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Life of Ramakrishna | 9. The Wife as Divinity

9. FINDING DIVINITY IN THE WIFE

As already stated, Śrī Ramakrishna became very weak after the attack of dysentery.

About the month of May in the year 1867 he started for Kamarpukur accompanied by Hriday and Bhairavī Brahmāṇi for a change.

The Master stayed at Kamarpukur for six or seven months. It was a great relaxation for him to enter into the joys and sorrows of the simple village folk after the stormy days of Sadhana at Dakshineswar.

Śāradā Devi, his girl wife, was then staying with her father at Jayrambati. Shortly after Śrī Ramakrishna’s arrival, she was sent for. So Śāradā Devi, or the Holy Mother as she became known later to the devotees of Śrī Ramakrishna, arrived at Kamarpukur.

Here was a chance for Śrī Ramakrishna to test his realizations:

By allowing the rightful privileges of her position to his wife, who was then a girl of fourteen, he subjected himself to an ordeal from which he emerged brighter than ever.

He took special care that she had an all-round training in the discharge of her household duties.

The Holy Mother was charmed with the ideal of pure and selfless love that was shown to her by her saintly husband; she was content to worship him as her Ishta dēva and by following in his footsteps to develop her own character.

Śrī Ramakrishna trained her not only in spiritual things but also in mundane matters that would make her an ideal mistress of the household.

But the Bhairavī Brahmāṇī did not take kindly to the idea of Śrī Ramakrishna’s doing his duty towards his wife. Perhaps she feared that this would endanger his celibate life.

But the Master would not listen to her remonstrances. He remained unruffled and revered her as much as ever.

The Brahmāṇī was seized with a sense of false pride; and despite her attainments, she could not control herself. But subsequently she came to realize her mistakes:

She one day approached Śrī Ramakrishna with sandal paste and garlands of flowers which she had taken great pains to prepare, and with these adorned him as an Incarnation of Śrī Chaitanya. She implored his forgiveness and bade farewell to Kamarpukur.

Śrī Ramakrishna regained his former health as a result of his prolonged stay in the peaceful environs of his native village, and afterwards returned with Hriday to Dakshineswar.

The holy association of Śāradāmani with her God-intoxicated husband at Kamarpukur filled her pure heart with unspeakable delight. Referring to this joy, she said later on:

“I used to feel always as if a pitcher full of bliss was placed in my heart—the joy was ineffable.”

Four years passed after that, and she was now a young woman of eighteen. Wild rumours reached her to the effect that her saintly husband had gone mad.

After much thought she decided to go to Dakshineswar to see for herself, and reached the place in March 1872, in the company of her father.

Śrī Ramakrishna bestowed on her as much love and care as he had done previously. He sent her to live in the concert-room with his mother, who had already come there to spend the last days of her life by the side of the Ganga.

Convinced after a few days’ stay at Dakshineswar that Śrī Ramakrishna was unchanged in his attitude towards her, Śāradā Devi decided to remain there and give herself over to the service of Śrī Ramakrishna and his mother.

Śrī Ramakrishna now resumed his old task of teaching his wife, testing at the same time his own realization and discharging his duties as a husband. His teaching covered a wide range of subjects from housekeeping to the knowledge of Brahman.

Not content with merely giving instructions, he took particular care to see that she carried them out, lovingly correcting any mistake.

A couple of months after the Holy Mother’s arrival, there arose a curious desire in Ramakrishna’s mind, which he lost no time in fulfilling:

It was the new moon of June 5, 1872, an auspicious night for the worship of Kālī, and Śrī Ramakrishna made special arrangements for it in his own room, instructing the Holy Mother to be present. She went there at 9 p.m. Śrī Ramakrishna took the seat of the priest.

After the preliminaries were over, he beckoned the Holy Mother to the seat which was reserved for the Goddess. Śāradā Devi was in a semi- conscious state.

Śrī Ramakrishna went through the regular form of worship in which the Holy Mother took the place of the Deity.

During the ceremony she passed into Samadhi. The Master too, when he had finished the Mantras, went into the super-conscious state. Priest and Goddess were joined in a transcendental union in the Self.

At dead of night the Master partially recovered consciousness; then with the appropriate Mantra he surrendered himself and the fruits of his lifelong Sādhana, together with his rosary, at the feet of the Holy Mother and saluted her.

With this sacred ceremony, called in the Tantras the Ṣoḍaśī- Puja, or the worship of the Divine Mother Tripurā Sundarī, was finished the long series of Śrī Ramakrishna’s spiritual practices.

One day Śāradā Devi, as she was stroking the Master’s feet asked him: “What do you think of me?”

Quick came the answer:

“The Mother who is worshipped in the temple is the mother who has given birth to this body and is now living in the concert-room, and she again is stroking my feet at this moment. Verily I always look upon you as the visible representation of the Blissful Mother.”

Months passed in this way, but not once did the minds of the divine couple come down to the sense-plane. This was possible, because both husband and wife had their minds attuned to the Infinite.

In later days Śrī Ramakrishna complimented Śāradā Devi in unequivocal terms. He used to say:

“After marriage I anxiously prayed to the Divine Mother to root out all sense of physical enjoyment from her mind. That my prayer had been granted I knew from my contact with her during this period.”