Swami Vivekananda, the great Sannyasi, loved his country ardently. In Sister Nivedita's words 'The queen of his adoration was his Motherland.' His noble heart was moved to see the plight of the people and he gave his life in their service.
When he was in the West, he was first enchanted by the material prosperity brought about by the advance of science, but he was later disillusioned. He realized that the people in the West had made worldly pleasures their main aim in life. But he knew that materialistic civilization, bereft of spirituality, could never bring about the welfare of mankind. And the truth of this conviction is dawning upon everyone today.
After returning to India, he placed before the monks of the Ramakrishna Order, the new ideal of Atmano Mokshartham Jagat Hitaya Cha, that is, one has to strive not only for one's own salvation but also for the welfare of the world. Till then the monks in India aimed at individual liberation through renunciation. Swamiji added to it the ideal of service for the welfare of all. Today, many religious Orders have accepted his ideal of renunciation and service.
Swamiji knew that in India it was essential first to raise the standard of living with the help of science and technology. To achieve this purpose, the country should. obtain scientific knowledge from the West; in exchange, India should offer to the West its spiritual wisdom. This exchange of ideas would facilitate the welfare of the world. Swamiji had not the least doubt that the spiritual values that India, professed would lead to the welfare of the entire human race.
Beneath the mundane lives of even ordinary people in India,, there flows an undercurrent of spirituality. But mainly the sannyasis, through renunciation and austerities, have kept alive the spiritual knowledge. They are the torch-bearers of spirituality. That is why Swamiji placed the responsibility of conserving, preserving and propogating the spiritual ideal upon the monks of the Ramakrishna Order. Along with that, the general public under the guidance of the monks was given the responsibility of removing ignorance, superstition and poverty then prevalent in India under a foreign rule.
Swamiji was aware of the basic problems related to the degradation in his country. He thought it was essential to improve the.condition of the masses and women who formed one half of the society. Introduction of a proper system of education was the means to achieve this. Thus we see in the Rules of the Ramakrishna Math, after mentioning the aim of the monastic life, he outlined the plan for establishing a Math for women where, as sannyasinis, they would independently lead a spiritual life and would strive for the uplift of women. He reiterated this idea in many of his talks and writings. Due to adverse social circumstances, his dream of starting the Women's Math could be realized much later—on 2 December, 1954.
Established by the Ramakrishna Math, the Women's Math began functioning independently within four years and eight months. In this connection it may be mentioned that inspired by Swamiji, Sister Nivedita founded her school in 1902; and Sudhira Devi and others who worked there from the beginning, led pure and dedicated lives. In 1940, many educated girls, either indisiidually or collectively, came forward to mould their lives according to Swamiji's ideals. They .all were keen to ensure that Swamiji's dream of a Women's Math be realized soon. The Belur Math authorities received many applications from women to allow them to start a Math and to give a place to women in the monastic Order. The then President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Swami Virajananda was very much interested in this matter. He encouraged, blessed and helped any woman who wanted to live a life of renunciation and service. In the Monks' Conference of 1946, he emphatically said that the time was ripe for establishing a Women's Math. In 1950, on a special occasion, conveying his best wishes and blessings to dedicated women workers, he firmly expressed his opinion in these Words: 'Swamiji's sincere desire to arouse among women the spirit of renunciation and spiritual awareness will be definitely realized some day. ...In due course, all obstacles will be overcome and women will arise.' In 1947, Swami Madhavananda, the then General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, wrote to an aspirant: 'Women will be given sannyasa in due course, but a worthy guide is necessary. Only Sri Ramakrishna knOws through whom this work will be done.'
During Holy Mother's birth cents arrangements were being made for the Math, the Belur Math authorities nature (afterwards known as Pravrajika Blh President of the Women's Math. She w attendant of Holy Mother. It now seen Sarala Devi with her and gave her spirits for this responsibility. From 1927 to 19 time in Varanasi quietly perfecting her s this period, she sometimes came to Cal( days in the Nivedita Girls' School.
Many of the dedicated women wort Mission who stayed and worked in di highly qualified, but they had no doubt tl was far superior to all of them spiritually. Sarala Devi, the. Women's Math had Mother. They were happy that the resp the spiritual progress of the aspirants was For eighteen years, from December P was the President of Sri Sarada Math. He personality made her the object of eve men and women were inspired to lead initiation from her. The way she quietl' physical suffering during the last few r illness was an example for all to emulate. she withdrew her mind from all world completely immersed in thoughts of persons who were present at that time, th indelible impression on their minds. A 11 1 then staying at the Math said,, 'She not a she also taught us how to die.'
