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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

NAGMAHASHAYA never took the role of a Guru, nor did he ever give initiation to any disciple. He never went against the injunctions of the Sastras and would be very sorry, even at times angry, if others did so. He believed that being a Sudra by birth, he had no right to initiate according to the Sastras, and he acted according to this belief all through life. But through his grace, the fire of truth and righteousness was kindled in many a desolate heart, and a complete change came upon the life and action of many a licentious youth at his holy touch; yet never did he entertain with any the relation of a master and disciple; nay, even the idea would prick him to the core. He would say, "I am only a low Sudra. What do I know? You all come here to bless me with the dust of your holy feet. Blessed am I that through the grace of my Master I can see you all here."

A certain Brahmin devotee of his once pressed him hard to give him initiation. But he said, "You are a Brahmin and moreover an educated youth: you should not foster such an idea. You must know that we have become so degraded and miserable only through the disobedience of the sacred injunctions of our holy scriptures. Well, I must follow the duties of a true householder strictly, for such was the command of my Master. I have neither right nor the power to swerve an inch from that." But finding the devotee very much disappointed, he blessed him, saying: "My boy, don't lose heart. Siva Himself will initiate you." After some time, Nagmahashaya was exceedingly glad at heart to learn that the said youth had got his initiation from Swami Vivekananda. He thereupon remarked, "In this modern age the Sannyasin disciples of the Master only can give initiation to the people of the world. They are the real Gurus of the modern age and those that get themselves initiated by these sages are indeed blessed, for they have certainly received the grace of the Almighty."

Though Nagmahashaya did not have any proper disciple he had numerous devotees; and he always kept a watchful and affectionate eye on them. Whether his devotee be far or near, be he in his presence or far off from him, Nagmahashaya always prayed for his well-being and sent his good wishes for onward progress in the path of God-realization. Once a devotee of his was very anxious to see Nagmahashaya and wanted to go to Deobhog. He was studying in the Dacca College. He reached Naraingunj from Dacca by train when it was evening. It was the wet season and all the roads and fields were flooded with rain water. The road from Naraingunj to Deobhog lies by the temple of Sri Sri Lakshmi-Narayanji. The journey has to be made by boat during the rains. The dark night became darker with the heavy clouds in the sky and it poured incessantly. To add to his troubles there was no boat to be found nearby to carry him to his destination. Finding no other means, he determined to swim across the vast sheet of water. Having invoked the blessing of Nagmahashaya, the young man jumped into the rushing tide. It was about 9 o'clock in the night when his benumbed body, thoroughly exhausted through chill and exertion, came floating to the garden side on the north of Nagmahashaya's cottage. The devotee found Nagmahashaya waiting there for him. On seeing him Nagmahashaya cried out, "Alas! What have you done, what a daring boy you are! The fields are at this time infested with venomous snakes. You should not have taken such a daring, headlong step in this stormy night when it is pouring incessantly and is pitch dark." Without any reply to his affectionate reproaches, the devotee followed him gently. When he reached home, Nagmahashaya's wife gave him a dried cloth to put on. She too did not spare the boy for his rash conduct. At this the devotee burst out into tears and said that it was hard for him to live without seeing Nagmahashaya. However, she then went to cook food for the guest, but found there was no dry fuel to make fire. On learning of it, Nagmahashaya at once began to cut a ridge-pole of his house against all remonstrance of the devotee. He said to his wife, "What? Can't I sacrifice this much, if by so doing I can do a little good to those who come to see me even at the risk of their own dear lives, swimming across rivers infested with poisonous snakes? I would deem it particularly a good fortune if I can render a little service to them even at the sacrifice of my life." The devotee thought, "Indeed, the grace and goodwill of Nagmahashaya saved my life that day."

Another time Nagmahashaya saved the same young man from committing suicide. He was then studying in the B.A. class in the Metropolitan College of Calcutta. Once he was walking alone in a moonlit night on the roof of his house. Though it was peaceful and lighted all around, he felt a thick pall of gloom within. It was stifling him. His heart was not as yet lighted with the fire of knowledge. His life hung heavy on him without the sight of his beloved Master Nagmahashaya. He was not then known to the other disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, and he could not therefore seek solace in their holy company. And though Nagmahashaya went to Calcutta every year to make purchases for the Durga puja festival, he had not the patience to wait so long. He only thought, "What is the use of my life when I have not been able to realize that bliss, though I could get the grace of such a Mahapurusha." His existence became disgusting to himself and he resolved to bring an end to his life by jumping down from the terrace. But as he was about to translate his thought into action, he heard a voice in that silence. "Tomorrow morning you will see Nagmahashaya." He shuddered, for none was there. He went and quietly lay down on his bed.

