One of the harmonizing schools of Vedanta and one of the developed, improvised philosophical hierarchies is of Ramakrishna Paramhans. The Ramakrishna School of spiritual philosophy is very important and considering the need of the generation to build, cope and provide an environment for spiritual upliftment, understanding the philosophy of the Ramakrishna tradition is very important.
In the previous blog on Ramkrishna Paramhans, we have seen the philosophy of Ramakrishna Paramhans and his life as a spiritual seeker. The last blog about Ramakrishna emphasizes how Ramakrishna Paramhans lived his life spiritually. How inspiring his life was and how we can develop and maintain our spiritual growth by getting inspired from his life.
In this blog we shall discuss the most prominent personality of the Ramakrishna tradition "Sri Ma Sarada Devi" referred to as "Holy Mother" by her husband and spiritual consort "Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa".
Sri Sarada Devi was the wife of Ramakrishna Paramhans. She was born in the village of Jayrambati in West Bengal. Originally Kshemankari/ Thakurmani/ Saradamani Mukhopadhyay, the holy mother was later known and named Ma Sarada Devi after marrying Sri Ramkrishna Paramhans at the age of 6 when her husband was 23.
It is said that Ramakrishna himself told where his bride was and his family who thought that marriage would bind Ramakrishna and change his path from spirituality to normal routine life married him to her.
After marrying Ramkrishna, Sri Sarada Devi lived with her parents till the age of 18. She then later joined Sri Ramakrishna at the Dakshineswar Kali temple in West Bengal after being together for 3 years at their home.
After joining him at the Kali temple, Ma Sarada began to serve the temple and followers of Ramkrishna religiously. She followed the paths and teachings of Ramakrishna. She was also a prominent part of the Ramakrishna movement and was herself a realized soul.
It is very intriguing to know that both the personalities of Ma Sarada and Sri Ramakrishna were extremely different and equally inspiring. While Sri Ramakrishna was a personality known to people for the depth of his knowledge and spiritual experiences. Ma Sarada is still to be explored more by philosophers.
So as a team member of The Bharatiyan, this is a very humble attempt of exploring Ma Sarada as a spiritual leader and her philosophy.
In one of the incidents Sri Ramakrishna while referring to Sarada Devi said that "Ma Sarada is Devi Saraswati herself, and she has come to impart knowledge to humans."
So, let us understand how Ma Sarada served humans and how effectively she lived, propagated, and exercised the philosophy and theory of the Ramakrishna tradition.
Life of Ma Sarada in short:
Ma Sarada as per sources began her spiritual journey right from her childhood as she used to meditate from an early age. Like every other Indian woman of the 18th century, she didn't go to any school to take formal education. She was taught to traditionally serve the people, humans, and her family with the daily chores and food served right daily. She believed in serving and taking care of everyone as part of her life and it was her lifestyle routine to work and help needy people as per her ideology she saw god in every individual soul.
She lived her life taking care of people known and unknown of different castes, traditions, and religions. She was a pure soul who believed in humanity and more importantly, treated everyone equally.
Apart from serving and performing routine activities and chores, she was a great philosopher who was sought at times by Ramakrishna's disciples whenever they faced difficulties in their spiritual progress or whenever they had any queries.
She religiously followed the teachings of Ramakrishna and propagated the Ramakrishna teachings and traditions after his death. She supported a lot of devotees who came to her doorstep and blessed them by providing the crippled and poor with shelter and food with proper medication to a few who were facing severe health issues.
Just like Ramakrishna, even though she didn't accept the Christian and Muslim religions, she never discriminated against and served everyone with the same love and affection, making her the holy mother. It is to be noted that she also once helped Sister Nivedita who had come from far and spoke to her with empathy and treated her with grace.
Her relationship with Ramakrishna
Holy mother or "Ma Sarada" was named "Ma" by Ramakrishna himself because even though they both married their marriage never consummated. He considered her as his mother and hence his consort was like his mother who took care of him and his disciples religiously and very devotedly.
The relationship between Sarada Devi and Shri Ramakrishna was very different, divine, and complex. It is difficult to know them and understand the depth of their companionship. They were extremely different in lifestyle and it is easy to know the same because while Ma Sarada was always busy serving, helping, and taking care of people Shri Ramakrishna's life was completely dependent on his followers, Ma Sarada and the people who supported him constantly while he would always meditate and always be in the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi so much so that once he accidentally fell down and broke his limb.
