The Final Goal

Swami Kriyananda at Kumbha Mela

Swami Kriyananda at Kumbha Mela

Swami Kriyananda concludes his autobiography, The New Path, with a chapter titled “The Final Goal.” It is notable that the last words of the story of his life are entirely about his relationship to God as the Divine Mother. He includes two beautiful Bengali chants to Divine Mother.

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Paramhansa Yogananda taught us above all that the true goal of life is union with God. Devotion, self-offering, self-surrender, oneness in Bliss and Divine Love: these are the entire purpose of life. I lovingly remember one day when Master played a recording for a small group of us by a famous singer of Bengal, Mrinal Kanti Ghosh. It was a devotional song, “Pashan Hoye”:

How long will You remain, Mother,
A stone image before my gaze?
Set fire ablaze in Your eyes
And come to me, dancing over all Creation!
O Mother! divine energy fills the universe
With Your flowing hair!
Garlanded by thoughts in all minds—
Dancing! Dancing!
O Mother! free me this day—
This very moment—from delusion’s bonds!
Countless lives have I lived apart from You.
At last, now, bring peace into my body temple!

[Note: The exact version of this song played by Paramhansa Yogananda, as sung by Mrinal Kanti Ghosh, can be heard here on Youtube.]

I don’t remember all the words, and am not conversant enough in Bengali to understand many of them. But I remember Master telling us afterward, “As I was listening, I too was dancing over all Creation!”

Man’s relationship with God is intimate, and infinitely dear. What I’ve hoped above all in writing this book has been to convince you, dear reader, to live more deeply for God: to love Him so completely that you become wholly absorbed in Him.

God hears our every prayer. Of all aspects of the Divine, that of Mother is the sweetest. As my Guru once said, “Mother is closer than the Father.” I, too, prefer to pray to God as my Divine Mother. And I can testify to the truth of what my Guru told us: “When you pray to Her, She will answer!” How often have even my trivial requests been answered—like the so-unnecessary wish I expressed to Her many years ago (I mentioned that episode in these pages) for Swiss chocolate.

One needn’t be formal in prayer. Indeed, God should be approached as one’s own Dearest Friend and Beloved!

Many years ago—another example—I felt that Divine Mother wanted me to return to India. I had been absent from there for ten years, but now I had enough money saved to go back and stay there for about two months. Shortly before my scheduled departure, I was driving my car into San Francisco when the engine threw a rod. I realized I’d have to trade in this car for a newer one. This need, however, placed me in a dilemma. The money for my trip was all the wealth I had. Should I trade in my car and buy a new one? or should I keep my money for the trip Divine Mother wanted me to take? I’ve always tried to reconcile faith with common sense.

Ananda Village is in the mountains, far from urban conveniences. A car is, for me, a virtual necessity. I wouldn’t be able to stay long in India. Without a vehicle, I’d be virtually “stranded” upon my return.

What should I do?

I asked Divine Mother for guidance. I knew of no place in which to sit quietly and “tune in.” All I could think of was to have a quiet lunch with a few friends in a downtown restaurant. No guidance came.

Finally I said, “Divine Mother, You haven’t answered me; perhaps I haven’t been silent enough to hear You. Common sense tells me, however, that I must have a car when I return from India. I see no reasonable choice, therefore, but to buy one. If You still want me to take this journey, You’ll have to reimburse me!”

I paid $1,100 for a good second-hand car. This money, along with $700 I received for my crippled vehicle, covered the cost.

I left the car dealership on a Friday evening. The next Monday morning, at home, I received a letter from someone unknown to me. Enclosed was a check—made out to me, personally—for a thousand dollars. The letter stated, “Please use this money as Divine Mother wants you to.”

Now, please ask yourself: How many people in America pray to God as their Divine Mother? Hardly any! Every time I recall this episode, my eyes fill with tears. Many, many times in my life have I found Divine Mother’s loving assistance fulfilling my needs, answering my questions! In living for God, I have found the thrill of an unceasing, divine romance.

