Nag Mahashay – that was the name by which Durga Charan Nag was popularly known – was, according to Swami Vivekananda, “one of the greatest of the works of Ramakrishna Parama-hamsa.” He would say, ” I have travelled far in different parts of the globe, but nowhere could I meet a great soul like Nag Mahashay.”
The life of Nag Mahashay reads like a fairy tale, like legendary stories. His humility, his hospitality, his kindness to all including lower animals, his asceticism and renunciation, above all his devotion to God and to his Guru, was so wonderful that if we hear the incidents we become awestruck and ask ourselves if they could be really true. Such stories can be found narrated in the Puranas – and the modern mind does not know whether they were facts or simply imaginary illustrations of moral precepts – but the happenings in the life of Nag Mahashay were witnessed by persons who are still alive and stand as a living testimony to their authenticity.
Nag Mahashay was born on August 21, 1846, in a small village called Deobhog, situated at a short distance from Narayangunge in the district of Dacca. His father’s name was Din-dayal Nag, who was an employee in the firm of Messrs. Rajkumar & Hari Charan Pal Chowdhury
of Kumartuli in Calcutta. Dindayal was an orthodox, devout Hindu, and commanded respect from all for his piety. Though his pay was very low, the proprietors of the firm looked upon him as a member of their family rather than as a servant. They had unshakable faith in his honesty, and it was justified by many wonderful incidents.
Nag Mahashay lost his mother while very young, and was brought up by his widowed aunt – Dindayal’s sister – who was more like a mother to him and wielded a great influence over his future life.
From his childhood Nag Mahashay showed great sweetness of disposition, and his nice appearance attracted the notice of all. He was of philosophical temperament. In the evening the boy would be gazing listlessly at the starry sky, and say to his wondering aunt: ” Let us go away to that region. I don’t feel at home here.” The sight of the moon would make him dance with joy, and in plants waving in the wind, he would find a friend and playmate.
He was fond of hearing Pauranic stories told by his aunt. Sometimes they would stir his imagination so much that he would see them exactly in dreams.
Nag Mahashay was noted for his great truthfulness even from his childhood. He would rarely take part in games; but if at all he would join them he would not tolerate any player telling a lie. In that case he would stop conversation with the culprit until the latter was repentant. The boy Durga Charan was the constant arbiter in case of quarrels among his companions, such was their confidence in his judgment and sobriety. He was beloved of all – young and old.
With growing age Nag Mahashay developed a great thirst for knowledge. After finishing his primary education, Nag Mahashay was in a fix as to how to pursue his further study. To go to Calcutta to his father was not possible as the family income was very meagre. But study must be continued. So Nag Mahashay began to attend a school at Dacca, covering every day a distance of twenty miles on foot in sun and rain. It is said that Nag Mahasnay absented himself from the school only for two days in the course of the fifteen months he was there. Though the strain of studying under such a condition was severe, Nag Mahashay’s love for learning carried him through. Not a word of complaint could be heard from him, though his suffering at times would be of an alarming nature.
Within a short period of his school life at Dacca, Nag Mahashay mastered the Bengali language, and wrote also a book for children.
Nag’Mahashay was now married through the insistence of his aunt, who was anxious to see the motherless boy soon settled in life.
Five months after the marriage Nag Mahashay came to Calcutta to live with his father and got himself admitted into the Campbell Medical School. But here also he could not study more than a year and a half. He then studied Homoeopathy under Doctor Bihari Lai Bhaduri, who was greatly charmed with the amiable disposition of his student.
As Nag Mahashay lived mostly in Calcutta and his wife was at her father’s house, he did not come much in contact with her. Even while he was at home, it is said, he would sometimes pass the night up a tree in order to avoid the company of his wife, so mortally afraid was he of falling into the snares of worldly life. His wife, however, died suddenly. This gave him a great shock, but from another standpoint he felt relief.
Even while studying Homoeopathy Nag Mahashay started medical practice impelled by a desire to remove the suffering of the poor patients of the locality. Soon his name as a successful doctor spread, and crowds of poor people would throng at his door every day. Nag Mahashay lost no opportunity to give succour to the poor. So great was his spirit of service and so large was his heart that unscrupulous people could easily take advantage of his goodness.
