Part 3: Recorded by Swami Ishanananda
It was the month of Jyeshtha of 1316 RE. (1909). One morning I heard that, on her way to Calcutta, the Holy Mother and her party would be reaching Koalpara that very evening at about four. Arrangements were already made for their reception. The Holy Mother was to be received in the shrine room of our teacher Sri Kedarnath Dutta (Swami Kesavananda), and the others, namely, Revered Sarat Maharaj (Swami Saradananda), Yogin-Ma, Golap-Ma and the rest, were to stay at our school. But even after dusk there was no trace of them. Later we got the news that their cart got stuck up near the river side. Immediately a few of the devotees set off in that direction, and, by and by, all of them arrived at about 10 p.m.
The Holy Mother, properly veiled, got down from the cart and went with Kedar Babu’s mother to their shrine room, slightly dragging her feet. After she made Pranams to the Master and seated herself, all the assembled men and women bowed down to her. I also followed suit. Kedar Babu’s mother was slightly deaf and so the Holy Mother was talking to the men devotees through me. In the meantime Revered Sarat Maharaj sent word that it was getting late and so the Holy Mother hurriedly finished her refreshment consisting of a piece of Sandesh and some water, and got up, ready for the journey. Along with the others in that crowd, I also hastily made Pranam to the Holy Mother and put my offering, which my father had given me for her, in her hand. The Mother affectionately fondled my chin and said, “My child, whatever is offered must be placed at the feet.” She finally got into the cart.
Compared with the taste of her affection expressed through those few simple words, the love of my father and mother even seemed too paltry. I could feel it even at that age.
Once at the time of Jagaddhatri Puja, on her way to Jayrambati from Calcutta, the Holy Mother reached Koalpara Ashrama in the morning. Resuming her journey at noon, she said to the enthusiastic workers of the Ashrama, “Here, you alone are my relatives now. While I am in the village I depend only on you. I see, therefore, that the Master is residing here.” One by one she blessed us all and said, “Come to Jayrambati now and then. Especially at the time of Jagaddhatri Puja, all of you must come.”
And so, on the Jagaddhatri Puja day, the three of us went to Jayrambati, taking a load of vegetables and greens from our farm. The Holy Mother was much pleased to see us all and said, “Here vegetables are not always available. Now and then we are put to much difficulty. I see that the Master himself is arranging everything through y6u.” From that time onwards whenever she stayed at the village, we used to finish our daily tasks at the Ashrama and go to her with vegetables twice or thrice a week either from our garden or purchased from the fair. On some days we reached the Holy Mother’s place when she would be lying down and resting. On our making Pranam to her, after disposing of our offerings according to her directions, she would raise her head a little and bless us saying, “May your spiritual consciousness awaken, may you have faith and devotion!” and then ask us to take some puffed rice. We would take that and, munching it on the way, return to the Ashrama sometimes at midnight.
One winter day we took loads of vegetables and cow’s ghee on our heads and reached Jayrambati by dusk, streaming with sweat. One of the ladies there who saw our state commented, “How much toil you are in for, as soon as you become a devotee! The poor boys’ heads are worn off carrying loads.” The Holy Mother heard this remark, and said, “Do they still have their heads? They have given them away to Him (the Master) to whom they belong.’ After that she placed her hand on our heads most affectionately and blessed us. Later she sent word to the Ashrama that instead of sending such large quantities at a time, we should send them little by little. Otherwise the vegetables would dry up and get wasted. Thereafter we would take small loads and go to her presence much more frequently.
After the Jagaddhatri Puja the Holy Mother was to go to Calcutta. At that time, the Koalpara Ashrama was being stirred by a great wave of Swadeshi Movement and everyone’s inclination was more towards handloom, spinning wheel etc. rather than towards worship and meditation, Japa and scriptural study. Hearing that the Holy Mother would be leaving, Kedar Babu went to Jayrambati for her Darshan. The Mother said to him, “Look, my dear, you have built a room for the Master and provided a resting place for me on my way. Therefore on my way I shall install the Master there. You make all arrangements. Worship, food offering, Arati etc. must be done regularly. What will you gain by merely making so much of Swadeshi? Whatever we may be, we are rooted in the Master. He is our ideal. Whatever you do, if you keep a firm hold on the Master, nothing will go wrong.” Kedar Babu replied, saying, “But Swamiji exhorted us so much to work for the nation. If he were alive today, how much would he have not done for the country!” Hearing this, the Mother said quickly, “Oh dear, if my Naren were here today, would the Company (meaning the British Government) leave him in peace? They would have locked him up in jail. I could not see it and live. Naren was an unsheathed sword. Returning from abroad, he said ‘Mother by your grace this time, instead of leaping across, I went to their country in their own ship. Even there, the glory of the Master is evident in abundance! How many virtuous people came to me and listened enchanted to his teachings and accepted his ideas!'” Continuing, she said “They also are my children. What do you say?”
