Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai

Hinduism – The Importance of Spiritual Practices

Source: from M’s Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna — If one practises a little Sadhana [spiritual exercises] then the spiritual teacher makes him understand what is what. He then himself learns to distinguish the real from the unreal and knows that God alone is eternal and that this world is ephemeral.

One night a fisherman secretly entered a garden and cast his nets into a tank to steal fish. The owner of the garden came to know of it and surrounded the thief with his men and came with lighted torches to catch him. The thief in the meanwhile smeared his body with ashes and sat like a Sadhu [a monk] under a tree. The men searched in vain for the fisherman; they found only an ascetic covered with ashes, sitting under a tree and deeply absorbed in meditation. Next morning, the word went round that a great sage had come into so-and-so’s garden. People poured in with presents of flowers and sweets to pay their respects to him, and a considerable amount of silver also began to accumulate before him. At that the fisherman thought, “How wonderful! I am not a real Sadhu, yet they show me such reverence! Assuredly then I’ll realise God if I really become a Sadhu!”

If a mere pretence of Sadhana [spiritual exercises] brought such illumination, what to speak of real Sadhana! Then you will surely perceive what is real and what is unreal; you will surely know that God is true and the world false.

A devotee says to himself, “The world is unreal and the fisherman of the story also gave up the world. What then will be the fate of those awakened ones that are living in the world? Must they renounce it?”

The Master says immediately, “If a clerk is sent to jail, he no doubt serves his term, but when he is released, should he go dancing madly along the streets? He seeks out another employment and goes on working as before. Even so, after attaining Divine Wisdom through the grace of the Guru [spiritual teacher], man can live in the world as Jivan-mukta [liberated in life].”

Sadhana and its reward In the beginning, you must be up and doing, and then Sadhana becomes easier afterwards. For the man must be alert at the helm so long as he steers his craft along tortuous water-courses and through agitated waves and storm and rain. But once he has passed them, he can sit comfortably at the helm and spread his sail in the favourable wind and prepare his pipe. Even so, when the raging blasts of Lust and Greed have blown over, it is all peace and calm.

Some have the sign of the Yogi manifested in their person; they should yet be on their guard. For Lust and Greed are the impediments to Yoga, and if the desire arises in a person’s mind to enjoy them, he falls and is dragged down into the world; and he can turn back towards God and regain his former exalted state of spirituality only when he has satisfied those desires.

The value of scriptural studies in the scheme of Sadhana Scriptures have to be studied in the beginning. It is in the early stages that one reasons out and discusses. “O My Mind, install the Beloved Mother in the heart. May I and you alone see Her, let none else pry into it.”

In the course of Sadhana one has to learn all the Scriptures. But when the Mother has been realised, there is no lack of knowledge,— She Herself provides an unfailing supply. Man has to spell the words when he first learns to write, but afterwards he can write fluently.

Mere study of the Scriptures is of no help. If you live amidst “Woman and Gold”, you are not able to able to comprehend the true significance of Scriptures. Attachment to the world takes away knowledge. “With wistful hope I learnt many a sweet poetic thing, but, alas, I fell in love with a deaf man, and all was marred.”

Preparations for the inevitable hour Know that all will walk down the same path one day. It is only a two days’ slay in this world. The world is the place of action, where you have been brought in to work, even as a man comes on business from his country-home to Calcutta.

You must take some pains by way of Sadhana [spiritual exercises]; the karmas must be speedily worked out. When the smiths melt gold, they blow with bellows, fan and pipe all together to make the fire blaze high, and only when the gold has been dissolved do they ask for a smoke. All this time they have been sweating on the brow, but they can get a chance to smoke only after they have done.

You must be very firm in your determination if you want to practise Sadhana,— you must make a strong resolve! The seed of His Holy Name is very powerful. It destroys ignorance. The seed is so soft, and its sprout is so tender, yet it shoots up through the hard earth.

The mind becomes completely distracted if you live long among “Woman (Man) and Gold”. The man of the world, living among “Woman (Man) and Gold”, may set his mind on the Lord sometimes, but it is also attracted by them, just as a fly that sits on sweetmeats turns again to sores and filth. Keep your mind ever fixed on the Lord. In the beginning you must struggle a little, afterwards you will enjoy your pension.

