The Mother Divine
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LIFE OF NAG MAHASHAYA (Sri Durga Charan Nag)
One of The Main Householder Disciples Of Sri Ramakrishna
By Sarat Chandra Chakravarti
Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath


Sri Navagopal Ghosh of the village of Ramakrishnapur, a great devotee of the Master, celebrated with great pomp, the anniversary of Sri Ramakrishna. Babu Upendranath Mukherjee, the proprietor of the Basumati (a Bengali weekly), invited Nagmahashaya for the celebration. On the morning of the anniversary day, Nagmahashaya went to Upen Babu's at Aheeritola. A carriage was hired, but Nagmahashaya expressed his desire to go on foot. Upen Babu knew that Nagmahashaya could not bear the sight of the horses being whipped. Accordingly, he instructed the coachman particularly not to whip the horses, and after much entreaty Nagmahashaya was made to get into the carriage. When they reached the destination, Nagmahashaya got down and prostrated before Navagopal Babu. On entering the house he stood in a corner of the hall and began to fan the guest. The request of Navagopal Babu and all the assembled gentlemen to the contrary, could not stop him. The village of Ramakrishnapur resounded incessantly with the name of Sri Ramakrishna. The devotees were all beside themselves with the joy of festivity and the ecstasy of Sankeertanam, but Nagmahashaya, born as if to serve the devotees of the Lord, had no other business but to serve them. In a corner he stood continually waving the fan. Then when the devotees went to take Prasadam, he followed them with folded palms, but did not sit in the row. At the request of all, he took only a grain of Prasadam. All gazed at him with astonishment.

While returning to Calcutta, Nagmahashaya could not be persuaded by any means to get into the carriage; consequently, they all set out on foot. On their way, Nagmahashaya remarked that Sri Ramakrishna Deva used to say that Navagopal Babu's wife was born of Vidya Prakriti, and those who considered these devotees as mere human beings were not better than beasts.

A few days later Nagmahashaya went back to his native village; and this was his last visit to Calcutta.

After the final disappearance of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, when Nagmahashaya went to his native village, he first thought of erecting a cottage for himself in a secluded place, and living there all alone. As his wife learnt of his intention, she said, "I have never troubled you for anything, nor shall I do so at any time; then why should you live apart?" Relying on the assurance given by his faithful wife, Nagmahashaya continued to live in the same house with his family. But though he lived in his house, he kept up the spirit of renunciation all through his life. His wife says, "No change or weakness of the flesh could be noticed in his person even for a moment. Taking the name of Sri Ramakrishna, he trampled under foot all animal propensities. He lived in the midst of fire, but his body was not even slightly scorched."

Two people from his preceptor's family once came to his house at Deobhog. One of them was a devotee. His name was Nabin Chandra Bhattacharya. At the earnest request of Dindayal, he pressed Nagmahashaya to live with his wife and beget an issue in fulfillment of the householder's duty to perpetuate his line. When he heard this, he fell down in a swoon and got wounds all over his body. After a time he said to the devotee, "You come from our preceptor's family and are yourself a devotee. Indeed, it is most unbecoming of you to command me to do such an unworthy thing." With this he began to strike his head with a piece of brick lying close by till it cut this forehead and the wound bled profusely. The devotee was sorry and retracted his order. Nagmahashaya felt relieved and took the dust of his feet.

Once Dindayal rebuked Nagmahashaya saying, "How will you provide yourself with food and raiment?" Upon this he replied, "Father, you need not be anxious on that account. The trees are abundant with tender leaves. I have never looked upon any woman with carnal desires in my life. I am just the same as when I came out of my mother's womb. I need nothing to put on."
Dindayal would often rebuke Nagmahashaya, his only son, for his non-attachment to his worldly duties. One day in the course of conversation there arose an altercation between the father and the son. Nagmahashaya suddenly became excited and said, "I never knew any woman in my life, nor have I any lust. I have nothing to do with this world." Then with the words, "Naham, Naham" (not I, not I), he threw away his cloth and walked out nude from his house. His wife began to weep. Finding her aggrieved, a devotee of Nagmahashaya brought him back to the house.

