Sarada Devi: Essence of the Infinite
Inscrutable Ways and Appeal
incarnated as Sri Sarada Devi in Jayrambati, in poor rural
Bengal, on 22 December 1853. Of course, that was not the first
time God incarnated for humanity and certainly that will not
be the last time either. Can anyone understand God’s ways?
’Bhishma was none other than one of the eight Vasus, but even
he shed tears on his bed of arrows. He said: “How astonishing!
God Himself is the companion of the Pandava brothers, and
still there is no end to their troubles and sorrows!” Who
can ever understand the ways of God?’ (1) This descent of
the Divine may be inscrutable to logic and philosophy, but
it is immensely appealing to the heart. God’s incarnation
as Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi has also opened to us a new
vision of God, spirituality and sadhana, spiritual practice.
Amazingly, one finds that Holy Mother was not so reticent
about her real nature as Sri Ramakrishna was. This is a bigger
appeal. For instance, here is a conversation between Holy
Mother and her devotee:
[Surendranath Sircar] said, ‘Mother, devotees call you Kali,
Adyashakti, Bhagavati, etc. In the Gita it is mentioned that
the saints Asita, Devala, Vyasa and others called Sri Krishna
as Narayana Himself. By mentioning it himself in the Gita
[10.13], the idea has been still more emphasized. I believe
everything that I have heard about you. Still, if you will
please speak of it yourself, my doubts will be dispelled.
I want to hear from you directly whether these things are
true.’ ‘Yes, true they are,’ said the Mother. (2)
with all this, Mother seems like anyone of us. Otherwise,
why should we feel so identified with her? This is the biggest
appeal. More importantly, we had been pining to know our real
Mother for long, and when we suddenly discover her in our
midst, the joy and relief is immense like children feel on
finding someone after a tiring search in a game of hide-and-seek.
This joy is compounded when the hidden person equally enjoys
being discovered and joins in the fun and laughter.
Visible and Invisible Universe
are some 100 billion galaxies, each with an average of a 100
billion stars. In each galaxy there are perhaps as many planets
as stars. This is, of course, not the final figure; the process
of mapping the heavens is still on and will go on for a long,
long time. Given these numbers, the idea naturally arises
that space must be very cluttered, but no, the immensity of
space makes these massive galaxies float at mind-boggling
distances from each other. Travelling at 1,86,000 miles per
second, light from some galaxies take billions of years to
reach the Earth. Intergalactic distances are so immense, so
staggeringly far apart, and space seemingly so desolate, empty,
cold and dark that the best-trained imagination begins to
ache, tremble and simply fizzle out. All these celestial bodies
are in different stages of evolution, some of it occasionally
happening in a very violent way. Apart from this, the universe
is frighteningly silent to human ears. Every planet, star
and galaxy also rotates and revolves around each other, and
the entire universe is expanding at an unimaginable velocity.
Galaxy and Human Nature
Milky Way, our spiral-armed galaxy, contains 400 billions
stars. Of all these stars we know a little perhaps about just
a small mediocre one. We see it rise and set daily, and it
is the source of light and energy to us. Rooted in this microscopic
speck of dust called planet Earth, in the midst of swirling
galaxies of cosmic dust and gas all around, the mind is overwhelmed
and awestruck at this fantastic vision spread before it. Yet,
due to their inherent inquisitiveness, humans have dared to
dream, to scan and study the heavens for knowledge and conquest.
This eternal quest obviously raises the questions Why? Are
we alone? These questions rising from deep within human souls
waft away, seemingly down and up, and get lost in the very
vast intergalactic distances. But since every motion in this
universe is circular, things return to where they started.
These questions also return to where they originated, but
as faint echoes. If one is sensitive and also expansive in
mind, one can catch the feeble echoes that have been transformed
by their travel, echoes that say that this earth with its
life is unique, beautiful, significant, mysterious, terrifying
and much, much more (the last being the subject of this article).
Another reason humans have to seek answers is because we are
products of this universe (our bodies are made of the very
stuff stars are made), and to study it is to study us, and
conversely, studying ourselves also reveals the universe.