One or two incidents closely related to this come to my mind. Once at the time of Durga Puja, the Holy Mother gave me the responsibility of buying garments for her nephews and nieces. I bought for them all only Swadeshi (India-made) clothes. The girls did not like this at all and began to order as they pleased. I got irritated and said, “All that is foreign stuff. Do you think I will buy foreign goods?” The Holy Mother was sitting on one side. She said, smiling, “My dear, they too (foreigners) are my children. I have to run the house including everybody. Could I be one-sided? Please bring the things to suit their taste.” Subsequently I observed that whenever any foreign articles had to be bought the Holy Mother would get them through others rather than tell me. It was not in her nature to hurt anyone’s feelings.
But soon came news of police high-handedness. Two pregnant ladies, wife and sister of Deven Babu of Yuthavihar village, were arrested in connection with the Swadeshi Movement and were made to walk miles to Bankura Police station. On hearing this the Holy Mother’s anger burst forth in blazing fury. At first she shuddered, saying, “What do you say!” Recovering from the shock she continued, “Is this the Company’s order or is it the heroics of the Police? We never heard of such atrocities on innocent women under the rule bf Queen Victoria. If this act is indeed the order of the Company, their days are numbered. Were there no men there to slap those fellows and release the girls?” She was much pacified a little later by the news that the ladies were released and said, “If I did not hear this further news, I could not have slept at all tonight.”
Another day when the Holy Mother was at Koalpara, Rashbehari Maharaj arrived there with some mangoes sent by Revered Sarat Maharaj. Just after his arrival Prabodh Babu also came to make Pranam to the Holy Mother. After enquiries about their welfare, the Holy Mother asked, “What is the war news? What a destruction of humanity has taken place! What all arts of killing men have been invented! Nowadays, there are so many kinds of machines telegraph etc. Just see, Rashbehari started from Calcutta yesterday and reached here today. In those days with how much difficulty and after how much walking did we reach Dakshineswar!” Prabodh Babu was a little enthused by this. Praising the Western science and education, he said,
”Under British Government the country has advanced very much in many fields.” The Holy Mother agreed with him, but added, “But my dear, with all those comforts, the scarcity of food and clothing too has increased enormously in our country. Earlier such scarcity of food was not felt.”
On her way to Calcutta the Holy Mother enshrined the Master’s picture at Koalpara. She herself placed the Master’s and her own photos and performed special Puja. The Homa was performed by Kishor-dada. At noon the Holy Mother went walking to Kedar Babu’s house with his mother. While she was returning from there, P – Maharaj requested her to enter the palanquin. A little displeased, she got in. Reaching the Ashrama, she spoke to him, expressing the cause of her displeasure: ‘This is my own village, and Koalpara is my drawing room. These children are my near and dear ones. I come here and move about freely. Returning from Calcutta, I heave a sigh of relief. There you keep me fenced in. All the time I have to stay there quite cramped. Here, too, am I to come and go at your beck and call? That cannot be. You write that to Sarat.” Then in great humility P – Maharaj began to entreat her pardon and said, “Sarat Maharaj particularly enjoined us to take all care of you. I felt that perhaps it is due to our lapse that you had to walk. But then, Mother, you are free to do as you like.”
According to P – Maharaj’s instruction, we were to make ready their food packets before six in the evening. But, however much we tried, we could not finish it in time. Seeing that P – Maharaj began to get angry. Brother Rajen said, “All right, you start off with these people according to your schedule. We shall get the food ready and bring it to you on our heads, however far you may have gone.” The Holy Mother heard everything and said to P – Maharaj” “Why do you lose your head and show so much temper? This is my village. Do you think everything will click with the needle of the clock here, as in Calcutta? You see how the boys are breaking their bones since morning! Whatever you say, I will not move from here without taking food.” Finally at about eight at night, finishing their meal they started towards Vishnupur in eight bullock carts.
