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

In the year 1306 B.S., Nagmahashaya could not come to Calcutta as usual during the Puja time to make purchases. In the latter part of Agrahayana (November) of that year, a devotee who was living in Calcutta received a wire from the wife of Nagmahashaya intimating him about his serious illness. The devotee was to read a paper on the 'Religion of the Vedas' the next day at a meeting of the Ramakrishna Mission. He was placed in rather an embarrassing position. But Swami Adbhutananda told him, "You will have many occasions in your life to deliver lectures on Vedas, and people there will be always to hear you lectured. But if Nagmahashaya passes away, you lose the opportunity in your life to see any more a living Veda." Accordingly he started for Deobhog the very same day.

The next day before it was dark, he reached Deobhog. On entering the house, Mr. Chakravarty (the said devotee) found Nagmahashaya lying on the portico of his room. It was then winter. When the piercing chill blast blew at night from the neighboring meadows, it was very difficult for a healthy man, not to speak of a patient, to pass the night on the portico walled up by a few screens with innumerable crevices in them. Finding him in that situation, Chakravarty enquired of the cause. Nagmahashaya's wife replied in a low voice, "My dear boy, since the day he became too weak to get up from his bed, he has been lying here in this condition in spite of our requests to the contrary. The colic pain reduced some time ago and then he had an attack of dysentery.  The disease took a serious turn, and with his consent I sent a wire to you."

Nagmahashaya never mentioned of his sufferings to anybody. He had said to his wife once, "My Prarabdha has almost come to an end. A little more only has to be worked out." Before he was attacked by the illness, he was becoming weaker and weaker every day. He used to take very little food during daytime and at night he fasted. He was reduced almost to a skeleton. If he found his wife sighing with anxiety for him, he would say, "Why do you get anxious for this body, a despicable cage of flesh and bone?" None could persuade him to use any medicine.

Now he had become seriously ill and kept on lying down in the porch; all persuasions to take him inside the room failed. During his illness he could be seen suffering from unbearable pain, but not for a moment was he overcome by agony. All the time he had no other talk on his lips, save that of the kindness of his Master Sri Ramakrishna.

Continually for thirteen days till the death of Nagmahashaya, Mr. Chakravarty lived with him. During these days he read the Gita, the Bhagavatam and the Upanishads before him, and sometimes he sang songs on the Divine Mother. While hearing those songs, often Nagmahashaya lost his sense consciousness and for hours together he was found to be in deep Samadhi. After returning from these states of ecstasy, he used to cry out, "Mother! Mother!" just like a baby awakening from deep slumber. All the Sattvika expressions would become prominently manifest in his body during those periods. Again at times when he came back from the superconscious states, he muttered, "Sachchidananda! Sachchidananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute)! Akhanda-Chaitanya (Absolute Consciousness)!"

During his illness many of his devotees used to visit him and sometimes they passed the nights with him. And strange, though he was bed-ridden all the time and suffering from severe pain, he never forgot to receive his guests kindly as the veritable Narayanas. He directed his wife to see that they got their meals in time and comfortable beds to sleep on. In fact, he was anxious to see that every arrangement was made for the comfort of his guests during their stay in his house. It became a regular festive time. As Nagmahashaya would not talk of anything else but of the Lord and his devotees, the latter breathed an atmosphere in his presence which made them forget all their miseries and tribulations of the world and made them think only of God. If Nagmahashaya ever found them anxious on his account, he said, "Alas! Why have you taken so much trouble to come to see this despicable cage of flesh and bone? It will not last long. It is ever changing."

Mr. Chakravarty used to spend most of his time in the presence of Nagmahashaya during his illness. He heard him always say, "How gracious and kind is God! It is all the grace of the Lord!" But seeing his sufferings Mr. Chakravarty once thought, "God is not gracious but cruel." Nagmahashaya read the mind of his devotee and said, "Boy, don't even for a moment be doubtful about the boundless mercy of God. What good to the world can be expected of this body? See, it is bed-ridden. I cannot even serve the Narayana in you. And so Sri Ramakrishna out of his boundless mercy is making this despicable body of mine disintegrate into the five elements." Then in a feeble voice he said, "Let the body take care of itself, let miseries and sufferings take care of themselves. Oh my mind! You always remain aloof from them and cling to the blissful nature of the Self." Again he continued, "Be not anxious for this body. Please don't think of this cage of flesh and bones. Take the name of the Divine Mother. Talk of Sri Ramakrishna. These are the only medicines for the disease of the world." Mr. Chakravarty then began to sing a song on the Divine Mother. He sang it with such fervor that at last he forgot himself and his surroundings, when suddenly he was called aloud by the wife of Nagmahashaya. To his great surprise he found at that moment, Nagmahashaya sitting still on his bed, his eyes fixed on the tip of his nose and tears trickling from his eyes down his cheek. While hearing the song, he fell into Samadhi. Mr. Chakravarty did not notice it when he had sat up in that posture. During those days it was even difficult for Nagmahashaya to change sides lying on the bed, without the help of others. So both Mr. Chakravarty and Nagmahashaya's wife got nervous; for it might have given great strain to his nerves. They carefully made him lie down on his bed. Nagmahashaya meanwhile had come back to his sense-consciousness. He was then muttering the name of the Divine Mother.