A middle aged widow living at Deobhog would often come to pay visits to Nagmahashaya and show herself off as a great devotee. But the secret and unchaste motive of the woman did not escape the keen insight of Nagmahashaya. He dismissed her for her wicked intention at such an advanced age. Learning of the motive of the widow, the wife of Nagmahashaya stopped her access to the house. Referring to this, Nagmahashaya said, "Alas! Methinks even the vultures and dogs do not like to take the flesh of the despicable body, this cage of bone and flesh. It is a mystery to me, how she became attached to this. Oh, in how many ways my Master tests me. Indeed, it is difficult for human beings to conquer lust and avarice. They can be subdued only through the grace of the Lord." At times the highest truths dropped from his lips in very simple and plain language. He would often say, "Abstinence from lust brings a man near to God."

As towards woman, so was his aversion towards money. Once a relative of the Pals was attacked with small-pox. When all kinds of medical treatment had failed to produce any effect, the Pals who were well aware of the reputation which Nagmahashaya had acquired in the department, asked for his help. Nagmahashaya could not refuse them. He examined the patient and prescribed one homoeopathic medicine which cured the disease. The Pals wanted to reward him with a big sum. But he refused to accept it. When they pressed him much, he began to cry like a child and said, "Alas! O Lord, why did you make me learn the low profession of a physician? It is only on this account that I undergo such sufferings."

At the request of the Pals, he once went to Bhojeswar. When he was going back to Calcutta, they paid him Rs.8 for his steamer fare and a good blanket to protect himself from cold. The steamer station was about six miles from Bhojeswar. When he reached there and was going to buy his ticket, a woman with ragged dress and five or six children hanging on her came to him and, in a most piteous tone, brought to his notice her sufferings and privations. She asked for help. Hearing her story Nagmahashaya burst into tears and gave away the sum of Rs. 8 and the blanket which he had got from Messrs. Pals with the words, "Mother, take these and save yourself and your children." The beggar woman blessed him and went away. Being fatigues with the long journey, Nagmahashaya took rest for a while at the station. When the steamer had left the station, he resumed his journey towards Calcutta on foot, as he had no money left to pay for the fare. On the way, if he found any temple, he begged Prasadam and at other times lived on parched rice. He crossed the rivers and streamlets on a ferry boat on payment of the fare when they were wide, but when narrow, he crossed them swimming. He had only seven annas and six pies with him. Depending on that small amount he set out for Calcutta and after a continuous walk on foot for twenty-nine days, he reached the place.

Once Nagmahashaya was in great distress for want of money owing to the suspension of the contract business. Occasionally, he had even to go without food. After a long time the Pals dispatched two thousand mounds of salt. Nagmahashaya went to Kidderpore for the dispatch. Though the dispatch of two thousand mounds of salt should have brought him at least seven rupees, he could earn only thirteen annas. He had also to sit in the scorching rays of the sun the whole day. While coming back he met a man who told him of his miseries. Nagmahashaya gave him the thirteen annas, his whole day's earnings and came back home with an empty pocket. That day he had not a grain of rice with which to appease his hunger.

When Nagmahashaya was very young, the barking of a dog or the mewing of a cat would sound in his ears like the cry of the animal for food. Being much afflicted, he would say to his aunt, "Well, mamma, why does it cry? Why not give it some food?" Then he would himself carry food for it and say in very endearing terms, "Well, brother, don't cry any more. Here is food for you."

There was a small pond attached to his house. When he was thirteen or fourteen years old, he used to go to that pond every day to rinse his mouth after dinner, with some rice and dal in his hands. He had some tame fish in the pond; they used to come at his call and take rice and dal from his hand. He would fondle them affectionately. Thus, before he came to Calcutta for his studies, he used to play with them. Nagmahashaya used to say that in birds and beasts also there is to be found some knowledge, and in the course of evolution they too will attain higher births and become free from all bondage.

