The Mother Divine
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(Part 2 of 2)
By Swami Vivekananda

After my father’s death my mother and my brothers were starving. When the master met Ananda Guha one day, he said to him, “Narendra’s father has died. His family is in a state of privation. It would be good if his friends helped him now with money.

After Ananda had left, I scolded him. I said, “Why did you say all these things to him”? Thus rebuked, he wept and said, “Alas! for your sake I could beg from door to door.” He tamed us by his love.

Even before the period of mourning (after my father’s death) was over I had to knock about in search of a job. Starving and barefooted I wandered from office to office under the scorching noon-day sun with an application in my hand; one or two intimate friends, who sympathised with me in my misfortunes, accompanying me sometimes. But everywhere the door was slammed in my face. This first contact with the reality of life convinced me that unselfish sympathy was a rarity in the world. There was no place in it for the weak, the poor and the destitute. I noticed that those who only a few days ago would have been proud to help me in any way, now turned their face against me, though they had enough and to spare. Seeing all this, the world sometimes seemed to me to be the handiwork of the devil. One day, weary and footsore, I sat down in the shade of the Ochterlony monument in the Maidan. Some friends of mine happened to be there, one of whom sang a song about the overflowing grace of God, perhaps to comfort me. It was like a terrible blow on my head. I remembered the helpless condition of my mother and brothers, and exclaimed in bitter anguish and despondency, “Will you please stop that song? Such fancies may be pleasing to those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth and have no starving relatives at home. Yes, there was a time when I too thought like that. But today, before the hard facts of life, it sounds like grim mockery.” My friend must have been wounded. How could he fathom the dire misery that had forced these words out of my mouth? Some times when I found that there were not enough provisions for the family and my purse was empty, I would pretend to my mother that I had an invitation to dine out and remain practically without food. Out of self-respect I could not disclose the fact to others. My rich friends sometimes requested me to come to their homes and gardens to sing. I had to comply when I could not avoid it. I did not feel inclined to express my woes before them nor did they try themselves to find out my difficulties. A few among them sometimes used to ask me, “Why do you look so pale and weak today?” Only one of them came to know about my poverty without my knowledge, and now and then sent anonymous help to my mother by which act of kindness he put me under a deep debt of gratitude.

Some of my old friends who earned their livelihood by unfair means asked me to join them. A few among them who had been compelled to follow this dubious way of life by sudden turns of fortune, as in my case, really felt sympathy for me. There were other troubles also. Various temptations came in my way. A rich woman sent me an ugly proposal to end my days of penury which I sternly rejected with scorn. Another woman also made similar overtures to me. I said to her “You have wasted your life, seeking the pleasures of the flesh. The dark shadows of death are before you. Have you done anything to face that? Give up all these filthy desires and remember God.”

In spite of all these troubles, however, I never lost faith in the existence of God nor in His Divine Mercy.

Every morning taking His name I got up and went out in search of a job. One day my mother overheard me and said bitterly, “Hush you fool, you are crying yourself hoarse for God from your childhood, and what has He done for you?” I was stung to the quick. Doubt crossed my mind, “Does God really exist?” I thought, “and if so, does He really hear the fervent prayer of man? Then why is there so much woe in His benign Kingdom?

Why does Satan rule in the realm of Merciful God?” Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s words, ‘If God is good and gracious, why then do millions of people die for want of a few morsels of food at timesof famine and this rang in my ears with bitter irony. I was exceedingly cross with God. It was also the most opportune moment for doubt to creep into my heart.

It was ever against my nature to do anything secretly. On the contrary it was a habit with me from my boyhood not to hide, even my thoughts from others through fear or anything else. So, it was quite natural for me now to proceed to prove before the world that God was a myth or that even if He existed, to call upon Him was fruitless. Soon the report gained currency that I was an atheist and did not scruple to drink or even frequent houses of ill fame. This unmerited calumny hardened my heart still more. I openly declared that in this. miserable world there was nothing reprehensible in a man, who seeking for a brief respite, would resort to anything. Not only that, but if I was once convinced of the efficacy of such a course I would not, through fear of anybody, shrink from following it.

It was ever against my nature to do anything secretly. On the contrary it was a habit with me from my boyhood not to hide even my thoughts from others through fear or anything else. So, it was quite natural for me now to proceed to prove to the world that God was a myth, or that, even if He existed, to call upon Him was fruitless. Soon the report gained currency that I was an atheist and did not scruple to drink or even frequent houses of ill fame. This unmerited calumny hardened my heart still more. I openly declared that in this miserable world there was nothing reprehensible in a man who, seeking for a brief respite, should resort to anything; not only that, but that if I was once convinced of the efficacy of such a course, I should not, through fear of anybody, shrink from following it.

But notwithstanding these forced atheistic views, the vivid memory of the Divine Visions I had experienced since my boyhood, and especially after my contact with Sri Ramakrishna, would lead me to think that God must exist and there must be some way to realise Him. Otherwise, life would be meaningless. In the midst of all troubles and tribulations I must find that way. Days passed, and the mind continued to waver between doubt and certainty. My pecuniary wants also remained just the same.

