Wednesday 3 August 2011

Sarada Devi - Symbol of God’s Motherhood

Once Sri Sarada Devi, the saintly wife of Sri Ramakrishna, was asked by a devotee, “Mother,why did the    Master (Sri Ramakrishna) bring you along with him this time?”
“To teach the world the motherhood of God,” she replied.
To understand her statement clearly, we need to have some idea about the Hindu concept of God. According to the highest concept of God in Hinduism, God has transcendental existence. In other words, God is beyond time, space and causation.
Transcending time, God is beyond past, present and future. God is eternity or timelessness.
Transcending space, God is beyond form. Therefore, God does not have any personality. Devoid of form and personality, God is beyond gender. Therefore, God cannot be either a father or a mother.
But when the finite human mind tries to think of transcendental God it projects its limitations on God. Since humankind cannot think other than in human terms, the first projection of the human mind on God is a human personality, no matter how glorified. Thus God appears to become an anthropomorphic being -a glorified human being- but devoid of human limitations. At any given point of time a human being can exist only in one place, but God exists everywhere; He is  omnipresent.
Similarly, a human being has only limited knowledge, but God is all-knowing; He is omniscient. A human being has only limited power, but God is all-powerful or omnipotent. This is how from the human perspective, God, who does not have any personality, appears to acquire a personality endowed with omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.
The finite human mind also projects fatherhood or motherhood of God. That’s why some theistic religions such as the Judeo-Christian faiths look upon God as father.
Hinduism encourages its followers to look upon God as father, mother, friend, child and even sweetheart, because they are no other than so many projections of the human mind of God. According to Hinduism, such attitudes help devotees feel close to God.
 Shortly after I had been sent by our monastic order in India to work in the U.S.A., a young lady came to see me in our temple in Seattle.
She asked me, “Swami, how can I look upon God?”
As she was from the Christian background, I said to her, “You may look upon God as father.”
She said, “I can’t do that because my father was mean to me!”
Then I told her, “In that case, why don’t you look upon God as mother?
She responded, “I can’t do that either, because my mother was also mean to me!”
So, I advised her to look upon God as a friend. She thanked me for my advice and said that she would try to develop that attitude toward God.
The above incident makes one point very clear. It shows that only when we have loving parents can we easily project the image of a loving father or mother on God. To be able to look upon God as an ideal father or mother, we need ideal parents.
This is why we need a perfect role model of motherhood in this world, the idea  of which we can project on impersonal God or Brahman. For that reason, Sri Sarada Devi was born on earth as the role model of universal motherhood .
Aside from this, from her very birth many supernatural events took place in Sri Sarada Devi’s life indicating her divine nature.
Before her birth, her mother, Shyamasundari, had a strange experience. She had gone to  village Shihore to visit a temple. While sitting under a tree next to the temple, she suddenly felt some heaviness in her belly as though something had entered there. Just then she had a supernatural vision. She saw an exceedingly beautiful young girl of five or six climb down from the tree. That girl was wearing a red silk sari. The girl came closer, and wrapping her tender arms around Shyamasundari’s neck said most lovingly, “Mother, I have come here to stay in your home!”
After this supernatural vision Shyamasundari lost consciousness for a while. After regaining consciousness, she felt that the little girl had entered her womb. Around this time Sri Sarada Devi’s father, Ramchandra Mukhopadhyay,  also had an unusual dream. In his dream he saw a little girl of exceeding beauty and golden complexion come to him and endearingly put her arms around his neck.
He asked her, “Who are you, my child?”
The girl replied most lovingly, “I’ve come here to you!”
Immediately after this, Ramchandra woke up.
Recollecting that extraordinary dream he gained the conviction that it was the Divine Mother Lakshmi who had come in that dream. He heard about his wife’s supernatural vision at Shihore and was convinced that Shyamasundari must have conceived a divine child. This child was named Sarada as requested by Shyamasundari’s sister.
Until Sarada was ten or eleven years old, while alone, she used to see a girl almost of her own age keeping her company.That girl would help Sarada in doing her chores and would behave like a most intimate friend. When young Sarada would cut marsh grass to be used as fodder for their cows, that girl would join her in cutting the grass. However, when anyone else would come to Sarada, the girl would immediately disappear.
Such supernatural events indicate Sri Sarada Devi’s divinity. Sri Ramakrishna said about her, “She is Sarada -the Divine Mother Saraswati. This time she has come to earth to give divine knowledge to people.”
Sri Sarada Devi, who is also known in the Ramakrishna Order as Holy Mother, could grant immediate God-vision to her devotees whenever she chose to do it. Only divine incarnations are capable of doing this.
Swami Apurvananda, a disciple of Sri Sarada Devi, told us the story about his spiritual initiation. Before he joined the Ramakrishna   Order    as a monk, his name was Kshitindra. As a young man, he had gone to Sri Sarada Devi and was graciously  initiated by her.  Just after initiation, pointing to a  wall of the room, she said to him, “Look! That’s your Ishta.” The area became lit up with a dazzling light and in it Kshitindra saw the effulgent living form of a four-armed female deity. The deity was alive and was looking at Kshitindra with motherly love and affection.