One summer morning, Nagmahashaya was smoking on the Mandapam of his house when two wild magpies came flying and sat before him. Nagmahashaya did not notice them. To draw his attention the magpies began to peck at his feet. He then caressed them fondly with his hands and said, "Well, mothers, you have come. Wait a bit. I shall give you food presently." Then he fetched some quantity of rice and fed them with his own hands. But their hunger was not yet satisfied and so they began to stroll round Nagmahashaya. Nagmahashaya then brought some more rice and a little water in a cup. Taking their stand on his hand the two birds ate and drank. When they were satisfied, Nagmahashaya caressed them with their hands and then bade them good-bye, asking them to go and play in the forest and come again the following day. The birds flew away. Nagmahashaya said, "Oh, who knows how Ramakrishna plays with his children and in how many ways?"

Nagmahashaya was the living example of the quality of Ahimsa. "Non-injury is the highest virtue" -- this he followed in his life to the very letter. Some European officers of the 'Jute Mills of Naraingunj' once came to Deobhog on a hunting excursion. Hearing the report of guns, Nagmahashaya came running to the European gentlemen and requested them with folded palms to refrain from such inhuman acts. As they could not understand his words, they began to load their guns to shoot at the wild birds. At this Nagmahashaya showed indignation and ejaculated in a furious tone, "Do no more any such cruelty." The Sahibs took him to be mad and aimed their guns at the game without paying any heed to his words. Nagmahashaya suddenly jumped on them and in a moment caught hold of the guns, as if the strength of a hundred lions had possessed the feeble frame of Nagmahashaya. In spite of all his efforts, the Sahibs could not release their guns from his grasp. Nagmahashaya took possession of them and went home. After keeping them in a safe place, he washed his hands for touching those deadly weapons. The Sahibs, after returning to Naraingunj, wanted to lodge a complaint against him.

Meanwhile he sent their guns back through a Bengali officer of the Jute Mills, who in the course of conversation spoke of Nagmahashaya's saintly character and his sincerity of purpose. This inspired in them a feeling of great respect and reverence for him and they gave up the idea of going to court. After that incident they never went to Deobhog for hunting.

Nagmahashaya could not bear to see the sufferings of any creature. There was a small tank attached to his house where a large number of fish came and settled during the floods every year. One day a certain fisherman caught some fish from the tank, and according to the custom in vogue, came to Nagmahashaya to give him his due share. Nagmahashaya was greatly affected to see those fish struggling hard for their lives in the basket. He at once purchased them all at the price demanded by the man and let them loose in the pond.

Another day some other fisherman caught some fish from a pond close to his house and came to sell them to him. This time also he purchased all the fish and let them go into the pond. The fisherman was quite astonished at this strange behavior and no sooner had he got the price of his fish and the basket back than he ran away from this mad man as fast as his legs could carry him and never again in his life crossed the boundary walls of the abode of Nagmahashaya.

He was so very strict in following the Ahimsa Dharma that he would not even allow a poisonous snake to be killed. Once a venomous cobra was seen in the courtyard of his house, which alarmed all persons present there. His wife suggested that it should be killed. Nagmahashaya objected, "It is not a snake of the forest that does any harm but it is the snake that is in the mind that really kills a man." Then he addressed the cobra with folded palms, saying, "Thou art the visible manifestation of the goddess Manasa. Thy abode is in the forest; may it please thee to leave my humble cottage and go to thine own dwelling." And strange, the snake also followed him with its hood bent down as he directed it to the jungle. Nagmahashaya often used to say, "The outside world is the projection of your own mind. As you give out to the world, so you receive back from it. It is just like looking into the mirror. The reflection in the mirror exactly shows what faces you make at it."

