Swami Sarvalokananda addressing devotees in the annual function at Ramakrishna Math Aurangabad, in the month of April 2016
Holy Mother is Jnanadayike – the giver of knowledge
All of us know that the Divine Mother – AdiShakti – has many forms: Durga, Kali, Sarasvati, Lakhsmi, Bhairavi, Katyayani, etc. Mother Sarada was also a form of Adi Shakti. Sri Ramakrishna himself said in Bengali –“O Aamaar Shakti. Sarasvati, Gyan dite eshe che” – “She is Sarasvati. My Shakti. And has come to give knowledge to all.”
Whatever form of Adi Shakti we see – whether it is Kali or Sarasvati or Lakshmi – all of them have so many powers and weapons. Mother Durga was mighty and powerful. She killed the Mahisasur and so many other demons. Mother Lakshmi is goddess of money; Mother Sarasvati is the giver of knowledge.
Externally, Sri Sarada Devi had no weapons or glamor. Sri Ramakrishna said – this time she has hidden her real form. It was like a cat covered with ashes – which cannot be recognized!
She was always under the veil. Outwardly, she was a very ordinary, village woman, uneducated, she did not give any lectures or discourses. Sri Ramakrishna’s nephew Hridayram used to trouble both – Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother. Once she had a desire to read the ‘Varna Parichay’. She asked someone to get the book for her, and started reading the same. When Hridayram saw this, he said – What are you doing! You are a woman. Why are you reading all this?! This was 100 years back when reading, writing, going to school, etc. was a social taboo for women. So Hridayram snatched the book away from her! Thus, she remained ‘illiterate’! She didn’t get the opportunity to get education.
Mother’s ‘weapon’ of love
The greatest weapon of Mother was her love and affection. What can be a greater weapon! And not only that, she also had the weapons of tolerance and same sightedness.
We are awestruck when we read about her love. Her love was not bound by any limits! It was universal love and universal motherhood! It was no ordinary motherhood like ours. Our motherhood is limited. She was unlimited.
A devotee asked Mother – are you the Mother of all? She said – yes, I am everyone’s mother. I am the Mother of wicked as well as Mother of virtuous. He asked again – are you also the mother of all animals and creatures? She said yes, I am the Mother of all. All are my children.
You will not find any incident in her entire life where any individual was denied her love. Whoever came to her was embraced and loved. You will not find any hint of denial or exclusion of anyone in her life. Sri Ramakrishna once told Mother – many women come to you, some of them are also of a questionable character. You should not allow such women to come to you. To this, Mother says – I cannot do this. I will not be able to deny anyone who comes to me and calls me as mother, irrespective of character and nature. All are my children. Her motherhood was not selfish. It had no ‘shop keeping’ or conditions. It was unconditional love.Our love is conditioned. We do not do anything without interest. Sometimes, the love of our biological mother also has its own self-interest. But Holy Mother’s Love is unalloyed!
Holy Mother conquered everyone with her love. Though she had no outward weapons like the sword or spear, she has the greatest weapon of love, because it is love that can conquer even the most wicked person. The language of love is understood by all – even a ferocious animal. Love has a piercing power. No other force has such power. We can change a human being with love and bring about transformation in the people. You will find this in Mother’s life.
You will be surprised when you see her forbearance – which is such a necessary quality in today’s life. She was the embodiment of forbearance.
Where does this capacity for forbearance come from? By learning to adjust with any kind of situation. You can see in her life, how she adjusted to any adverse situation. As a young girl Mother lived in a village Jayarambati. She later came to Dakshineshwar, Kolkata in a completely different environment. Here she lived in the Nahabat and served Sri Ramakrishna and his devotees from there. She would cook for all in that small dwelling. If you have seen the Nahabat, you will realize how difficult it is to live in. It was so small – with no ventilation. She adjusted herself so well there.
Afterwards Mother goes with Sri Ramakrishna to Shyampukur for his better treatment, and serves him there. The environment there was again very different from Dakshineshwar. She adjusted herself in this new place very well. We cannot do this. If any changes in our environment or unfavorable happens to us, we are unable to adjust. We become unhappy, dissatisfied and sulk.
After this Mother goes to Kashipur Udyanbati with Sri Ramakrishna for his further treatment. He takes Mahasamadhi there. She again serves him there very cheerfully. After his Mahasamadhi, she goes to different places. Even in these surroundings she adjusts and accommodates herself very well. We see that she is able to adjust with all kinds of situations and surroundings. She emerges steady in any condition or challenge.