Next morning when the young man got up from his bed, he heard someone calling him. He opened the door in haste and found Nagmahashaya standing before him with a bag in his hand. As he met him, Nagmahashaya said, "Why do you cherish such terrible ideas? I had to come here for you, as you made me so anxious. What anxiety is there when you have entered the kingdom of Sri Ramakrishna? Don't be impatient. Suicide is a very heinous offence." The he added, "All this time you had been floating on shallow streams, but now you have entered into the deep ocean." He then took him to the Sannyasin disciples of Sri Ramakrishna at the Belur Math and told them, "This gentleman is very restless. Please shower your blessings on him and see that he can get the grace of Guru Maharaj."
Nagmahashaya once told some devotees who came to see him often, "My boys, you are dearer to me than my own self. If I can help you in any way, even by laying down my very life, I am always ready for that. What more can I do with this cage of flesh and bone?"

Of the devotees of Nagmahashaya, the name of his wife must be mentioned first. Whoever chanced to pass a day in Nagmahashaya's house knew very well what a kind mother she was, how like a veritable goddess she would be attending to all her household duties, and how at the same time she was all attention to her beloved husband and her guests. She would leave her bed before everybody else, and as soon as she finished her morning household duties, she would sit down for worship and meditation. She never took any food before her husband and the guests had finished theirs. She did all the domestic work alone and would not allow anybody, not even her sister Harakamini, to help her in her duties.

She knew no other God than her own husband. Nagmahashaya was the only object of her adoration and on him she poured her heart's devotion and worship. Once on a certain Mahashtami day (the eighth day of the Navaratri in the month of October) she made up her mind to make an offering at the feet of Nagmahashaya, but he did not allow her. He said, "Can anybody accept an offering from her whom one worships?" She also would not leave him and was waiting for the right moment. At last when Nagmahashaya was standing in a corner quite unmindful, she seized the opportunity and offered flowers at his feet. She then kept sealed the offered flowers in a gold locket and hung it on her neck.
She was a constant source of inspiration to the devotees of Nagmahashaya. She was the very picture of grace and piety and an exalted type of womanly virtues. Her tenderness, patience, endurance, self-abnegation in the service of others and above all her absolute purity and Tapasya could not but capture the heart of any one acquainted with her.

Harakamini, the youngest sister-in-law of Nagmahashaya, knew no other God besides him. She poured all her heart's devotion at the feet of this great saint. Her sincere devotion and simple behavior were singularly prominent in her character. Nagmahashaya also had a paternal affection for her and visited her during the holy festivals she celebrated; for, no ceremony would be complete, she thought, without the presence of Nagmahashaya.

She was quite unconcerned with worldly matters. She took care of all the devotees of Nagmahashaya, considering them as belonging to one and the same family.

Nagmahashaya's mother-in-law was a very devoted woman. Once the old lady came to Calcutta and put up at Kumartuly with her daughter and son-in-law. There, every day she took bath in the Ganga. Making an image of Siva with the mud of the river-bed, she worshipped the same. One day as she was worshipping, she found a crack on the head of the image. This made her shudder; for it was a bad omen. The old lady was sorely troubled and wept the livelong day by the side of the holy river. As it was getting dark and as she did not return home, Nagmahashaya anxiously went out in search of her and found her weeping on the banks of the Ganga. She told him what had happened, but he bade her take comfort, for no evil would befall her. The old lady came home and went to bed in a very woeful state of mind without taking anything. At night she dreamt Mahadeva (Lord Siva) standing before her and talking to her, "I am much pleased with you. You need not worship Me anymore." She could sleep no more during the rest of the night and in the morning she told her son-in-law all about the dream. From that day all image worship ended for her. If anybody asked her the reason, she said, "I have got Siva as my son-in-law. Why should I worship Him anymore?"