The Holy Mother had just returned to Calcutta from Rameswaram (1911) after her Pilgrimage. We three went to meet her at the Udbodhan house and went upstairs to have her Darshan. We sat down after bowing down to her. She enquired after everybody at Koalpara and Jayrambati and said to Kedar Babu, “Hearing that you are coming, I have kept two photos of Rameswaram for your Ashrama. Take them with you when you go. You may worship them there.” Kedar Babu replied, “But there you have yourself established the Master and asked us to worship him as the embodiment of all the deities. Now you are giving all these deities. How many gods shall we worship? We shall not be able to worship other gods.” The Holy Mother did not press the matter. .”All right,” she said. “Have these pictures properly framed and keep them in the shrine room.” Kedar Babu enquired about her impression of Rameswaram etc. “My dear, Rameswar is the same as when I kept Him,” said the Holy Mother. Golap-Ma was passing that way just then. Hearing these words, she asked innocently, “What did you say, Mother?” The Holy Mother looked startled and said, “When? What did I say? I am saying that I was very happy to see just the same as I have heard from you all.” “No, Mother,” Golap-Ma continued, “I heard everything and it won’t do to try to give the slip now. What do you say, Kedar?” Saying this, she went off from there and started telling Yogin-Ma and others about it.
The Holy Mother continued “Ah, Sashi had me perform the Puja of Rameswar with a hundred and eight golden Bel leaves. The Rajah of Ramnad, hearing that I was there, sent his minister with instructions to show me the temple treasury. If I had a fancy for any article, it was to be immediately presented to me. What could I say? Unable to decide what to say, I replied ‘What do I need? Sashi is arranging for all our requirements.’ Again, thinking that they would be hurt, I said, ‘All right, if Radhu needs anything, she may take it.’ I told Radhu that she could take anything she liked. Then seeing all those priceless rubies and diamonds, my heart went pit-a-pat. Anxiously I prayed to the Master, ‘Oh Master, grant that no greed should arise in Radhu’s mind.’ And so Radhu replied, ‘What of these shall I take? I do not need them. But I lost my pencil. Buy me a pencil.’ Hearing these words, I heaved a sigh of relief and bought her a two pice pencil at the roadside shop.”
Conversing in this manner she got up to make food offering to the Master. We too came downstairs.
Two or three days before Janmashtami (Sri Krishna’s birthday) I expressed to the Holy Mother my desire to be initiated by her on that day. Hearing this Golap-Ma said in her usual loud tones, “Such a little fellow (a boy of thirteen), asking for initiation! He is likely to forget the Mantra in two days. How thoughtless of Kedar! The Holy Mother is from your own village. When she goes there after due deliberation, you can get initiated.” Thus remarking, she went away. But the Holy Mother rejoined reassuringly,
“Don’t you take Golap’s words to heart, my dear. If one of your age learns anything well, can he ever forget it? Let the boy do whatever he can from now on. As for the future, I am with you always.” And so she initiated me on the day of Janmashtami after the Master’s Puja. Demonstrating the manner of doing Japa according to her instructions, she said, “Can you not keep this much in mind? Certainly you can. Later, as and when necessary, I will show you everything.” And then she blessed me, touching my head and chest affectionately. Getting up from her seat, she asked me to go with her. I made Pranam to her and followed her into the next room. She took two sweets out of a vessel, bit off a small part of one and gave me the remainder, saying “Eat” I received the sweets in my hand and out of shyness was hesitating to eat them in her presence. Noticing my hesitation, she said, “Don’t be shy. After initiation one must take food,” and then gave me a glass of water to drink.
Soon after that, we returned to Koalpara along with Kedar
Babu’s mother. (This old lady served the Holy Mother in various ways. At sixty years of age, she felt the desire to read and write and started with the first Reader, and towards the end she was able to read and understand the Ramayana, Mahabharata etc. Even when she accompanied the Mother to Rameswar, she went with her first Reader and a slate. She passed away six or seven years after the Holy Mother’s demise). At the time of our departure, the Holy Mother gave some money to Kedar Babu asking him to buy some paddy and make some rice ready.
In the month of Phalgun, the Holy Mother returned to her village. From Koalpara three of us went far ahead early in the morning to receive her. Catching sight of her cart from a distance, the other two went Backto inform the Ashrama. I remained to accompany the carts. The Holy Mother spotted me from a distance and was saying, “Who is that? B – is it not?” As I approached her and made Pranam, she enquired after every one’s welfare. The carts were rolling on, while I walked alongside. The Holy Mother peeped out of the cart and was asking questions like, “What village is this? Whose pond is that? How far is Koalpara from here,” etc. As we left Kotulpur the Holy Mother said, “Why don’t you get into the cart? You have walked far enough.” But Radhu was in the cart along with the Holy Mother. A little later, the cartman got down from the cart and said, “You please sit in front. I’ll walk a little.” I then got in front. Seeing me handling the oxen and driving them faster, the Holy Mother burst out laughing, “Ah, you are an expert cartman! It is good to know all trades.” In due time we reached the Ashrama. The Mother’s was a rather delicate constitution. As she had sat for long cross-legged in the cart, her legs became numb. Kedar’s mother helped her to get down from the cart and slowly led her to the shrine room verandah and seated her there. After a little rest, she bathed and said to me, “My dear,
I cannot now exchange shouts with Kedar’s mother (She was a little deaf). You change your dress and make arrangements for the Puja.”
