Tuesday, 29 April 2014

11. The Last Days

During the summer of 1885, Sri Ramakrishna suffered terribly because of the heat. Some devotees started bringing ice to prepare cold drinks for him. One of the young disciples, Shashi used to carry ice cubes, carefully wrapped in papers, walking all the distance from his home to Dakshineswar.

Several weeks later, Ramakrishna started to feel pain in the throat. Though, medication was prescribed, it proved futile. Soon, it was diagnosed that he was suffering from throat cancer. Though it was incurable, for better medical treatment, the doctors suggested him to move to Kolkata. Therefore, Sri Ramakrishna moved to Syampukur first, and then later to a suburb called Kasipur.

On December 11, 1885, Sri Ramakrishna shifted to the garden house of Kasipur. Here, he stayed for eight months until his Mahasamadhi. It was a two-storeyed house surrounded by flower garden and orchards. The air was cool and clean. In its secluded atmosphere, Sri Ramakrishna spent his last days with his intimate disciples.
Sarada Devi assisted by some women devotees, took charge of cooking the meals for Sri Ramakrishna and his attendants. Some of the young unmarried disciples, Narendra, Rakhal, Shashi, Baburam, Latu, Tarak, Niranjan, Yogin, Sarat, the elder Gopal, Kali and the younger Gopal came to stay with him and take care of him. The householder disciples took charge of the rental and other expenses. The doctor, who came to treat him, offered his service free of charge.

In the Kasipur garden house, Sri Ramakrishna trained his beloved disciple Narendra. He knew Narendra was the man to lead all the other disciples to carry out his message to the world. Day after day, he called Narendra to his room and instructed him. One day, he scribbled on a piece of paper: “Narendra will teach.” Narendra’s protest was futile as Ramakrishna emphasised, “Even your very bones will do it.” 

As days go on, Sri Ramakrishna could hardly speak and used gestures to communicate. At times, the pain in the throat increased and he vomited blood. Yet, despite all this, Ramakrishna did not stop giving instruction and solace to those who came to him.

One day, a scholar suggested that a yogi could cure his own illness by concentrating his mind on the affected part of the body. Therefore, Ramakrishna also could do the same. Hearing these words, Ramakrishna rebuked the scholar and added, “I have given my mind to the Divine Mother.  How can I bring down my mind to this worthless cage of flesh?” 

After the scholar left the place, the disciples tried to cajole Ramakrishna to cure his illness, at least for their sake. Finally, he agreed to pray to the Divine Mother to alleviate his pain. Then, a few hours later, he said to Narendra: “I told the Mother that because of the pain, I could not eat anything. I asked Her to make it possible for me to eat a little. The Mother pointed to all of you and said, ‘Are you not eating through all these mouths?’ I felt ashamed and kept silent.” Hearing these words, the disciples understood that there was no more hope that Ramakrishna would recover.  

It was January 1, 1886. Many of the devotees had come from Kolkata. Around afternoon, Ramakrishna came down to stroll in the garden and stood under a mango tree. Seeing Girish, he said, “Well, I heard that you are proclaiming to everyone that I am an incarnation of God. What made you say so?” Girish knelt down, and with folded hands said, “What can a worthless person like me say about the One whose glory, even sages like Vyasa and Valmiki could not measure?” Touched by this sincere word, Sri Ramakrishna said, “What more shall I say? I bless all of you. Be illumined.” These words acted like a spell. The whole place was filled with bliss and joy. All the devotees present, rushed to Sri Ramakrishna and touched his feet. Without any restriction he blessed them all and granted them spiritual experiences, according to everyone’s temperament.  

One day, Sri Ramakrishna called all his young disciples and distributed a piece of ochre cloth of the monk and a Rudraksha garland to every one. Then, he ordered them to go for begging in the fashion of traditional monks. When the young monks came with their bhiksha, Ramakrishna joyfully partook the offering.  

During the last few days of his life, Sri Ramakrishna called Narendra to his side. Looking intently at Narendra, he then went into Samadhi. Narendra felt a subtle force entering his body and he lost consciousness. When he regained his normal state of mind, he found Ramakrishna was weeping. With choked voice, Ramakrishna said: “Naren, today I have given you my all. Today I have become a fakir. With the powers that you just received, you shall do great works for the good of the world.” 

A few days later, Ramakrishna and Narendra were alone in the room. Looking at Ramakrishna’s face, Narendra thought: “If now, at the verge of death, he admits that he is an Incarnation, then, I shall believe him.” Ramakrishna, smiled and said, “Even now, do you doubt? He who was Rama, and He who was Krishna, is now in this body as Ramakrishna, but not in your Vedantic sense.”  Embarrassed for doubting Sri Ramakrishna, Naren hung his head. 

At midnight on Sunday, August 18, 1886, Sri Ramakrishna attained Mahasamadhi. His body was consigned to the flames at the bank of the Ganges. Some of the disciples, in the company of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi set out on pilgrimage. 

Two months later, the young disciples led by Narendra, started their monastery at Baranagore. Here, they worshiped the Holy Ashes of Sri Ramakrishna. Day and night, they practiced intense spiritual practices, like meditation, Japa, singing devotional songs, and studying the various religious scriptures. After many years of struggle, Narendra built a temple at the Belur Math, where the Holy Ashes were enshrined permanently. Belur Math, since then became the center for the propagation of Sri Ramakrishna’s ideals. 

 Sri Ramakrishna's Image Worshipped in Belur Math

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For more information on Sri Ramakrishna, please visit the official website of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission - www.belurmath.org

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