By M (Mahendra Nath Gupta)
Translated by Swami Chetanananda
These newly-discovered diary entries, written by M, the author of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, were originally published in 1904 in Navya Bharat. Upon its rediscovery, it was published in Udbodhan, the Bengali-language journal of the Ramakrishna Order (vol 102, no 10 and vol 103, nos. 2 and 3.) Swami Chetanananda, head of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis, translated the articles from the Bengali and it was published in the February, 2006 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, one of the English-language journals of the Ramakrishna Order. Our thanks to Udbodhan and Prabuddha Bharata for their permission to place this newly-discovered treasure online here. This is the first of two installments; the second will appear on this site in June, 2006.
Note from the translator:
The five volumes of Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, recorded by M (Mahendra Nath Gupta) in Bengali, were not written in chronological order. At the end of the first four volumes, M added some information about the disciples of the Master and the Ramakrishna monastery at Baranagore that was established after Sri Ramakrishna’s passing away. A few years ago, some researchers discovered that four of M’s diary entries (25 August 1886, 2 September 1886, 12 October 1886, and 17 February 1887) had been published in 1904 in the Navya Bharat (Jyaishtha-Asharh 1311 BE), a monthly magazine. Perhaps M intended to add these entries at the end of the fifth volume of the Kathamrita, but unfortunately that volume was only published posthumously. I have translated this newly found material from Bengali into English. I must acknowledge that I have used some songs from Swami Nikhilananda’s translation, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. In this precious historical record we learn that the Ramakrishna Math at Baranagore was inaugurated sometime before 12 October 1886.
Wednesday, 25 August 1886
It has been ten days since Sri Ramakrishna went to his own abode, leaving his devotees behind. Imbued with renunciation, Narendra and his brother disciples have been practising sadhana.
Narendra and the Master’s devotees have assembled in the parlour of Balaram Basu’s house in Calcutta. They are like motherless orphans. By merely looking at them, one can feel their intense grief, the result of the Master’s passing away. One thought fills their minds: The Master has gone to his own abode; what should we do now? The devotees have no place where these young disciples can stay together. They are forced to return home for food and shelter every day. The thread holding the pearls together as a necklace has broken, and the group is about to fall apart. The disciples continually think: Where shall we go? What shall we do? Sitting in seclusion, they think of the Master and cry for him.
Narendra, Rakhal, Kali, Sharat, Shashi, Tarak, Gopal, Bhavanath, and M arrived first, and later Niranjan came.
Everyone looks to Narendra. He is planning to send some of his brother disciples to Vrindaban, so he has been collecting some money from the devotees.
Narendra leaves for Girish’s house nearby, accompanied by some of his brother disciples. He and M talk on the way.
Narendra (to M): ‘Sir, please pay for a one-way fare for Baburam.’
M: ‘Certainly. I will pay.’
Narendra: ‘Right now, if you would, please.’
M: ‘Right now?’
Baburam is one of those who has been chosen to go to Vrindaban. The group of devotees arrives at Girish’s parlour. Narendra asks Girish for money.
Girish: ‘I don’t have much money with me at present, but if you want I can contribute ten or eleven rupees right now. Why are they going to Vrindaban?’
Narendra (gravely): ‘The Master has told us to renounce “woman and gold”.’
A Devotee: ‘Are you also going away?’
Narendra: ‘Let us all move out. I have some business at home. The litigation has not yet been settled. (After some thought) Let the litigation take its own course. I haven’t understood the truth. Getting involved in this family affair is useless.’
Rakhal: ‘If I stay here, I shall feel pulled by my family.’
Narendra’s father has passed away, and he has two younger brothers and sisters. They have no guardian and no means with which to purchase food and clothing. Narendra has passed his BA examination, and if he so wishes, he can get a job to maintain his family. Rakhal has his father, wife and child at home.
The topic of the Kankurgachhi garden house arises and they discuss how the trustees should be appointed.
Rakhal: ‘We will be pleased if they make Narendra a trustee.’
Narendra: ‘No, no. What good is there in being a trustee?’
When everyone asks Narendra to be a trustee, he tells Girish: ‘All right. Let it be so.’ But Narendra is not appointed.
In Girish’s room Mani and a devotee begin to talk.
The devotee heaves a sigh and says: ‘I shall not pray to the Master for anything.’
Mani: ‘Not for anything?’
Devotee: ‘No, I will not pray for anything —neither for devotion nor for my family.’
Having thus spoken, the devotee again sighs deeply.
Devotee: ‘The Master said: “Why so much milk? Devotees have their families; how can they afford to pay for it?” How painful! I will never forget it.’
While the Master was suffering from cancer at the Cossipore garden house, the householder devotees had borne all the expenses for the Master’s service. The Master was always watchful, so that they might not spend too much money.
Devotee: ‘I wanted to engage a full-time doctor to treat the Master, but I couldn’t do it.’
The devotee remains silent for a while and then says: ‘Well, do you think that I would try to improve the condition of my family by chanting the Master’s name? What do I care whether people call me good or virtuous?’
