Friday, 29 September 2017

Friday, 13 January 2017

Was Sri Adi Shankaracharya a Vaishnava? What is Mayavada philoshophy?

To understand the context of the question, we need to know how Adi Shankaracharya was a Vaishnava and how His philosophy is Mayavada:-


Adi Shankara was a Vaishnava or not?


Vaishnavas, particularly those from ISKCON, believe that Adi Shankaracharya was a Vaishnava by heart, since He used the names of Vishnu in many of His literary works:



नारायणः परोऽव्यक्तादण्डमव्यक्तसम्भवम् ।  
अण्डस्यान्तस्त्विमे लोकाः सप्तद्वीपा च मेदिनी ॥” (Bhagavad Gita Shankara Bhashyam 1:1)

“अहं परं ब्रह्म वासुदेवाख्यं सर्वस्य जगतः प्रभव उत्पत्तिः । मत्त एव स्थितिनाशक्रियाफलोपभोगलक्षणं विक्रियारूपं सर्वं जगत्प्रवर्तते । इत्येवं मत्वा भजन्ते सेवन्ते मां बुधा अवगतपरमार्थतत्त्वाः । भावसमन्विता भावो भावना परमार्थतत्त्वाभिनिवेशस्तेन समन्विताः संयुक्ताः इत्यर्थः ॥” (Bhagavad Gita Shankara Bhashyam 10:8)

“भज गोविन्दं भज गोविन्दं गोविन्दं भज मूढमते ।सम्प्राप्ते सन्निहिते काले नहि नहि रक्षति डुकृङ्करणे ॥” (Moha Mudgara Verse 1)

In the aforementioned verses, Adi Shankaracharya has used names like “Narayana” (BGSB 1:1), “Vasudeva” (BGSB 10:8) and “Govinda” (MM 1). These names are in general taken to be names of Vishnu, who is a Saguna deity, holds conch & discus, resides in Vaikuntha and is consort of Lakshmi.


Vaishnavas are Sagunopasakas and hence by default they assume that since Adi Shankaracharya used the names of Vishnu in His literary works, then He must have been a Vaishnava (worshiper of Saguna deity Vishnu). However, this is a folly on their part, for Adi Shankaracharya was a Nirgunopasaka, and the names of Saguna deities are Upadhis of Brahman according to Advaita point of view.



Adi Shankaracharya was an anti-Vaishnava:


On a stark contrast to the views of Vaishnavas and their accidental/wishful misreading of Adi Shankara and Kevaladvaita, Shankaracharya was an anti-Vaishnava. He criticized Bhagavata (Vaishnava) sect for their adherence Pancharatra Agamas in His Brahmasutra Bhashyam and condemned Vaishnavism as “Veda Virodha” (anti-Veda):



“उत्पत्त्यसंभवात् ।” (Brahmasutra Shankarabhashya 2:2:42)
शाङ्करभाष्यम्॥
येषामप्रकृतिरधिष्ठाता केवलनिमित्तकारणमीश्वरोऽभिमतः तेषां पक्षः प्रत्याख्यातः। येषां पुनः प्रकृतिश्चाधिष्ठाता च उभयात्मकं कारणमीश्वरोऽभिमतः तेषां पक्षः प्रत्याख्यायते। ननु श्रुतिसमाश्रयणेनाप्येवंरूप एवेश्वरः प्राङ्निर्धारितः प्रकृतिश्चाधिष्ठाता चेति श्रुत्यनुसारिणी च स्मृतिः प्रमाणमिति स्थितिः तत्कस्य हेतोरेष पक्षः प्रत्याचिख्यासित इति उच्यते यद्यप्येवंजातीयकोंऽशः समानत्वान्न विसंवादगोचरो भवति अस्ति त्वंशान्तरं विसंवादस्थानमित्यतस्तत्प्रत्याख्यानायारम्भः।।
तत्र भागवता मन्यते भगवानेवैको वासुदेवो निरञ्जनज्ञानस्वरूपः परमार्थतत्त्वम् स चतुर्धात्मानं प्रविभज्य प्रतिष्ठितः वासुदेवव्यूहरूपेण संकर्षणव्यूहरूपेण प्रद्युम्नव्यूहरूपेण अनिरुद्धव्यूहरूपेण च वासुदेवो नाम परमात्मा उच्यते संकर्षणो नाम जीवः प्रद्युम्नो नाम मनः अनिरुद्धो नाम अहंकारः तेषां वासुदेवः परा प्रकृतिः इतरे संकर्षणादयः कार्यम् तमित्थंभूतं परमेश्वरं भगवन्तमभिगमनोपादानेज्यास्वाध्याययोगैर्वर्षशतमिष्ट्वा क्षीणक्लेशो भगवन्तमेव प्रतिपद्यत इति। तत्र यत्तावदुच्यते योऽसौ नारायणः परोऽव्यक्तात्प्रसिद्धः परमात्मा सर्वात्मा स आत्मनात्मानमनेकधा व्यूह्यावस्थित इति तन्न निराक्रियते स एकधा भवति त्रिधा भवति इत्यादिश्रुतिभ्यः परमात्मनोऽनेकधाभावस्याधिगतत्वात् यदपि तस्य भगवतोऽभिगमनादिलक्षणमाराधनमजस्रमनन्यचित्ततयाभिप्रेयते तदपि न प्रतिषिध्यते श्रुतिस्मृत्योरीश्वरप्रणिधानस्य प्रसिद्धत्वात्। यत्पुनरिदमुच्यते वासुदेवात्संकर्षण उत्पद्यते संकर्षणाच्च प्रद्युम्नः प्रद्युम्नाच्चानिरुद्ध इति अत्र ब्रूमः न वासुदेवसंज्ञकात्परमात्मनः संकर्षणसंज्ञकस्य जीवस्योत्पत्तिः संभवति अनित्यत्वादिदोषप्रसङ्गात् उत्पत्तिमत्त्वे हि जीवस्य अनित्यत्वादयो दोषाः प्रसज्येरन् ततश्च नैवास्य भगवत्प्राप्तिर्मोक्षः स्यात् कारणप्राप्तौ कार्यस्य प्रविलयप्रसङ्गात् प्रतिषेधिष्यति च आचार्यो जीवस्योत्पत्तिम् नात्माश्रुतेर्नित्यत्वाच्च ताभ्यः इति। तस्मादसंगतैषा कल्पना।।
Translation by Swami Vireshvarananda of Ramakrishna Mission:-
“The origination (of the individual soul from the Lord) being impossible (the Pancharatra doctrine is untenable).”
Commentary:-
The Pancharatra or the Bhagavata school is now taken up for examination. It recognizes the material and efficient causality of the Lord, but propounds certain other views that are objectionable. According to it Vasudeva is the Supreme Lord, the material and the efficient cause of the world. By worshiping Him, meditating on Him and by knowing Him one attains Liberation. From Vasudeva is born Shankarshana, the Jiva; from Jiva Pradyumna, the mind; from mind Aniruddha, the Ego. These are the fourfold form (Vyuha) of Vasudeva.
Of these, the view that Vasudeva is the Supreme Lord, to be worshiped and so on, the Vedantin accepts, as it is not against the Sruti. But the creation of the Jiva etc., he rejects, as such creation is impossible. Why? Because if the soul be created, it would be subject to destruction, and so no Liberation can be predicated of it. That the soul is not created will be shown in Sutra 2. 3. 17.
“न च कर्तुः करणम् ।” (Brahmasutra Shankarabhashya 2:2:43)
शाङ्करभाष्यम्॥
इतश्चासंगतैषा कल्पना यस्मान्न हि लोके कर्तुर्देवदत्तादेः करणं परश्वाद्युत्पद्यमानं दृश्यते वर्णयन्ति च भागवताः कर्तुर्जीवात्संकर्षणसंज्ञकात्करणं मनः प्रद्युम्नसंज्ञकमुत्पद्यते कर्तृजाच्च तस्मादनिरुद्धसंज्ञकोऽहंकार उत्पद्यत इति न चैतद्दृष्टान्तमन्तरेणाध्यवसातुं शक्नुमः न चैवंभूतां श्रुतिमुपलभामहे।।
Translation by Swami Vireshvarananda of Ramakrishna Mission:-
“Nor (is it seen that) the instrument (is produced) from the agent.”
Commentary:-
As an instrument, like an axe, is not seen to be produced from the agent, the wood-cutter, the Bhagavata doctrine-that from the individual soul is produced the internal instrument or mind, and from the mind the ego-cannot be accepted. Neither is there any scriptural authority of it. The scripture plainly says that everything originates from Brahman.
“विज्ञानादिभावे वा तदप्रतिषेधः ।” (Brahmasutra Shankarabhashya 2:2:44) 
शाङ्करभाष्यम्॥
अथापि स्यात् न चैते संकर्षणादयो जीवादिभावेनाभिप्रेयन्ते किं तर्हि ईश्वरा एवैते सर्वे ज्ञानैश्वर्यशक्तिबलवीर्यतेजोभिरैश्वर्यधर्मैरन्विता अभ्युपगम्यन्ते वासुदेवा एवैते सर्वे निर्दोषा निरधिष्ठाना निरवद्याश्चेति तस्मान्नायं यथावर्णित उत्पत्त्यसंभवो दोषः प्राप्नोतीति। अत्रोच्यते एवमपि तदप्रतिषेधः उत्पत्त्यसंभवस्याप्रतिषेधः प्राप्नोत्येवायमुत्पत्त्यसंभवो दोषः प्रकारान्तरेणेत्यभिप्रायः कथम् यदि तावदयमभिप्रायः परस्परभिन्ना एवैते वासुदेवादयश्चत्वार ईश्वरास्तुल्यधर्माणः नैषामेकात्मकत्वमस्तीति ततोऽनेकेश्वरकल्पनानर्थक्यम् एकेनैवेश्वरेणेश्वरकार्यसिद्धेः सिद्धान्तहानिश्च भगवानेवैको वासुदेवः परमार्थतत्त्वमित्यभ्युपगमात्। अथायमभिप्रायः एकस्यैव भगवत एते चत्वारो व्यूहास्तुल्यधर्माण इति तथापि तदवस्थ एवोत्पत्त्यसंभवः न हि वासुदेवात्संकर्षणस्योत्पत्तिः संभवति संकर्षणाच्च प्रद्युम्नस्य प्रद्युम्नाच्चानिरुद्धस्य अतिशयाभावात् भवितव्यं हि कार्यकारणयोरतिशयेन यथा मृद्धटयोः न ह्यसत्यतिशये कार्यं कारणमित्यवकल्पते। न च पञ्चरात्रसिद्धान्तिभिर्वासुदेवादिषु एकस्मिन्सर्वेषु वा ज्ञानैश्वर्यादितारतम्यकृतः कश्चिद्भेदोऽभ्युपगम्यते वासुदेवा एव हि सर्वे व्यूहा निर्विशेषा इष्यन्ते। न चैते भगवद्व्यूहाश्चतुःसंख्यायामेवावतिष्ठेरन् ब्रह्मादिस्तम्बपर्यन्तस्य समस्तस्यैव जगतो भगवद्व्यूहत्वावगमात्।। 
Translation by Swami Vireshvarananda of Ramakrishna Mission:-
“Or if the (four Vyuhas are said to) posses intelligence etc., yet there is no warding of that (viz. the objection raised in Sutra 42). 
Commentary:-
The Bhagavatas may say that all the forms are Vasudeva, the Lord, and that all of them possess knowledge and lordship, strength, valour etc., and are free from faults and imperfections. In this case there will be more than one Iswara, which is redundant and goes against their own assumption. Even granting all this, the origination of one from the other is unthinkable. Being equal in all respects, none of them can be the cause of another, for the effect must have some feature that is lacking in the cause. Again the forms of Vasudeva cannot be limited to four only, as the whole world from Brahma down to a clump of grass is a form of the Supreme Being. 
“विप्रतिषेधाच् च ।” (Brahmasutra Shankarabhashya 2:2:45) 
शाङ्करभाष्यम्॥
विप्रतिषेधश्च अस्मिन् शास्त्रे बहुविध उपलभ्यते गुणगुणित्वकल्पनादिलक्षणः ज्ञानैश्वर्यशक्तिबलवीर्यतेजांसि गुणाः आत्मान एवैते भगवन्तो वासुदेवा इत्यादिदर्शनात्। वेदविप्रतिषेधश्च भवति चतुर्षु वेदेषु परं श्रेयोऽलब्ध्वा शाण्डिल्य इदं शास्त्रमधिगतवानित्यादिवेदनिन्दादर्शनात्। तस्मात् असंगतैषा कल्पनेति सिद्धम्।। 
Translation by Swami Vireshvarananda of Ramakrishna Mission:-
“And because of the contradictions (the Bhagavata view is untenable).” 
Commentary:-
Moreover the theory involves many contradictions. Sometimes it speaks of the four forms as the qualities of the Atman and sometimes as the Atman itself.