In my ignorance I put on one of the Mother’s clothes and was going to pluck flowers. Noticing this, Kedar Babu’s mother got quite upset and was saying, “You dunce! You are wearing the Mother’s cloth! Leave them immediately. Leave!” But the Mother, said, “What does it matter? He is a young boy.
What harm is there, if he wears my clothes? Go, go, bring flowers.”
Kedar Babu said in the course of conversation, “Mother, all your children are learned men. Only we few are ignoramuses. Sarat Maharaj wrote a book on the Master and spread his teaching everywhere. Other children are all giving lectures and touring. How much work is going on!” At this the Holy Mother said, “What do you say? The Master himself was not learned. He learned only to keep his mind on God. Through you a great deal of work will be done in these parts. This time the Master has come to liberate all – the rich and the poor, the wise and the foolish. Now there is a splendid Malaya breeze. Just set your sail a little, take refuge in him and immediately you will be blessed. This time anything other than grass and bamboo – whatever has a little core – will surely become sandalwood. What do you think? You are my own people. But do you know, a learned Sadhu is like an elephant with gold-sheathed tusks.” Saying this, she got up for Puja. A little after dusk the Holy Mother left for Jayrambati in a palanquin.
The man who was to go from Koalpara as the storekeeper for Jagaddhatri Puja, fell ill. And so in his stead I went to Jayrambati. The Holy Mother said, “It is very good you have come. Today you observe everything. Tomorrow quite early in the morning take bath and come to the store. Attend to the work there, observing all ceremonial procedures. Keep a little distance and carry on the work. Everything will be all right.” She said these last words, because in those regions caste restrictions were quite strict.
On the day of the Puja, she came early in the morning to the store and took her seat on a sack, with her feet dangling. When anyone came for anything from the store, I showed the required things to the Holy Mother and then handed it over to the person. At the end of the Puja, the Mother bathed and went to the Mandap, taking the aunts with her for the flower offering. She offered flowers thrice at the feet of the Devi, and with hands folded, and the end of her Sari wound around her neck in humility, she sat silently for some time. Puja concluded without a hitch. In the noon many men and women of the village were fed. As I had fever on the second day – for the image had to be kept for three days the Holy Mother herself looked after the store. After evening Arati all the monks and devotees together started singing Bhajans. ”Worry not to have the Mother’s vision, she is not mere mother of yours or mine alone, She is the Mother of all, of the whole Universe” – thus they sang again and again. The Holy Mother was sitting in the next room with the other women and was listening with absorption. That night she remarked to me, “Ah! The singing was enthralling. What is caste to devotees? All children are one. I feel like feeding all of them from one plate. But in this wretched region they make much of caste. However, there is surely no objection to puffed rice. Tomorrow quite early in the morning you go to Kamarpukur and bring two seers of the Jilapis (a certain sweetmeat).” Next day I returned with the Jilapi by about 9 a.m. The Holy Mother offered them to the Master and arranged them in a big plate around the heap of puffed rice. This delicacy she sent to the devotees. In great joy all of us began to partake of it and the Holy Mother looked on us from the next room.
Once in the rainy season there was an epidemic of malaria and dysentery. The Holy Mother too suffered much for a few days from blood dysentery and recovered through Dr. Kanjilal’s treatment Because of constant walking through mud and water in Koalpara, nearly all of us got fever. Noticing that from Koalpara none of us went to Jayrambati, the Holy Mother sent a maid to get news of us. She brought us a letter from the Mother to the following effect: “My dear Kedar, I have established the Master in that Ashrama. He used to take boiled rice and fish also. Therefore I say, you must offer boiled rice and fish to the Master, at least on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Do not offer fish on Sundays. By no means should you offer food to the Master without three curries. If you practise too much of austerity, how can you withstand the malaria of these parts?”
