramakrishna ended by surrendering themselves at his feet.

It has already been stated that the Brahmani from the very first bore a motherly affection towards Sri Ramakrishna. But she never forgot the divine mandate she had received to deliver her message to him, and she did her best to act as a spiritual guide to Sri Ramakrishna. He, on his part, undertook the course of Tantrika Sadhana under her guidance with the zeal characteristic of him. Referring to this period the Master would afterwards say: 'The Brahmani would go during the day to places far from Dakshineswar and collect the various rare things mentioned in the Tantrika scriptures. At nightfall she would ask me to come to one of the meditation seats. I would go, and after performing the worship of the Mother Kali I would begin to meditate according to her directions. As soon as I would begin to tell my beads, I would be always overwhelmed with divine fervour and fall into a deep trance. I cannot relate all the varieties of wonderful visions I used to have. They followed one another in quick succession, and the effects of those practices I could feel most tangibly. The Brahmani put me through all the exercises mentioned in the sixty-four principal Tantra books. Most of these were extremely difficult Sadhanas—some of them so dangerous that they often cause the devotee to lose his footing and sink into moral turpitude. But the infinite grace of the Mother carried me through them unscathed.'

The many fiery ordeals through which he passed during this period enabled him to become firmly established on the highest level of spirituality. The Brahmani declared that her divine disciple had attained perfection in this system of Yoga and had passed through its extreme tests successfully—a thing which very few Sadhakas indeed could do. The most remarkable feature about Sri Ramakrishna's Tantrika Sadhana was that he attained perfection in every course in an incredibly short time—three days being sufficient. Not only was Sri Ramakrishna's perfection in this Sadhana unique and unprecedented, but to him also was due the restoration of the purity of the ancient Tantrika practices at the present age.

The Kali temple of Dakshineswar was a favourite resort of devotees and Sadhus because of its seclusion and holy association, as well as of Rani Rasmani's liberality. They would stop there for a few days on their way to Gangasagar or to Puri. That was before the opening of the railways. At special times, Sadhus of a particular class would congregate in large numbers. The meeting of these different classes of monks and devotees with Sri Ramakrishna was of great significance. The ideas of practical spirituality which originated with the prophet of Dakshineswar were disseminated through these Sadhus to their own disciples and followers. Even those fortunate persons whom he accepted as teachers were also greatly benefited by their close association with the Master. Among the many devotees and scholars who came in contact with him at different periods, some took initiation from him and others were influenced by him in various ways, as we have seen in the cases of Vaishnava Charan and Gauri Kanta. About this time other great distinguished savants also, such as Pandit Narayana Shastri of Rajputana, Pandit Padmalochan Tarkalankara, the court Pandit of the Maharaja of Burdwan, and the like, were greatly attracted towards Sri Ramakrishna, and received spiritual inspiration from the Master.

It was probably about the year 1864 that one great Vaishnava devotee, Jatadhari by name, came to Dakshineswar. He was a wandering monk and a devotee of Sri Rama. The Master often said that Jatadhari's love and yearning for God were peerless. Ramlala, or the 'Child Rama' was his favourite Deity. By long meditation and worship Jatadhari had made great spiritual progress, and had been blessed with a wonderful vision of Rama—the effulgent form of young Rama then became a living presence to him. 'The Babaji (Father),' said the Master later to a group of disciples, 'was the lifelong devotee of Ramlala, whose image he carried wherever he went. He actually found that Ramlala took the food offered to him. Jatadhari was engaged day and night in the service of the image and was in a state of constant bliss. I could see the actions of Ramlala; so I used to spend the whole day with the Babaji to watch him. Days passed in this way, and Ramlala became more and more intimate with me and followed me to my room. I saw Ramlala as vividly as I see you all—now dancing gracefully before me, now springing on my back, or insisting on being taken up in my arms. Sometimes I would hold him on my lap. He would not remain there, but would run to the fields in the sun, pluck flowers from thorny bushes, or jump into the Ganga. When chastised, he would fix his beautiful eyes on me and smile, or like a naughty boy he would go on with his pranks, or pout or make faces at me. Sometimes I lost patience and slapped him. With tearful eyes and trembling lips he wold look at me. Oh, what pain I would feel then for having punished him! I would take him in my lap and console him. All these things actually happened.

'One day Jatadhari came to me weeping and said, "Ramlala out of his infinite grace has fulfilled my desire. He has revealed himself to me in the form I prefer, but he has told me that he will not go leaving you behind. I shall gladly leave him with you and go my way. It gladdens my heart to think that he is happy in your company." With these words Jatadhari left Ramlala with me and bade adieu to Dakshineswar. Ever since Ramlala has been here.'