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Gauri Ma
A Monastic Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna

FIRST ENCOUNTER

SLOWLY, Gauri Ma's confusion subsided and her mind became calm as she comprehended the meaning of the events at Dakshineswar. The one who revealed his own lotus feet on the throne of Damodar; who called to her in a voice without form, saying. "Will you not come, unless I drag you"; who commanded in feigned anger. "You come. Come soon. Only if you come closer will you recognize me"; who against her wishes actually dragged her to his feet in an unimaginable way: who said, "She belongs here" as soon as he saw her – who was he, this Sri Ramakrishna? This divine mystery was then revealed to her.

She was filled with indescribable spiritual joy, an inner Joy that jogged numerous old memories and brought them to the surface. Gauri Ma began to remember.

A long-buried childhood memory came back to her from the time she was called Mridani. It was the pleasant season that follows the monsoons. A peaceful joy was to be found everywhere – in the sky, in the air, and in people all around. In Bhavanipur, a suburb of Calcutta, the ten-year-old Mridani was sitting quietly in the corner of the front yard. Other children of her age were playing and having fun in the yard. Absorbed in herself, Mridani happened to glance at the road. A person of joyful appearance was passing by. Seeing Mridani sitting all by herself, this joyful stranger came closer and spoke lovingly, "All the other children are playing. Why are you sitting all alone?"

Mridani answered pensively, "I do not like that type of playing." But for some indescribable reason she felt strangely drawn to that person. She felt as though she had known him through many, many births. Filled with emotions she could not understand, she bowed at his feet.

Placing his hand on her head in blessing, the joyful stranger replied, "May you have devotion for Krishna."

That same voice! That same face! Now, after fifteen years. Mridani – Gauri Ma – suddenly realized that the person she had met that day was this very one, the mys- terious Sri Ramakrishna!

A few days after this long-ago incident, another event occurred. Mridani and her elder brother. Avinash Chandra, went to spend a few days with their aunt in Varaharnagar, a suburb of Calcutta. Somehow Mridani had come to know that the wonderful stranger who had spoken those words of blessings to her, "May you have devotion for Krishna," lived somewhere near Varaharnagar. The real reason for her desire to visit her aunt was her hope that she might get a chance to see that unforgettable stranger once more. Without letting anyone know, she began to search all around the neighborhood. One day she came upon some farmers plowing a field in Nimteghola. "Somewhere here in a banana grove lives a holy man. Do you know the exact place?" she asked them.

In reply the farmers pointed to a small hut and said. "There!" There stood an ordinary hut. Just as they had indicated. Very slowly, Mridani opened the door and entered. She saw the joyful stranger she had met before. Eyes closed, he was seated in deep meditation. His face glowed with a divine radiance. She stood dumbfounded then made pranams and sat down nearby. A long time passed thus. Then he opened his eyes. The child bowed once again at his lotus feet. Seeing her, he said, "You have come."

In a choked voice Mridani made known her desire to have initiation. Arrangements were immediately made for her to eat and stay with a nearby Brahmin family. The next morning she took her bath in the Ganges, alongside the women of the family. Then, in accord with her expressed desire, the holy man initiated her. She performed japa according to her guru's instructions and soon became absorbed in deep meditation. Her face radiated an indescribable joy. It was the day of Raas Purnima.

Meanwhile, there was panic at her aunt's house. Everybody began to search for her anxiously. Where could Mridani have gone? After considerable effort, the fearful and worried Avinash Chandra obtained a vague clue. He headed for the banana grove in Nimteghola. There was no end to his joy and relief when he found his younger sister I at last.

Seeing Avinash Chandra, the holy man explained, "Look here, she is a little girl. Don't be angry with her. It is difficult to keep a bird captive."

Distractedly, she looked alternately at her guru and at her brother. But Sri Ramakrishna only laughed and said, "Now go. We shall meet again on the banks of the Ganges."

Now, fifteen years later, in a most unexpected way, here was a reunion between the guru and his disciple – on the banks of the Ganges – at Dakshineswar.