A few days after this, the Holy Mother was speaking to Kedar Babu about Radhu. She said, “She has grown to be such a big girl and yet she has so little sense. What bondage has the Master brought on me through her! After he passed away, when I came to the village, completely indifferent to the world, I used to see a small girl wrapped about in red clothes, moving about before me.” Seeing that Kedar Babu had become absent-minded, she said, “Oh Kedar, are you listening? That was Yoga Maya.” Kedar Baba replied, “No Mother, I did not hear everything–please tell me again.” Then the Holy Mother resumed: ”After the Master’s passing away when nothing in the world had any meaning for me and I was panting for release, I used to think, ‘What is the point of my living any more?’ In that state suddenly I saw a young girl of ten or twelve years dressed in red clothes, moving about before me. The Master showed her to me and said, ‘Take her for support and live. Numberless children will come to you.’ Next moment he vanished and I could not see the girl also any more. Later on one day I was sitting just in this place. Radhu’s mother; my younger sister-in-law, was then totally mad. She was going this way dragging some rags behind her. And Radhu, crying bitterly, was crawling behind her. My heart bled at the sight and I rushed to take her up in my arms. I felt that no one would care for her if I did not. Her father was dead and her mother is that madcap. Thinking thus, no sooner had I taken her in my lap, than I saw the Master in front of me. He was saying, ‘This is that girl. Live with her as your support. This is Yoga Maya!’ What can I say, my dear! Earlier she was well. Now-a-days she gets all kinds of diseases, and she is married too. I am now afraid, that this daughter of a mad woman might herself turn mad. Have I, after all, brought up a madcap?”
While she was at Calcutta, the Holy Mother had once written to Kedar Babu, “If you could put up a room for me at Koalpara, then when I come to the village, I could stay with you.” Receiving this letter, we ourselves constructed a house for her and called it Jagadamba Ashrama. When the Holy Mother came there for the first time, she stayed there nearly a fortnight before going to Jayrambati. Later, a day was fixed for her second visit. We got a palanquin ready. But on that day, right from the morning, it started raining cats and dogs. We got news that the water level in the river Amodar had risen quite high. Yet Kedar Babu said, “You take the palanquin as she has instructed and be present in time. There after you may do as she wishes.” We came to the river and found it too deep. Rajen Maharaj swam across and fetched a ferry, and all of us together crossed over with the palanquin and reached Jayrambati at about 3 p.m.
Uncle Kali rebuked us, saying, “In this weather how could you think of taking my sister?” The Holy Mother was much amused. Brother Rajen replied, “We have no power to take her. But we had promised to bring the palanquin today at this time, and so we have come.” The Holy Mother on hearing this laughed and said, “You have kept your promise. I too should keep mine. I alone shall come in the palanquin. The others will follow afterwards.” Thereupon we came forward, telling, “No, Mother, how can it be? In the rain, nobody is able to step out of their houses. Should we take you drenched in the rain and make you fall ill?” Uncle Kali and the Holy Mother laughed and laughed. Taking the empty palanquin we returned to our Ashrama.
But the Holy Mother fell ill immediately after, and so she could come to Koalpara only after a few months. One morning at about eleven when I went to Jagadamba Ashrama, all the ladies were in great excitement. Kedar Babu’s mother said in a hushed voice, “She (the Mother) is in ecstasy.
Saying ‘Thakur’ (the Master), she has just lost consciousness.” The ladies attended on her, sprinkling water on her head and eyes. A little later when she recovered, Nalini-Didi asked, “Oh, aunt, what happened?” The Holy Mother replied, “What happened? It is nothing. I was trying to thread the needle and got dizzy.” Hearing these words, no one spoke any more on the topic.
Later, during her last illness, the Holy Mother herself told me fully about this incident of ecstasy. That day it was about half past one or may be two. Her fever was rising. I, as usual, sat by her bed and was fanning her and massaging her forehead gently with a wet hand. Patting me affectionately, she looked at my face and said, “If I pass away, all of you will feel very miserable. I can understand that.” In gentle reproach I said, “Why do you talk like that, Mother? When the medicine is not showing any effect, why don’t you speak to the Master about your body? Everything will get right, if you do that.” The Holy Mother smiled a little and said, “At Koalpara I used to get such high fever that I lay unconscious in my bed frequently. Yet when I became conscious and thought of the Master for the sake of my body, immediately I could have his vision. In a very weak state, I was one day sitting in the verandah. Nalini and others were perhaps sewing. There was the burning heat of the sun all around. Suddenly I saw that the Master entered through the main door, sat in the verandah and then stretched himself down to sleep. Seeing that, I hastily went to spread my upper cloth. While spreading, I had a peculiar feeling. Kedar’s Mother and others were making all kinds of fuss. So I told them, ‘O! It’s nothing. While trying to thread the needle, I got dizzy’. For your sake, do I not pray to the Master about my body? I do pray. But now when I think of him for the sake of the body, by no means am I able to get his vision. I feel it is not his wish that this body should remain. Sarat is there.” After my return to Koalpara I heard just the same thing from Kedar Maharaj’s mother also. She must have heard it from the Mother herself.