Let me end this book by writing out—first in Bengali, then in English—a devotional song. Thoughts from it found expression in two of my Guru’s favorite chants:

Amar shad na mithilo,
Asha na purilo,
Shakholi phuraejai Ma!
Amar shad na mithilo.
Janomer shod,
Dakhi go Ma Tore,
Kole tule nite ai Ma!
Shakholi phuraejai Ma!
Ei prithibir keu
Bhalo to bashe na;
Ei prithibi bhalo bashite jane na:
Jetai achhe shudhu bhalobashi,
Sheta jete pran chhai, Ma!
Shakoli phuraejai Ma!
Bado daga peye
Bashana twejeyechi—
Bado daga shaye
Kamona bhugeyechi.
Anek kandeyechi:
Kandite pari na.
Bhuk phete bhengejai Ma!
Shakoli phuraejai Ma!
Amar shad na mithilo. . . .

My desires have not yet been fulfilled;
My hopes, not yet realized.
O Mother! my earthly dreams have all fled away!
Once more I call out from the pain of my heart:
Mother! Take me on Your lap!
O Mother! my earthly dreams have all fled away!
In this world, Mother,
Who is there that truly loves?
In this world they do not know how to love!
There, where true love is,
There alone would my heart dwell forever.
O Mother! my earthly dreams have all fled away!
Long, long have I called You, Dearest One!
How much longer can I keep on calling?
For love of You my heart is breaking!
O Mother! my earthly dreams have all fled away!
Yet my hopes, alas, have not yet been fulfilled. . . .
And so ends my story. As Sister Gyanamata would often say:

“God alone! God alone!”

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Swami Vivekananda’s Prayers to Divine Mother

Swami Kriyananda told this story, of Swami Vivekananda’s prayers to Divine Mother, many times over the years. He held it up as an example of how to pray to Her, and how we forget all of our worldly needs when we have Her vision. Here is the story in Swami Vivekananda’s own words:

Swami Vivekananda, with his own words, ""One infinite pure and holy – beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee."

Swami Vivekananda, with his own words, “”One infinite pure and holy – beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee.”

“One day the idea struck me that God listened to Sri Ramakrishna’s prayers. So why should I not ask him to pray for me for the removal of my pecuniary wants, a favor the Master would never deny me. I hurried to Dakshineswar and insisted on his making an appeal on behalf of my starving family.

“He said, “My boy, I can’t make such demands. But why don’t you go and ask the Mother yourself? All your sufferings are due to your disregard of Her.”

“I said, “I do not know the Mother; you speak to Her on my behalf. You must.”

“He replied tenderly, “My dear boy, I have done so again and again. But you do not accept Her, so She does not grant my prayer. All right, it is Tuesday—go to the Kali Temple tonight, prostrate yourself before the Mother and ask Her any boon you like. It shall be granted; She is Knowledge Absolute, the Inscrutable Power of Brahman and by Her mere will She has given birth to this world. Everything is in Her power to give.” I believed every word and eagerly waited for the night.

Closeup of Kali at Dakshineswhar Temple in Kolkata

Maa Kali at Dakshineswhar Temple, Kolkata

“About nine o’clock, the Master commanded me to go to the temple. As I went I was filled with a divine intoxication. Me feet were unsteady. My heart was leaping in anticipation of the joy of beholding the living Goddess and hearing Her worlds. I was full of the idea.

“Reaching the temple, as I cast my eyes upon the image, I actually found that the Divine Mother was living and conscious, full of divine love and beauty. I was caught in a surging wave of devotion and love. In an ecstasy of joy I prostrated myself again before the Mother and prayed, “Mother, give me discrimination! Give me renunciation; give me knowledge and devotion; grant that I may have an uninterrupted vision of Thee!” A serene peace reigned in my soul. The world was forgotten. Only the Divine Mother shone within my heart.