Another evidence of Adi Shankara’s rejection of Vaishnavism and Pancharatra texts:


“न साख्यं न शैवं न तत्पाञ्चरात्रं न जैनं न मीमांसकादेर्मतं वा विशिष्टानुभूत्या विशुद्धात्मकत्वात्त देकोऽवशिष्टः शिवः केवलोऽहम् ॥” (Dashashloki Verse 4)

There is no Sankhya nor Saiva, nor that Pancharatra nor Jaina. The conception of the Mimamsaka and others does not exist. For, through the direct realisation of what is qualified, the Self is known as of the nature of the Absolutely Pure. That One, the Residue, the Auspicious, the Alone, am I.

So, the above evidences clearly show that Adi Shankaracharya was a Kevaladvaitin and not a Vaishnava, for a true Vaishnava would never reject Pancharatra texts and condemn Bhagavata (Vaishnava) sect.


Let us now see why the same Vaishnavas, who believe Adi Shankara too was a Vaishnava, call His philosophy Mayavada and condemn Him as a covered Buddhist. They claim that in Padma Purana, Shiva reveals to Parvati that He would incarnate as Shankaracharya and propagate Mayavada (Advaita Vedanta). The philosophy would be hidden Buddhism, and Shiva would preach it to delude sinful people (i.e., Advaitins are sinners in Vaishnava POV):-



Padma Purana predicts Adi Shankara’s birth:



“mAyAvAdamasachchAstraMprachchannaMbauddha ucyate | mayaivakathitaMdevikalaubrAhmaNarUpiNA ||” (Padma Purana 6.236.7)
Mayavada (referring to Advaita Vedanta) is a wicked doctrine and said to be pseudo-Buddhist. I (Shiva) myself, in the form of a Brahmin, proclaimed it in Kali.

“apaarthaMshrutivAkyAnAMdarshayanlokagarhitam |svakarmarUpaMtyAjyatvamatraivapratipaadhyate ||” (Padma Purana 6.236.8)It shows the meaninglessness of the words of the Vedas and is condemned in the world. In this (doctrine) only the giving up of one's own duties is expounded.

“sarvakarmaparibhraShTairvaidharmmatvaMtaduchyate |pareshajiivapAraikyaMmayAtupratipAdhyate ||” (Padma Purana 6.236.9)And that is said to be religiousness by those who have fallen from all duties. I have propounded the identity of the Highest Lord and the individual soul.

“brahmaNosyasvayaMmrUpaMnirguNaMvakshyate mayA |sarvasyajagatopyatramohanAarthaMkalauyuge || vedArthavanmahAshAstraMmAyayAyadavaidikam |mayaivakalpitaMdevijagatANAshakAraNAt ||” (Padma Purana 6.236.10-11)I stated this Brahman's nature to be formless. O goddess (Parvati), I myself have conceived, for the destruction of the worlds, and for deluding the world in this Kali age, the great doctrine resembling the purport of the Vedas, (but) non-Vedic due to the principle of Maya.


 Questions:

  • In verse 6:236:7, Shiva says He would incarnate as a Brahmin and preach Mayavada philosophy. Fine. Although Adi Shankara is considered an incarnation of Shiva and He was a Brahmin by birth, the verse doesn’t mention Him specifically. How do we verify that Shankaracharya is that incarnation of Shiva, who would preach Mayavada (covered Buddhism)?
  • The verse 6:236:7 also says that “Mayavada”, the wicked doctrine is covered Buddhism. Now Buddhism is a Nastika (atheist) religion, while Advaita is an Astika (theist) school. Isn’t that a contradiction?
  • The verses 6:236:8–9 say that Mayavada rejects Vedas and is followed by people who give up their duties. But we see that Shankaracharya in His literary works stresses upon the study of Vedas and declares enlightenment as the highest duty. Again, isn’t that a contradiction?
  • The verse 6:236:9 says that people who identify the non-duality of soul and God are fallen (sinners). In that case, why do the Mahavakyas from each of the four Vedas attest monism?
  • The verses 6:236:10–11 say that for the destruction of the world, Shiva would found Mayavada (Advaita) philosophy. However, according to the Puranas, the next apocalypse is to come 108000 years later. Besides, these verses also say that Shiva’s incarnation (Shankaracharya) would be the “founder” of Mayavada. But we see that Advaita Vedanta preexists Him. Adi Shankara’s Guru was Govindapada, Govidapada’s Guru was Gaudapada, Gaudapada’s Guru was Suka, Suka’s Guru was Vedavyasa, Vedavyasa’s Guru was Parashara, Prashara’s Guru was Shakti, Shakti’s Guru was Vashishta, Vashishtha’s Guru was Brahma, and Brahma’s Guru was Vishnu. Again, since “Mayavada” traces it’s route in Vishnu, the patron deity of Vaishnavas, isn’t it a contradiction that Padma Purana speculates Shiva to be founder of “Mayavada”?


We see that the analysis of the very verses that Vaishnavas quote to downgrade Adi Shankara and Advaita Vedanta refutes their hateful claims.

Besides, the authenticity of the above verses from Padma Purana is also questionable, since Padma Purana has various recessions across India due to interpolations made by Vaishnavas from time to time.



Conclusion:


Neither Adi Shankaracharya was a Vaishnava, nor Advaita philosophy is Mayavada. It is ridiculous that Vaishnavas piggy back the monist saint whom their own founding Acharyas viz. Ramanuja and Madhva rejected and demonized.