The time-factor and spiritual discipline Knowledge cannot be communicated all at once. Its attainment is a question of time. Suppose a fever is of a severe type. The doc- tor cannot give quinine under such circumstances. He knows that such a remedy would do no good. The fever must first leave the patient, which depends upon time, and then the quinine would be useful. Sometimes the fever would go off without your having to give the patient quinine or any other medicine. Precisely the same is the case with a man who seeks for knowledge. To him spiritual precepts often prove useless so long as he is immersed in worldliness. Allow him a certain period for the enjoyment of the things of the world; his attachment to the world will gradually wear off. This is exactly the time for the success of any spiritual instructions that may be given to him. Till then they would be as good as entirely thrown away.

Many come to me; and I have observed how some of them are anxious to listen to my words. But one or two of the company appear to be restless and impatient in my presence. They say to their friends in whispers, “Let us go, let us go! Well, if you mean to stay, we had better get into the boat and wait for you.”

It is difficult to drive nails into a strong brick wall. It will break the head of the nails sooner than make any impression upon the wall. It is idle to strike the crocodile with the sword. The chances are that the sword will not make a cut. Therefore I say that the element of time is an important factor in all these matters.

Spiritual awakening is very much a question of time. The teacher is a mere help. The fact is, a great deal of all this desire for knowledge or for freedom depends upon one’s Karma in one’s previous incarnations.

A Devotee — Yes, Sir, it is so difficult to understand one’s self. We see the self only as it appears to us. Behind it there might be a hundred previous incarnations. We walk upon the floor of a house but we never stop to see how it is made and what various things are beneath it.

Continue Reading No Comments

The Necessary Qualifications for Spiritual Life – Swami Vivekananda


“Verily, these three are rare to obtain and come only through the grace of God: human birth, desire to obtain Moksha [liberation] and the company of the great-souled ones.”

The first thing needed is Manushyatvam, human birth, because it only is favourable to the attainment of Mukti [emancipation]. The next is Mumukshutvam. Though our means of realisation vary according to the difference in sects and individuals—though different individuals can lay claim to their special rights and means to gain knowledge, which vary according to their different stations in life,— yet it can be said in general without fear of contradiction that without Mumukshuta nothing can be achieved. What is Mumukshutvam? It is the strong desire for Moksha [liberation]—the earnest yearning to get out of the sphere of pain and pleasure—utter disgust for the world. When that intense burning desire to see God comes, then you should know that you are entitled to the realisation of the Supreme.

Then another thing is necessary and that is the coming in direct contact with the Mahapurushas, the great-souled ones, and thus moulding our lives in accordance with those of the great-souled ones who have reached the goal. Even utter disgust for the world and an intense burning desire for God are not sufficient. Initiation by a Guru [spiritual teacher] is necessary. Why? Because it is the bringing of yourself into connection with that great source of power which has been handed down through generations, from one Guru to another, in uninterrupted succession. The devotee must seek and accept the spiritual preceptor as his counsellor, philosopher, friend and guide. In short, the Guru is the sine qua non of progress in the path of spirituality. Whom then shall I accept as my Guru? “He who is versed in the Scriptures, without taint, unhurt by desire, he who is the best of the knowers of Brahman.” He who is not only learned in the Scriptures but who knows their subtle secrets, who has realised their true import in his life. Mere book-learning is of no avail. Nowadays, everyone wants to be a Guru. Even a poor beggar wants to make a gift of a lakh of rupees! Then, the Guru must be without a touch of taint; and he must be unhurt by any desire,— he should have no other motive except that of purely doing good to others, he should be an ocean of mercy-without-reason and not impart religious teaching with a view to gain name or fame, or anything pertaining to selfish interest. And he must be the intense knower of Brahman.. Such is the Guru, says the Scripture. When spiritual union is established with such a Guru, then comes realisation of God,— then God-vision becomes easy of attainment.

There should be in the aspirant after Truth, Abhyasa or earnest and repeated attempt at practical application of the Truth by prescribed means of constant meditation upon the Chosen Ideal. Even if you have a burning thirst for God, or have gained the teacher, unless you have along with it, Abhyasa, unless you practise what you have been taught, you cannot get realisation. When all these are firmly established in you, then you will reach the Goal.

Do not forget the great ideal of our religion,— which is to go beyond this phenomenal world,— not only to renounce the world, but to give up heaven too; aye, not only to give up evil but to give up good too; and thus to go beyond all, beyond this phenomenal existence and ultimately realise the “Sat-Chit-Anandam Brahman” — the Absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss, which is Brahman.