At this time Nag Mahashay came in contact with Suresh Chandra Datta, afterwards a great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. From the first meeting they became intimate friends. Suresh was Brahino by temperament and did not believe in Hindu deities. Though their religious views were as poles asunder, still, strange to say, they loved each other dearly. Suresh was struck with the spotless character of his friend.
Gradually Nag Mahashay began to lose interest in medicine, and his attention was devoted to the study of scriptures and the practice of religion.
He would daily take bath in the Ganges and find delight in discussing religious problems with Pandits. Often he would go to the. cremation ground near by, and remain there till dead of night brooding over the unreality of the world. His invariable conclusion would be – God only is real, everything else is vanity of vanities. Life is in vain, if God is not realised.
Sometimes he would pass long hours in meditation in the cremation ground. Once in the course of meditation he had some spiritual exj)erience; this spurred him to continue the practice.
Seeing this changed behaviour of Nag Maha-shay, his father got alarmed lest he should give up worldly life. He thought, marriage would cure the religious malady of his son. So Dindayal selected a bride for his son, and insisted upon the marriage. Nag Mahashay piteously pleaded with his father not to throw him into worldly life and thus hamper the growth of his spiritual progress, but Dindayal would hear no argument. At last the devoted son yielded to the wishes of his father, but how great was the anguish of his heart 1 From the depth of his heart went prayer to the Almighty that his marriage might not prove a bondage to him. A severe storm blowing over his mind, Nag Mahashay meekly followed his father to his native village, got himself married, and after a few days’ stay at home returned to Calcutta.
Nag Mahashay hated the idea of taking service under anybody, so he thought of settling down as a doctor. Now he began to accept fees if offered. But he would never demand money from anybody. Rather he would refuse money if offered in excess of his legitimate dues. Once Nag Mahashay cured a very critical case at the house of the employers of his father. They offered him rich presents, but he would not accept them as the cost of the medicine together with his fees was not so much. This enraged Dindayal living as he did under straitened circumstances. But Nag Mahashay was firm; he said it would be practising untruth if he would accept anything more than his due. Sometimes he would help the poor patients with money from his own pocket. Once one of his patients was suffering from lack of sufficient clothing, Nag Mahashay gave him his own woollen wrapper and ran away from his presence lest it should be refused. Such acts invited sharp reproof from his father, but he found it impossible to change his mode of conduct. He had an extensive practice. Had he been worldly-wise he could easily have amassed money. But on the contrary he remained as poor as ever – sometimes he would find it difficult to make both ends meet.
But even humanitarian works cannot satisfy a heart that is longing for God-vision. After all how little can be done in the matter of removing misery from the world! Though Nag Mahashay gave himself up completely to the service of the poor and the distressed, he was panting for direct perception of the Reality behind the phenomenal world.
At this time Nag Mahashay along with Suresh and some Brahmo devotees would regularly practise meditation sitting on the bank of the Ganges. But the thought that without formal initiation from a Guru spiritual progress cannot be achieved oppressed the mind of Nag Mahashay. Strangely enough, one day while ho was bathing in the Ganges, he found his family preceptor coming in a boat. At this he w’as glad beyond measure; for, what he was seeking for presented itself. Nag Mahashay got himself initiated by him. After the initiation he devoted much greater attention to religious practices. It is said that while once he was in meditation sitting on the bank of the Ganges, there came the flood-tide arid swept him away, so deeply absorbed was he. It was only after some time that he got Backhis consciousness and swam across to the shore.
Suresh once heard in the Brahmo Samaj from Keshab Chandra Sen that there was a great saint living at the tcinple-garden of Dakshineswar. When the news was communicated to Nag Maha-shay, he was anxious to see him that very day. When Suresh and Nag Mahashay reached Dakshineswar, somebody gave him the false information that Sri Ramakrishna was away. At this both were sorely disappointed. With heavy hearts they were about to go away, when they observed someone beckoning them from within the doors. They went inside; lo, it was Sri Ramakrishna sitting on a small bedstead. Suresh saluted him with folded palms. Nag Mahashay wanted to take the dust of his feet, but Sri Ramakrishna did not allow it. This greatly grieved
Nag Mahashay: embodiment of humility as he was, he thought he was not pure enough to touch the feet of a saint.