“As soon as I returned, Sri Ramakrishna asked me if I had prayed to the Mother for the removal of my worldly wants. I was startled at this question and said, “No sir, I forgot all about it. But is there any remedy now?”

“Go again,” said he, “and tell Her about your wants.”

“I again set out for the temple, but at the sight of the Mother forgot my mission, bowed to Her repeatedly and prayed only for knowledge and devotion. The Master asked if I had done it the second time. I told him what had happened. He said, “How thoughtless! Couldn’t you restrain yourself enough to say those few words? Well, try once more and make that prayer to Her. Quick!”

“I went for the third time, but on entering the temple a terrible shame overpowered me. I thought, “What a trifle have I come to pray to the Mother for! It is like asking a gracious king for a few vegetables! What a fool I am!” In shame and remorse I bowed to Her respectfully and said, “Mother, I want nothing but knowledge and devotion!”

“Coming out of the temple I understood that all this was due to Sri Ramakrishna’s will. Otherwise how could I fail in my object three times? I came to him and said, “Sir, it is you who have cast a charm over my mind and made me forgetful. Now please grant me the boon that my people at home may no longer suffer the pinch of poverty!”

“He said, “Such a prayer never comes from my lips. I asked you to pray for yourself, but you couldn’t do it. It appears that you are not destined to enjoy worldly happiness. Well, I can’t help it.” But I wouldn’t let him go. I insisted on his granting that prayer. At last he said, “All right, your people at home will never be in want of plain food and clothing.””

—from The Life of Swami Vivekananda, pp. 94-96

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Has Come One Unto Me

by Ramprasad Sen

From the land where there is no night
Has come One unto me.
And night and day are now nothing to me,
Ritual-worship has become for ever barren.

My sleep is broken. Shall I sleep any more?
Call it what you will — I am awake —
Hush! I have given back sleep unto Him whose it was.
Sleep have I put to sleep for ever.

The music has entered the instrument,
And of that mode I have learnt a song.
Ah! that music is playing ever before me,
For concentration is the great teacher thereof.
Prasad speaks: Understand, O Soul, these words of Wisdom.

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Bengali Poet Ramprasad’s Last Words

Ramprasad Sen, Bengali bhakti poet

Ramprasad Sen

At the end of Ramprasad’s life he is reported to have sang the following song. As he finished the last lines, he said, “It is achieved,” and then left the body.

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Tara, do you remember me any more?
Mother I have lived happy, is there happiness hereafter?

Had there been any other place, I could not have
besought you. But now, Mother, having given me hope,
you have cut my bonds, you have lifted me to the tree’s top.

Ramprasad says: My mind is firm, and my gift
to the priest well made. Mother, my Mother, my all is
finished. I have offered my gift.

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O Shyama, Thou Art Flying Kites

by Ramprasad Sen

Kali postcard


In the world’s busy market-place, O Shyama,
Thou art flying kites;
High up they soar on the wind of hope,
held fast by maya’s string.
Their frames are human skeletons,
their sails of the three gunas made;
But all their curious workmanship
is merely for ornament.

Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed
the manja-paste of worldliness,
So as to make each straining strand
all the more sharp and strong.
Out of a hundred thousand kites,
at best but one or two break free;
And thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands,
O Mother, watching them!

On favoring winds, says Ramprasad,
the kites set loose will speedily
Be borne away to the Infinite,
across the sea of the world.

—from Kali: The Black Goddess of Dakshineshwar by Elizabeth U. Harding

Note: Shyama Kali is the more tender aspect of Kali. She is worshiped in many households as the dispenser of boons and dispeller of fear.

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You Haven’t Seen How Kali Is

by Ramprasad Sen



Mind, you’re still not rid of your illusions;
you haven’t seen how Kali is.
You know the Mother manifests
as the three worlds,
but you seem not to know it,

That Mother who adorns the world
with countless jewels and gold
___aren’t you ashamed to decorate Her
______with trashy tinsel?