The authorities of the Sarada Math necessity of publishing a biography Pravrajika Nirbhayaprana deserves ou: collecting and collating the material ant hope that the biography of Pravrafi well-received by all spiritually minded p 1 right to work; not to the fruit thereof.
The purpose of the advent of great persons, completely devoted to God, is to provide guidance to others, though they are rarely aware of this. Those who have known Pravrajika Bharatiprana have witnessed her long life spent beautifully. Simple and unpretentious, yet it was a life of greatness and depth which remained an ideal for many. She had spent quite a few years with Sri Sarada Devi, and was one of her privileged children who received her unstinted love. It is wonderful that she could live in such proximity to Holy Mother and could see her anytime she wished to. The Shastras tell us that no ordinary man or woman can be in direct contact with a divine person, unless he or she acquires a high degree of purity of mind.
The spontaneous love of Sri Sarada Devi flowed freely and with-out discrimination towards one and all. It was beyond an ordinary person to realize the divinity in Sri Sarada Devi. She was very shy. She was reticent about her power because she was aware of it. Her spiritual strength was awe-inspiring and unparalleled. One could never extract a satisfactory answer from Bharatipranaji about Sri Sarada Devi's divine power in spite of constant probing. Much later, one could realize that these were so profound that they could be understood only after intense spiritual practices and austerities. That is why Bharatiprana Mataji devoted herself to austere religious disciplines in Varanasi.
Divine revelation or supreme knowledge is not a triviality, and cannot be revealed anywhere and in any manner. It can be attain-ed only through God's grace. Bharatiprana Mataji never spoke about her spiritual attainments. When anyone asked her about them, she sometimes said a few words, but without a trace of egoism. She always turned the topic to the greatness and grace of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi. She was loved by Yogin-Ma and Golap-Ma because till the last days of their lives she served them with faith and devotion. When asked to recount the service she rendered to them, she only talked about the many humorous incidents that took place in their everyday lives and joined others in laughing and joking. From her talks, however, could be gathered some ideas about the elevated spiritual states of these two women disciples of Sri Ramakrishna. She was a silent witness to all that happened in the household of Sri Sarada Devi. Radhu, who was the special object of Sri Sarada Devi's love, loved Sarala as an elder sister. And whenever Sri Sarada Devi asked Sarala to do any-thing for Radhu, she was only too happy to do it. It seemed as if the members of a divine family had gathered together with the Univer-sal Mother at the centre.
According to the social customs of those days, women lived in the inner apartments of their homes and men lived in the outer rooms. Sri Sarada Devi headed such a household and was watchful of the movements of the girls. But they all were happy under her loving care. Today, people, depressed by the unending struggles of life, cannot imagine how, in similar circumstances, these members of Sri Sarada Devi's household could lead such a carefree life full of heavenly joy.
Swami Saradananda, Sri Sarada Devi's 'dear son Sarat', called himself 'Mother's gatekeeper'. He fulfilled all her needs and also took care of the other women of the household. It was natural, therefore, that Sarala, the Mother's 'dear daughter' received his special love and attention. She was a student of Nivedita and later was trained as a nurse with Sarada Devi's permission. In her last days, Holy Mother had instructed Sarat Maharaj to look after Sarala. He executed this responsibility with parental care and made some provision for her maintenance. With this help she spent twenty-seven years of her life in spiritual practices. She lived alone in Varanasi and had to face many ordeals, but she never spoke to anyone about them. Other senior monks of the Rama-krishna Order who knew about her difficulties, helped her occa-sionally. With absolute faith in Sri Sarada Devi she gradually became established firmly in her sadhanas.
When she heard about the Ramakrishna Math's proposal to start a Math for women, she was overjoyed. "See how Holy Mother works! She had forseen all this happening, but then I could not understand her. Now I understand. She had visualized that women will do much work." But when she came to know that she had to be the President of the Women's Math, she was apprehensive. In order to remove her anxiety, Swami Sankarananda said to her, "You do not have to do anything. Just look after these girls who have come within the Order." Accepting his advice without any protest, she gave up her independent lifestyle at Varanasi and came to Calcutta. Later, she would remark, "It was surpi-ising, but now I understand. Mother had said that I will have to do some work.
" It can be inferred that Sri Sarada Devi's training inspired her to relinquish self-interest and consider every work to be God's work. Otherwise, at an age when people like to live a solitary, quiet life, how could she take upon herself the onus of being the President of Sri Sarada Math? A wonderful lesson to learn! How much faith she had in Sri Sarada Devi to come forward and take this heavy responsibility! In Sri Sarada Math, too, she never gave up her austere mode of life, but harmonised it with her new responsibilities. She spent eighteen years in the Math. For her, all work was done at the Mother's command.
