Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 3 Evening

August 5, 2015

On the morning of Day 3, we saw Girish Bhavan, the house of Girish Chandra Ghosh, and in the afternoon we saw the “Star Theatre” and Swami Vivekananda’s college “Scottish Church College.”

Girish Bhavan:

Girish Bhavan is Girish Chandra Ghosh’s house.  The house is right in the middle of the street and is so prominent that one cannot miss it.  To understand the importance of this house, one should know more about Girish Chandra Ghosh.

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Girish Chandra Gosh:

Sri Girish Chandra Gosh was a producer, director, and an actor of Bengali dramas.  He was mainly responsible for the golden age of Bengali theatre and was referred to by many as the Father of Bengali theatre.  Girish Chandra Gosh was also a poet, drama writer and a musician.  There are five volumes of his writings that comprise of 3,717 pages.  These volumes include 80 plays, 1,370 songs, 25 fiction and short stories, 18 articles on Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and religion, and various other writings.  He played 62 roles of various characters in his dramas.  He guided many actors and actresses in their drama roles.

For the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, Girish Chandra Ghosh’s life is very important.  The interaction between a famous drama director-actor-producer and a simple-minded saint is very inspiring.  This too was simply a divine play.  We can read this in Girish Chandra’s own words. Girish Chandra wrote his reminiscences of Sri Ramakrishna for two Bengali magazines: Udbodhan (April 1905) and Janmabhumi (June-July 1909).  Swami Aseshananda translated these articles and they were published in “Vedanta and the West,” March-April 1953.  The following are few interesting excerpts from this translation (the subtitles are mine):

Difficulty of writing the article:

“When the responsibility for writing an article on Sri Ramakrishna fell on me (meaning on Girish Chandra Ghosh), I thought it would be a very simple thing.  But, actually I find the writing extremely difficult.  I thought it would be easy, for I have enjoyed his unfathomable love….Can you describe the warmth of affection which you have received from your own mother?  For myself, I cannot…..If I stretch my imagination I can have a glimpse of my parents’ love.  But, the love of Sri Ramakrishna – the immaculately pure and absolutely unselfish love – how can I comprehend it? How shall I portray it in words?”

 Skepticism:

“Sometimes previously I had read in the “Indian Mirror” that there was a paramhamsa (an illumined soul) who was living in Dakshineswar.  Keshab Chandra Sen was visiting him frequently accompanied by his disciples.  With my little understanding I thought that the Brahmos, who had many strange ideas, had created a fake paramahamsa.  He could not be the real thing.

First Meeting:

A few days passed, and I heard that the paramahamsa would be coming to the house of Dinanath Basu, an attorney of the Calcutta High Court, in our neighborhood.  To satisfy my curiosity and to ascertain what kind of paramahamsa he was, I went to see him….When I arrived at Dinanath Basu’s house, I saw that the paramahamsa had come and that he was giving instructions to Keshab Sen and others, who were listening with rapt attention.  It was dusk.  Lights were lit and they were placed in front of Sri Ramakrishna. But he began to make a repeated inquiries, saying “Is it evening?”  At this I thought to myself: “What pretention!  It is dusk.  Lights are burning in front of him.  Yet he cannot tell whether it is evening or not.”  Thinking I had seen enough of him, I left.”  (At that time, Girish Chandra was not aware of a state of Samadhi.)

Second Meeting at the Star Theatre:

“…some days went by.  My play “The Life of Chaitanya” was being enacted in the Star Theatre.  I was strolling in the outer compound of the theatre one day when…one of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna came and said to me, “Paramahmsadev has come to see the play.  If you allow him a free pass, well and good.  Otherwise, we will buy a ticket for him.”  I replied, “He will not have to purchase his ticket.  But others will have to.”  Saying this I proceeded to greet him.  I found him alighting from the carriage and entering the compound of the theatre. I wanted to salute him, but before I could do so he saluted me.  I returned his salute.  He saluted me again.  I bowed my head and he did the same to me.  I thought this might continue forever, so I greeted him mentally and led him upstairs and offered him a seat in the box.  After arranging with an attendant to fan him, I returned home, feeling indisposed.”  (Girish Chandra was not feeling well at that time.)

Third Meeting:

“Three days later I was sitting on the porch of a friend’s house, which was at an intersection, and I saw Sri Ramakrishna slowly approaching, accompanied by Narayan and a couple of devotees.  No sooner had I turned my eyes towards him than he saluted me.  I returned his salute.  Then he went on.  For no accountable reason my heart felt drawn towards him by an invisible string.  As soon as he had gone a short distance, I felt an urge to follow him.  I could not keep calm, for the attraction I felt was not of this earth.  It was something for which no former experience had ever prepared me….Just at that moment a person, whose name I do not recall, brought me a message from him (Sri Ramakrishna) and said, “Sri Ramakrishna is calling you.”  I went.