He wasn’t a Mayavadi either, for the whole “Mayavada” scenario is a myth that was engineered by rival Vaishnavas to condemn Adi Shankara and Advaita philosophy.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Holy Mother Sri Sarada, the Contemporary Incarnation of Adyashakti Mahamaya

"।। अनाथस्य दीनस्य तृष्णातुरस्य  ।। "

Of the orphan, the poor and the thirsty.

God Takes Human Form

Jayrambati is a tiny village. It is situated in Bankura dis­trict of West Bengal. There lived Sri Ramachandra Mukherji, a poor brahmin, and his wife Shyamasundari. They were very pious, extremely simple and generous. They worshipped Sri Ramachandra. They had a few bighas of land where rice and vegetables were cultivated. But that was not enough for the family. So Ramachandra had to work also as a priest. There was a thatched temple nearby where “Dharma Thakur” was worshipped and taken care of by the Mukherjis. Thus they some­how maintained their family and served the guests humbly. It is a great wonder that she, who in earlier times was born as Sita and Radha, was born this time in the Mukherji family as Saradamani. It is indeed a wonder of all wonders that God takes human form. How many times did He come as a human being! None really knows. And every time He chooses parents who are simple, broad-hearted and intensely religious. Once He appeared as Sri Rama and Sita. Another time, as Krishna and Radha. These are only a few instances. According to our Puranas, whenever God comes He is accompanied by His shakti or divine power who assumes a female body. They are one and not separate from each other just as fire and its power to burn.

The Power whom we call Goddess Kali or Saraswati or Tara or Shodashi and so on is the Mother of the Universe. They are one and the same. And this same Universal Mother appeared this time as Sarada Devi. She has shown through her practical, busy, day-to-day life of an ideal daughter, sister, wife and mother how one can remain pure and see God even though living in a family. She herself said, ‘I have done much more than what is required as an ideal.’

'Here am I come to you, mother!'



Shyamasundari’s parents lived in the northern part of a village called Shihar. Once she had gone there in con­nection with a religious festival. There stood a bel tree ad­jacent to a pond known as Ellapukur near their house. On her way back home towards evening she felt she must have a wash. So she sat under the tree and immediately heard a sound.


Before Sri Ramakrishna was born, his mother saw a light coming from Shiva and entering her womb. After the sound she heard Shyamasundari had a similar experience. Sarada Devi said, ‘I too was born that way. My mother had gone to Shihar to see a deity. As she was coming back she felt her bowels would move. She sat under a tree close to a temple. But nothing happened. Instead she had a feeling that an air entered her body and the abdomen became very heavy. Sitting there as before she saw a five or six-year-old beautiful girl wearing red silk sari came down from the tree and threw her soft arms round her neck from behind to say, “Here am I come to you, mother!” It was that girl who got into mother’s womb and thereafter I was born.’

Ramachandra was then in Kolkata. But before leaving for Kolkata he also had a dream in which a tiny girl of incomparable beauty, embellished with ornaments, threw her arms round his neck from behind saying, ‘I have come to you!’ Ramachandra then woke up. His mind was filled with joy.

Sarada's Birth and Education


 At last Shyamasundari gave birth to a daughter on 22 December 1853. Both husband and wife knew in ad­vance that this girl was, in reality, the Mother of the Uni­verse. Yet, as is natural, they began to rear her as their own daughter. Shyamasundari named her ‘Kshemankari’. Sarada Devi said later: ‘My aunt told mother, “Sister, change your child’s name to Sarada.” My mother therefore gave me this new name— “Sarada”.’


Under her parent’s loving care and in the idyllic surround­ings of rural Bengal Sarada began to grow. There were green paddy-fields all around dotted by trees in full blossom and many tanks where lotuses bloomed in abundance. The vil­lagers were poor, but simple and religious. They worked hard all day. In the evening they relaxed, sometimes listening to mythological stories, sometimes reading the Ramayana or the Mahabharata and sometimes enjoying open-air operas. At such village gatherings Puranic stories were much talked about—stories about great persons who had a vision of God, how they got such a vision or about the ways of God-real­ization. Sarada heard all these. She also learned much from the lives of her pious parents. That was all about her educa­tion. She never went to school as that was not the village custom in those days. Once she brought a “Varnaparichay” (a Bengali primer) but Hriday snatched away the book. All the same, she knew the scriptures by heart. One day in later life when she concluded a discussion on some serious scrip­tural questions, someone asked, ‘Mother, how do you know all these?’ She replied, ‘In our days we heard a lot of devo­tional talks. That was good education.’

Sarada's 'Bath in the Ganga"


Sarada was the eldest child. After her were born one sister and five brothers. Even as a tiny girl, she looked after them as if she was their mother. A rivulet called Amodar flows slowly by the side of Jayrambati. To Sarada, the stream was as good as Ganga where she used to take her brothers for a bath. Remembering those happy days, Sarada Devi later said, I used to go with them to bathe in the Ganga, that is, in the Amodar, which was our sacred Ganga. Finishing our bath I would eat with them some puffed-rice there and then bring them home.’ Indeed, it was a divine sight—Sarada taking her small steps on the dyke separating paddy-fields and lead­ing her brothers back home!


Sarada’s feet were very soft and had a pink flash of a land-lily. Kalidas, the great ancient poet writes that when Uma, the daughter of the Himalayas walked, her feet used to radiate such a pinkish glow that it seemed as though she had been strewing the earth with red land-lilies. That was per­haps the poet’s imagination. But the bottom of Sarada’s feet had really the complexion of a red lotus.

In the village she had playmates of her age. But she pre­ferred to play with clay-images of gods and goddesses. She was also fond of playing the role of a master or the mistress of a house. She was so gentle and polite that she never quar­relled with her friends. Rather she was always the trouble-shooter.

She didn’t spend all her time playing, she also did house­work.

Helping the Family


Besides taking good care of her brothers, right from child­hood Sarada helped her mother in various household chores. She carried tiffin to the labourers working in the field. With Shyamasundari she went to cotton field to pluck cotton pods. Once, when locusts destroyed the crop, she went round the fields gathering paddy.

Though poor, they had some cattle. Little Sarada would plunge into water and cut grass to feed them. A very strange thing used to happen then almost regularly. While cutting grass she saw another girl of her age appeared from nowhere and helped her. No sooner had she returned from the bank after depositing a sheaf than she would find another bundle kept ready by that girl.

In the Puranic stories you may have noticed that gods are talking to humans and mixing with them. If the mind is very pure and there is in it intense faith and devotion, this is pos­sible even today. In recent past, Sarada had so many extraor­dinary experiences of this kind since her childhood. Not only did the goddess appearing as a girl help her in cutting grass, but she also stayed with her for a long time. Sarada said in later years, ‘I saw that another girl of my age always accom­panied me, helped me in my work and frolicked with me.’

All her visions except one or two are unknown to us. How­ever, the lives of divine persons like Sarada convince us that the scriptures say nothing but the truth.

'Whose glory are you singing?'


 When the Mother of the Universe takes a human body, Devas naturally come to Her. However, Sarada didn’t tell anyone about her divine visions then and there. Devotees heard a little about all these much later. Yet, in spite of these extraor­dinary experiences, Sarada lived like just any other village girl. Her ways and conduct didn’t tell anyone that she was uncom­mon. The truth is, even though God comes as man, nobody can recognize Him unless He makes Himself known. Not to speak of Sarada’s childhood, how many could understand her real na­ture even in her later life?


There is an interesting story in Sri Sri Chandi about the Devas who were defeated by the demons in battle. The Devas then went to the Himalayas and began to sing the glory of the Universal Mother in order to receive Her grace. The Mother then appeared as Parvati and was going for a bath in the Ganga. She asked the Devas, ‘Whose glory are you singing?’ They couldn’t recognize her. Then the Mother assumed another form and said, ‘You are singing my praise.’

Sarada revealed to her parents before her birth that she was the Mother of the Universe. Of course, much later she also re­vealed her identity to a fortunate few. For instance, a person named Ramhriday Ghoshal came to see Jagaddhatri Puja and found Sarada Devi meditating before the deity. The sight struck him, for Sarada Devi appeared to him as Jagaddhatri. Once he looked at the image, next he kept his eyes fixed on Sarada. This he did again and again and left the place in fear when he couldn’t make out who was the real deity.

Serving the Poor and the Distressed



 Apart from playing and looking after her brothers, Sarada, when she grew up a little, helped her mother in the kitchen. But, still a tiny girl that she was, she couldn’t bring down the huge rice-pot from the oven; she had to call in her father. She also fetched water from the pond and learnt swim­ming with the help of the pitcher.


Sarada was so affectionate that from early girlhood it broke her heart to see the suffering of others. She had been a “mother” through and through. When she was eleven, a ter­rible famine swept the countryside. People were without food. Sarada’s father was poor but had some stocks of paddy in the granary. Without being concerned about their own future he had the paddy husked into rice and got potfuls of “khichri” cooked daily to feed the hungry. People from dis­tant places used to come and ate their fill. ‘Everyone in this house will eat this’, said Ramachandra, ‘only for my Sarada, a little rice of good variety will be cooked and she will eat that.’ That was natural, for often he remembered the dream and the true nature of Sarada. Again, at other times he would simply forget that. Otherwise how could he rear the God­dess as his own daughter?