We did not have the good fortune of witnessing Sri Sarada Devi's life, but saw that of this 'daughter' of hers. While she was with us, she went through the daily routine of work like any of us and never demanded any special attention or consideration. Her mind always dwelt on a higher level of consciousness. This was quite evident in her last days. I pray that Bharatipranaji's life that so far remained hidden from worldly eyes, may now inspire many souls to turn towards God.
Swami Vivekananda, who was inspired by Sri Ramakrishna, was convinced that without renunciation it was not possible to live up to any high ideal or propagate. it. It was his vision that for the uplift of women, it was necessary to have a Women's Math.
In 1896, addressing a small parlour meeting in London, Swamiji thundered, "What the world wants today is twenty men and women who can dare to stand in the street yonder, and say that they possess nothing but God...If this is true, what else could matter, if it is not true, what do our lives matter?" Margaret Noble, a daughter of Ireland, was present at that meeting. It was a blessed day for her as she believed that she was one of those twenty. Attracted by the new ideal, she came forward to dedicate herself. She was the famous and beloved 'Lokamata Nivedita' of India.
Much effort is needed to realize an ideal. A bold and energetic lioness like Miss Noble was needed for the awakening of women in India as planned by Swamiji. She would be able to propagate the ideal and also lead a pure and austere life. In Calcutta, lived Sudhira Basu, the worthy sister of the freedom fighter Debabrata Basu. Her's was a simple, pure and unique life. But, in her was seen a tremendous zeal for activity. Since childhood she came under the influence of the Brahmo Samaj. She came forward to assist Sister Nivedita in working out her plan of education for women. Swamiji wanted that with Holy Mother in the centre, spiritual women would dedicate their lives to his ideal of working for one's own liberation and the welfare of the world, and would also be capable of reflecting the uniqueness of Holy Mother's personality.
A girl chosen by destiny to play this role was born in July 1894 in an ordinary brahmin family in a village called Guptipara. Her parents named her Parul. Small Parul was drawn into the company of Sister Nivedita, Holy Mother and Sudhira-di. She was renamed Sarala when she left her home. She later became the first President of Sri Sarala Math and was known as Pravrajika Bharatiprana. She was quiet and reserved by nature. The example that she set by her life and sadhana is truly unique. There is no doubt that it will act as a pole star and show the path to all.
From time immemorial, India has sung the praises of Sita, Savitri and Damayanti for the high ideals they lived up to. In the tfahabharata, one reads about devoted wives gaining divine power. It has been expressed in many ways in the Epics that women who are confined to their homes, and do their household duties sincerely, can also reach the highest ideal. It seems that Nive-dita, influenced by this view, was not aware that an Indian woman could live alone and become a knower of Brahman without leading a conventional married life. That is why, when, with the per-mission of Sudhira -di, Parul left her home, Nivedita naturally asked, "Will leaving the home (for a married girl) be considered good in the land of Sita and Savitri?" The Holy Mother too, remonstrated with Sudhira, "You have taken such a great responsibility upon yourself?" Sudhira answered "Mother, I have already done it, so what can I do?"
Through this small incident could be visualized that in this new age, women also would renounce their worldly concerns, and would start the great sadhana for God-realization. Holy Mother kept a loving eye on Sarala and by keeping her in her own company, gradually made her worthy of becoming a spiritual guide. During the Mother's last illness, Sarala used to nurse her. She often prayed, "Oh, Mother, I will not be able to live without you, so please take me also with you." Holy Mother replied, "Finally it is to me you will come, my child. But before that, I have some work, which you will have to do. It will not do if you go now.
" Swami Saradananda had noticed Holy Mother's special effort to look after Sarala; so, 1-1.too helped and encouraged her to go forward in life without any fear. After the passing away of Holy Mother, he supported her, and showered his love and blessings on her, which helped Sarala to prepare Herself for her future role. Swami Saradananda had great faith in Sudhira also. It seems he foresaw the awakening of women in the near future. After the Mahasamadhi of Holy Mother, as though unable to bear her loss, Sudhira, too, passed away within four months. Swami Sarada - nanda got anxious and said, "Even Sudhira has left, who knows the will of Holy Mother!"
But the Divine Will is supreme. Many a time Sarla had heard Sudhira-di saying, "Life is meant for consecration to God. On that path, if God is gracious, no suffering should be considered insurmountable.
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