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Holy Mother Ma Saradadevi
Many Indians are not familiar with the name of Ma Saradadevi, the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. While Srimati Radha represented the ultimate Love towards Krishna, as between Atman and Paramatman, the relationship between Holy Mother Ma Saradadevi and Sri Ramakrishna even surpassed it. This is because, despite their marriage in the ordinary sense of the word, they exemplified perfect spiritual association without least carnal cravings. Such pure love is not yet recorded in human history.
It is interesting to see how they came together to fulfill their mission of spiritual enlightenment of humanity through purity, simplicity, and frugality. When Saradadevi was just five or six years of age, once while sitting in a lap of an elderly lady, she was asked,
"Whom among the great number of people assembled here would you like to marry?" Saradadevi at once lifted her two tiny hands and pointed to Sri Ramakrishna sitting not far away.
Similarly, Ramakrishna, then 23 years of age, was caught in great spiritual fervour in his effort to realize the highest Truth. His mother and other relatives thought that marriage would cool down his peculiar spiritual temper and would bring him back to worldly plane. Thus search for the bride was on, and when it brought no results, Sri Ramakrishna himself one day said, "Go and find the bride marked out for me in Ramachandra Mukherji's house at Jayarambati, and she was none other than our Ma Saradadevi!"
After their marriage in the year 1859, the young bride remained at her parents', and Sri Ramakrishna went back to Kali Temple at Dakshineswar (the bride would join her husband after she attained mature age, such was the custom). Meanwhile Sri Ramakrishna continued to remain absorbed in his spiritual sadhanas and god-intoxicated states. People around him used to say, "Look, Gadadhar (Sri Ramakrishna) has gone mad."
The news reached Jayarambati (birthplace of Ma Saradadevi), and the mother now of eighteen years of age was restless to join her husband and look after his physical and mental well being. She felt great pain and anguish when she heard people talking ill of her husband.
Thus, one day, accompanied by a troupe, she started on foot to that far off Calcutta Temple to meet her husband, but the party lost the way at night. A robber (and his wife) obstructed the path of holy mother, and was about to harm her for money etc. when the Mother said, "Baba (father), look, I have lost my way. I am sure God has sent you two to protect me (who is no other than daughter to you)!"
There was no trick or cleverness in what the mother (at that time Sarada) said. She really felt love and faith in the robber couple; as if God had sent her parents in that form. This simplicity and honesty, this faith and fearlessness won the battle! The robber father and mother had tears in their eyes. They took young Sarada to a safe place, fed her, and guarded her all throughout when she slept for the night. Later, after a few years, the robber couple went to Kali Temple to see and meet their 'son-in-law', i. e. Sri Ramakrishna!
Along with other members, Sarada walked for sixty miles to reach the Dakshineswar Temple. On her way Saradadevi fell ill with high fever and delirium, probably severe malaria. But Saradadevi continued to walk, lest others should become anxious on her account. Fever increased; and she was put to bed.
A divine vision came to her in this hour of dejection, and she saw a lady comforting her. As Saradadevi lay unconscious on the bed, a dark woman of peerless beauty sitting by her side caressed her head and body with soft and cool hands. It gradually removed all her pain and discomfort. Hence Saradadevi asked, 'Where do you come from, my dear; and who are you?' The stranger replied, 'I come from Dakshineswar.'
Saradadevi wondered at this and said, "From Dakshineswar! I thought I would go there, see him (Sri Ramakrishna), and serve him. But as I am laid down with this fever, I am afraid this may never come to pass." The Dark woman said, "Don't you worry! You will certainly reach Dakshineswar; you will recover soon and see him. It is for you that I have been holding him there."
Saradadevi was surprised and said, "Indeed! How are you related to us, my dear?"
The woman said, "I am your sister."
Saradadevi was further amazed, "Indeed! That's why you have come!"
(The stranger, as the readers have rightly guessed, was none other than Ma Kali of Dakshineswar.)
