The Mother Divine
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Puranjoy Roy Bandopadhyaya, M.A.
It was a Saturday in June last. I had occasion to go to Calcutta and attend a meeting of the Sangha. It was there that I heard of the Master’s proposed visit to Bolepur on June 28, which was the Guru Purnima Day. At the eager desire of the President of the Sangha a special programme had been drawn up for the day. The Guru Purnima Day, incidentally, happened to be the anniversary day of our Sangha: the first celebration of our foundation day came off on that day last year and that at the Master’s order. No wonder that the Day had a special significance for us. And the President, for one, would not miss the chance of celebrating it in a befitting manner this year too. Our preparations of course were none too magnificent. But then the sanctity of the day and the privilege it would give us of worshipping the Master’s feet might make of our humble preparations something really grand. That at any rate was the hope of the president and many of our members too. But it did not occur to me. So I had no plan of going over to Bolepur to participate in the function. But my brothers, headed by Sachinda insisted. “We must have you with us, Dada”, they demanded. My reluctance persisted still. For one thing, I was not physically fit. It was with misgivings, therefore, that I replied “I shall try. I do feel tempted.”

On the way back from Calcutta, the President reminded me again, “Remember the Guru Purnima Day. Who can tell when we many have again such another chance of worshipping the Master’s feet!” The words rang in my ears. The Guru Purnima Day! A sacred day! A day of days indeed! How it will ring with festive joy, with the Master in our midst! How loud it will be with shouts of the joy of our celebration! The Guru Purnima Day! Life attains to its fullness by the Guru’s grace. Life’s cup becomes full to the brim with the Grace of the Guru. It is the Guru alone who is Fulfilled! He alone is capable of conferring Fulfillment on us. The day of his worship is therefore a day of special sanctity.

At last my mind was made up.

On the appointed day I arrived at Magra and was delighted to find Acharya Shankar too, ready for the journey. He, President Dr. Ghosh and I left by Gaya Passenger at 1-30 a.m. When the train halted at Burdwan it would be gathered that the Master was in the same train with us. It was dawn when we got to Bolepur station. In a moment we found devotees and disciples, with flags in their hands and the Name on their lips crowding around the Master. They would not leave the platform without bowing at Master’s feet. And that surely would take a pretty long time. So we walked quietly out and waited. There we met Sachin-da, Jiten-da and many other brothers, waiting for the Master with conveyance. There were among others, Sri Sushil Kumar Bandopadhyaya, one of the Master’s most distinguished disciples, and Prof. Ramendu Dutta with mother and aunt. There too was the Master’s “Lakshmi Ma” and that great devotee Sri Krishna Murti, who had come all the way from Rajole (in Andhra) to Bengal on foot, with no companion and little means of subsistence during his long course of pilgrimage. There, finally, was our host Sri Saktipada Chakrabarti at whose invitation the Master was out to pay this august visit.

Our destination, to be precise was Goalpara, nearly four miles from Bolepur.

At last the Master appeared before us. In his car fortunately I could find a seat for myself, by the side of Sachin-da.

We arrived at Goalpara; the place rang with the chanting of the Name. Two of the Master’s most eminent disciples, artist Sri Mukul De and his accomplished wife Srimati Bani Devi came forward to receive us.

We went over to the Dak Bungalow (government guesthouse) to have a quick bath. It was at the Dak Bungalow that Sachin-da and Jiten-da had put up along with their families. We had for companion Santosh Babu, who was Deputy Magistrate of Birbhum. A decent gentleman, he had come with the object of being initiated by the master. When we returned to Goalpara, the Master was busy granting his initiation. The candidates for initiation numbered about a hundred and fifty. They were at their seats with eyes closed and minds engaged in preliminary japa. Santosh Babu lost not a moment in taking his seat in their midst. We proceeded to look into the preparation for Guru Puja. Acharya Shankar suggested, “I shall act as priest and you will perform the Puja.” I agreed with all my heart, taking it for unmerited Grace. I was to be the medium through whom the devotion of countless souls will he laid at the Master’s feet; Thy will be done!

Initiation over, the Master arrived and a flood of joy swept over the vast seething crowd.

For once, at least, the Master chose to be ruled by his devotees. To be sure he is always at their disposal; but on that day he allowed himself to be entirely at their disposal. At their earnest request he allowed rigorous austerities of his ascetic life to be relaxed for a day. He was induced to take his bath in scented water; an unheard of luxury in his life! He was induced also to wear a new piece of loin cloth and waist string (‘dor-kaupin’ as it is called). The loin cloth being too big for him, he tore off a portion of it and tied Sachida’s wrists with it: a freak of his, with yet a significance which we could not guess. When at last he was presented with the flute we had brought for him, he was immensely delighted. He chuckled like a child and said with a broad sun-shiny laughter, “But if I refuse to return it? “Why should you return it, Papa?’’ rejoined Sachin-da, “it is yours.”

Now commenced our ritual of worship.

