The Master's Selfless Love and Narendranath
(b. December 23, 1865 - d. August 19, 1927)
[TOPICS: 1. The extraordinary experiences of Narendra in his early life. 2. Narendra's direct experience of the Master's divine powers. 3. Narendra's fitness for spirituality. 4. The Master's attraction for Narendra. 5. The Master's attempt to give Narendra the Knowledge of Brahman on the very first day. 6. The difference between Narendra's wonderful experience of the first and the second day. 7. The Master's apprehension about Narendra. 8. Why the Master was attracted to Narendra. 9. This attraction was but natural and inevitable. 10. The Master's love for Narendra was unworldly. 11. Swami Premananda's testimony about that love. 12. Swami Premananda's first visit to Dakshineswar. 13. His experience of the Master's solicitude for Narendra. 14. Vaikunthanath on the Master's love for Narendra. 15. Narendra unmoved by it.]
1. Narendranath, as we have already said, was born with very rare and noble tendencies. This fact accounts for a number of unusual experiences he used to have even before he visited the Master. We narrate here a few of them as examples. Narendra said: "I used to see all my life a wonderful point of light between my eyebrows, as soon as I shut my eyes in order to go to sleep, and I used to observe attentively its various changes. So that it might be convenient to see it, I used to lie on my bed in the way people bow down touching the ground with their foreheads. The extraordinary point kept changing its colours and increasing in size, became gradually converted into the form of a ball, and bursting at last, covered my body from head to foot with white liquid light. As soon as that happened, I lost consciousness and fell asleep. I believed that all people went to sleep that way. I was long under that impression. When I grew up and began to practise meditation, that point of light used to come before me, as soon as I closed my eyes, and then I concentrated my mind on it. In those days I daily practised meditation with a few friends according to the instruction of Maharshi Devendranath. We talked among ourselves about the nature of visions and experiences that each of us had. At that time I came to know from what they said that they never had the vision of such a light and that none of them went to sleep in that way.
Again, since my childhood, it happened sometimes that when I saw a thing, place or person, I had the impression that I was very familiar with it or him; I thought I had seen it or him somewhere before. I tried to recollect, but failed. But that could never convince me that I had not seen them before. This happened very often. Perhaps I was in the company of friends in some place and there was a discussion on a certain subject; at that time someone made a remark and immediately I remembered, 'Ah! I have had talks on this subject with them in this house long before and this person made the same remark at that time also. I tried to recollect, but could not make out when and where I had talked thus with them. When I came to know of the doctrine of rebirth, I thought I might perhaps have been acquainted with those places and persons during a previous life and that a partial recollection of them sometimes came to my mind in that manner. I was afterwards convinced that such a conclusion on the subject was not reasonable. Now *1 it appears to me that before I was born I must have somehow seen, as a cinematographic film, those persons with whom I was to be familiar in this life, and a memory of these arose in my mind from time to time after I was born."
2. It was on hearing of the pure life and of the ecstasy of the Master from many people*2 that Narendranath came to see him. He then never imagined even in dream that when he saw him, he would undergo any mental change or have any wonderful experience. But events proved otherwise. The experiences he had had before seemed to be commonplace and trifling compared with the extraordinary ones he had on these two days of his second a third visits to the Master. His uncommon intelligence had to accept defeat when he tried to fathom the depth of the Master's personality — the knotty problem seemed to elude solution. For he could find not an iota of reason to doubt that it was through the inscrutable divine power of the Master that he had had those wonderful experiences. And the more he mused on it, the greater grew his amazement.
3. One is simply flabbergasted when one thinks of the wonderful experience Narendra had during his second visit to the Master. Such an experience, according to the scriptures, occurs in the life of an ordinary person as the result of long practice of austerities and renunciation; and when it appears somehow, the man is beside himself with joy to feel the manifestation of God in the Guru, and entirely surrenders himself to him. It is no small surprise that Narendra did not do so. It can be accounted for only by accepting his extraordinary spiritual capacities. He did not altogether lose himself, only because he ranked very high in regard to spiritual fitness. And it was because of this uncommon fitness of his that he could restrain himself so wonderfully. What was more, he engaged himself for a very long time in testing the extraordinary character and behaviour of the Master and in ascertaining their cause. But, although he could check himself and did not completely surrender to the Master, it is an undeniable fact that he was greatly attracted towards him.