Though a small girl, Sarada helped the poor and the dis­tressed as far as possible. Many a time hungry villagers, who had been starving for days, would come to their house. They couldn’t wait. They started eating as soon as hot khichri was served. Sarada couldn’t bear to see this pathetic scene! She would go forward and fan the food with both hands. Since then, not only her brothers, but also the poor and the miser­able discovered a mother in her.


Choosing Her Husband 


 Sarada was married to Sri Ramakrishna at the age of five.Sri Ramakrishna was then twenty-three or twenty-four. A funny incident took place before their marriage. There is a Shiva temple at Shihar which is close to Jayrambati. People from many villages gather at the temple on a particular day every year and rejoice. One year Sri Ramakrishna went there from Kamarpukur. So came the members of Sarada’s family and others from Jayrambati. Sarada, then a mere baby, sat on her mother’s lap as singers kept singing devotional songs. There were listeners all around. In the mean time, a lady asked Sarada in a jocular way, ‘Here are so many people. Whom would you like to marry?’ Without hesitation Sarada raised her hand and pointed to Sri Ramakrishna. She had no idea of marriage at that age, yet unerringly selected her hus­band—definitely the pick of the bunch! This naturally amused everybody. But we know things happened the way she liked—she was married to Sri Ramakrishna.


Sri Ramakrishna’s family name was Gadadhar Chatterjee. His parents lived at Kamarpukur, about three miles from Jayrambati. In order to reach Kamarpukur from Jayrambati one must pass through the mango grove owned by a Zemindar known as Manikraja. Sri Ramakrishna’s father, Kshudiram, died when the former was very young. Sri Ramakrishna later moved to Kolkata with his elder brother who ran a Sanskrit school. At the time the funny incident happened at Shihar, Sri Ramakrishna came to Kamarpukur to spend a few months with his mother, Chandra Devi, and other relations.

Sri Ramakrishna


 Like wife, like husband! If Sarada had chosen Sri Ramakrishna, the latter also chose Sarada as his wife. In childhood he learnt very little at school. When he was seventeen, his elder brother brought him to Kolkata and wanted him to study at his own Sanskrit school. But he re­fused. He said he didn’t like to have “bread-earning educa­tion” which was the goal of an average priest. Instead, he wished to realize God. After Rani Rasmani built the Kali temple at Dakshineswar, he followed his brother there and after some time began to worship Goddess Kali. Soon he attained the vision of Kali. He also saw Sita with naked eyes near Panchavati. That was the time when he had been wor­shipping Rama.


News meanwhile reached Chandra Devi that her son had become so obsessed with God and religion that he was now totally unworldly. She became worried, had him brought to Kamarpukur and set about searching for a bride for him. When a suitable girl couldn’t be found, Sri Ramakrishna came to her rescue and said, ‘Go and find the bride marked out with a straw in Ramachandra Mukherji’s house at Jayrambati.’ “Marked out” means preordained or predes­tined. Strangely enough, the bride was found out and the wedding was fixed. Sarada was then a girl of five.

In May 1859 the marriage took place. Sarada didn’t re­member much of her wedding ceremony. Later she said, ‘I was married when the dates ripen—I don’t exactly remem­ber the month. When I went to Kamarpukur within ten days, I picked up dates there, Surya’s father carried me to Kamarpukur in his arms.’ Surya’s father was her uncle— Iswarchandra Mukherji.

'Where are my ornaments gone?'


Chandra Devi received her daughter-in-law with great affection and cordiality. She spent the following two days amidst great joy. But soon after that she became very sad.


Her family at Kamarpukur was not well-off. Moreover, they had to pay three hundred rupees as bridal money to Sarada’s father. Somehow or other they collected that amount. But they had no extra money to buy ornaments for the bride. Yet social courtesy demanded that the bride should be duly adorned. Chandra Devi therefore took some orna­ments on loan from the Laha family to decorate the bride. Now, all the ceremonies being over, these had to be returned. Chandra broke down completely. She thought how cruel it would be to take the ornaments off the child-wife! But Sri Ramakrishna came forward and said, ‘Mother, please don’t worry. I’ll do in a way she won’t sense it.’ And he kept his word. When Sarada was asleep he removed the jewellery so deftly that she couldn’t sense anything.

Little though, she was very intelligent. She woke up in the morning and said, ‘Where are my ornaments gone?’ Chandra was visibly moved. She wept and took Sarada in her arms to say, ‘You’ll see, my son will give you better ornaments in future.’ Truly, Sri Ramakrishna gave Sarada many ornaments in future, including a pair of bangles, the kind of which he saw in Sita’s hands. Till the last day of her life Sarada Devi wore those bangles. Sri Ramakrishna knew well that she, who was Sita in the Rama incarnation, had this time come as Sarada Devi. 

Serving Her Husband


 There was a special reason why Sri Ramakrishna gave many ornaments to Sarada Devi. He used to say, ‘She is Sarada, she is Saraswati. That’s why she likes to put on or­naments.’


Two years after marriage Sri Ramakrishna went to.his father-in-law’s house at Jayrambati. Sarada was too little at the time of marriage. Lest she should think of this visit to­gether as the marriage itself, Sri Ramakrishna said to her this time, ‘If anyone asks you at what age you were married, tell him it was at five and not at seven.’ During this visit, Hriday, Sri Ramakrishna’s nephew, was also there and he worshipped his aunt with lotus flowers.

None taught her; yet, of her own accord she washed her husband’s feet and fanned him as he arrived. This spirit of service amused the senior members of the family. Shortly afterwards the couple returned to Kamarpukur. Sarada came to Kamarpukur twice following this last visit but couldn’t meet Sri Ramakrishna as he plunged into various kinds of spiritual practices at Dakshineswar. In his yearning to see God in diverse ways he then had forgotten everything that belonged to this world. Not only did he practise the disci­plines of the Vaishnavas and the Shaktas at this time, but also became a Sannyasin to practise Advaitism. He even scrupulously practised Islam for a while. Teachers such as Bhairavi Brahmani, Totapuri and Govinda assisted him in these strenuous practices. As a result of this extraordinary sadhana, Sri Ramakrishna realized that God is indeed one though called variously by various people.

Eight Companions of the Mother


From now on we will refer to Sarada Devi as “Sri Sri Ma”, “Holy Mother”, or simply “Mother”.


We have said already that Sri Sri Ma Sarada was essen­tially the Mother of the Universe but assumed a human body only to teach us how to attain God while living in this world. She knew this truth since her childhood. You have been told that even as a child she used to see a divine girl of her age who would always roam about with her and help in her work. She would laugh and even play with her. Mother also narrated a similar incident that took place when she had been staying at Kamarpukur at the age of thirteen. She was so shy that she always kept her face veiled, even when she was old. The tank of the Haldars was not far from Sri Ramakrishna’s house. Yet she, then quite new at Kamarpukur, hesitated to go all alone to the tank for her bath. One day, when she was thus musing, she saw eight girls appeared from somewhere and escorted her to the tank. Along with the Mother they also took their bath and came back with her to the house. This happened every day. Of course, none but the Mother could see them.

Swami Vivekananda saw the “living Durga” in Sarada Devi. When the priest worships Goddess Durga, he has to chant a mantra and meditate on it. The mantra advises the worshipper to think that Mother Durga is always accompa­nied by eight powerful deities or playmates. Does it not seem from the Mother’s own experiences that those eight girls, who escorted her to the tank, were her eight eternal companions? 

In Her Adolescence 


 In may 1867, Sarada Devi again came to Kamarpukur. She was then fourteen years old. Sri Ramakrishna had already come to his native village from Dakshineswar. His relatives, therefore, brought her to Kamarpukur to add to the joy of the family. She met Sri Ramakrishna twice before, but she was then too immature to understand what a husband was all about. Now that she was quite grown up, it may be said that practi­cally this was her first meeting with the husband. She came, in fact, with some hesitation because she heard that Sri Ramakrishna had become a monk. ‘Will he allow me to serve him?’—she thought.


However, all worries vanished when Sri Ramakrishna re­ceived her with great affection and tenderness. Joy filled her heart to the brim. Of course they were celibates throughout their life, but the love they shared was limitless. During this period Sri Ramakrishna trained her in every way—not only how to attain God or deal with others, but also such household work as twirling the wick. In short, he elevated Sarada Devi’s mind to a supernal level of consciousness. Narrating her pure joy of these days she later said : “From that time onward, I always felt as if a pitcher of bliss was kept in my heart. I can’t convey any idea of how much and in what manner my mind feasted on that steady, unchanging divine joy. I never knew what it meant to be mentally disturbed, my child.”

On Her Way to Dakshineswar


Having spent seven blissful months with Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother went back to Jayrambati. Since then four years had passed. Meanwhile rumour spread that Sri Ramakrishna had lost his mind.

The village women used to say pointing to her, ‘There goes the wife of the madman!’ She also suffered great pain when people expressed their pseudo sympathy and said, ‘Ah me! Shyama’s daughter has been married to a lunatic!’ As a re­sult, she avoided their company. She would go only to the house of aunt Bhanu, their next-door neighbour. Bhanu-pisi’s husband lived in Fului-Shyambazar. After the death of hus­band and her only daughter she returned to this ancestral house. A devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, she had a genuine love for the Mother and this loving relationship never snapped.