We do not see her disturbed, nervous or unhappy in any situation. She is always cheerful, calm and steady. In contrast, when we see our responses in adverse situations and challenges, we find ourselves wanting. We become scattered or break down under the pressure of challenges, but not Holy Mother. She had tremendous forbearance – a quality very essential in today’s situation.
Relevance of Holy Mother’s life in the modern times
A natural question arise in our mind: What is the relevance of Holy Mother’s life in today’s modern era of consumerism? Is her life a role model for us? She was not educated and didn’t talk in English like us. Yes it is. It is even more relevant and meaningful today.
We talk about modernism. What is the definition of modernism? Today we understand it as speaking in English! If someone talks in English, we say – how modern this person is! And if someone wears jeans, dark glasses and lipstick, and easily moves around the place, we call the person modern. However, this is not what being modern is. Then what is true meaning of being modern?
Being modern in thought and action is true modernism. Being large hearted, broad-minded and free in one’s thought. Are you modern in your mind? Are you broad-minded, free and progressive in your thought? Narrow-mindedness is not modernity. Only when we move out of being narrow minded and pettiness, we become modern – when our mind and heart is free of distinctions. We see this in Mother’s life. She was so modern and progressive in her thoughts.
When Sister Nivedita came to Mother for the first time, she wondered if Mother was modern. Is she old-fashioned or has a modern outlook? As she observed Mother closely, she came to the conclusion that Mother is completely modern. And that there is a wonderful integration of the ancient and the modern in her life. She is traditional in her actions, food, clothes, lifestyle, etc. But completely modern and progressive in her thoughts and attitude.
I will narrate some incidents to elaborate this. Nivedita came to India at Swami Vivekananda’s behest and opened a school. He wanted that she get engaged in women’s education and empowerment in India. She started her school for girls in Baghbazar in Kolkata. The school opened, but no girl came to study there. Nivedita got disappointed and thought that she had left her life in London and come here, and the school is not taking off. This was because in those times, it was a social taboo for girls to go to school. It was unimaginable that girls would study. And the second reason was that Nivedita was a ‘mleccha’ – a foreigner and therefore considered impure. No one from a respectable background would send their daughter to such a school. In this state of mind, Nivedita goes to Mother. She shares her disappointment – I had come to India with such hopes and started this school, but no one is coming to this school. Mother asks her to be patient and reassures her that thousands of girls will come to her school to study. They will stand on their own feet and become independent. After this reassurance Mother didn’t sit quiet – like many of us would have. She directed every woman devotee who would come to visit her, to send their daughters to this school – so that they can get educated and become independent. Slowly many girls start attending the school and got educated.
One lady comes and tells Mother –I am very sad. I have 4 young daughters in the house whose marriage is not getting fixed. In those times, it was a social taboo if any young girl in the house could not get married. People would talk about it behind their back. So the lady was very sad. Mother says – what if they are not getting married? Send them all to Nivedita’s school. They will study, learn crafts, and become independent. All four girls went to school and become independent – standing on their own feet. This is another example of her progressiveness.
Mother was also farsighted and a visionary. She insisted that the monks of the Ramakrishna Order learn English. Why was this necessary? In her times the Sangha was very small – with very few monks. But she said that when the Sangha grows in the future, and many centers will be opened in India as well as abroad, the monks will have to talk to devotees from all over the world. For this, it is essential that they learn English. Today we see this vision of hers come true – there are so many centers of the Order across the globe, and devotees all over the world come to the various centers in India. If the monks didn’t know English, they would not have been able to converse with all devotees.
She did not find fault in others. She said – everyone has deficiencies and faults. In his composition Sarada Stotra, Swami Abhedananda calls her ‘adoshadarshini’ – one who cannot see faults. She says – if my children are bathed in dust then it is my duty as their mother to clean them up and take them in my lap. Her last instruction to us is “Do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults..”. We however don’t see our own faults. We see faults in our mother-in-law, our daughter-in-law, our children, our husband, our wife; but not in ourselves. So Mother said – “If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults..”
You will see that fault finding is the cause of all disturbance in family and social life.
What we can learn from Mother
If the present generation has to learn anything from Mother’s life then we can take these 2-3 qualities. It is Mother’s unconditional love, her tolerance & forbearance, and her farsightedness.
Love and tolerance are in fact the most important attributes in today’s time. The society we live in is lacking in love and tolerance. We are unable to bear any challenge. Any little disturbance tremendously upsets us. Why is this? This is because of the ego. We see families and societies breaking up all because of this ego.
Please learn to imbibe love and forbearance in your personal lives, and your lives will become filled with joy and peace, and this will reflect in the national life also.