Morton School, the roof on the fourth storey. It is 4 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 November, 1929. A sadhu has come from the Belur Math. M. is seated on a chair facing north. Folding his hands and offering salutations, the sadhu sits on the carpet on the double bench in front of M. Immediately, M. enquires about Sri Mahapurusha.
M.: “Jagabandhu Maharaj, what does Sri Mahapurusha talk about these days? Have you noted it down?”
The sadhu: “Yes sir, I have recorded it in my diary.”
M.: “Do you have the diary with you?”
Sadhu: “Yes, sir. I have brought it to read to you.”
M.: “Just read.”
The sadhu reads out from the diary:
Belur Math, 18 October 1929. A sadhu is attending Sri Mahapurusha this Friday from two o’clock to half past three. How great is his suffering, as if there is deadly pain even to breathe! He moans: Hun! hun! hun. The sadhu thinks to himself that even a Brahman-realized soul is not freed from pain and suffering.
M.: “It isn’t all that strange. Even Thakur, who himself said he was an avatara suffered for almost a year because of cancer. He’d vomit jugfuls of blood. He couldn’t eat anything and had turned into a skeleton.
“Why did he suffer so much? Was it because of past karmas? He himself said, ‘I am an avatara. Sat-chit-ananda has come down in this body.’ His birth didn’t result from karmas. But the avatara himself said this. Even during such suffering, he uttered not a word but ‘Mother! Mother!’ Day and night just this word on his lips.
“Granting fearlessness to the devotees, he said, ‘You people will not have to do much. Just know who I am and who you are and you will succeed. Meditate on me and you will succeed.’
“And he said, ‘Truly, I say, he who thinks on me will inherit my wealth just as a son inherits his father’s wealth. And my wealth comprises discrimination and dispassion, knowledge and love of God, joy and peace, ecstasy and great ecstasy, and divine love and samadhi.’
“So the question rises, why he suffered so much? Answer: for the good of the devotees, for the good of the world. If that is so, this too can be called crucifixion. Christ was crucified just for this, for the good of the devotees and the good of the world. What can we learn from it? That happiness and pain are bound to be in a physical body. Even an avatara is not saved from them. But one has to try to attain the supreme happiness of the vision of the Lord in spite of them. On the one hand, just to impart this instruction, he suffered every second. On the other hand, he repeatedly went into samadhi. He showed the devotees what lies between the two extremes of full indulgence and full renunciation, so that the devotees who had fallen into the whirlpool of joys and pains would try to attain to the Supreme Bliss of the Lord.”
The reading from the dairy continues:
The next day, Saturday, 19 October, 1929, 6 a.m. The previous night, such acute suffering, yet in the morning at the time of receiving salutations, he sits erect, talking with a smiling face, as if nothing was the matter. The sadhus come one by one and offer their obeisance. Sri Mahapurusha enquires after their welfare smilingly. The sadhu thinks to himself, Perhaps they are a class of quick-change artists, these knowers of Brahman. Last night, how he was suffering – and this morning it is as if nothing had happened – such a disposition! Maybe this is known as videhi, bodilessness.”
M.: “That’s why it is not possible to preach without God’s power. Just as an avatara can have extreme pain and extreme indifference to it simultaneously, his intimate companions may also experience the same. So the Lord’s power comes down to earth to maintain the balance.
(To the reader) “Yes, please read on.”
The sadhu reads the diary:
Swami Akhandananda has come from the Sargachhi Ashrama to offer his salutations to Sri Mahapurusha. He is one of the intimate disciples of Thakur. They talk about Brahmajnana, the knowledge of Brahman. A sadhu stands nearby. Sri Mahapurusha, pointing to the sadhu, says, “He used to be with Master Mahashay. Then he was sent to Madras. He was there for a long time. And he also went to Ooty. Now he’s been called back. He may be sent to Dhaka or somewhere else. (To the sadhu) Where would you like to go?” The sadhu replies, “Lucknow.” Mahapurusha does not catch what he has said. The sadhu then says more loudly, “No sir, Lucknow.”
