Reminiscences of Sri Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother By Swami Ambananda

 

Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi It was on Saturday the 19th September 1914, the day of the New Moon, that I had the good fortune to see Sri Sarada Devi for the first time. On the preceding afternoon Swami Nirmalananda came to the room of the Belur Math where my brother Damodaran and myself were put up and said: 'Tomorrow is the auspicious day for paying your respects to the Holy Mother. Bathe early in the morning and do not take any breakfast. Provide yourself with some flowers and go to the Mother with Brahmachari Govindaji. After taking your noon meals there you can go to Dakshineswar, worship and return to the Math by dusk'.

Accordingly on Saturday morning, we plucked some flowers, offered salutations to Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji in the shrines consecrated to them, prostrated before Swami Premanandaji and went to the Udbodhan Office with Govindaji. Before entering that abode of the Mother, Govindaji bowed with his head touching the wall downstairs even while we were on the road. We admired the graceful act of devotion and did likewise. We entered the house, prostrated before Swami Saradananda who was seated in the eastern room on the left side, talked with him for some time and then went to the room of the Manager of the Udbodhan Office. He told us, 'Sit here, please. After her puja is over you can see the Mother'. And so we did.

After 9 a.m. the Mother's puja was over. At once we were called in to see the Mother. I was the first to be con­ducted there. As soon as I entered her worship room, I saw the photo of Sri Ramakrishna on the cushioned seat facing the east and I prostrated. Then I bowed before the Mother who asked me to sit on her left side. She was seated facing the north. She then worshipped Sri Rama­krishna and poured the Tirtha (holy water) on my hand. I did not know that it was meant to be drunk. During the Sraaddha ceremonies (death anniver­sary) of my father, I used to sprinkle the holy water on my head and eyes. Similarly I did with the water given by the Mother. Then she asked me to take some water from the vessel and drink it. But the ladle made of Kusa grass could not hold much water and so even after dipping and taking out three or four times, only a very few drops of water could be got and I had to be content with that little.

Then the Mother ini­tiated me with the name of Sri Ramakrishna to make Japa (repetition of the Mantra). She showed me thrice how to perform Japa by means of the fingers of the right hand. In that way the name can be repeated ten times in one round. She also initiated me with the Mantra of the Divine Mother to make Japa. After that, she asked me for the Daksina (the offering to be made by the disciple to the Guru). When I took out the coin (a rupee) from the border of my cloth to offer it, a thought struck me as to how I was to place the coin in the hand of the life-mate, the spiritual partner of one who did not and could not touch any coin. So I placed the rupee near the left foot of the Mother. She at once read my mind and graciously took the coin and placed it aside, thus showing to me that she had accepted it. Then I prostrated devoutly before the Mother and thought, 'Mother, if you could graciously raise your feet, I can place them reverently on my head and become blessed'. She did so at once. I placed those holy lotus feet on my head and felt really blessed. In that prostrate state I told the Mother: 'Vouchsafe to grant me purity and devotion'. This was the prayer I had resolved to ask the Mother while I was on bed the previous night pondering on the question many a time. At once the Mother took a flower, placed it on my head and said: 'Sri Guru Maharaj (Ramakrishna) will give you what you have asked for.' I was consoled and satisfied and kept the flower safe with me and taking it little by little ate it up wholly in two or three days. The Mother asked me to make Japa for some time. In an intoxicated mood of self-forgetfulness, I began to repeat the Mantra aloud. Then the Mother placed her hand on her lips and said, 'Slowly; make Japa silently.' After doing as she had advised, I prostrated before her once again. She told me: 'Go outside and send your brother.' I did so.

After my brother had returned, we went together to the Manager's room and continued our Japa there silently. At noon, we sat for meals with Swami Saradananda and others in a room where there was a beautiful representation of the Mother. The food was served and all others began to take meals. But we two, that is, my brother and myself, wanted to take meals only after receiving the prasad of the Mother and so we sat quiet. Our wish was divined by Lakshmi Didi, the niece of Sri Ramakrishna who was serving us, and she said: 'My boys, the Mother has not yet begun to take her meal. Food has been served to her. She asked us to serve you. After she has begun to take her meal, I shall bring you her prasad. You can in the mean time take your repast'. After sometime, she brought us the Mother's prasad, two balls of rice mixed with ghee and boiled green pulse. We partook of it with devotion. Late in the afternoon we took leave of the Mother and started for Dakshineswar.

Ten days after, that is, on the tenth day of the Durga Puja we bathed in the morning, went to the Udbodhan Office and requested Rashbehari Maharaj to buy some good sweetmeats and offer them to the Mother. Then we sat in the Manager's room. After the Mother's puja was over, we went and prostrated before her. At midday we took our meals there, went to Dakshineswar, worshipped there and returned to Belur Math at 6 p.m.

One evening we went to the Mother in the company of a few people. That day she did not speak to us. I felt sad and then the Mother turned to me affec­tionately and smiled graciously.

On the eve of our pilgrimage to Benares, I went to the Mother to take leave. Then she talked for fifteen minutes en­quiring of many things. She asked among others: 'Have you gone to Benares before? Who accompanies you? How long will you be there? Will you be returning here or will you go back straight from there to your own place? Have you got sufficient funds for your journey? Otherwise I shall give you. Do not hesitate to ask of me. It is enough you return it if you can conveniently do so. Rakhal (Swami Brahmananda) is there. Can you do one thing for me? You must convey my blessings to Rakhal; that will delight me. After returning to the (Belur) Math, come here without delay'. In this manner she spoke very affec­tionately to us. We were filled with intense joy. I forgot the loss of my mother. The Mother's cheeks reminded me of my own mother. If the affection of every mother were like that of the Holy Mother, the world would veritably be a mansion of joy.