Sri Ramakrishna went on to Balaram’s house and there I followed him.  Balaram was lying on a couch, seemingly ill.  The moment he saw Sri Ramakrishna he got up quickly and with great reverence prostrated himself before him.  After an exchange of a few words with Balaram, Sri Ramakrishna suddenly exclaimed, “I am all right, I am all right.”  So saying, he went into a state of consciousness (Samadhi) which seemed very strange to me.  Then he remarked, “No, no, this is not pretense, this is not pretense.” He remained in this state for a while and then resumed his normal state.

I asked him, “What is a guru?”  He answered, “Do you know what the guru is?  He is like a matchmaker.  A matchmaker arranges for the union of the bride with the bridegroom.  Likewise a guru prepares for the meeting of the individual soul with his Beloved, the Divine Spirit.”  Actually he did not use the word matchmaker, but a slang expression, more forceful.  Then he said, “You need not worry.  Your guru has already been chosen.”  I asked, “What is mantram?”  He replied, “The name of God” and he told a story how Kabir received his mantra from Ramananda.

Then talks drifted to the theatre.  He said, “I liked your play very much. The sun of knowledge has begun to shine upon you.  All the blemishes of your heart will be washed away.  Very soon devotion will arise to sweeten your life with profuse joy and peace.”  I told him that I had none of those qualities and that I had written the play only with the idea of making some money.  He kept quiet.  Then he said, “Could you take me to your theatre and show me another play of yours? I replied, “Sure, any day you like.”  He said, “You must charge me something.”  I said, “All right, you may pay eight annas.”  Sri Ramakrishna said, “That will allow me a seat in the balcony, which is very noisy place.”  I answered: ”Oh no, you will not go there.  You will sit in the same place that you sat last time.”  He said, “Then you must take one rupee (sixteen annas).”  I said, “All right, as you please.”

Rudeness to Humility:

“A few days after my visit with him at Balaram’s house, I was sitting in the drawing room of the theatre when a devotee came to me in a hurry and said with some concern, “Sri Ramakrishna is here in his carriage.”  I replied: “Very well.  Take him to the box and offer him a seat.”  But the devotee answered, “Won’t you come to greet him personally and take him there yourself?”  With some annoyance I said, “Does he need me?  Can’t he get there himself?”  Nevertheless I went.  I found him coming down from his carriage.  Seeing his serene and radiant face, my stony heart melted.  I rebuked myself in shame, and that shame still haunts my memory….Then I guided him upstairs.  There I saluted him, touching his feet….I offered him a rose, which he accepted.  But he returned it saying: “Only a god or a dandy is entitled to flowers.  What shall I do with it?”

Savior of Fallen:

“One night in a happy and drunken mood….I felt an urge to visit Sri Ramakrishna.  My (two) friends and I hired a carriage and drove out to Dakshineswar.  It was late at night, and everyone was asleep.  The three of us entered Sri Ramakrishna’s room, tipsy and reeling.  Sri Ramakrishna grasped both my hands and began to sing and dance in ecstasy.  The thought flashed through my mind: “Here is a man whose love embraces all-even a wicked man like me, whose own family would condemn me in this state.  Surely this holy man, respected by the righteous, is also the savior of the fallen.”

God is Real:

“Then, one day I went to Dakshineswar and found Sri Ramakrishna seated on the southern porch of his room.  He was talking with a young devotee named Bhavanath.  I prostrated myself before Sri Ramakrishna and mentally recited the verse “The guru is Brahma, the guru is Vishnu, the guru is the Lord Maheshwara, the god of gods.”  He said: “I was just talking about you.  And if you don’t believe me, ask Bhavanath!”

After a while he started giving me spiritual advice.  I stopped him saying: “I won’t listen to any advice.  I have written cartloads of it myself.  It doesn’t help.  Do something that will transform my life.” Hearing these words, Sri Ramakrishna was highly pleased.  Ramlal, his nephew, was present.  Sri Ramakrishna asked him to recite a particular hymn, which ran thus: “Go into solitude and shut yourself in a cave.  Peace is not there.  Peace is where faith is, for faith is the root of all.” I saw a smile playing on the lips of Sri Ramakrishna, and I felt at that moment that I was free from all impurities.  And that moment my arrogant head bowed low at his feet.  In him I found my sanctuary and all my fear was gone.  I prostrated myself before him and was about to return home.

