22 June 2012

LIFE OF SRI SARADA DEVI


CHAPTER-7: AT THE FEET OF THE MASTER

Sri Sarada devi
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 discipleship 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 her an opportunity to participate in the spiritual consciousness of a highly evolved being and thereby to raise herself 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 on 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 back from 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 ( 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 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 Dakshineswar, 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, I 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'(The Holy Mother used thus to distinguish Swami Yogananda (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.17 for an account of both these persons.) 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 maid servant, one day dropped a metal plate in front of me, with a bang. The sound penetrated into my heart.( 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 textbooks 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). 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 outcast. This realization makes one truly humble.' 

SOURCE: saradadevi.info [Sri Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother 
                                                Written by Swami Tapasyanandaji]