One day he was washing his hands and face in a tank when he was bitten by a snake on the toe of his left foot. Nagmahashaya did not move from his position lest he might disturb the snake. After a moment it left him. When his wife came to know of it, she got nervous, but Nagmahashaya said, "Well, nothing very serious happened. Some water-snake mistook my toe for its food, but soon it realized its blunder and left me unhurt."

It was his direct perception that the one God resides in the heart of all creatures. He realized the truth that 'all live, move and have their being in Him." If he was questioned why he remained with his palms folded, he replied that he perceived his Ishtam everywhere and in every being. It became impossible for him even to tear a leaf from a living plant; for is there not the same God breathing in the plant? We are told of similar experiences of saints who realized oneness with the universe, who felt that the same life principle is vibrating through all, and that even herbs and plants feel pleasure and pain just as we do. None ever saw Nagmahashaya carelessly treating even the minutest worms, e.g. mosquitoes, ants, etc. If ants chanced to get up on his body, he would carefully remove them to a safer place. His mind was so worked up that he could not walk lest he should tread upon small insects. Sometimes his breath would stop, lest his respiration should kill the minute organisms that live in the air. Once a devotee of Nagmahashaya, while sitting on the verandah of his, found that white ants had eaten up the posts that supported the eastern side of the verandah. He struck at the posts and the poor ants fell down helpless. "Alas! What have you done?" cried Nagmahashaya, moved with pity. "Poor creatures, they found peaceful abode here for a long time. It is very cruel of you to have molested them thus." As he said this, his eyes were filled with tears of kindness. The devotee was stricken with wonder and remorse. Nagmahashaya then approaching the ants, said, "Make yourselves comfortable here again. This time you need fear no harm," and helped them to build ant-hills there. They once more established themselves and in time the posts gave way. But he would never allow anybody to disturb them.

For the cows he had a special reverence from his childhood. In them, as an orthodox Hindu, he found a great manifestation of the Divine Mother. He would often take the dust of their hoofs. One day he got a piece of sugar-cane. A cow tried to eat its leaves, and with the utmost care Nagmahashaya gave them to it. He broke the cane into small pieces and made her eat the same, patting her gently. He then prostrated himself before her and after a time fanned her with great devotion. While fanning, he was possessed by an intense feeling of the presence of the Divine Mother in her and fell down senseless on the ground absorbed in divine consciousness.

Nagmahashaya himself was a worshipper of Sakti (the Energy-aspect of Brahman known as the Divine Mother). Yet he believed like a true disciple of his Master that "different paths lead to the same goal. Creeds or paths do not matter much. If one sincerely and devoutly follows any one of the paths, God's grace descends on him." He harbored no feelings of religious distinction and fanaticism and evinced equal regard for the devotees of all sects, whether they be Saivas or Vaisnavas, Bauls or Kartabhajas (two different sects of the school of Sri Chaitanya). He had the same respect for Hindus, Mussalmans and Christians. He would bow his head and salute reverentially whenever he happened to pass by a mosque or a tomb of a Mohammedan saint. He did the same before churches too with the words, "Glory unto Jesus."