He followed me as far as the northern porch.  There I asked him, “Now that I have received your grace, am I to continue the same kind of work that I have been doing?  Sri Ramakrishna replied, “Yes, why not?”  From his words I understood that my connection with the theatre would not hurt my spiritual life.

My heart was filled with joy.  I felt as if I were born anew. I was a totally changed man.  There was no more doubt or conflict in my mind.  “God is real.  God is my sanctuary.  I have found my refuge in this God-man.  Now I can easily realize God.”  Thoughts like these cast their spell on me day and night.”

Sri Ramakrishna’s Love:

“One day when I arrived at Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna was just finishing his noonday meal.  He offered me his dessert, but as I was about to eat it, he said: “Wait.  Let me feed you myself.”  Then he put the pudding into my mouth with his own fingers, and I ate as hungrily and unselfconsciously as a small baby.”

Forgiveness and Love:

“Although I had come to regard Sri Ramakrishna as my very own, the scars of past impressions were not so easily healed.  (He is talking about weaknesses of his own nature.)  One day, under the influence of liquor, I began to abuse him (Sri Ramakrishna) in most unutterable language.  The devotees of the Master grew furious and they were about to punish me, but he restrained them.  Abused continue to flow from my lips in a torrent.  Sri Ramakrishna kept quiet and then silently returned to Dakshineswar……

Many of the devotees wondered why Master put up with all my wickedness and suggested that he sever all connection with me.  Ram Chandra Datta alone pleaded on my behalf and said to him: “Sir, he has worshipped you with abuse, according to his nature.  The serpent Kaliya asked Lord Krishna, ‘Since you have given me poison, how can I offer you nectar?”  Sri Ramakrishna said, “Just listen to what Ram says,” But as others continued to condemn me, the Master said abruptly: “Get me a carriage.  I must go to Girish!”  My affectionate spiritual father then came to my house and blessed me by his presence.”……..Thinking of the other devotees who worshipped him with adoration, I was full of self-reproach.  It was in this state of depression the Sri Ramakrishna found me a few days later, and in an ecstatic mood he said: “Girish Ghosh, don’t worry.  People will be amazed at your transformation….

Sri Ramakrishna has taken full possession of my heart and bound it with his love.  But such a love cannot be measured by any earthly standard.  If I have acquired any virtues, it is not through my own efforts, but solely due to his grace.”

Girish Chandra’s Faith in Sri Ramakrishna:

In the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna we find the following:  “Narendra did not believe that God could incarnate Himself in a human body.  But Girish differed with him; he had burning faith that from time to time the Almighty Lord, through His inscrutable Power, assumes a human body and descends to earth to serve a divine purpose.”  He firmly believed that Sri Ramakrishna was an incarnation of God.

Christopher Isherwood in his talk on Girish Chandra Ghosh said, “Girish asked for instructions from Ramakrishna: “What shall I do? Is there anything I can do?”  Ramakrishna answered, “Try and call on God three times a day.”  Girish said, “I am sorry.  I can’t promise to do it.  I may forget.”  Then the Master said: “Do it twice a day. Do it once.”  “No, no, I can’t promise anything.” Girish told him.  Then Ramakrishna said: “All right, then give me your power of attorney.  I will take it over.  I will be responsible for you.  Now you have no will at all.  You will only say, ‘I do whatever the Lord wills.’  Don’t ever say again, ‘I will do this’ or ‘I will not do that.’  And Girish really began to live like this.

Swami Vivekananda himself said, “Nobody has devoted himself, has abandoned his will, so absolutely to the Master as Girish.”

(One can read more about Girish Chandra Ghosh from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna and from Swami Chetanananda’s book “Girish Chandra Ghosh – A Bohemian Devotee of Sri Ramakrishna.).

Star Theatre:

The Star Theatre is one of the most eminent theatres and heritage buildings of Kolkata.  It is the pride of Bengali’s rich cultural history.  Its inception brought a new wave of Cultural Revolution which gave a new meaning to Bengali theatre.  Many historical plays were staged here under prominent directions.  With the setting up of Star Theatre, Bengali theatre gained a great deal of contemporary flavor.

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The Star Theater was established in 1883.  It became a favorite place for art lovers of Kolkata.  The historic day of 21st July, 1883 marked the renaissance period of Bengali theatre with the inaugural staging of the theatre’s first play “Daksh Jagna” under the direction of eminent theatre personality and Father of Bengali Theatre – Girish Chandra Ghosh.  Another well-known personality of that era was the famous theatre actress Binodini Dasi, also known as Noti Binodini.  There was once a time when the people were thinking to name the theatre after her name.  Later for the good of the theatre that idea was dropped.

