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CHAPTER-8 : IN THE SERVICE OF THE MASTER; PART-V
Another instance illustrating the same point took place in connection with the feeding of young devotees. In later days several of them used to spend their nights occasionally with the Master with a view to practising meditation during the night under his guidance. Knowing that overeating would stand in the way of meditation, the Master had strictly regulated the number of Chapatis allowed to each according to his physical capacity. One day he asked Baburam (later Swami Premananda) how many pieces he was taking at night. On being told that he was taking five or six, the Master said it was too much, and asked him why he did so. Baburam answered that he took whatever the Holy Mother gave him. At this the Master went to the Holy Mother, and said complainingly that she would spoil the spiritual prospect of those young men by overfeeding them. But the Holy Mother replied, 'Why do you worry so much because he has eaten two Chapatis more? I shall look after their welfare. You need not find fault with them for eating.' Evidently the mother could not feel content without feeding her children to their satisfaction. The Master understood the point and laughed away the whole affair. Thus the Master showed the utmost deference to the Holy Mother's wishes on fundamental questions, and while receiving her loving service and moving with her in all frankness and childish joviality, he always maintained an attitude of profound respect towards her as his spiritual counterpart and the fulfiller of his life's mission. This attitude was often implicit, but sometimes it expressed itself in striking little actions. One day the Holy Mother entered the Master's room with his meal. He thought it was his niece Lakshmi and asked her in a careless way to shut the door. In doing so he used the word 'tui' an expression meaning 'thou' but used only for addressing a junior or an inferior person. When the Holy Mother responded, saying that she was doing so, the Master felt very much embarrassed, and said, 'Ah! is it you!? I thought it was Lakshmi. Please forgive me.' The Holy Mother replied that it did not matter at all, and that there was nothing wrong in his addressing her as he did Lakshmi. But the Master was not quite satisfied. Next morning he went to the Nahabat and said to the Holy Mother, 'Well, I couldn't sleep at all last night. I was so worried because I spoke to you rudely.' Referring to this the Holy Mother often said in later times, especially when she was worried or treated disrespectfully by some of her senseless relations, 'I was married to a husband who never addressed me as "tui." Ah! how he treated me! Not even once did he tell me a harsh word or wound my feelings! He did not strike me even with a flower!'
The Holy Mother in turn reciprocated a hundredfold this regard and reverence that the Master showed her. This she did, not only by the loving and reverential service she rendered to him every day, but by the way in which she tuned her thoughts and aspirations to the dominant note of his life. There is no better way in which the wife of a great man can show her love and regard for her husband than by cultivating such a spontaneous and whole-hearted receptivity to his ideals and thus becoming his helpmate in the fulfillment of his life's mission. We have already seen how the Holy Mother proved herself worthy of her great husband in respect of divine love and control over the senses. To complete the picture, we may mention here another striking incident illustrating how deeply she had absorbed the Master's ideal of renunciation. Among the Master's devotees there was a rich Marwari merchant named Lakshminarayana. One day, finding the Master's bedsheet unwashed, he wanted to deposit ten thousand rupees in his name, so that from the interest of it all his personal needs might be met. The living embodiment of renunciation that he was, Sri Ramakrishna could not brook the proposal, and he requested the merchant never to mention such a thing in his presence. As a test perhaps, the Master directed the merchant to the Holy Mother, telling him that he might give the amount to her if she had no objection to accept it. But the Holy Mother rejected the proposal, saying that if she accepted the money it would be as good as his accepting it, because all the amount would then go only to his service. It is said the Master was very much pleased with the reply.