Once Mr. Chakravarty said to him with great earnest, "Sir, please shower your grace on me. In your absence how shall I remain in this world? On whom shall I depend?" Nagmahashaya replied, "What is there to be afraid of? When you have taken shelter at the feet of Sri Ramakrishna, be assured He will shower His grace on you. One who wants Him must realize Him."

Swami Saradananda was then staying at Dacca on some business connected with the Ramakrishna Mission work. He often used to come and see Nagmahashaya and give sound counsel regarding his treatment and nursing. Swami Saradananda had a very good voice for singing. Nagmahashaya requested the Swami to sing some of the songs Sri Ramakrishna liked dearly. He sang about three songs and while hearing them Nagmahashaya fell into Samadhi. At the advice of the Swami his devotees uttered the name of the Divine Mother in his ears and soon he came down from the super-conscious state.

Before he finally passed away, Nagmahashaya expressed a desire to worship the Mother Kali. The day was fixed. Every arrangement was made. The image of the Goddess was brought. Swami Saradananda said, "It won't be possible for Nagmahashaya in the present condition of his health to get up from his bed and see the image. So bring the image before him, let him have a look at it, and then place it on the Mandapam for worship." Accordingly the image was brought before him. A devotee said, "Sir, yonder is the image of the Mother whom you desired to worship." He had his eyes closed. He opened them, and as soon as he saw the figure of the Mother, he lost all sense-consciousness and was merged in deep Samadhi with the words, "Mother! Mother!" on his lips. Names of Mother were uttered in his ears, but this time he was not coming down to the ordinary state of consciousness. There was no beat of pulse, all palpitation of the heart even had stopped. Was he dead? His wife was bewailing, "Alas! With the pretence of worshipping the Mother he has left us for good." Swami Saradananda consoled all, saying, "Don't you be nervous and raise a hue and cry before him. He will soon come down again to this world of the senses." About two hours passed away in that state. Then suddenly it was found that he had come back to the ordinary plane of consciousness and was crying like a child saying, "Mother blissful!" Then he asked, "Is the worship of the Mother done?" A devotee replied, "We have placed the image here before you. With your permission we want to take it to the Mandapam and there worship Mother." Nagmahashaya agreed and the worship was done according to the Sastric rites.

 Early in the morning Mr. Chakravarty said to Nagmahashaya, "It seemed to us from the state you were in that you would not come back to life again." Nagmahashaya replied in a feeble voice, "This body cannot go unless the Prarabdha is consumed fully."

 When the Puja was done, all became a little hopeful of his life; for they thought the Mother would surely spare with this time. But they realized the real purpose of his worshipping the Mother when Nagmahashaya said, "The Divine Mother has been pleased to come here not to save this cage of flesh and bone, but to protect from all dangers and difficulties all those well-wishers of mine who kindly come here. May the Divine Mother shower Her blessing on you all!" While conversing about Sri Ramakrishna the following day, he said, "May you have faith and devotion to the lotus feet of Sri Ramakrishna. I was a fool. He knew me to be a useless good-for-nothing fellow; and yet out of sheer love He showered His grace on me." Then he bowed down saying, "Glory to Sri Ramakrishna! Glory to the Lord!"

Next day the gentleman from whom Nagmahashaya had borrowed money to meet the expenses of the Shraddha ceremony of his father, came to see him. Nagmahashaya saluted him with folded hands and said, "I regret I cannot clear off my debts. I shall soon pass away. It was through your generosity that I could perform my father's Shraddha ceremony. But you need not be anxious. Please take possession of my house after my death. My wife may live with her parents." At this, the gentleman, being aggrieved at heart, said, "Sir, please don't be anxious about the debts. I have not come for money but I have come to see you." "It is all the grace of the Lord!" so saying Nagmahashaya closed his eyes for some time.