Scarcely had I laid the first offering at his feet when my whole body began to quiver ecstatically, each hair standing visibly on end. A strange sensation of course! For one thing, I had not touched his feet; I had simply placed the lotus at his feet. As I looked up, I discovered, to my great surprise, that the Master was locked in Samadhi. My mind whispered thus to myself, “what a dunce you are! Don’t you see the worship of your heart has reached his feet: he has received the devotional wreath you presented at his feet? Blessed are you all indeed! You have reason to feel gratified.” After this I went mechanically through the ceremony. The Master remaining all the while in Samadhi, I distinctly sensed that all our hearts had come to be in complete unison. Waves of a single chorus of adoration wrung simultaneously from a million hearts lapped at the holy feet of the Master. The depth of that multitudinous paean of devotion, the hushed intensity of the hearts yearning of that immense concourse, could be better conceived than described. The atmosphere itself had come to be charged with a concentrated sanctity and a profound sense of transcendent bliss.

At last the puja concluded. With the chanting of the Name, the Master’s Samadhi was made to break. Now his “Lakshmi Ma” began to sing her hymn about the Master and her sweet voice dripping with Bhakti made a tremendous impression. The Master, for one, relapsed at once into samadhi. Once again he was jolted out of it with the chanting of the Name. The Master then received the pranams of the congregation. After that He touched the fruits offered to him and we partook of his prasad. On each face that I saw there was a visible stamp of warm satisfaction. To make sure whether I was right in my inference, I compared notes with many others and all alike agreed that the day’s function had been a phenomenal success and a precious memory to be cherished in life. I at any rate felt that the Master had transmitted to all at once an ineffable bliss, a sense sublime of the Supreme. Thus ended the first scene of a grand ceremony.

We had now a short interval of rest and familiar conversation. Many of our friends talked naturally of Krishna Murtiji of Rajole. Every year he organizes a continuous chanting of the Name for 108 days and nights and his excellent management of this supremely difficult task calls for the highest commendation. His devotion to the Master, too, is justly famous and we may well emulate his spirit of service. He was speaking about his recent tour on foot from far-off Andhra to Bengal. He had been tramping for days and weeks on end, with neither a penny in his pocket nor a guide on the way, wandering alone through different parts of India; he could at last reach Bengal and prostrate himself at the Master’s feet: a feat indeed! “It’s all Master’s Grace,” he humbly protested, pointing to the Master, our talk was cut short by the call for lunch; lunch and breakfast were both for us the Master’s prasad.

Our kind host went beyond his means to give us a sumptuous feed and we did more than justice to the grand fare provided by him. Each item in the menu tasted like ambrosia to us.

The Master, meanwhile, was attending to two young gentlemen who had a few questions to be solved.

The day was advancing. The Master was resting for a while. Acharya Shankar too went to a secluded nook for a short respite. We started for Shanti Niketan in the company of artist De. While on the way, De pointed out, “Look here, this is Bhuban Danga, the notorious field of highway robbery at one time. It has however a tradition of its own. Birbhum has been the historic seat of Tantra Sadhana. We have here several famous seats of Saints who got to the field of Bhuban Danga, the summit of spiritual realization. Here in this field of Bhuban Danga the famous Tantrik, Agambagish, carried on his Sadhana. His descendants are still there in Goalpara. By the way, the house where you had your prasad today belongs to a descendant of the great Agambagish. It was this historic site which Maharshi Debendra Nath selected for his Sadhana.”

We saw De home and took the way to Shanti Niketan. Our guide and friend Santosh Da showed us round. His intimate knowledge of the place was of great use: he had at his finger-tips even the history of the willow tree imported from abroad.

At about 6 p.m. the chanting of the Name near-by reminded us of the Master’s proposed visit to the residence of Sri Sudhindra Kumar Ghosh. We hastened to Sri Ghosh’s place. There were many waiting there and the Name was going on, but the Master had stopped at Mukul De’s house. All awaited him eagerly, as we gathered later, managed to take impression of the Master’s feet and palm on Chinese paper, which endures for four hundred years. “Is the Master influence to stay for just four centuries?” thought I.

Now at last the Master arrived. Dr. Ghosh with his family bowed respectfully at his feet. They spoke of a strange experience that happened to them rather recently. Writing in her room, one day, Mrs. Ghosh marked that a son of hers was closing the door in great fright. Asked why he was doing so, the boy timidly said, “There’s a Sadhu!” She hastened to the door and saw a Sannyasin with matted locks. Her children too saw the Sadhu who wanted food and Sri Ghosh too saw him leave when suddenly his wife felt an aching void within. She was stung too with remorse to think that she did not care to offer the Sadhu food of any kind. As she took her husband into confidence about what she felt, he rushed out at once but found no trace of the Sadhu who had managed somehow to evaporate within such a short time.