4. The Master on his part felt a strong attraction for Narendra from the day they met. Possessed of the immediate knowledge of Brahman, the high-minded Guru became restless owing to an anxious eagerness to pour all the realizations of his spiritual life into the mind of the very worthy disciple, as soon as he met him. That profound eagerness cannot be measured. That unmotivated restlessness, free from the slightest tinge of selfishness, occurs in fulfilment of the divine will in the minds of the Gurus who are perfectly poised and contented in the Self alone. It is under this kind of higher impulsion that world teachers impart the saving knowledge to worthy disciples and help them shake off the shackles of desire and attain to perfection.*3
5. There is no doubt that the Master felt inclined to induct Narendra at once into ecstasy, thus making him a knower of Brahman on the very first day he came alone to Dakshineswar. For when, three or four years after this, Narendra surrendered completely to the Master and was again and again praying to him to grant him Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the Master would allude to this event and say jestingly to him in our presence, "Why? Did you not then say that you have parents to serve?" "Look here," said he another time, "a man died and became a ghost. He lived alone for a long time and sorely felt the need of a companion Whenever he heard that a man had met with an accident and died he ran to the spot thinking that he could gel the much-needed companion; for the belief is that people who meet with death in this way turn into ghosts. But the ghost found much to his chagrin that the dead man was saved from becoming a ghost either by the touch of the water of the Ganga or by some other purifying agency. So he had to return every time quite disconsolate and was forced to live a lonely life. The poor fellow's want of a companion was never satisfied. I am also exactly in that position. On seeing you, I thought, 'this time perhaps I shall have a companion.' But you too said that you had your parents. So I could not have a companion." Thus would the Master refer to that day's event and very often jest with Narendra.
6. Noting the terrible fear gripping Narendra's mind when he was at the point of attaining Samadhi, the Master ceased making further efforts to raise his mind to that high level for the time being. The Master's mind was, however, assailed by doubts. He doubted the truth of the visions and the experiences he had had about Narendra some time previously. This is, we guess, the reason why he overwhelmed him with his power, when Narendra came to Dakshineswar for the third time, and knew from him many secrets of his life. His anxiety was removed only when he found Narendra's answers to his questions tallying exactly with his own visions. This proves that Narendra did not have the same kind of ecstasy at Dakshineswar on both the days.
7. After the test the Master was free from anxiety in a way; out some apprehension was still lurking in his mind. For, Narendra, the Master saw, had in him in full measure, the eighteen qualities or manifestations of power, the possession of even one or two of which enables a man to acquire extraordinary fame and influence in the world. This concentration of powers, he apprehended, would lead to an undesirable contrary result, if Narendra failed to direct them properly into the spiritual channel by realizing the ultimate truth about God, man and the world. If that should happen, Narendra would found a new sect or religion and be famous in the world like other spiritual leaders or prophets. But in that case, it would not be possible for him first to realize himself and then disseminate the grand catholic truth of the spiritual world the realization and propagation of which were the crying needs of the modern age, and the world would thus be deprived of its greatest blessing. Therefore, there arose then an ardent desire in the Master's heart that Narendra should follow him in all respects, and like him, have the immediate knowledge of the grand spiritual truths for revealing the same to the world. The Master used to say, 'Just as water-weeds are seen to grow in pools, small ponds, etc., where there is no current of water, so sects confined within narrow circles arise whenever man remains content with partial spiritual truths, regarding them as the whole." One is surprised to think in how many ways the Master tried to make Narendra a fit recipient of the perfect truth, lest possessed of extraordinary intelligence and mental qualities as he was, he should go astray and form a sect of his own.
8. This strange and strong attraction of the Master for Narendra, which he had from their very first meeting, did not abate and assume a natural state till he was convinced that there was no more possibility of Narendra going astray in the manner mentioned above. A little reflection on this phenomenon clearly shows that some of its causes were rooted in the Master's extraordinary visions about Narendra, and others in the fear lest, coming under the influence of the modern age, he should willingly take upon himself some such bondage as the desire for a wife, wealth, or fame, and fail even partially to fulfil the ultimate aim of his great life.
