Friday, 2 May 2014

6. Years of Spiritual Practices

After his marriage, Ramakrishna returned to Dakshineswar to resume his work as a priest. 

Again, his fervour for the vision God returned with redoubled force. Not satisfied with his earlier experience, he wanted continual communion with God. Therefore, once more, he plunged into spiritual disciplines. Day and night, he practiced meditation, prayer, singing devotional songs, chanting hymns and weeping for God. His body was always flushed with strong emotions. His eyes stopped blinking due to sleeplessness. He shunned all talks except about God.

Ramakrishna also practiced to eradicate all the impediments to spiritual realization. As pride of caste is an impediment to spiritual life, he cleaned the leftovers and laterine of some outcaste people. “Maya is nothing but ‘woman and gold’,” he said. Therefore, to remove all trace of lust and greed, he undertook some disciplines on his own. Sitting on the banks of the Ganges, he would hold in one hand a lump of clay and in other hand, a few coins. Reflecting that both clay and money are worthless to reach God, he would throw them into the Ganges, repeating “Clay is gold. Gold is clay.” His strong conviction that money is worthless like clay, became one of his fundamental characteristics. Throughout his life, he could not even bear the touch of money. Even the every idea of possessing money, became painful to him. To remove lust from his mind, he looked upon all women as the embodiment of the Divine Mother. This attitude also remained throughout his life. 

Once, Mathur Babu bought a costly Benaras shawl and presented it to Ramakrishna. Wearing the shawl, Ramakrishna walked around the temple. He joyfully told everyone that the shawl cost a thousand rupees. Then, suddenly, his mood changed. He reflected that the shawl will not help him to realise God! And what is the use of such a costly beautiful shawl? Even a cheap blanket is sufficient to protect the body from cold. Owning such costly things will increase a person’s vain pride and turn his mind away from God. Then, with contempt, Ramakrishna threw the shawl on the ground and trampled it. Mathur, instead of becoming upset, was happy to see such renunciation in Ramakrishna.

One day, Ramakrishna was sitting in the temple, when Rani Rasmani, the owner came. Upon her request, Ramakrishna started singing a song for the Divine Mother. While listening to the song, the Rani’s mind drifted to a lawsuit which she was facing. Sri Ramakrishna, who knew the inner feelings and thinking of others, noticed this. He slapped her face saying, “Such thoughts even here!” The Rani’s attendants rushed to seize Ramakrishna, but the Rani quietly forbid them and went to her room. She realised that it was her mistake that she was thinking of worldly matters in the presence of the Divine Mother. She accepted Ramakrishna’s act as a lesson from the Divine Mother. 

However, when Mathur Babu heard about this incident, he summarised that Ramakrishna must be suffering from mental ailments. Therefore, he engaged an expert physician to treat Ramakrishna. He also tenderly cajoled Ramakrishna to control his feelings.

Not long after this, Ramakrishna stopped performing formal worship at the temple. However, as Rani Rasmani and Mathur Babu loved and revered him, he was allowed to stay at the temple. Moreover, until his last day, Mathur served Sri Ramakrishna and did everything he could to please him. Even after the death of Mathur, Sri Ramakrishna continued to stay in the same room at Dakshineswar.

Ramakrishna now free from all duties, started to plunge deeper into the realms of spirituality. He now wanted to experience God through various spiritual paths. Naturally, his attention turned to Sri Ramachandra, his family Deity. To worship Sri Rama, he assumed the attitude of Hanuman, who is the greatest devotee and servant of Sri Rama. In all his manners and movements, he behaved as Hanuman would behave. He ate only roots and fruits. He tied a dhoti around his waist to look like a tail. He spent most of the time on trees, crying ‘Rama! Rama!’ Soon, one day, he was sitting under the Panchavati. He saw with open eyes, a female of divine beauty, walking towards him. Suddenly, a monkey came and saluted Her. In an instant, he knew that She was Sita Devi, the Divine Consort of Sri Rama. Nearing him, She gifted him with Her divine smile. Then, She merged into Ramakrishna’s body. This experience taught Ramakrishna, that Sri Rama was indeed an Incarnation of God.  

Arrival of Bhairavi Brahmani
One morning, in 1861, Ramakrishna saw a boat coming towards the bathing ghat of the temple garden. A middle aged nun, stepped out of the boat. Ramakrishna immediately called Hriday and asked him to bring the nun. When the nun came, with joy she exclaimed: “My son! You are here! How long I have been searching for you.” Then she explained that the she was a Bhairavi, an adept in Tantra. Through spiritual insight, she came to know that she had to teach Ramakrishna and she had been searching for him. Like a child, Ramakrishna trusted her words and started conversing with her. 

The advent of the Brahmani was another turning point in Ramakrishna’s life. All this while, he had no one to listen to him or discuss about his spiritual experiences. Hriday and Mathur Babu were unable to help him spiritually. In fact, like ordinary worldly people, they also thought that Ramakrishna was either insane or sick. The Brahmani cleared his mind and said, “In this world, some people are crazy over money. Some are mad after lust. But you are mad after God.”

Then, the Brahmani helped Ramakrishna to undertake all the sixty four disciplines of Tantra. Some the Tantra disciplines are dangerous. She was amazed to find that Ramakrishna could complete the disciplines and achieve the intended results within a very short time. She was even more amazed to find that Sri Ramakrishna had already reached God realization even without the aid of a guru. Further, she assured Sri Ramakrishna that all his experiences were recorded in the Bhakti scriptures and it was the same state that was experienced by Srimati Radharani of Vrindavan and Sri Krishna Chaitanya, an Incarnation of God. 

The Brahmani also declared that the exalted state of spiritual experiences of Ramakrishna was not humanly possible. According to the scriptures, only Incarnations of God like, Srimati Radha and Sri Chaitanya could achieve the state known as Mahabhava. Therefore, the Brahmani concluded that Sri Ramakrisna must be an Incarnation of God. To prove this point, the Brahmani was ready to meet all the scholars well-versed in the scriptures.

Accordingly, Mathur Babu convened a gathering of renowned scholars to discuss the matter. Pandit Vaishnava Charan, the leader of the Vaishnava community and a reputed scholar in Philosophy and Theology, and Gauri Kanta Tarkabhushana, a well-known scholar and observer of Tantra were among the participants in the gathering. After listening to the Brahmani’s contention, well supported by scriptural texts, they fully endorsed her view that Sri Ramakrishna was an Incarnation of God. 

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