Sri Ramakrishna inquired of their whereabouts, whether they had married, etc., and remarked: “Live in the world unattached. Be in the world, but not of it. Just see that the dirt of the world does not touch you.” Nag Mahashay was looking steadfastly at the face of Sri Ramakrishna when the latter asked, “What are you seeing this way?” Nag Mahashay replied, ” I have come to see you, hence I am looking at you.”
Talking with them for a while, Sri Ramakrishna asked them to go to the Panchavati and meditate. They obeyed him, and when they returned after meditation, he took them with him to show them round the temples. He was ahead, while Suresh and Nag Mahashay followed him. After passing through other temples, when he entered the Kali temple, he was all on a sudden a changed man. He behaved just like a child before its mother.
Suresh and Nag Mahashay took leave of Ramakrishna in the afternoon. He asked them to repeat the visit so that the acquaintance might deepen.
While returning, the only thought which possessed the mind of Nag Mahashay was, what could that man be – a Sadhu, a saint or some higher being!
This meeting with Sri Ramakrishna inflamed the hunger of Nag Mahashay for God-realisation. He now forgot all other things about the world.
He avoided the company of people. He was always silent – absorbed within his own thoughts. Only when Suresh came, would he talk with him – and that about Sri Ramakrishna.
About a week after the first visit the two friends again went to Dakshineswar. Nag Mahashay was, as it were, in a frenzied condition. Seeing him Sri Ramakrishna fell into ecstasy and burst out, ” So glad to see you, it is for you that I am here.” Then he seated Nag Mahashay by his side, caressed him and said: “What fear have you? Yours is a highly developed spiritual condition.” That day also Sri Ramakrishna sent them to the Panchavati for meditation. After a while he came to them, and directed Nag Mahashay to do him some personal services. Nag Mahashay was so glad. His only sorrow was, he had not been allowed to take the dust of the feet of the Master on the occasion of the.first visit. This day when Sri Ramakrishna was alone with Suresh, he remarked that Nag Mahashay was like a blazing fire.
The next time Nag Mahashay went to Dakshineswar alone. To-day also Sri Ramakrishna was in ecstasy at the sight of Nag Mahashay, and began to murmur something inaudible. At this condition of Sri Ramakrishna, Nag Mahashay got afraid. Then Sri Ramakrishna said to him, “Well, just see what is the matter with iny feet; you are a doctor, you can examine that. ‘ ‘ Seeing him talking in a normal condition, Nag Mahashay was relieved. He examined the feet, but found nothing. Sri Ramakrishna asked him to examine again, and thoroughly. Nag Mahashay thought it to be an opportunity offered to him to touch the feet of the Master, which he so greatly longed for. Afterwards Nag Mahashay would remark:
‘ ‘ There was no need for asking anything of Sri Ramakrishna. He could read the mind of his devotees, and gave them what they sincerely wanted.”
Henceforth Nag Mahashay had the firm conviction that Sri Ramakrishna was God incarnate. He would say, ”After a few visits only, I understood him to be an Incarnation of God.” If asked how he could know that, he would say: ‘ ‘ He himself was gracious enough to make me feel that. Even after hard austerities of thousands of years God cannot be realised without His Grace.”
Once Sri Ramakrishna asked Nag Mahashay as to what he thought of him. Nag Mahashay replied with folded hands, ”Through your grace I have known what you are.” On hearing this answer Sri Ramakrishna went into Samadhi and placed his right foot on the chest of Nag Mahashay. The latter felt a peculiar change within him and saw as if everything around bathed in a flood of Divine Light.
One day while Nag Mahashay was sitting before Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda (then Narendra Nath) entered the room. Sri Ramakrishna told Narendra, pointing to Nag Mahashay: ”He has genuine humility. There is no hypocrisy behind it.” Soon there began a conversation between the two disciples in the course of which Nag Mahashay said: “Everything is done by the will of God. Only the ignorant say they are the doers.” Narendra, practising Advaita as he did, said: ” I don’t believe in ‘He.’ I am everything. The whole universe is my manifestation.” Nag Mahnshay replied: “You cannot make one black hair grey, what to talk of the universe. Not a leaf on a tree moves without His will.” The conversation went on in this strain, which Sri Ramakrishna greatly enjoyed. Sri Ramakrishna then said to Nag Mahashay: “Well, he is a blazing fire. He may say thus.” From that time Nag Mahashay had supreme regard for Swami Vivekananda and his spiritual greatness.
