VISIT TO DAKSHINESWAR
YEARS passed. Sri Ramakrishna was away at Dakshineswar performing austerities and experiencing the bliss of God-consciousness. Did he remember the girl whom he had wedded as an infant of five ? Probably not. For when one was not aware of one’s own body, how could one remember one’s worldly relationships ?
Meanwhile little Sarada had grown up into a young woman. She was now eighteen, fully mature in body and in mind. Sweet memories of her husband were, no doubt, lingering in her mind. When she was fourteen, she had spent three months in the company of Sri Ramakrishna during the latter’s short sojourn at Kamarpukur. She had found him very tender and kind at that time. He was, no doubt, above the ordinary run of men in his love of God and purity of mind, but in other respects she had found him perfectly normal and human. She had noticed an utter selflessness in the care and cordiality he had bestowed on her then, and her mind had been much impressed by the instructions he had given her about God and devotional life and about the way of discharging one’s duties and responsibilities in the world. To the Hindu wife, who is taught to look upon her husband as a veritable God, as her sole refuge here and hereafter, there is nothing more gratifying than the consciousness of having secured his respect and attention. To the Holy Mother, therefore, this occasion of her first real contact with her husband was an unforgettable experience. Recalling the inner feelings she experienced in those days, she used to tell her women disciples, ” I then felt as if a pitcher of bliss was kept in my heart. It was a constant experience with me then. It is very difficult to convey an idea of this experience to others.” 1
1 Narrating the lighter incidents of her life during her stay at Kamarpukur on this occasion, the Holy Mother would say :
“When I was still quite young, the Master once came to Kamarpukur with stomach trouble. During the early hours of the morning he would wake up from sleep and tell us about the dishes I should prepare for his midday meal. I would follow his directions. One day I found that I had not a particular spice with which he wanted the vegetables flavoured. My sister-in-law (Sri Ramakrishna’s elder brother’s wife) asked me to cook without that spice. The Master heard those words and said. ‘ How is it ? If you have not the spice, get it from the market. It is not proper to cook the curry without the spices necessary for it. I sacrificed the rich dishes of Dakshineswar temple and came here for the flavour of that spice, and you want to deprive me of that l That won’t do.’ My sister-in-law felt ashamed and sent for the spice.
“The Brahmani (i.e. Yogesvari, the Brahmin woman San-nyasin who instructed Sri Ramakrishna in Tantric practices) was then with us. The Master addressed her as mother, and I therefore looked upon her as my mother-in-law. I was rather afraid of her. She was very fond of red-pepper. She used to cook her own dishes – all hot stuff. Often she offered me Tthese preparations. I would silently eat them and wipe out
Several years had now passed since that brief spell of bliss. The contact with her divine husband had enriched her consciousness with a sense of peace and introspectiveness, with a spirit of unselfish service and a feeling of unruffled satisfaction in all conditions of life. But the young wife in her could not help feeling an urge to be by his side and be of service to him. At the same time the voice of another sentiment seemed to whisper to her, as if to silence this impatience. It seemed to say: ” He who was so very kind to you at the very first meeting will never forget you. In good time, he will, of his own accord, call you to his side. Wait in patience for that blessed occasion.”
Thus silencing her impatience and giving no expression of any kind to her innermost longings, she kept herself busily engaged day and night in the various duties of her father’s household. And she would have waited indefinitely in patience and submissiveness, had it not been for the very unpleasant shock that village gossip often gave her mind. Neighbours whispered that her husband had gone mad, and that he was going about naked, shouting the name of
the tears from my eyes. When she asked me how I liked them, I said in fear, ‘ Very nice ! My sister-in-law, however, would remark, ‘ Oh ! they arc very hot.’ I noticed that the Brahmani was displeased at such remarks. She would say, Why do you say so ? My ” daughter ” approves of these dishes. Nothing can please you. I will not give you my curries any more.'”
And the Holy Mother would laugh as she narrated these incidents.
It was during this period that the Brahmani picked a quarrel with Hriday and left the Master’s company.
Hari. Not only that. As she expressed it to her disciples in later times, ” In my early days at Jayrambati I was always busy with some work or other, and would never visit my neighbours; for people would blurt out at the very sight of me,. ‘ Dear me, Syama’s daughter has been married to a lunatic! ‘ I avoided meeting anybody in order to escape such criticism.”
At first she was tempted to ignore this kind of talk as idle gossip. But at the same time her mind was not free from anxious questionings. What should she do if the worst were true ? Had he really changed from the pure, pious and loving soul that she found him to be some four years Back? In that case, would it be proper for her to be staying at her father’s house ? Was it not her duty then to be by his side and be of service to him ? Days were spent in anxious thoughts of this kind, quite unknown even to her nearest kith and kin. Finally, she came to the conclusion that under the circumstances, it was better for her to go once to Dakshi-neswar and see things for herself. She could then decide as to where her duty lay.
Very soon an opportunity presented itself. Some women distantly related to her were going to Calcutta to have a bath in the Ganges on the auspicious occasion of Sri Chaitanya’s birth anniversary. She told them that she too would accompany them for that purpose. They communicated the information to her father Ramachandra. Ramachandra was not slow in understanding his daughter’s real object in visiting Calcutta. So he offered to escort her himself.
An auspicious day was then selected, and the party soon started on their long journey towards the end of March, 1872. They had to travel all the distance on foot; for in those days there was no railway or steamer service to Calcutta, and the only other alternative means of travel, namely, the palanquin, was beyond the financial capacity of people like them. The first two days of the journey were very pleasant. Corn-fields and lotus-ponds greeted their eyes everywhere, while the shades of antique-looking banyan trees offered them protection from the heat of the noonday sun. They were not, however, destined to complete their journey in the same joyous fashion. For on the third day the Holy Mother, who was not accustomed to such long walks, fell ill of high fever, probably owing to the fatigue of the journey. Ramachandra was constrained to break the journey and take shelter in a wayside resthouse until his daughter was again fit to travel.