Continue Reading No Comments

Stories from the Life of the Buddha

1. The Wild Geese One day, as Prince Siddhartha was going through the royal gardens on his way to the river, a flock of wild geese, beautifully outlined against the sky, passed overhead. Devadatta, the Prince’s cousin, seeing the geese, shot an arrow into their midst and one of them fell, wounded, just in front of Siddhartha. He felt a tender compassion for the poor bird that lay bleeding at his feet. Lifting it up, he drew out the arrow very carefully, bound up the wound and took the bird with Him. Presently a messenger came to claim the bird, sent by Devadatta, but Siddhartha refused to give it up saying that it belonged to him who had saved its life, not to him who had tried to kill it. 2. The Buddha and the Wealthy Brahmin One day a wealthy Brahmin was holding his harvest-home, when the Buddha came and stood by with the begging bowl in his hands. The Brahmin got very angry and said, “I plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat. It would be better if you were in like manner to plough and to sow, and then you would have food enough to eat without begging.” “O Brahmin, do not get incensed at my begging,” the Buddha answered, “I too, plough and sow, and having ploughed and sown, I eat.” “You say, you are a husbandman, but I see no signs of it,” replied the Brahmin, “Where are your bullocks and the seed and the plough?” Then the Buddha answered, “Faith is the seed I sow and good works are the rain that fertilises it. Wisdom and good works are the parts of the plough, and my mind is the guiding rein. I lay hold of the handle of the Law; earnestness is the goad I use and diligence is my daughter. Thus my ploughing is done, destroying the weeds of delusion. The harvest that it yields is the ambrosia-fruit of Nirvana, and by this ploughing all sorrow ends.” 3. The Sacrifice of the Brahmin A certain Brahmin had made preparations for a great sacrifice in honour of one of the ancient gods of the Hindus. Whole herds of sheep and goats had been driven together, ready to be slaughtered when the day of sacrifice should arrive. Now, it came to pass that the Buddha visited this Brahmin, and as they sat together, discussing many things, the Buddha spoke of the sacredness of all life, whether of men or animals, of the pure heart and upright ways which are of far higher value than a sacrifice necessitating the shedding of blood. For nothing but his own unbroken efforts after right doing and right thinking can avail a man; he cannot rid himself of his sins and delusions by making innocent creatures suffer. As the Brahmin listened; the Buddha’s words sank deep into his soul. He was convinced of their truth. Determined to spare the lives of all those animals that had been driven together for the day of sacrifice, the Brahmin ordered that they should be given their freedom. So instead of being slaughtered, they were turned loose on the hill-side where they could roam at will, choose their own pasture, drink the clear water of the mountain streams and scent the cool and refreshing breezes that blew on the upland. 4. Angulimala Journeying in Kosala, the Buddha was warned not to pass through a certain forest, for here, in the deep recesses of the jungle, was the den of a famous robber chief, Angulimala. He was the terror of the whole country-side, for he lived by plundering unwary travellers and had committed many murders. He feared no one, and from the very palace of the king the cries of his victims had been heard many a time. All attempts to capture this desperate man had failed. So he continued his ravages unpunished. The people of Kosala now besought the Buddha not to expose himself to the dangers of the robber’s territory. But Gautama knew no fear and heedless of all warnings, he made his way straight to the den of the robber. Angulimala, enraged at this boldness, determined to slay the intruder. But when he saw the Buddha, calm and self-possessed, and heard his words of kindness, the robber hesitated. His arm uplifted to kill, hung helpless by his side and his wrath cooled like the embers of a dying fire. As the Buddha reasoned with him, he changed his purpose and, before long, had confessed all his sins and declared his faith in the Doctrine. When the people saw the new disciple following his Master, they were amazed and could scarcely believe that this was the same man who had been the terror of their land for so many years. Angulimala became a monk and was renowned for his holiness.

