To mark his birth-tithi on 18 July 2020, this article is reproduced from his 150th Birth Centenary Souvenir published in 2012 by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
The Unique Worshipper
A sultry day of June in Madras, a sannyasi had just laid down for rest. He, however, felt very uneasy because of excessive heat. He became quite restless, and then all on a sudden he got up and entered the shrine quietly, thinking that the heat was unbearable also to his Lord. So, he began to fan the portrait of his Master and then flowed a stream of soft, moving words from his lips: “My Master! O the beloved of my heart! O my Master, O the beloved of my heart!” Thus he went on for two hours. As he fanned and hummed these endearing words he forgot all about his surroundings, all about his existence and all about the burning heat, only the living presence of the Master was real to him.
One evening a group of devotees came to the Math to meet him. They understood that he was in the shrine and waited for him. Presently they heard him railing out in loud and angry tones: “You have brought me here, old man, and left me helpless! Are you testing my powers of patience and endurance? I will not go and beg hereafter for my sake or even for yours. If anything comes unasked, I will offer it to you and share the prasada. Or I will bring sea-sand for offering to you and I shall live upon that.”
The devotees, who were waiting outside the shrine, did not quite follow his words. They guessed that he was quarrelling with somebody. But, in fact, he was in a distressed mood unburdening himself to his Master.
Once he took hot milk into the shrine for offering. While testing the warmth of the milk by dipping his finger into it, he happened to burn and blister the finger. He then placed the milk before the portrait and said in a complaining tone, “You want to drink warm milk, and my finger is burnt!”
Such was Swami Ramakrishnananda, a direct disciple of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna. The few incidents cited above will amply show how surcharged he was with the feeling of the living presence of the Master. Whoever had seen the Swami performing the worship in the shrine was deeply impressed by his ecstatic devotion. The love for ceremonial worship was in his blood. His father was an expert in this art. His guru had his realisations through it. In fact, he believed that deities actually dwell in the temples and they talk to the devotees too. Once when a devotee was going to take leave after a long conversation, the Swami said, ‘Wait, Guru Maharaj is taking tiffin. I shall give you a little prasada.” Though the gentleman did not quite comprehend this attitude, he was sure that the Swami was perfectly sincere. He himself once observed that the eyes and mind of a real devotee got peculiarly transformed and if others had not such eyes and mind it was not the fault of the devotee.
In the Mould
His first meeting with Sri Ramakrishna made a tremendous impression on his mind and his life took a new turn. He began to practice spiritual disciplines with great earnestness. When Sri Ramakrishna fell seriously ill, Shashi gave up his studies to serve him heart and soul. Imperceptibly he was being trained also by the Master who was fully aware of the spiritual potentiality of this young man.
One day when the young Shashi was going out of his room on some urgent business, the Master interrupted him and said pointing his finger to himself, “You see, He whom you seek is this, He is this.” That gave him the clue to his life’s ideal and with this he solved all his problems and the problems of others. “The guru’s work is to give the right direction,” said he in later life. His guru also gave him by that one sentence the key to all understanding. The purpose of his life was found, the goal fixed and what remained was only practical testing and demonstration of this truth in life.
A Saga of Service
After the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna, Shashi Maharaj kept a vigil over his relics. He did it with great attention and one-pointed love, observing meticulously all the minute details of service which he was rendering even when the Master was in flesh and blood.
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