The reading continues:
21 October, 1929, half past six in the morning. Belur Math, the verandah upstairs. Sri Mahapurusha is sitting on a chair near the door of the small room. In front of him the Ganges flows. To his right is Swami Vivekananda’s room. One can see sandalwood trees from the northern door of the room and from the open window to the south. The sadhu, having offered salutations to Sri Mahapurusha, leaves. Swami Shashwatananda, Prashant of America, and Jagabandhu stand nearby.
Sri Mahapurusha says, smiling, “The entire atmosphere there is very romantic. Many butterflies hover there. They go wherever they find some fragrance or something nice. Sandal flowers are very fragrant, so they don’t leave it.” (Laughter) By saying this, Sri Mahapurusha begins to enjoy talking.
M.: “In the same way, a householder is tied down by the domestic responsibilities of a wife, son, daughter, wealth, and name and fame. But after holding Him, there is not as much danger. But Mahamaya makes a person forget everything. So Thakur also told everyone the way out: ‘The need for the daily company of sadhus.’ Having gained love of God, the risk of falling is largely diminished.”
The sadhu continues to read his diary.
Tuesday, 22 October, 1929. It is half past three in the afternoon. Sri Mahapurusha is sitting near the door of his room in an easy chair. Swami Shraddhananda of Dehradun, a bearded sadhu from outside, with another individual, are sitting on the floor in front of him. A sadhu near the steps watches them. Sri Mahapurusha says to the other man, “God is the inner soul. If one’s heart gets the feeling of Him just once, knowledge and love come by themselves.” Someone says, “A young man of twenty-six has attained the knowledge of the Absolute.” Mahapurusha says, “Very good. That’s all that is needed.”
The next day, Wednesday, 23 October, six in the morning, Sri Mahapurusha is seated on his cot facing west. He is wearing a ganji, covered with a red Madras shawl that has gold work in it. In front of him is a hookah that he is smoking through a brass pipe. His mind is fixed within. His attendant stands nearby. Having taken a number of puffs, he mutters, “Sri Guru, Sri Guru.” A moment later he says, “Sat-chit-ananda.” Where has his mind flown? The hookah pipe touches his mouth, though he is unconscious of it. The sadhu prostrates on the ground to offer salutations. Sri Mahapurusha’s mind comes down. He inquires after him. What a touching tone! It seems as if his mind is still immersed in the nectar of Sat-chit-ananda. Maybe this is the reason there is so much sweetness, so much pathos in it. He just utters two words, but these two words seem to be coming out of a sea of nectar.
M.: “Indeed, indeed!”
The reading continues.
Today is Thursday, 24 October 1929, 6:15 a.m., the verandah upstairs in the Belur Math. Sri Mahapurusha moves to the middle of it and, holding the railing and bending over, watches the Ganges flowing in front of the Math – the Ganges, the redeemer of the fallen. Sri Mahapurusha still has his shirt open. It has four buttons. Around his neck is the red gold-embroidered shawl from Madras, gerua in colour. A sadhu, after touching the water of the Ganges, comes upstairs and, standing on the steps has the darshan of Sri Mahapurusha. Swami Omkarananda, standing on the bank, is cleaning his teeth with a twig.
It is half past six. Having returned to his room, Sri Mahapurusha takes his seat in an easy chair near the door. Behind him is the door to another room, which is shut. To the north is his cot, to the south is a big trunk. Some clothes are lying on it – all new. To the west of the trunk is the entrance door. On the western side of that door, too, there are clothes on a trunk. To the west of it is a table with a stove, some pomegranates, eatables, medicines etc.
Sadhus are coming to offer salutations. Swami Omkarananda comes, offers his salutations, and stands on the eastern side of the entrance door, to the right of Sri Mahapurusha. Swami Ganeshananda is Sri Mahapurusha’s secretary. He stands in front of the window to the south-west of the room. ‘The sadhu’ suddenly comes in and offers his salutations, lying on the ground. Sri Mahapurusha had not seen him before, so he asks who he is. Swami Omkarananda says, “Anand.” As soon as the sadhu rises, he says, laughing, “The formation of his forehead is different.” Swami Omkarananda says, “Yes, sir.” The sadhu, having risen from the ground, goes and stands to the west, outside the door and opposite Omkarananda. Sri Mahapurusha again says, “I say, a bit slanting.”
