Shivaratri fast by Narendra, Rakhal, and other brothers of the monastery
Baranagore Math. Narendra, Rakhal, and other devotees have observed a fast today for Shivaratri. Two days later they will celebrate the anniversary of Thakur’s birth.
Baranagore Math was founded only five months ago, not long after Thakur Sri Ramakrishna had gone to his eternal abode. Narendra, Rakhal, and other devotees are in a state of deep renunciation. One day, when Rakhal’s father came to persuade him to return home, Rakhal said to him, “Why do you take the trouble of coming here? I’m alright here. Just bless me that you may all forget me and I may forget you.” They are all in a state of deep dispassion, ever engaged in spiritual practices and singing the name of God. They have only one ideal, – to realize God.
Narendra and the other devotees sometimes practice japa and at other times study the scriptures. Narendra says, “Work without expectation of any reward, which the Lord talks about in the Gita, is what we are to do – worship, japa, meditation, and such. We are not to do activities of any other kind.”
Narendra had gone to Calcutta in the morning, to appear in court in connection with his family’s lawsuit. He had to testify in court personally.
M. reaches the monastery at 9 o’clock. Seeing him enter the “demons’ room,” Tarak begins to sing a song in praise of Shiva:
Tathaiya tathaiya dances Shiva …
Rakhal also joins him and both begin to dance as they sing the song that Narendra had recently composed:
Tathaiya tathaiya dances Shiva to the sound of ba-ba-bam! ba-ba-bam!
Dimi-dimi-dimi rings His damaru, while around his neck sways a garland of skulls.
And through his matted locks the Ganges roars and his scintillating trident flashes fire – dhak-dhak-dhak!
His hair, tied in a bun atop his head – how splendidly the moon glows upon it!
All the brothers in the monastery are fasting. Narendra, Rakhal, Niranjan, Sarat, Sashi, Kali, Baburam, Tarak, Harish, Gopal of Sinthi, Sarada, and M. are present. Jogen and Latu are in Vrindavan these days; they have not seen the monastery yet.
Today is Monday, 21 February 1887. Sarat, Kali, Niranjan, and Sarada are planning to go to Puri next Saturday to visit Lord Jagannath. Sashi is engaged in serving Thakur day and night.
The worship over, Sarat begins to sing to the accompaniment of a tanpura.
The Lord of Kailas, the King of Kings, Shiva Shankara dances – ba-ba-bam!
The beat of his damaru rumbles over Kailas’s peak, a garland of serpents encircles his neck, and his bloodshot eyes shine brightly,
Even as the crescent moon, adorning his forehead, shines brightly too.
Narendra has just returned from Calcutta and has not yet taken his bath. Kali asks him, “What is the news about the lawsuit?”
Narendra (irritated): “Why are you concerned about it?”
Narendra is smoking and talking to M. and others: “You cannot succeed without renouncing ‘lust and greed.’ ‘Woman is the door to hell.’ All men are under the control of women. Shiva and Krishna are different. Shiva made Shakti his maidservant. Sri Krishna did live a householder’s life, but how unattached he was! How quickly he gave up Vrindavan!”
Rakhal: “And also how he left Dwaraka.”
Narendra returns to the monastery after a dip in the Ganges, holding his wet dhoti and a towel in his hand. Sarada, his whole body covered in dust, comes and prostrates before Narendra. He has also observed the fast of Shivaratri and is now going to the Ganges to bathe. Narendra goes to the shrine room, salutes Thakur, and then sits and meditates for quite a long time.
They are now talking about Bhavanath, who has married and taken a job. Narendra, says, “Oh, he and people like him are but worldly worms!”
It is midday. Arrangements for the worship of Shivaratri are being made. Wood and vilwa leaves of the bel tree have been gathered for the homa fire that will be performed after the puja.
