The Mother Divine
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(Sri Durga Charan Nag)
Nag- Mahashaya

One of The Main Householder Disciples Of Sri Ramakrishna
by Sarat Chandra Chakravarti

NAGMAHASHAYA now lived in his own house and began to serve his old father with care and affection. Dindayal was old and decrepit. He had to be nursed and taken care of; and Nagmahashaya used to attend on him with all the loving care of a faithful son. He would spare no pains in attending to all his comforts and wishes.

Once Dindayal expressed his regret saying, "Many people are worshipping the Divine Mother. If circumstances had allowed us, we also would have done so. But we are not so fortunate. Durgacharan has given up earning money." Nagmahashaya came to know of it and since that every time every year he used to arrange for celebrating the festivals of Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Jagaddhatri Puja and all the festivals of the Divine Mother in order to satisfy his father. He would give him no opportunity to divert his mind to worldly thoughts for a moment, for Nagmahashaya would be always reading scriptures, Bhagavata, Puranas, etc. before his father. Owing to the sincere and continued effort of the son, the mind of the father became gradually changed. Once when Nagmahashaya came to Calcutta to buy things for celebrating the Durga Puja, he told Suresh that his father was now quite changed. Thoughts of the world could not overcome him anymore and he was spending the whole time in thinking and talking of the Lord.

Eastern Bengal is a province noted for Tantric practices; miracles and miracle-mongering are more valued there than pure devotion. Swami Vivekananda once remarked, "Vaishnavism and Tantrism have a greater influence in Eastern Bengal, a province known for Vamachara and miracles." Sri Ramakrishna once asked Nagmahashaya, "Is there any famous Sadhu in your province?" Nagmahashaya replied that he never met with any real devotee. He had the impression that true devotees never take their birth in any region except where the holy Ganges flows. Good logicians or learned people there may be, but unless one is born in a place near the banks of the Ganga pure devotion cannot grow in men.

Before Nagmahashaya came to settle in his house, Natobar Goswami and the famous Bijoy Krishna Goswami were preaching the doctrine of pure devotion in Eastern Bengal. Nagmahashaya knew that Bijoy was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna. After he came to his native village, Nagmahashaya had to go once to Dacca on a certain business, and he took this opportunity of meeting Bijoy. Bijoy did not know Nagmahashaya, but by the power of his keen insight acquired through devotional practices, he understood that some great personality had come there in the form of that mad man with a ragged look. And in the course of their conversation when it became known that Nagmahashaya was a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Bijoy Krishna's joy knew no bounds. He embraced him as one of his dearest and nearest relatives and showed his respect and love for him. Nagmahashaya was also much pleased to see Bijoy but he remarked, "It is very strange that Bijoy seeks for other Sadhus even after he has seen the Master. What to speak of others, when a great man like Bijoy could be cheated and misguided!" Having heard that Bijoy would sit before Sri Ramakrishna and meditate closing his eyes, Girish Babu once remarked, "What a peculiar fellow he must be, who would sit with closed eyes before him on whom one ought to look with eyes open and fixed." Mentioning it, Nagmahashaya used to speak highly of Girish Babu's wisdom and learning, and would bow down before him saying, "Glory to Sri Ramakrishna! Glory to our Lord!"

The Brahmacharin of Baradi had a great name and influence in Eastern Bengal. At the request of Bramananda Bharati, a disciple of the Brahmacharin, Nagmahashaya once went to Baradi to see him. Brahmananda was formerly known as Tarakanta Gangopadhyaya. Tarakanta was pleader and had a good income. He took delight in prayers and meditation and in serving the Sadhus. At last he gave up his practice and spent most of his time in devotional practices. Tarakanta used to go to Nagmahashaya often and at times he lived with him for days. He began latterly to visit the Brahmacharin and to give himself out sometimes as a disciple of the Brahmacharin and at other times as his Guru in his previous incarnation. One day Tarakanta came to Nagmahashaya and said that he remembered his previous birth and that he could travel to the higher regions, namely, the Chandraloka, Suryaloka, Brahmaloka, and so on, and added that righteousness and iniquity are all false and that knowledge alone is true. Finding so much change in Tarakanta, Nagmahashaya remarked, "Even Sadhakas of high rank are misled if they do not get a real Guru or preceptor." Tarakanta would often request Nagmahashaya to go and see the Brahmacharin. Being this repeatedly requested, Nagmahashaya once gave his consent. As he was going to see a Sadhu, he took with him some sweets and fruits. Upon his arrival, he presented them to the Brahmacharin, but he did not touch any of these. There stood a bull by him, and he gave away everything to the bull. Seeing Nagmahashaya's lean figure, disheveled hair, ragged look and pure dress, the Brahmacharin began to crack jokes at him. But Nagmahashaya was all the time sitting with his head bent down. Finding him indifferent to all jokes, the Brahmacharin got more excited and began to tell all sorts of lies about Sri Ramakrishna. Nagmahashaya could not bear it any longer. He was ablaze with anger. Suddenly he looked up and saw the dreadful figure of a Bhairava of black-brown complexion who appeared before him and begged his permission to throw down the Brahmacharin. At once he checked his passion and began to strike his head against the floor repenting, "Ah! my Lord! why did I disregard your commandment and come to see the Sadhu? Why did such a weakness come over me at all!" Then he began to run from the place, crying, "O Ramakrishna! O my Lord!" When he went out of the sight of the Brahmacharin, he proceeded slowly. On his return home he determined not to go any more to any Sadhu. If anybody would talk of going to meet any Sadhu, he would say, "Oh my mind! Remain within yourself. Don't go to anybody's doors."