Continue Reading No Comments

The Restraining of the Passions

Source: Compiled from the Bhagavatam Sk.7. Adh.15 A person should conquer desire by shunning the wish or determination to gratify it, and conquer the passion of anger by eschewing Kama [desire to gain particular objects], and covetousness by seeing the evil in all worldly things sought after, and fear by a thorough perception of Truth. He should get rid of grief and attachment through a distinct knowledge of what is Atman and An-atman [Self and non-self], and of hypocrisy by service at the feet of the great and association with them, and the interruptions of Yoga [concentration] by the force of silence, and avoid harm to other creatures by cherishing no love to the body and all its belongings. He should get over the troubles arising from other beings through kindness and mercy, and those caused by the gods through contemplation of the gods, and those arising in his own body and mind by strength of Yoga practices [Pranayama and the like], and sleep by using Sattvic food and the like. He should conquer Rajas and Tamas by means of the Sattva element and also Sattva by complete withdrawal from activity; and he may have all this conquest assured to him through his intense devotion to the Guru [spiritual teacher]. All the rules restricting the conduct and habits of man have but one purpose, viz., to serve restraining the six passions; and they would be only a source of mere labour and pain if they do not lead to contemplation and concentration. He who is resolved on conquering his mind should rid himself of all associations and give up all his belongings, should be alone and live in a secluded place, eating but very little. The wise man should slowly and gradually confine the mind to the heart by bringing it back from the several objects to which it has gone out, wandering under the force of passions. And the mind of the ascetic, who is thus day and night given to the exercise of control, becomes in a short time peaceful, undisturbed by passions, like fire without fuel to feed it. Then the mind, unassailed by desire and other passions and divested of all activity, rises to the experience of the blissful realisation of Brahman and would never again turn towards the Samsara [phenomenal world].

Continue Reading 1 Comment

The Way to true Devotion

Source: Compiled from the Bhagavatam Sk.ll. Adh.19

“I shall again tell thee of the most efficacious way to devotion to Me: Sincere solicitude to listen to My nectar-like stories, the constant singing of Me, a steady application to My worship, to sing hymns in praise of Me, enthusiasm in doing service to Me and bowing to Me, great attention to worshipping My devotee, to think that I am present in all beings, every movement of every limb taking place only in doing acts dedicated to Me; to sing only My qualities, to resign the mind to Me, to shun all desires, and for My sake to eschew money that does not point to My devotion, to abandon all enjoyments and comforts and to perform sacrificial acts, gifts, oblations, repetition of Mantras [holy sound-symbols] and the vows and tapas [austerity] dedicated to Me.

“Those men, O Uddhava, who possess the aforesaid virtues and resign themselves to Me, develop devotion towards Me. What other purpose yet remains for them to secure? When the mind is full of Sattva [calmness serenity and balance] and thoroughly serene is resigned unto Me, the man naturally gains merit of righteousness, wisdom and renunciation and attains to the state of Iswara [God with attributes]. The mind that is set on anything different from Myself, that is on any phenomenal object, runs astray with the senses, then it becomes very impure with Rajas [passionate activity] attached to bad things, and thus it becomes perverse and unrighteous.

“Whatever promotes devotion to Me is Dharma [Righteousness], and to realise the oneness of Atman [Self] is Jñana or wisdom; to be without attachment to the three Gunas and their products is renunciation.”

Uddhava said, “O Slayer of enemies, how many are the Yamas laid down as such? Niyamas, how many? What is Sama? What is Dama? O Krishna, what is forbearance or fortitude, O Lord? What is gift? What is Tapas? What is heroism, truthfulness, correct understanding? What is liberality? What is wealth or sacrificial act? What is Yajña and what is Dakshina? What is the good strength of man? What is fortune or gain? What is the highest form of modesty, what is Sri, what happiness, what misery? Who is a scholar? Who is a fool? What is the way and what is the wrong way? What is heaven and what is hell? Who is a relation and what is a house? Who is rich and who is poor? Who is helpless? And who is Iswara, O Lord of the righteous? May Thou be pleased to explain to me these points of enquiry as well as the contrary ideas.”

Sri Krishna said, “To refrain from harming others, to be truthful, not to appropriate others’ wealth even in thought, to be free from attachments, to avoid company, to shrink from evil courses, not to be storing or collecting wealth, belief in Dharma [righteousness], celibacy, cleanliness of body and purity of heart, continence, firmness, forbearance, fear of God, to repeat the Mantras, Tapas [austerity], enthusiasm in being righteous, hospitality, worshipping Me, pilgrimages to holy places and waters, working for the benefit of others, contentment, service to the Guru [teacher]—these are the Yamas and Niyamas. When practised, these virtues lead to all that men desire.

“Sama is to settle the mind devoutly on Me; Dama is the control of the senses, forbearance is to put up quietly with afflictions, fortitude is complete control of the senses, of sexual passion and of taste. To refrain from harming other creatures is the highest gift. To abandon desires is admitted to be Tapas. Control over natural tendencies is heroism, and truthfulness is to think of Brahman. Correct understanding is speech both sweet and truthful; absence of attachment to the course of Karma is cleanliness, and to be rid of the notions of “I” and “Mine” is Tyaga. The desired wealth of men is righteousness. Yajña [sacrifice] is Myself, the most Glorious One. Dakshina is precept leading to wisdom. Pranayama, or control of breath, is the greatest strength. Fortune is the state of Iswara, having the six attributes, the highest gain is devotion to Me. Learning is the erasure of difference in Me. Sri is shrinking from prohibited action.