The Star Theatre gave recognition and fame to a number of exceptional talents. Renowned actors like Girish Chandra Ghosh, Noti Binodini, Saraju Devi, Shishi Bhaduri, Dani Mitra, Uttam kumar, Soumitra Chatterjee, Geeta Dey, Sabitri Chatterjee and madhabi Mukherjee performed at this famous theatre.

One important thing is that Sri Ramakrishna came to see plays at the Star Theatre including a play “Chaitanyalila” on September 21, 1884, and a play “Life of Prahlad” on December 14, 1884.

In the Star Theatre, on March 11, 1898 Swami Vivekananda convened a public meeting to introduce Margaret Noble (Sister Nivedita).  Swami Vivekananda said, “England has sent us another gift in Miss Margaret Noble.”  Sister Nivedita expressed her desire to serve India and her people.

In 1991, the Star Theatre was completely destroyed by fire.  Later the local municipal corporation restored it and maintained the heritage façade.  The interiors are contemporary.

Presidency College and Scottish Church College

Swami Vivekananda initially got admitted in the Presidency College, the premier college of Kolkata.  Now it is converted it to a full-fledged University. From his childhood Swami Vivekananda had stomach problems.  Because of his frequent stomach problems he had to drop out from Presidency and he procured admission in General Assemblies Institution.  Later the General Assemblies Institution’s name was changed to Scottish Church College.

4. Scottish Church College

William Hastie was a professor at the General Assemblies Institution.  One day in Narendra’s (Swami Vivekananda’s) class he was talking about William Wordsworth’s poem “Excursion.”   In that poem a word came “TRANCE.”  Professor Hastie told the class that if they wanted to really understand what “Trance” meant, then they should go and visit Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar.  This inspired Narendra to go and visit Sri Ramakrishna.

We also saw Deba Uncle’s school “The Scottish Church Collegiate School.”

3. Deba Uncle's School

Vidyapith students of Deba Uncle were delighted to see his school and they cheered when it came into view.

Shyampukur Bati:

Evening was falling.  After visiting Swami Vivekananda’s ancestral house and having a bus-tour of the places of Kolkata on the way, we headed towards Shyampukur Bati and were dropped off at a point as far as buses could go.  We started walking in a line towards our destination, all while looking at all the shops and all people, most of who were going home from work.  Club7 organizers and few of our own volunteers made sure that no one got lost.  After about a 10-15 minutes’ walk we arrived at Shyampukur Bati.

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When Sri Ramakrishna developed throat cancer, he was brought to stay at Shyampukur Bati for his treatment.  Here, it was easy for the doctors and people living in Kolkata to visit Sri Ramakrishna and attend to him.  He stayed here from October 2, 1885 until December 11, 1885 after which he was moved to the Cossipore Garden House.

When we went inside, “Khandan Bhava Bandhana…” arati was going on.  We rushed to the shrine room on the first floor, and as large of a group we were, we filled every nook and corner.

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There were several other devotees in the room.  The environment was serene.  While thinking of the fact that Sri Ramakrishna lived in this very room, we felt goose bumps; the thought added to our joy as we sang  the glories of Sri Ramakrishna.  After arati, we all offered our salutations to the altar and quietly left the room to see the rest of the house.

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Upstairs, we saw a museum which had things used by Sri Ramakrishna and excellent paintings which had captured the most important events happened in Shyampukur Bati during Sri Ramakrishna’s stay.  A devotee showed us all the items of the museum and informed us about their importance.  We are thankful to Deba Uncle who translated the Bengali write-up on the plates under these pictures.

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We are inserting the pictures in the following write-up with the appropriate descriptions of the evens.

First, we should be aware that the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna had to go through some struggle to bring him in this house.  The following information gives us some idea of the struggle.

Expenses of Shyampukur House:

Sri Ramakrishna’s devotees were not rich.  When they found out that the treatment of their Master’s (Sri Ramakrishna’s) illness required that a place be rented in Kolkata, they all decided that they would do everything to bear the expenses.  One devotee said that he would mortgage his house, while another offered to sell the jewelry of his wife. One devotee said that just as he would bear the expenses of their children’s illness and marriages he will bear this expense too – demonstrating how he looked up on this as his duty too.  A devotee, Surendra, came forward to pay the rent of the house and other devotees like Balarambabu, Girish Chandra, Ramachandra, M. and others bore the other expenses.

