Ramakrishna as We Saw Him
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Revised and enlarged with five new reminiscences
Edited and translated by Swami Chetanananda
The revised edition has new reminiscences by Swami Yogananda, Swami Subodhananda, Ramendra Sundar Bhattacharya, Narayan Chandra Ghosh, and Trailokya Nath Dev, as well as additional information in Ramlal Chattopadhyay’s chapter. These new, eyewitness accounts are not found in Sri Ramakrishna and His Divine Play or The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. A total of 45 reminiscences by persons who knew him, show vividly how Sri Ramakrishna lived daily the spiritual message he taught, and how he excelled in opening a path for God into the human heart.
The soul of Ramakrishna comes through splendidly in these deeply felt pages.
For the first time I found a man who dared to say that he had seen God, that religion was a reality to be felt, to be sensed in an infinitely more intense way than we can sense the world.” So said Swami Vivekananda of Sri Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna as We Saw Him is a collection of writings by 45 persons who actually knew him in one capacity or another: his wife Sri Sarada Devi, monastic disciples, friends, even acquaintances who had met him only a few times. No matter in what category the writer falls, each makes it very clear that Ramakrishna could, by his very presence, affect fundamental change in a person’s spiritual life.
Chetanananda’s meticulously researched, lucidly written encounters — ranging from Vivekananda to M. (the recorder of the Gospel) and beyond — evoke the encompassing love of the Master as the core of all spirituality. No wonder one of these admirers describes Sri Ramakrishna’s company as sheer ‘fun’. Chetanananda’s vivid, exquisite art of narration makes the readers see the myriad aspects of this joy which the disciples saw as the essence of their Master’s life itself: an evident affirmation of what he, with such disarming simplicity, taught.
What this book serves is to show, as close as we can after the fact, what it was like to actually be around this unique man, to talk to him, to serve him food, to play with him, to sing and dance with him, to worship him, to cry with him, to celebrate God with him. Indeed, the feeling of spiritual joy is so strong here that, though he died from cancer of the throat, the life of Sri Ramakrishna seems to be the ultimate happy movie, a true story of perfect love and bliss many times more beautiful than the wildest Hollywood fantasy.
List of Illustrations
I. RELATIVES AND MONASTIC DISCIPLES
1. Sri Sarada Devi
2. Lakshmi Devi
3. Ramlal Chattopadhyay
4. Swami Vivekananda
5. Swami Brahmananda
6. Swami Adbhutananda
7. Swami Premananda
8. Swami Yogananda
9. Swami Shivananda
10. Swami Ramakrishnananda
11. Swami Saradananda
12. Swami Turiyananda
13. Swami Abhedananda
14. Swami Akhandananda
15. Swami Vijnanananda
16. Swami Trigunatitananda
17. Swami Subodhananda
II. HOUSEHOLDER DISCIPLES AND DEVOTEES
18. Ram Chandra Datta
19. Manomohan Mitra
20. M. (Mahendra Nath Gupta)
21. Girish Chandra Ghosh
22. Vaikuntha Nath Sanyal
23. Yogin-ma (Yogindra Mohini Biswas)
24. Golap-ma (Golap Sundari Devi)
25. Nistarini Ghosh
26. Kedarnath Bandyopadhyay
27. Manmatha Nath Ghosh
28. Bepin Behari Sen
29. Manindra Krishna Gupta
30. Ramendra Sundar Bhattacharya
31. Narayan Chandra Ghosh
III. BRAHMO DEVOTEES AND ADMIRERS
32. Pratap Chandra Majumdar
33. Shivanath Shastri
34. Trailokya Nath Dev
35. Girish Chandra Sen
36. Krishna Kumar Mitra
37. Upadhyay Brahmabandhav
38. Sarada Sundari Devi
39. Trailokya Nath Sanyal
40. Priyanath Mallick
41. Kshirod Chandra Sen
42. Kamakhya Nath Bandyopadhyay
43. Nagendra Nath Gupta
44. Dr. Abdul Wajij
45. Aswini Kumar Datta
A. Sri Ramakrishna: Some New Findings – Swami Saradananda
B. The Photographs of Ramakrishna – Swami Vidyatmananda
C. The Temple Garden of Dakshineswar – M. (Mahendra Nath Gupta)
RAMENDRA SUNDAR BHATTACHARYA
When I was eight years old, I went with my father to visit Rani Rasmani’s temple garden in Dakshineswar. As far as I recall, it was a summer morning. Our country home was in Khunbaria Village in the district of Medinipur, which is twenty miles from Kamarpukur, the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna. My father and the Master were contemporaries. They had known each other since childhood and were friends. My father lived both in the village and in Calcutta. He always visited the Master when he travelled to and from Calcutta. If the Master had any news to send to Kamarpukur, my father would get it before leaving for the village, and then he would bring the news from Kamarpukur to the Master when he returned to Calcutta. One day, before leaving for his village, my father told me: “Today I shall take you to Dakshineswar. There you will see a famous Kali temple and a living God.”