“Absence of desire and other good qualities are the ornament, happiness is to be insensible to pain and pleasure, misery is the craving for pleasure to be derived from the fulfilment of desires. He is a scholar who has true Knowledge of bondage and release. The fool is he who thinks that the body and its belongings are the Self. The way is that which directs one towards Me. The wrong way is distraction of the mind. Heaven is the predominance of Sattva [the element of harmony and balance]. Hell is the predominance of Tamas [the element of indolence, lethargy and dullness]. The relation is the Guru [Spiritual Teacher], Myself, O friend. The house is the human body. The rich man is he who is full of excellent qualities. He is poor who is discontented. He is helpless who has not controlled his senses. He is Iswara who is not attached to the Gunas. And one attached to the Gunas is the slave.”

Continue Reading No Comments

Two Stories from the Life of St. Francis


1. The Sermon on the Corpse

One day, St. Francis complained to his brothers in the following way saying, “There is scarcely a monk on earth who observes perfect obedience towards his superior.”francis-of-assisi

Then his companions said to him, “Tell us, Father, what is perfect and supreme obedience?”

He answered, describing him who is truly and perfectly obedient under the figure of a corpse.

“Take a dead body and put it wherever you will. You will see that it shows no resistance, does not change its place, will not demand from you the things it left. If you put it in a chair, it will not look up but down. If you dress it in purple, it will but look paler than before. Thus he who is perfectly obedient does not ask why he is removed, does not care where he is placed, does not insist on being put elsewhere. He who is raised to some high office retains his ordinary humility. The higher he rises in honours, the more does he consider himself to be unworthy of them.”

St. Francis considered that to be perfect obedience which is attained spontaneously without asking for it. And he took that for supreme obedience wherein neither the flesh nor the blood has any part.

2. The Immodest Eyes

Among those virtues which he preferred and desired to find in the brothers after the foundation of holy humility, St.Francis liked above all the beauty and purity of pure-mindedness.

Therefore, endeavouring to train the brothers to keep their eyes modest, he used to describe the immodest eyes by the following parable.

“There was a pious and mighty king who sent two messengers, one after the other, to the queen. On coming back, the first one spoke about the message only in words without mentioning the queen, for he had guarded his eyes wisely in his head and not lifted them up to the queen under any circumstances. When the second returned he began, after having said a few words about the message, to weave a long story round the beauty of the queen. “Truly,” he said, “O Lord, I saw the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Fortunate, indeed, is he who possesses one like unto her.” The king replied to him, “Thou faithless servant hast lifted up thy immodest eyes to my spouse, and it is clear that thou wishest secretly to possess what thou hast seen.” Thereupon he ordered the other servant to be brought back to him and said, “What dost thou think of the queen?” “She seemed most excellent,” he said, “for she listened to me willingly and with great patience.” And the king turned again to him and asked, “But has she no beauty at all?” “That is for you to see, my Lord,” he replied, “My duty was to deliver the message.” Then the king passed judgment and said, “Because thou hast kept thy eyes chaste, stay with me in my own room because of the chastity of the body and enjoy my delights. But that shameless fellow must leave my palace in order that he bring not dishonour to my house.”

Soource: From the Specchio di perfezione by Brother Leone

Continue Reading No Comments

Mother’s Love – Swami Ishanananda – 6

In 1940, Radhu was living in Jayrambati, at Holy Mother’s house. In the second half of that year she contracted malarial fever and after some time became so sick that she had to be brought to Calcutta for treatment. The doctors suspected she might be suffering from tuberculosis and therefore decided to send her to the Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama in Benares, where she could receive specialized treatment. Radhu arrived in Benares accompanied by Swami Ishanananda and a female servant, and was lodged on the second floor of a small rented house near the Ashrama. The doctors had Radhu’s chest X-rayed and found that she did indeed have TB. Both lungs were so badly damaged by the disease that there was no hope of recovery. Swami Ishanananda, who as a boy had been Holy Mother’s close attendant, had known Radhu for many years, and she therefore could talk to him freely. After staying for twelve days in Benares, it was time for the Swami to return to Calcutta. When he went to say goodbye to Radhu, they had the following conversation:

Swami – `Radhu, today I’m going back to Calcutta. Please don’t worry. Once you have recovered from your illness you will return to Jayrambati. The Swamis here have made all necessary arrangements for your stay and treatment. Afterwards I will come and take you back to Jayrambati.’