The wife of Haraprasanna Mazumdar was well known in the circle of the devotees and the followers of Nagmahashaya. It was with reference to her that Swami Vivekananda once told a disciple, "I came across in your quarters only one lady who is as devoted as she is learned." Nagmahashaya called her 'mother', and was very fond of taking food from her hands.

It was a general belief among his devotees that when any epidemic broke out in any part of the country, the very presence of Nagmahashaya was enough to stop it; and accordingly he would be invited by them to set his foot in their country when any such epidemic prevailed. On a similar errand he had been invited to a place named Bhojeswar. The village where Haraprasanna lived was very near it and so he was invited by him to go and stay there. His wife had never seen Nagmahashaya before. She only knew that her husband was a devotee of some great saint. She was a very devout lady and this gave her the opportunity to come in contact with a great devotee of the Lord. She took care of the saint with a motherly affection. Afterwards she often went to Deobhog and passed some days with Nagmahashaya in talks of the Divine Mother. Once while they were walking together, they were met by an old Vaishnavi who was a beggar and was known to all the people of that village. She was a little confused to see a lady walking with Nagmahashaya. She asked him, "Who is this lady, Durgacharan?" Nagmahashaya replied, "She is my mother."" The Vaishnavi knew she was not his mother. So she again asked, "What kind of mother is she?" He at once replied, "She is my mother, my real mother." The old woman knew Nagmahashaya and the stuff he was made of. She said, "O, I see now, really you are a worthy man and deserve your wide fame. Live long, my child, and be a pride and glory to our country!"

The wife of Haraprasanna Babu had a very good voice. She used to sing with her charming devotional voice, songs in praise of the Divine Mother, and Nagmahashaya would say, "Mother herself sings her own praise!"

Nagmahashaya's mother Tripurasundari had an aunt by name Madhavi Thakurani. She was a great admirer of her grandson. Nagmahashaya used to call her 'granny'. She lived somewhere near Dacca. Even now we hear of her piety, purity and great devotion in those parts. Nagmahashaya went to her often.
Not far from Deobhog in the village of Kashipur, there lived a Mohammedan gentleman who had great respect for Nagmahashaya. He had no fanaticism of any kind and regarded Nagmahashaya as a Mohammedan Pir (a realized soul). He looked upon Nagmahashaya's advice as a commandment from the Most High. This Moslem gentleman had a great desire to do some personal service to Nagmahashaya, but as the latter knew him to be a devotee of a very high order, Nagmahashaya would not allow him to do so. He would often come to Nagmahashaya and pass a few hours in his holy company. He lived till the good old age of seventy. Though he lost his wife in his early youth, he did not marry again but led a very pure, devotional life. Entrusting his household duties to his son, and thus being relieved of the cares and anxieties of the world, he passed his days in the contemplation of God.

Nagmahashaya used to say, "In the kingdom of God there is no distinction of caste or creed. All are equal in His eyes. Those who surrender themselves at the feet of the Lord, by whatever name they may call Him, in whatever form they may meditate on Him -- if they can do that with a sincere and devoted heart, they will surely get the grace of the Almighty. The numerous paths or creeds are numerous ways to reach the same kingdom of God. They are all effective, provided one follows them with a sincere heart and a resolute mind.

Kalikumar Bhunja of Deobhog was one of those persons whose course of life was completely changed through the grace of Nagmahashaya. In his early life he was very poor; but he was taken in adoption by a well-to-do person of Deobhog. Kalikumar was very loose in character in his youth and squandered away the money and wealth he had inherited from his adopted father. Though he came in contact with Nagmahashaya, he could not at once shake off his youthful failings altogether. Nagmahashaya was, for this, at times very severe and hard with him. He used to remain seated in a pensive mood at Nagmahashaya's house remembering his follies. Once he was seen striking his forehead against a post in the house of Nagmahashaya. He who was so tender-hearted did not even look at him at that time but remarked, "Everyone reaps the fruits of his own actions." Gradually as he came in closer and closer contact with the saint, he was able to shake off all his old habits and lead a very pure and pious life.

Haraprasanna Mazumdar, whose name we have mentioned previously, was one of the devotees of Nagmahashaya. He was first attracted towards Nagmahashaya by seeing how devotional songs brought on him the state of Samadhi in which his face shone with an ethereal and most attractive look. Could it be that he was in divine communion with the Almighty? Was it that he was getting merged in Samadhi, spoken of in the Sastras? His curiosity thus drew him to the saint and made him seek his acquaintance. The more he knew him, the more he admired and loved and felt attraction for his company.