When I was a little boy and had some knowledge about the world, I would think: “This world is not my home.” While watching the sky, I felt that I had come here from one of those higher starry realms. When my friends invited me to play with them, I felt that they did not belong to me and that my real playmates were in that higher realm. So I was reluctant to play with them. Then an indistinct dream world would manifest in my mind. So quite often I was unmindful and indifferent to this world.
I heard the name of Sri Ramakrishna in my boyhood days, and I saw him many times in Rasmani’s temple garden from a distance. But I didn’t dare enter his room because of the large crowd. After bathing in the Ganges, I would pick some flowers and return home. However, I always felt a desire to be with the Master. From my boyhood I had no attraction for worldly things, but I had a natural affinity for the deities. After I was initiated in the sacred thread ceremony, I used to go to pick flowers regularly in the temple garden.
Subodh and his friend Kshirod first visited Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar in August 1885. They entered the room and saluted him with folded hands. Kshirod approached the Master, who was seated on his bed, but Subodh remained by the door. “Where do you come from?” asked Ramakrishna. Pointing to Subodh, the Master said: “Why is that gentleman standing so far away? Come nearer.” This encouraged Subodh to move closer. “Do you not belong to the family of Shankar Ghosh?” asked the Master.
Subodh was surprised and said, “Yes, sir, but how did you know?”
“When I was staying in Jhamapukur,” said the Master, “I often visited your home as well as your Kali temple at Thanthania. That was before you were born. I knew you would come. Well, the Divine Mother sends here those who will attain spirituality. You belong to this place.”
“Sir, if I belong to this place, why did you not call me earlier?”
Whenever I went to the Master I noticed that he talked about nothing but God and religion. He was never dry or boring. During talks on the most exalted topics he created much laughter by making jokes. One day he said: “You know there are various kinds of siddhas [perfected souls]. Do you know what siddha means? Literally, it means ‘boiled.’ As potatoes and squash become soft when boiled, so men are when perfected or illumined.”
Once I spent the night at Dakshineswar with several other disciples, and the Master had us all sit for meditation. While communing with our Chosen Deities, we often laughed and wept in ecstasy. The pure joy we experienced in those boyhood days cannot be expressed in words. Whenever I approached the Master he would invariably ask me, “Did you shed tears at the time of prayer or meditation?” And one day when I answered yes to this, how happy he was! “Tears of repentance or sorrow flow from the corners of the eyes nearest the nose,” he said, “and those of joy from the outer corners of the eyes.” Suddenly the Master asked me, “Do you know how to pray?” Saying this he flung his hands and feet about restlessly – like a little child impatient for its mother. Then he cried out: “Mother dear, grant me knowledge and devotion. I don’t want anything else. I can’t live without you.” While thus teaching us how to pray, he looked just like a small boy. Profuse tears rolled down his chest, and he passed into deep samadhi. I was convinced that the Master did that for my sake.
Another day I went in the afternoon to visit the Master at Dakshineswar. Many devotees were seated in his room. After saluting the Master I sat quietly in a corner. The Master was conversing with the devotees seated on his small cot. In physical appearance he was like any other man, but his smile was something divine. I have never seen such a smile in my life. When he smiled, a wave of bliss rolled not only over his face but over his whole body. And that blissful smile would wipe out the worries and troubles of those who looked at him. His voice was so sweet and melodious that one never tired of hearing it. His eyes were keen and bright, and when he would look at a person, it seemed that he was seeing everything inside him.
I felt Sri Ramakrishna’s room vibrating with a tangible atmosphere of peace, and the devotees present seemed to be listening in blissful absorption to the words that poured from the Master’s lips. I don’t recall what he said, but I experienced tremendous joy within. For a long time I sat there, my whole attention concentrated on Sri Ramakrishna. He did not say anything to me, nor did I ask him anything. Then one by one the devotees took their leave, and suddenly I found myself alone with him. The Master was looking at me intently. I thought it was time for me to depart, so I prostrated before him. As I stood up to go, he asked: “Can you wrestle? Come, let me see how well you wrestle!” With these words he stood up, ready to grapple with me. I was surprised at this challenge. I thought to myself, “What kind of holy man is this?” But I replied, “Yes, of course I can wrestle.”
Sri Ramakrishna came closer, smiling. He caught hold of my arms and began to shove me, but I was a strong, muscular young man and I pushed him back to the wall. He was still smiling and holding me with a strong grip. Gradually I felt a sort of electric current coming out of his hands and entering into me. That touch made me completely helpless. I lost all my physical strength. I went into ecstasy, and the hair of my body stood on end. Releasing me, the Master said with a smile, “Well, you are the winner.”