Reminiscences of Sri Ramakrishna
Once when I was eight years old Sri Ramakrishna came to our house for a meal. I was playing around, being naughty, and my mother told the servant to catch me. He asked my name. Mother told him: “Hubi”, meaning, “a child who took long learning to speak”. Sri Ramakrishna wanted to change the name. It was the custom then to give a girl the name of a flower, but he named me Bhavatarini, after the Divine Mother at Dakshineswar.
Then once again, when I was eight years old, Sri Ramakrishna came to our home for meal. During his stay he asked my mother how old I was. Mother replied, “Eight years”. He then said, “Your daughter is eight years old. She must marry [betrothal]. I have a suitable party for her.” My mother agreed, and then asked who the person was. Sri Ramakrishna said: “He has a little education.” To this my mother said that it was no good. However Sri Ramakrishna insisted, saying that he would have good luck later on in life as I was a “Lakshmi”.
One day Upendranath’s mother went to visit Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar. Sri Ramakrishna told her: “Your son must marry this girl.” She agreed. Narendranath [Swami Vivekananda] was there. Narendra asked who was to be married. Sri Ramakrishna replied and gave him the information. Narendra was against the marriage because I was not pretty and too dark-skinned. He asked Ramakrishna to select another girl for Upendranath. Sri Ramakrishna insisted that I was a lucky girl and that Upendranath should accept me. Later he would be rich. Upen’s mother agreed, and she and her husband were happy at the thought that their son would return home from Dakshineswar [where he was staying with Sri Ramakrishna] and they would also have a daughter-in-law.
After the marriage Narendra used to visit our home. Meanwhile, when the marriage was being fixed, I had heard what Narendra had said about me and so forth, and was angry with him. When he would visit the house, I would not attend to him and would not take him nuts and other things to him to eat. I was, remember, only 8 years old then. My mother told him that my unwillingness was due to his objections. Then Narendra was very good to me and consoled me.
When I was in my father’s house, mother said that I should be kept indoors and fed well so that my complexion might become fair. But my little friends would come and call me. So in order to play with them I used to slip out of the house at noon when all were taking rest after the meal, and would return just before they woke up. However, one day I was a bit late, and everyone was up. What could I do? I found that Sri Ramakrishna had come to my house and was sitting in our drawing room. I thought to myself: “If I sit near him, mother will not notice anything and think that I have been staying with him all along.” Sri Ramakrishna saw me biting my nails and told me to stop it. Then he said: “What is your opinion of me? Some say that I am God Himself. What do you think of that?” I replied: “No no no, you are not God. You are my husband’s guru.” Then all of a sudden I began to perceive a sweet smell. It was the smell of an essence used in worshipping deities. I thought that, as Sri Ramakrishna was considered God by some people, he might be having this smell on him. I found that it was emanating from his ear region. While I was thus observing him, Sri Ramakrishna’s form suddenly disappeared in a brilliant light of the colour of the rising sun and his form appeared as a luminous shadow in that light. I said, “Thakur, why are you doing this?” His form practically disappeared. I called him again and again, but he would not reply. So I sat looking at him wistfully. I do not know how long this lasted. Then again after some time, the light faded and I could see Sri Ramakrishna clearly again. I called others to see but nobody seemed to care.
At my mother-in-law’s house, I narrated this incident and my mother-in-law consoled me and my husband also was pleased. My mother-in-law told me: “The next time you see Thakur, ask him to give you a mantra.” I did not understand at the time what a mantra was, and thought it was a gift like a bracelet or some other ornament.
When Sri Ramakrishna came to our house one day, I said to him, “Mother-in-law told me to ask you to give me a mantra.” I sat near him and said, “Give me a mantra, give me a mantra”. As you may remember, I was just 9 years old at that time. When I insisted, Sri Ramakrishna said to me: “All right. I shall give you. Have you seen Shiva?” I said yes. He said: “If you like him, then love Him.” He then asked the same question about Kali, Krishna, Rama and himself. I said yes. He replied the in the same manner. When I insisted once again that he must give me a mantra, Sri Ramakrishna said: “Okay then. Go to your mother-in-law and ask her what I must give you. If I have it, I shall give it. Otherwise I shall give you money to buy it with.” However, I told him, “If you don’t give me, I shall not go to mother-in-law’s house.”
On returning to my mother-in-law’s house, I told her what had happened and she was very pleased and said: “That is the mantra”.
Years passed and I had grown older. I wanted to ask Sri Ramakrishna what had happened to him that day when I saw him in the light. My curiosity had become aroused, but the opportunity to ask him did not present itself. Finally, my father-in-law took me to Dakshineswar one day and Sri Ramakrishna asked him to leave me with the Holy Mother for a few days. So I made up my mind to sieze the opportunity and ask my question. But I could not see Sri Ramakrishna as he would be continuously surrounded by devotees. One day when he was in the temple, I went and sat down in his room, waiting to ask my question. On returning from the temple he came in and sat near me and before I could ask him, I again saw his form disappearing in a blaze of light. I pushed him, again and again, but nothing happened. His body was soft, as though no bones were there. Then I lost consciousness and my head fell on his lap. When I came to, I found Sri Ramakrishna passing his hand over my head. I said: “Thakur, what are you? Are you Bhagavan?” Then he gave me some water to drink.