9. As a result of the Master's long period of Sadhana and renunciation his limited individual consciousness disappeared and he became eternally identified in consciousness with the cause of the universe and felt the Lord's work of doing good to humanity as his own. Through the power of this knowledge, he came to know that it was the will of the benign, all-pervading Person that the very great work of removing the causes of the decline of religion in the modern age should be accomplished with his body and mind as the instruments. And it was through the power of the same knowledge that he knew that Narendra was not born to secure some puny little selfish end of his own, but had come down on earth, out of intense love of God, to help him in the work of doing good to humanity. Is it, therefore, surprising that he should regard the selfless, eternally free Narendra as supremely his 'own' and be strongly attracted towards him? Strange though it might appear to superficial observers, this attraction of the Master for Narendra would appear quite natural and inevitable to an observer with a penetrating eye and a knowledge of the background described above.
10. It is beyond our power to give an indication of how intensely the Master regarded Narendranath as his own and how deeply he loved him from the day he met him first. The reasons that prompt worldly people to regard others as their own and bestow their love on them were conspicuous by their absence in this case. And yet we have never seen anywhere anything comparable to the joy felt by the Master in the company of Narendra or of anxiety when separated from him. Nor had we before any idea of how a man could love another so intensely without the intervention of any selfish motives. When we saw the Master's wonderful love for Narendra, we were convinced that the world was sure to witness the day when man would realize the manifestation of God in man and feel blessed by pouring out truly selfless love on that manifestation.
11. Swami Premananda came for the first time to the Master shortly after Narendra had come to be with him. For some reason, Narendra could not come to Dakshineswar for about a week or so. Premananda was simply amazed to see the Master's agonizing pain of separation from Narendra and used to describe it to us on many occasions.
12. He said once, "Swami Brahmananda and I went to the Haltkhola Ghat to take a boat, when I saw Ramdayal Babu there. Knowing that he was also going to Dakshineswar, we got into a boat together, and it was almost dusk when we reached Rani Rasmani's Kali temple. We came to the Master's room and were told that he had gone to the temple to pay obeisance to the Mother of the Universe. Asking us to stay there, Swami Brahmananda went towards the temple to bring him. I saw him holding the Master very carefully and coming with him, saying, 'Steps, — go up here, go down there' and so on. I had already heard that the Master used to become overwhelmed with emotions and lose normal consciousness. Therefore, I knew that he was in ecstasy when I saw him thus coming, reeling like a drunken man. Entering the room in that state, he sat on the small bedstead. Coming shortly afterwards to the normal state, he asked me a few questions about myself and my relations, and began to examine the features of my face, hands, feet, etc. He held in his hand for some time my forearm from the elbow to the fingers to feel its weight and then said, 'Nice'. He alone knew what he understood by that. Then he asked Ramdayal Babu about Narendra's health. Hearing that he was all right, the Master said, 'It is long since he came here. I should very much like to see him. Please ask him to come once.'
13. "A few hours were delightfully spent in religious talks. We took our meal at 10 p.m. and lay down in the verandah to the east of the Master's room and to the north of the courtyard. Beds were arranged for the Master and Swami Brahmananda in the room. Scarcely had an hour passed, when he came out from his room, with his cloth under his armpit, to our bedside, and addressing Ramdayal Babu, said affectionately, 'Are you sleeping?' Both of us sat up hurriedly on our beds and said, 'No, Sir.' The Master said, 'Look here, as I have not seen Narendra for a long time, I feel as if my whole soul is being forcibly wrung like a wet towel. Please ask him to come once and see me. He is a person of pure Sattva, he is Narayana Himself; I cannot have peace of mind if I don't see him now and then.' Ramdayal Babu had been frequenting Dakshineswar for some time past. The boy-like nature of the Master was not, therefore, unknown to him. Seeing that boy-like behaviour of the Master, he knew that he was in ecstasy. He tried to console him, saying that he would see Narendra as soon as it was morning and ask him to come. But that mood of the Master was not at all alleviated that night. Knowing that we were having no rest, he would retire to his room now and then for some time. But the next moment he would forget this and come to us again and begin to speak of Narendra's good qualities, expressing pathetically the terrible anguish of his mind on account of Narendra's long absence. Seeing that terrible pang of separation of his, I was astonished and thought, 'How wonderful is his love! And how hard-hearted that person must be for whom he entertains such a poignant longing that compels him to behave in so pathetic a manner! The night passed that way. In the morning we went to the temple and paid our obeisance to the Divine Mother. Then wing down at the feet of the Master, took leave of him and returned to Calcutta."
