PILGRIMAGE TO BRINDAVAN
TOWARDS the close of his life, the Master had one day said to the Holy Mother, ” You visit all those places which it was not possible for this -(meaning himself) to visit,’ Whatever be the significance of these words, it is a remarkable coincidence, that two weeks after the Master’s demise, the Holy Mother started on a pilgrimage of upper India. It was an excellent plan to assuage her grief, and the time selected, too, was quite opportune in so far as the mood in which she then was, provided the best condition for reaping the maximum spiritual benefit from a visit to holy places.
She started from Calcutta on the 30th of August, 1886. She was accompanied by a party of devotees, consisting of Swamis Yogananda (Yogen), Abhcda-nanda (Kali) and Adbhutananda (Latu), besides Lakshmi-Didi, Golap-Ma, and the wife of Master Mahashay (Mahendranath Gupta). As the party was proceeding to Brindavan, they halted on the way at Deoghar, Banaras and Ayodhva, all of which are well-known places of pilgrimage for the Hindus. It is said that at Banaras, while
the Holy Mother was witnessing the evening service of Viswanatha, she fell into an ecstatic mood. On the occasion of this visit, she also met the great Sannvasin and scholar of Banarasr Swami Bhaskarananda. Recounting her memories of him, she said in later days, ” I also went to see Bhaskarananda ar Banaras, on my way to Brindavan. I was then in a terrible state of mind. It was just after the Master’s passing away. When I saw him, Bhaskarananda was totally naked. But that did not produce the least self-consciousness in his mind. The moment he saw me and other women he cried out, ‘ Don’t be embarrassed, mothers. I see in you all the Mother of the Universe. Why should you feel shy ? ‘ Oh! what a great soul! Completely beyond all worldly ideas ! In heat and cold alike, he always remained naked.”
While proceeding towards Brindavan, she had a unique vision of the Master. During his last illness, he had given her his gold amulet (Ishta-Kavacha), which she used to worship and wear on her arm. She was sleeping in the train, with her arm having the amulet exposed, when the Master appeared to her in a vision and warned her of the danger of losing it. Describing the incident, she said, ” While I was going to Brindavan, I saw the Master look at me through the window of the railway carriage and say, ‘ You have my gold amulet with you. See that you do not lose it.’ ” She got up at once, and put the amulet in the tin box in which she carried the photograph of the Master. Subsequently she handed it over to the Belur Math.
After Ayodhya, her next halting place was Brindavan, the holiest spot on earth according to the Vaishnava cult. It is the place sanctified by the memories of a hundred exploits of Sri Krishna’s boyhood days. It is again the one spot on earth where the heart of man, embodied as Sri Radha, loved the Divine with the reckless abandon of the most intense and unselfish form of love. The eternal sport of the Divine with the human soul, with its phases of love in separation and love in union, was enacted there on our earthly plane in the lifetime of Sri Krishna and the Gopis, and the pious Hindu mind believes that the same sport is going on in Brindavan for all time in a subtle invisible form.
Naturally, therefore, the sight of that place stirred the religious feelings of the Holy Mother to their depth. Besides, the association of it with the story of Radha’s passionate grief at separation from her beloved Krishna, brought home to her the similarity of her own situation, and added poignancy to the sorrow that she was feeling in her heart for the loss of the Master. All her pent up feelings, having combined themselves into a passionate longing for the Divine, expressed as a torrential flow of tears that continued almost unremittingly during the early part of her stay at Brindavan. On meeting her beloved companion Yogin-Ma, who had proceeded there a few days before the Master’s demise, she cried out with excessive grief, “O Yogin dear!” and clasping her to her bosom, began to weep like a helpless child. This mood, in which love and grief blend in harmony, bringing about a gradual transformation of personality, continued for several days with her, until she had a wonderful vision in which the Master caine to her and said, ” Why are you weeping so much ? Here I am. Where have I, after all, gone ? Only from one room to another.”