Radhu (in a feeble voice but forcefully) – `Dear me! What kind of understanding do you have? I know the disease I am suffering from, no matter how much you may try to conceal it from me. I have got tuberculosis, I know it is a fatal illness. Still you are telling me, “Once you have recovered, you will return to Jayrambati.”‘

Swami- `Radhu, why do you entertain such thoughts? You will be properly looked after, and if any problem arises, all you have to do is tell the Swamis and they will try to help you in every possible way. Please do not worry.’ Radhu- `Gopal-da, I am not talking about such things, you know. You want to keep me here because if I die in Benares I will obtain liberation. Is this what you have understood after serving the Mother for so many years? She, who took my burden from my very birth, who looked after my well-being in all respects, who even gave me the right to live in her own house as long as I am alive, in whom I have taken refuge forever, has She not secured my liberation as well? Even if I die in an impure place, by her grace, liberation is in my hand (showing her clenched fist). You don’t have to worry about that, brother. I will die in whichever place the Mother chooses for me.’ Everyone present in the room was touched to see Radhu’s deep faith in Holy Mother. At the earnest request of those looking after her, Radhu stayed on at Benares for just a few days and then returned to Jayrambati. On 23rd November 1940, at nine in the morning, Radhu passed away in Holy Mother’s room in Jayrambati. She was only forty years old. She died fully conscious, with her mind firmly fixed on the lotus feet of Holy Mother.

Continue Reading No Comments

Mother’s Love – Swami Ishanananda – 5

Swami Ishanananda, the writer of these reminiscences, was indeed a blessed soul. He had the good fortune of becoming Holy Mother’s close attendant and helper when he was just an eleven-year-old schoolboy. He belonged to the group of young novices living at the Koalpara monastery, close to the Mother’s village, who used to assist the Mother in running her household. The Swami met the Mother in 1909 and served her until her passing away in 1920.

Source: Matrisannidhye (Bengali book). (A free translation by Br. Bodhi Chaitanya)

A Brahmachari tries to serve Holy Mother

When Holy Mother was living at Koalpara, a new Brahmachari came from Belur Math to pay his respects to her. When he met the Mother, he expressed his wish to stay on for some days, but she told him: `My son, if you stay here you will have to put up with many inconveniences. Here I am, in this jungle, with Radhu; and there is so much work to do.’ The Brahmachari, however, kept on insisting, and Holy Mother finally said: `All right, you may stay at the Koalpara Ashrama for some days.’ After a few days the Mother asked the Brahmachari: `Look, Radhu is on a special diet. Do you think you could cook her meals?’ The boy was overjoyed, and agreed at once to do the job.

The next day he cooked Radhu’s meal at the Ashrama. As he was taking the food to Holy Mother’s house nearby, the tray he carried felt so hot that his hands began to burn, and finally the tray fell on the ground, spreading its contents around! A perplexed Brahmachari presented himself before the Mother, empty tray in hand! He then told her what had happened. The Mother was rather displeased; and that day, of course, Radhu could not have her usual food. In the evening, when Varada went to visit the Mother, she told him: `Look, as a sadhu (holy man) the boy is quite good. But at the moment, here the work cannot go on without efficient people. This kind of work cannot be performed by sadhus that dwell under trees (i.e., sadhus indifferent to outward events).

Again, on the impulse of some temporary enthusiasm anybody can do a good job, but the nature of a person can be known by observing in detail just how they perform their every-day work.’

Continue Reading 1 Comment

Mother would eat last


We normally believe that culture blossoms, flowers and sustained well with the education. A highly educated person is supposed to exhibit good cultural traits. However culture can be manifested even if a person is unlettered or not educated. One such case came to my notice when I found an illiterate woman belonging to a poor village, eking out a living by preparing and selling hadia (home brewed rice-beer) expressing a very high cultural attitude through her action.

saradadurgablog.jpgThis lady heard about Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. The life and teachings of Holy Mother fascinated her. She eventually proved that even without formal education, one can adopt Sarada Devi’s teachings in life. This episode was recently published in our monthly journal, Prabuddha Bharata, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Himalayas which is reproduced below:

It was during Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations. The Ranchi Sanatorium is surrounded by villages inhabited mostly by people of the Oraon and Munda tribes. We had a meeting with the villagers, and what they told us frankly surprised us. They said that all the six villages would take part in a big procession, starting in the morning, and would reach the ashrama campus by 11 a.m. Each village would have a jhanki or tableau specially made for the occasion.