Final Result and Its Production from the Means
us look at it this way: we know it takes thousands of years
with millions of tons of constant pressure to produce a diamond
in the bowels of the earth. Likewise, acres and acres of fields
are required to be cultivated to produce a few thousand saffron
flowers, from the stamens and pistils of which one gets a
handful of kesar (Crosus sativus). On squeezing it we get
just a few precious drops of oil. To carry this line of thought
further: a nation produces just one champion after years and
years of daily hard work and practice by thousands and thousands
of athletes. To come closer home: for many, youth, manhood,
energy and mental brilliance have to be sacrificed till they
earn their first million rupees. In spiritual life it takes
maybe millions of repetitions of a mantra till it becomes
‘awakened’. The Lord says in the Bhagavadgita, ‘One perhaps
in thousands of men strives for perfection; among such striving
men, one perhaps knows Me in reality.’ (4) Further, ‘At the
end of many births the man of wisdom takes refuge in Me.’
(5) All these examples are just to fix in our minds the law
that the ‘means’ are almost exhausted to produce the ‘end’.
Everything is almost sucked dry for the result to emerge.
So also this whole universe, light years away from us, with
its billions and billions of stars, with all its materials
and secrets, is required to produce just this one precious
Earth we call our home. For now, this small planet is the
very essence, the gem, of the universe, the condensed form
of infinite time, space, matter and energy made palpable.
the present state of knowledge, even with ongoing diligent
search with sophisticated telescopes, astronomical spectroscopes
and supercomputers, this Earth is the only planet pulsating
with life. This could be an understatement; it is found to
be teeming with life (just view a drop of water under a microscope)
extending from the simple single-celled amoeba to the huge
blue whale, with plants, trees, insects reptiles, birds and
complex mammals in between. All life forms come in innumerable
shapes, sizes, behaviour and functions, with lifespans ranging
from a few seconds to more than a thousand years (like that
of giant redwood trees). All these ‘simple to the highly complex’
species number in millions. They live in the atmosphere high
above, in air, water, on the ground and below. All these species
collectively live their lives in their own universe, so to
say. From the individual standpoint, life in a single body
needs to live by struggling and battling with its own kind
and other species for survival and self-propagation. For instance,
as Homo sapiens we believe we are part of a very large multicoloured
family called the human universe, yet each one of us lives
in his own personal world of joys, sorrows and fears. But
all these living universes of collective species and worlds
of individuals, from the microbe to man, constantly interact;
they are interdependent and interconnected. Hence a word for
all this, which is becoming quite current: ‘multiverse’.
the Essence of the Universe
stands at the crest of this ‘teeming ocean of life’ on Earth.
Swami Vivekananda says, ‘Man is the epitome of all things,
and all knowledge is in him.’ (6) The Earth, as we have seen,
is the very essence of this massive universe, and the best
product of Earth (that is, matter) is the human brain. Life
is the very essence of matter; the essence of life is mind;
the essence of mind is intelligence; the essence of intelligence
is consciousness. Thus consciousness is the essence, as it
were, of everything in the universe and ‘multiverse’. Though
consciousness is present in a bacterium and plants, yet in
them it is in a rudimentary state. In man it is fully manifest,
but here again, the differences in man are quite marked, and
these differences are principally due to the difference in
the manifestation of consciousness. In the highest men, consciousness
is completely unfurled; these are known as the paramahamsas.
This all-pervading consciousness is spoken of thus in the
this is all these (big creatures), together with the tiny
ones, that are the procreators of others and referable in
pairs - to wit, those that are born of eggs, of wombs, of
moisture, and of the earth, viz horses, cattle, men, elephants,
and all the creatures that there are, which move or fly
and those which do not move. All these are impelled by Consciousness;
all these have Consciousness as the giver of their reality;
the universe has Consciousness as its eye, and Consciousness
is its end. Consciousness is Brahman.’ (7)
Particular and the General
we sure or this? Why not! If you know one hydrogen atom here,
you know all the hydrogen atoms in the universe. One need
not study it out in space. Take the atom. It is particular;
but it gives rise to the knowledge of the universal. We know
all the hydrogen atoms in the universe on knowing one here.
Again, according to the well-known Indian adage, ‘Just by
pressing with the fingers one grain of rice in the cooking
pot one can know whether all the grains in the pot have been
boiled or not.’ (8) If you know one physical law, it is the
same throughout the universe. The very idea is presented in
the Chandogya Upanishad: ‘O good looking one, … by knowing
a lump of clay, all that is made of clay is known, every modification
being only a name, arising from speech, while clay is the
only reality about it.’ (9) Hence what is known in the microcosm
is known in the macrocosm. If we know our bodies, we can study
other bodies; if we know life in our bodies, we can know and
understand life in other bodies. If we know our minds, we
can know other minds. If we know our intelligence, we can
understand intelligence everywhere. This knowing and understanding
things comes from Consciousness, which is our root. Hence
we can understand and appreciate consciousness in every being.