Everyone is silent. The sadhu starts to think to himself, “Perhaps this is a bad physiognomic feature. But then let it be. I am still his son and his auspicious glance has fallen on me. A son cannot be given up by his father. Since his sight has fallen on me, all inauspiciousness has vanished.” Sri Mahapurusha says affectionately, “Sonny, how are you?” – as though nectar flows with his words. The heart of the sadhu is filled with love. Lest the sadhu might feel sad, he showers this nectar.
Swami Sharvananda and Nirvanananda come in and offer their salutations. Then they go and stand in front of the wall. Sharvananda says, “A class is going to be held for the workers of the orphanage in Baranagore. Pasupati (Swami Shashwatananda) from Advaita Ashrama will lecture on Sankara’s commentary on the Gita.”
Sri Mahapurusha: “Who will understand Sankara’s commentary? If you read the original text, you clearly understand bhakti and karma.”
Sharvananda: “Yes, sir.”
Sri Mahapurusha: “What is the use in reading this controversy? The Vedantist commentary is so stiff. When I was a boy I used to think that perhaps it was indispensable. I read it. Now I see that it is deceiving.
“That a hundred commentaries cannot clear is made intelligible by Thakur’s one saying. (After a short pause) ‘All has been defiled by the touch of the tongue, but not Brahman.’ How beautiful, just this one saying!”
Sharvananda: “There is always an intellectual urge. It is satisfied by reading the scriptures. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says – Päëòityaà cänirvidya bälye tiñöhäsét. When one has heard and learned a lot, one becomes a child.”
Sri Mahapurusha: “Yes, you cannot always keep your eyes shut. (He shuts his eyes.) But then, what else can one do?”
Swami Omkarananda is wearing a torn shirt. Sri Mahapurusha asks him to get a new shirt made. Full of affection, he says, “Your shirt is tattered. Get another dress made. We shall pay for it from here.”
Swami Sharvananda asks, “Maharaj, how is your health?”
Sri Mahapurusha says, “Now good, now bad, this goes on. Frost in the month of Kartik is very unhealthy. After a few days, when it warms up, it isn’t so unhealthy. Now the frost patters. But the sunshine of this month is not so bad, it is the sunshine of Hemant [the months between autumn and winter].”
Refreshments are brought in for Sri Mahapurusha. Everyone leaves.
Sri Mahapurusha eats, sitting on Swami Gangeshananda’s cot in the small room next door.
Reading from the diary continues –
Today is Friday, 25th October, 1929. The northern verandah facing the Ganges. Swami Akhandananda is seated on an easy chair facing north near Swamiji’s room. Swami Nirvanananda is standing behind it. Jagabandhu stands at the opening to the hall. He is the attendant of Swami Vivekananda’s room. Sri Mahapurusha paces the verandah north-south rather unsteadily. Sometimes he stands holding the easy chair and talks to Swami Akhandananda in Hindi. He is wearing a light brown flannel shirt. They talk like they used to when they were wandering ascetics. Both laugh. Swami Akhandananda says, “Between us, only dada (Elder Brother) can speak Hindi well.”
Only this much of the diary is read today. The sadhu takes some sweets and, having offered salutations to M., goes back to the Belur Math.
The Morton School, the staircase room on the fourth storey. Wednesday, 12 November, 1929, 7 p.m. M. is seated in a chair. Sitapati Maharaj and Jagabandhu Maharaj are sitting in front of him on a bench. Devotees have assembled. Durgapada Mitra (Healing Balm) has also arrived. Spiritual talk continues.
A woman devotee (to M.): “Thakur said: ‘You should pray with yearning and secretly in solitude.’ But we live among so many. How can we find a solitary corner in the city?”
M. (smiling): “Yes, Swamiji says in his ‘Hymn of Samadhi’:
Slowly, slowly, the shadow-multitude.
Entered the primal womb, and flowed ceaseless,
The only current, the “I am”, “I am.”