Next morning Saradadevi found her fever had gone, and she was no more ill. With renewed enthusiasm she proceeded to Kali Temple at Dakshineswar. Sri Ramakrishna received her with unusual warmth and courtesy. Although separated for so many years, they found great spiritual attraction between them, but no sexual-sensual feeling or physical craving.
Sri Ramakrishna inquired about her well-being and made arrangements for her stay. Ramakrishna was aware of two aspects of relationship between husband and wife: 1) worldly or physical, and 2) divine or spiritual. The first looks or takes into consideration love between two bodies, while the second is love between two divine beings; love at the level of Atman.
Thus, although for six months Ramakrishna and Holy Mother slept in the same room, there was no carnal feeling in their mind or action. Sri Ramakrishna tested his mind thus: "Look, O mind, at that body (of Saradadevi). Do you want to enjoy it?" And no sooner did he try to touch his wife than his hand recoiled back, with his body, mind, and psyche all retracting with it. Sri Ramakrishna went into a state of samadhi, his hair standing on its end; countenance radiant, speechless and his mind in superconscious trance. For whole night he was in that state.
Mother, at that time just 18 years of age, new to such spiritual wonders, new to Ramakrishna himself, begged of her husband to find another room for her where she could relax and sleep at night; otherwise she would have no sleep or rest in his such dramatic states of samadhi and bhava!
Therefore, Ma Saradadevi was given a small room a few yards away and opposite to Ramakrishna's room. It was called nahabat, where our simple mother spent rest of her days at Dakshineswar; a story of wonderful life of service, dedication, devotion, and as a disciple of Ramakrishna.
Simple mother used to get up at three in the morning. Unnoticed, after taking her bath in the Holy Ganges, she used to do her Japa and meditation for two hours. Morning chores used to be completed and then would start her busy life: with dressing vegetables and fruits, cooking for Sri Ramakrishna and his guests, who were none other than his disciples, Swami Vivekananda included!
During this period, Sri Ramakrishna performed the worship of 'shodashi puja' (a form of worship of Mother Goddess) where he worshipped his wife - and our simple mother - as the Goddess of Universe. During the worship both Sri Ramakrishna and Ma Saradadevi went into deep samadhi. In this state Sri Ramakrishna offered all his spiritual knowledge, powers, and fruits of sadhana at the Holy feet of his wife! He said, "O Mother, take this knowledge and ignorance and give me pure devotion; take this virtues and vices and give me pure devotion; take this cleanliness and un-cleanliness and give me pure devotion; take this all wealth and belongings and give me pure devotion."
Thus was reached one important milestone in the spiritual journey of this pure couple. The mother also, in her turn, accepted her husband as her spiritual Teacher or Guru and became the first disciple of the great Man of God.
Once Ramakrishna asked Saradadevi, "Look, as a wife you have right over this body. If you say so I will have to be drawn to the level of bodily pleasure. What do you say? What is your desire?"
The Holy Mother replied, "O Lord, I have come to help you in your spiritual mission of God realization; I am least interested in bodily or sensual pleasures. I do not want to drag you down to the worldly plane. My duty is to help you in your spiritual quest, which I would perform with all humility and ability."
Later after a few years, simple mother also tested her husband by asking: "What do you think of me?"
Sri Ramakrishna replied, "For me there is no difference between you and my mother; and also I know Ma Kali and you are the same!"
Sri Ramakrishna used to say; "Sarada is knowledge, simplicity, and purity personified; she has come to earth to teach the masses these virtues in this awful materialistic culture."
In 1886 AD Sri Ramakrishna left his earthly abode. Mother felt great grief and anguish. As was the custom, she started removing her ornaments, and decided to switch to the white sari of a widow and discard coloured clothes for ever. Just them Sri Ramakrishna appeared before and said, "Sarada, why this grieving? Why are you giving up these ornaments and clothes? I am still here; I have just gone from one room to the other!"
