A Monastic Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna
UNLESS HE DRAGS ME!
IT WAS THE YEAR 1882 in the city of Calcutta, In one room of the palatial house of Balaram Bose of Bosepara Lane was a sannyasini of uncommon appearance, a woman who had renounced the world in search of God. She was absorbed in worship of her Ishta Devata, or chosen deity, Damodar Shila, in the form of a shaligram, a round stone symbol of Vishnu. She sang softly with intense devotion, her gentle face radiant and blissful as she bathed the deity that had been placed upon a copper tray. The bath was completed. Hands trembling with emotion, she lovingly dried the shaligram with a cloth. She was about to place it on the asana, or seat, when suddenly, she saw two tender, luminous human feet. Thinking her senses had deceived her, she rubbed her eyes and looked intently. But those same two feet were on the throne of Damodar. No other part of the body was visible – just the Lord's two lotus feet.
Many times she had experienced the playfulness of the Lord, who, though hidden from our sight, ever sports with His devotees. But that day's experience was peculiar. She felt astounded. A shiver went through her entire body and her hair stood on end. The shaligram slipped from her quivering hands. She became distressed: in all these years, she had never dropped the shaligram. Lifting up the image, she touched it to her head and heart, bowing to it again and again with intense devotion. Again, she bathed it. This completed, she began to chant and to offer a tulsi leaf, but lo! again, those very feet appeared! The tulsi leaf intended for her shaligram fell instead on those luminous feet. Again, she offered the leaf to her deity, and once again, it fell on those two feet. Once, twice, thrice! The sannyasini, Gauri Ma, collapsed in unconsciousness.
All the members of Balaram Bose's family were especially devoted to Gauri Ma, their honored guest. It was unusually late that day, but she had not completed her worship and come out of her room. When the family could not even hear her voice, one of the ladies peeped through the half-opened door. There to her astonishment she saw Gauri Ma lying on the floor, tears streaming down her face. When Balaram's wife heard this, she rushed to the spot. But Gauri Ma did not respond to their repeated entreaties. They immediately sent for Balaram. As soon as he saw her, he realized this was no common illness, but a deep spiritual experience – samadhi, absorption In the Spirit.
Only after a few hours did Gauri Ma regain partial consciousness. If anybody addressed her, she looked blankly, unable to reply. Again and again she looked at her breast, seemingly trying to grasp at something. She felt as if someone had tied a string to her heart and was gently tugging it. But she could not get hold of that string. She wished only to retire to a lonely spot where she could weep undisturbed.
The rest of the day and night passed in this state. An unknown urge made her very restless. That night she heard a voice. A person of blissful appearance, feigning anger, addressed her in these loving words: "Will you not come, unless I drag you?"
Gauri Ma became distracted. "Who are you?" she asked. "Your voice seems familiar."
The person of blissful countenance replied, "Oh, yes! Yes' But only if you come closer, will you be able to recognize me. Come. Come soon."
By now she was fully conscious. She could still hear the voice ringing in her ears: "Come. Come soon." From within and without, she could hear the voice: "Come...Come... Come." It totally confused her. It was impossible to remain in her dark room for another moment. Trying to follow the voice, she rushed out. Where would it lead her? Who could tell?
It was not yet dawn. Every morning it was her habit to go for a bath in the Ganges River, and the household doorman would always open the door for her. But today, it was much earlier than usual, and, being acquainted with the previous day's events, the doorman stopped her. "Where are you going so early?" he asked repeatedly. But she could not answer. Thus, he did not open the door.
Then Balaram came down. "Didi, where are you going?" Gauri Ma remained silent. "Would you like to see Thakur at Dakshineswar?" Gauri Ma only looked blankly at Balaram Babu, unable to reply.
A famous zamindar of Northern Calcutta, Sri Radharaman Bose, who was a great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, had once had an occasion to meet Gauri Ma. He was spellbound by the detachment, devotion, knowledge, and luster that he observed in her. Ever since, he frequently invited her to come for extended stays at his homes in Calcutta and Brindavan, and Gauri Ma would always accept his invitations.
Balaram Bose, one of the greatest of Sri Ramakrishna's householder devotees, was the son of this very Sri Radharaman Bose. Once when Gauri Ma was at the Bose home in Brindavan, she happened to meet Balaram. Now Balaram Babu knew that Gauri Ma was well read in the scriptures, was often making pilgrimages, had performed frequent tapasya, and had met many sadhus. Therefore, he said, "Didi, at Dakshineswar, I have had the good fortune to meet a very holy man. His disposition is like that of the two great sages Sanak and Sanandan. While speak- ing about God, he goes into samadhi. You must go and meet him." However, at that time, nothing came of the conversation.
Some time later, Gauri Ma had just returned to Calcutta from a pilgrimage to Jagannathpuri and was residing at Balaram Babu's home in Bagh Bazaar. Once again, he tried to persuade her to visit the holy man at Dakshineswar. "Didi, in the end you will regret it if you do not go. I am sure you have never met a man like him before. Let us go just this once to Dakshineswar."
But Gauri Ma replied. "Dada, I have met many sadhus in my life. Now, I no longer have the desire to meet any new sadhus."
Balaram Babu was deeply disappointed. Having found shelter at the lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, Balaram Babu felt greatly blessed. The Master's divine life had made a deep impression on him. It pained him that he was unable to persuade her to share his good fortune. But he did not give up hope. Whenever he found an opportunity, he would bring up the topic. Gauri Ma would laugh and say, "If your sadhus has such power, let him drag me there. Unless he drags me, I will not go."
Thus it was that when Balaram Babu saw Gauri Ma at the door in a semi-conscious state that morning in 1882, he said, "Didi, where are you going? Should we go to see Thakur at Dakshineswar?" But she was unable to respond. All she did was stare blankly at Balaram. Balaram could not forget the incident of the day before when Gauri Ma had collapsed during worship and fallen to the floor in a semi-conscious state with tears streaming from her eyes. Though he did not personally witness Gauri Ma's visions of the previous day, he could sense that her present state was the result of having had a deep spiritual experience.
When he observed her present condition, he realized this was a golden opportunity for him to take her to Dakshineswar. Immediately he sent for the carriage. Balaram Babu. Gauri Ma. Balaram's wife, Sri Chunilal Bose (a neighbor) and his wife, and several other ladies set off for Dakshineswar. Along the way, Balaram's wife covered Gauri Ma completely with a shawl. What profound thoughts crossed Gauri Ma's mind, nobody knows; she only sat quietly in the carriage, with a sad expression on her face. The carriage slowly moved toward Dakshineswar.