AT THE FEET OF THE MASTER
THE life of the Holy Mother at Dakshineswar was by no means eventful, if by events we understand striking happenings in the external world. It was a life of quiet unobtrusive service, coupled with the realization of spiritual truths in the silence of the soul. Of these two phases of her life, the first will be treated at length in the next chapter. Here we shall confine our attention to her spiritual practices under the guidance of the Master.
While for the purpose of exposition one may separate these aspects of her life, they form an integral whole from the point of view of her disci-pleship and spiritual development. For among her spiritual practices, the first and foremost was the service of the Master, who was to her, as she said in later days, ” God Eternal and Absolute as her husband and in the general spiritual sense Every Hindu woman who has received the right spiritual training looks upon her husband as a symbol of the Divinity and believes that unselfish service to him in the right attitude of mind is her principal means of spiritual progress. Her faith in this respect
receives encouragement and support from the Mahabharata story which depicts how a woman, by performing her duty to her husband and family, attained a spiritual eminence which an ascetic could not with all his austerities in a solitary forest. While every woman may put this attitude into practice in regard to her husband, the efficacy of it, however, is much greater, if the object of her adoration is a personality of high spiritual development. For in that case, close contact and loving thought, which service invariably requires, give one an opportunity to participate in the spiritual consciousness of a highly evolved being and thereby to raise oneself to the same spiritual level as his.
The Holy Mother’s service of Sri Ramakrishna possessed this higher efficacy ; for he, the object of her love and adoration, was a perfect man, nay, an incarnation of the Divinity. By the intensity of his life and thought he has generated a wave of spiritual energy, a stress or proclivity in the higher levels of consciousness. By putting oneself within the orbit of its influence through devout contemplation on his personality, one’s mind gradually gets established in the same level of consciousness without all the drudgery and fluctuations of fortune attendant on mere individual struggle. It is in this sense that every incarnation is said to establish a new way of spiritual striving and to continue to be a potent force in the lives of men even long after his earthly career. To the Holy Mother was given the opportunity of communing with such a divine man through personal service, and thus not only of being herself drawn to that current of spiritual consciousness centering round him, but also showing the way to this attainment to future generations.
Service requires the aid of devotion and meditation in order to be converted into a spiritual energy ; for without it one cannot engender the attitude of mind capable of transforming work, which is merely mechanical, into an energy of a higher quality. So in the training that Sri Ramakrishna gave to the Holy Mother, the practice of devotion and meditation formed an important part. What she was required to do was to absorb that burning renunciation and insatiable hankering for God that formed the characteristic features of his life. The kind of teaching that Sri Ramakrishna imparted to her can be understood from the following words he addressed to her one day : ” The moon is addressed as uncle by all children. So also God is the “uncle” the common property, of all. Everyone has a right to call on Him. Whoever thus calls on Him becomes blessed by realizing Him. If you, therefore, turn your attention to Him, you too can attain Him.” It is said this instruction was given to her a few days before the Shodasi Puja, and it had a powerful effect on her mind.
Another day the Holy Mother went to the Master’s room with a woman devotee to serve his night meal. Her face was veiled; for her shyness was so great that in those days she never appeared even before the Master without the veil. That day the Master began to speak to her of God and the spiritual life in a highly inspired mood. As he proceeded, he lost all sense of time and talked away the whole night, unmindful of the hour. The Holy Mother, too, was caught up in the magic of his words, and stood listening to him, oblivious of everything else. When dawn broke, she found herself standing before him with the veil entirely thrown Backfrom the face, lost in the fervour of his words. Daylight recalled her to herself, and she quickly drew the veil and ran to the Nahabat.
Besides such general instructions and exhortations, the Master also initiated her into the practice of Japa and meditation, which form the basis of higher spiritual discipline. While at Kamarpukur, the Holy Mother had been given Shakti Mantra (the holy word for worship of the Deity as Divine Mother) by a Sannyasin named Purnananda. She was again initiated by the Master, who wrote the Bija (the mystic syllable forming the core of .a Mantra) on her tongue. It is known that she used to spend long hours in Japa and meditation even in the midst of the very heavy work in the service of the Master and devotees. She told her niece Nalini: ” What a lot of work I did when I was of your age! And yet I could find time to repeat my Mantra a hundred thousand times every day.”
Beyond a few glimpses of this kind, we have little record of the Master’s spiritual instructions to her -and the way in which he imparted them.1 The Holy Mother seldom spoke of this subject to others. But we know for certain that the Master’s teachings had a tremendous effect on her pure mind. To a disciple she gave a glimpse of her inner life in the following words: ” During my days at Dakshines-war, I used to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning and sit in meditation. Often I used to be totally absorbed in it. Once, on a moonlit night, I was performing Japa, sitting near the steps of the Nahabat. Everything was quiet. I did not even know when the Master passed that way. On other days I would hear the sound of his slippers, but on this, did not. I was totally absorbed in meditation. In those days I looked different. I used to put on ornaments and had a cloth with red borders. On this day the cloth had slipped off from my back owing to the breeze, but I was unconscious of it. It seems ‘son Yogen’2 went that way to give the water-jug to the Master and saw me in that condition. Ah! the ecstasy of those days! On moonlit nights I would look at the moon and pray with folded hands, ‘ May my heart be as pure as the rays of yonder moon ! ‘ or ‘O Lord, there is a stain even in the moon, but let there not be the least trace of stain in my mind ! ‘ If one is steady in meditation, one will clearly see the Lord in one’s heart and hear His voice. The moment an idea flashes in the mind of such a one, it will be fulfilled then and there. You will be bathed in peace. Ah ! What a mind I had at that time ! Brinde, the maidservant, one day dropped a metal plate in front of me, with a bang. The sound penetrated into my heart.1 In the fullness of one’s spiritual realization, one will find that He who resides in one’s heart resides in the heart of others as well – the oppressed, the persecuted, the untouchable and the outcast. This realization makes one truly humble.”
