SRI SARADA DEVI: HOLY MOTHER & GURU
Wife of Ramakrishna
Linda Johnsen in her book, Daughters of the Goddess, describes the influence of Sarada Devi in Bengal, "Sarada Devi has accompanied us every where in Bengal. She peers down at us from grocery walls, her face is painted on the sides of trucks, her photo appears even on the dashboards of taxis we have ridden." Linda calls her "the spiritual mother of Bengal."
On December 22, 1853 Sarada Devi was born. Her birth name is Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya. She was born in the village of Jayrambati in West Bengal, India. Her father, Ramachandra, was the village priest and a farmer. Syamasundari Devi, her mother, helped her husband with farming and priestly duties. Both parents received visions foretelling that their daughter was a divine being who incarnated on Earth. Many believe she was an incarnation of the Divine Mother.
At the age of five she was engaged to Ramakrishna, a priest at Dakshineswar Kali Temple. Throughout her childhood she met and visited with him. At the age of 14 she spent three months with him learning about meditation practices. At the age of 18 she married him after he asked her this question, " Will you drag me down into worldly life?" She answered, "No."
Bhairavi Ma, a well known yogini, taught Ramakrishna yoga. He was so advanced that he mastered practices within days. Bhairavi Ma had learned these practices over many years and was so surprised that he could master them so quickly. He was able to sit in samadhi (spiritual communion) for 28 days straight. This is when it became apparent he was no ordinary human being. From this point onward people started calling him an incarnation of God.
One day Ramakrishna did a Shodashi Puja to his wife, Sarada Devi, and worshiped her as the Divine Mother. She cooked and helped him with the devotees who stayed at his house. He told her that she would initiate disciples when he left the Earth. After his passing she took up the role of spiritual teacher (guru). She was called the Holy Mother by all who knew her. She did not have any children of her own, but she became the Mother of All. She said, "I am the mother of the wicked as I am the mother of the virtuous. Never fear. Whenever you are in distress, just say to yourself, 'I have a mother.'"
Ramakrishna had throat cancer when he passed on to the next life. In August of 1886 he finally left the Earth plane. Sarada Devi received a vision of Ramakrishna when she began removing her bracelets. A common practice among widows in India is to remove them after the passing of their husbands. In the vision Ramakrishna told her, "I have not passed away; I have gone from one room to another."
This is an important spiritual truth: we all are eternal beings and we continue in a different form in the next life. The body will perish, but the soul (atman) is eternal and lasts forever. When my father died he came to me two days afterwards through my third eye and told me he was okay. He wanted to say goodbye. You see I was not able to afford to come to the funeral. He came back to me months later in dreams telling me what he had learned on the other side. It was apparent to me that we continue in a different form after our earthly life. My father confirmed this for me so brilliantly.
Sarada Devi was shy at first but became a guru and leader of the Ramakrishna Movement for the next 34 years. This was 20 years longer than Ramakrishna had been the guru of the movement. She visited the Vishwanath Temple of Shiva in Benares, besides the city of Ayodhya, which is connected with Rama. She also came to Vrindavan, which is connected with Krishna. In this city she experienced samadhi and began her role as guru as the Holy Mother. After about a year Swami Saradananda constructed a house for her in Calcutta called the Udbodan House. It was also called the Mayerbati (Holy Mother House). Golap Ma, Yogin Ma, Lakshmi Didi, Gauri Ma, Sister Nivedita and Sister Devamata all formed close relationships with her. Sister Nivedita and Sister Devamata were from the West and the other women were Indian disciples.
Some of the devotees dreamed of her as a goddess in human form before they had even seen a picture of her. Some became initiated as disciples through these dreams. Girish Chandra Ghosh had received a mantra at the age of 19 and met her years later, and he was shocked to discover that she was the same person he had dreamed about in the dream.
The last five moths of her life she was seriously ill. Right before she died she told the devotees, "But I tell you one thing--if you want peace of mind, do no find fault with others. Rather see your faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger my child. This whole world is your own!" This was her last message to us. At 1:30 a.m. on July 20, 1920, in Calcutta, she passed on to the next life and was cremated at Belur Math.
She did not write books and her teachings have been preserved for us by Swami Nikhilananda and Swami Tapasyananda. Swami Nikhilananda was an Indian Freedom Fighter and follower of Gandhi. He founded the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center in New York. The Holy Mother initiated him into the Ramakrishna Order, a monastic order dedicated to social work. Devamata started a girls' school on the Ganges. Sarada Devi had a dream of educating girls in such a school. In 1954 Sarada Math and Rama Krishna Sarada Mission was established. This is a monastic order of women founded to honor Sarada Devi. Their website is www.belurmath.org. In the United States there is also a society called the Vendanta Society of Northern California dedicated to her. For more information go to www.sfvendanta.org.
I'll leave you with this great bit of wisdom from the Holy Mother, "What else does one obtain by the realization of God? One develops discrimination between the real and the unreal, obtains spiritual consciousness and goes beyond life and death."
JAI SHRI RAMAKRISHNA! JAI SHRI SARADA DEVI! JAI SHRI KALI MA!