Another day at about two in the noon, I reached Koalpara. It was quite hot. The Holy Mother brought me some sweets and water, and was talking, “Oh dear, what a heat! Cool yourself a little. You should not leave before evening. How is Gopesh? What did you eat today? What did you cook?
Take some fruits and vegetables with you when you go.” I said smiling, “In accordance with Gopesh-da’s instructions I mixed together green plantains, potatoes and such things and cooked a potato-rice. But as I was not able to make a proper estimate, I prepared food enough for eight or ten people.” Hearing this, the Holy Mother had a hearty laughter. As we chatted, the sky became overcast. The Mother said “Ah! A little rain would cool down mother earth.” Moments later, strong winds blew and a hailstorm began. Enjoying that, the Holy Mother put one or two hail stones in her mouth. This sudden exposure to chill brought on her a fever, which took a very serious turn later on.
Rashbehari Maharaj and I were sitting on either side of the Holy Mother’s bed one day. She placed her hand on my chest and Backand said, “Ah! So many women are here, but no one’s body is cool. These are boys and their bodies – how cool they are! My hand is soothed.” In the travails of illness the Holy Mother used to look for Sarat Maharaj a great deal. Getting the news, Sarat Maharaj arrived there accompanied by Dr. Kanjilal and went straight to the Holy Mother. The Mother was then restless with a burning sensation all over her body and was stretching her arms this way and that. Sarat Maharaj saw that and taking off his shirt sat by her bed. The Holy Mother put her hand on his Backand said “Ah, my whole body is cooled. Sarat’s body is like a cool slab.” Sarat Maharaj said, “Look now, Mother. All of us have come, and now you must get well.” In reply the Mother said,
“Yes, my dear; if Kanjilal gives a little medicine I shall immediately get well.” Sarat Maharaj was very happy to hear these words. Within a few days, she was free from fever, and she began to take her normal food. One day Sarat Maharaj said, “Mother, this time we shall not leave you here. I would like to take you with me to Calcutta.” The Holy Mother also did not seriously object to this but said, “My dear, I must go to Jayrambati and start on an auspicious day.” Sarat Maharaj agreed to this and set about fixing the day for going to Jayrambati.
It was during this illness of the Holy Mother that Swami Prajnananda passed away at the Udbodhan. Later the Holy Mother came to know that his sister, Sudhira, the head of the Nivedita School, was sitting quietly by his side, fully controlling her emotions. Hearing that, the Holy Mother said, “Oh! It would have been better if she had expressed her feelings through weeping. It would have somewhat assuaged her grief. You please see that she does not fall ill. Already she has a heart complaint.”
In this connection another incident comes to my mind. I was then at Jayrambati with the Holy Mother. One day I returned to Jayrambati from Koalpara with an old woman carrying a headload of things for me. The old woman put down her load and bowed down at the Holy Mother’s feet. “What is the matter, my daughter?” she said. “You have not come this side for so many days?” The old woman replied in a piteous voice, “Mother, now-a-days I am in great difficulties. Searching for food, I go to different places. And so, when there is an occasion to bring a load here, the gentlemen do not find me in time. A few days back, my young earning son passed away.” The Holy Mother was much affected to hear this and her eyes were filled with tears.
“What do you say, my daughter?” she said. On the Mother expressing her sympathy, the old woman gave way to her grief and wept loudly. The Holy Mother was overcome by a wave of sympathetic grief, and she began to lament with the woman, resting her head on a post of the verandah. The other women of the house rushed to the spot on hearing the sound, and stood transfixed there for a minute at the sight they saw. A few moments passed in this way. When the intensity of their grief subsided a little, the Holy Mother asked for some coconut oil. It was brought and she poured it on the old woman’s head. After properly oiling her hair the Holy Mother tied a quantity of puffed rice and molasses in her cloth. Bidding her farewell, with her eyes still glittering with tears, the Mother said, “Come again, my daughter.” The woman departed, highly consoled by the compassionate conduct of the Holy Mother.
After she recovered the physical strength a little, the Holy Mother went to Jayrambati on the appointed day, accompanied by Sarat Maharaj and others. All men and women of the village came to see her. Some said that they had given up all hope of seeing her again. The Mother replied, “Yes, I suffered very much from illness. Sarat, Kanjilal and others rushed to my help. By the grace of Mother Simhavahini, I was saved this time. Sarat says I must go to Calcutta. If all of you permit me, I shall go and return after regaining my health.” Everyone gladly gave her permission, and seven or eight days later the Holy Mother started for Calcutta.
