The Mother Divine
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(Sri Durga Charan Nag)
Nag- Mahashaya

One of The Main Householder Disciples Of Sri Ramakrishna
by Sarat Chandra Chakravarti


WHENEVER Nagmahashaya went to Calcutta, the first thing he did was to visit the Mother at Kalighat. Next he went with bare feet to Girish Babu. He used to say, "If one keeps association with Girish Babu even for five minutes, one gets freed from worldly delusions. He is such a perfect sage!" Again he said, "Girish Babu has such keen insight that he can see at a glance the innermost recesses of a man's heart; and with such an insight he was the first to recognize the Master as the Incarnation of the Most High." He would profoundly bow down his head at the very mention of Girish Babu's name. To him he gave a very high place amongst the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna.

Once while Nagmahashaya came to Calcutta to make purchases for the Durga Puja, he went to Girish Babu's house. Seeing him coming, Girish Babu came down from upstairs and conducted him very warmly to a room in the first-floor of his house and pointed to him a seat. But Nagmahashaya seated himself on the floor. The gentlemen present there urged him to sit on a cushion. But Girish Babu intervened saying, "Please don't disturb him. Let him sit wherever he pleases." Next Girish Babu requested him to speak something about Sri Ramakrishna. Nagmahashaya said, "Ignorant and worthless as I am, how can I understand Him? Bless me that I may attain devotion to the lotus-feet of the lord." Humility was writ large on his face. All present looked at him with silent amazement. Girish Babu remarked, "That is why I regard our Master as the Incarnation. He whose grace can bring about such a change -- can mould the mind of a man into such a state -- can He be other than God? He must indeed be super-human." After various talks about Sri Ramakrishna, Nagmahashaya took leave for the day.

The Sannyasin disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were at the time living at the Alambazar Math. One Sunday Nagmahashaya went to pay his respects there. Many of the Swamis were present. Nagmahashaya prostrated himself before all. His presence created a regular festivity at the Math. An acclamation of joy was heard. He was received warmly by his brother disciples. Swami Ramakrishnananda was at the time performing evening service (Aratrikam). Nagmahashaya also joined in the service. After a time all sat down to take Prasadam. Nagmahashaya was served in a plate. After finishing with it he went to clean the plate himself in spite of their objections. He then prepared chillums of tobacco for the Swamis. He remained that night in the monastery. It was a very sultry night, and he passed it wholly in Japam and meditation.

Nagmahashaya had not visited Dakshineswar for a long time. One day he set out with Suresh and another devotee Chakravarthy. On their way was the garden-house of Kashipur where the Master had passed the last days of his earthly existence. Suresh was pointing the house to Chakravarthy. The very name of Kashipur used to sting Nagmahashaya with agony and make him shudder. He did not turn to see the house now. Yet his countenance turned pale. When the topic of the Master's passing away of cancer was raised, Nagmahashaya exclaimed, "It was all the play of the Lord. He vicariously took upon himself the disease for the salvation of the Jivas." This was the last time that he passed by that road.
They reached Dakshineswar. At the front of the gate, Nagmahashaya prostrated himself in great reverence. Chakravarty had never seen the place before. Suresh showed him the Bilva tree, the Panchavati and other hallowed places where Sri Ramakrishna had practiced meditation.

Nagmahashaya moved with them mechanically. Who could guess where his mind was rambling at that time! Then they turned towards the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived. When they reached there, Nagmahashaya cried out, "Ah Lord! What is it that I have come to see here!" and threw himself down. Chakravarty raised him up, but by no means could he persuade him to enter into the room. He said, "What shall I go to see? It is all over here in this life." Never in his life did he enter the room again. Whenever he visited Dakshineswar, he bowed his head to the room from a distance and went away. Hriday Mukhopadhyaya, who was a nephew of the Master, also happened to come to the garden that day. He had a pack of clothes with him and looked very sad. Hriday was at that time earning his livelihood by hawking clothes. He was known to Nagmahashaya, and both began to talk about Sri Ramakrishna. Hriday sang a few songs about the Divine Mother. Nagmahashaya said that the Master used to sing those songs. After a long conversation Hriday said, "How blessed you all have been through his grace! But alas! I have still to walk from door to door as a street hawker for my bread. My uncle did not extend his grace to me." With this he burst into tears, sobbing inconsolably like a child. On their way back from Dakshineswar, they paid a visit to the Alambazar monastery where they partook of the afternoon Prasadam. Swami Ramakrishnananda accompanied them a long way while talking all the while about Sri Ramakrishna. Taking leave of him, they went to Girish Babu's house whence Nagmahashaya returned to his own lodging.