This experience assuaged her grief very much. She began to feel the nearness of the Master more and more. The anguish of separation gradually turned into a sense of utter peace and radiant joy. Often she would fall into exalted moods in which she would walk far over the sandy banks of the Jumna until her companions went after her and brought her back. Her temperament changed from an adult’s into that of a little girl of seven or eight. How childlike in talk and behaviour she became, will be evident from an incident that Yogin-Ma records about this period of her life. One day she saw a dead body being carried to the cremation ground with the usual decoration of flowers and accompaniment of devotional music. Pointing out the procession to Yogin-Ma, she said, ” Look ! How fortunate is that man to meet with his death in this holy Brindavan ! I also came here expecting the end of my life, but curiously enough, I did not get even a slight fever ! And I am no longer young. (In fact, she was only thirty-three at the time.) See how old I am – I have seen in my own life such elderly people as my own father and my husband’s elder brother! ” At this childish simplicity of hers, Yogin~Ma began to laugh and said, ” What do you say, Mother? True, you have seen your father. But tell me, who doesn’t do so ! “
The Holy Mother’s life at Brindavan was one of constant worship and meditation. As she said in later days, she and Yogin-Ma would sit together and repeat the name of God with such absorption that they knew not even when flies sat on their faces and made sores there. Brindavan is verily a town of temples, and in the course of her one year’s stay, the Holy Mother visited most of them several times. In the temple of Radharamana she prayed to the Deity with tears in her eyes : ” O Lord, remove from me the habit of finding fault with others. May I never find fault with anybody 1 ” Her prayer seems to have been answered literally ; for one of the distinguishing features of her character in later life was the complete absence of this tendency. And when she found too much of this habit in those about her, she would refer to this prayer of hers and add, ” Formerly I also would see the defects of others. Then I prayed to the Master. Thus did I get rid of this habit. You may help a man in thousands of ways, but if you do him one wrong, he will at once turn his face away from you in anger. It is the nature of man only to see defects. One should learn to appreciate others’ virtues • . .
Man is, no doubt, liable to err, but one must not notice it. By constantly finding fault with others one sees faults alone.” To Yogin-Ma she said once, ” Yogin, do not look at the faults of others lest your eyes should become impure.”
Before she left Brindavan, she also did the cir-cumambulation of the whole town and its suburbs connected with Sri Krishna’s life – a pious act involving a walk of many miles, which she accomplished without any difficulty in spite of the rheumatism in her leg. In the course of her walk, Yogin-Ma and her companions noticed that she was observing the road and surroundings very carefully and that she was stopping all of a sudden at certain places. They understood that the memories of certain associations were driving her mind to states of spiritual absorption. But when questioned, she said nothing except asking them to go forward.
That the Holy Mother had, during those days, many spiritual experiences that wrought great transformations in her personality is certain, but she would not reveal anything about it to others. One day, however, her companions found her absorbed in Samadhi in her residence at Kala Babu’s house. She remained in that state for a long time. Yogin-Ma tried to bring down her mind by repeating the name of the Lord in her ears, but it produced no effect. Afterwards Swami Yogananda came and tried the same process, which brought her mind to a state of semi-conscious experience of the world;
Then she said, as Sri Ramakrishna used to do on similar occasions, ” I will eat something”, whereupon some sweets, water and betel were placed before her. She partook a little of each as Sri Ramakrishna used to do. Even in taking the betel, she threw away its tip in the manner of the Master. Swami Yogananda put to her several questions in that mood, and received replies from her as if the Master himself were answering him. After she came •down to the plane of physical consciousness, she told her companions that the consciousness of the Master was upon her during that state.
The stay in Brindavan is also noteworthy for the fact that it marked the beginning of her active spiritual ministry. For here for the first time she gave initiation to Swami Yogananda. How this happened is best described in her own words. ” One day “, she said, ” the Master asked me in a vision to give initiation to Yogen (Swami Yogananda).1 That frightened me a little. I also felt rather shy. I thought, ‘ What is this ? What will people think of it ? They will say, ” Mother has started making disciples so soon ! ” ‘But on three consecutive nights I heard the Master telling me, ‘ I have not initiated Yogen. You do it/ He even told me what Mantra I was to give him. Before that time I had never
1 On reliable authority it is learnt that the Master had in his own lifetime asked Swami Trigunatita to take initiation from the Holy Mother. But whether this actually took place, or whether it happened only after Swami Yogananda’s initiation, no one can say definitely at present.
spoken to Yogen. So the Master asked me to initiate him through ‘ daughter Yogin ‘ (Yogin-Ma, her woman companion). I therefore spoke to her about it. She asked Yogen about his initiation and learned that the Master had not given him any Mantra. The Master had also appeared to Yogen and asked him to take initiation from me. but he did not dare to tell me about it. As both of us had received the Master’s command, I initiated him.”
The initiation took place in this way : One day the Holy Mother was worshipping in her room. A picture of the Master and a small box containing his relics were before her. She sent for Swarni Yoga-nanda and asked him to sit near her. While performing worship, she entered into Samadhi and in that state initiated him. She uttered the holy word so loudly that Yogin-Ma, who was in the next room, could hear it.
After staying in Brindavan for about a year, the party went to Hardwar, where the Holy Mother consigned a part of the Master’s relics in the sacred waters of the Brahmakunda. Next they visited Jeypore and Pushkar and then returned to Calcutta. On their way they halted at Allahabad where the Holy Mother immersed the Master’s hair at the holy confluence of the Jumna and Ganges. To describe the ceremony in her own poetic words, ” I came to the confluence of the Ganges and the Jumna. The water was very calm there. Holding the hair in my hand, I was thinking of consigning it to the water, when suddenly a wave arose and carried away the hair from my hand. The sacred waters thus took the Master’s hair from my hand as if to become holier by contact with it.”
The party returned to Calcutta by August, 1887.