Evening arrives. Having waved incense in Thakur’s shrine, Sashi takes the incense stick to the other rooms as well and bows to the picture of each god and goddess, chanting their names with utmost devotion. “I bow to the guru; I bow to Kalika; I bow to Jagannath, Subhadra, and Balaram; I bow to the six-armed one; I bow to Radha Vallabha; I bow to Nityananda, Advaita, and the devotees; I bow to Gopala and I bow to Yashoda; I bow to Rama, Lakshmana, and Vishwamitra.”
Arrangements have been made for the worship of Shiva under the bel tree of the monastery. It is 9 o’clock [in the evening]. The first worship will be performed now. The second worship will be at half past eleven. There will be four worships in the four watches of the night. Narendra, Rakhal, Sarat, Kali, Gopal from Sinthi, and the other brothers of the monastery are present under the bel tree. Bhupati and M. are also there. A brother of the monastery is performing the worship.
Kali reads from the Gita sections on the review of the armies, Samkhya Yoga, and Karma Yoga. During the reading he discusses them with Narendra.
Kali: “I myself am everything. I create, preserve, and destroy.”
Narendra: “How can I create? There is a power which makes me do it. All actions – even thinking – are caused by God.”
M. (to himself): “Thakur said, ‘As long as you are aware that you are in meditation, you are in the jurisdiction of Primal Power. You have to accept the fact of Primal Power.’”
Kali thinks for some time silently. Then he says, “The action you are talking about is all illusion. There is not even such a thing as thinking. I laugh when I think of these things.”
Narendra: “The ‘I’ that is understood when we say ‘I am He’ (So ’ham) is not this ego. It is what remains after getting rid of the mind and body and so on.”
After reading of the Gita, Kali chants, “Peace, peace, peace (Santih, santih, santih).”
Narendra and the other devotees all stand up and circumambulate the vilwa tree repeatedly as they dance and sing. Now and then they chant in chorus, “Shiva Guru! Shiva Guru!” It is a deep dark night. The fourteenth day of the dark fortnight – darkness all around. All living creatures are still.
“Shiva Guru, Shiva Guru,” chanted from the lips of these young, ochre-clothed, unmarried devotees, is full of dispassion. The sound of the great mantra merges with the Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, having risen like rain clouds rumbling through the infinite sky.
It is almost dawn when the worship ends. Narendra and the devotees bathe in the Ganges during this sacred time of early dawn, the Brahmamuhurta.
It is day break. After their dip in the Ganges, the devotees go to the shrine of the monastery and salute Sri Ramakrishna. Then they assemble in the “demons’ room” (the parlour). Narendra has put on a beautiful new ochre cloth. The indescribably pure, celestial radiance of his face and body, the result of spiritual austerities, blend with the color of his apparel. His countenance is filled with vigour and also intense love for God. It looks as if a drop from the ocean of Indivisible Sat-chit-ananda has assumed a divine body in order to teach mankind knowledge and love for God – as a helper in the work of a divine incarnation. None can turn his eyes away from Narendra, who is now twenty-four years old – exactly Sri Chaitanya’s age when he renounced the world.
The day before, Balaram had sent fruits and sweets from his house for the devotees to break their fast the next day.
Standing in the room, Narendra, Rakhal, and a couple of other devotees have some refreshments. After eating one or two, they say joyfully, “Blessed Balaram! Blessed you are!” (They all laugh.)
Now Narendra makes fun like a child. Putting a rasagolla in his mouth, he stands absolutely still, his eyes unblinking. Seeing Narendra in this state, a devotee pretends to hold him from behind lest he fall.
After some time, Narendra (with the rasagolla still in his mouth) opens his eyes and says, “I … am … well …” (Everyone laughs loudly.)
M. and the others are served the offered sweets and hemp.
M. watches this mart of joy. The devotees shout together, “Victory to Guru Maharaj, Victory to Guru Maharaj!”
. “The monastic brothers were nicknamed “demons.” The “demons’ room” was a room in the house that they used as a parlour.”
. A reference to the hollow, drumming sound that Shiva makes while striking his cheeks.
. A small, handheld drum, shaped like an hourglass.
.The vilwa tree is also called the bel tree.