Fees of Dr. Sarkar:

The devotees asked Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar, a famous doctor of Kolkata to treat Sri Ramakrishna. During his first visit, he accepted his usual fee, but when he found out that the devotees were bearing all the expenses he did not accept any fees afterwards.

The following painting of the museum says a lot about the first visit of Dr. Sarkar:

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We find the following description in Swami Prabhananda’s book “Sri Ramakrishner Anta Lila.”

[Today Monday. 12 October, 1885. 27th Ashwin 1292. Shukla chaturthi. Time 12 PM.

Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar is a famous doctor. … Mastermahashay, i.e. M, brought the doctor to Shyampukur. While the doctor went into the first room adjacent to porch on the second floor, saw that Sri Ramakrishna was sitting. Thakur Ramakrishna welcomed him by saluting.

As soon as the doctor saw him, he immediately told Sri Ramakrishna “Hey! You are here with all your devotees!”

Sri Ramakrishna said, “For treatment they brought me here.” On Sri Ramakrishna’s invitation Dr. Sarkar sat on his bed.]

Holy Mother’s Love for Sri Ramakrishna:

Dr. Sarkar gave medicine, but he asked Sri Ramakrishna to follow a strict diet.  After much thought the devotees decided that the best way to take care of Sri Ramakrishna’s diet was to ask Holy Mother to come to Shyampukur and look after it.  The problem was that Holy Mother was too shy and she would probably not agree to come and stay in this house with all male devotees.  So they asked Sri Ramakrishna about it.  Sri Ramakrishna said that if she would agree, he would not have any problem. The devotees asked Holy Mother.  She was taught by Sri Ramakrishna that to fulfill one’s responsibility one should adjust to the time, place, and person.  By doing that, one attains a peace of mind and the desired goal.

Holy Mother understood the situation and agreed to come and stay at the Shyampukur house.  During all the days at Shyampukur, Holy Mother slept in a small room, and remained on the terrace for the whole day, cooking meals for Sri Ramakrishna. We saw this small room and also the terrace.

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Since there was only one bathroom, she used to get at up 3:00 a.m.  She would quietly come down, use the bathroom and would go back up.  No one noticed, and she did not complain about it.  When the meal was prepared she would inform a couple of young devotees.  They would either bring the food down or people would leave Sri Ramakrishna’s room so that Holy Mother could bring the meal to him.

Serving Sri Ramakrishna at night:

The question arised, ”Who would  take care of Sri Ramakrishna at night?”  The elder disciples had their own homes and families to take care of, and the parents of the young devotees did not want their children to spend the nights at Shyampukur Bati.  Narendra stepped forward to take the responsibility, and began to spend nights at Shyampukur to serve Sri Ramakrisha.  His example inspired Junior Gopal, Kali, Shashi, and few other young devotees.

Why Sri Ramakrishna had illness?

During this time people started discussing why Sri Ramakrishna had this illness.  Some said that Sri Ramakrishna himself had created this situation for some purpose.  Some said that he was an instrument in the hands of the Divine Mother who wanted to accomplish something through this illness.  Narendra’s view was that the devotees should wholeheartedly work for Sri Ramakrishna’s recovery and put aside all speculations.  He said that Sri Ramakrishna had set up a great example of human life and our responsibility would be to follow his examples and continue to practice spiritual disciplines.

Later people realized that Sri Ramakrishna’s illness brought his sincere disciples together and bonded them with love for their Mater and prepared them for the great future work of ‘God-realization and Service to Humanity.’

Few Important Events happened at Shyampukur Bati:

Dr. Sarkar’s learning about spirituality:

One of the several important things that happened at Shyampukur Bati was the interaction of Sri Ramakrishna with Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar, a well-known, learned man of science.  From the several conversations written in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, we find that Dr. Sarkar was initially very skeptical about spirituality and a God-man.  But, after coming in contact with Sri Ramakrishna, many of his beliefs changed.  He liked to converse with Sri Ramakrishna so much that he told him, ‘It is not good for your throat to talk much.  But, you can talk to me.’

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The paintings of the museum depicts the follwoing conversation form the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:

Doctor: “But is it ever possible to get rid of all doubts?”

MASTER: “Learn from me as much as I have told you. But if you want to know more, you must pray to God in solitude. Ask Him why He has so ordained.

“The son of the house can give a beggar only a small measure of rice. But if the beggar asks for his train fare, then the master of the house must be called.”

The doctor remained silent.