Another disciple of the Brahmacharin used to visit Nagmahashaya. After the above incident, one day he came and informed Nagmahashaya that the Brahmacharin had cursed him so that he would die in a year by vomiting blood. Nagmahashaya laughed off the whole matter. One year passed and still there was no effect of the curse. At this the disciple lost faith in his 'Guru and became an ardent devotee of Nagmahashaya. That gentleman made much progress in his life by following the path of Bhakti. Nagmahashaya used to say, "The Brahmacharin of Baradi has spoiled the brains of good many householders by preaching to them his half-digested doctrine of Vedanta."

Nagmahashaya would never be moved by any worldly upset; but he would lose all patience if anybody spoke ill of his Master. A gentleman of Narayangunj once spoke all sorts of lies against Sri Ramakrishna. Nagmahashaya requested him very politely to refrain from doing so, but the more he began to beseech him, the more unrestrained became the other man's abuse of Sri Ramakrishna. Nagmahashaya once more told him, "Please do not tell lies against the Master." But the man persisted. At last Nagmahashaya got excited and said, "Get out of my house, or else you will have to suffer for it." Even this did not bring the man to his senses. He went on with his tirade till it exhausted Nagmahashaya's patience at last. Losing all self-control, Nagmahashaya beat this man in wild fury with a pair of shoes on his back and said, "Get out of this place at once, you rascal. Sitting here you dare speak ill of my Master!" The person concerned was a man of position and influence at Deobhog. While he was going away after being thus beaten, he threatened Nagmahashaya saying, "What a Sadhu you are! you will soon taste the bitter retribution." Nagmahashaya did not pay any heed to his words but said, "O Lord! Why dost Thou bring such persons who speak ill of Thee? Fie upon this household life!" Nagmahashaya controlled himself in a short time. The gentleman again came to him a few days after and begged pardon of him. Nagmahashaya thought no more of the event but received him very kindly and cheered him up. Girish Babu heard of this incident and when Nagmahashaya came to Calcutta and asked him, "Well, you don't put on shoes; where could you get a shoe to beat the man?" Nagmahashaya replied, "Why, I beat him with his own shoes." Then he bowed down before Girish Chandra Ghosh, saying, "Glory to Sri Ramakrishna! Glory to our Lord!" Girish said, "Nagmahashaya is verily a hooded Naga (snake)!"

One day Nagmahashaya was going to the Belur Math. He had to cross the Ganges on a ferry boat. There were people of various temperaments in the boat. Nagmahashaya took his seat in one corner. When the boat came to a certain distance, the Math building was in sight, and Nagmahashaya with folded palms made obeisance to the Math house. Finding him thus showing reverence, one passenger began to criticize the Math people and its ways and customs. Two or three others joined him with enthusiasm. Nagmahashaya could not tolerate anymore. He got excited and said, "You know only to satisfy your craving for lust and god! What do you know of the Math? Fie upon your tongue that spoke ill of the saints." Those people got terrified and asked the boatman to land the boat very soon; and they fled away lest they should be cursed for their showing disregard to the Sadhus. Hearing the incident, Swami Vivekananda remarked, "Yes, that kind of hissing as Nagmahashaya did, is required at times."

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "When the flower blooms, bees come of their own accord." When the Divine wisdom truly dawns in the heart of a person it never fails to spread its charm and luster around, and real seekers after truth, on their own, gather round him. So do we find in the life of Nagmahashaya too. From about this time, earnest devotees and genuine God-seekers began to flock to Nagmashaya from all part of the country. His name spread far and wide. Nagmahashaya told his wife, "Sri Ramakrishna's last words of benediction have now been fulfilled. Those that would come here must be true seekers of God -- so I was told by the Master. Serve them with all care and devotion. God will bless you."