Mother heard all the whispers. She thought: ‘Is it true that the divine person whom I met at Kamarpukur has become mad, as the people say? If that is a fact, my first duty is to go to him and serve.’ But she couldn’t speak out to her father. However, an opportunity came when she heard that some vil­lagers were going to Kolkata for a holy dip in the Ganga very soon. She decided to accompany them. Ramachandra too heard through others what her daughter had in mind. He un­derstood that Sarada Devi wanted to go to her husband and he himself escorted her.

They set off in March 1872. They had to cross village after village, field after field. They walked sixty miles in all. The rich hire palanquin to travel such a distance. But Sarada Devi’s father was poor. Where he will get the money?

'I'm your sister!'

 They were coming via Tarakeswar. But Mother found the journey very tough. She had fever on the way. Naturally, Ramachandra had to take shelter in a wayside rest-house. Mother didn’t, however, bother about her fever, nor did she mind the strain of long walk. She was distressed to think that, perhaps, she won’t be able to go to Sri Ramakrishna and serve him anymore!

Her temperature rose sharply. The whole body was burn­ing. She lay almost unconscious when she saw a divine vi­sion. She found a dark woman of peerless beauty with dusty feet sitting by her bed-side and stroking her head. The divine touch cooled her body. Mother asked her in great wonder, ‘Where do you come from, my dear?’ And she replied, ‘From Dakshineswar.’ ‘Dakshineswar!’, Mother exclaimed and said, I thought I too would go there and serve him. But I’m afraid, this fever won’t allow me to do so!’ The black woman said, ‘What do you mean! You will come round and certainly go there to serve him. It is for you that I have been holding him there.’ Mother was amazed. She said, ‘Is it so? But who are you to me?’ ‘I’m your sister,’ the woman replied. Mother said, ‘Indeed! That’s why you have come!’

After this Mother felt relieved and fell asleep. Next morn­ing she woke up refreshed. Neither fever nor the burning sen­sation was there! You can certainly understand from this in­cident that Mother Kali or Bhavatarini of the Dakshineswar temple had assumed the form of the “beautiful, dark-com­plexioned” woman and went to her.

Ramachandra and Holy Mother now resumed their walk.

The Great Reunion


 Fortunately they came across a palanquin which brought Holy Mother upto the bank of the Ganga. Then they crossed the river by boat to reach Dakshineswar at nine o’clock in the night. On the way, Mother had a relapse of the fever.


Sri Ramakrishna received her warmly, kept her in his own room and made all arrangements for her treatment and diet. A woman companion slept with her. Thus all her doubts were removed. Sarada Devi understood that Sri Ramakrishna had not changed at all. He was absolutely sane and loved her as before. The rumours people spread were baseless.

In three or four days Holy Mother came round. Sri Ramakrishna then sent her to his mother, Chandra Devi, who stayed in the upper room of the Nahabat. Holy Mother be­gan to live in the utterly small room on the ground floor. The room was screened by plaited bamboo slips from outside. The door of the room was so low that at first she would knock her head against its upper frame and suffered injuries. Later she said, ‘Then I got accustomed to it. The head bent of itself as soon as I approached the door.’ From this dingy, cage-like room she had served Sri Ramakrishna year after year. One devotee saw her in that condition and remarked, ‘Ah! She is, as it were, in exile, like Sita.’

Before clock struck four she would get up daily and fin­ish her bath in the Ganga. At that early dim hour one day she was about to tread on a crocodile lying on the steps of the Bakultala-ghat. The reptile of course slipped into water.

Sarada was Mother Kali to Ramakrishna


 Finishing her morning bath Mother would return to Nahabat and sit for Japa at four o’clock. When that would be over, she would follow her daily routine—cooking for Ramakrishna and the devotees, making betel rolls and doing other household chores throughout the day. Often she rubbed oil on Ramakrishna’s body before his bath. By the way, Ramakrishna’s complexion, said the Mother, was bright like pure gold and could hardly be distinguished from the gold amulet on his arm. So long as Chandramani was alive Sri Ramakrishna came to Nahabat to have his lunch with her, while Holy Mother served them. After Chandra passed away, Mother herself would go to Sri Ramakrishna’s room to serve him lunch and supper. So much work, but she did everything quietly and unobserved! The manager of the Kali temple once said, ‘We have heard that she lives here, but we have never seen her.’


After her first visit to Dakshineswar Holy Mother slept with Sri Ramakrishna in the same room for eight months. But Sri Ramakrishna remained so absorbed in contemplation of God that the couple’s mind would be devoid of body-con­sciousness and soar in the pure realms of the Spirit; they were never conscious of the worldly pull. Sri Ramakrishna saw his Divine Mother in every woman including his wife. So any other attitude was impossible for him to take. One night, Holy Mother asked Sri Ramakrishna while massaging his feet, ‘How do you look upon me?’ He replied instantly, ‘The Mother who is the Deity in the temple, the mother who gave birth to me and now resides in Nahabat, she is now massag­ing my feet. Truly, I always see you as Mother Kali.’

Shodashi Puja


In spite of living together for some months Sri Ramakrishna found that their minds remained absolutely pure; none of them lost self-control even for a moment. Thereafter, on 5 June 1872, on Phalaharini Kali-puja night, he worshipped Sarada Devi as Shodashi, the Mother of the Universe. The Mother of the Universe is variously worshipped —as Durga, Kali, Tara, Shodashi and so on. But, in his room he uttered the “mantras” which are related to Shodashi and worshipped Sarada Devi duly with flowers, bel leaves and sweets, among other things.


Sri Ramakrishna practised sadhana according to all the disciplines followed by various Hindu sects. He even prac­tised Islam. And, in the end, he had God-vision as described in the scriptures. After worshipping Sarada Devi he surren­dered all the fruits of his sadhana and his rosary at her feet. This puja may be said to be his last sadhana. Of course, a year after this puja he began to think of Christ and just three days of deep contemplation gave him a vision of Jesus. For this, however, he didn’t have to practise any particular aus­terity.

After Shodashi puja Holy Mother continued to stay in Sri Ramakrishna’s room for some more months. But when the Master came to know that his intense spiritual moods at night made Mother anxious and that she couldn’t sleep at all, he asked her to stay at Nahabat even at night-time. 

'Can't say "no" if someone calls me "mother"' 


Having worshipped Sarada Devi in such an unprecedented way Sri Ramakrishna opened the door of her motherly love and compassion to all. He made her literally the Mother of the Universe. Gods, human beings and even an “ant”—all were her children. This all-embracing love began to mani­fest when she was at Dakshineswar. Later it overflowed to such an extent that the hearts of countless children kept swimming with her reassuring compassion. She never discriminated; whoever came and called her “mother”, she took that child in her arms.


This endless affection, at times, made her overrule Sri Ramakrishna’s objection. Thus we find her giving solace to an ill-reputed woman for days much against his wishes. Again, she would overfeed some young devotees. When Sri Ramakrishna came to know this and told her that this was not a good practice because “they would become monks”, Mother replied, ‘That’s my concern. I shall look after their welfare.’ Sri Ramakrishna understood the point and was glad to note that her mother-heart was blossoming out steadily.

Once Holy Mother obliged a lady who prayed that she be allowed to carry the Master’s food that day. Later, when Mother came to his room, Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘Please, don’t hand over my food to such persons. It hurts me.’ Mother said, ‘What can I do? She wanted and I couldn’t say “no”.’ Sri Ramakrishna still stuck to his point. Then Mother said with folded hands, ‘Thakur, that I can’t! If anyone calls me “mother” and wants something of me, I can’t say “no”!’

Unique Conjugal Love


 Henceforth we shall address Sri Ramakrishna as “Thakur” also. No doubt both Thakur and Sri Ma lived practically like bachelors. It is also true Thakur saw her as Kali in flesh and blood. All the same, he never denied her wifehood. Their mu­tual love cannot be described. Mother said, I was married to a person who never addressed me as thou (“tui”). Thakur never hurt me even with a flower.’


Sri Ramakrishna gave her a good many ornaments. He was mindful about her little inconveniences. He also taught her how to reach God while living in this world. In fact, he took up a human body only to impart this knowledge to us. If, for some reason, Mother would be late in leaving her bed, he would wake her up. He used to say, ‘Women shouldn’t sit idle.’ If Mother had some free time he would bring some raw jute and ask her to make slings. She said, ‘With the waste fibres I made a pillow. I used to spread a coarse mat over a sheet of hessian and lie on it with that pillow under my head.’ What an austere life she lived! She had to do so much! In spite of that she repeated her mantra a hundred thousand times daily. Many argue they are too busy with their families to find time for Japa. Holy Mother’s life shows such talks are meaningless. She didn’t have formal education in childhood. At Dakshineswar Thakur made some arrangement so that she learnt reading. She couldn’t, however, write.

When Thakur’s photograph was taken, she got a copy which she always kept with her and worshipped. One day Thakur came to Mother’s room in the Nahabat and worshipped his own pic­ture.