That Mother who feeds the world
with myriad tasty treats
___aren’t you ashamed to offer Her
______rice you’ve laid out in the sun, and
______wet chick peas?

If you really knew the Mother who
protects the world with such care,
would you sacrifice
sheep, buffalos, and young goats?

Prasad says,
Devotion is the only true way to worship Her,
You may do rituals to impress other people,
______but the Mother won’t be bribed.

From Singing to the Goddess: Poems to Kali and Uma from Bengal
by Rachel Fell McDermott


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Ways of Approaching God

by Paramhansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramhansa Yogananda

“There are two ways of approaching God in Nature. One is to separate the Lord from all His manifestations. ‘Neti, neti,’ is the saying in India: ‘Not this, not that.’ Something of that consciousness there must always be, lest one become trapped in attachment to form.

“The other way is to behold the Lord manifested everywhere.

“The first way, by itself, may be too austere for most devotees. The second way is much sweeter. Best of all is a combination of both.

“The Divine Mother is busy with Her housework of creation. The baby devotee cries, and She gives him a toy to play with—riches, perhaps, or name, or fame. If he cries again, She gives him another toy. But if the baby throws everything away and cries for Her love alone, She picks him up at last and whispers to him lovingly, ‘If you really want only Me, and not My gifts, then come. Be with Me forever on My lap of infinity.’”

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A Hindu student in America once laughingly told Paramhansa Yogananda, “My grandmother in India listens to bhajans [devotional songs] on the radio. At the end of the singing, she places a flower on it as a devotional offering—as if the radio were a holy image!”

The Master smiled at this encounter between scientific materialism and traditional piety. “And yet,” he commented, “your grandmother is not so superstitious as she seems. For with the flower she is expressing her gratitude to God. It isn’t that she views the radio as a deity. She is simply seeking an external focus for her devotion.

“And isn’t it good to see God enshrined everywhere? We think of the radio as man-made, but from Whom came the intelligence that made the radio? From Whom came even the materials from which it was created?

“When we seek to remove God from our environment, it becomes all too easy for us to remove Him from our lives altogether.”

—from The Essence of Self-Realization by Swami Kriyananda

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“Why not worship the Infinite as your Divine Mother?”

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramhansa Yogananda

“I have trouble visualizing God,” complained a student of religious New Thought. “I’ve imagined Him as Infinite Intelligence, as the I AM principle, as my God-Self within, as the Cosmic Ground of Being. It all seems so abstract! But your relationship with the Lord is so loving. How can I achieve such a relationship?”

“The first step,” replied the Master, “is not to imagine that He wants your definitions. He wants only your love.

“Why not,” Yogananda then suggested, “worship the Infinite as your Divine Mother?”

“What a lovely idea!” exclaimed the visitor. “But is it valid? Is it true?”

“Indeed, yes!” replied Sri Yogananda emphatically. “God’s love is already reflected in human relationships. His love, like the sunlight shining on countless pieces of glass, is reflected everywhere.

“The Infinite is the Mother behind all human mothers, the true Father behind all human fathers. He is the ever-loyal Friend behind all earthly friends. He is the eternal Beloved behind all human loves. He is all things to all men, because, you see, the Lord is everything.

“Through your parents He cares for you, supports you, and protects you. Through your friends He shows you that love is a free sharing, without any hint of compulsion. Through the beloved He helps one to find the selfless intensity of divine love. Through people’s children He helps them to understand love as something precious, as a thing to be protected from harmful influences and nourished with devotion.

“Countless are the forms in which God comes to man. In each, He seeks to teach man something of His infinite nature. The lessons are there, for anyone whose heart is open to receive them.

“Thus, it isn’t that the Lord wants you to deny your human nature. What He wants, rather, is for you to purify it: to expand whatever love you feel in your heart, and not to keep it locked up in ego-attachments.

