Shri Sarada Devi
The Holy Mother, Shri Sarada Devi, symbolizes the ideal motherhood of women, ancient and modern. Her life is an enigma. On the surface, it appears to be just the homely life of a Bengali Brahmin lady, mostly in a rural setting. Yet her deportment discloses unmistakable marks of dignity and love of an order that may easily be called superhuman. In the galaxy of the greatest women of the world the Holy Mother shines apart in conspicuous luminosity. Perhaps such a life appeared at this critical moment in the history of India to illumine the way out of the present welter of cultural conflicts.
Born in a tiny village of Bengal, lapped in Nature's beauty, but devoid of modern amenities, the little girl, Sarada, had something out of the ordinary in her mental make-up. The momentous event of Sarada's early life was her marriage to Shri Ramakrishna at the age of 5. A shocking piece of news to the modern world and particularly to its western section. The sequel of Sarada Devi's marriage is replete with scenes and incidents remote from ordinary life. The pathos of anxious expectation and worrying misgivings relieved by happy and dramatic turns of events, the hazards of dangerous hurdles in the way eased by peaceful solutions and safe endings - all these made her advance firmly and steadily towards peace and blessedness.
Shri Ramakrishan's life was a boon to humanity, Sarada Devi seems to have come as a Iministering angel. She focussed all her mental and physical resources for preserving the precious life of Shri Ramakrishna, there-by setting a brilliant example of one-pointed service of a wife to her husband. Unfathomable love was at the back of her scrupulous service.
Cast in the mould of absolute selflessness like Shri Ramakrishna she stood out in unique splendour as an endearing mother, enfolding all who came to her with her limitless affection which was not reserved for any particular group. Broad as the sky and deep as the ocean her heart was open to all. Finding that her niece, Nalini, blinded by the prejudice of untouchability, could not serve food to a Muslim dacoit Amjad by name, with due regard, the Holy Mother volunteered to do it herself and she went so far as to clean the place after the meal was over. In her eyes Amjad was as much her child as Swami Shardananad, a worthy monastic disciple of the Master and her own devoted attendant. Equality in her eyes of these two persons shows unmistakably the superhuman stand which she took during the days of intense orthodoxy.
According to the scriptures motherhood sanctifies a woman. It is the consummation of her life, when a woman becomes a mother; her feelings and emotions get more purified than in wifehood. She becomes free from all taints of body-consciousness. That is why motherhood is sacred. It requires every woman to unfold herself as a mother and not as just a woman. Shri Sarada Devi was an universal mother who served her disciples with the same care as a mother serves the children she gives birth to.
She would strive her most to provide her children with the best food available in the place that would suit the requirements of different individuals. Like a true Indian mother, she would not take her meals before her children were fed. The tenderest feelings of her heart were, however, vividly exhibited when any of her children would take leave of her. Indeed, a person who had the good fortune of tasting her motherly love at Jayrambati or any other place could enrich his assets for his lifelong spiritual journey. This exquisite sweetness embodied in the Holy Mother was wonderfully matched by her dignified bearing as well as her sagacious dealing with people and their affairs. Though a wife, she was really a nun with the purest heart fixed for ever on God; without actually being a mother, she was in every sense the loving mother of numberless children. For all practical purposes she appeared to be an ideal householder. Her concern for her brother's family, particularly for some of its members, would at times look like earthly attachment even to the eyes of a sincere spiritual aspirant. This wonderful synthesis of contradictory elements in her life presents a unique manifestation of perfection on the human plane.
No barrier of caste, creed or colour could stand before the unimpeded flow of her limitless love. Freed entirely from the shackles of society, the Holy Mother had liberty, equality and fraternity as the very breath of her life. In her life, and in her teachings she has left a balm for suffering humanity. She was very courteous and liberal in her attitude towards others. This was demonstrated again and again through her actions. As a widow in the last century coming from a small village in Bengal, the Holy Mother accepted two foreign ladies as her own, so much so that sister Nivedita felt so close to her that she would behave like a little child and always sit nearest her feet.
The Holy Mother was an embodiment of patience, disinterestedness and selfless service calmness and love. Her life is a typical example of how women can serve the family and the society. Her patience with the members of her family and certain devotees was something not attainable by ordinary human beings. Her courtesy and kindness and consideration to all, whether good qr bad, have no comparison. Her forgiving nature was something divine which itself is an external manifestation of her high spiritual attainment.
Her disinterested love and compassion were not confined to her relations and disciples only. There was a woman suffering from foul - smelling cancer of the ear, whom even her relations had discarded but the Holy Mother saw to it that this woman was taken to the nursing - ashram. Sympathy and love for others in distress were the chief characteristics of her nature. Gentle and patient as she was she could never tolerate cruelty and injustice. When she heard the cries of a woman who was beaten by her drunken husband, she ran to the police and raising her voice, asked the man to desist. The man immediately obeyed the Holy Mother. The women of our day should draw inspiration from her and emulate her life.
We have to cull out these virtues from Holy Mother's unique life and see how they can be useful to us; we have to practise them in our own lives. According to Swami Vivekananda putting such noble ideas into practice is practical vedanta.
The Holy Mother was endowed with all the feminine virtues which have been traditional good qualities of an Indian woman and mother. She has shown by her life that India is travelling towards a greater possibility which will create a better culture and civilisation, showing the way for fulfillment of woman's destiny as an ideal mother.
[Professor Jai Kishori Pandit enjoys reputation as an able teacher and scholar of English]