The year 1885 was coming to an end. For the ardent devotees of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, it was a year of pain and pleasure mixed together. Painful because their Master was suffering acutely owing to the cancer in his throat. The devotees had decided earlier to shift him from his abode at Dhakshnineswar Temple to Calcutta, initially for a brief period at Shyampukur and now to a palatial bungalow at Cossipore for the sake of better treatment and the convenience of attending to him all the 24 hours. Sri Ramakrishna’s young disciples as well as elderly householders took turns to be with him, attend to his needs and get blessed by his divine company.
By virtue of being in his company, their pleasures too were immeasurable. That was the remarkable divine play of an Avatar. Despite his severe pain in his throat, Sri Ramakrishna was continuously immersed in God; Despite his difficulty to speak, he could not help avoiding talking incessantly about spirituality; bhajans (devotional singing) were going on as usual in his company and the joy he radiated was infectious.
His food intake was dwindling dangerously. He could not consume anything better than porridge made of rava. His physique was gradually getting reduced to a skeleton. Like a child he would be worried too much about his health at times. He would writhe in unbearable pain and his pain will radiate as mental agony onto his devotees and attendants. Suddenly he would get immersed in deep Samadhi(remaining immersed in God consciousness) and a serene bliss would radiate from his face, the pain and agony he was suffering a moment earlier vanishing all of a sudden.
December 23, 1885, Mahendranath Gupta (Ma- The Author of Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna) was conversing with him.
Master: “Well, How long will it take for me to recover from this illness?”
Ma: “Perhaps 5 to 6 months”. Sri Ramakrishna becomes impatient like a child and Ma consoles him.
Master:”Can you explain one thing? How is that in spite of all these visions, all the ecstasy and Samadhi, I am so ill?”
Ma: “Your suffering is no doubt great; but it has a deep meaning. A change is coming to your mind. It is being directed towards formless aspect of God. Even your “ego of knowledge” is vanishing”
Master: “That is right. My teaching of others is coming to an end. I cannot give any more instruction. I see that everything is Rama Himself. And sometimes I say to my self “who shall I teach?” You see, because I am living in a rented house, many kinds of devotees are coming here. Hope I shall not have to put up a signboardannouncing my lectures!”
(The Master and Ma- laugh)
Ma: “There is yet another purpose in this illness. It is the final sifting of disciples. The devotees have achieved in these few days what they could not realize in five years of tapasya (penance). Their love and devotion are growing by leaps and bounds!”
Master: “That may be true”
.Sri Ramakrishna went into Samadhi; regaining consciousness, he said: “I saw everything passing from form to formlessness. . Well, this tendency of mine towards the formless in only a sign of MY NEARING DISSOLUTION; Isn’t it so?”
Ma: (wonderingly) “It may be”
. . . .
It was January 1st, 1886 NEW YEAR DAY
On this day, Sri Ramakrishna was free from the pain and suffering from the wounds in his throat. He looked refreshed and enthusiastic. After noon- 3 PM. Sri Ramakrishna felt inclined to take a walk at the gardens of the mansion and he walked down from his room in the first floor. Being a holiday, there were about thirty devotees, some resting under the trees in the garden and some engaged in the daily chores at the house. Some devotees who were with him upstairs accompanied him as he came down to walk.
Girish Gosh, Ram, Atul and such devotees who were resting in the garden engaged in conversation, were surprised to see Sri Ramakrishna coming down walking in the garden. They immediately rushed to him and prostrated before him.
Suddenly Sri Ramakrishna asked Girish Gosh, “Well, Girish, you are going around and proclaiming to every body that I am an avatar! What is the wondrous stuff that you have noticed in me?”
Girish, unperturbed by such a point blank question from Sri Ramakrishna, knelt before him, folded his hands and uttered in a quivering voice “My master, your glories that even Valmiki and Vyasa could not aptly and fully describe, how do you expect this ignorant idiot to explain?”
The words that came from Girish’s mouth carrying his deepest emotions in his heart seemed to have melted the heart of Sri Ramakrishna. He said “What’s more that I shall say, I bless you all. Be illumined!”(” Tomader ki ar boli ? Ami tomader sakalke ashirvad kori. Tomader sakaler Chaitanya hok“), saying this, Sri Ramakrishna attained Bhava Samadhi. The moment every one heard these words, they felt emotionally surcharged. It looked as though they lost their mental balance by the ecstasy. Forgetting that they should not touch Sri Ramakrishna at his samadhi state, every fell onto his feet and touched his toes and took the dust on their heads. One by one they did the same.
Sri Ramakrishna touched the heads of every one of them and blessed them. His spiritually surcharged touch by his hand created electrifying effect on every one of them. Some started laughing; some started crying; some sat down then and there in meditation. Some called out others to come and immediately get the share of the unexpected flow of divine grace from Sri Ramakrishna.
Sri Ramakrishna gradually attained outer consciousness and returned to his room. Those who got his divine touch that day understood that Sri Ramakrishna passed on his grace to them without really bothering about who is meritorious and who is not to receive his blessings. The emotionally surcharged devotees immediately shared with others the experiences they got by the touch of Sri Ramakrishna. Some said they felt unfathomable bliss, some saw a flash of divine light, some got the vision of their personal Gods. Every one felt that the bliss of the experience was indescribable.
After this incidence, Sri Ramakrishna felt a severe burning sensation all over his body. He asked for Ganges water and sprinkled it all over his body. It is normally interpreted that the Master acquired to himself the sins of those whom he touched that day.
* * * * * *
1) Sri Ramakrishna passed away 8 months later on 16th August 1886.
2) It is the Tradition for the followers of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa to celebrate January 1st as Kalpatharu Day (Kalpatharu: The wish-fulfilling tree). On Jaunary first, between 3 to 4 PM, Sri Ramakrishna Temples (in all Sri Ramakrishna Mutts) will be kept open and ardent followers of Sri Ramakrishna will undertake meditation during this auspicious period. Many devotees feel that an unusual sense of peace could be experienced during this meditating period.
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna – RK Math Chennai
Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna (Tamil) – RK Math Chennai
A short life of Ma – Sri Ma Trust
“Verily, verily I say to you, that if you think on me, you will inherit my wealth, just as a son inherits the wealth of his father. And my wealth is Gyana (Spiritual Knowledge) and Bhakthi (Devotion) , Viveha (Discrimination) and Vairagya (Dispassion), shanthi and Anandam (peace and happiness) , prema and samadhi (intense love and realization of God)” – Sri Ramakrishna’s words of blessings to his intimate disciples – Ma