By P. Murugan
The Tamil journal of the Ramakrishna Order, Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, held an essay competition on the topic “My Experience with the Compassionate Holy Mother” on the occasion of Sarada Devi, The Holy Mother’s 150th Birth Anniversary. P. Murugan, a life convict at the Cuddalore Jail, also participated in the competition and sent his essay. He wrote in a touching manner how the life and teachings of Holy Mother showed him the right path in life during troubled times, and how those teachings helped him transform his own life. Judges of the competition were unanimous in awarding him the first prize.
A young man of 25 years, Murugan has been in prison since when he was 17. He heard the news of his getting the prize with reverence. When asked whether he wanted anything, he requested for books that could be distributed to other inmates in the prison. The prison authorities are happy about him and encourage him to produce many more people like himself. Murugan accepted the prize books and the gift of Mother’s photo with due reverence. Here is the translation of his essay.
The embodiment of love, compassion, and peace, epitome of motherhood, a guide to the spiritual life of both the monk and the householder through the example of her very life was Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. It is difficult to find an equivalent to Mother’s life and gospel. Every word of hers was uttered with compassion for the good of generations to come. Her words give solace and sustenance to all her children. As her words have touched and sanctified the life of many, they transformed my life also.
There are many problems in the world. I have come across a few in this short life of mine. Let me explain how Mother’s words helped me through those problems. My father, brother and I—all three were convicted for murder and sentenced for life. I had lost all hopes in life upon entering the prison, as sadness and depression had overtaken me. The sad plight of my mother and two sisters, and the suffering that they were undergoing constantly bothered me. Oh! No words could explain it.
In such a state of mental gloom, I decided that the best way to get rid of this depression is to commit suicide. I thought thus I could put an end to all my sufferings once for all. One night (18th January 2000) after this thought came, while I was crying and wailing about my sorrows, my friend, another inmate, gave me the book Sri Sarada Devi: Vâzhkaiyum Upadesangalum (Sri Sarada Devi: Life and Teachings) to read.
Having already decided to put an end to my life, I wasn’t interested to read anything at all. Still, I just gave a cursory glance at the book. I browsed through a few pages at random. One message in particular drew my attention and absorbed my thought. It runs like this: “Do not be afraid. Human birth is full of suffering. Hold on to the name of God and wade through the sufferings. Even the Gods, holy men, avatars and saints will have to go through suffering if they take human birth. They have to go through the physical and mental torture for others, to absolve others of their sins.” I read this passage again and again, and I realized the insignificance of my suffering in comparison to that of many other people who were even greater and saintly. The question arose in my mind: “Why should I suffer? Why should I commit suicide? After all, I am not a coward. I am a brave person.”
I felt as though a burden was lifted from me, a feeling of lightness spread within me and I felt that Mother herself has consoled me. I gave up the idea of suicide that very night. I started confronting my suffering and depression face to face, and started chanting the name of Sri Ramakrishna. Slowly I felt a sense of peace engulfing me, I felt Mother’s grace and blessings surrounding me. I hereby narrate some of the teachings of Mother and how they helped me to transform my life:
About attaining peace, Mother said: “Open up your suffering-laden heart to the Lord. With tears pray to him, ‘Lord, please take me into your fold, grant me peace.’ If you can do this persistently, you will gradually feel His grace and achieve peace.”
Being a life convict, I have lived through untold sufferings But, after reading these words of Mother repeatedly, I decided to put her advice into practice. For three years now, every day, I pray to her and to Sri Ramakrishna with tears, and tell them all my sufferings. I have felt their grace and their blessings. I have achieved peace and tranquility.
There is a Tamil proverb saying Chithiramum kaippazhakkam, senthamizhum naappazhakkam (Painting and prose get perfected through practice alone). Similarly, my constant prayer removed the suffering and paved the way for clarity in my thinking. I am a person who didn’t even know the meaning of the word “bhakti” [devotion], but today I conduct spiritual classes to other inmates of the jail! What else but the grace and compassion of Mother could have made this possible?
With regard to service, Mother said: “Always do your service to others as your duty, but, keep your attachment directed towards the Lord. For, attachment to worldly things can only give you misery.”
“Service to man is service to God—this message of Mother made me love everybody. “To live for others” is the Mother’s heart, after all it is the heart of the Almighty. In a prison it is not possible for me to be of any service to people through money or other materials. However, people in the prisons are caught up in a whirlpool of mental problems, agony, suffering and bouts of depression. I decided to make it my duty to provide solace to such people, to help them achieve some semblance of peace when they face the realities of life. Towards this I started classes for the inmates on Bhagavad Gita, Thiruvâsagam (a Tamil scripture), the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda from January 2001.
“Perseverance wins,” said Mother. She said: “Without losing heart, persistently continue your prayer. Everything will happen in due course. Even great souls and rishis (seers) had to go through tough penance before they could realize God. In such case, how do you expect God to appear before you so easily? For us of course, Sri Ramakrishna has made the path clear and easy. Still it is not so easy to attain the divine grace.”
Mother has said that through persistent effort one can attain divine grace, and that one should face the problems of the world with constant prayers. That through prayers, not only can we attain divine grace, but we can attain anything in the world. Taking these words of Mother as my gospel, and having taken Sri Ramakrishna as my guru, I follow his footsteps and abideby his teachings like Swami Vivekananda did.
The world is yours. In Mother’s words, “If you want peace, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults. Learn to make the world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; the whole world is your own.”
One who is in the quest of peace, first needs to know oneself. Only by knowing our limitations and mistakes can we understand ourselves better. Following this teaching of Mother, I try to look into myself and avoid looking at others’ mistakes. This attitude has brought me closer to many of my inmates. By looking at their problems as not different from my own problems, I realize that they, as individuals, are not different from me. I realize that everyone in the world is my brother and sister. Such a realization, through Mother’s guidance and grace, gives me immense joy.
Real Humility (in Mothers words): “It is the same God residing in the hearts of the poor, the deprived and the neglected that resides in us too. This we can realize only through our spiritual practice, and such a realization will automatically lead us to real humility.”
These words of Mother made me realize that the Lord resides in the hearts of every one of us. It changed my discriminatory attitude towards people and made me see the Lord in everyone. I came out of my small circle. It released me from the bondage of my ignorance, and slowly I saw many of my problems disappear on their own.
Can there be anyone on whom Mother has not showered her unbounded grace? True to Mother’s words of grace, “How can one be called a human if he cannot love others?” I have changed myself from being a rogue to a peaceful human being. It is only her love and grace, and nothing else that has made this possible. That someone convicted for murder like me is today looked upon as a venerable teacher by others is surely not my doing at all; this can only happen with the love and grace of Mother and the blessings of Sri Ramakrishna. A wayside robber (Valmiki) through divine grace achieved immortality by writing the epic Ramayana. Likewise a person like me can indeed become a guide to others by the influence of the guiding words and blessings of Mother.
It is only our discrimination and differentiation against people in the society that causes many social ills and persistent problems. It is important for people to follow the divine life of Mother (holier than the Ganges) and her teachings alone can save the world. I have neither the words nor the wisdom to appreciate or praise Mother’s words. Hence, I dedicate myself at her divine feet.