“For the devotee, it is natural therefore to worship God in some human aspect: as his Divine Mother, for example, or as his Heavenly Father.

“I myself worship the Mother aspect, especially. For the Mother is closer than the Father. The Father aspect of God represents that part which is aloof from His creation. The Mother is creation itself. Even among mankind, the human father is more disposed than the mother to judge their erring children. The mother always forgives.

“Pray, then, to the Divine Mother. Talk to Her like a child: ‘Divine Mother, naughty or good, I am Your own. You must release me from this delusion.’ The Mother ever responds with compassion when the devotee prays to Her sincerely in this way.

“Of course, in the highest sense God is none of the forms in which people worship Him. But it is helpful to use human concepts as a means of deepening our devotion to Him.

“Beyond devotion comes divine love. In that perfection of love there is complete union. In that state the yogi realizes the supreme truth: ‘I am That.’”

— Paramhansa Yogananda, The Essence of Self-Realization

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Who Is Divine Mother?

by Swami Kriyananda
from Clarity Magazine
Fall 2001

First of all, we need to understand that Divine Mother is not a separate thing or person, but is the feminine aspect of God. There’s really only one reality—the Infinite Consciousness that has produced all the different manifestations we see. But there can be different expressions of the Divine that appeal to people according to their own natures.

Some years ago it came to me in meditation that what America needs is more consciousness of the Divine Mother to balance out the overly masculine, intellectual approach that is dominant here. With all our great mental insights, we’ve failed to realize one simple truth: this world is not real.

In essence, we are a part of the Infinite, and it’s God who’s playing our particular role in life. God is uniquely present in each one of us, and has His own song to sing through everyone. The whole purpose of this great drama is to realize that you are God.

But we must be careful. We can’t correctly say, “This body is God. This personality is God.” No. But God is you—this is correct. In the end, Self-realization means to know that the whole universe is a part of our own reality, and that in our basic nature, we are infinite.

You are Divine Mother
Now, who is Divine Mother? You are Divine Mother.  There can’t be any difference, because there’s no separation in the Infinite. When God brought this universe into existence, He could only do it out of His own consciousness. He had to dream it into existence. The beauty of this thought is that all the love of the universe is also a part of you.

What part does Divine Mother play in this? She gives us a form towards which we can direct our love. It’s not wise to say, “When I love myself I’m loving God,” because then you’re thinking of the wrong self. So it’s helpful to think of God as something outside and separate from us. Divine love is without limit or form, but human love tends to take the Infinite and condense it into one person. This tendency is good in the sense that it gives you a focus for love, without which it would be vague.

We need a concrete concept of God—a beloved, or friend, or wise person—even though He is really without form. Having a concrete image is like having stepping stones that bring us to the point where suddenly we see it’s all Him.

Tuning into Divine Mother
To develop devotion for Divine Mother, in the beginning we often need to think in terms of a human form. When I first came to Paramhansa Yogananda, I was tired of being intellectual and wanted to develop devotion. I began praying to Divine Mother, and used to visualize the face of my godmother. That may seem ridiculous, but she had a very loving nature that reminded me of the innocence and sweetness that I was trying to develop. In this way, I gradually tuned into the consciousness of Divine Mother, so that when I think of Her now, I don’t think of any form.

The trouble with worshiping God only as Father is that He tends to present an image of a judge—somewhat stern and aloof. But Divine Mother is filled with compassion, and will forgive you even if you’ve done wrong. Yogananda said, “Pray to the Mother, ‘Naughty or good, still I’m your child, and you must help me.’”

God is all forms and no forms. I don’t ask people, “In what form do you worship God?”  I don’t ask the people at Ananda to worship God as Divine Mother. I think that many of them do—I do. But I don’t say that they have to, or even that they should, because in each one of us there is some form of God that deeply satisfies us.