Whoever went to see him, Nagmahashaya would never permit to leave without having partaken of some light refreshment at his house. And again, he had to arrange for beds and lodging even for those who came from distant places. He set apart a separate room for them so that they might live there as long as they liked. Everybody in the family felt an uncommon warmth and zeal in receiving guests. Dindayal would say, "If a devotee even snatches his meal by force, or by guile, the host goes to heaven as a result. Indeed, it is my great fortune that so many devotees come to my poor cottage and take their meals here." Nagmahashaya used to say, "This is all the 'play' (Lila) of the Lord. He appeared as a distinct individual while embodied in human form, and now it is He that comes again to bless me in different forms." Truly, he could see the Lord in all beings, and so served his guests as Narayana.

One day Nagmahashaya was suffering from acute colic pain. It was unbearable and it made him lose his consciousness at times. All on a sudden some eight or ten guests came to his house without any previous intimation. There was not a grain of rice in his house. What could be done? He went out to the market even in that state of ill-health. While carrying the bag of rice on his own shoulder from the market -- for he never allowed anybody to carry his things -- the pain increased, and he fell down on the road side. But he cared not for himself and was lamenting, "O Lord, how ill-fated I am! Why has this befallen me today! Narayanas have come to my house. Ah! it is getting late to serve them with food! Wretched indeed is this cage of bone and flesh -- this body that stands in my way of serving the Lord today." After a while, when the pain subsided a little, he went to his house with the bag. He bowed down before his guests and begged humbly their pardon for being so late in serving them.

Once, it was the rainy season, and it so happened that two guests came to his house. The weather was very stormy, and it was pouring heavily that night. Nagmahashaya had only four rooms, of which again three were in such dilapidated condition as could afford no shelter from the rains. The thatched roofs were letting in the rain through their thousand holes. The remaining one only was in good condition, and Nagmahashaya used to sleep in it. Now, the guests finished their supper, but where could they pass the night? Nagmahashaya called his wife and said, "Look here, by the Lord's will we are very fortunate indeed! Come, let us patiently bear a little inconvenience tonight for the sake of these Narayanas. Let us pass the night sitting at the porch and uttering the holy name of the Lord." So they vacated the room for the guests and passed the night in the porch in meditation and prayer.

Nagmahashaya had no fixed monthly income, nor had he a fixed expenditure. The profit from the salt contract varied from time to time, while the number of guests went on increasing. Consequently, he was often in want of provisions. But whenever he felt the want, he got the things on credit from some known shopkeepers of Narayangunj, and at the end of the year he would clear his debts, as far as possible, by the money Ranjit used to send him from Calcutta.

The respect Nagmahashaya used to command among the shopkeepers, did not fall to the lot of many rich men even. Nagmahashaya got more articles than other customers for the same price. But if he knew of it, he refused to accept the favor and urged the shop-keeper to give him only as much as he would give to others for the price. It was a habit with him to buy his stores only from one particular shop and he could never haggle about the price of articles. He accepted things at the price first mentioned, but he was seldom cheated. He used to say, "If one has devotion to Truth, the Truth itself protects him. He basks in the grace of God." Indeed, he was known for his saintliness to all, and no one dared or liked to cheat him. Moreover he had that fascinating amiability of nature which won admiration and devotion from all. It happened many a time that he went to buy things from a new shop, and the shop-keeper, not knowing who he was, demanded at first an exorbitant price. But subsequently, struck by Nagmahashaya's ready acquiescence to pay the demanded price, and his uncommonly amiable manners, he would climb down and whisper a special concession price into Nagmahashaya's ears, or dole out double the quantity required for the price. Besides, he had credit of another kind in the market. It was the general belief with the shop-keepers of the place, that if they could sell their articles to him first at the opening of the day, they would gain more by the day's sale. So when he went to the market, each dealer would urge him to take his articles.

Sometimes, not only had he to feed his guests and look to their comforts even to the minutest details, but also had to defray their traveling expenses. Once a certain person came to visit him and fell ill. Nagmahashaya nursed him with all tender care, and subsequently when he had recovered a little, Nagmahashaya engaged a boat and sent him home, paying all the expenses of the passage. Such things happened not infrequently.

But owing to such unrestrained expenditure, Nagmahashaya had to run into debt. Some of his devotees wanted to pay off his debts, but he sternly refused to accept their proffered help. When Swami Vivekananda, after his return from America, heard of Nagmahashaya's debts and desired to clear them, Nagmahashaya greatly objected to it, saying, "It is enough that the Sannyasins confer their blessings on me. Somehow or other, through weal or woe, my family would be maintained only by the money that is being given by Messrs. Pals." If any of his friends or devotees would express anxiety about his debts, he would at once retort, "Never mind, I would starve even, if I do not get anything. Still I cannot forsake the Dharma of a householder. Pray don't bother yourself with such trashy nonsense. Let Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna do what He deems best with me!"

