SIVANATH SASTRI

Sivanath Sastri was a scholar, religious reformer, educator, writer and historian. He played an active role in the Brahmo Samaj of his time and kept a wonderful record of events but for which it would have been difficult to know and understand his turbulent age. His views have occasionally been criticized. He was not merely a detached historian but also an active participant of the age. His books include History of the Brahmo Samaj, Ramtanu Lahidi O Tatkalin Banga Samaj etc.

The impression left in my mind by intercourse with him [Ramakrishna Paramahansa] was that I had seldom come across any other man in whom the hunger and thirst for spiritual life was so great and who had gone through so many privations and sufferings for the practice of religion. Secondly, I was convinced that he was no longer a sadhaka or a devotee under exercise but was a siddha purusa or one who had attained direct vision of spiritual truth. The truth, of which he had direct spiritual vision and which had become a fountain of noble impulses in his soul, was Divine Motherhood. ... Yet this conception of Motherhood stretched far beyond any idol or image into a sense of the Infinite. ...He would say, only fools make distinction between Kali and Krsna, they are the manifestations of the same Power.

Speaking of the spirituality and catholicity of his conception, one incident comes to my mind. A Christian preacher of Bhowanipore, who was my personal friend, once accompanied me on my visit to Ramakrishna. When I introduced my friend to him, I said—‘To-day I bring a Christian preacher to you, who having heard of you from me, was very eager to see you’, whereupon the saint bowed his head to the ground and said, ‘I bow again and again, at the feet of Jesus.’ Then took place the following conversation :

My Christian friend—How is it, Sir, that you bow at the feet of Christ? What do you think of him?

Ramakrishna—Why, I look upon him as an incarnation of God.

My friend—Incarnation of God! Will you kindly explain what you mean by it?

Ramakrishna—An incarnation like our Rama or Krsna. Don’t you know there is a passage in the Bhagavatam where it is said that the incarnations of Visnu or the Supreme Being are innumerable?

My friend—Please explain further ; I do not understand it quite.

Ramakrishna—Just take the case of the ocean. It is a wide and almost infinite expanse of water. But owing to special causes, in special parts of this wide sea, the water becomes congealed into ice. When reduced to ice it can be easily manipulated and applied to special uses. An incarnation is something like that. Like that infinite expanse of water, there is the Infinite Power, immanent in matter and mind, but for some special purposes, in special regions, a portion of that Infinite power, as it were, assumes a tangible shape in history, that is what you call a great man ; but he is properly speaking a local manifestation of the all-pervading Divine power, in other words, an incarnation of God. The greatness of great men is essentially the manifestation of divine Energy....

During the last few years of the saint’s life, my visits became less frequent than they were before....

At last when the news of his fast declining health was brought to me one day, I left all work and went to Dakshineshwar....

That was my last interview with him, after which he was removed from Dakshineshwar, was placed under the treatment of the most distinguished physicians of the town, and was devotedly nursed by his disciples ; but nothing could stay the progress of his disease and he passed away, leaving behind him a memory that is now spiritually feeding hundreds of earnest souls. My acquaintance with him, though short, was fruitful by strengthening many a spiritual thought in me. He was certainly one of the most remarkable personalities I have come across in life.60

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[After coming into contact with Ramakrishna, this one idea used to come to my mind that religion is one, only its forms are different. Every word of Ramakrishna gave utterance to this catholicity and universality of religion. I remember very clearly one of his illustrations in this connection. (Sastri then narrates the same incident as stated before)...

It was after mixing with Ramakrishna I have especially realized the spirit of universality of religion....]