A Monastic Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna
MASTER AND DISCIPLE MEET AGAIN
THE NUNS who had been trained by Gauri Ma gradually took upon themselves the responsibility of running the ashram in order to relieve her from day-to-day worries and problems. But her work of teaching went on to the end of her life, uninterruptedly and without a slackening of pace. In fact, this work increased from day to day. In 1936, additional land adjoining the ashram was purchased to accommodate the expanding work of the ashram.
After the establishment of Saradeshwari Ashram, Gauri Ma used to go on pilgrimages from time to time, just as she did in earlier days. It was customary for her to go each year to Jagannathpuri and Navadwip and pass a few days there. On one such visit in 1932 as she went to the Jagannathpuri Temple, she addressed the Lord in the shrine thus: "Oh Lord, I have visited you regularly here. but this may be the last time."
All the years of austerity and hard work had now taken their toll, and her health began to decline. She was getting weaker with advancing years. Following the doctor's advice, the devotees took her to Vaidyanath and then to Navadwip for a change of air.
In 1936 the birth centenary of Sri Ramakrishna was celebrated on a grand scale worldwide. Gauri Ma herself celebrated this great festival for twenty-five days. On this occasion she gave a beautiful and appropriate message, which was broadcast over All India Radio.
In December 1936 she fell ill again and became bedridden. Her room was upstairs, but men were not permitted to enter the ashram's inner quarters. Gauri Ma would come down to the visitor's room, despite the pain, so that she might give a discourse to the men devotees.
On one such occasion she said to the devotees, "In Durga Saptashati the Divine Mother is described as 'the most beneficent among the beneficent,' 'the fulfiller of wishes.' The Divine Mother fulfills all the wishes of Her devotees. Everything is in Her hands. Like a stubborn child, we hold on to Her sari and pester Her continuously. Sri Ramakrishna used to say, 'If you cannot do anything else, then be a child who pesters Mother. Have you not seen how a child clings to his mother's sari and insists on candy? The mother goes from one room to another room and the child follows her, still holding on to her sari, grumbling and demanding all the time. She cannot free herself from his grasp. Finally, she relents. It is her own child and she cannot watch him cry for long, so she opens her cupboard, picks him up on her lap, pats him, and calms him.'"
Another time when she was speaking with some women devotees, Gauri Ma reminded them, "Are you as women less than anybody else? Through the ages, countless sadhus and sannyasins have been born for the welfare of the universe – they were all born to women. Women are the preservers of society and religion. They have more faith and devotion. If they try, they can realize God more quickly."
During her illness in 1936, on a new moon night. Gauri Ma had a mysterious dream about a yajna. The essence of the dream was that it was now time for the last offering of the yajna! Gauri Ma started preparing for giving up the body. Increasingly, she spent more time with her mind on a higher plane. Her contact with worldly things began to diminish, and her personality mellowed. The sannyasini's fiery qualities – bravery and severity – disappeared, and in their place was sweetness and love – love and love alone. During those days, if a householder asked her about some problem, she would reply. "Stop talking about these things. Talk about Thakur, Sri Ramakrishna, only. I will feel joy, and you too will be benefited."
She was now coming to the last phase of the vow that Sri Ramakrishna had given her, to serve women, the living images of the Divine Mother. So beloved was the ashram. What had she not done for it? Dear to her like her own children were the numerous men and women devotees. In her love for them, there was not an iota of affectation. But now this sannyasini was beyond even these worldly attachments. Mentally, she was completely prepared to leave the body. Filled with detachment and supreme joy, she had no attachment to life, no fear of death. She was now realizing that goal for which she had worked hard for the previous forty years – to meet her Lord face to face. It is at the end of life that either the brass or the gold in our goals becomes visible. In Gauri Ma's case, the gold in her goals was now visible to all.
On Shivaratri day in 1938 Gauri Ma repeatedly said, "The Master is once again pulling that thread." Fifty-six years earlier, in 1882, Sri Ramakrishna had said. "Unless I pull you, you won't come." And he had pulled that stubborn but dear disciple Gauri Ma and brought her to his lotus feet, the refuge of all. Now, the Lord was again pulling that thread. Then, it was through a vision of him in the body; now, it was a call for her to leave the body and merge in Him! Shivaratri day went by without any difficulties, and the next day dawned. That day too passed in peace and great joy, spent in talking about Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi.
The day came to an end as darkness descended. Arati, the evening worship, was over. After arati, the women were accustomed to gather in Gauri Ma's room. On that day, too, they all came and made pranams to her. As one woman was about to ask her something, Gauri Ma said, Today, we are not going to talk about anything else – only about Thakur."
There began a conversation about God. While talking about Sri Ramakrishna, Gauri Ma repeated three times. "Guru Sri Ramakrishna, Guru Sri Ramakrishna. Guru Sri Ramakrishna." After that she started japa. While doing japa, her mind suddenly rose to a higher emotional plane. In a low voice she said. "My children, nobody should disturb me now."
The japa continued. Suddenly, one woman exclaimed, "Look! Look! Look at Mother's eyes! Her beautiful smile! And the glow on her face!" Everybody gazed in amazement at Gauri Ma. It was 8:15 in the evening. Gauri Ma – that dear disciple of Sri Ramakrishna who had filled her life with austerity and service – now slowly entered into samadhi This samadhi then turned into mahasamadhi, giving up the body.
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi once said. "A great soul is always a rarity, having hardly any parallel. Gaurdasi is one such soul."
The revered Swami Vivekananda had just returned from his victorious tour of the West where he had successfully expounded the glory of Vedanta when he met Gauri Ma. He said to her, "I have told the Americans about you. One day I will take you there to show them what great women are born in India."
In 1894 Swami Vivekananda wrote in a letter, "Where is Gaur Ma? We want a thousand such Mothers, with that noble, stirring spirit, the power to inspire." That this soul-stirring call of Swami Vivekananda should reach those for whom it is destined – that is my prayer at the feet of the Lord.
Jananim Saradam Devim
Pada-Padme Tayoh Sritva
O Mother Sarada Devi
And Ramakrishna, the Universal Teacher,
Taking shelter at your feet,
I salute you both again and again.