14. Once in the year 1883, Sri Vaikunthanath Sannyal, a friend of ours, came to Dakshineswar and saw the Master extremely anxious, because Narendranath had not come for a long time. Sannyal said, "The Master's mind was filled to the brim by Narendra, as it were; he spoke of nothing else but Narendra's good qualities. Narendra,' said he addressing me, is a man of pure Sattva; He is one of the four of the 'Abode of the Invisible' and one of the seven Rishis. *4 There is no limit to his good qualities.' Saying so, the Master became much worried and was shedding incessant tears like a mother separated from her child. Seeing him unable to control himself, we were rather puzzled about the significance of all his behaviour. Just then he went with rapid steps to the verandah to the north of his room. After weeping bitterly for some time, he sobbed out with a choked voice, 'Ah! I cannot do without seeing him!' Controlling himself a little, he now came into the room and sat down beside us, saying pathetically, I wept so much, but Narendra did not come. The longing to see him had produced a terrible anguish, as if my heart were being wrung; but he does not at all realize the intensity of the attraction I feel for him.' Saying so, he became worried again and went out of the room. Returning a little later, he said, 'What will they think on seeing that I, a man of such advanced age, am weeping and panting so much for him? You, however, being my own people, I don't feel ashamed in your presence. But what will others think when they see this? But by no means can I control myself.' We were speechless to see the Master's love for Narendra. We thought Narendra must be a god-like person. Why otherwise should the Master be so much attracted towards him? We then said, consoling him, 'Ah, it is indeed wrong of him, Sir. He knows you feel so much pain on account of his absence, and still he does not come.' Shortly after this event, one day he introduced me to Narendra. I saw that the Master was as delighted when united with Narendra as he was worried when separated from him. We went later to Dakshineswar on the Master's birthday. The devotees that day adorned him beautifully—dressed him up in new attire, and adorned him with flower-garlands, sandal-paste, etc. Kirtan was being sung in the new verandah to the east of his room, near the garden. Surrounded by the devotees, the Master listened to the Kirtan, now entering into ecstasy, now making the Kirtan interesting by improvising extempore a line or two. But he could not enjoy the bliss fully on account of the absence of Narendra. He looked around from time to time and said to us, 'Narendra, I see, has not come.' At about noon Narendra came and bowed down at his feet in the assembly of the devotees. As soon as the Master saw him, he jumped up, sat on his shoulders and went into ecstasy. Afterwards coming to the normal state, he engaged himself in conversing with, and feeding, him. He listened to the Kirtan no more that day."
15. One is surprised to think of that intense and unearthly love, of which Narendra was the recipient from the Master. One can clearly understand how strong Narendra's love for truth was, when one finds that in spite of that unusual and ceaseless shower of selfless love, he remained firm and unmoved, and went forward to test the Master at every step, so that he might attain the wholly unalloyed truth. Surprising as this was on the one hand, the Master's magnanimity and absence of egoism were no less amazing on the other. When one finds that, instead of feeling wounded on account of that unbecoming attitude of Narendra, he submitted himself gladly to be tested in order that the disciple might have the satisfaction of realizing spiritual truths thoroughly investigated and verified by himself—one's surprise simply transcends all limits. Thus the more we study the relation of the Master with Narendra, the more are we charmed on the one hand to see the determination of the latter to accept all things only after testing them, and on the other, to witness the eagerness of the former to bring home high spiritual truths to the disciple even though it meant standing the humiliation of tests and criticism. Through such a study we can understand how a true Guru teaches a highly qualified disciple by keeping intact the latter's spiritual attitudes, and how thereby the former comes at last to occupy for ever a place of high regard and reverence in the heart of the disciple.
2 When he came to Dakshineswar, Narendra, we said before, was about to appear for the F.A. examination from the General Assembly's Institution, Calcutta. The liberal-minded scholar, Mr. Hastie, was then the Principal of the college. Narendranath had great regard for this English gentleman for his many-sided genius, pure life, and his loving behaviour towards the students. One day as the professor of literature fell suddenly ill, Mr. Hastie came to teach literature to the F.A. students In the course of a discussion on the poems of Wordsworth, he made mention of the Poet's going into a trance when he (the poet) experienced the beauty of Nature. As the students did not understand what a trance was, he explained it to them properly and at last said, "That state is produced by purity of mind and its concentration on one particular object. A person fit for such a state is rarely seen. I have seen Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Dakshineswar attain that state among contemporaries. You will understand it if you go and see once that state of his." Hearing thus of the Master for the first time from Mr. Hastie, Narendra saw the Master first at Surendra's house. Again, as he frequented the Brahmo Samaj, he might have heard of him there also.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.