Master reasons with Dr. Sarkar

MASTER: “Well, you love reasoning. All right. Let us reason a little. Listen. According to the Jnāni there is no Incarnation of God. Krishna said to Arjuna: ‘You speak of Me as an Incarnation of God. Let me show you something. Come with Me.’ Arjuna had followed Sri Krishna a short distance, when Sri Krishna asked him, ‘What do you see there?’ Arjuna replied, ‘A big tree with black berries hanging in bunches.’ Krishna said, ‘Those are not black berries. Go nearer and look at them.’ Arjuna went nearer and saw that they were Krishnas hanging in bunches. ‘Do you see now’, said Krishna, ‘how many Krishnas like Me have grown there?’

…..”As you go nearer to God you see less and less of His Upādhis, His attributes. A devotee at first may see the Deity as the ten-armed Divine Mother; when he goes nearer he sees Her possessed of six arms; still nearer, he sees the Deity as the two-armed Gopala. The nearer he comes to the Deity, the fewer attributes he sees. At last, when he comes into the presence of the Deity, he sees only Light without any attributes.

Dr. Sarkar argued with the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna about various topics of spirituality.  He was amazed to see the faith of very bright people in Sri Ramakrishna.  Slowly Dr. Sarkar began to enjoy the company of Sri Ramakrishna and his devotees so much so that he did not want to go for his medical practice even though he was losing money by neglecting his practice.

Dr. Sarkar and Narendra’s singing:

Dr. Sarkar was impressed by Narendra’s intellect.  When he learned that Narendra was a talented singer, he asked him to sing devotional songs for him sometime.  Few days later, when Dr. Sarkar came to visit the Master, Narendra sang for couple of hours to keep his promise.

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(The plate under the painting says, “We can see Narendranath deeply absorbed in singing while Sri Ramakrishna and Dr. Sarkar, encircled by the devotees, are completely immersed in listening.’)

The doctor was so happy that before he took leave, he affectionately embraced Narendra and blessed him as if he was his own son.  He told the Master, “I am very glad that such a boy has devoted himself to the spiritual life.  He is a jewel, and I am sure he will shine in any sphere of life.”

Medical Check-up of Sri Ramakrishna’s Samadhi:

Once, in his presence, Sri Ramakrishna went into Samadhi and lost outer consciousness being absorbed in God.  Dr. Sarkar had not seen Samadhi.  He examined Sri Ramakrishna in that state and found no sign of life.  Thus, for all skeptical people like us, he examined the Samadhi state and found that Sri Ramakrishna’s Samadhi was real and not a pretention.

Balaram’s Problem Was Solved:

Balarambabu was a great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna.  This bothered his distant relatives who thought that Balaram should only practice their family religion.  Balarambabu’s cousin Harivallabh was taking care of his property in Orissa and sending him money.  Balarambabu’s livelihood depended on this income.  A few people began spreading fabricated stories about Balaram’s association with Sri Ramakrishna and asked him to go to Kolkata to check it out for himself.  Balarambabu was worried that if Harivallabh refused to maintain his property, then Balarambabu would have to live in Orrisa away from Sri Ramakrishna.

Sri Ramakrishna realized the anxiety of Balarambabu and asked him to talk to Girish Chandra about this.  Girish Chandra agreed to bring Harivallabh to Sri Ramakrishna.  The next day they both came and met Sri Ramakrishna.  Harivallabh was so impressed by Sri Ramakrishna’s loving appearance, his inspiring words, and love for God, that tears welled up in his eyes.  He left with deep positive impressions about Sri Ramakrishna, and Balarambabu never had to worry about him.

Upendra’s Questions:

Atul Chandra was a brother of Girish Chandra.  He had a friend named Upendra who was a judge.  Atulbabu wrote to his friend that the next time when Upendra came to Kolkata, he would introduce Upendra to a wonderful person.  Thus, one afternoon when Upendra came to Kolkata, Atulbabu took him to Sri Ramakrishna.  Upendra was very much impressed by Sri Ramakrishna.  He told Atulbabu later that he had heard about universal love, but he had never before seen a person showing that love.

On his second visit, Upendra wanted to ask Sri Ramakrishan three questions.  Initially he was shy to ask his questions, but with a courage he asked, “Sir, does God have form, or is he formless?  And if he is both, how can those two contradictory natures be in Him at the same time?”  Sri Ramakrishna replied, “He is both with form and without form, like water and ice.”  Upendra did not ask his other two questions.  When they were leaving Shyampukur Bati, Atulbabu asked Upendra the reason for not asking the other two questions.  Upendra joyfully said that Sri Ramakrishna’s one answer gave answers to his other two questions.