We reached Benares and prostrated be­fore Swami Brahmananda. I was waiting for an opportunity of doing what the Mother had bidden me. Two or three days after our arrival, I found Swami Brahmananda alone. I went near and prostrated before him and said: 'I have to tell something to your revered self. I do not know how to discharge my duty. Kindly excuse me for any impropriety.' He said: 'Enough of apologies. Tell me at once what you have to say'. I then told him of what the Mother had said. He bowed down his head in affec­tionate reverence, signifying that he had devoutly accepted her blessings. Then he told me, 'When you meet the Mother again, tell her that I feel blessed by receiving her blessings. Also you should prostrate devoutly at her feet on my behalf'. By the Mother's grace that duty was thus satisfactory discharged.

Another day I went to the Mother to get a Rudraksha garland from her. She was alone. She gave me the garland. I prayed in Malayalam: 'I wish to place this on your neck, Mother'. At once she bent down her neck and I devoutly offered it on her neck. She was about to return it; to me when I again said in Malayalam, 'Let it be there for some time'. Then my brother asked her a question about the manner of Japa by means of the fingers. She retained the garland till she had finished explaining it to his satisfac­tion. After that she took the garland and was about to give it to me when I said: 'Kindly do a little Japa with it and then graciously give it to me'. She did Japa for some time and then gave it to me. I received it and placed it on my neck. She said, 'Take it in your hand and do some Japa by means of it.' Then I began to do Japa of the name of Sri Ramakrishna without even moving my lips. When I had done Japa repeating the name about twenty times, she said in Bengali: 'No, No, not that. Do Japa with the other Mantra'. I nodded my head to show that I had grasped what she had commanded, but I still continued the repetition of the name of Sri Rama­krishna. She however did not object. So I thought that the Mother approved of it. After the Japa of the name of Sri Ramakrishna with one round of the gar­land I made the Japa of the Mantra of the Divine Mother Kali. Mother was very happy at this. Thus I felt that she knew everything even before one's telling her.

I could not drink the tirtha (holy water) that the Mother had poured on my hands! I could not avail myself of that great blessing! How unfortunate! Such thoughts made me unhappy. Then by the Mother's grace I got an idea one day. I shall pray to the Mother for the holy water that has bathed her feet. If she grants my prayer, I shall be most blessed. Thus the grief of not having drunk the tirtha given by her will disappear com­pletely and I can give the tirtha to many other devotees also. It will be a blessing both to them and myself. For that purpose I took Ganga water and filtered it most carefully so that it might be perfectly pure. I put it in a two ounce bottle. One morning I went to the Udbodhan Office and told the Manager, 'I want a clean flat-bottomed vessel. I shall tell you the reason later on'. He kindly gave me such a vessel. I took it and went to the Mother accompanied by the Manager and my brother. Then I told the Manager to tell the Mother that I had a request to make. At once before even the Manager had interpreted my words she stretched her legs. I placed the vessel beneath her feet, took the bottle and poured the Ganga water reverently on her feet. I thought in my mind: 'Mother, I can do only this much'. Then she turned to me affectionately, took the tirtha in her hand, made Japa for some time and poured the sacred water on her own feet. She did so thrice and then she asked me to take the tirtha. I felt myself extremely fortunate and blessed, removed the vessel and gently wiped the feet of the Mother with a rose coloured towel. After that I pros­trated before the Mother. I felt that the Mother was graciously pleased. Later my brother informed me that she told softly to the Manager: 'Behold. How devoutly this man does everything'. That was also due to her grace. I gave a little of the tirtha to my brother to drink and I drank a little myself. The rest of the tirtha I kept safe in a bottle. In the evening we again prostrated before the Mother and left for the Math.

The tirtha I have retained still and it has been distributed to thousands of devotees. That is one tangible grace of the Mother, I can convey to others.

After fixing the day of our departure from Calcutta to return to our house, we went to the Udbodhan Office from the Belur Math to take leave of the Mother. Among many things she asked: 'Will you not come to see me again?' I was quite unable to answer such a question. I was penniless. It was with great diffi­culty that I had been enabled to go over now. How can such an opportunity be repeated? After a few minutes of such reflection I folded my hands in salutation and said: 'Yes. I shall come'. I felt that the Mother had read my thoughts and was pleased with my answer.

Next day, that is, on the day of our departure to our native place we went to Calcutta in response to the invitation of uncle, a devotee who had the rare good fortune to have seen Sri Ramakrishna.

Then we had three hours of leisure. We availed ourselves of the opportunity to pay our respects to the Mother once again and take leave of her. She was immensely pleased. We were to return to our native place soon after. But the Mother did not put to us that day the question: 'Will you not come again?'

A few years after my meeting the Mother, I thought: 'It would be good if I send a rupee and a half to Rashbehari Maharaj requesting him to buy sugar-candy for a rupee, have it offered to Sri Ramakrishna by the Mother and send a little of the Prasad to me.' But I would forget this when I got my salary which would be spent all too soon. Thus six months passed on without the realisation of my desire. On a specially holy day, when I came out after my Puja of the Mother I got two letters. From the hand­writing I knew that they had been sent by Swami Vishuddhananda. I read one letter. On opening the other, I found that it was a packet on which was written: 'Holy Mother's Prasad'. It contained some pieces of sugar candy. My surprise and joy knew no bounds. It was indeed a tangible mark of the insight and power of the Mother to know and fulfill the earnest desires of her devotees. Her grace is omnipotent.

(Courtesy: The Vedanta Kesari, Dec.1953, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai)

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