A few months later, I came to Belur Math. Radhu was ill at Udbodhan. She could not stand even a little noise. The Holy Mother therefore took her to the Boarding Home of Nivedita Girls’ school. So I used to go there often to pay my respects to the Mother. She was considerably worried and would say, “Well, where can I go with her? The village is quiet enough but there is no medical facility.”
On Swamiji’s birthday I came to know that the Holy Mother was leaving for her village the next day. In obedience to Revered Sarat Maharaj’s instruction I hastily reached the Udbodhan house by evening, ready to accompany the Holy Mother. She was packing a bundle of coir. Seeing me, she said, “I am going to my village taking these endless number of things. What about your coming with me? You boys are my only support there.” I bowed down at her feet and said, “Whatever you command will be done. I shall go with you, what difficulty is there?” “That is good, my dear. See to these ropes and things and pack up all other items of luggage. Till now nothing has been set in order. I was waiting for you and packed the ropes.” Along with her I packed things until eleven in the night, and quite early next morning we left on our journey.
After resting at Vishnupur for three days, we started again with our six bullock carts. Eight miles further at the Jaypur village, arrangements were made at an inn for cooking. At the time of taking down the pot of rice from the fire place, the pot broke and rice and water got scattered all over. We were stupefied and did not know what to do. But without any hesitation or excitement, the Mother took a broken shred and separated the water from the rice. She then washed her hands, took out the Master’s picture from her box and set it up on one side. Gathering the upper layers of the scattered rice, she arranged the rice and some curry on a leaf plate. With that make-shift offering, she said to the Master with folded hands, “You have willed it this way for today. Please finish your meal quickly while it is hot.” All of us witnessed this strange procedure of the Holy Mother and began to laugh. Thereupon she remarked, “We have to adjust our ways to changing circumstances. Now please sit down for your meal, all of you.” We sat down in a circle. The Mother served us all and served herself also on one side, sat down cross-legged and started eating. “Quite well-cooked,” she said. We finished our meal and the carts moved on again. By eleven in the night we reached Koalpara.
Yet another incident comes to my mind. Once Revered Gauri-Ma was going to Jayrambati to call on the Holy Mother. From Koalpara she took me for company, and we started in the evening. We reached the river bank near Jayrambati while there was still daylight. So Gauri-Ma lingered there. So we could reach the Mother’s house only a little after dusk. She asked me to wait outside the gate, and went in. There imitating the beggars, she called out, “O mother, give me alms, mother.” Hearing that, the younger aunt came out, enquiring, “Who is that?” Gauri-Ma repeated her cry. The aunt was quite frightened. With a shriek she ran Backto the Holy Mother. The Mother, who had heard the shout, came out with composure, and said in a firm voice, “Who is there?” Gauri-Ma once again said from the same place, “Give me alms, Mother, I am a night beggar.” The Holy Mother recognised her voice in the dark and exclaimed, “Is it not you Gaurdasi! Come, come, when did you arrive?” Everyone had a hearty laugh.
After staying for a day or two at Koalpara, Radhu developed a liking to the place, especially because of its loneliness. So the Holy Mother stayed there with her for six months. Arrangements were made for Radhu’s stay in another lonely house, a little away from Jagadamba Ashrama. A thorny thicket surrounded the three sides of her house. One day the Holy Mother said to me, “Now-a-days I find my mind is having a strange power. Whatever thought arises, it comes true, be it good or bad. Radhu likes this forest because it is lonely. For a few days I have been feeling that, wherever you may be during the day time, after dusk you must come here and be with us. I am much afraid, my dear. I told Rajen also. He will come after ten or eleven in the night.” From that day, after dusk, I used to keep watch under a tree in front of Radhu’s house until eleven in the night. The Holy Mother too would sit up by me and talk with me in a very low voice. One day she remarked, “What a jungle! Any day a bear may pop out.” I replied, “Why, Mother, I never saw a bear in these parts.” But as a matter of fact one or two days later, word came that about a mile away, in the village Desra, one huge bear did attack and kill an old woman at noon while she was collecting cow dung. The bear too was shot. At dusk the Holy Mother said, “Did you not hear of the bear being on the rampage? It seems it has killed the mother-inlaw of Ambika (the watchman of Jayrambati). And you declare there are no bears in this area!”