On the tithi-puja day, the procession started from Tupudana, and reached the ashrama after a journey of 1 km. One of the jhankis, from the village Dungri, which had a little girl fully draped in a white sari like the Holy Mother with her long hair flowing over her shoulder, evoked lot of interest. She was seated on a thelagadi, a push-cart, and behind her there was a picture of Belur Math, drawn on a sheet of cardboard.

pbarati.jpgThe girl was known to us as Arati Kachhap, studying in class five. I asked her to sit by my side on the lawn in front of our temple, and she came down from the push-cart. Several devotees were also sitting there as the temple was full inside.

I asked Arati at what time she had left her home. She said, ‘By seven in the morning the didis (the elder girls of the village who were supervising the arrangements) came and dressed me up like Ma Sarada, and asked me to sit on the cart.’ Then I asked her, ‘Arati, did you eat anything before leaving your home?’

She replied that she had had nothing. Sensing that for a long time this little girl had been sitting on the cart without having had even a snack, I immediately asked one elder girl to bring prasad from the temple. When I gave her the prasad, she held it in her little hands but did not eat it. Surprised, I said, ‘Arati, take it! Oh! You have not had anything since early morning. Have it now!’

To my surprise, Arati refused to eat. When I asked her why she didn’t want to eat, her reply surprised me all the more. She said that her mother had instructed her not to eat. I was stunned, as I knew her mother well. She was a poor tribal woman eking out a living and supporting three children by preparing and selling hadia (home-made rice beer) in the bazaar. Her husband was of no use to the family. I asked Arati how it was that her mother did not approve of her eating prasad. Arati replied, after some hesitation and after my repeated prodding, ‘My mother told me, “Look Arati! Today you are dressed up like Holy Mother. You should not take any food at the ashrama until all the Dungri village people are fed – because Holy Mother would always eat last, after feeding all the devotees.”‘

Tears came to my eyes. Arati’s mother, an unlettered villager who brewed and sold hadia – just imagine what culture she exhibited! She had imbibed one of the core qualities of the Holy Mother, and was trying to fashion her daughter’s life with what she understood! If people would follow even a fraction of the Holy Mother’s teachings, how good our society would be. May Holy Mother inspire everyone!


Continue Reading 6 Comments

Mother’s Love – Swami Ishanananda – 4

Swami Ishanananda, the writer of these reminiscences, was indeed a blessed soul. He had the good fortune of becoming Holy Mother’s close attendant and helper when he was just an eleven-year-old schoolboy. He belonged to the group of young novices living at the Koalpara monastery, close to the Mother’s village, who used to assist the Mother in running her household. The Swami met the Mother in 1909 and served her until her passing away in 1920.

Source: Matrisannidhye (Bengali book). (A free translation by Br. Bodhi Chaitanya)

Holy Mother’s efforts to cure Radhu

In 1919 Radhu was pregnant, and gradually becoming mentally unbalanced. Seeing the Mother at a loss to know how to cure her, Nalini suggested that they make Radhu wear bangles offered to the `Mad Goddess Kali’ of the Tirol village, since that had once worked in lessening Radhu’s mother’s insanity in the past. The Mother agreed at once and, turning to Varada, said:

`Look, Nalini is right.Varada, tomorrow without fail please go to Tirol, offer worship to Mother Kali there, and bring the bangles with you.’

Varada left for Tirol the next day, spending the night at a devotee’s house on the way. Arriving in Tirol on the second day, he offered worship to Mother Kali and bought the bangles, returning to Holy Mother at Koalpara in the evening. The following morning before breakfast, Radhu was bathed and the bangles were put on her wrists according to scriptural injunctions. Holy Mother prostrated herself in the direction of Mad Goddess Kali’s shrine, and fervently prayed for Radhu’s recovery. Radhu’s condition, however, did not change or improve in the least by wearing the bangles; rather, Radhu’s mother’s madness took a turn for the worse! She began to quarrel with Nalini for having prescribed the bangles for Radhu. After a few days, Radhu’s mother began to reproach Holy Mother again and again, telling her: `Why did you bring Radhu from Calcutta? If she had stayed there, she could have received proper medical treatment. Now the weather is so hot; in Calcutta they would have applied ice on her head, and that would have alleviated her condition. If you can manage to procure ice and apply it on Radhu’s head, she will be cured.’ Holy Mother again believed in the new proposal and turning to Varada said:

`Varada, she is right. Tomorrow please go by bicycle to Bankura and bring some ice.’

