8. FORESHADOWING THE FUTURE
It is needless to say that her innate spiritual longing combined with hard sadhana, and above all the guidance of a personality like that of Sri Ramakrishna, had a tremendous effect on the life of Sarada Devi. But she had a great capacity to hide her achievements in that sphere. Swami Premananda, an intimate disciple of the Master, once remarked that even Sri Ramakrishna had external manifestations of his spiritual powers in the form of constant samadhi, but the Holy Mother had so much control over herself that nobody knew what a mine of spirituality she possessed. Carefully suppressing all outward manifestations she lived like an ordinary woman doing the usual household duties of a poor middle-class home.
Once the Holy Mother asked Yogin-Ma, a devotee and her companion, to request the Master to see that she (the Holy Mother) might have the bliss of samadhi. When Yogin-Ma broached the subject to Sri Ramakrishna he looked grave and Yogin-Ma dared not say anything further. But as she came to the Nahabat she found the Holy Mother seated at her worship, laughing and weeping alternately and tears rolling down her cheeks. Gradually she became quiet and lost in herself. Evidently it was a state of samadhi. Afterwards she asked the Holy Mother, ‘How is it, Mother, that you deceived me by saying you had no experience of samadhi?’ The Mother simply smiled and did not utter any words. In later days while the Holy Mother, Yogin-Ma and Golap-Ma, another devotee, were meditating on the terrace of a house where they stayed at Belur, the Holy Mother was found to have lost all outward consciousness, so deep was her meditation. After some time, regaining partial consciousness, she said, ‘O Yogin, where are my limbs?’ Yogin-Ma narrated afterwards that they began to press her hands and feet to convince her they existed. It was long before she came down to the normal plane.
Only those who were very intimate with her could witness one or two incidents which revealed her real spiritual stature, but to all others she was only a mother.
Her motherliness, which afterwards like a huge banyan tree gave shelter and refuge to enumerable weary souls, showed signs of manifesting even in her early days at Dakshineswar. So much so, that sometimes the mother in her got the better of her devotion even to the Master. There were occasions when impelled by motherly feelings she would overrule even the wishes and desires of Sri Ramakrishna.
Once a woman came to Dakshineswar. She was supposed to be just a crank but afterwards was found to be practising sadhana according to madhura bhava, that is, in the attitude of looking upon God as a husband. She one day said that she cherished the same attitude towards Sri Ramakrishna. The Master got wild at hearing such words and began to rebuke her so loudly that it created a sensation. At this the Holy Mother sent for the woman, treated her lovingly as if she were her own daughter, and said: ‘If he gets annoyed at your presence, you need not go to him. Just come to me.’
Another woman was in the habit of coming to the Nahabat to have the pleasure and benefit of the company of the Holy Mother. This woman had lived an impure life in her younger days, and for this reason the Master told the Holy Mother not to associate with her. But the woman would come to the Holy Mother just as to a mother for solace and consolation. How could a mother reject her daughter, however bad? The Holy Mother paid no heed to the protests of the Master, and the lady continued to come to the Nahabat. The Master noticed this, but raised no further objection, presumably understanding the feelings and attitude of the Holy Mother.
Sri Ramakrishna was very strict with his young disciples as regards diet, spiritual practices, etc. One day he learnt that Baburam (afterwards Swami Premananda) took five or six chapatis at night. That was too many, he thought, and asked why he took such a large quantity at night. The young boy replied that the Holy Mother served them to him. Then Sri Ramakrishna went to the Holy Mother and took her to task for thus spoiling the spiritual prospects of the boys. At this the Holy Mother replied: ‘You need not worry about their welfare. I will look to that.’ The Master saw the sentiment behind these words and simply laughed. Could a mother refuse to give sufficient quantity of food to her children? That was impossible.
Sri Ramakrishna was aware of the spiritual powers that were hers. Though now and then he would give her spiritual instructions just as to a disciple, at other times he would consider her as his peer, or one on whom his spiritual mantle would fall. ‘People are living like worms in darkness; you will have to look after them,’ he once said to her. On another occasion he said to her in an appealing tone, ‘Am I to do everything alone, and will you not do anything?’ ‘What can I do?’ asked the Holy Mother. ‘You can do a lot,’ replied Sri Ramakrishna.
One day the Master actually sent a young boy – Sarada, afterwards Swami Trigunatita-nanda – to the Holy Mother for spiritual initiation, quoting a Vaishnava couplet which says that Radha is infinitely more powerful than Sri Krishna.
The chief trait in the character of Sri Rama-krishna, according to the Holy Mother, was renunciation. People generally say that his greatest achievement was the harmonization of all faiths. But this paled into insignificance, in the opinion of his life-companion, when compared with his spirit of renunciation. But her own renunciation was just as great. One day a rich Marwari devotee proposed to put a big amount in the bank to the credit of Sri Ramakrishna so that he might not have any financial worry about his needs. Sri Ramakrishna was perturbed at the very proposal as if it was an abysmal fall from the ideal to which he was pledged. When hard pressed by the devotee to accept the money, the Master, just to test the Holy Mother’s mind, had her brought there and proposed that the money might be kept in her name if she agreed. She also adamantly refused the offer as that would be tantamount to the acceptance of the money by the Master himself. Sri Ramakrishna was so glad to see her sensitiveness to the ideal!
In later days when the Holy Mother went on a pilgrimage to South India, the Raja of Ramnad, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, ordered the temple staff to show her his jewelry and request her to accept anything she liked as that would be conferring a great favour upon him. The Holy Mother shuddered at the very idea, but at repeated requests said that Radhu, her niece who accompanied her on the pilgrimage, might take something she liked. But even then she was praying silently to the Lord that Radhu might not cause embarrassment to her by showing covetousness. Radhu, to the Holy Mother’s great relief, asked only for a lead-pencil to replace one that she had lost.