During my stay at the Belur Math, Kolkata, India, I was fortunate to visit Mahendra Nath Gupta’s (M.’s) house. I will be sharing a few pictures I had taken of his house and a few thoughts related to M. and his house.
Most people are familiar with Mahendra Nath Gupta (M.), the recorder of “Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita”, (“The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna”) written in Bengali language. Later, this Gospel has been translated in all major Indian and Non-Indian languages. M. wrote this great immortal book in this house.
I have been regularly reading The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna from my childhood and still each time I read it I get new inspiration from it and I understand the teachings a bit more. Many times when I have questions, surprisingly I find the answers from reading the Gospel. It seems Sri Ramakrishna knew my questions. There is nothing mystical about it. Many have similar experiences. Revered Swami Adiswaranandaji once said that while reading the Gospel, sometimes one feels that some sentences were just addressed to me. I found that according to the state of my mind the teachings of the Gospel appealed to me. Sometimes I wonder whether I had read this portion in the past. I read it before, but it did not draw my attention at that time. It is amazing to see that one can find guidance from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna at every step of spiritual journey from the beginning to the God realization.
I learned so much about M., M.’s house and how he wrote the Gospel from Swami Chetananandaji’s book, “Mahendra Nath Gupta (M.)” – The recorder of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Vedanta Society of St. Louis, USA.
Sri Ramakrishna said to M. on June 25, 1884, “The other day I thought of going to your house. What is your address?” Sri Ramakrishna could not go to M.’s house. But, after Sri Ramakrishna passed away in 1886, Holy Mother Sri Saradadevi lived with M.’s family on many occasions, sometimes for a week, a fortnight, or even a few months at a time.
Once when Holy Mother was staying at M.’s house, Sri Ramakrishna appeared in her dream and asked her to worship Goddess Durga in M.’s shrine. This was M.’s wish which Sri Ramakrishna could not fulfill. On October 8, 1888, Holy Mother installed Sri Ramakrishna’s picture and Sri Chandi Mangal Ghat (a sacred urn filled with water in which Goddess Durga is invoked) on the altar of the shrine on the third floor. At that time M. named his house, “Thakur Bari” (The Master’s House). Holy Mother initiated many devotees in M.’s shrine. Swami Vivekananda and many other direct disciples had meditated there. Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda, M. and other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna used the same wooden staircase which is still there to go on to the third floor. When I was climbing up the staircase I felt I am touching the past. At that time the presence of Holy Mother, Swami Vivekananda and M. and also of Sri Ramakrishna became real.
Adjacent to the shrine is an annex, and next to that is the roof where M. planted flowering trees in tubs. Swami Vivekananda, M. and other devotees meditated on the roof for hours.
Holy Mother stayed on the second floor. M. had collected the relics of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother, Sri Ramakrishna’s shirt, shawl, chappals, a water pot, a small jug, and the ink pot that M. had used to write the Gospel have been preserved in the room of the second floor. Sri Ramakrishna gave a picture of Sri Chaitanya and his kirtan party to M. as a gift. Sri Ramakrishna kept this picture in his room till he moved to Kolkata in later years. This picture has been kept on the wall of this room.
M. just wrote few words in his diary. Before writing down the whole incident and conversation, M. meditated several times on the incident and when the whole incident came back to his mind, then he wrote it down.
Swami Nikhilananda, the founder and Spiritual Head of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, New York (1933-1973) did an excellent translation of “Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita” from Bengali to English and gave a title, “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.” Thus, the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna were introduced to the western world. In its forward the famous English writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) wrote the following:
“”M”, as the author modestly styles himself, was peculiarly qualified for his task. To a reverent love for his master, to a deep and experiential knowledge of that master’s teaching, he added a prodigious memory for the small happenings of each day and a happy gift for recording them in an interesting and realistic way. Making good use of his natural gifts and of the circumstances in which he found himself, “M” produced a book unique, so far as my knowledge goes, in the literature of hagiography. No other saint has had so able and indefatigable a Boswell. Never have the small events of a contemplative’s daily life been described with such a wealth of intimate detail. Never have the casual and unstudied utterances of a great religious teacher been set down with so minute a fidelity….”
Swami Vivekananda’s lectures and The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna played a significant role in making people aware of the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna all over the world. Many great personalities have expressed their tribute to Sri Ramakrishna.
Leo Tolstoy called Sri Ramakrishna a “remarkable sage.”
Romain Rolland considered Sri Ramakrishna to be the “consummation of two thousand years of the spiritual life of the three hundred million people.”
Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Sri Ramakrishna’s life enables to see God face to face. He was a living embodiment of godliness.”
Maharshi Aurobindo wrote, “When skepticism had reached its height, the time had come for spirituality to assert itself and establish the reality of the world as a manifestation of the spirit, the secret of the confusion created by the senses, the magnificent possibilities of man and the ineffable beatitude of God. This is the work whose consummation Sri Ramakrishna came to begin and all the development of the previous two thousand years and more since Buddha appeared has been a preparation for the harmonization of spiritual teaching and experience by the Avatar (Incarnation of God) of Dakshineshwar (Sri Ramakrishna).”
Jawaharlal Nehru described Sri Ramakrishna as “one of the great Rishis of India, who had come to draw our attention to the higher things of life and of the spirit.”
After M. published second leaflet of the part of “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna,”
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi wrote to M. on July 4, 1897, “My dear child, whatever you heard from the Master was true. You should not feel any fear in publishing them. At one time he left those teachings in your custody, and now he is bringing them to light through you. Know for certain that people’s spiritual consciousness will not be awakened without bringing out those teachings… One day while I was listening to your manuscript, I felt as if the Master was saying all those things.”
Swami Vivekananda wrote to M. on November 24, 1897, “My dear M. Many many thanks for your second leaflet. It is indeed wonderful. The move is quite original and never was the life of a great Teacher brought before the public untarnished by the writer’s mind as you are doing. The language also is beyond all praise-so fresh, so pointed and withal so plain and easy. I am really in a transport when I read them. Strange, isn’t it? Our teacher and Lord was so original and each one of us will have to be original or nothing. I now understand why none of us attempted his life before. It has been reserved for you-this great work. He is with you evidently. P.S. Socratic dialogues are Plato all over. You are entirely hidden. Moreover, the dramatic part is infinitely beautiful. Everybody likes it here and in the West.”
Holy Mother once remarked about M., “Is he an ordinary man? He has recorded so many teachings of the Master. Is there any other avatar whose picture and conversations have been taken and recorded in such detail? It as if the Master himself is speaking in M.’s book.”