THE MASTER’S DEMISE AND AFTER
THE happy days of the Holy Mother at Dakshi-neswar were now drawing to a close. In the summer of 1885 the Master fell ill of cancer in the throat, and by September he was taken to Syampukur, Calcutta, for treatment. After this, the Holy Mother continued to stay at Dakshineswar for some time more. It was during these days when she had comparative leisure that she learnt reading from a girl of Bhava Mukherji’s family.
While the Holy Mother was thus staying alone at Dakshineswar, her heart, already grief-stricken at the Master’s illness, was tormented by a cruel remark made unwittingly by her dear companion, Golap-Ma. In the course of a conversation with Yogin-Ma, Golap-Ma remarked that the Master left Dakshineswar, probably because he was annoyed with the Holy Mother. This officious conjecture of Golap-Ma reached the Holy Mother’s ears. She felt stabbed in her heart, as it were. Unable to bear the grief, she went immediately to Calcutta in a carriage, and with tears in her eyes, asked the Master about the truth of Golap-Ma’s statement. The Master
consoled her very tenderly, saying that the statement was absolutely untrue, and sent her Backto Dakshi-neswar in a peaceful mood. He then sent for Golap-Ma, scolded her severely for her false and mischievous surmise, and asked her to beg the Holy Mother’s forgiveness. Golap-Ma, full of repentance, walked at once to Dakshineswar, and weepingly implored the Holy Mother to pardon her. But the Mother, who never bore enmity to any one, laughed out without saying a word. She gently patted Golap-Ma thrice on the Backaddressing her, and the poor lady felt all her grief assuaged.
After the Master’s departure from Dakshineswar, the Holy Mother did not continue to stay there long. The devotees who had undertaken the responsibility of the Master’s care and treatment at Calcutta began to feel the pressing need of an expert hand for preparing his diet and feeding him. They could think of no better person than the Holy Mother, but they felt that, with her characteristic bashfulness, it would be impossible for her to stay among so many men at that rented house at Syampukur, which had no women’s quarters attached to it. Anyway, with the Master’s permission, they carried the suggestion to the Holy Mother, and were surprised to note that she readily agreed, the thought of serving the Master being enough in her case to drive away all considers^ tion of personal convenience. She therefore shifted to the Syampukur house without delay. A small shed on the terrace, the only place in that house where there was some privacy, was allotted to her. There she stayed all through the day and cooked the Master’s diet, coming down only to feed him or otherwise attend on him. At such times she would send word through Gopal Senior or Latu – the two disciples with whom alone she talked directly – to clear the room of all people. As there was only one bath room, she would get up at 3 a.m. before anybody was up, and after attending to personal needs, quietly slip into her shed. At night everyone retired to bed by 11 o’clock, and then she would come to a room in the second storey to snatch a few hours of sleep. Thus silently she spent day after day at Syampukur in the service of the Master, fervently hoping that he would in the end be cured.
Sri Ramakrishna was brought to Syampukur in September, 1885. He stayed there only for about three months. The house was in many respects inconvenient, and besides, the doctors suggested a change to some place outside the city. So a garden-house was secured at Cossipore, and the Master was taken there on the 11th December, 1885. The Holy Mother also accompanied him, and as at Syampukur, busied herself in cooking for the Master and in nursing him.
There are only a few incidents to record relating to this period of her life. One day Niranjan and some other young disciples were going to take date juice from a tree in the compound. The Master was then in a very bad condition and could not even move about without help. But to her surprise the Holy Mother noticed him running out of the room that day. She, therefore, went to his room to see what the matter was. It was empty, and within a short time she found the Master returning. When she spoke to him about the same incident next day, he said, ” Oh ! It is all your imagination ! Your brain must have been heated by too much cooking ! ” But it appears, that on being further pressed for an explanation, he said that there was a cobra under the date tree from which the boys were going to take the juice, and that in order to protect them, he had, by his higher powers, gone to the place in advance and driven the cobra away. His making light of the incident at first was perhaps to discourage too much importance being paid to such happenings.
The devotees had made unstinting arrangements for the treatment of the Master at the Cossipore Garden. Dr. Mahendra Nath Sirkar, one of the best medical men of Calcutta, was engaged for treatment, and several of the Master’s young devotees stayed day and night with him for nursing him. But it became increasingly clear to all that all effort was in vain. Besides what they could infer from the slowly deteriorating condition of the Master, the Holy Mother and the devotees had indications of the coming end from the fulfilment of certain predictions that the Master had made. They had already been warned by the Master some time Backthat they must be prepared for his approaching end, when they found him spending nights at Calcutta, accepting food indiscriminately and eating preparations left after distribution to others, and receiving the adoration of a large number of people as a manifestation of the deity. The first of these conditions was fulfilled even before he left Dakshineswar, and the last one, too, was now found to be coming true. This was brought to the notice of the Holy Mother by a striking incident. Some devotees went to Dakshineswar to see the Master but were disappointed to learn that he had left tor Calcutta for treatment. They had brought some sweets to present to the Master, but as he was-away, they made an offering of it before his picture and partook of the prasad. When this incident was reported to the Holy Mother at Cossipore, she recalled the Master’s prediction and her mind was filled with forebodings of the coming end.