There’s a very interesting story about Sri Yukteswar that I’ve mentioned it in my new book, A Place Called Ananda. Sri Yukteswar had a young disciple who was very dedicated, but still had a longing for human love. One day they were on a train, and Sri Yukteswar said, “Divine Mother will answer your prayer today.” After a time they stopped at a station, and he pointed, saying, “Look out the window.” Sitting in a train opposite them was a girl who somehow was the complete fulfillment of all his desires. From that mere glimpse of her, he had no more desire for human love.

Never lose sight of the Infinite
We need the limited to remind us of the Infinite. But even if God should come to you as the Divine Mother, or as a friend, or a beloved, always see the Infinite Consciousness behind those eyes. This is what Yogananda taught us to do. I used to notice with Yogananda that he could be laughing joyfully, or scolding, or teaching, or talking about a pothole in the driveway that needed fixing, but when I looked into his eyes, I saw that there was no personal desire. It was as if the Infinite was looking at me through those eyes.

I’ll never forget once when I was sitting at his feet while he was editing a manuscript, and I was thinking how fortunate it was that I had found him. When he finished his editing, he asked me to help him stand. He looked into my eyes with so much joy and love, and said, “Just a bulge of the ocean.”

I was loving the form, but it’s the ocean that has produced that form. It’s the ocean that has produced all our forms. Ultimately, love of Divine Mother is only love of your own true self. You need always to bring it back to that reality, not in self-love, but in the realization that God is everywhere, and you, too, are everywhere.

As Yogananda wrote in a letter to his chief disciple, Rajarsi Janakananda, “Don’t look just with your physical eyes. Think of things behind you that are out of your range of physical vision, and try to see them. In this way, bit by bit, you will develop omnipresence.” This is how we worship Divine Mother.

Excerpted from a satsang with Swami Kriyananda at Ananda’s Retreat Center in Rhode Island a few days before Mothers’ Day 2001.

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A Meeting with Master Mahasaya

From A Search in Secret India
by Paul Brunton

Master Mahasaya, disciple of Ramakrishna known as "M." and teacher to Paramhansa Yogananda

Master Mahasaya, disciple of Ramakrishna known as “M.” and teacher to Paramhansa Yogananda

And so I am now in Calcutta itself, searching for the house of the Master Mahasaya, the aged disciple of Ramakrishna.

Passing through an open courtyard which adjoins the street, I reach a steep flight of steps leading into a large, rambling old house. I climb up a dark stairway and pass through a low door on the top storey. I find myself in a small room, which opens out on to the flat, terraced roof of the house. Two of its walls are lined with low divans. Save for the lamp and a small pile of books and papers, the room is otherwise bare. A young man enters and bids me wait for the coming of his master, who is on a lower floor.

Ten minutes pass. I hear the sound of someone stirring from a room on the floor below out into the stairway. Immediately there is a tingling sensation in my head and the idea suddenly grips me that that man downstairs has fixed his thoughts upon me. I hear the man’s footsteps going up the stairs. When at last – for he moves with extreme slowness – he enters the room, I need no one to announce his name. A venerable patriarch has stepped from the pages of the Bible, and a figure from Mosaic times has turned to flesh. This man with bald head, long white beard, and white moustache, grave countenance, and large, reflective eyes; this man whose shoulders are slightly bent with the burden of nearly eighty years of mundane existence, can be none other than the master Mahasaya.

He takes his seat on a divan and then turns his face towards mine. In that grave, sober presence I realize instantly that there can be no light persiflage, no bandying of wit or humour, no utterance even of the harsh cynicism and dark scepticism which overshadow my soul from time to time. His character, with its commingling of perfect faith in God and nobility of conduct, is written in his appearance for all to see.

He addresses me in perfectly accented English:

“You are welcome here.”

He bids me come closer and take my seat on the same divan. He holds my hand for a few moments. I deem it expedient to introduce myself and explain the object of my visit. When I have concluded speaking, he presses my hand again in a kindly manner and says:

“It is a higher power which has stirred you to come to India, and which is bringing you in contact with the holy men of our land. There is a real purpose behind that, and the future will surely reveal it. Await it patiently.”