As his bike was not in a very good condition, Varada was reluctant to cycle all the twenty-four miles distance to Bankura, but the Mother assured him: `It will be all right, you please go.’ The next morning Varada presented himself before the Mother, ready to depart. The Mother did some japa (repetition of a holy mantra) on his head and chest, and gave him an offered flower to tie in his cloth. Travelling by bicycle and by train, Varada managed to return to the Mother with twenty pounds of ice nicely packed, by five in the afternoon the next day. At the Bankura Ashrama the members had given Varada some cucumbers and other things for the Mother’s household, so in the end the young man had to carry a forty-pound load! While Holy Mother and Radhu’s mother were happily applying the ice to Radhu’s head, Uncle Kali (Holy Mother’s brother) happened to come that way. Hearing of the new treatment prescribed by the mad aunt (Radhu’s mother was known by that name), he said to Holy Mother: `Sister, do you apply ice on the head of a pregnant girl on the advice of the mad aunt? Take care that she doesn’t catch a cold.’, and: `Sister, you don’t understand. If the big doctors of Calcutta have admitted defeat, being unable to cure her, then this is no disease at all. In my opinion she is possessed by a ghost. In the village of Sushnegere there is a tantrik practitioner; why don’t you send for him and get his opinion about Radhu?’ At these words the Mother stopped applying ice on Radhu’s head and said to her brother:

`Fine. Tomorrow Varada will go to Jayrambati; from there you will take him to Sushnegere. Explain the case to the man and see if you can bring him with you.’

The next day Uncle Kali and Varada arrived in Sushnegere and, as soon as they approached the tantrik occultist, the latter threw some mustard seeds at both of them, and at his altar, and then said: `Yes, I have understood everything. In the next couple of days I will have to go there. I have received the command.’, etc. Uncle Kali still told him in detail about Radhu’s mental condition and requested him to come to Koalpara to examine her. On the way back to Koalpara, Uncle Kali began to talk to Varada on different subjects, and finally said, referring to Holy Mother: `Look, Varada, if my sister would save all the money that the devotees give her, she could be very well-off, but instead of that, she spends it all on Radhu and her brothers, she doesn’t save at all. Well, to whom do you think she gives most?’ Seeing that Varada uttered no response, the uncle continued: `Look, Varada, my sister is not at all attached to money, that is why she is respected by so many people. Her relatives try to take advantage of her generosity as much as they can. If she were attached to money like ordinary people, then she wouldn’t be respected. That is why she is not a human being Ñshe is a Goddess, do you understand, Varada? Well, you boys have given up home and family at such an early age, and are busy serving Sister day and night. You are your parents’ only son. I know your father, he is a God-fearing, noble soul. You boys of Koalpara, how much you serve Sister! And Sister also is so gracious to you! Taking upon herself such a heavy burden as Radhu, Sister depends on you for help and support. Varada, you are indeed blessed!’ While the uncle talked in this manner, the two finally reached Jayrambati. The uncle stayed at his home and Varada proceeded alone to Koalpara. When he met Holy Mother she asked him in detail about the tantrik charmer, and then asked him further: `What did Kali say all along the way?’ As Varada repeated Uncle Kali’s words, the Mother smiled lightly and said: `Kali is always thinking about money. As if Sister were a money-bearing tree! But he also has some devotion and faith. It is Kali alone who stands by his sister through thick and thin, who always enquires about her. All the other brothers, if they can get some money, that’s enough for them!’ The next morning the charmer arrived at Koalpara. Holy Mother prostrated before him in all humility and explained in detail about Radhu’s condition. He examined the patient and attributed the malady to the influence of spirits. The remedy he prescribed, however, was impossible to procure: the oil extracted from ten pounds of sesame seeds; four gallons of Rui fish oil; iron obtained from distant, inaccessible places; and various kinds of plants and herbs. All these ingredients had to be heated in a fire made of bull-dung cakes. The resulting oil had to be applied on Radhu’s body, and from the iron from far-off places an amulet had to be made. Having given all these instructions, the charmer took a five-rupee fee and left. At first the Mother was very eager to get all the ingredients collected, but with the passing of the days it became obvious that the task was simply impossible. In this regard the Mother said, after a few days:

`How many deities do I pray to for Radhu’s sake, but I get no response at all. Whatever is to happen, will happen. Oh Master, you are the only protector!’

Continue Reading 1 Comment