At Cossipore Garden-house
More than two months passed, but there was no sign of improvement. On the contrary the condition of the Master gradually deteriorated from bad to worse. When treatment proved ineffectual, Dr. Sarkar advised a change to a garden-house outside the city.
Accordingly, a spacious garden-house at Cossipore was hired. In the afternoon of December 11, 1885, Sri Ramakrishna was moved to the new premises.
The Cossipore garden became the place for the last phase of Sri Ramakrishna’s life on the physical plane. On the eve of his exit from the arena of the world, Sri Ramakrishna revealed his highest spiritual stage and made Narendra Nath the fit instrument for the propagation of his ideas. He entrusted with Narendra Nath the charge of his flock.
Soon after arriving at Cossipore, the boys divided among themselves the task of cooking, purchases, and other household duties. The Holy Mother had the charge of preparing the food as well as feeding the Master.
Narendra was the leader of the young disciples. When they were not occupied in the service of the Master, he would bring them together and engage them in meditation, study, discussions, or songs. They, thus kept themselves occupied in a delightful environment, and time passed unnoticed. Though the number of these sacrificing youth did not exceed twelve, yet every one of them, by the consecration of his life to the service of the Guru, emerged as a tower of strength.
At this time occurred an event of great importance; showing Sri Ramakrishna’s wonderful love for his devotees and his extraordinary spiritual power. It was January 1, 1886. Sri Ramakrishna felt much better and wished to take a walk in the garden. lt was about 3 pm. As it was a holiday, about thirty disciples were present, some in the hall and others under the trees. When Sri Ramakrishna came down, those in the hall saluted him and followed him at a distance as he walked slowly towards the gate. Sri Ramakrishna suddenly said to Girish Chandra Ghosh, (one of his ardent devotees) “Well, Girish, what have you found in me that you proclaim me before all as an Incarnation?” Girish, not at all taken aback by the question, knelt before him with folded hands and said in a voice shaken with emotion, “What can an insignificant creature like me say about One whose glory even sages like Vyasa and Valmiki could not measure?” Hearing these words, spoken with the greatest intensity, Sri Ramakrishna was deeply moved and said: “What more shall I say? I bless you all! Be illumined!” Saying this he fell into a state of semi-consciousness. The devotees heard these solemn words and turned mad with joy. Overwhelmed with emotion they moved forward to take the dust of his feet and saluted him. At this manifestation of devotion, Sri Ramakrishna’s mercy overstepped its bounds and he touched them all, one by one, with appropriate blessings. This powerful touch revolutionized their minds, and the devotees, so blessed by the Master, had wonderful spiritual experiences. They, upon coming down from that state of spiritual exaltation, realized that, like a ‘Kalpataru’ (the celestial wish fulfilling tree) Sri Ramakrishna was showering his grace upon all without distinction.
The Founding of the Brotherhood
Sri Ramakrishna, knowing his end to be very near, was busy preparing his chief disciple, Narendra Nath, for the great task he was bound to take up in the coming years. One day, Sri Ramakrishna commissioned him to look after the young devotees, saying, “I leave them in your care. See that they practise spiritual exercises and do not return home”. He was thus silently training them for the monastic life; and one day he asked Narendra and other young men to beg their food in the streets. They all went out with begging bowls in hand.
One day, a devotee expressed his desire to Sri Ramakrishna to distribute ochre cloths and Rudraksha rosaries among sannyasins. Pointing to his young disciples, Sri Ramakrishna answered, “You won’t find better monks than these anywhere. Give your clothes and things to them”. The devotee placed a bundle of ochre clothes before the Master, who distributed them among his young disciples. One evening Sri Ramakrishna made them go through a ceremony and permitted them to receive food from the houses of all irrespective of caste. Thus it was that the disciples were initiated into the monastic order by Sri Ramakrishna himself, and the foundation of the future Ramakrishna Order was laid.
Illustrations by Smt. Hema Satagopan
- Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master by Swami Saradananda, Translated by Swami Jagadananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai - 600 004
- The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1974)
- The Path Divine, Sathya Sai Balvikas Magazine, Dharmakshetra, Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri (East), Mumbai - 400 093
- A Short Life of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Swami Tattwavidananda, Adhyaksha, Advaita Ashrama, Uttarkhand, Himalayas from its Publication Department, Kolkata
- The Story of Ramakrishna, Published by Swami Bodhasarananda, Advaitha Ashrama, Uttarkhand, from its Publications Department, Kolkata