About three hours after the gentleman had gone away, there was a sudden marked change of condition in him. He became so very restless on his bed and began to talk deliriously. The outside atmosphere was chill, yet continual fanning could not give him relief from the heat. He wanted to get up from the bed. He was made to sit down but the next moment he was laid on his bed again. For some time he was silent and then again began raving. Suddenly he cried out, "Oh, save me! Save me!" His wife said to him bewailing, "Did you not tell that you would not be touched by any delusion at your last moments? Then why are you so restless?" After half an hour or so he felt a little relief and began to feel drowsy.

Referring to the momentary fit of bewilderment, Swami Vivekananda said to Mr. Chakravarty, "You could then only judge the outside man, you did not see what was passing inside him; he was fully conscious within. Having assumed a human form, if there be no human frailties, then he cannot be said to be an embodied being; such weaknesses have been noticed in many other sages. It did not matter anything in the case of Nagmahashaya who was a Jivanmukta. Moreover, we cannot say exactly in what sense he cried out, "Save me! Save me!" May be, they were words used from extreme anxiety to get rid of this evanescent body and remain forthwith united with the real Self." Alluding to the same incident, Srijukta Girish Chandra Ghosh once remarked, "None of the intimate disciples of Sri Ramakrishna aspire after Kaivalya Mukti. Even if they desire it, they cannot attain the Nirvana Mukti. For, the Lord has to incarnate again and again for the upholding of Dharma, and so these Siddha Purushas, His spiritual confreres, too, have to come with Him again and again in human form. Nagmahashaya had not the least attraction for the world. So, if this great soul, who was absolutely free from the least tinge of Maya, would not keep a ray of desire within him for life, how else could he come again in this world when the Lord Himself incarnated again in human form! That is the reason why Nagmahashaya left his body with the slight desire of taking a human form again; the desire of the saint was only for the augmentation of the Lord's Lila, the display of divine glory."

However, he was not affected by any such bewilderment any more till his death.

Three days previous to his final disappearance, Nagmahashaya asked Mr. Chakravarty to consult the almanac and find out an auspicious day for departure. He could not understand that he was asked to find out the day for the final departure, and so he said innocently, "Thirteenth of Poush, after 10 o'clock in the morning is an auspicious moment for starting." Mr. Chakravarty was dumbfounded when Nagmahashaya said, "If you so permit, I shall finally start on that day." He felt extreme mortification and went out and related everything to the wife of Nagmahashaya, where upon she said, "My boy, no use crying any more. He will not live any longer. Let His will be done. Let Sri Ramakrishna's will be done."

Two days prior to his death, his wife, Mr. Chakravarty and another devotee were sitting by his bedside, and he was lying with his eyes closed. Suddenly he opened his eyes and with a busy look said, "Sri Ramakrishna has come here and he intends to show me the places of pilgrimage." Then having turned his eyes towards Mr. Chakravarty, he said, "Well, mention the names of holy places, and I shall see them." Mr. Chakravarty had been to Haridwar lately, and he mentioned the name. At this, Nagmahashaya with great excitement in his voice went on saying, "Haridwar! Haridwar! There comes down Mother Ganga from the Himalayas with a murmuring sound! The banks and the trees on them are dancing, as it were, with her waves. Look, there on the other side stands the Mt. Chandi. Ah, what a beautiful bathing Ghat it is! How many beautiful stairs, one after the other, have gone down to the bed of the river! Wait for a moment please. I have not bathed for these last twenty years. Let me take a plunge in the sacred waters and make my life blessed." Then with the words, "Oh Mother Ganga, the savior of the fallen and the deliverer of the sinners!" Nagmahashaya sank into a deep Samadhi. After he had come down from that super-conscious state, it seemed as if he really had finished his bath just then.