Whatever Sri Ramakrishna uttered, even if in joke, was gospel truth to Nag Mahashay. Once Nag Mahashay heard Sri Ramakrishna saying to a devotee, “Well, doctors, lawyers and brokers can hardly achieve anything in the domain of religion.” That was enough. Nag Mahashay threw his medical books and medicines into the Ganges and gave up the practice.
The news reached Dindayal at his village home;. He became upset and ran to Calcutta. Nag Mahashay could not be persuaded to take up the medical profession again. Dinday.il requested his employers to give Nag Mahashay his place, which they did. And then Dindayal returned home with a sigh of relief.
This occupation gave Nag Mahashay greater leisure and opportunity for meditation and spiritual practices. He began to frequent Dakshi-neswar more often, as a result of which his spirit of renunciation increased and he was determined to give up the world. With such intention one day he went to Sri Ramakrishna, and as soon as he entered his room, the latter began to say in an ecstatic mood: “What is the harm in remaining in the world ? If the mind is fixed on God, one is safe. Remain in the world like Janaka and set an example to householders.” Nag Mahashay was stupefied. He was resolved to leave the world, but the obstacle came from the very man whose life aroused in him the desire. What could be done! Nag Mahashay’s opinion was: “What
escaped from the lips of Sri Ramakrishna none could resist. He would tell in a word or two the path which was suitable for a particular man.” So Nag Mahashay returned home, obeying the behest of the Master.
But it was impossible for Nag Mahashay to do the normal duties of life any longer. Day and night he was in agony as God was not realised. Sometimes he would roll in the dust, sometimes he would fall on thorny bushes which caused him injury. He forgot all about food. When Suresh would come he would force him to eat, otherwise he would be without food. He would return home sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes at dead of night. He behaved like one deranged in mind.
During this period Nag Mahashay had to go to his village home. When his wife found him in this mental state, she was terrified. She easily understood that he had no vestige of desire for worldly life. He also explained to her that fixed as all his thoughts were on God, it was no longer possible for him to live a worldly life.
How abnormal – if abnormal it should at all be termed – was Nag Mahashay’s conduct at this period can be seen from the following incident. In the corner of their house his sister grow a gourd-plant. Once a cow was tied near it. The cow wanted to eat the plant but could not reach it. He saw this and felt compassion for the cow. He untied it and allowed it to eat the plant. This naturally enraged his father, who rebuked him saying: ” You yourself will not earn money, and on the contrary you will do what will bring loss to the family. You have given up medical practice. How will you maintain yourself?” Nag Mahashay said : ” Please don’t worry about that. God will look after me.” The infuriated father said: “Yes, I know. Now you will go about naked and live on frogs.”
Nag Mahashay gave no further answer, threw away his clothes, brought a dead frog, and while eating it said to his father: ” Both of your commandments are fulfilled. No longer please worry about me, this is my earnest request.” Thinking that his son had gone mad, Dindayal told his daughter-in-law, ” Let none go against his wishes even to the slightest degree.”
After returning to Calcutta, Nag Mahashay, in one of his visits to Dakshineswar, expressed great sorrow to the Master that he had no real selfsurrender to God, that he still believed in the efficacy of his own personal effort apart from the will of God. The Master consoled him with kindly advice. Seeing the burning spirit of Vairagya in him, Sri Ramakrishna again advised him to remain in the world. Nag Mahashay said that the sight of misery all around oppressed him too much. Sri Ramakrishna told him that no taint would touch him if he remained in the world, on the contrary everybody would be amazed to see his life.
Nag Mahashay could no longer attend to his duties. Seeing this his employers freed him from all work and arranged that he could get an allowance, so that the family of such a noble soul might not suffer from privation. Sri Ramakrishna was very glad to hear this news.
Nag Mahashay now* engaged himself in more severe spiritual practices, and began to go to Dakshineswar very often. Formerly he would avoid going there on Sundays. His idea was: “Scholars, Pandits, many great men go there on Sundays. Unlettered as I am I shall be a misfit in their company.” So he did not know much of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna. But as his visits were now very frequent he came to know some of them. In one such visit the Master introduced him to Girish Chandra Ghosh, and they were fast friends all their lives.