It is also known from her own words that the Master taught her various Mantras pertaining to different aspects of the Deity, with instructions as to how to impart them.
The Holy Mother used thus to distinguish Swami Yoga-nanda (Yogen), a Sannyasin disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, from Yogin-Ma, a woman disciple of the Master and a lifelong companion of hers, whom she addressed merely as Yogin or – daughter Yogin ‘. See ch. XVII for an account of both these persons.
There is ample evidence to make one believe that she attained to exalted states of spiritual consciousness during this period of her life. But she was by nature so modest and unassuming that she would seldom speak to others of such facts of her life as might glorify her in their eyes. Sometimes certain happenings leaked out when any of her companions happened to be by her side. One such instance we come across in the account left by Yogin-Ma of an
exalted spiritual mood she witnessed personally in the Holy Mother. We give below her own words, a little abridged :
1 The Holy Mother was then meditating in the Nahabat and felt the sound like a clap of thunder, and she burst into tears. According to text-books on Yoga (the art of concentration) when the mind is just getting into a very tense state of concentration, even a slight sound will appear like a peal of thunder.
” When the Mother first came to Dakshineswar, she had not experienced Samadhi. Though she practised meditation and Japa every day with utmost devotion, we did not hear of her going into Samadhi at that time. On the other hand she even felt frightened at the sight of the Master’s Samadhi in the days when she slept, with him. After I had been acquainted with her for some time, she said to me one day, ‘ Please speak to the Master that through his grace I may experience Samadhi. On account of the constant presence of devotees, I hardly get any opportunity to speak to him about it myself.’ I thought it was quite right and I should carry out her request.
” Next morning Sri Ramakrishna was seated on his bed alone when I went to his room, and after saluting him in the usual way, communicated the Mother’s prayer to him. He listened to it, but did not give any reply. Suddenly he became very serious. When he was in that mood, no one dared to utter a word before him. So I left the room after sitting there silently for a while. Coming to the Nahabat, I found the Mother seated for her daily worship. I opened the door a little and peeped in. Strange to say, she was giggling and the next moment weeping. This went on alternately for some time. Tears were rolling down her cheeks in an unceasing stream.
Gradually she became very much absorbed into herself. I knew she was in Samadhi. So I closed the door and came away.
” A long while alter, I went again to her room. She said to me, ‘Are you just returning from the Master’s room ? ‘ And I replied, ” How is it, Mother,, that you say you never experience Samadhi and other high spiritual moods ? ‘ She was abashed and smiled.
” After that event I used sometimes to spend the night with her at Dakshineswar. Though I wanted to sleep on a separate bed, she would never listen to it. She would drag me to her side. One night somebody was playing the flute outside. That brought on her a high spiritual mood. She was laughing at intervals. With great hesitation I sat in one corner of the bed. I thought that, being a worldly person, I should not touch her at that time. After a long while her mind came to the ordinary state.”
In later days, after the passing away of the Master, she had more frequent experiences of this exalted state. This will be dealt with in detail in the proper place.1 Suffice it to say here that soon after her contact with the Master, her mind,’ pure and disciplined that it was, attained to great heights of concentration and illumination. Ecstasies and visions are only the by-products of spiritual realization. They may or may not appear according to
1 See chaps. XI and XII.
temperament. The essence of realization, however, consists in a transformation of the inner life, not in any external manifestation. The Holy Mother was speaking from experience when she put this idea so beautifully in the following words: ” What else does one obtain by the realization of God ? Does one grow a pair of horns ? No, our mind becomes pure, and through that pure mind comes enlightenment.” In conclusion it may be stated here that the training that the Master imparted to her did not exclude secular matters, especially the way of conducting oneself in everyday life. He instructed her that in arranging articles of domestic use, one must think out beforehand where particular things were to be kept. Those that were frequently required must be kept near at hand and the others at a distance. When a thing was temporarily removed from a place, particular care should be taken to see that it was put Backexactly in the same place, so that one might not fail to locate it even in darkness. He taught her also the way of rolling wick, dressing vegetables, making betel rolls, cooking, and doing other items of domestic work. He taught her that while travelling in a boat or carriage, she should always be the first to get in and the last to get out; for then only one could properly check whether all luggages had been taken in or taken out. The secret of one’s success in social relationships, he told her, depended entirely on one’s capacity to adjust one’s conduct according to time, place, circumstances, and the nature of people one had to deal with and their behaviour. Physically every one was made of flesh and bones, but the mind within was constituted in entirely different ways. So one should be very careful in selecting one’s friends and associates. With some one might mix freely, with others only a nodding acquaintance was advisable, and with still others it is better not to talk at all.
Thus the Master took pains to make the Holy Mother efficient in both spiritual and secular matters and prepared her for the great mission that he was to entrust to her at the close of his life.