Ramakrishna's life was all about renunciation. He renounced not just worldly desires but also one-sidedness, bigotry, and sectarianism making it easier for him to accept other religions and inspire everyone without religious barriers.
While all this happened the life of Ma Sarada revolved around Shri Ramakrishna and his disciples and as she considered him as her God (Thakur ji), she only followed one religion and that is Shri Ramakrishna, she worshiped only one god and that is Ramakrishna. There is an incidence of her describing that once everything that she looked at became Ramakrishna, her mind would trace every soul, every living and non-living thing as well as the existing world as Sri Ramakrishna (Thakur Ji). This feeling of having met god or being surrounded by God all the time is called as “Brahma Shakti Abhed” meaning Brahman and Shakti or God are one. All existing souls, personalities, individuals, living and non-living surroundings, and the world which according to Ramakrishna's school of thought are fully existent eventually become nothing but Brahman when you reach to a certain level of spiritual realization.
It is also important to know, understand and note that as discussed at the beginning of the blog Ramakrishna school has a harmonizing theory which means that they accept both the traditional/classical Advait Vedant which states that only “Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya” i.e. “Brahman is the only truth and the world is non-existent”, as well as the Achinta Bheda Bhed and Shudha Advait which say that the world is existent and is a part of one supreme God called Krishna. Now, here we need to know that both these philosophies are challenged and criticized and this is where Ma Sarada’s theory comes into the picture where she clarifies and justifies her stand about the theories and how they cannot be stated right or wrong based on the mere conceptions and by following a narrowed view that only a particular thought process is correct.
Thus, concluding that Ma Sarada and Ramakrishna had different paths and different ways of living but their sole purpose was to serve humanity with their great and identical views.
There is an instance where the holy mother beautifully explains how every spiritually realized soul is unique. She says that there are so many birds on earth, each bird has a different chirping sound and every bird's chirp is unique but beautiful. Similarly, there are many realized souls practicing spirituality and all of them have different paths and varied experiences which cannot be compared and criticized. Every individual will look at the world in a different way, there can be guidance, and there can be varied schools of thoughts providing you a clearer vision but which one you choose, relate and adapt ultimately depends on your capacities and endurances.
Talking about the yogas and deciding which one is greater, both Ma Sarada and Sri Ramakrishna would again say that it all depends on the path you choose and what kind of personality or individual you are, talking about the same there can be no better example than Sri Ramakrishna and Ma Sarada in this aspect as well where both of them practiced different Yogas altogether, Sri Ramakrishna who was an ardent devotee of Ma Kali practiced Bhakti Yoga to the core and thus he could get the visions of Ma Kali. While Sri Sarada Devi practiced Karma Yoga throughout her life and lived and upgraded herself spiritually by helping and serving other people by seeing God and Sri Ramakrishna in each one of them. Thus, no path to divine or ultimate reality can be said to be perfect and flawless, and also, no yoga can be termed as inferior and superior.
Concluding all of this with subtleness by considering Sri Sarada Devi and Sri Ramakrishna as one of the most spiritually pious personalities ever happened in the history of the Hindu spiritual culture and tradition it is best advised to note the greatness, devotion, and dedication of their work, their teachings and their presence in our lives with gratitude and take nothing but inspiration to follow and practice at least some part of spirituality in our lives thus ensuring our mental, physical as well as spiritual wellbeing with the help of traditional values and traditional viewpoints not just for individual growth but for future growth and success as a nation “The Bharat”.
Disclaimer and sources:
We at The Bharatiyan in order to ensure transparency with our readers have taken this step of incorporating sources of our works. So, here’s a close view of how does our writer research coming directly from them!
References for this blog have been taken from various sources on the internet and prominently from a lecture presented by Swami Meghanand who is one of the monks of the Ramakrishna tradition and the video of which is available on YouTube. I as a writer have interpreted and presented views about Sri Sarada Devi based on Swami Meghanand’s teachings and references used by him to describe her may be found here with improvisation from the writer’s point of view.