The summer was over, and the rains set in. The search for a job still went on. One evening, after a whole day’s fast and exposure to rain I was returning home with tired limbs and a jaded mind and overpowered with exhaustion and unable to move a step forward, I sank down on the outer plinth of a house on the roadside.

I can’t say whether I was insensible for a time or not. Various thoughts crowded in my mind and I was too weak to drive them off and fix my attention on a particular thing. Suddenly I felt as if by some Divine Power the coverings of my soul were removed one after another. All my former doubts regarding the co-existence of Divine Justice and Mercy and the presence of misery in the creation of a Blissful Providence, were automatically solved. By a deep introspection I found the meaning of it all and was satisfied. As I proceeded homewards, I found there was no trace of fatigue in the body and the mind was refreshed with wonderful strength and peace. The night was well-nigh over.

Henceforth I became deaf to the praise and blame of worldly people. I was convinced that I was not born like others to earn money and maintain my family much less to strive for sense pleasures. I began secretly to prepare to renounce the world like my grandfather. I fixed a day for the purpose and was glad to hear that the Master was to come to Calcutta that very day. “It is lucky” I thought; “I shall leave the world with the blessings of my Guru”. As soon as I met the Master, he pressed me hard to spend that night with him at Dakshineshwar. I made various excuses, but to no purpose. I had to accompany him. There was not much talk in the carriage. Reaching Dakshineshwar I was seated for some time in his room along with others, when he went into a trance. Presently he drew near me and touching me with great tenderness, began to sing a song, with tears in his eyes. I had repressed my feelings so long but they now overflowed in tears. The meaning of the song was too apparent. He knew of my intentions. The audience marvelled at the exchange of feeling between us. When the Master regained his normal mood, some of them asked the reason of it, and he replied with a smile, “Oh, it was something between him and me!” Then at night he dismissed the others and calling me to his side said, “I know you have come for the Mother’s work and won’t be able to remain in the world. But for my sake, stay as long as I live.” Saying this he burst into tears again. The next day with his permission I returned home. A thousand thoughts about the maintenance of the family assailed me. I began to look about again for a living.

By working in an attorney’s office and translating a few books, I got just enough means to live from hand to mouth, but it was not permanent and there was no fixed income to maintain my mother and brothers.

One day the idea struck me that God listened to Sri Ramakrishna’s prayers. So why should I not ask him to pray for me for the removal of my pecuniary wants, a favour the master would never deny me. I hurried to Dakshineshwar and insisted on his making the appeal on behalf of my starving family. He said, “My boy, I can’t make such demands. But why don’t you go and ask the Mother yourself? All your sufferings are due to your disregard of Her.” I said, “I do not know the mother, you speak to Her on my behalf. You must.” He replied tenderly, “My dear boy, I have done so again and again. But you do not accept Her, so she does not grant my prayer. All right, it is Tuesday-go to the Kali temple to night, prostrate yourself before the mother and ask Her any boon you like. It shall be granted. She is knowledge Absolute, the Inscrutable Power of Brahman and by Her mere will she has given birth to this world. Everything is in Her power to give”. I believed every word and eagerly waited for the night. About 9 O’ Clock, the Master commanded me to go to the temple. As I went, I was filled with a Divine intoxication. My feet were unsteady. My heart was leaping in anticipation of the joy of beholding the living Goddess and hearing Her words. I was full of the idea. Reaching the temple as I cast my eyes upon the image, I actually found that the Divine Mother was living and conscious, the Perennial Fountain of Divine Love and Beauty. I was caught in a surging wave of devotion and love. In an ecstasy of joy I prostrated myself again and again before the Mother arid prayed, ‘‘Mother, give me discrimination! Give me renunciation give me knowledge and devotion, grant that I may have an uninterrupted vision of Thee!” A serene peace reigned in my soul. The world was forgotten. Only the Divine Mother shone within my heart.

As soon as I returned, Sri Ramakrishna asked me if I had prayed to the Mother for a removal of my worldly wants. I was startled at this question and said, “No, Sir; I forgot all about it. But is there any remedy now?” “Go again,” said he, “and tell Her about your wants”. I again set out for the temple, but at the sight of the Mother again forgot my mission, bowed to Her repeatedly and prayed only for love and devotion. The Master asked if I had done it the second time. I told him what had happened. He said, “How thoughtless! couldn’t you restrain yourself enough to say those few words? Well try once more and make that prayer to Her. Quick! I went for the third time, but on entering the temple a terrible shame overpowered me. I thought, “What a trifle have I come to pray to the Mother about! It is like asking a gracious king for a few vegetables! What a fool I am! In shame and remorse, I bowed to Her respectfully and said, “Mother, I want nothing but knowledge and devotion”. Coming out of the temple I understood that all this was due to Sri Ramakrishna’s will. Otherwise, how could I fail in my object no less than thrice? I came to him and said “Sir, it is you who have cast a charm over my mind and made me forgetful. Now please grant me, the boon that my people at home may no longer suffer the pinch of poverty!’’ He said, “Such a prayer never comes from my lips. I asked you to pray for yourself, but you couldn’t do it. It appears that you are not destined to enjoy worldly happiness. Well, I can’t help it.’’ But I wouldn’t let him go. I insisted on his granting that prayer at last he said, “All right, your people at home will never be in want of plain food and clothing.”