As regards devotional practices he used to say, "The one thing necessary is to keep one's soul wide awake constantly by means of Sadhana like the man who keeps watchful vigil underneath a fruit tree all the time. The fruition rests with Him. The Jiva can taste the fruit of his Sadhana, only if He allows it through His boundless grace. There are some again to whom is vouchsafed the saving grace of the Lord apparently without any great exertion on their part. It appears as if they have been quite asleep, and the Lord drops on them the choicest fruits of Sadhana from above. When they wake up they see themselves dowered with them to the great astonishment of themselves and the world. These are not to undergo the stress and toil of Sadhana. Such men are known as Kripasiddhas (those that attain to God-realization through the special grace of God. Many such examples of Kripa-siddhas are to be found in the lives of Avatars. To quote but one instance -- through the mere grace of Sri Chaitanya, Jagai and Madhai, the two great robbers, became perfect saints). Until and unless the grace of God descends on man, he cannot know Him. He can be realized only if He so chooses. He is verily the Kalpataru - the wish-fulfilling tree. He gives whatever is asked of Him. But man should not indulge in such desires which will drag him again into the rounds of births and deaths. He must pray to the Lord to grant him unflinching devotion to His hallowed feet and a true knowledge of His self. Then only can he break through the sordid bonds of the world and attain freedom through His grace. Hankering after worldly ends must bring in its attendant evils. That man alone can transcend the scourges and miseries of the world who devotes his time to the contemplation of God and communion with His devotees." About occult powers, he used to say, "When a man becomes pure and truly spiritual, temptations of a subtler kind such as some occult or miraculous power or some sudden attainment of prosperity try to allure him continually. A pure soul has not got to reason out the truth of objects. He intuitively knows everything; for as the pure crystal catches the reflection of all objects about it, the pure mind comprehends the things of the world in their entirety. But should those powers attract his attention, there is every chance of his being led away from the ideal.
If ever a doubt arose in the mind of his devotees in his presence, they had not to ask him anything on those points. Nagmahashaya himself would raise them in the course of conversation and solve them to their utmost satisfaction. He could read the nature and worth of a man on his face. His prophecies regarding many were fulfilled to the letter. He would tell his wife that such and such a man was coming to Deobhog and so he must go to the market before the man arrived; and as a matter of fact the person named did actually turn up.

Once two friends, Aswini and Chakravarty, started for Deobhog to see Nagmahashaya. Aswini had a colic pain which used to come on regularly every evening. The whole night he would remain almost senseless from its effect. On this occasion the two friends could not reach the place before evening, and they passed every moment anxiously lest Aswini should get the attack on the way. But though the will of the Lord they came to Deobhog without any difficulty. Chakravarty was indeed much relieved when Aswini informed him that there was no more fear of any attack that night; for the usual time had already passed away. For the previous five months Aswini had not been able to take even a drop of water at night but that night he took rest comfortably after a hearty meal. They lived there for three days without Aswini getting any colic attack in the evening. Referring to this Aswini laments now, "Ah, even that cruel disease of mine which was the effect of some misdeeds of my prior lives wore off under the influence of that holy man. Oh, had I clung to him from that time, my life and character would have been molded to perfection."

Once a Brahmin boy was attacked with smallpox. Hopeless of his life, his widowed mother left him at the door of Nagmahashaya when life was almost extinct. The boy got cured through the grace of God. When Suresh asked Nagmahashaya how the cure was effected, he said it was true that the boy was cured but he could not or would not say 'how'.

Once in summer, a neighboring house, situated to the north of Nagmahashaya's thatched cottage, caught fire, which began to rage fiercely, threatening the neighborhood. The house on fire was only about thirty cubits distant from Nagmahashaya's. Sparks from the flame began to fall on all sides. Great confusion prevailed. Everyone was busy in trying to extinguish the fire. But Nagmahashaya stood quietly before the huge flame with folded palms, totally unconscious of danger. His wife got nervous, and afraid of imminent danger to their house, hurriedly began to take out clothes, quilts and other movable things. At this Nagmahashaya cried out, "What a great fool and sceptic you are still! What will you do with these trifles? Brahma has been pleased to come near your very house today; and instead of offering worship to Him, you are troubling yourself with these paltry little things!" Then he clapped his hands and began to dance about in ecstasy of joy, uttering, "Glory to the Lord! Glory to the Lord! If there is God to protect man, what danger is there for him? But if He is displeased, there is no power on earth that can save him." The hunger of the god of fire was appeased, having reduced the house of the neighbor to ashes; but the house of Nagmahashaya remained unscathed.