“Will you tell me something about your master Ramakrishna?”

Master Mahasaya (Mahendranath Gupta) c. 1900

Master Mahasaya (Mahendranath Gupta) c. 1900

“Ah, now you raise a subject about which I love best to talk. It is nearly half a century since he left us, but his blessed memory can never leave me; always it remains fresh and fragrant in my heart. I was twenty-seven when I met him and was constantly in his society for the last five years of his life. The result was that I became a changed man; my whole attitude towards life was reversed. Such was the strange influence of this god-man Ramakrishna. He threw a spiritual spell upon all who visited him. He literally charmed them, fascinated them. Even materialistic persons who came to scoff became dumb in his presence.”

“But how can such persons feel reverence for spirituality – a quality in which they do not believe?” I interpose, slightly puzzled.

The corners of Mahasaya’s mouth pull up in a half smile. He answers:

“Two persons taste red pepper. One does not know its name; perhaps he has never even seen it before. The other is well acquainted with it and recognizes it immediately. Will it not taste the same to both? Will not both of them have a burning sensation on the tongue? In the same way, ignorance of Ramakrishna’s spiritual greatness did not debar materialistic persons from ‘tasting’ the radiant influence of spirituality which emanated from him.”

“Then he really was a spiritual superman?”

“Yes, and in my belief even more than that. Ramakrishna was a simple man, illiterate and uneducated – he was so illiterate that he could not even sign his name, let alone write a letter. He was humble in appearance and humbler still in mode of living, yet he commanded the allegiance of some of the best-educated and most-cultured men of the time in India. They had to bow before his tremendous spirituality which was so real that it could be felt. He taught us that pride, riches, wealth, worldly honours, worldly position are trivialities in comparison with that spirituality, are fleeting illusions which deceive men. Ah, those were wonderful days! Often he would pass into trances of so palpably divine a nature that we who were gathered around him then would feel that he was a god, rather than a man. Strangely, too, he possessed the power of inducing a similar state in his disciples by means of a single touch; in this state they could understand the deep mysteries of God by means of direct perception. But let me tell you how he affected me.

“I had been educated along Western lines. My head was filled with intellectual pride. I had served in Calcutta colleges as Professor of English Literature, History and Political Economy, at different times. Ramakrishna was living in the temple of Dakshineswar, which is only a few miles up the river from Calcutta. There I found him one unforgettable spring day and listened to his simple expression of spiritual ideas born of his own experience. I made a feeble attempt to argue with him but soon became tongue-tied in that sacred presence, whose effect on me was too deep for words. Again and again I visited him, unable to stay away from this poor, humble but divine person, until Ramakrishna one day humorously remarked:

“A peacock was given a dose of opium at four o’clock. The next day it appeared again exactly at that hour. It was under the spell of opium and came for another dose. ‘

“That was true, symbolically speaking. I had never enjoyed such blissful experiences as when I was in the presence of Ramakrishna, so can you wonder why I came again and again? And so I became one of his group of intimate disciples, as distinguished from merely occasional visitors. One day the master said to me:

“I can see from the signs of your eyes, brow and face that you are a Yogi. Do all your work then, but keep your mind on God. Wife, children, father and mother, live with all and serve them as if they are your own. The tortoise swims about in the waters of the lake, but her mind is fixed to where her eggs are laid on the banks. So, do all the work of the world but keep the mind in God.”

“And so, after the passing away of our master, when most of the other disciples voluntarily renounced the world, adopted the yellow robe, and trained themselves to spread Ramakrishna’s message through India, I did not give up my profession but carried on with my work in education. Nevertheless, such was my determination not to be of the world although I was in it, that on some nights I would retire at dead of night to the open veranda before the Senate House and sleep among the homeless beggars of the city, who usually collected there to spend the night. This used to make me feel, temporarily at least, that I was a man with no possessions.

