A Monastic Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna
PERFORMING THE WORK OF THE LORD
ABOUT A YEAR after the laying of the foundation stone, the four-story ashram building was completed. The temple was also finished and occupied the fourth floor. The ashram was formally opened in December 1925, when, with the performance of some auspicious rituals, the shrine was dedicated.
Once Saradeshwari Ashram was formally established in its own building, the work began to grow rapidly. Quickly the number of residents grew to fifty and the number of students to three hundred. Around this time a motor bus was also purchased for their transportation.
To obtain peace of mind, many spiritually inclined per- sons would come to hear the nectar-like words of Gauri Ma. Both spiritual seekers and people bowed down by sorrow and suffering would listen to her inspiring words and find new life, joy, and strength. Nobody ever left without receiving her teachings and her blessings. Gauri Ma unstintingly gave spiritual advice to men and women, young and old – all according to their capacity.
There was one thing she told everyone; "Whether you are a householder or a sannyasin, the important thing is the mind. If your mind is pure. everything else is pure. Only if the mind is pure can we receive the grace of the Lord. Sri Ramakrishna used to say. 'With a pure body and mind, if you pray sincerely, your prayers are answered.' If you do not pray and do not receive His grace, human life becomes a harsh and sorrowful burden. In all your work. always remember Him. Pray to Him sincerely – that you may have pure devotion for His lotus feet."
With Sri Ramakrishna's blessings and in accordance with his wishes, Gauri Ma became a glorious channel through which the great work of the ashram took shape. Though she was busy with a variety of duties, since the ultimate responsibility for the ashram was hers, she never failed to pay attention to the smaller, less important details. Not only that, if she had time, she would do these tasks herself. She looked upon the ashram from a completely spiritual point of view, seeing every task as work for Sri Ramakrishna. It was all the Lord's work. In her eyes there was no distinction between the little jobs and the important jobs.
She not only took care of the people at the ashram, for example, but she also took care of the animals there – the cows and the horses. She personally made sure they were fed at the proper time and never gave them leftover food from people's plates. Once, when some of the cows were no longer able to give milk. somebody suggested they get rid of them. To that, Gauri Ma replied, "Next you will suggest that a person should get rid of his disabled mother! For so many years these cows have served the Lord by giving milk. You have had a lot of their milk, too. Now, as long as they live, they will get their 'pension.'" Needless to say, those cows were looked after very well.
No matter how bothersome or difficult the ashram work was, Gauri Ma was never worried or afraid. Instead, if other people got upset, she would calm them down by saying, "If ten people have to do something together, it is never without problems. There are always many obstacles in doing good works. That is how the Lord tests his people. Good and bad experiences, often unwanted and disliked, are there in a man's life to teach him a lesson and make him wise."
In addition to running the convent, Gauri Ma often had other irksome things to take care of. Perhaps a student who failed an exam was upset at not being promoted: perhaps somebody who wanted to join the ashram could not be admitted; or perhaps it was not possible to bend some of the school rules just to oblige someone. Many times she had to endure a great deal from people for trivial reasons. Sometimes sincere people who were unable to participate in the working of the convent would be disappointed. Other times people who wished to interfere in the work of the ashram but were unable to do so would get upset. With regard to such thoughtless people. Gauri Ma always had one thing to say: "When the self-interest of people is hurt, they make unhappy faces. One has to do one's work with discrimination and care, then let others say what they will."
Her pure-mindedness gave her a firm faith in her ideals, about which she was sometimes outspoken, which annoyed certain people. Still, she never condoned anything unjustifiable from anybody. All through her life, she never agreed to anything that compromised her ideals. Not allowing herself to be victimized by unjust requests or well-meaning advice, she stayed firmly on her chosen path, relying on her sense of discrimination. People always felt reassured by her farsightedness when they saw her acting firmly and with conviction on whatever she felt was right. This steadfastness remained with her, a secure gift throughout her life. Her sense of justice, her self-confidence, and her total surrender at the feet of the Lord – these qualities enabled her to overcome all types of obstacles and made her successful in the work of the Lord that she had accepted. Many times people heard her say, "He who has assigned this work to me will take care of it. If there are obstacles along the way, they do not bother me, and if there is praise, it is not because of any skill on the doer's part."