Nagmahashaya also loved him very dearly. The ideal life of the saint and his prominent characteristics were well reflected in the life and doings of Haraprasanna. His faith, humility, devotion and above all his service to all men as incarnate Narayanas, reminded one of Nagmahashaya.

Natabar Mukherjee, a young man given to all sorts of youthful indulgences, changed the course of his life, as he came in contact with Nagmahashaya. One peculiar characteristic in him was that he was bold and sincere, and never hesitated to sacrifice or to carry out what seemed to him right. He had some literary aptitude and once composed a drama, the theme of which was the coming of God on earth in human form for the deliverance of the wicked from their sin. It was staged at Deobhog and Nagmahashaya witnessed it. He had painted the uncommon humility and boundless mercy of Nagmahashaya in the drama. He was an inhabitant of Deobhog and most of the time he lived there. He had great devotion and reverence for Nagmahashaya's wife, and he loved his devotees dearer than his life.

Another devotee Annada Thakur was well known in the circles of Sri Ramakrishna. He did not know how to read and write but had an intense faith in God. He used to come often to Nagmahashaya, who was very kindly disposed towards this childlike and simple Brahmin. While living at Dacca, he used to frequent the house of a friend of his who was a highly paid Government officer. The gentleman was a little jealous that Swami Vivekananda had made such a great name in America and accordingly was telling all sorts of lies against Swamiji. Annada could bear this no more and in a firm voice he said, "One word more against Swamiji and you're done for." After this incident, he never met that gentleman in his lifetime. His days were very peaceful, and he passed away with the names of Sri Ramakrishna and Nagmahashaya on his lips.

Kailas Chandra Das, the husband of Harakamini of whom we have mentioned previously, like his devoted wife, surrendered himself completely at the feet of Nagmahashaya. Nagmahashaya could never accept any service from others, for he saw Narayana in all. But in the case of Kailas Chandra there was an exception. He regarded the saint as his Guru and therefore believed him to be God incarnate. And the one aim and ideal of his life was to carry out the orders of Nagmahashaya and render him loving service.

Parvati Charan, another devotee of Nagmahashaya, was a great lover of solitude. He never argued about religion. He had a living faith in the saint, and in all matters he depended entirely on him for advice and guidance. When others were busy about arguing out the truth of any philosophical problem, Parvati Charan would be seen quietly sitting and meditating on his Ishtam.

Gopal Chandra Chakravarty, a neighbor of Nagmahashaya, was the first devotee to come in contact with the saint. Many are indebted to him for hearing of Nagmahashaya for the first time. He was initiated in his early life by a woman of great talent into the Madhura Bhava (It is the highest attitude of mind a devotee can attain. The Gopis of Sri Vrindavan had realized that attitude. But in the first stages of progress if a Sadhaka goes to take up that attitude of mind, there is always the danger of fall). As a result thereof great power developed in him, and thereby people were attracted towards him. He was known as Satyagopal in the circle of devotees. He was a charming songster and also had a good hand in playing Mridangam. When Nagmahashaya saw him first, he remarked, "Satyagopal is a great devotee. He has an intense and living faith; but there is a tendency in him to enjoy sense-pleasures." As he came in contact with Nagmahashaya more and more, he understood the great folly he committed, and ultimately gave up practicing the Madhura Bhava and took to the path of simple devotion. He regarded Nagmahashaya as his real Guru and regarded him as great and glorious as the Vedas and the sky overhead.

There are many more devotees of Nagmahashaya whom we have not mentioned here, and there are again many others of whom we do not know anything of, as they themselves like to remain unknown. In fact, whoever had once seen the blessed form of Nagmahashaya could never forget him, and could not but be impressed by his saintly character. He had left such an impression on the life and character of many a youth that the course of their life was completely changed. Through his grace they attained to great purity and blessedness, and many might have realized the summum bonum of life too. Swami Vivekananda used to say that five minutes in the company of such godly men can change a whole life. Religion is actually transmitted to the disciple by a real Guru. We find this verified to the very letter in the life of Nagmahashaya.