Sri Ramakrishna was the only person who ever since he had met me believed in me uniformly throughout. Even my Mother and brothers did not do so. It was his unflinching trust and love for me that bound me to him for ever. He alone knew how to love one another’ Worldly people only make a show of love for selfish ends.

It is impossible to give others even an idea of the ineffable joy we derived from the presence of the Master. It is really beyond our understanding how he would give us training, though unconsciously on our part, through fun and play and thus mould our spiritual life. As the master athlete proceeds with great caution and restraint with the beginner, now overpowering him in the struggle with great difficulty, as it were, again owning defeat at bis hands to strengthen his spirit of self-reliance; in exactly the same manner did Sri Ramakrishna treat us. Realising that in all exists the Atman which is the source of infinite strength, in every individual, pigmy though he might be, he was able to see the potential giant. He could clearly discern the latent spiritual power which would in the fulness of time manifest itself. Holding that bright picture before us, he would speak highly of us and encourage us. Again, he would warn us lest we should frustrate this future consummation by becoming entangled in worldly desires, and further, he would keep us under control by carefully observing even the minute details of our life. All this was done silently and unobtrusively. That was the great secret of his training of the disciples and moulding of their lives. Once I felt that I could not practice deeper concentrationin medication. I told him of it and sought his advice and direction. He told me his personal experiences in the matter and gave me instructions. I remember that as I sat down to meditate during the early hours of the morning, my mind would be disturbed and diverted by the shrill note of the whistle of a neighbouring jute mill. I told him about it and he advised me to concentrate my mind on the very sound of the whistle. I followed his advice and derived from it much benefit. On another occasion I felt great difficulty in totally forgetting my body during meditation and concentrating the mind wholly on the ideal. I went to him for counsel and he gave me the very instruction which he himself had received from TotaPuri while practising Samadhi at the time of his Vedantic Sadhana.

He sharply pressed between my two eyebrows with his finger nail and said, “Now concentrate your mind on this painful sensation!”As a result I found I could concentrate the mind easily on that sensation as long as I liked and during that period, I completely forgot the consciousness of other parts of my body, not to speak of their causing any distraction in the way of my meditation. The solitude of the Panchavati, associated with the various spiritual realisations of the Master, was also the suitable place for our meditation. Besides, meditation and spiritual exercises, we used to spend a good deal of time there in sheer fun and merry-making. Sri Ramakrishna also joined with us and by taking a part enhanced our innocent pleasure. We used to run and skip about, climb on the trees, swing from the creepers and at times hold merry picnics.

On the first day of the picnic the Master noticed that I myself had cooked the food and he partook of it. I knew that he could not take food unless it was cooked by Brahmins, and, therefore, I had arranged for his meal at the Kali Temple. But he said, “It won’t be wrong for me to take food from such a pure soul like yourself! In spite of my repeated remonstrations, he enjoyed the food cooked by me that day.

He loved me so much! But whenever an impure idea crept into my mind, he at once knew it. While going round with Ananda, sometimes I found myself in the company of evil people. On those occasions, the Master could not eat any food from my hands. He could raise his hand only a little but could not bring it to his mouth. On one such occasion, while he was ill, he brought his hand very close to his mouth, but it did not go in. He said to me, “You are not yet ready.”

How many times he prayed to the Divine Mother for my sake! After my father’s death when I had no food at home, and my mother and sisters and brothers were starving too, the Master prayed to the Divine Mother to give me money. But I didn’t get any money. The Master told me what the Divine Mother had said to him: “He would get simple food and clothing.”

How I used to hate Kali and all Her ways! That was the ground of my six years’ fight – that I could not accept Her. But I had to accept Her at last! Rama-Krishna Paramahamsa dedicated me to Her, and I now believe that She guides me in everything I do, and does with me what She will–* Yet I fought so long! I loved him (the Master) you see, and that was what held me, I saw his marvellous purity… I felt his wonderful love. His greatness had not dawned on me then. All that came afterwards, when I had given in. At that time, I thought him a brain-sick baby, always seeing visions and the rest. All that I hated. And then I too had to accept Her!

No, the thing that made me do it is a secret which will diewith me. I had great misfortunes at that time… It was an opportunity… She made a slave of me. Those were the very words – “a slave of you.” And Ramakrishna Paramahamsa made me over to Her…

Strange! He lived only two years after doing that, and most of the time he was suffering. Not more than six months did he keep his own health and brightness.

Indeed, I was, in a fix in trying to explain to the Master one day the meaning of ‘blind faith’. I could find no [meaning for the expression. I gave up using that phrase since then, as I was convinced of the truth of the Master’s contention.

Let none regret that they were difficult to convince! I fought my Master for six years with the result that I know every inch of the way! Every inch of the way! You see my devotion is the dog’s devotion. I have been wrong so often and he has always been right, and now I trust his judgement blindly.