She once said to her devotees that “through spiritual realization, the mind becomes pure, and through that pure mind, one obtains enlightenment.” Ramakrishna responded to this by saying, “Why should you worry” I shall leave you many children, all pure as gold, the likes of whom women do not get, even through the prayers and austerities of millions of lives. So many people will call you Mother that you will find it hard to look after them all.” Ramakrishna’s prophecy turned out to become true.
Ramakrishna finally passed away chanting the name Kali, Kali, Kali. The next day and evening, the Holy Mother began to remove her ornaments as is the custom for Hindu women upon a death, when Ramakrishna materialized Himself right in front of Her eyes. In Swami Nikhilananda’s book, he is quoted as saying, “Am I dead, that you are acting like a widow? I have just moved from one room to another.” The Holy Mother put her ornaments and jewelry back on.
The Holy Mother did mourn greatly at the loss of her husband, guru and teacher, and went into a more withdrawn state for some period of time. She continued Her spiritual practices and one day spent two days in a superconscious state and was transformed greatly by this experience.
Her future missions began when Ramakrishna appeared to Her one day and told her to formally initiate a new disciple. He gave Her the name of the disciple and even the mantra she should use. She resisted at first, however, did as she was instructed and Swami Yogananda became Her first disciple. (This is a different Yogananda than Paramahansa Yogananda, about whom I have writtenin the next chapter.)
It was in the years from 1898 to 1909 that She began Her public spiritual ministry. This culminated between the years 1909 to 1920. It was in these periods of Her life that She fully expanded into the embodiment of the Holy Mother that Ramakrishna had envisioned for Her. She became the spiritual Mother for all the disciples of Ramakrishna. She would often say, “If one is without kindness, how can one be called a human being?”
She, along with Swami Vivekananda, became Ramakrishna’s spiritual successor. She would give spiritual initiations and allow the disciple to choose their chosen ideal, or personal God. To the Holy Mother, Ramakrishna was the supreme spirit, and incarnation for these modern times. However, sometimes, on occasion, disciples would choose another Deity and that was fine with Her. She, like Ramakrishna, saw all paths leading to the same place.
The Holy Mother did not look for disciples. She allowed them to come to Her. She gave the responsibility for her disciples to Ramakrishna, who happily accepted them. She, herself, and her disciples practiced japa, which is the repeating of the name of God. To Her disciples, and really all people, she demonstrated unconditional love, devotion, forgiveness, and compassion. She also imparted the spirit of renunciation, sexual and sensory control, non-attachment, and transcendence of ego. She regarded all disciples as Her children. She came to see Herself as the Divine Mother of the universe. Ramakrishna often overshadowed Her in His subtle body form.
She would often tell disciples, in times of trouble, “Do not be afraid, the Master is behind you, and I am too, as your Mother.” For the Holy Mother, the purpose of life was to “realize God and remain immersed in contemplation of Him. God, alone, is real, and everything else is false. God is one’s very own, and this is the eternal relationship between God and creatures. One realizes God in proportion to the intensity of one’s feeling for Him.”
She saw Ramakrishna as the “Embodiments of all deities and all mantras. One can worship through Him, all Gods and Goddesses.” Ramakrishna was very universalistic and practiced many different religions and realized God in all of them. The Holy Mother taught that the teachings of all the saints are true, not just Ramakrishna.”
When asked how one attains Self realization and Brahman, she said, “The path leading to Brahman is very difficult. It is quite natural for a man to forget God. Therefore whenever the need arises, God becomes incarnated on Earth and shows the path by practicing spiritual discipline Himself. This time, too, God has shown the example of renunciation.”
The Holy Mother also taught lust and attachment to money must be renounced, along with attachment to the physical body. People with desires are born over and over again. She said, “One should desire desirelessness. Desire is the obstacle to liberation!” On death, she said, “The thought that is uppermost in the mind before one loses consciousness, determines the course of one’s soul after death.” She prescribed steady effort in one’s meditation, prayers, japa, and devotions. In respect to japa, she recommended her disciples to repeat the name of God fifteen or twenty thousand times a day. Love of God and humanity was seen as essential to one’s spiritual progress. In respect to food, the Holy Mother said, “All food should be offered to God. As your food is, so will your blood be. From pure blood, you will get bodily strength and a pure mind. A pure mind begets ecstatic love for God.”
In respect to truth, she said, “The Master used to say that truthfulness, alone, is the austerity of the present age. One attains to God by holding to the truth.” To householders, she advised a practice of inner renunciation without running away from the world. This could be achieved by the repeating of God’s name and dedicating one’s self to self control.
Self surrender was the ultimate state of spiritual growth before God bestowed final liberation. The letting go of the ego, lead to the union of the individual soul and the universal soul. The cultivation of good company was also highly recommended. Until one transcended the “I-consciousness” desires would still arise. Disciples often looked as Sarada as the Divine Mother and Sri Ramakrishna as Siva.
On Tuesday, July 21, 1920 the Holy Mother passed away. Three shrines now stand as memorials to Her. I will end this section with a quote from Swami Nikhilandanda’s book from the Holy Mother; “I am the Mother of the virtuous. I am the Mother of the wicked. Whenever you are in distress, say to yourself, I have a Mother.”