“Then he says:
Lo! Its stopped, even that current flows no more,
Void merged into void – beyond speech and mind!
Whose heart understands, he verily does.
“That is real solitude, in the ‘Hymn of Samadhi.’ Short of it, there is no real solitude. But then, how many people are qualified for this solitude? Thakur was talking about relative solitude. At 2 a.m. there is solitude. Why doesn’t one worship then? No, one only likes to snore then. Why do the babus (educated class) complain? It is amazing. A slow ‘three-beat’ on the drum won’t make you succeed. You have to be like an armed soldier with his bayonet always fixed to the gun – the enemy may come anytime. How will it do to sleep away the night and spend the day in gossiping? How can one succeed living like this? You have to find time for it, that’s it. You have to accomplish the work of ten lives in one. Only then is it possible. Lakshmana did not sleep for twelve years. He lived on fruits and roots and observed unbroken continence. That’s why it was possible for him to perform such great deeds as killing Meghanath and Ravana.
“Devotees are never short of time. They have the whole night. Thakur used to ask them to rise at 3 a.m. to meditate. During the day you have to attend to work. When you are standing in a battlefield, there is no time to sleep. The enemy surrounds you. You have enemies within and enemies without. The cruelest enemy is hanging on your head like a sword. Rise, rise, call on Him and take up arms. Only then will the enemy flee. By calling upon Him, even death flees. Prayer and complete resignation – this is the method. Cry and pray: ‘Mother, protect me, protect me, Mother.’”
Sitapati Maharaj: “Work during the day, and pray at night! When does a man sleep then?”
M. (laughing): “Yes, this indeed is a puzzle.”
M. (to the devotees): “Just a little reading of Bhagavata will do. Only a day or two of Rasa remain to be read. Let us read the Rasa Panchadhyay.”
A devotee reads the first three chapters, 29 to 31. The reader neither reads the titles of the chapters, nor the colophon, so M. interrupts him and asks him to read them, saying, ‘These are milestones.” Gopi Gita, Chapter 31, is now being read. Seeing that Sri Krishna has vanished from their sight, the gopis sing His praises in a voice full of yearning. The reader reads.
tava kathāmṛtaṃ taptajīvanaṃ
bhuvi gṛṇanti ye bhūridā janāḥ.
M. sits motionless, not even batting his eyelids, his face flushed, tears of ecstatic love flowing from the corners of his eyes.
The nectar of the story of the Lord revives ‘world-scalded’ humans – this is M.’s personal experience. Hearing the nectar of the story of Thakur, he himself gained new life. Throughout his life, has he rained this nectar on others untiringly, and that’s why he has requested that this chant be chanted before starting to read his Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita.
One of the listeners is an old critic. So that the devotees would not feel later that the gopis’ conduct was against social tradition, M. himself poses the question and then answers it.
M. (referring to that devotee) says in a very sweet voice, “It will not do to criticize this. When our superiors, Chaitanya and Thakur and others, have agreed, it is correct. Chaitanya Deva’s life is an illustration of the rasa lila.
“The gopis are some big bubbles on the boundless sea of love and Sri Radha is the biggest of them all. As long as one has body consciousness, one can not appreciate this divine sport. Chaitanya Deva spent his last twelve years in Sri Radha’s mood, in mahabhava. Thakur also had such mahabhava again and again. The Bhairavi brahmin woman was the first to discover it. She called an assembly and declared that Thakur was an avatara. Just at the mention of the gopis, Thakur would bow down and offer his salutations. He used to say, ‘Even a particle of the love of gopis can overwhelm a person who has it.’ The Upanishad says that it is not given to the English educated people to appreciate the sport of ecstatic love. If, by the grace of the Lord, one’s mind is fully purified all of a sudden – without the least trace of desire – one has a feel of it.”
Morton School, Calcutta,
Wednesday, 13 November, 1929.
. A collarless shirt.
. The nectar of Your words is life for the ones scorched by sorrow and pain. It is praised by the sages. It destroys sins. Hearing it is auspicious. It is spread by the fortunate. Those who narrate it are the munificent ones.
– Srimad Bhagavata X:31:9