The name of Prayaga (Allahabad) was next mentioned to him. He bowed down saying, "Hail Yamuna! Hail Ganga!" Then he went on, "Is it not that the hermitage of Bharadvaja was situated somewhere here? But I don't see it! There I see the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna. There on the other side I can see the range of mountains. Alas! Thakur is not showing me the hermitage of Bharadvaja." Then he fell into a doze. A few minutes passed in that condition and again he said, "Ah, I see it now." After a little pause he continued, "Well, Mother, Thou art the consort of the Great Emperor of Emperors! Thou art the Great Power Herself manifest! How is it that Thou art wandering like this? Hail, Rama! Hail, Rama!" And he fell into Samadhi. When he was again in his ordinary consciousness, the name of Benares was mentioned and Nagmahashaya at once began to murmur, "Hail, Siva! Glory to the Lord of the Universe! Hara, Hara, Vyom, Vyom!" Then he said, "This time I will be dissolved in the Great Lord." Then Puri, Sri Jagannath Kshetra, was mentioned. Nagmahashaya continued saying, "Yonder stands the stately temple of the Lord. There is the Ananda Bazaar where Prasadam can be had." He also mentioned the name of Sri Chaitanya once or twice. Thus the night advanced gradually and it struck four. He felt a little drowsy and soon fell asleep. After 8 o'clock in the morning of the 13th Poush, he was falling into ecstasies continually. Mr. Chakravarty began to utter loudly the name of Ramakrishna. His picture was placed before his eyes and then Mr. Chakravarty said, "This is the picture of your Master, in whose name you have renounced everything." He looked at it and then saluted with folded palms. Then he uttered in his feeble voice, "Grace, grace, grace out of Thine own boundless mercy." These were the last words in his life.

At about 9 o'clock in the morning all signs of the last moment were visible. His eyes became a little red, his lips began to quiver as if he was muttering to himself something. After about half an hour his eyes suddenly became fixed on the tip of his nose, the hair stood on their ends, and tears of Divine Love were to be seen in the corners of his eyes. When it was five minutes past ten, Nagmahashaya lay motionless in Mahasamadhi. It became plain to all. At the insistence of his wife, he was laid on a lounge outside, covered with a nice clean bed. Till then the life did not completely ebb away. Five or ten minutes after he was brought outside, all breathing stopped. All was over with him. He had retired from the stage of the world. Even then his face was shining with effulgence. There were still tears of Divine Love in the corners of his half-closed eyes. Cries of wailing rent the skies. One of his devotees told the wife, "Mother, be calm please. Don't be unnerved. We are your sons living to look after you." When the first shock of bereavement had abated a little, at the wish of the wife of Nagmahashaya, a devotee went out to the market to bring ghee, sandalwood and all else that was necessary for cremating the body.

The old experienced people of the village examined the body and found that it was still warm. They were conferring whether it was right to cremate the body, when a devotee said, "We must not hurry up for the cremation of the body of a saint like Nagmahashaya. At least, we must wait for twelve hours more to be fully sure of his death." So it was settled that the body should be put on the pyre only after 10 o'clock in the night.

His devotees wanted to take a photo of him. When Nagmahashaya was living he was requested many times to sit for his photograph. But he objected always saying, "Why should you be anxious to take picture of this cage of flesh and bones?" Now that he was silent, they had him photographed after decorating the body with garlands and sandal paste. From this photograph the late printer Priyanath Sinha had an oil painting drawn, which is still preserved in Nagmahashaya's house. And the likeness that we have given in the frontispiece is one after this oil-painting.

Before sunset the widow of Nagmahashaya worshipped the hallowed feet of her lord with flowers, Bilva leaves and other offerings. After circumambulating the dead body seven times, she wiped his feet with her long hairs. His body was decorated with flowers and garlands.

When the news of his death spread over the village, from every quarter men and women of all ages came pouring to see the body of the saint for the last time. Each house in the village was filled with clamorous wailing.

After 10 o'clock at night, the pyre was arranged with sandalwood, and after all the ceremonies were gone through, fire was lighted. Then a Brahmana devotee made the Vyahriti Homa and offered Bilva leaves on the funeral pyre. In the meantime Swami Saradananda came to the spot and fell prostrate by way of homage before the pyre. In three hours the cremation was over. His widowed wife extinguished the fire. All the devotees felt themselves sanctified by the touch of the holy remains of the saint. Thus, at the age of fifty-four, three years after the departure of his father, the mortal frame of Nagmahashaya ceased to exist at his own birthplace, Deobhog. What remained was but the ashes.

At the instance of Swami Saradananda, the remaining ashes were put in a jar and a song to the Divine Mother of Nagmahashaya's own composition was placed inside along with the ashes. The jar was placed underneath the cremation ground. The image of the goddess Kali he had worshipped on his death bed was placed over it and a beautiful canopy was put up over it.

Swami Saradananda, after giving necessary instructions regarding the outstanding debts of Nagmahashaya, left for Dacca.

Jai Sri Ramakrishna! Jai Sri Ma! Jai Swamiji Maharaj! Jai Nag Mahashaya!

Source Credits:
Nagmahashaya - A saintly householder disciple of Sri Ramakrishna by Sarat Chandra Chakravarti. Translated from the original Bengali, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras - 600 004.