Comings and Goings


 About a year after Shodashi puja Holy Mother went to Jayrambati in 1873. In 1874 her father had passed away. In the very same year she came to Dakshineswar for the sec­ond time. Shyamasundari had then a hard time. She had to send her sons to relatives as she couldn’t give them a square meal.


Holy Mother had dysentery at Dakshineswar. Yet her zest for serving Thakur and Chandra Devi remained unflagging. In September 1875 she went back to Jayrambati where her dis­ease became serious. At last when she went to the local temple of Simhavahini seeking divine favour, the goddess revealed medicines which finally cured her. Since then the deity be­came well-known and many people visit the temple even to­day.

Shortly after this recovery she was again down with ma­laria. Her spleen also enlarged. In those days village quacks treated the disease in an inhuman way. They used to brand the spleen region with a piece of burning wood while three or four persons held the patient who shrieked and screamed in pain. Holy Mother too went through that ordeal. But her power of endurance was so great that she didn’t allow anyone to hold her. Neither she moved, nor shrieked. Thakur in his boyhood had also undergone this treatment.

In February 1876 Chandra Devi died at Dakshineswar. Mother got the news and came to Dakshineswar in March. This was her third visit. After some time she returned to Jayrambati and again came to Dakshineswar in the early part of 1877. In this manner she shuttled between Dakshineswar and Jayrambati or Kamarpukur four more times till 1885.

Jagaddhatri Puja at Jatrambati


An important event took place at Jayrambati in 1875 when Jagaddhatri puja was celebrated at the Mother’s house. The puja has a history. Shyamasundari vowed to give some rice to the community Kali puja. But, as a result of a feud, villagers refused to accept the gift. This made her sad. She wept the whole night and thought: ‘This rice I prepared for Kali, and this has not been accepted! Who will now eat this?’ Then she had a dream in which she saw that a Deity with red complexion awakened her by patting her body. Opening her eyes she found the Deity sitting near the door with her one leg placed over the other. ‘Why do you weep? I shall eat Kali’s rice’, said the Deity. ‘But who are you?’ asked Shyamasundari. She replied, I am Jagaddhatri, the Mother of the Universe.’


Next morning Shyamasundari said to the Mother, ‘Well, Sarada, who is that Deity with red hue, resting one leg on the other?’ Mother replied, ‘She is Jagaddhatri.’ Shyamasundari then expressed her wish to worship “Jagai”. Five maunds of paddy were converted into rice and the puja was duly performed. Many people got prasad. Thakur was invited, but couldn’t join in the celebrations.

Shyamasundari wished to celebrate this puja every year. Therefore, next year she said to Mother, ‘I shall worship my Jagai, you have to contribute something.’ Mother said, ‘Once you have done it, fine! Why again? I can’t bear all that trouble.’ But that very night Jagaddhatri appeared before her in a dream along with Her maids, Jaya and Vijaya, and said, ‘Well, shall we go then?’ Mother replied, I haven’t asked you to go!’ Since then Jagaddhatri puja is celebrated at Jayrambati every year.

The "Dacoit Father"


The second important incident relates to her “dacoit father”. Holy Mother was coming to Dakshineswar on foot. Her nephew Shivaram and others accompanied her. She was un­able to walk fast which meant that the party won’t be able to cross the fields of Telo-Bhelo infested with dacoits before evening. Ignoring her own safety she asked others to proceed without waiting for her.


Evening fell and the extensive field became pitch-dark. Mother was still plodding on all alone! Suddenly she found a fearsome dacoit of black complexion and shaggy hair wearing silver bangles and holding a staff in hand standing before her. It was natural that a simple, shy village woman like her would shake in fear under such circumstances. Mother too got fright­ened at first. But soon she composed herself and did some­thing which a daring modern woman could hardly do. Calmly she said to the dacoit, ‘Father, my companions have left me behind. It would be of great help if you kindly take me to them! Your son-in-law lives in the Kali temple of Dakshineswar. I am going to him.’ Meanwhile, the wife of the dacoit came forward and Holy Mother said to her, ‘Mother, I am your daughter Sarada. It’s my good luck that I met you; otherwise I can’t say what I would have done.’ Mother’s lov­ing words instantly changed them. They accepted her as their own daughter, arranged a safe place for her rest at night and the following morning took her to the relatives waiting at Tarakeswar. Before taking leave of their daughter the dacoit couple wept bitterly.

Holy Mother disclosed later that her “dacoit father” saw Goddess Kali in her.

At Shyampukur


Mother knew what suited Sri Ramakrishna’s stomach and she prepared his meal accordingly at Dakshineswar. Though she lived in Nahabat, her mind would always remain fixed on Thakur. As a result, she could hear even his whis­per. So many devotees were then coming, so much discourses and singing going on—Dakshineswar was then really a mart of joy. Mother used to watch that delightful scene from a distance, through a small hole in the fence that surrounded the verandah. She was so broad-minded that she was quite happy with that. She never thought she had a greater claim on her husband than other devotees.


Thakur had been brought to a small two-storied rented house at Shyampukur in October 1885 for the treatment of cancer. Mother, who usually was so bashful, promptly came there for preparing his diet and rendering other services. She used to say, ‘One should adapt oneself to new situations.’ Thakur stayed on the first floor. Mother spent the night in a small room on the same floor. She would finish her bath at three o’clock in the morning and go up the small terrace on the second floor. That was her kitchen. At noon, when the devotees left Sri Ramakrishna’s room, she would come down to feed the Master. The same thing happened at night. At night she took rest for only about three hours in her room. As in Dakshineswar, so in Shyampukur; she served Thakur al­ways unnoticed by others. Only young Latu and senior Gopal helped her directly. They had been doing that since Dakshineswar days of the Holy Mother.

At Cossipore


Two months later, in December 1885, Sri Ramakrishna was brought to Cossipore Garden house. The house being airy, he liked it. He used to stay in the big room on the first floor and Mother stayed in a small room adjacent to the staircase on the ground floor. As in Dakshineswar and Shyampukur, here too she cooked for the Master and served him silently from her clois­ter. One day, as she was climbing the stairs with some milk in hand, she had a fall and sprained her ankle. She wore a nose-ring then. In a lighter vein, after the accident, Thakur circled a finger round his nose and said to Baburam, ‘Can you put her in a bas­ket and bring here?’


When they were at Cossipore some devotees went to Dakshineswar and offered sweets before the photo of Sri Ramakrishna. When Mother heard this, she became very anx­ious about the Master’s health. But the latter said, ‘My dear, don’t worry. I shall be worshipped in every family in future.’

A beautiful woman of dark complexion, who was none else but Mother Kali herself, had met Holy Mother when she was coming to Dakshineswar for the first time. Mother again met Her at Cossipore. She saw ‘that charming woman with long hair came and sat by her side.’ Mother was surprised. She said, ‘How nice, you have come!’ Goddess Kali replied, ‘Yes, I am coming from Dakshineswar.’ After some conversation Mother noticed that Kali’s neck was bent to one side. She asked, ‘Why are you in this posture, Mother?’ Mother Kali replied, ‘It’s because of the ulcer in my throat.’ Sarada Devi was stunned! She said, ‘He has been suffering from ulcer. You too have the same disease?’ Kali said, “Yes”, which meant She and Ramakrishna were one and the same.

At Tarakeswar


Sri Ramakrishna’s disease was getting worse day by day. It worried Holy Mother so much that she went to the Shiva temple at Tarakeswar to seek divine favour. But it came to nothing. She knew that well before she had gone there. Yet, when God comes to earth as a human being, He has to behave exactly like a man. When she returned empty-handed, Thakur jocularly said to her, ‘Hello dear! Did you get anything? Nothing at all!’


On 16 August 1886, at 1 a.m. Sri Ramakrishna entered Mahasamadhi. The doctor came in the morning to declare he had passed away. When Holy Mother heard this news, she came to the Master’s bed-side and cried out saying, ‘O Mother Kali! Why did you leave me?’ Thakur always saw Goddess Kali in Sarada Devi. She too always looked upon the Master as God­dess Kali. Her moan amply reveals this. This also tallied with what “that beautiful black woman” said to the Holy Mother.

In those days, widows didn’t wear ornaments. They only wore a white piece of cloth without coloured border. When Thakur fell sick at Dakshineswar, then and there Holy Mother had re­moved most of the ornaments from her person. And now in the evening she set out to dress herself as a widow. As she was about to take off her bangles Thakur appeared, pressed her hands, and said, ‘Have I died that you are removing the signs of a married woman from your wrists?’ Holy Mother therefore re­tained her bangles and the necklace. She only tore the broad red border of her sari, made it very thin and wore it.

At Vrindavan


Eversince Holy Mother’s dress remained unchanged. She saw with her own eyes that Thakur was living. How could she then think of her as a widow? Not just once, she saw Thakur several times.


