And, indeed, Sri Ramakrishna soon discovered what a strange Goddess he had chosen to serve. He became gradually enmeshed in the web of Her all-pervading presence. To the ignorant She is, to be sure, the image of destruction; but he found in Her the benign, all-loving Mother. Her neck is encircled with a garland of heads, and Her waist with a garland of fire, but, strangely enough, Ramakrishna felt in Her breath the soothing touch of tender love and saw in Her the Seed of Immortality. She stands on the bosom of Her Consort, Śiva; it is because She is the Śakti, the Power, inseparable from the Absolute.

She is surrounded by jackals and other unholy creatures, the denizens of the cremation ground. But is not the Ultimate Reality above holiness and unholiness? She appears to be reeling under the spell of wine. But who would create this inscrutable mad world under the influence of a divine drunkenness? Is not disorder the very foundation of our seemingly ordered universe?

Kāli is the highest symbol of all the forces of Nature, the synthesis of their antinomies, the Ultimate Divine in the form of Woman. She now became to Sri Ramakrishna the only Reality, and the world became an unsubstantial shadow. Into Her worship he poured his soul. Before him She stood as the transparent portal to the shrine of the ineffable Brahman.

The worship in the temple intensified Sri Ramakrishna’s yearning for a living vision of the Mother of the Universe. He began to spend in meditation the time not actually employed in the temple service; and for this purpose he selected an extremely solitary place.

A deep jungle, thick with underbrush and prickly plants, lay to the north of the temples. Used at one time as a burial ground, it was shunned by people even during the daytime for fear of evil spirits. There Sri Ramakrishna began to spend the whole night in meditation, returning to his room only in the morning with eyes swollen as though from much weeping.

While meditating he would lay aside his cloth and his brāhminical thread. Explaining this strange conduct, he once said to Hriday: “Don’t you know that when one thinks of God one should be freed from all ties? From our very birth we have the eight fetters of hatred, shame, lineage, pride of good conduct, fear, secretiveness, caste and grief. The sacred thread reminds me that I am a brāhmin and therefore superior to all. When calling on the Mother one has to set aside all such ideas.”

Hriday thought his uncle was becoming insane.

As his love for God deepened, he began to either forget or drop the formalities of worship. Sitting before the image, he would spend hours singing the devotional songs of great devotees of the Mother. Those rhapsodical songs, describing the direct vision of God, only intensified Sri Ramakrishna’s longing.

He felt the pangs of a child separated from its mother. Sometimes, in agony, he would rub his face against the ground and weep so bitterly that people, thinking he had lost his Earthly mother, would sympathize with him in his grief. S

ometimes, in moments of skepticism, he would cry: “Art Thou real, Mother, or is it all fiction–mere poetry without any reality? If Thou dost exist, why do I not see Thee? Is religion a mere fantasy and art Thou only a figment of man’s imagination?”

Sometimes he would sit on the prayer carpet for two hours like an inert object. He began to behave in an abnormal manner, most of the time unconscious of the world. He almost gave up food; and sleep left him altogether.

But he did not have to wait very long. He has thus described his first vision of the Mother: “I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple, and I determined to put an end to my life. I jumped up like a madman and seized it, when suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself.”

“O Mother,” he would constantly pray, “I have taken refuge in Thee. Teach me what to do and what to say. Thy will is paramount everywhere and is for the good of Thy children. Merge my will in Thy will and make me Thy instrument.”

His visions became deeper and more intimate. He no longer had to meditate to behold the Divine Mother. Even while retaining consciousness of the outer world, he would see Her as tangibly as the temples, the trees, the river, and the men around him.

Advertisements