"You have work to do, after I pass away." Ramakrishna had said to her, "Don't you see all these Calcutta people are suffering from spiritual ignorance, as worms in a gutter? Who will take care of them, who would guide them? Of course, none other than you! You have to keep all my disciples under your care and guidance."
Such was the power and knowledge of our simple mother, which Ramakrishna knew, for she was his Shakti. Like Brahma and his Power, like Shiva and Shakti, like Krishna and Radha, like Rama and Sita, Sarada and Ramakrishna incarnated themselves in unison to elevate and establish the declining dharma to its full glory and dignity.
Simple Mother did not know how to groom these highly learned, rational, and scientific-minded disciples of her husband. Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) was as sharp as razor's edge, and simple mother had never gone to school, leave alone reading the Vedas, Upanishads, Gita and scriptures!
But she was knowledge personified. Knowledge itself never requires reading any book. Because it the essence of the book itself.
Simple mother was pure, simple, guileless, upright, quick-witted, and had lots of common sense. She taught not through the faculty of speech but by her right conduct in daily routine life. Both the householder devotees and the monastic disciples of Ramakrishna used to genuinely see her in place of their Guru, Sri Ramakrishna.
A few incidents and quotes from the life of simple mother:
Once when Holy Mother was going from Calcutta to her home village, Jayarambati, she said to a little girl: "Darling, you have been visiting me for a long time. Do you love me?"
"Yes," said the girl, "I love you very much."
The girl stretched her arms as wide as she could. "That much," she said.
"Will you still love me when I am away at Jayarambati?" Mother asked.
"Yes, I will love you just the same. I shall not forget you."
"Let me tell you how to love all equally," said Mother. "Do not demand anything from those you love. If you make demands, someone will give you more and someone less. In any case you will love those more who give you more and love those less who give you less. Thus your love will not be the same for all. You will not be able to love all impartially."
The Most Famous Quote of Simple Mother:
"If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; the whole world is your own."
Simple mother visited South India, and stayed at Bangalore for about a week. She did not know south Indian language, and Bengali was Greek to the populace of the south!
Once when she returned to the Ashrama after visiting some shrines there, mother found the whole ground filled with visitors and devotees. The mother, who was visibly moved at the sight, alighted from her carriage and stood there motionless for about five minutes, extending her right hand in benediction. Perfect silence reigned all around. The whole atmosphere was charged with Silence. There was speechless transmission of transcendental bliss that the scriptures speak of. There were no questions nor answers, and yet all doubts were resolved. Breaking the tangible silence the mother said to the swami present near her: "What a pity, I don't know their language. What a solace they would derive if I speak a few words to them!" When the swami translated her predicament to the devotees, they said, "No, no. This is all right. Our hearts are full indeed. No words are needed on such occasion." Wonderful are the ways of the mother and wonderful are those of her children!
Swami Vivekananda recognized the true power of our 'simple mother'. It was thought: "If we accept Ramakrishna as God-Incarnate, then it is imperative that we accept Saradadevi accompanying Him as His Shakti (Power) and nothing less."
Therefore, before leaving for USA for the Chicago Parliament of Religions, Swamiji sought special permission and blessings of Ma Saradadevi. Similar was the case with all the monastic and householder disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. Every one of them in some way or the other, or in some form or the other, had the glimpse of Divinity shining through the Mother's personality, howsoever she tried to cover her Divine Nature!
She guided her 'children' in every stage of despondency, difficulty, and calamity. She was instrumental in acquiring the much-needed land for the temple of Sri Ramakrishna, and for the accommodation and stay of the disciples at one place. Thus Belur Math and Ramakrishna mission came into being.
She welcomed and accepted foreign disciples of swami Vivekananda with open heart; Sister Nivedita stands out as a shining example. There we see a very graceful and wonderful relationship between orthodox Indian Mother and a British modern daughter.