Five days after Thakur gave up his material body, the dis­ciples had brought Mother to Balaram Babu’s house. Having stayed there eight days, on 30 August 1886, she went on pilgrimage. A few female devotees as well as the Swamis Adbhutananda, Yogananda and others accompanied her. Mother first visited Vaidyanathdham and Ayodhya. From there she came to Vrindavan where she stayed about one year. In be­tween she visited Benaras. While attending the evening services at Viswanath Temple, Thakur again appeared before her in a vision and led her by hand to her dwelling place. On her way to Vrindavan she again saw Thakur. She was then lying on the berth keeping her arm near the window of the train compart­ment. The holy gold amulet of Thakur was tied to her arm. Sud­denly she found Thakur peeping through the window to say, ‘See that the amulet is not lost.’ Mother took the amulet off immediately and kept it in a box.

Mother saw Thakur time and again. Yet, at Vrindavan, the pang of separation scorched her. Like Radha she would weep bitterly. Thakur again appeared before her and said, ‘Why do you weep so much? Here am I. Where have I gone? It’s just like going from this room to that.’ Following this vision Mother became gleeful and regularly visited the temples. At this time she declared, ‘I am Radha.’ She prayed to Krishna, ‘O, Lord, may I not see the fault of others!’

In Her Own Hut


Towards the end of her stay at Vrindavan Mother went to Hardwar and offered some nail-parings and hair of Thakur at the Brahma-Kunda. On her way back to Kolkata she made a stopover at Allahabad and offered the remaining nails and hair at Triveni. She returned to Kolkata on 31 August 1887. In September she went back to Kamarpukur. Thakur once said to her, ‘Wherever the devotees should like you to stay, don’t give up your own home at Kamarpukur.’ He also said, ‘You’ll stay there, eat rice with greens and call on Hari.’ Accordingly Mother lived in that hut and had a dish of rice and spinach growing in the courtyard. She was so poor that she couldn’t buy salt. She had one or two saris, but all tattered. She lived amidst so much pov­erty but never wanted anything from anybody. Thakur said to her, ‘Never want a coin from anyone. If you do, you’ll sell your head to him.’


Mother was a brahmin widow, Yet she wore cloth with a thin red border and gold ornaments. Naturally many eyebrows were raised. Mother also sensed their displeasure. But when she re­moved the ornaments, Thakur appeared and asked her not to do so. During this time she also saw that the Ganga sprang from his feet and flowed in waves. She plucked plenty of hibiscus from the side of the Raghuvir Temple and offered handfuls of them into the stream. After this vision she again wore her bangles etc. At times she felt lonely and quite helpless. Mother said, ‘There­after, when I began to see Thakur repeatedly, all fear disap­peared.’ One day he appeared and wanted to have khichuri. Holy Mother cooked it and offered the same to Raghuvir, the family deity.

In Kolkata


Sri Ramakrishna’s Sannyasin and householder disciples knew nothing of the Mother’s extreme poverty. When they came to know about her hardship they brought her to Balaram Babu’s house in May 1888. Later she was kept at Nilambar Babu’s gar­den-house. Golap-Ma and Yogin-Ma accompanied her. Mother loved to bathe in the Ganga. Therefore, whenever she came to Kolkata later on, she had been kept in rented house at Bose Para Lane, Baghbazar Street or Ghushuri—places close to the river. In 1893 Mother went to stay at Nilambar Babu’s garden-house for the second time. There she performed the austerity known as “Panchatapa”. It was here where she had a wonderful vision. She saw Thakur getting down into the Ganga in which his body dissolved. Swami Vivekananda took that sacred water and sprinkled it on innumerable people standing on the bank with the cry “Glory unto Ramakrishna!” As a result, everyone was liberated.


Mother got this vision after Swamiji had gone to America, but had not as yet started preaching. Before taking the voyage he sought Holy Mother’s permission. At first she didn’t reply. Finally, when Thakur gave his consent, Mother also gave her green signal. Having received her blessings, you all know how he had spread Sri Ramakrishna’s ideas throughout the world!

The Power whose wish makes everything happen in this world came as Saradamani. Swamiji therefore sought her permission even though he got Thakur’s consent earlier.

Universal Mother


Now many could recognize her as the Mother of the Universe. Holy Mother also kept showering her grace on all, without making any distinction. Her boundless affection consoled every afflicted heart. Consequently her circle of devo­tees widened. Having worshipped her as Shodashi, Sri Ramakrishna had already awakened in her the mood of univer­sal motherhood. Her tender love began to flow when she lived at Dakshineswar and she started giving initiation when she went to Vrindavan. When she was brought to Kolkata from Kamarpukur, both the monks and the lay disciples of Sri Ramakrishna found these two divine tendencies fully developed in her. She came to be identified with Thakur. To a great extent she also made them forget the absence of the Master and be­came the unfailing refuge of the Ramakrishna Order as well as innumerable householder devotees.


From 1888 to 1908, she had to stay either in rented house or in a devotee’s house whenever she came to Kolkata. At last in 1908 Swami Saradananda built a permanent residence for the Mother at Baghbazar. Mother came to this house on 23 May 1909. Thereafter, till her death, she always stayed there, of course when she would be in Kolkata. Swami Saradananda, whom she affectionately called “Sarat”, stayed in a room on the ground floor, next to the entrance to the house. He called him­self the “door-keeper.” The present address of the house is, 1 Udbodhan Lane, Baghbazar, Kolkata 700 003. 

Holy Mother's House

This house of the Holy Mother is three-storied. Besides the drawing-room which Swami Saradananda used, there are two more rooms on the ground floor, then utilized as the “Udbodhan Office”. The house is therefore known as “Sri Sri Ma’s House” and also as the “Udbodhan Karyalaya”. These apart, there are kitchen and storeroom etc. The northern room on the first floor is the shrine. The adjoining room was kept for the Mother. But after three nights she moved to the shrine-room say­ing, I can’t live separated from the Master, nor is it proper.’ Till her last day she lived in that room. The room in the extreme south was where food offerings were made to Thakur. Cooking over, Mother invited Thakur and her baby Krishna there and would say, ‘Thakur, Gopala, have your meal!’ The monks and devotees also used to have prasad there. Mother along with the ladies had their prasad in the room next to the shrine. Swami Saradananda used to sleep in the “Bhoga-room” at night and went downstairs in the morning. In the same room Holy Mother gave initiation to many devotees.

On the second floor, there is only one room on the right side. Golap-Ma lived there. Golap-Ma and Yogin-Ma were, as it were, Holy Mother’s “Jaya” and “Vijaya”. They managed the house­hold while Mother did the worship. Yogin-Ma used to go back home at night.

In 1915 a small piece of land adjacent to the house was bought and two new rooms were constructed. Since then Swami Saradananda had lived in the new room on the first floor. The room down below was the “Udbodhan office.”

'What a delightful news it is, O Uma!'


 Let us now recall a few important events that took place before Holy Mother came to her own house in Kolkata. The devotees flocked to Jayrambati when she would be there. This delighted Shyamasundari. Everybody called her granny. One day our granny regretted that ‘My Sarada has been mar­ried to such a person that neither has she any children, nor she will ever have the pleasure of being addressed as “mother”. Thakur heard this remark and said, ‘Well, mother, you needn’t worry about that. Your daughter will have so many children that she will be tired of being addressed as “Mother”.’ Indeed, how many people call her “mother” today! Naturally, granny’s joy knew no bounds when her grandchildren came to Jayrambati. Throughout the year she would keep things ready for them. ‘Mine is a family of God and His devotees’, she said.


Swami Saradananda and others came to Jayrambati during Jagaddhatri puja in 1891. One day, when they were all sitting, a vairagi came and sang a song which described the sufferings Uma had once undergone when she was married to Shiva, the naked mendicant, whom everyone called mad. But now things have changed. What a good news it is that He is now wor­shipped as the God of the Universe and Uma as the goddess. The song was an exact replica of Holy Mother’s life. So it touched everybody. The vairagi was asked to repeat the song. And when that was over, granny remarked, ‘Really, in those days all called my son-in-law mad, cursed the fate of Sarada and insulted me in so many ways. I felt like dying. And now see, Sarada is worshipped by so many boys and girls of good families as the veritable goddess!’

On the New Land of Belur Math


The second major event was the Mother’s first visit to the Math ground at Belur. It was the monastic disciples who rightly understood and accepted Thakur’s ideas and they were commissioned to spread those ideas throughout the world. Just as one lamp lights another lamp, they knew that many would come in their contact, catch their fire and gradually pass on to others the same fire. That is how the tradition has to be kept alive. They also felt that examples have to be set to show how the man-god has to be served. For that they needed a monastery. After Thakur passed away they ran the Math at various places— Baranagar, Alambazar and at Nilambar Babu’s garden-house. Many, however, didn’t stay in the Math. They went on pilgrim­age. When Swamiji returned from America, he purchased a land at Belur to set up a permanent Math.


Holy Mother too thought about a monastery. Because, being the Mother, how could she bear to see the hardship of her mo­nastic children? She suffered terribly when she found they were without food and shelter. At Bodhgaya she noticed a well-run Buddhist monastery. Then she prayed tearfully, ‘Thakur! My children have no place to stay. They go about begging for food! Let them have a Math like this.’ Indeed, everything happens according to Her will. Thus Belur Math came into being. Swami Yogananda had brought Mother there in April 1898 when the Math was being constructed. Later, on 12 November 1898, Swamiji invited her there. Mother herself cleaned a spot with her own hands and worshipped the photo of Sri Ramakrishna. Next day she went to the newly-acquired house where Nivedita launched her school.