Narendra’s Leadership:

During  Sri Ramakrishna’s stay at Shyampukur, several young devotees started showing excessive emotions thinking that that was the culmination of spirituality and showing indifference to renunciation, self-control and steady spiritual practices.  Narendra realized the danger in this attitude of external exuberance of emotion on the name of spirituality.  He repeatedly told his brother disciples, “An upsurge of emotion that does not transform life permanently makes people eager to realize God at one moment, but does not give them the power to desist from seeking lust and gold in the next.  There is no depth in it, and it is therefore of little value in life.  Under its influence people may experience physical reactions – such as tears, goose bumps, and so on – or may temporarily lose partial outer consciousness, but I am fully convinced that these things are caused by nervous weakness.  If people cannot control themselves through force of mind, they should eat nutritious food and seek medical help.”

Swami Saradananda writes that Narendra’s efforts and guidance saved many young brother disciples from going into shallow showing of “spirituality” and help them attain the real spiritual goal.

Once after visiting Sri Ramakrishna a devotee Mahimacharan Chakrabarty wearing an ochre cloth, sitting on a tiger skin, keeping an Ekatara in hand started teaching spirituality to the devotees present telling them that his way of sadhana was the best and easiest.  Narendra was aware of this spectacle and had checked Mahima’s shallowness and pretentious nature.  He could not see the young devotees being swayed by this shallowness.  So Narendra began a discussion with Mahimacharan on several topics on religion, and through reasoning, Narendra showed Mahimacharan how his thoughts were misguided.  Mahimacharan quickly took his leave.

Swami Saradananda writes that Narendra kept watch over the Master’s devotees so that they would pay due respect to genuine spiritual aspirants of other religious communities.  He reminded them the Master’s view “Jato Mot, tato poth (As many faiths, so many paths).”

Important articles of the Museum and stories associated with the paintings:

The Cot:

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After Sri Ramakrishna arrived at the devotee, Kalipada Ghosh’s house at Shyampukur, he sat on this wooden cot.  We see couple of articles used by Sri Ramakrishna.

The Lens:

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[This is] the lens of the camera used by the photographer, Abinash Chandra Dā to take the most popular photograph of Sri Ramakrishna. The stand, the tray and the aforementioned photograph are preserved here.

The Phtograph:

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The picture is fading out.  But, one can see the original photograph of Sri Ramakrishna.

Kali Puja:

(The following description is from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna translated by Swami Nikhilananda. p 928)

It is the dark night of the new moon. At seven o’clock the devotees make arrangements for the worship of Kāli in Sri Ramakrishna’s room on the second floor. Flowers, sandal- paste, vilwa-leaves, red hibiscus, rice pudding, and various sweets and other articles of worship are placed in front of the Master. The devotees are sitting around him. There are present, among others, Sarat, Śaśi, Ram, Girish, Chunilal, M., Rākhāl, Niranjan, and the younger Naren.

Sri Ramakrishna asks a devotee to bring some incense. A few minutes later he offers all the articles to the Divine Mother. M. is seated close to him. Looking at M., he says to the devotees, “Meditate a little.” The devotees close their eyes.

Presently Girish offers a garland of flowers at Sri Ramakrishna’s feet. M. offers flowers and sandal-paste. Rākhāl, Ram, and the other devotees follow him.

Niranjan offers a flower at Sri Ramakrishna’s feet, crying: “Brahmamayi! Brahmamayi!” and  prostrates  himself  before  him,  touching  the  Master’s  feet  with  his  head.  The devotees cry out, “Jai Ma!”, “Hail to the Mother!”

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In the twinkling of an eye Sri Ramakrishna goes into deep samādhi. An amazing transformation takes place in the Master before the very eyes of the devotees. His face shines with a heavenly light. His two hands are raised in the posture of granting boons and giving assurance to the devotees; it is the posture one sees in images of the Divine Mother. His body is motionless; he has no consciousness of the outer world. He sits facing the north. Is the Divine Mother of the Universe manifesting Herself through his person? Speechless with wonder, the devotees look intently at Sri Ramakrishna, who appears to them to be the embodiment of the Divine Mother Herself.

Sri Ramakrishna Looking at the Paintings:

In the living room Sri Ramkrishna’s bed was arranged. The patron devotee, Ramachandra Dutta, was holding a lantern and showing Sri Ramakrishna some paintings hung on the wall.

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Sri Ramakrishna saw Yashoda and Bāla Gopal. He saw the liberation of Ahalya. Also he saw a beautiful painting of Sri Chaitanya deva’s samkirtan. Nabagopal Ghosh, present there, made a comment, “You’re seeing yourself in the painting”.