Nag Mahashay was very particular about control of palate. He would not use salt or sugar in his food in order to restrain the desire for good dishes. Once he lived for two or three days only on bran. He could not continue it simply because his neighbour made it impossible for him to get the supply. But he would say: “I did not find the least difficulty in living on bran. If the mind always remains busy with thought about the quality of food, how shall I remember God?”
A large number of beggars would come to Nag Mahashay’s house every day for alms, and poor though he was none would go from him empty-handed. Once a begging friar came to him when he had only a little quantity of rice, just sufficient for his next meal. He gave that to him in great devotion and himself remained without food.
Nag Mahashay could not stand worldly talks. If anybody introduced such subjects before him, skilfully he would stop it. If he got angry or annoyed with anyone, he would mercilessly beat his own body with whatever could be had near at hand as self-punishment. He would not indulge in criticising others, nor would he contradict anyone. Once unwillingly he said something in opposition to a man. As soon as he was conscious of this, he took a piece of stone and struck his head with that so severely that there was profuse bleeding. It took about a month for the wound to heal. He would say, “Right punishment, since my mind became so wicked.”
.To kill his passions he would sometimes take to long fasts. Because of his headache, on medical advice, he gave up bathing the last twenty years of his life. Over and above that his severe austerities gave him a very rugged appearance. Girish Chandra Ghosh would opine, “Nag Mahashay knocked his egotism so severely on the head that it could not rise again.” While going his way, Nag Mahashay could not be ahead of another – for that meant self-importance. Even if he met a poor beggar, he would stand behind him. Nobody would be allowed to prepare tobacco for him, but he would do that for one and all, and found delight in doing so.
During the last days of Sri Ramakrishna when he was laid up in bed, Nag Mahashay would rarely go to him. He would say, ” I cannot bear to remember the sight of suffering, much less can I see that.” Once Ramakrishna was suffering from burning sensation. Nag Mahashay was near by. Sri Ramakrishna asked him to come nearer so that by touching his body his pain might vanish. When he did that Sri Ramakrishna remained long embracing him.
About a week before his passing away, the Master, in the presence of Nag Mahashay, showed his desire to taste Amlaki fruit. But that was not the season for that fruit. Everybody thought that Amlaki was out of the question at that time. But Nag Mahashay began cogitating, “When the Master has said that, the fruit will surely be found somewhere.” With this thought he went out. He could not be seen for two days. He was going from -garden to garden in search of Amlaki. On the third day he came with a piece of Amlaki in his hand.
Once Nag Mahashay went to Sri Ramakrishna during the latter’s illness. It was an Ekadashi day – the fasting day for Nag Mahashay. A disciple requested him to take something, not knowing his practice. Nag Mahashay could break the practice only if the food was made holy by the touch of Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna understood this and did that. While sitting for his meal, Nag Mahashay ate the whole of the food given to him and then began to eat the leaf itself. Well, it was sacramental food, was it not touched by the Master! Henceforth when sacramental food was given to Nag Mahashay, the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna took precaution that he did not repeat the incident.
When Sri Ramakrishna passed away, Nag Mahashay gave up food and remained confined in his bed. He would not stir out. The news reached Swami Vivekananda, the refuge of all devotees .of Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Vivekananda with two of his brother-disciples went to him. It was only with difficulty that Swami Vivekananda could persuade him to take food. ” That body should not be given food with which God has not been realised.” – that was the idea of Nag Mahashay.
After the passing of Sri Ramakrishna Nag Mahashay went to his village home, even against the wishes of his best friends. For, did not the Master ask him to remain at home ! His words could not be infringed even slightly!
The rest of his life was spent at Deobhog, with occasional visits to Calcutta. There he lived his unostentatious life, hiding his blazing spirituality under a cover of great humility. But as fire cannot be hidden, so with spirituality. Soon the name of Nag Mahashay spread far and wide. People began to flock to Deobhog, but he was as humble as ever. So complete and withal so natural was his self-effacement! This phenomenon itself was a great thing. Swami Viveka-nanda used to say that the whole of East Bengal was blessed because of the birth of Nag Mahashay.
Outwardly he was just like an ordinary man. From his appearance nobody could guess that he was such a great saint. Only those who knew him intimately or watched his conduct would be astonished at his greatness. His life was full of many wonderful episodes, everyone as astonishing as another.