At this time the Holy Mother of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna was living in the garden-house of Nilambar Babu on the bank of the Ganges, at Belur. One Sunday he wanted to see her. He bought some sweetmeats and a piece of red-bordered cloth for the Mother and was ready to start when Chakravarty came to accompany him and found Nagmahashaya ejaculating like a child, 'Mother! Mother!' at intervals. They went to Aheeritola Ghat, got into a ferry boat and reached Belur in a short time. He was so full of emotion that on landing at the Ghat, Nagmahashaya began to quiver as an aspen leaf before a strong wind. Swami Premananda had seen Nagmahashaya from a distance and had already informed the Mother. When they reached the landing Ghat, he caught hold of Nagmahashaya, whose frame was about to give way in ecstasy and emotion, and led him slowly to the Mother's presence. After the lapse of about half an hour they came out. Nagmahashaya, still not fully in the plane of ordinary consciousness, was saying, "Mother is always more merciful than the Father." Swami Premananda said, "Oh! How the Mother bestowed her grace upon Nagmahashaya today! She partook a portion of the sweets brought by Nagmahashaya and then gave him her Prasadam with her own hands." After a short stay they returned to Calcutta.

A week before he left for his native village, Nagmahashaya wanted to go to the Alambazar monastery with Chakravarty. As about eleven in the morning Chakravarty went to him at Kumartooly. He had not taken his meal till then. He did not wait for it but left with Chakravarty. Fruits and sweets were purchased on the way for offering at the monastery, and they reached the place at about half past one in the afternoon. The Swamis had just then finished their meals and were taking their midday rest, the shrine room being closed for the midday. Learning that Nagmahashaya was without food, Swamis Ramakrishnananda and Premananda got up in all haste and prepared loochies for him. But as Nagmahashaya would not take anything but Prasadam, the shrine was opened even at that unusual hour and food was offered again to the Lord, despite all protestations from Nagmahashaya. When it was served to Nagmahashaya, he began to dance with joy exclaiming, 'Glory be to Sri Ramakrishna!' The inviolable rule of the monastery, which had never been relaxed in favor of even princes and nobles, was for the sake of Nagmahashaya now broken by the same Swami Ramakrishnananda who violently resented the least departure from the regular routine. They left the monastery in the evening.

The Holy Mother had presented Nagmahashaya with a piece of cloth which he used to wear on his head when he went to make his purchases for the Puja. At the request of a devotee, a white Chowry (made of the tail of the Tibetan yak, Bos Grunniens, used for fanning the Deity) with silver handle was bought for waving before the Divine Mother. He would make his Puja purchases from the money he used to get every year from Messrs. Pals in the way of commission for the salt contract. After finishing the purchases, Nagmahashaya left for his village. A devotee, who went to see him off, left his umbrella in haste in the compartment where he had kept it while helping him to take in the luggage. Finding that the devotee had left his umbrella, Nagmahashaya was going to take charge of it, when another passenger claimed it as his own and misappropriated it despite his protestations. When the train moved on, that man fell fast asleep. When he woke up he found himself over-carried. Being unable to pay the excess fare, he was detained by the station-master. Alluding to this incident, Nagmahashaya used to say, "Evil deeds bear their fruits without delay, yet men are not brought to their senses."

In the same compartment was traveling another man with a courtesan. Nagmahashaya said that as soon as his eyes fell on them, he saw a vision -- a devilish apparition sucking the blood from the neck of the man. After a while all the flesh was exhausted and all that remained of him were the bones.

Nagmahashaya was startled and he cried out, "Mother! Mother!" He used to say, "Believe me, I saw all this with my naked eyes."

This time Nagmahashaya went back to Calcutta shortly after the Puja. During his stay in Calcutta he often visited the Alambazar Math, Dakshineswar, and Girish Babu's house with Suresh and Chakravarty. At his lodging at Kumartooly, many people went to see him, and if any of them showed him the least reverence, he would impatiently cry out, "What is there to see in this cage of flesh and bones? Soothe my soul with talks of the Master." Girish Babu used to invite him to dine at his place occasionally, and Nagmahashaya always accepted his invitation with a warm heart. He used to say that his mind and body would be purified if he took food at Girish Babu's. He never hesitated to take food at the house of any of the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. As regards them, he observed no caste distinction, and would say, "It is like assemblage at the temple of Jagannath."