125% devotion of Girish Chandra:

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Sri Ramakrishna said that Girish Chandra has 5 Sika (5 quarters of a rupee) and 5 anna (5/16th of rupee) (meaning 125% ) devotion to Sri Ramakrishna. After he returned to Bati, Girish Chandra kept on saying with emotion, “When you were well, I treated you cruelly – that’s different. But, now in this state, I can’t see you suffering”. The devotee Girish Chandra was weeping profusely.

A vision of Sri Ramakrishna:

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While he was staying at Shyampukur, one day the Master had a wonderful vision. He saw that his subtle body came out of his gross body as he was strolling hither and thither in the room, and he observed that its back was covered with sores, especially in the region of the throat.

Noti Binodini (A humorous incident):

This incident written by /swami Saradananda in his book “Ramakrishna Lila Prasanga.  “Noti Binodini, a famous actress was blessed by Sri Ramakrishna at the Star Theater after the play of “The Life of Chaitanya.” She looked upon Sri Ramakrishna as God Himself and adored him accordingly. She was seeking an opportunity of seeing him again. She became now very eager to see the Master once more when she heard of his serious illness. As she was acquainted with Kalipada Ghosh, she requested him to do something about it. Kalipada was a follower of Girish in all matters. ….He took counsel secretly and one day dressing her like an European gentleman, as “young Bengal ” used to then, came with her at dusk to the Shyampukur house where the Master was staying.

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He introduced her to us (Swami Saradananda and other young devotees) as a friend of his, took her to the Master and told him who she really was.  None of us was in the Master’s room at that time and Kalipada had, therefore, no obstacle to overcome. Knowing the actress had come in that dress to throw dust in our eyes, the Master, fond of merriment, laughed. Pleased with her faith and devotion he praised her courage, strategy and reverence. He gave her a little spiritual instruction that she might have faith in and reliance on God and bade good-bye to her soon afterwards. She shed tears of joy and repentance, touched adoringly his holy feet with her head and went away with Kalipada.”

Sri Ramakrishna’s Samadhi and Worship at Surendra’s House:

At Shyampukur on one auspicious day Sri Ramakrishna went into Samadhi.  On that day there was a special puja at Surendra’s house.

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Sri Ramakrishna said, ” I  saw (in my Samadhi) that  there  opened  a  luminous path  from  here  to  Surendra’s house.   I  saw, further,  that  attracted  by  Surendra’s  devotion,  the  Mother  had  appeared in  the  image  and  that  a  ray  of  light  was  coming  out  from  Her  third  eye. I also  saw  that  rows  of  lamps  were  lighted  in  the  front  verandah and Surendra was sitting  and  weeping  piteously  in the  courtyard in front  of the Mother. Go you all together to his house now. He will feel much comforted to see you.”  Few devotees went to Surendra’s house and they found exactly similat scene described by Sri Ramakrishna.

To Cossipore Garden House:

Sri Ramakrishna’s illness became worse.  Dr. Sarkar’s medicines were not working.  He suggested that Sri Ramakrishna be moved to a garden house away from Kolkata’s polluted air.  The devotees rented the garden house of Gopal Chandra Gosh for eighty rupees per month.  The house is the current Cossipore Garden House.  Surendra Mitra promised to pay the entire rent himself.  On an auspicious day, they moved the Master’s belongings first and then on December 11, 1885 Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother moved to Cossipore Garden House.

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After filling our minds and hearts with innumerable inspiring memories and thoughts we started walking back to the buses to go to the hotel for dinner and rest.  Physically we were tired, but mentally we were elated by visiting all the historical and holly places.  We were thankful to Thakur, Maa, and Swamiji for giving us this most memorable day in our lives.

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4 thoughts on “Belur Math Pilgrimage – 2015, Day – 3 Evening

  1. Excellent. Very well written kindling in us the hope and faith that with diligent spiritual practice we will experience the “Joy of the Self- the world calls religion”

  2. Dear Uncle,

    Thank you for this amazing post. Once I started reading I could not put it down. I am at Shyampukur Bati and easing about Dr. Sarkar’s spirituality. I shall have to come back to it!!

    Your description makes me feel so good specially because I had missed this golden opportunity and was feeling well that’s God’s will for me!!!

    Thanks Uncle,

    Neirah

    Neirah Bhargava Sent from my iPhone

    >

    1. Hi Neirah: I am glad you liked the post and felt like you were there. It is great. But, you should go there one day and experience yourself. I am sure this post will help you to appreciate Shyampukur Bati more. Thanks for your comments.

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