In later days the Holy Mother always spoke of the Master as pre-eminently a teacher of renunciation. One day a disciple said to her, 'Mother, what a unique thing our Master gave' to the world! He has established the harmony of all religions.' To this the Mother replied: 'My child, what you say about the harmony of religions is true. But it never seemed to me that he had practised the different religions with any definite motive of preaching the harmony of religions. Day and night he remained overwhelmed with the ecstatic thought of God. He enjoyed the sport of the Divine by practising spiritual disciplines, following the paths of the Vaishnavas, Christians, Mussalmans and the rest. But it seems to me, my child, that the special feature of the Master's life is his renunciation. Has anyone ever seen such natural renunciation?' As she said to another, renunciation was his ornament.
Once a niece of hers, when taken to task by her for her worldly attachment, retorted that she (the Holy Mother) had not known the value of a husband. The Holy Mother's reply was very significant. 'Yes' she said with pride, 'my husband was a naked fakir!'
One may conclude the account of the conjugal life of this holy couple by briefly recapitulating its principal features that make it an object lesson to humanity. In the Holy Mother we find a combination of an ideal wife and disciple. Her highest delight consisted in serving her husband heart and soul without any consideration of personal difficulties. For her it was neither a slavish drudgery nor the conventional fulfillment of an obligation. Self-abnegation, modesty, submissiveness - these no doubt were in ample evidence in her conduct, but they were in her case the very antipodes of slavishness and conventionality in so far as they formed the expression of deepest love and remained consistent with a dignified pursuit of principles.
Her participation in her husband's life was not confined to mere external service of him. She grasped the central principle of his life and made it a part and parcel of her own self. So well did she absorb them that she ever remained a help, never a hindrance, to him in the realization of his life's mission. As such, she won her husband's unqualified love and respect.
And withal the most wonderful thing is that this holy couple set so perfect an example of married love, and yet were free from the least taint of corporeal passion. In fact, it is the great lesson of their lives that in the highest specimens of humanity, love is not dependent on sex or any consideration of physical intimacy. Many a modem thinker on questions of sex-life is disposed to separate the life of love from the function of procreation and invest the former with an independent value in itself, in spite of the association one finds between them in nature. Even a Christian writer like Nicholas Berdyaev argues that to make love dependent on, or subordinate to, procreation is to transfer the principle of cattle breeding to human relation. He may or may not be right in this view. Many who hold the cultivation of holiness as the highest ideal of life might have agreed with this view if such thinkers had admitted the possibility of transcending the instinctive side of sex in a perfect union of souls. But they are particular in insisting that love between the sexes can never be perfect without physical expression. For example, Edward Carpenter remarks on this subject: 'But equally absurd is any attempt to limit (love)..to the spiritual with a somewhat lofty contempt for the material - in which case it tends...to become too like trying to paint a picture without the use of pigments. All the phases are necessary, or at least desirable - even if...a quite complete and all-round relation is seldom realized.' [ Edward Carpenter: The Drama of Love and Death]. The conjugal life of the Holy Mother and Sri Ramakrishna contradicts this view and sets another norm, at least for the noblest of mankind. For those in whom consciousness is yet centred in the body, love without sex may be like painting without pigment. But there are men and women who transcend the body-consciousness and realize the Self behind it. If they happen to paint the life of love as an example for humanity, the pigment they use is not sex but the Self. The Upanishads recognize it when they say: 'It is not for the sake of the husband that the husband is loved, but it is for the sake of the Self that he is loved. It is not for the sake of the wife that the wife is loved, but it is for the sake of the Self that she is loved. It is not for the sake of the sons that the sons are loved, but it is for the sake of the Self that the sons are loved.' (Brihadamnyaka Upanishad 1,4, 5).
A perfect example of this principle is furnished by the life of the Holy Mother and Sri Ramakrishna. In their case both stood for a common ideal of great sublimity, each helped to elicit the best that was in the other, and both found perfect satisfaction in mutual service, without the aid of any corporeal passion to hold them together in love and amity. If one enquires as to what constituted the cementing principle in this perfect union, one arrives at the Self, of which everything else is but a reflection.
Author: Srimat Swami Tapasyanandaji Maharaj, late Vice-President of Ramakrishna Order.
15 February 2013
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