One day he went to dine with Girish Babu. Khichuri Bhog was offered to the Master. As he went to take Prasadam he found that Kichuri was served to him in one plate and curries in another. At this he requested the other plate of curries to be removed; for he said that it would create a desire for enjoyment; and he took only a little of the curries in the same plate with Khichuri. He even refused to take salt as that might produce a desirable taste in the food which he had denied to himself. Another day he was invited to Girish Babu's. Eggs of Kahi fish were procured that day and Girish Babu wished that Nagmahashaya might take them. But as he was a vegetarian, Girish Babu was thinking how to induce him. Now Nagmahashaya always eagerly sought for Prasadam from the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, though none ventured to give it to him. When this time Nagmahashaya begged Prasadam of Girish Babu, the latter did not lose the opportunity. "Hail Ramakrishna! Take it," saying thus he took the eggs from his own dish and placed them on Nagmahashaya's. Nagmahashaya could not refuse, and while taking them, he said to Girish Babu, "How very clever you are!"

Coming to learn that Nagmahashaya was suffering from chill in the winter for want of warm clothings, Girish Babu sent him a blanket through Devendra Mazumdar, a devotee. When he knew that it was Girish Babu who presented him with the blanket, he repeatedly bowed down and placed it on his head. Girish Babu knew too well that Nagmahashaya never accepted any gift, and when Deven Babu came back to inform him that it was accepted, he felt a great relief. But after a few days it reached his ears that, instead of using the blanket he had presented him, Nagmahashaya always kept it on his head. Troubled with anxiety, he sent Devendra to enquire about it. Deven Babu returned and informed him that Nagmahashaya was found sitting with the blanket on his head.

After a stay of three months in Calcutta, Nagmahashaya returned home. Dindayal's health was breaking down. From this time, Nagmahashaya could not go to Calcutta so frequently.

When Swami Vivekananda returned from America for the first time, Chakravarty went to see him. Hearing that Chakravarty was acquainted with Nagmahashaya and that he regularly visited him, Swamiji remarked, "Vayam tattvamveshat hatah, madhukara tvam khalu kriti. Our life is passed vainly in the search after truth; only he among us is the true blessed son of our Master." Then Swamiji expressed his desire to see Nagmahashaya in his village and requested Chakravarty to write to him
Receiving the news of Swamiji's arrival from America, Nagmahashaya came to Calcutta to see him. The Math building at Belur was then completed and Swami Vivekananda was living there. Nagmahashaya reached there in the afternoon, and fell prostrate before Swamiji. When he heard that Swamiji was not doing well, he showed his anxiety and said, "Thakur used to say that you are the chest of gold Mohurs. The preservation of your health will save the world from misery. The world hangs on you." After a long conversation Swamiji requested him to live in the monastery for good. Nagmahashaya replied, "What can I do? How can I disregard the Master's wish? Thakur gave me the command to live at home." Swamiji then ordered the scriptural class to be closed in honor of the presence of Nagmahashaya; and all the Brahmacharins and Sannyasins came there and sat before Nagmahashaya and Swamiji. As soon as Swamiji uttered the name of Sri Ramakrishna, Nagmahashaya stood up and shouted, "Glory to Sri Ramakrishna! Glory to Ramakrishna!" He then said, "The other day I went to Dakshineswar and could not find out Master there. Thakur is now living here in the monastery." On Swamiji's asking him whether it was proper to establish Maths and build temples, Nagmahashaya answered, "All these are accomplished at the will of the Lord; and they are for the good of the world and its beings. You must look after your health; the survival of your body will do the world the greatest good." Then Swamiji, addressing the Swamis and Brahmacharins, said, "Only by seeing Nagmahashaya one can understand to what spiritual height a man can attain through the grace of the Lord. In self-control and in renunciation he is by far our superior." After a while Nagmahashaya was taken to the shrine where he prostrated himself before the altar without getting up for a long time.

Every evening Swamiji used to walk in the Math grounds. That day Nagmahashaya also walked behind him. Learning that Nagmahashaya was going to pass the night in the monastery, Swamiji asked a disciple to watch for a ferry boat, as it was already getting dark. Before taking leave, Nagmahashaya prostrated before Swamiji with the words, "Hail Siva Sankara! Hail Siva Sankara!" Swamiji raised him by the hand and said, "Please do come and bless us with your holy presence every now and then." Whenever he was reminded of Swamiji, he used to greet him with the words, "Glory to Lord Shiva!" And when the topic of his preaching religion and conquest of the Western world through spirituality arose, Nagmahashaya would get excited and speak of Swamiji as indeed the greatest of heroes.

