A Monastic Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna
SRI RAMAKRISHNA'S BEHEST
GAURI MA'S CALL to service began at Dakshineswar a few days after her unforeseeable but predestined meeting with Sri Ramakrishna. It was the early hours of morning, at dawn. The whole atmosphere was aglow with the golden rays of the rising sun. Gauri Ma was near the nahabat plucking flowers for worship. As if from nowhere, Sri Ramakrishna appeared. In his left hand was a flowering branch; in his right was a mug filled with water. Suddenly, he began to pour the water. "Look, Gauri." he said, "I am pouring water. You knead the clay."
Her reverie broken, Gauri Ma stared at Sri Ramakrishna in astonishment. "Where is the clay to knead here? It's all full of gravel."
Thakur laughed and replied, "I have meant one thing, but you have understood another! Look at the plight of the women in this country. Their miseries have no end. Enough of tapasya. You must now be ready to serve them and work for their regeneration."
Her reverie was now completely shattered. Was it not so? Scenes she had witnessed in various homes during her wanderings when practicing austerity flashed through her mind on that calm, quiet morning. Sri Ramakrishna's words surprised her and shed new light on her experiences. She had seen ignorance, foolish ideas, irrational beliefs, and the speechless hearts of women crushed under awesome burdens. The pain-filled cries of these women came back to her now through the words of the Master and pierced her motherly heart. It is true, she thought. If a woman cannot understand the plight of women, if a woman will not alleviate the burdens of women, then who will? Half-forgotten memories of what she had seen came back to Gauri Ma that day, and she received insight into everything. She now saw her experiences from a completely different point of view.
Not letting herself be swept away by emotion, the sannyasini pondered deeply on the problem of how to help women in all its different aspects. Finally, she arrived at a decision. She thought, The work is very good, very lifegiving, and very necessary, but I cannot handle such a responsibility. She approached Sri Ramakrishna and explained to him her inability: "I will not be able to get along with people, I cannot adjust to the hectic activity of such a life. Give me some selected young girls, and I will take them to the Himalayas. There, I will mold their character."
Sri Ramakrishna only shook his hand back and forth and insisted. "No, child. No! You must stay in this town, in this city, and work here. You have done enough sadhana and tapasya. Now, this life, which has been purified by much austerity, must be sacrificed to the service of women, whose lives are full of suffering."
Through his extreme compassion for individual souls, Sri Thakur repeatedly urged Gauri Ma to take up the mission of service to individual souls as manifestations of the Supreme, for she, through rigorous penance, had the realization of "many in one and one in many." Frequently he would tell Gauri Ma, "Now and then, go to Bagh Bazaar to Balaram Bose's house. There, you will come into contact with the women of Calcutta. If you tell them about God, devotion will definitely be awakened in them."
Gauri Ma therefore would often go to Balaram Babu's house and spend a day or two there, where she would try to awaken spiritual thoughts in women.
One day, when Sri Ramakrishna returned from the house of Jadu Mallick, he said to Gauri Ma. "The women of Jadu Malllck's house are eager to see you. You should visit them."
Gauri Ma complained, "You are always like this! Why do you praise me to people?"
It is true that Sri Ramakrishna would often say in everyone's presence, "Gauri Ma is the greatest tapasvini. She is very fortunate and full of holiness." In a serious tone he would add, "Gauri is that gopi who has received the grace of the Lord through many births. She is a gopi from Brindavan."
On hearing Gauri Ma's complaint that day, Sri Ramakrishna only smiled and said, "So you are not going to Jadu Mallick's house?"
In this way, through the skillful efforts of a wondrous guru, without her even realizing it, there awakened in Gauri Ma a desire to serve humanity. Although the divine inspiration was there, however, some time was to pass before her organizing work would take definite shape.
While Gauri Ma was living at Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna gave her the ocher robes of a sannyasini and made arrangements for the accompanying rituals. Sri Ramakrishna himself offered a bilva leaf into the homa fire. Prior to this. Gauri Ma had worn a sannyasini's robes as an external sign of renunciation, but she had not taken any formal vows. After this ritual, he gave her a new name – Gauriananda. Sri Ramakrishna usually called her Gauri or Gaurdasi, and some people called her Gaurma. But Gauri Ma was the name by which she was generally known.
Sri Thakur one day asked his favorite disciple, "Gauri, tell me, do you know who I am?"
Without a moment's hesitation, Gauri Ma replied, "You are none other! You are He!" Then she quoted a line from the Bhagavatam: "These other incarnations are partial manifestations of the Supreme Purusha, whereas Krishna is the Lord Himself."