The Holy Mother felt very anxious over this unexpected trouble on the way. She was, however, much relieved in body and mind by a wonderful vision she had at night. Of this she spoke to her devotees in later days to the following effect: ” I was lying unconscious owing to fever, without any sense of decorum even. Just then I saw a woman, pitch dark in complexion, sitting by my side. Though she was dark, I have never seen another so beautiful as she. She stroked my aching head with her soft cool hands, and I felt the heat in my body subsiding. ‘ Where are you from ?’I asked her. And she replied, ‘ From Dakshineswar.’ At this I was speechless with wonder and exclaimed, ‘ From Dakshineswar! I too am going to Dakshineswar to see my husband. But this fever has unfortunately detained me on the way.’ To this she replied, ‘Don’t worry. You will soon be all right and see your husband at Dakshineswar. It is for your sake that I have kept him there.’ I said to her, ‘ Indeed ! Is it so ? But who are you to me ? ”I am your sister,’ she replied. I was much astonished to hear this. After this conversation I fell asleep.” 1
1 This is the first authenticated mystical phenomenon that we come across in her life. There arc, however, traditions regarding certain occult facts about the period of her life already covered. These cannot at present be verified by reference to any authoritative source. Still we record them as matter that may be interesting from the purely occult point of view. But they should not be confused with the true spiritual greatness of the personality we are dealing with. Sri Ramakrishna and the Holy Mother never attached any importance to such incidents that smack of miracles. The following is a brief statement of these traditions:
(a) The first is regarding her birth. Her mother Syama-sundari Devi had once gone to Sihor to attend a religious festival. There, while she sat under a tree near the temple, she experienced as if a quantity of air entered into her body and made her feel heavy. Just then a beautiful girl of five or six, dressed in a red silk sari, descended from the tree, and throwing her tender arms round her neck, said, ” Mother, I am coming to your house/’ That girl seemed to enter into the body of Syamasundari Devi and she fell into a trance.
Next morning Ramachandra found that his daughter was free from fever. He, therefore, thought it better to proceed than stay indefinitely in that inconvenient resthouse on the wayside. Fortunately, as they proceeded, they came across a palanquin which they engaged. That night, too, the Holy Mother had a relapse of the fever. It was, however, a mild attack, and she did not mention it to anybody. So they proceeded, and covered the distance little by little, reaching Dakshineswar at 9 o’clock in the night.
And what was the type of welcome that awaited her at Dakshineswar ? Let her speak in her own simple way. I went straight to the Master’s room,” she said, while the others went to the Nahabat (i.e. orchestra block or concert house) where my mother-in-law was living. The Master said to me, Ah ! you are here! All right.’ And he asked someone to spread a mat on the floor. Then he
(b) The Holy Mother is reported to have told a disciple: ” You see, my child, I used to notice during ray childhood that a girl, just like me, would always roam about with me and help me in all my work. She would also laugh and play with me. That continued until my tenth or eleventh year.”
(c) While she was thirteen, she once went to Kamarpukur Being very young and new to the house, she used to feel afraid to go to the outer tank for her bath. One day, coming out of the backdoor of the house, she was thinking of her difficulty* when she found all of a sudden eight women near her. As she proceeded to the street leading to the tank, they escorted her. four of them walking in front and the other four behind. They bathed with her in the tank of the Haidars, and came back with her to the house. This happened for several days. She could not make out who these women were.
added, ‘Alas! Would rhat my Mathur 1 were alive now! By hi& death my right hand, as it were, is broken.’ Mathur had died a few months before. Akshay (the son of the Master’s elder brother) also was dead. Should I have had to live in that inconvenient place (i.e. the Nahabat) had Mathur been alive ? He would have built a mansion for me. Anyway, after seeing the Master I wanted to go to the Nahabat. But the Master said, ‘ No, no. Stay here. It would be rather difficult for the doctor to see you in the Nahabat.’ I spent the night in the room. A woman companion slept with me. Hriday gave us two or three baskets of puffed rice ; for all had finished their supper when wje arrived. Next day a doctor visited me. Within a few’ days I felt all right, and went to live in the room in the Nahabat. My mother-in-law was then staying in the Nahabat. Before that she had been living in a room in the building used by the owners of the temple-garden. Akshay had died in that house. Therefore she left it. She said, ‘ I shall not live there any longer. I shall live in the Nahabat and turn my face towards the Ganges. I do not need the building any more.’ “
The Holy Mother was cured of her fever, but the physical relief she felt was nothing compared with her mental appeasement on account of her first
1 Son-in-law of Rani Rasmani, the foundress of the Dakshi-neswar temple, who became the proprietor of it after her time. He was both the patron and devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, and used to spend money unstintedly for his service.
experiences at Dakshineswar. The worst fears she had in mind were now laid at rest. Experience proved those disquieting rumours to be nothing but the idle gossip of worldlings whose hearts and heads were blind to the spiritual glory of Sri Rama-krishna. He had not forgotten her, nor was there any indication of his sanity being in peril. The care and solicitude he showed at the time of her illness, the personal attention he bestowed on her treatment and nursing, went to strengthen the previous impressions she had of his unselfish kindness and saintly character. She had now no more doubts regarding her duty for the rest of her life. She decided to stay at Dakshineswar and be of service to the Master and his revered mother.
Ramachandra, too, rejoiced to see his daughter so cordially received by her husband and to find her happy in his company. So, after a few days’ stay at Dakshineswar, he returned home alone, free from the anxious thoughts about his daughter’s future that must have been tormenting his mind till then.