The house of the late Balaram Basu of Baghbazar was a favorite resort of Sri Ramakrishna. Nagmahashaya used to call it, "the court-yard of Srivas." (Srivas was a devoted disciple of Lord Gauranga and his courtyard was a favorite resort of his Guru.) The Sannyasin disciples of Sri Ramakrishna used to stay there whenever they went to Calcutta. Nagmahashaya often met them there. One day Chakravarty accompanied him. Swamis Brahmananda and Premananda were present there on that day. They were talking on various subjects. As soon as Nagmahashaya arrived there, they stopped all their talks and began to talk about Sri Ramakrishna. When they were about to return home, Swami Brahmananda said, "The moment Nagmahashaya entered here, we were unconsciously reminded of the Master and all other topics were dropped. It is due to the appearance of such great souls that spirituality is still present in India. Blessed indeed is Nagmahashaya." Nagmahashaya had the highest reverence for his Sannyasin Gurubhais. He used to say of them, "They are not men but gods in human forms who came to play with the Lord. Who can know them? Who can understand them?"

Gradually the last days of Dindayal drew near. During the closing days of his life he occupied himself with worship and meditation. He had no longer any worldly attachment and though far advanced in years, he had no physical ailment. One morning Nagmahashaya was leading him by the hand when all on a sudden he fell down on the ground utterly exhausted. Nagmahashaya bore his father in his arms. On the way the old man fainted. After reaching home he recovered, but Nagmahashaya knew for certain that his father's last hour was come. He sent for a doctor at once and began to repeat in the ear of his father the holy name of the Lord; the tongue of the dying man also joined with his. The doctor came; the disease was apoplexy of a serious type. The doctor felt his pulse. There was no hope. Shortly after, at the ripe age of eighty, Dindayal passed away while the name of the Lord was still on his lips. Nagmahashaya consoled himself with the thought that his father passed away at a very old age with full consciousness and with the name of the Lord on his lips.

Nagmahashaya put on the customary mourning dress. He fasted, took Havishya and offered the ten Pindas according to the Shastric rites. Then came the Shraddha ceremony. This was the last duty he could perform towards his father on this side of the world. He had a mind to do it in a grand style. But where was the money to be had?

Some of his devotees who were officers in the firm of Messrs. Ralli Bros. raised subscriptions among themselves to help him celebrating the ceremony without informing him anything of it. When Nagmahashaya came to know of it, he humbly begged of them not to do so. Mortgaging his own house, he borrowed Rs. 500 from a merchant of his village. He also borrowed some money from an old lady, his neighbor. This ceremony cost him nearly Rs. 1200.

Then Nagmahashaya went to Gaya and there offered Pindas for three days with shaven head, according to the customary rites, and returned to Calcutta. He told Suresh that in the last days of his life his father had renounced all desires, and refraining from thinking of worldly matters, passed all his time in taking the name of God and finally left his body with the full consciousness of Him.

When Messrs. Pals came to know that Nagmahashaya ran into debt in order to perform the Shraddha ceremony of his father, they proposed to let the house at Kumartooly to a new tenant and increase the rent. Ranjit too agreed to this proposal; but Nagmahashaya would never concede to it. The old tenant Kirtivas was much impressed with this generosity of Nagmahashaya and he of his own accord offered to pay the increased rate, but Nagmahashaya protested and said, "You have to labor hard day and night to earn your livelihood and then with great difficulty to pay the rent. I can by no means exact a higher rent from you." Nagmahashaya loved Kirtivas as his own son and during his stay in Calcutta, Kirtivas also served him with great love and reverence. Kirtivas lived in that house and he preserved with great care the room where Nagmahashaya used to live and his broken bedstead.

When Nagmahashaya returned to Calcutta from Gaya, the Holy Mother was living at Baghbazar. Nagmahashaya was one day going to her with sweets and a piece of cloth, when suddenly he had an attack of colic on the way and could not proceed any further. He had to remain almost senseless for a long time on the verandah of a house in the street. He could easily have returned home in a hackney coach and had enough money to pay for it. But how could he do so without offering the things he had brought for the Mother? He was lamenting that he could not go there, as he was forced to lie down. Nearly after two hours, he felt relieved and returned home after having an interview with the Holy Mother.