“Ramakrishna has gone, but as you travel through India you will see something of the social, philanthropic, medical and educational work being done throughout the country under the inspiration of those early disciples of his, most of whom, alas! have now passed away too. What you will not see so easily is the number of changed hearts and changed lives primarily due to this wonderful man. For his message has been handed down from disciple to disciple, who have spread it as widely as they could. And I have been privileged to take down many of his sayings in Bengali; the published record has entered almost every household in Bengal, while translations have also gone into other parts of India. So you see how Ramakrishna’s influence has spread far beyond the immediate circle of his little group of disciples.”

Mahasaya finishes his long recital and relapses into silence. As I look at his face anew, I am struck by the non-Hindu colour and cast of his face. Again I am wafted back to a little kingdom in Asia Minor, where the children of Israel find a temporary respite from their hard fortunes. I picture Mahasaya among them as a venerable prophet speaking to his people. How noble and dignified the man looks! His goodness, honesty, virtue, piety and sincerity are transparent. He possesses that self-respect of a man who has lived a long life in utter obedience to the voice of conscience.

“I wonder what Ramakrishna would say to a man who cannot live by faith alone, who must satisfy reason and intellect?” I murmur questioningly.

“He would tell the man to pray. Prayer is a tremendous force. Ramakrishna himself prayed to God to send him spiritually inclined people, and soon after that those who later became his disciples or devotees began to appear.”

“But if one has never prayed – what then?”

“Prayer is the last resort. It is the ultimate resource left to man. Prayer will help a man where the intellect may fail.”

“But if someone came to you and said that prayer did not appeal to his temperament. What counsel would you give him?” I persist gently.

“Then let him associate frequently with truly holy men who have had real spiritual experience. Constant contact with them will assist him to bring out his latent spirituality. Higher men turn our minds and wills towards divine objects. Above all, they stimulate an intense longing for the spiritual life. Therefore, the society of such men is very important as the first step, and often it is also the last, as Ramakrishna himself used to say.”

Thus we discourse of things high and holy, and how man can find no peace save in the Eternal Good. Throughout the evening different visitors make their arrival until the modest room is packed with Indians – disciples of the master Mahasaya. They come nightly and climb the stairs of this four-storeyed house to listen intently to every word uttered by their teacher.

And for a while I, too, join them. Night after night I come, less to hear the pious utterances of Mahasaya than to bask in the spiritual sunshine of his presence. The atmosphere around him is tender and beautiful, gentle and loving; he has found some inner bliss and the radiation of it seems palpable. Often I forget his words, but I cannot forget his benignant personality. That which drew him again and again to Ramakrishna seems to draw me to Mahasaya also, and I begin to understand how potent must have been the influence of the teacher when the pupil exercises such a fascination upon me.

When our last evening comes, I forget the passage of time, as I sit happily at his side upon the divan. Hour after hour has flown by; our talk has had no interlude of silence, but at length it comes. And then the good master takes my hand and leads me out to the terraced roof of his house where, in the vivid moonlight, I see a circling array of tall plants growing in pots and tubs. Down below a thousand lights gleam from the houses of Calcutta.

The moon is at its full. Mahasaya points up towards its round face and then passes into silent prayer for a brief while. I wait patiently at his side until he finishes. He turns, raises his hand in benediction and lightly touches my head.

I bow humbly before this angelic man, unreligious though I am. After a few more moments of continued silence, he says softly:

“My task has almost come to an end. This body has nearly finished what God sent it here to do. Accept my blessing before I go.” *

He has strangely stirred me. I banish the thought of sleep and wander through many streets. When, at length, I reach a great mosque and hear the solemn chant, “God is most great!” break forth upon the midnight stillness, I reflect that if anyone could free me from the intellectual scepticism to which I cling and attach me to a life of simple faith, it is undoubtedly the master Mahasaya.

* Before long I was apprised of his death.

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