Thursday, 2 September 1886
Shashi has come to M’s house on Guruprasad Chaudhury Lane in Calcutta. He and M are seated on a wooden cot in the study. Shashi and Sharat live in their family home at Pataldanga. Today Shashi wears clean clothes and carries a new umbrella. Shashi and M begin to talk about the Master.
M: ‘The Master told me that Narendra was the main disciple among the group.’
Shashi: ‘I vividly remember that the Master said that Narendra would be our leader.’
M: ‘Do you remember what the Master said about further study?’
Shashi (with a smile): ‘Yes, I distinctly remember that the Master told Narendra one day, “Don’t allow them [the young disciples] to study in school any more.”’
M: ‘What about Kali?’
Shashi: ‘Yes, the Master scolded Kali and said to him, “You have introduced studies here.” I had begun to study the Persian language, and as a result I got a scolding from him.’
Then Sharat and Narendra arrived, and they all began discussing when Sri Ramakrishna’s message would be preached. Who would preach it first?
M: ‘Who has understood the Master? Do you remember what the Master said about Vaishnavcharan’s writing?’
Sharat: ‘Yes, I remember. The Master said: “Vaishnavcharan understood every one of my spiritual experiences.” I thought that he would be the first to make them public.’
Narendra: ‘The Master told me, “The knowledge of Brahman is the goal. Vaishnavcharan was supposed to spread the message first.” But it didn’t work out. Keshab Sen was first to make the message public.’
12 October 1886
Nearly two months had passed since the Master left this world, after binding his devotees with a cord of love. Where would they go now? They could no longer enjoy staying at their homes. They wanted to be together always and to spend their days and nights thinking of him and talking about him. Two or three of the disciples had no home. At this juncture Surendra came forward and told them: ‘Brothers, you have no place to live, and we have no place to give rest to our hearts. Let us rent a house in Baranagore, where you will live, and we shall visit from time to time.’
Surendra used to pay fifty rupees every month for the Master’s service at the Cossipore garden house. He now said: ‘Brothers, I used to contribute a little money for the Master’s service. I shall provide that amount to pay the expenses of this house in Baranagore.’
Gradually, Narendra and the Master’s other unmarried disciples moved to the Baranagore monastery and they did not return to their homes. The number of monastic brothers increased over time, and eventually Surendra was donating one hundred rupees per month.
Blessed Surendra! It is you who have laid the foundation of this first monastery. This ashrama owes its existence to your good wishes! Through you the Master has made it possible for his disciples to live in the world as the embodiment of his central teaching—the renunciation of ‘woman and gold’. Through Narendra and other young renunciants he has demonstrated the Eternal Hindu Dharma among people. Who can forget the debt owed to you? The brothers lived at the monastery like orphan boys. Sometimes they would not have the money to pay their rent; sometimes they would have no food. They would wait for you to come and settle all these difficulties. Who would not shed tears on remembering your selfless work!
Baranagore Math. On this moonlit night Narendra and Mani are walking on the eastern veranda of the Master’s shrine. It is the night of the full moon, when the goddess Lakshmi is worshipped. Narendra and Mani converse about the Master and also about jnana yoga and bhakti yoga.
Mani: ‘The Master described two paths —knowledge and devotion—and said that both lead to the same goal. The followers of jnana and the followers of bhakti reach the same place.’
Narendra: ‘But the Master told me: “The Knowledge of Brahman is the goal. Devotion is meant to maintain the external aspect of life. The elephant has outer tusks and inner grinders as well. The tusks are mere ornaments; but the elephant chews its food with the grinders.”’
Mani: ‘The Master also said that one can attain the Knowledge of Brahman through the path of devotion. The Knowledge of Brahman can be attained from the path of knowledge as well as from the path of devotion. Perhaps you remember that the Master also said: “After attaining the Knowledge of Brahman, some embrace devotion and live in this world. One can then ascend from the lila (relative plane) to the nitya (Absolute plane) and descend from the nitya to the lila.”’
Narendra: ‘Were you present that day when the Master talked about the Knowledge of Brahman at the Cossipore garden house?’
Mani: ‘I was not present at that time; but I heard that he talked about it for a long time. Do you remember what he said about Shukadeva?’
Narendra: ‘No, I don’t remember.’
Mani: ‘I have heard that the Master said on that day: “Shukadeva and sages like him may have been big ants; but even they could carry at the utmost a few grains of sugar. Shiva touched the water of the Ocean of Brahman-Consciousness, or at the most drank a handful of that water.” Did you hear such things?’
Narendra: ‘Yes, the Master said many such things on that day.’
Mani and Narendra begin a discussion about the brothers of the monastery.
Mani: ‘Now everything depends on you. You will have to look after them.’
Narendra: ‘The ego is very troublesome. The other day I scornfully scolded H a little. Immediately I had a vision of the Master. Do you know what he told me? He said: “What are you thinking? Know for certain that I can make any one amongst you who is the smallest, the greatest, and again I can make any one amongst you who is the greatest, the smallest.” I have been extremely careful since I had that vision. “The least shall be greatest and the greatest, least.”’
Mani: ‘You are right. One attains God by His grace only. He can make a person great, and also small. Can anyone attain Him by one’s own efforts? One needs His grace.’