Once a devotee came to the house of Nag Mahashay late at night. There was no fuel in the house. Nag Mahashay cut the ridge-pole of his room to make that into fuel for cooking.
Whoever would go to his house was received as God in the form of a human being come to bless him. He suffered from colic pain. At times the pain would be very very severe. Once while he was attacked with such pain, some eight or ten persons came. How to feed them? There was not sufficient rice in the house. He went to the market, bought some rice and was carrying that home on his head – he would never take the services of servants – but on the way the pain increased. He fell down and could no more walk. The pain was nothing to him; his only thought was, guests were at home, their meals would not be ready in time. When the pain lessened a bit he started again, and reaching home begged pardon of the guests that they were inconvenienced.
Once some guests came at night. It was the rainy reason. All the rooms were leaking except one which was Nag Mahashay’s bedroom. That was given to the guests, and he with his wife passed the whole night in prayer and meditation sitting in the porch. He considered the day to be very blessed as he was privileged to serve God in the guests.
And how glad he would be if any disciple or devotee of Sri Ramakrishna visited his house! Once Swami Turiyananda along with another monk came to Nag Mahashay’s house in a boat. Nag Mahashay was so overpowered with joy that he became almost unconscious.
In this respect he would make no distinction between the old and the young. Once two young monks from the Belur Math went to Deobhog to pay respects to Nag Mahashay. But Nag Mahashay was so respectful to them, that he became a terror to the young monks. His services to them took the form of worship, as it were. They were eager to escape as early as possible from such an embarrassing position. In spite of his earnest requests, to continue the stay, they bade him good-bye. He accompanied them as far as the railway station. The train was crowded. The monks tried to elbow their way into one compartment, but the occupants held them back. Seeing that the monks were treated disrespectfully, Nag Mahashay began to cry in agony and to beat his forehead: was not the suffering of the monks due to his ill luck ! At the sight of the painful condition of Nag Mahashay, the fellow passengers let the monks in and made enough room for them in the compartment. And then he was at rest.
He was ever ready to serve all, but would not allow anybody to serve him. He lived in thatched cottages that required annual repair. But that could not be done in his presence as services of others would not be tolerated. His wife would get the house repaired, when he would be away. Once the house was badly in need of repair. The wife of Nag Mahashay engaged a servant. He climbed the roof for his work. Nag Mahashay saw this and humbly requested him to cease from doing that. The servant would hear no nay. It was a privilege for him to repair a house which sheltered a saint. At this Nag Mahashay began to beat his own forehead in great agony. What, for the happiness of this body another should undergo labour! The servant saw the mental suffering of Nag Mahashay and came down. Oh the joy of Nag Mahashay when the servant ceased from work. He began to fan him, and prepared tobacco for him. While going in a boat he would not allow the servants to row. He would himself do that. For that reason no one liked to go in the same boat with him.
He was, as it were, humbler than dust. But he was as fierce as anything if anybody criticised his Guru or the children of his Guru in his presence. In this matter he was no respecter of personalities. A saint of the neighbourhood, who unguardedly passed some uncharitable remarks against Sri Ramakrishna while Nag Mahashay was visiting him, got sharp reproof from Nag Mahashay. A rich man of the locality who commanded great respect was humbled by Nag Mahashay because he committed a similar offence. Once while Nag Mahashay was going to the Belur Math in a boat, a fellow passenger criticised the activities of the monastery. At this Nag Mahashay got so infuriated that he struck terror into the heart of the culprit, who thereupon left the boat as quickly as possible.
It was a sight for the gods to see when he would go to any place associated with Sri Ramakrishna, or if he met any devotee or disciple of the Master. When he would meet the Holy Mother, he would lose, as it were, all outward consciousness. Long before he would actually meet her, he would be on another plane. He would behave like a man, from whom the outer world was vanishing – and he would only utter the words, “Mother, Mother.” Once, coming to the house where the Holy Mother lived, he began to touch the threshold with his head in reverence so vehemently that his head began to bleed.