Radhu


Now, the third event which was very significant. At Cossipore Thakur said to Holy Mother, ‘Well, my dear, won’t you do anything? Should I do everything?’ Mother replied, ‘I am a woman, what can I do?’ Thakur said, ‘No, no. You have to do much, much more than I do.’ Yet, after Thakur passed away, Mother often thought, ‘What’s the use of living anymore?’ Then, one day she saw a girl in red dress, walking in front of her. Point­ing her out to Mother, he said, ‘Cling to her as a support.’


Long after this vision, one day in 1900 Mother found her niece Radhu crawled behind her crazy mother weeping while the latter was dragging some rags pressed under her arm—totally indiffer­ent to her child! Radhu’s father, Abhay, had died before she was born. This pitiful sight worried Mother who thought, ‘If I don’t take care of this child, who will?’ She promptly took Radhu in her arms. No sooner had she lifted her, than she saw Thakur who said, ‘This is that girl whom you saw before. She is Yogamaya, the illusive power. Cling to her as your support.’

From that moment Holy Mother took her charge and thus opened a new chapter in her life. On the one hand, there were eccentric Radhu and her mad mother on the other, there were her other nieces such as Nalini and Maku. And then, of course, there were her mischievous brothers. She thus voluntarily in­volved herself in the turmoil of a worldly life. Yet she was calm with her mind always soaring towards God. Thakur had explained how one should live in this world and attain God-realization. Swamiji spread his message. And Mother showed how the ideal can be practised. She gave us no chance to argue that we don’t find time to call upon God because we are too busy with our families, or that ‘we have no peace of mind.’ 

Attending Durga Puja at Belur Math


Prior to coming to her Kolkata residence, another remarkable incident had taken place in 1901 when Goddess Durga was worshipped in image at Belur Math in her presence. Swami Vivekananda wished to celebrate this puja. Swami Brahmananda too saw in a vision as if Mother Durga crossed the Ganga and came to Belur Math. This happened just four or five days before the puja. However, everything was duly arranged and Swamiji brought Holy Mother—his “living Durga”—to Nilambar Babu’s garden-house so that she could be present during the puja every day. What a divine spectacle! The Goddess who was being wor­shipped in the image had assumed the human form of  Sarada Devi and kept watching her own puja! Others might not have understood the point, but Swamiji verily had that vision. That was why Swamiji begged for fever from her and lay down in his room. His argument was that if he saw the slightest mistake he would be angry and abuse those who had been working so hard. It was much better, he thought, to lie down with fever. And so it happened. When the function was over, Mother said, ‘Naren, please get up now.’ Swamiji also responded, ‘Yes, Mother,’ and got up from bed.


Swamiji fervently wished to build a house for the Mother. He wrote to Swami Shivananda from America, ‘You have not yet understood the wonderful significance of Mother’s life— none of you. …Brother, I shall demonstrate the worship of the living Durga, and then shall my name be true.’ We have already said that Swamiji’s wish got fulfilled in 1909.

Pilgrimages


Holy Mother visited several holy places between 1888 and 1904. The places included Puri (1888), Gaya, Bodhgaya, Vaidyanath (1890), and Kailwar (1894). In 1895 she also vis­ited Benaras and Vrindavan for the second time and in 1904 revisited Puri. After coming to her own Kolkata residence, she went to Kothar in 1910. From there she had gone to South India at the invitation of Swami Ramakrishnananda. Golap-Ma, Radhu and others accompanied her. When they reached Madras, the Swami took them to Madurai and thence to Rameshwar. There the Mother worshipped Shiva with 108 bel leaves made of gold and said in a low voice, ‘It is just as I had left it.’ What she meant was that she came as Sita in Treta Yuga and installed that image. Returning to Kolkata she said the same thing. From Rameshwar Mother had gone to Banga­lore via Madurai and Madras and spent there a few days. Thereafter she came to Rajahmundry for a bath in the holy Godavari and proceeded to Puri from where she returned to Kolkata. Mother also visited Benaras in 1912. This was her third visit there.


Sarada Devi had once revealed that she was Radha. This time she hinted that she was Sita. She had also disclosed to Shivaram, Sri Ramakrishna’s nephew, that she was Mother Kali. She firmly said, ‘All are my children.’ Again, many a time she said to the devotees, ‘Thakur and I are one.’ In fact, Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Radha and Kali are one and the same. God is one. But He has many names and forms. Holy Mother said, ‘He is in our heart. Anyone who will pray with great yearning will get His vision.’

Mother's New House at Jayrambati


Swami Saradananda also constructed a house at Jayrambati for the convenience of the Mother. The floors and walls of this new house were made of mud and the roof of straw. In May 1916 Mother stepped into this house. She would sometimes stay in her room, while, at other times, sit on the verandah with her legs stretched. She herself admitted that she was the Mother of the Universe, As such she had infinite glory and unlimited power. Yet how she had hidden her real identity and behaved just like one’s own mother! Let me tell you an incident Swami Japananda told me personally sitting on the verandah of the new house.


Japanandaji had then been staying in this new house, in a room adjacent to Holy Mother’s. One day while passing through the verandah, he stumbled over a bit of brick and got injured. There was some bleeding. At dead of night he had to come out of his room for some reason and he was amazed to see that Holy Mother was digging the floor with the help of a cooking spud in order to remove the brick-bits. He asked, ‘Mother, what are you doing here at this hour?’ She replied, ‘My child, you cut your leg. Maybe, my other children would be injured similarly. This worry has made me sleepless. That’s why I am removing these chips.’

Can anyone describe such infinite love? The love we get from our mothers is but a fraction of this love of the Mother of the Universe. Indeed, She is the sumtotal of all motherly love-human and animal. Mother Sarada was, as it were, an ocean of love!

Compassion Incarnate


Such love and compassion flowed towards all, brushing aside the narrow considerations of nationality and caste. Mother said that the Muslim dacoit Amjad and spiritual giant Swami Saradananda, were equal in her eyes. In his youth Girishchandra didn’t live a clean life. But he had received Holy Mother’s grace long before Sri Ramakrishna blessed him. She appeared in a dream to save his life. Many years after this event Girish came to Jayrambati and got startled when he saw the Mother— the same Divine Mother whom he saw in a dream!


A woman of bad character hesitated to enter the Mother’s house. She felt she was so impure, how could she come in? She began to shed tears silently. But Mother came out and embraced her. She also gave her initiation. Mother used to say, ‘If my son wallows in the dust or mud, it is I who have to cleanse him and take him to my lap.’ In the village, casteism was very strong. But she ignored those prejudices and removed the orts of Muslim guests. She also initiated the son of a Bagdi vil­lager. When she would stay in Kolkata she had to listen to unending tales of woes of the devotees. As a result she was forced to take her meal late. When someone complained, she at first said, ‘They unburden their mind; I have to overlook my personal inconvenience.’ Then she added, ‘You aren’t a mother!’ How will you know what a child is to a mother! There was a free dispensary at Jayrambati. During war-time spirit was scarce. But, as Mother had rheumatism, she was given a little spirit. Having used that two or three times she returned the bottle saying, ‘My child, this is meant for the poor. I can’t use it. For me garlic mixed with mustard oil will do’.

'Learn to make the world your own'


 Mother didn’t do extremely hard sadhana as Thakur did. But she was cent percent pure and did a lot of japa and meditation while attending to her duties in the family. And through these she attained the same exalted state as did Ramakrishna. Many have seen how she could remain totally absorbed in God-con­templation. In fact, she had become one with Thakur. She herself said, ‘Think of me as one with him (Thakur).’


Holy Mother died on 21 July 1920, at 1.30 a.m. Next day her body was taken to Belur Math and cremated on the bank of the Ganga. Right on that sacred spot Swami Saradananda built a temple in her memory in 1921. Mother breathed her last in her own room at Udbodhan. That room is maintained as before. On her bed is placed her photo which is duly worshipped. Swami Saradananda had made all these arrange­ments. Again, it was he who constructed the Mother’s Temple on her birthplace at Jayrambati.

The ideal of Indian women is motherhood. In India, the word “mother” is syn­onymous with purity and chastity. Sri Ramakrishna also worshipped God as “Mother.” Not only that, he made Bhairavi Brahmani, a woman, her first guru. He even worshipped Holy Mother as the living Goddess of the Universe. Through all these actions he paid the highest tributes to the ideal of Indian womanhood. On the pinnacle of this ideal he had placed Sri Sarada Devi.

My dear little mothers, try to build up your life according to Holy Mother’s ideal. She has only given up her material body; she exists even today. She will give you strength and necessary help. Call upon God as much as you can. Be pure. Avoid laziness. Be educated. If you do that, it will do you much good, at the same time the nation will advance. Swamiji said that great men and women are born in families where the mothers are well-educated and virtuous. Only when the mothers are noble in character, then and then only their children will be able to achieve great things. And then there can be a “reawakening of culture, valour, knowledge and devotion.” Don’t forget that the contribution of such mothers has made India “a holy land.” Also don’t forget Holy Mother’s last words ? ‘If you want peace, my daughter, don’t find fault with others, but find fault rather with yourself. Learn to make the world your own?