In spite of the best medical aid and the careful nursing by his young discipies and the Holy Mother the Master’s illness showed no signs of improvement. When all treatment had failed, the Holy Mother decided to invoke divine aid. She went to the temple of Siva at Tarakeswar and lay before the Deity for two days without food and drink, supplicating for some divine remedy for the Master’s illness. “During the night of the second day,” she said referring to this incident, ” I was startled to hear a sound. It was as if some one was breaking a pile of earthen pots with one blow. I woke from my torpor and the idea flashed in my mind, ‘ Who is husband and who is wife ? Who is my relative in this world ? Why am I about to kill myself ? ‘ All my attachment for the Master disappeared. My mind was filled with utter renunciation. I groped through darkness and sprinkled my face with holy water from the pit at the Backof the temple. I also drank a little water as my throat was parched with thirst. I felt refreshed. The next morning I came to the Cossipore Garden. No sooner had the Master seen me than he asked, ‘Well, did you get anything? Well, everything is unreal. Isn’t it ? ‘ “
” At about the same time,” she said, ” the Master saw in a dream that an elephant had gone out to bring medicine for him. The animal was digging the earth to procure it, when he woke up. The Master asked me whether I had seen any such dream. I had seen in a dream that the neck of the image of Mother Kali was bent to one side. I asked Her, ‘ Mother, why do you stand like that ? 1 And the Deity replied. It is because of this (pointing to the cancer in the throat of the Master). I also have it in my throat.’ ” Such experiences must have gradually prepared her mind for the coming end. To confirm this impression, as it were, the Master one day called the Holy Mother to his side and said : ” I do not know why the thoughts of Brahman are stirring my mind.” It was a hint that his consciousness was getting identified with Brahman. He took final leave of her on the 15th of August, when the Mother was standing by his emaciated body with her niece Lakshmi. All had thought that the power of speech had left him, but he whispered to the Mother: ” Look here. It seems I am going somewhere – all through water to a far off place. You need have no anxiety. You will be just as you have been so long. Naren and others will look after you and do for you as much as they have done for me. Do have an eye on dear Lakshmi.
The Master left his mortal body in the early hours of Monday, the 16th August, 1886, creating in the mind of the Holy Mother and the devotees a gap that could never be filled by anything else on earth. But men never die in an absolute sense, much less great souls of the type of the Master. This was borne out by the following incident. After his cremation, the Holy Mother was removing her ornaments, as Hindu widows do on their husbands’ death. When she was about to put off her bracelets, she had a vision of Sri Ramakrishna appearing before her1 and saying to this effect: ” What are you •doing ? I have not gone away. I have only passed from one room to another.” A vision of this kind must have been very reassuring to her grief-stricken heart.
Shortly after, Balaram Babu purchased a white cloth without borders, the widow’s garment, for the Holy Mother, and requested Golap-Ma to hand it
1 Such experiences were repeated in her life as we shall see later on.
over to her. Golap-Ma, thinking of the sudden reaction it may have on the Holy Mother, remarked, “O my God ! who can give this white borderless cloth to her now ? ” But when she went to the Holy Mother with the cloth, she found that she had already torn off the greater part of the wide red borders of her Sari. From that time onward she always used to wear a cloth with thin borders in recognition of the Master’s assurance that there was no death for him and therefore no widowhood for her.
Several of the householder devotees of the Master wanted to break up the establishment at Cossipore Garden, immediately after the Master’s passing away. But Narendra Nath (later Swami Vivekananda) and other young disciples protested against this, as it would be a great shock to the Holy Mother to be asked to leave that place so soon. They wanted that she should be allowed to stay there for a few days more, and even offered to beg food for her, if necessary. So the establishment was retained for some days and the Master’s earthly relics were worshipped in that house with food offerings. On the 21st of August, the Holy Mother and Lakshmi-Didi, the Master’s niece, were conducted to the house of Balaram Bose. Along with them was also brought the urn containing the major part of the Master’s relies. For a dispute had in the meantime arisen regarding its disposal between some of the householder devotees headed by Ramachandra Datta, and the young Sannyasin disciples. The Sannyasins wanted the relics to be in their possession, but the other party desired to install them permanently in a garden belonging to Ramachandra Datta. It was finally decided to hand over the pitcher containing the relics to Ramachandra, but the Sannyasins in the meantime had taken away the main portion and put it in the urn referred to above. When the Holy Mother heard of this dispute, she remarked to Golap-Ma, ” Such a unique personality has passed away. But, see, dear Golap, how they are quarrelling over his ashes! “