Sri Sarada Devi

saradadevi2Sri Sara­da Devi (1853–1920), rev­er­ent­ly called Holy Moth­er by devo­tees through­out the world, was mar­ried to Sri Rama­kri­shna, one of the great­est saints of India of mod­ern India. But the cou­ple nev­er con­sum­mat­ed their mar­riage, and Sri Sara­da Devi remained a nun, dis­ci­ple and Ramakrishna’s spir­i­tu­al suc­ces­sor. After the pass­ing away of the Mas­ter in 1886, Sara­da Devi said that she lived so long “to demon­strate to the world the Moth­er­hood of God,” which she real­ly did by giv­ing her uncon­di­tion­al love to one and all. She once said: “ I am the moth­er of the wicked as I am the moth­er of the vir­tu­ous. When you are in dis­tress, just say to your­self, ‘I have a mother.’”

If, as the Holy Moth­er once said, renun­ci­a­tion of “me” and “mine,” and greed and lust is Sri Ramakrishna’s spe­cial mes­sage for this age, then love is her own gospel. Her moth­er-heart exclud­ed no one but embraced Hin­dus and Mus­lims, saints and sin­ners, and the peo­ple of all races. She served Amjad, a Mus­lim and a con­vict­ed thief, as she served her oth­er devo­tees. In fact, she once said that “Amjad is as much my son as Sarat [Swa­mi Saradanan­da],” one of Sri Ramakrishna’s direct dis­ci­ples and her care­tak­er till her death.

Moth­er also gave refuge to the fall­en women whom soci­ety had cast away and had nowhere to go. She for­gave them for their past sins and even gave them ini­ti­a­tion. Besides, she was ever ready to voice against the abuse of women by their hus­bands. Once she heard the screams of a woman in a street out­side Udbod­han, her res­i­dence in Kolkat­ta. On com­ing to the bal­cony from the sec­ond floor to find the cause, she saw that a young man was beat­ing his wife for not prepar­ing his meal on time. Moth­er, oth­er­wise very bash­ful, spoke very loud­ly at the man, “Are you going to kill my daugh­ter?” The man got afraid and retreated.

In the orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture of Rama­kri­shna Math and Mis­sion, the Holy Moth­er didn’t have any offi­cial role, yet she was its undis­put­ed leader. Once Swa­mi Vivek­a­nanda fired one ser­vant because he stole some­thing. The poor man came to Mother’s house in Kolkata and explained to her the rea­son for his trans­gres­sion. Moth­er got him restored on the plea that monks and ser­vants couldn’t be judged by the same moral stan­dards. At anoth­er occa­sion, a Brah­machari was expelled from Belur Math for being quar­rel­some. He came to the Moth­er for help, and she inter­vened on his behalf too. When he went back to the Math with the Mother’s let­ter, Swa­mi Shiv­anan­da jok­ing­ly said, ‘so you went to the High Court!’ Tru­ly, she was indeed the one-per­son High Court of the Rama­kri­shna Order.

saradadevi1Although the Holy Moth­er gave no dis­cours­es, and sel­dom talked to her male dis­ci­ples direct­ly, she showed by her own exam­ple that cook­ing and clean­ing dish­es, serv­ing all those who were under her care, if done with the right atti­tude, atten­tion and devo­tion, were equal­ly worth­while activ­i­ties in the real­iza­tion of God. Once a woman came to receive some spir­i­tu­al instruc­tion from her. But the Holy Moth­er kept busy in her house­hold activ­i­ties. At last, the woman said, ‘Moth­er I came to get some spir­i­tu­al instruc­tion. But it seems that you are too busy to even speak to me.’ The Moth­er replied, ‘Have I not been giv­ing you spir­i­tu­al instruction?’

Holy Mother’s under­stand­ing of some of the sub­tle philo­soph­i­cal points of the Master’s teach­ings was superb. When Swa­mi Vivek­a­nanda came back from the West, some of his west­ern dis­ci­ples too came with him. These west­ern­ers were of non-dual­is­tic (Advai­ta) Vedan­ta tem­pera­ment. For such peo­ple, the Swa­mi had estab­lished an Ashra­ma at Maya­vati in the Himalayas. In the shrine of that Ashra­ma, no pic­ture of the Mas­ter was placed, nor was there any rit­u­al wor­ship, as is done at oth­er places. But one Brah­machari didn’t like that and placed Sri Ramakr­ish­na’s pic­ture there. Swa­mi Vivek­a­nanda saw that and rep­ri­mand­ed the Brah­machari. On return­ing to Kolkata, the lat­ter com­plained to the Holy Moth­er about the inci­dent. Instead of being shown appre­ci­a­tion, the Moth­er, too, rep­ri­mand­ed him and said, ‘the Mas­ter indeed was an Advaitist.’

Her last state­ment also, made to a devo­tee before her death, elo­quent­ly summed up not only her own life of silent lov­ing ser­vice but also how she want­ed us to live. “But let me tell you one thing. If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with oth­ers. Rather see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child, the whole world is your own.”

What a pro­found state­ment! Sri Rama­kri­shna used to say that a white cloth takes the col­or of the dye in which it is soaked. So, if we soak our mind in the dye of oth­ers’ faults, it will become taint­ed with those very faults that we see in oth­ers. Moth­er coun­seled her devo­tees to look inside their own selves. By doing so, they would dis­cov­er that some of the faults they see in oth­ers are in them too. That will make them hum­ble, for­giv­ing, sym­pa­thet­ic and under­stand­ing. She also coun­seled every­one to reg­u­lar­ly prac­tice spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines like prayers, rep­e­ti­tion of God’s name, and med­i­ta­tion. That will keep the mind pure and focused.

Her oth­er advice was not to look upon oth­ers as strangers. Our real nature is Atman, but by false­ly iden­ti­fy­ing our­selves with our body and mind, cre­ates sep­a­rate­ness. So Moth­er want­ed us to become aware of our divine nature, see God in every­thing, and become one with all. If we did that we won’t be strangers to one anoth­er, rather become a com­mu­ni­ty of broth­ers and sis­ters, inter­con­nect­ed and inter­de­pen­dent, and liv­ing in har­mo­ny and peace.