The Master listened to the story with a silent smile and asked one of the host’s children,

“Can you recall the features of the Sadhu you met?” pat came the firm reply,
“Yes Papa! I remember. That Sadhu is none other than you!”

When the incident occurred the Master had been in far-off Omkareshwar, observing his vow of silence and seclusion!

The visitors came forward to pay their respects. First came three ladies, an Egyptian Mrs. Nazek Hamidi, a student of Kalavaban and two Americans, Mrs. and Miss Organ. They saluted the Master in the Indian manner and he touched their hands warmly and asked, “Pray, why are you here, at this University?” The daughter of the Nile said, “We are pupils and have come to receive instruction at this seat of learning.”

“What’s the subject of you study?”
”Fine Arts.”
“And who is your Master?”
”The great Nandalal Bose.”

Now came her husband, Md. El. Mansouri, a bright Egyptian youth. He too paid his respects and said, “I am here to learn Architecture.” Then came a placid American philosopher, Prof. Dr Troy Organ, who said, “My aim in coming over here is to have an idea of Indian Philosophy.” He was going to kneel down and touch the Master’s feet. But he gave him no chance and clasped him warmly within his arms.

The rough soil of Birbhum was drenched through and through with the mellow light of the full moon. The pastoral loveliness of Shanti Niketan bathed in the tender light of the moon looked wonderful.

The learned Professor of Philosophy (Dr. Troy Organ, of Ohio University) was deeply touched. Released from the Master’s embrace, he stooped again to take the dust of the Master’s feet but was prevented this time too by the Master who warmly shook hands with him in the authentic Western style. Both burst at once into loud hilarious laugh. That genial laughter comparable only to the bright ripples of the sea evoked immediate response in the heart of every one there.

“What’s your name, Sir?” enquired the Master.
“Troy Organ.”
“What, pray, is the purpose of your visit?”
“I am a Professor of Philosophy and have come to learn Philosophy at this University.”
“Will you please tell me something about Philosophy?”
“I am after all a pupil here. I am here to learn Indian Philosophy and am interested in the problem of self-realization and the concept of the soul.”
“The soul is within yourself. You know?” (Pointing to the American’s heart.)
“Not within me alone, but within you and me and all else.”
“Quite. But what’s its essence, pray?”

And the Master went on with a disquisition on the subject: “The Soul is of light all compact: all Jyoti: all transcendent light. It is in light that He manifests Himself.” He spoke in a nutshell about the real nature of the Soul. The learned Professor listened still, with great reverence, his head cast down. “I have just learned a great deal within such a short time,” said he and, finally saluting, took his leave.

A few professors had also called to pay their respects. They were Prof. Kalidas Bhattacharya (Head of the department of Philosophy) and Prof Benoy Gopal Roy. There was Laskshiswar Sinha, for instance, whose skill in woodcarving is well-known.

It was the hour for the evening Prayer. So the Prayer started, to be followed by silence for fifteen minutes. During this silence we did Japa of Ishta mantra, the uninitiated members of the gathering going on with the Japa of “Guru Guru.” Shanti Niketan with its somber rural landscape joined the Prayer. It was a sublime hour indeed. After the silence came Pranam: the congregation bowed, one by, at the Master’s feet.

Having finished my Pranam, I moved about when I chanced to overhear a portion of the conversation that passed between the American Professor of Philosophy and a Bengali Professor who was saying, “Here is a great Bhakta, a true jnani and a perfect Sadhu. He wears his Guru’s wooden sandals on the breast, for which he is sometimes criticized. But if it is proper to bear the cross of Jesus, it is as proper to the bear one’s Guru’s sandals, isn’t it?” the American listened, with evident approval.

Night closed in. The call for Prasad came. Hardly had we finished when the Master summoned me. I was called upon to take a car to Bolepur with Krishna Murti, Sevananda and Satchidananda. The Master took Acharya Shankar and his daughters in his car. When we reached Bolepur Hari Sabha, we found a huge crowed waiting for the master and singing the Name with devotional fervour. The Master came late, having been detained twice on the way, once at Sri Bhola Nath Chanda’s place, where more than two thousand men and women took the dust of this feet and had their Darshan. As soon as the Master’s car arrived at Bolepur Hari-Sabha, there was a terrific rush for Darshan and Pranam. But the Master stood calm as ever. It was already very late and our train was soon to arrive. It was not possible for the Master, therefore, to deliver his address which was a great disappointment.

Meanwhile we left for the station. After a while the Master arrived, followed by a train of disciples and admirers. They were taking about the excessive rush and congestion in a third class compartment. The Master said, “Yes there is rush at times, once I had to travel ninety miles standing”. (He goes by third class). A lady intervened: she had a confidential question, which she whispered into his ears and he whispered back in reply.

The train steamed in. There was a heavy rush and the President and I had to board a separate compartment, finding no accommodation in that which the Master got into.

The heart was full and the mind stored with gratitude and the memory of a day precious with special sanctity for us. “Jai Sri Guru Maharaj Ji ki Jai.”