MY PARENTS WERE DEVOTEES OF Sri Ramakrishna and often visited him at Dakshineswar. During her pregnancy my mother decided that if a son was born to her she would dedicate him to the service of Sri Ramakrishna. Through the grace of the Lord I was the son born to her. She resolved to keep her promise.
One day, when I was a few weeks old, my mother carried me snugly bundled up in a sheet to Dakshineswar. My father accompanied us. Sri Ramakrishna, in an ecstatic mood, was standing alone. As soon as he saw my parents, he said to my mother: “Hello, what have you brought for me?” Mother placed me at the feet of the Master and replied: “I have brought you this offering.” Sri Ramakrishna looked at me for a few moments and remarked: “Ah! What a nice child! Are you offering it to me? Good!” He took me on his lap, put his right palm on my head as a blessing, and then placed me back in my mother’s arms, saying: “Take care of this child now, but know that he belongs to me. In due time I will take him back.”
Years later, when I joined the Ramakrishna Monastery, my mother was the happiest of all, for she felt that Sri Ramakrishna had accepted me. (Sri Ramakrishna had then passed away.) As a young boy I used to visit the monastery at Alambazar with my parents. The Belur Math was not yet founded. Swamis Brahmananda, Ramakrishnananda, Shivananda, Turiyananda, and Advaitananda were living there at the time. Sometimes I would stay at the monastery for several days. I thought of Maharaj as being very stern, and would carefully avoid him. Swami Turiyananda was affectionate toward me, and I felt free with him. The nights I passed in the monastery I used to sleep in the same room with Swami Turiyananda. He used to wake up at midnight and would wake me also at that hour to meditate.
After Swami Vivekananda passed away, Maharaj and Swami Turiyananda went to Brindaban and practiced austerities. A short time thereafter, my father and I went there also. Whenever my father visited the swamis I would accompany him. As I knew Swami Turiyananda intimately, I would pass most of my time in his company. Maharaj lived in a room adjoining his. Every time I called on Swami Turiyananda, I would prostrate before him, then slowly open the door to Maharaj’s room and bow down to Maharaj from the door. I was nervous in his presence, regarding him as very serious and austere, and so would not go inside the room to prostrate or touch his feet. Watching my behavior one day, Swami Turiyananda remarked: “What is this? Go in, prostrate before Maharaj, and touch his blessed feet.” With trepidation in my heart I entered the room, did as I was told, and then stood silently by Maharaj. He looked at me graciously and said in an affectionate tone: “Child, massage my feet.” With these words he lay down. I began to massage him, though still nervous. He sensed it immediately and said: “Don’t be nervous, my son.” He touched my back, and with his touch there came a complete transformation in me. I seemed to lose all strength of body and helplessly lay down at his feet. Facetiously Maharaj said: “Ah, you are making a pillow of my feet instead of massaging them!” My heart was filled with an unspeakable joy. I sat up and said: “You have done something to me.” Then I began to laugh, being unable to hold the joy within. All my fear was gone, and for the first time I had a taste of God’s love emanating from Maharaj. Afterward I heard that Maharaj remarked jokingly to Swami Turiyananda: “You see, I have stolen your disciple,” and that Swami Turiyananda laughed and said: “Splendid! Now the boy is blessed indeed.”
At the earnest request of Swami Premananda, Maharaj left for Belur Math. Father and I accompanied him. On our way to Belur, Maharaj expressed the desire to visit the Divine Mother’s temple at the Vindhyachala mountains. The first night Maharaj, my father, our host, Yogindra Sen, a devotee, and I slept in the same room. It was nearing midnight when I felt a gentle touch. I woke up. I saw Maharaj dressed and covered with a heavy blanket. He said to me: “Get up and dress yourself in warm clothing. I want you to come with me.” Without any hesitation I did as I was told, though it did not occur to me at the time to inquire where we were going. Maharaj took a lantern in one hand and a stick in the other, and asked me to follow him. We went outside. it was the night of the new moon and pitch-dark. The path was uneven. Realizing that I was stumbling, Maharaj gave me the lantern to carry and held me by the hand. I asked him then: “Where are we going?” He replied: “To see the Divine Mother.”
When we entered the temple compound we found the place crowded with worshipers. Some were counting beads and others were chanting the praises of the Divine Mother. There was an intense spiritual atmosphere. The door of the temple was still closed. The priests were decorating Mother’s image for the special occasion. When the doors opened, the pilgrims stood up and moved forward slowly to have the darshan of Mother. In the meantime the priests caught sight of Maharaj. Seeing his benign face and impressed by his personality, they stopped the pilgrims from proceeding and let Maharaj enter first. He was still holding my hand, and I was following him. When Maharaj stood before the image of Divine Mother, he exclaimed: “Ah! How beautiful, how beautiful!” The next moment he was in ecstasy. There was perfect silence in the temple. The priests and pilgrims watched Maharaj’s God-intoxicated state in amazement. After a while, still in an ecstatic mood, Maharaj asked me to sing a song to Divine Mother. While I was singing, tears of joy fell from the outer corners of his eyes. It was a divine sight to behold. Maharaj asked me to sing another song, after which we prostrated before the Mother and came out into the courtyard. Maharaj sat down in one corner to perform japam and asked me to sit also. I said: “What shall I do?” Maharaj replied: “Think of the presence of Divine Mother. Later I shall instruct you.”
We stayed for a while and returned to Yogindra Sen’s before daybreak. At the foot of a mountain near Vindhyachala there is a cave temple. One day we went with some other devotees to a picnic nearby. While the devotees were busy preparing vegetables and getting ready to cook, Maharaj asked me to follow him. We began to climb the mountain and reached the door of the cave temple. It was pitch-dark inside. We entered the cave and proceeded slowly until we came near the deity. It was very quiet; not even the noise of a bird could be heard. Maharaj sat by the image of Divine Mother. and I sat near him. After some time he asked me to sing the praises of Mother. While listening to the song, Maharaj went into ecstasy, as he had done in the other temple. First his body shook a little, the hair of the body stood on end, and tears of joy ran down his checks. Then he became perfectly still. He was completely unconscious. I was not worried, because I had heard of Sri Ramakrishna going into samadhi in this way. After some time Maharaj slowly regained his normal consciousness, and we came out of the cave. I thought that we would now return to the picnic grounds, but instead Maharaj began to climb higher up the mountain. I followed him. We reached the summit. Maharaj seated himself on a rock in yoga posture and asked me to do the same. While sitting, I thought to myself: “Well, Maharaj has asked me to sit here, but he has not yet instructed me.” I asked him on what and how I should meditate. His answer was: “Meditate on any aspect of God that appeals to you.” Another day we climbed the mountain from a different side. When we reached the summit, the sun was setting. Maharaj asked me to sing the following song:
The day is gone, 0 my mind,
What preparations have you made
To cross this ocean of worldliness?
The sun of life is about to set.
Though you see it setting, you pay no heed.
Deluded by the maya of this ephemeral world,
you lose the treasure eternal.
While listening, Maharaj became absorbed in meditation. After the song he remained in that state for a while. It was getting dark, and we went home. Thus, instead of the three days that Maharaj had originally intended to stay at Vindhyachala, we spent twenty-one days there before Maharaj returned to Belur Math.
taken from ‘The Eternal Companion’ by Swami Prabhavananda