The Holy Mother used to eat some sweets and have a drink of water at dusk. She used to give me also a portion of it when I sat with her under the tree. She would say, “After the whole day’s labour if you eat something and drink some water, the body will be quite refreshed. Thereafter, be it in Japa, meditation or any other work, the mind will settle down quite steadily.” One day she said, “While I was staying at the Nahabat for the service of the Master, what hard conditions I had to endure in that tiny room! How many articles and things! I used to keep fish in a pot for the Master and hang it up. But in his service I never felt these as difficulties. The day would go by in inexplicable bliss. Now I am in these straits on account of Radhu. I am sitting here in this jungle with all of you. Good deeds, austerities, meditation – are all no more. Now by His grace, if we come out of the present difficulty safely, we should consider ourselves fortunate. (Radhu was then nearing her confinement). A little later the lady from Navasan came and said, “O Brother, did you hear? Today at noon the Mother and I were sitting here, quite alone. The Mother was saying, ‘Those two crows used to come right at this time, and sitting on that tree caw and caw, to the great annoyance of Radhu. But for the last few days, I do not see them at all. Can you tell where those two have gone?’ Even as the Mother was saying these words, those two crows alighted on the tree and began cawing.” The Holy Mother too laughed and confirmed her story saying, “Yes, my dear.”
Another day, in the early part of the month of Ashadha (June) the Holy Mother and a few of us were seated at the foot of the tree. It might be about 10 p.m. Suddenly the Mother said, “Look, that mad man has not been coming here for many days. He is stark mad, but sings quite well. Yet, my dear, I am greatly afraid lest he should come here and create a commotion.” The sister from Navasan protested, “Why do you think of him, Mother? Suppose your thought turns true, and he pops up here at this time of night!” “Who knows, my dear,” rejoined the Holy Mother. I intervened and said, “You are merely imagining. In this weather how can anyone cross the river and come here?” Even as these words came out of my mouth, there stood the mad man, with a palm leaf plume on his head and a bundle of sajina greens under his arm. “I have brought these greens for you,” he said. The sister from Navasan slipped inside, in fright. The Holy Mother said to him, “Go away. Don’t make noise at this time of night.”
The mad man replied: “How can I go? There is high tide in the river.” I intervened saying, “How did you come then?”
The mad man replied: “I swam across.”
The Holy Mother now said once again, “My dear fellow, don’t make noise.” The mad man then went away without a word. For two months the Holy Mother was in this mood often.
On another occasion I was sitting near the Mother in the verandah opposite Radhu’s room, writing up the accounts. As a woman devotee passed by carelessly, the end of her cloth brushed my back. The Holy Mother noticed this and was much annoyed. “What is this? This boy is sitting before me and writing; and you are so unmannerly as to go brushing the ends of your cloth against his back! These are Brahmacharins (monastics), and you are women; you should move with due deference towards them. Bow down to him.” The Holy Mother said these words in such an irritated voice that all the women of the house, including the woman so addressed, were frightened.
One new Brahmacharin at Koalpara desired to stay with the Holy Mother for a few days. To him the Mother said: “You want to stay with me. But you will have to face many difficulties if you stay here. I have a lot of work, and I am in this jungle with Radhu.” But seeing the earnestness of the young man, she continued, “All right; tell Kedar and stay here for a few days,” Just at that time, the attendant who looked after Radhu had to go to Calcutta for a few days. The Holy Mother enquired if the Brahmacharin could manage that work, and when he agreed, she asked him to learn the work from the regular attendant. On the very first day as he was carrying Radhu’s food, the vessels slipped from his hands and all the food was spilt. He could not decide what to do. He took the empty vessels to the Holy Mother. The consequence was that Radhu had to go without food that day. The Holy Mother was much vexed. Later she said, “As a monastic this boy may be quite good. But in my establishment I need dexterous workers. My work cannot be done by a ‘foot-of-the-tree’ monk. And again there are people who perform wonderful deeds under momentary excitement. But a man’s true worth can be known only by observing the attention he bestows on his daily inconsequential actions.” As
the regular attendant returned within a day or two, the Brahmacharin had no chance to stay.
Yet another day one boy of Koalpara escaped from Police observation and came to the Holy Mother at dusk, wishing to be initiated. As the police kept a watch on the Ashrama of that place, the head of the Ashrama told him to go away. The Holy Mother came to know of this and told me, “See, the boy has come with such eagerness, braving so many difficulties. If you could arrange to keep him in somebody’s home for this night, then in the morning I shall initiate him and ask him to go.” As desired by her, I found him accommodation elsewhere for the night.
Next day quite early in the morning I was going to Radhu’s house with the Holy Mother. The boy had bathed in readiness for initiation, and cutting across the fields, approached the Holy Mother. She asked me to bring some water from a nearby pond and I brought a tumbler full of it. The Holy Mother was looking around for something, and I asked her if I could get her a seat. She replied, “Yes. But you need not go, again. Bring some hay and we two will sit.” I did accordingly. They spread the hay and sat down on the ground. Asking me to move away, the Holy Mother purified herself by sipping water and initiated him.