In that year Calcutta had the visitation of a plague epidemic for the first time. The rich and the poor were flying away from the metropolis; the great city was almost deserted. Messrs. Pals left their Calcutta house in charge of Nagmahashaya and went away to their village. A Brahmin cook, a Brahmin clerk and a servant lived with him. One day Chakravarty went in search of him to the Pals' house and saw him reading the Gita with spectacles on. Seeing him there, Nagmahashaya said, "What can I understand of the Gita, fool as I am? You are a Brahmin and learned too. Please read it before me and explain." The Sloka of the Gita beginning with Karmanyakarma yah pasyet etc. was explained to him in different ways as interpreted by the different commentators. Of all the commentaries, he liked that of Sridhara Swami best.

Three days after this, the Brahmin clerk was attacked with plague. A doctor was called in to treat him. But who would nurse him? Nobody dared to approach him. Nagmahashaya alone had to nurse the poor man. The case proved fatal and the dying man pressed Nagmahashaya to take him to the Ganga. As none came to help him, Nagmahashaya alone had to carry the man to the nearest Ghat. In a short time he passed away on the lap of Nagmahashaya uttering, "Ganga! Ganga!" Nagmahashaya had to face great difficulties for his cremation. As he died of plague, no Brahmin came to help him. At last when he offered to pay a large sum, some Brahmins came forward and they cremated him. Some gentlemen happened to come there in search of Nagmahashaya. They expressed wonder at the conduct of Nagmahashaya; and one of them remarked, "He must be start mad!"
One day Nagmahashaya went to the temple of Mother at Kalighat. On his way back he met a devotee in the Maidan. The gentleman took him to the Eden Gardens to show him over the place. Entering the Gardens, Nagmahashaya, simple and mirthful as a child, enquired of him everything that met his eyes. When he was returning he told him, "Man is running madly after enjoyments. When he has assumed this human form, instead of trying to solve the great mysteries of life and death, he has lost himself in a few transitory objects of the world. He forgets that he will have to leave this very soon. This world is full of Rajasika and Tamasika elements and is dominated by pursuit of money and sensuality and people are running mad after them. Oh Lord! What a wondrous play is Thine!"

One day, Nagmahashaya and others were walking about Sri Ramakrishna at Girish Babu's house, when Swami Niranjanananda, who was present there, said, "Well, sir, our Master used to say that one who thinks himself mean and wretched, becomes actually so ultimately. Why then do you always think yourself most low and degraded?" Nagmahashaya replied, "Ah, I see with my own eyes, that I am so low and degraded; how can I think that I am Siva? You can think like that, Girish Babu can say he is Siva; you have got such great devotion for the Lord. Where is such devotion in me? If you all help me, if Thakur grants me grace, my life will be blessed." There was such a ring of sincere humility in those words of Nagmahashaya that Swami Niranjanananda could neither contradict him nor raise any discussion. Referring to this incident, Girish Babu said, "If a man be sincere and if really all idea of egotism has vanished from him, he attains to the state of Nagmahashaya. The earth becomes consecrated by the very touch of the feet of such great men."
That day, sitting in his house, Nagmahashaya was condemning himself before some gentlemen for his own shortcomings, and was calling himself as 'a heap of sins and the worm of worms.' Suddenly he remembered the words of Swami Niranjanananda and said, "Only this day I heard at Girish Babu's, that one who thinks himself a degraded worm, becomes like that; and if one thinks himself Siva one becomes Siva. Then, what will become of me?" After a pause he again said, "No, there cannot be any harm in speaking the truth that I am really a worm; and it does not matter much to call a worm by its own name. It is not wrong to speak the truth. Through the grace of my Master, and the grace of you all and of Girish Babu, by speaking the truth, I shall never stray away into the path of the untrue." So saying, he bowed down before all. Then he made obeisance to Sri Ramakrishna. He remained silent for some time, then again spoke, "When I have the attainment to this body, this cage of bone and flesh, how can I boast that I am Siva? Girish Babu is a mighty hero, the Bhairava himself, he can say he is Siva." He then made his obeisance referring to Girish Babu, "I am so low, what can I do for you to smoke" -- so saying he sat down to serve them with chillums of tobacco.

Chapter VII – to be continued…