Nagmahashaya never used to keep any servant for his house. While he stayed at home, it was not possible even to have the necessary repairing done to his house. He could not bear to see the coolies or masons work for him. So when he was away from his house, his wife used to have the roofs rethatched, and have the other necessary repairs and renovations attended to. Once Nagmahashaya stayed at home continually for a long time, and so for want of timely repairs, all the rooms became almost unfit for use. Nagmahashaya's wife called a contractor to have the roofs rethatched. As soon as the man entered the house, Nagmahashaya cried out in anguish, as if something very heinous was about to be perpetuated there. First, he himself prepared a nice chillum of tobacco and offered it to the mason to smoke; and afterwards when the mason got up on the roof and began to work in the sun, the sight was too much for Nagmahashaya to bear. He asked the mason with earnest solicitude to stop work and get down. But when he saw the mason continue his work without paying heed to his beseeching, he could not contain himself. He wailed, as if in blighting agony, "O Lord, why hast Thou ordered me to remain in the house and lead this wretched householder's life! Ah me, I have to witness this sight -- others laboring for my comforts! Fie on this householder's life!" and so saying he began to beat his forehead and breast. Seeing his agony, the mason had to stop work at last and get down from the roof. Nagmahashaya at once ran to him, offered him another chillum of tobacco and began to serve him with all the devotion of a loving servant. Afterwards he paid the mason his full day's wages and sent him home.

When Nagmahashaya went anywhere by boat, he would never allow the boatman to row; he himself used to ply the oars or punt. Sometimes others passengers of the boat would try to dissuade him. But he seldom paid any heed to the other's exhortation. Therefore seldom would a boatman of his place take him into his boat. The illiterate boatswains used to consider it a sin to allow a saintly person like Nagmahashaya to do the punting or sculling while they were in the boat. During the rainy season, the whole of Deobhog village would remain in a quasi-submerged condition. No one could go from one house to another without the help of a boat. So in that village almost every house owned a boat. But Nagmahashaya had none in the wet seasons; he had to remain almost confined to his house, and at times he must have felt the want very keenly, inasmuch as he had to provide himself with all the necessary articles of consumption beforehand. His wife used to look after this part of the business with the help of the neighbors.

Every evening Nagmahashaya used to hold the vesper service and Aratrikam before the picture of Sri Ramakrishna. On those days when devotees congregated in his house, there used to be Sankeertanam. Nagmahashaya seldom took part in it. He used to sit in a corner and prepare chillums of tobacco for the congregation. But his presence would infuse an uncommon inspiration into the Keertanam. When the Keertanam was over, he used to chant loudly the name of Sri Ramakrishna and lose his whole mind and soul in the chant.
Not only in Sankeertanam, but also on all other occasions of worship and ceremonies there used to be an exuberant display of Bhakti in the house of Nagmahashaya. Once a devotee named Sarat Chandra Chakravarti went to his place on the Saraswathi Puja day. On being asked to do so, the devotee read out to Nagmahashaya a portion of the Upanishads and gave two or three interpretations of certain passages according to the different commentators. Hearing the whole thing, Nagmahashaya remarked, "All the interpretations are true. Different Acharyas commented differently to suit the needs and capacities of different Adhikaris. So the commentators are not at fault. Further, he cited the parable of the chameleon told by Sri Ramakrishna and said, "God is of infinite forms. One describes Him just as he understands Him. No one can assert exclusively that this alone is His true Being." Next pointing to the image of Saraswathi on the altar he remarked, "That is also true. On, how many did attain the final liberation by worshipping these gods and goddesses!" and so saying he bowed before the image several times. The priest was engaged then in worshipping the goddess with all the requirements of a grand ceremonial worship, and the shrine and surroundings wore an appearance of celestial solemnity bathed in divine joy. Nagmahashaya rose up again and exclaimed, "Mother is the embodiment of knowledge itself! Without Her grace none can get across the ocean of nescience (Avidya) ! The Mother has made me ignorant and brought me into this insignificant Sudra family! I am not authorized to read the Sastras! So please bless me by reading and explaining the Sastras to me!" Seeing his uncommon devotion to gods and goddesses it crossed the mind of the devotee that perhaps Nagmahashaya had attained some realization only about gods and goddesses; and that perhaps he had not realized Brahman. While such ideas were agitating his mind, Nagmahashaya suddenly disappeared from the place, and could not be found anywhere. After sometime, when the devotee came out of the house in search of Nagmahashaya, he found him almost in transport, standing alone underneath a mango tree. The devotee went and stood by his side; then Nagmahashaya said in a deep tone as if from the depth of his reverie, "Forsooth, is my Mother confined only within that image of clay and straw? She is the infinite Satchidanandamayi. My Mother is the Supreme Knowledge Itself." So saying, he lost himself again in deep Samadhi and it lasted almost half an hour.

Often he used to fall into Samadhi and remain in that state sometimes for hours. On some days this lasted for such a long time as to make his people feel anxious for his life.