On the occasion of Ardhodaya yoga (which comes once in fifty years, a very auspicious day observed by all orthodox Hindus), which came about this time, Nagmahashaya came away from Calcutta some three or four days before the auspicious day. At this, his father, Dindayal, got angry with him and said, "I can't understand what peculiar kin d of religion you profess to observe. Is this the proof of your piety that while people at large are rushing for a bath in the holy Ganges, you have come away from Calcutta, from the holy banks of the river to your home! There is still time enough to take me also to Calcutta." Nagmahashaya replied, "If anybody has true and sincere devotion for her, Mother Ganga herself will come to his house; he has not to go anywhere else." The auspicious day came off. Srimati Harakamini, Kailas Bose and some other devotees of Nagmahashaya were present at Deobhog on that occasion. Exactly at the time when the eclipse was to take place, Harakamini was struck with awe and wonder to find that the north-east corner of Nagmahashaya's courtyard had cracked, and through the crevices a stream of water was gushing out, overflowing the yard and filling the place with its murmuring sound. Nagmahashaya was then inside the room. He came out and prostrated himself before the spring, crying, "Mother Ganga! Hail, benign Mother! Thou purifier of all sins!" He took some water and with greatest reverence put it on his head and bowed again. The inmates of the house then took their bath in that water. As the news spread, crowds from the locality gathered there to take their bath. The premises of Nagmahashaya's echoed with the cry of "Hail, mother Ganga!" An hour later the rush of water diminished and the stream gradually subsided. There are persons still living at Deobhog who bear testimony to the above fact. Srimati Harakamini was completely cured of a chronic malady by the touch of that holy water. Never in life did Nagmahashaya even incidentally make mention of this event. If ever questioned about the happening, he would simply say, "Alas! People make much of such trifles." Swami Vivekananda, when told of the incident, remarked, "There is nothing impossible for the will of such great saints. Men may even attain perfect salvation through the effective force of their strong will."

In every occurrence of his life Nagmahashaya saw the benign hand of Sri Ramakrishna. Once while he was asleep a big cat jumped on his face and scratched the left eye. He was painfully injured; but he did not seem to take much care of it and said, "Sri Ramakrishna himself punished me in the form of a cat for the sins of my past births. On, this is also certainly His grace!" But the sore got healed without much medication. To him everything was Sri Ramakrishna; the spirit of Sri Ramakrishna pervaded the whole universe.
While living in Calcutta, he once suffered from some sever pain in both of his hands. He could not even move them, and unless he placed them in a folded posture motionless, he got excruciating pain. So he said that the Master made him suffer from this kind of pain in order that he might learn to remain always with folded hands.

When he was suffering from severe colic pain he was heard to say, "Hail, Ramakrishna, glory to Thee! As I could not devote whole-heartedly this wretched cage of bones and flesh to Thy holy cause, it is meet that Thou shouldst punish it with such severe pain. Thou art showing Thy mercy by making me suffer from this pain, for it reminds me only of Thee. Blessed indeed is this misery, for it reminds me of Sri Ramakrishna! Oh Lord! Glory unto Thee! Glory unto Thy grace! It is Thy mercy and Thy mercy alone. There is no other means of salvation for a man except Thy boundless grace."

Nagmahashaya never took the attitude of a teacher. If he was asked to teach, he would say, "None can teach others. In due time the spiritual eye of man opens by itself through the grace of Sri Ramakrishna, and then whatever the eye lights upon, manifests Sri Krishna. He finds then everything tinged with a new meaning."
But whenever he found his devotees despondent, he cheered them up, saying, "When you have acquired faith in Ramakrishna, know that this is your last birth. If a man has true and sincere faith in the Lord, he never swerves from the right path. He attains dharma, artha, kama and moksha.

Girish Chandra Ghosh used to remark with his characteristic humor: "Mahamaya fell into a great difficulty in trying to ensnare two persons. Naren (Vivekananda) and Nagmahashaya. As She tried to capture Naren, he became bigger and bigger and at last so big that all Her fetters fell short and She had to give up Her task as hopeless. And when She attempted Her trick on Nagmahashaya, he began to make himself smaller and smaller and at last reduced himself to such a degree of smallness that he easily escaped through the meshes of Her snares.