Though an orthodox Brahmin widow, with many restrictions in social interactions and pattern of life; it was thought improper to eat, chat, and mix with foreigners and low caste people, etc. etc. Simple Mother was progressive in thought, and mixed freely with the foreigners. Sister Nivedita (Margaret Nobel), Sister Christine, and Mrs. Ole Bull came to India with Swami Vivekananda (1897-98) as his disciples. They were impressed by the novel message of NeoVedanta as expounded by Swamiji. These disciples were keen to visit those holy places where their Guru's Guru, Ramakrishna, and simple mother lived and undertook sadhana to realize God.
Even Swami Vivekananda was skeptical whether everything would go smoothly; whether mother would accept her 'white' disciple with love! But broad hearted simple mother, Mother of the whole universe, treated the trio with such easy love and care that in the words of Sister Nivedita, "Mother, we were Hindus in our previous birth. We are born over there (Europe) so that the Master's message may spread."
It is incomprehensible that a girl brought up in a remote village, amidst rural simplicity, illiterate and ignorant about modern world to take such a liberal stand, and show stately courtesy. But her all-comprehending motherliness, liberal outlook, and progressive thought elevated her to the level where distances and colours are obliterated, yielding place to an unquestionable affection, unending love, and perpetual blessings only.
Not all householder disciples initially accepted Ma Saradadevi as having great spiritual power, or as Mother of Universe on her own. They respected her and revered her as Guru-Patni, wife of their Guru Sri Ramakrishna. It was to the credit of Swami Niranjanananda, the monastic disciple, and Girish Ghosh, a householder disciple, who brought the True Glory of The Holy Mother to the public eye and mind.
In this regard it would be worthwhile to study the following incidence.
Girish Ghosh was a true disciple of Ramakrishna; he was a great poet and dramatist of his time. In this matter he was famous all over Bengal. He was the first to announce that Sri Ramakrishna was the greatest Incarnation of God. He had 'more than hundred percent' faith in Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Ma Saradadevi.
But Girish Ghosh was of bad conduct, a alcoholic and of loose character. Therefore he was reluctant to go to Jayarambati to visit our simple mother. He used to repent, "I am so sinful that Her purity burns my skin. I cannot stand her divinity. With what face can I go to salute her, I am so sinful!"
But once Swami Niranjanananda forced Girish to accompany him from Calcutta to Jayarambati. One day, Girish after taking bath, with wet clothes on the body, went running to Mother's house to pay his respect and salute her holy feet. Keeping his eyes low, he saluted the mother and was about to leave when he happened to look up, and then he saw the radiant divine face of our simple mother for the first time. And what a wonder! "O my, my! Is it you to be sure, Mother!" said Girishbabu in utter surprise.
This astonishment was derived from an earlier crisis in Girishbabu's life. Once, young Girish, then in the grip of Cholera, and apparently on the sick bed without any hope of survival, had a glimpse of a radiant motherly figure putting some sacred food into his mouth so that he should recover. "Eat," said that divine effulgent motherly figure. She wore a cloth of broad red borders and she was full of heavenly light; and her face was wonderfully lit up by a benign smile. Girish recovered soon from that deadly disease. And the vivid dream remained ever fresh in his mind.
That day he recognized, after so many years, that, that dream-face was none other than our simple mother's, so exactly alike were the two! And then Girish realized and knew that it was this divine Mother who had been protecting him all along. Yet to make assurance doubly sure, Girish asked whether she had revealed herself to him previously in his illness.
Simple mother positively admitted, and said, "I am your true Mother, a mother not by virtue of being your guru's wife, nor because of any assumed relationship, nor by way of empty talk, but truly the Mother."
Dear friends, may I stop here. I hope enough material is supplied for you to ponder over the matter of simplicity, purity and divinity of 'simple mother' to all of us. If you insist I shall continue to upload more pages about her life and teachings.
Simple Mother's Birth anniversary falls in December. You may visit the nearest Ramakrishna Vivekananda Vedanta society for fun and food. Mother invites all her children to enjoy her birthday. Read one more wonderful story of 'Ma Saradadevi and Robber Amzad'.
Love and greetings to all,
C S Shah
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