The Divine Mother - Kali
Sri Ramakrishna adapted himself to his new station and forgot everything else. Ramkumar, being troubled by Sri Ramakrishna’s love for solitude and growing indifference to the world, resolved to teach him the elaborate procedure of the worship of Kali, so that, later, he might carry out the task quite efficiently. As it is not considered advisable to undertake the worship of Shakti or Kali without being properly initiated, Sri Ramakrishna, at the advice of his elder brother, got the necessary initiation from Kenaram Bhattacharya in Kolkata who was noted for his devotion and experience. It is said that as soon as the sacred Mantra was uttered in his ears, Sri Ramakrishna, overwhelmed with religious fervour, gave a shout and plunged into deep concentration, which greatly astonished the Guru.
From this time Ramakumar asked his brother now and then to take over the worship of the Divine Mother, while he himself worshipped at the altar of Radha-Kanta instead. Ramkumar was also growing old and decided to go home for a change. Sri Ramakrishna was, therefore, permanently put in charge of the worship of Mother Kali. But Ramkumar was not destined to see his home again for he breathed his last at a place a few miles north of Kolkata. His death came to the young priest as a great shock and a revelation. It occurred at a time when he was fast realizing the transitory nature of the world, and all his energies were now given to search for something that was real and imperishable. While those about him were wasting time in frivolity, he was spending day and night with a consuming thirst for God.
To Sri Ramakrishna the image of Kali was not an inert stone but the Mother Herself. The realisation of God became the one absorbing passion of the young aspirant. He would shed tears profusely at being denied the vision of the Mother and would burst out crying.
Feeling the Presence of Divine Mother
Owing to the intensity of religious fervour he could no longer conduct the worship regularly. He would sit before the image like a statue. While meditating, in the course of worship, he would put a flower on his head and sit silent for a couple of hours, or while offering the food he would gaze at the Mother as if She was actually partaking of it. He was ridiculed at first for such strange acts. But his steady devotion led to others respecting and admiring him, though some still regarded him as unbalanced. Mathur was charmed to see the God intoxication of the young priest and his ecstatic absorption in the divine service. Sri Ramakrishna was indifferent to what people thought and directed all his energies to the realization of the goal he had set for himself. At last, when he was at the limit of physical endurance, the veil was lifted, and he was blessed with the vision of the Divine Mother. Sri Ramakrishna described his first experience to his disciples afterwards as follows:
“I was then suffering from excruciating pain, because I had not been blessed with a vision of the Mother. I felt as if my heart was being wrung like a wet towel. I was overpowered by a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation any longer; life did not seem worth living. Suddenly my eyes fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple. Determined to put an end to my life, I jumped up like a mad man and seized it, when suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself to me, and I fell unconscious on the floor. What exactly happened after that, or how that day or the next passed, I do not know, but within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.”
Since then, his constant prayer was to have a repetition of this divine vision. He would cry so bitterly that people gathered about him to watch. Formerly he regarded the stone image of Kali as possessed of consciousness, now the image disappeared, and in its stead stood the Living Mother Herself, smiling and blessing him.
Taking flowers and Bel leaves in his hand, he would touch his own head, chest, in fact, the whole body, including the feet, and then offer them at the feet of Kali. At other times, he would move, like a drunkard with tottering steps, from his seat to the throne of the goddess, touch her chin as a sign of endearment, and begin to sing, talk, joke, or laugh, or even dance, taking the image by the hand!! Sometimes he would approach the throne with a morsel of food in his hand and put it to Her lips and entreat Her to eat. Again, at the time of worship he would become so deeply absorbed in meditation that there would be no sign of external consciousness.
All these but confirmed the belief of the temple officials that Sri Ramakrishna must be mad. So they sent a detailed report about these things to Mathur at Kolkata. Soon after this, Mathur paid a surprise visit to the temple, and he was struck with wonder at what he saw. It did not take Mathur long to decide that Sri Ramakrishna’s method of worship was the outcome of a genuine and profound love for the Divine Mother, the like of which is seldom encountered. Convinced that the object of building and maintaining the temple had been attained, he returned to his home and sent an order the next day to the temple superintendent that the young priest was to have complete freedom to worship in any way he chose, and that he was not to be interfered with.
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