Once he went to Dakshineswar, but on coming near the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived, his agony became so great because he could no longer expect to see him there, that he fell to the ground and began to roll on the earth. When he would go to the monastery at Alambazar, or the Belur Math, he would thrill with emotion; on his coming the whole atmosphere would at once change. The bystanders would be, as it were, transported to a different region. Beginning with Swami Vivekananda all monks would hold him in great reverence. Whenever he would visit the monastery all work would stop. Everybody would flock to him to enjoy his holy presence. Once he came to the Belur Math to see Swami Vivekananda, who had just returned from America. How great was his joy to see the Swami who had been the bearer of the message of the Master to the world! Swami Vivekananda asked him to stay in the monastery. But he would not do that even for a single night. Had not the Master directed him to live in the world?
Nag Mahashay had love not only for all human beings, but it extended to all lower creatures and even to the vegetable kingdom. It was difficult to persuade him to get into a carriage drawn by a horse, because the fiorse would suffer thereby. Once a fisherman brought some living fish for sale. They were jumping in fear. Nag Mahashay bought all the fish and set them free in the neighbouring pond. Seeing this, the fisherman fled from his presence in wonder. One day a cobra was seen in his courtyard. He would not allow that to be killed. He would say that it is not the snake of the jungle but the snake within one’s own mind that injures a man. Sometimes he would feel pain even if leaves were struck off a tree in his presence.
He would see the Divine will in everything – good or bad. He suffered from continued colic pain. He thought the disease was a godsend because it forced him to think of God. Once while he was asleep a cat scratched one of his eyeballs. Others were aghast at the sight. But he was calm and quiet. It was nothing to him. Why should one be so much anxious for bodily happiness? Once he had pains in both his hands which compelled him to keep them together. He thought it was a device of God to keep him in a posture of humility.
After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, when Nag Mahashay came to his village home, he thought of living alone in a cottage in a solitary place. Knowing his intention, his wife gave him perfect freedom to live as he liked but requested him not to go away. Being thus assured by his pious wife, he lived like a monk though in the world. His wife would say with regard to him: ” With the name of the Lord on his lips, he knocked all animal propensities on the head. He lived amidst fire, but was not scorched by it.”
Nag Mahashay once remarked that even birds and beasts were to him the manifestation of the Divine Mother. No wonder all carnality was gone from him.
Once a man belonging to the family of his preceptor, under the instruction of Dindayal, requested Nag Mahashay to seek the perpetuation of his lineage. The very idea was so shocking to him that he fell to the ground like one in a swoon. “Such an improper request from you?” – with these words he began to strike his forehead with a piece of stone. It began to bleed. The man felt repentant and withdrew the request. Nag Mahashay was calm, and bowed down before him.
“Sex and gold are the two obstacles to spiritual progress” – these were the words of Sri Ramakrishna. The great disciple of the Master completely rooted out the desire for them.
While living at Deobhog, a relation of the previous employer of Nag Mahashay was ill of smallpox. Nag Mahashay gave up medical practice, but under great pressure he had to suggest a medicine, which cured the patient. And when the party earnestly requested him to accept a sum of money as a reward, he began to cry in agony to be saved from the temptation. The party thought, ” Here is a god on earth.” Many such incidents can be cited.
Nag Mahashay hated to play the role of a teacher. But many lives were changed as a result of his influence. His house was a place of pilgrimage to many. Innumerable were the persons who flocked to him. But he was humility itself. He thought it a privilege to serve all who came to him. So great was his attention to the physical comforts of the visitors that they all thought they had come as if to a house of their intimate relative. Amongst his devotees could be counted even a Mohammedan, who looked upon him as a Pir. Like his Master, Nag Mahashay was very catholic in his views. He had equal veneration for the devotees of all sects. He made no distinction between a Hindu, a Mohammedan or a Christian. He bowed down before a mosque and uttered the name of Jesus when passing by a church.
His religious view was that every thing depends on the grace of God. But man has to pray. If anyone prays earnestly, and if he has no earthly desire, God’s grace is sure to come.
During his last illness he suffered much physically. But not a word of complaint came from him. His faith in the goodness of God was as strong as ever. There was physical ailment, but his mind was fixed on God – calm and serene at the approach of Eternal Life.
The physical existence of this saintly life ended in December, 1899. But the name of Nag Maha-shay is more than a memory. It is a force – it is a source of inspiration, it gives hope and courage to many to aspire after a better life. The strange episodes of his life pass from mouth to mouth, and those who hear feel as if they have a glimpse of wonderland. Such things are not possible in this world of ours !