This wonderful experience made Kshitindra wonderstruck and  speechless .  Sri Sarada Devi asked Kshitindra with great tenderness, “My child, did you get scared?”
Then pointing to the picture of Sri Ramakrishna in the room she asked Kshitindra to salute Him and said, “He is the embodiment of all deities. He is your guru. I’ve offered you and your life at His holy feet.”
Kshitindra asked her, “Mother, how shall I look upon you?”
She replied, “Know that He and I are one and the same.”
All these events prove her divinity. In this world mother’s love is the best among all forms of human love. A  mother gives all kinds of loving service to her baby without expecting any return. Her only joy is to see the baby happy and comfortable.
Swami Vivekananda  used to say that unselfishness is God. By that definition, mother’s love cannot be considered divine because it still has a taint of selfishness in it. Therefore, to exemplity the motherhood of God, Sri Sarada Devi’s motherly love had to be totally selfless.
If we analyse, we shall discover that selfishness, which is the opposite of Godliness, is at the root of everything that we consider evil. But if selfishness is expanded infinitely it becomes unselfishness. For example, potassium cyanide is an extremely potent poison. We know that just one teaspoonful of potassium cyanide will surely kill a person. But if we dissolve that spoonful of poison in the water of the great lakes of Canada, it will become so diluted that it won’t harm anybody.
Similarly, if motherly love can be expanded to include all living beings, it becomes totally unselfish. It then becomes divine love.
Sri Sarada Devi’s motherly love was that kind of love.  To   her everyone was her child. Once   she said that      she   even looked upon Sri Ramakrishna as her child.
Jnan was from Sylhet in Eastern Bengal. As a young man he was very simple-hearted and naive. He did not know much about Sri Ramakrishna, what to speak of Sri Sarada Devi !
Once, when he visited Calcutta, he went to see Swami Arupananda, a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. The swami, who also hailed from Eastern Bengal, was known to Jnan.
Swami Arupananda was a disciple of Sri Sarada Devi. The swami introduced Jnan to her, who was then staying at the Udbodhan House in Calcutta. Later, when she went back to her native village Jayrambati,Jnan visited her there and had the good fortune of having spiritual initiation from her.
After initiating him, Sri Sarada Devi pointed to the photograph of Sri Ramakrishna, which was in her room, and asked Jnan to salute Him. But Jnan was reluctant to do so.
He said, “Why should I salute him? I don’t even know him !”
At this, Sri Sarada Devi was apparently displeased and said, “He is everything; He is the guru of this universe; He is everyone’s guru!”
But Jnan went on arguing. He said, “How can he be my guru? It’s you who have initiated me. You are my guru!”
Sri Sarada Devi said, “I am not any one’s guru, I am everyone’s mother!”
But Jnan said to her, “How can you be my mother? My own mother is at our home in Sylhet. She is still alive! ”
At this, Sri Sarada Devi said to Jnan, “I am that mother of yours. Please look at me carefully!” Then Jnan was utterly surprised to see that his own mother, who had given him birth, was seated in front of him. All his doubts were instantly dispelled, and in a spirit of total surrender  he prostrated himself before Sri Sarada Devi’s feet, having been fully convinced that she was not just his guru, but that she was his real mother; she was everyone’s mother; she was the Divine Mother of the universe!
Jnan later joined the Ramakrishna Order as a monk and came to be known as Swami Jnanananda.
Such    incidents reveal that Sri Sarada Devi was divinity in human form and her all-inclusive motherliness did not leave anyone out. She once said, “I am the mother of the good and also the mother of the wicked!”
The unending flow of her motherly love was not the least bit affected by seeing the defects of her children. Once one close devotee of Sri Ramakrishna requested Sri Sarada Devi not to allow a young man to come close to her. Obviously that young man had done something immoral.
But Sri Sarada Devi said, “If my child smears his body with dust and clay isn’t it I who have to clean him and put him on my lap?”
Her motherly love transcended the barriers of nationality, race or other cultural and social distinctions. India was then a colony of Great Britain and Indians were involved in the Independence Movement. They strongly resented the British rule and wanted to gain independence. Even during that politically agitated period the motherly heart of Sri Sarada Devi had nothing but love for the British. She would say, “Why? They (i.e. the British) are also my children!”
Her love was universal; it was not just showered on human beings alone. Even sub-human beings were not deprived of her all-encompassing motherly love.
Once Swami Arupananda asked her, ‘Are you the mother of all?” She replied, “Yes.”
The swami asked her again, “Are you the mother of these animals as well?”
She replied, “Yes, I am also their mother.”
This is why Sri Sarada Devi is the perfect symbol of motherhood. Seeing her, people can form some idea about the motherhood of God. When an incense stick is burnt to ashes in a temple, its lingering fragrance still   purifies the temple atmosphere. Sri Sarada Devi passed away on July 21, 1920.
But her unselfish motherly love, like the lingering fragrance of an incense stick, is still purifying the hearts of her children all over the world, and will go on doing so as long as this creation lasts.
 (Courtesy: Global Vedanta)
Article by : Swami Bhaskarananda
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 May 2011
To know more about Bhavan's Journal and to subscribe visit:

No comments:

Post a Comment