Forms Arise from the Subtle
are the faint echoes coming back from the questions Why? Are
we alone? Add to them when and how. As every question implies
an answer (as every problem always comes with its solution),
the echoes return to us in the depths from where they arose,
from the depths of our consciousness, whispering the answers.
This is the secret of the universe. This whispering answer
sometimes manifests in bold form. In other words, things commence
from the extremely subtle and become gross by degrees. This
is the greatest secret and mystery of this universe. To give
a crude example, it is like anger: constantly dwelt upon and
cultivated secretly in the subconscious, anger gradually becomes
strong, slowly colouring the mind and then rearing itself
violently at the conscious level. This wave of anger then
grips the body and shakes it, as it were, and impels it towards
karma to fulfil the emotion. To illustrate: it is like huge
monster waves lashing the shoreline, waves that have arisen
miles and miles away from an earthquake on the ocean floor
and travelled almost imperceptibly all the distance, slowly
gathering strength to finally erupt in fury. Similarly every
how, why, who and when that proceeds from man’s consciousness
slowly gathers strength as it makes the circuit of the universe,
as it were, and finally returns with answers. Add to this
every cry from the human heart, every pain, every misery,
love, compassion and so on - in fact, everything that weeps
and seeks solace. In this age, all these have manifested as
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. Hence Holy Mother holds in her
all the answers, all the remedies for our times. It is but
natural that Holy Mother will run to her children who cry
for her; we see it happen in our lives everywhere.
Two Astounding Answers
the Gospel of the Holy Mother there are two simple but astounding
answers to some fundamental questions.
(Swami Arupananda): Mother, infinite is this creation; who
can tell what is happening in a remote plane? Who can say
if any living beings inhabit any of those innumerable stars
It is possible only for God to be omniscient in this realm
of Maya. Perhaps there is no living being in those planets
and stars. (10)
the doubt arises as to whether the answer was offhand, the
next answer set the doubt at rest:
Are you the Mother of all?
Even of these birds and animals?
Yes, of these also. (75)
she also said, ‘Beings all over the universe are my children.’
(204) These two answers are staggering and tremendous. First,
who could have said this? Only one who knows for certain;
and that person has to be even vaster and greater than the
universe. The second answer is more amazing: Holy Mother is
the Mother of all life forms.
as this ‘multiverse’ is the essence of this universe and Consciousness
is its essence, Holy Mother is the essence of this Consciousness,
for it is clearly said in the Chandi: ‘Repeated salutations
to Her, who, established in the form of Consciousness, pervades
the whole world.’ (11) This is the ground in which our ‘roots’
are anchored. There is nothing higher than this. Swamiji puts
it powerfully: ‘In Whom is the Universe, Who is in the Universe,
Who is the Universe; in Whom is the Soul, Who is in the soul,
Who is the Soul of Man …’ (12)
Modern Scientific Views
make a minor digression in order to bring in modern views:
it is now common knowledge that we are living in a world that
is just right for life forms like ours. It suggests that the
universe is run by some transcendent intelligence called ‘Anthropic
Anthropic Principle was first coined in the mid 1970s by Cambridge
astrophysicist Brandon Carter. Carter observed that the balance
of power between two forces, gravitational and strong interaction
force (of atoms), is so incredibly fine-tuned that if the
strength of the force of gravitation had varied by as little
as a mere small part (1 part in 1040), this delicate balance
would have been destroyed and stars such as our Sun would
never have formed. (13)
must be some regulating principle behind the whole universe,
visible and invisible. Even the living legend Stephen Hawking
says, ‘It is difficult to discuss the beginning of the universe
without mentioning the concept of God. My work on the origin
of the universe is on the borderline between science and religion,
but I try to stay on the scientific side of the border. It
is quite possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described
by scientific laws.’ (14)
conclude by quoting one more instance of Holy Mother’s revelation
of her true nature.
(Prafulla Kumar Ganguli): Does the Master receive the
food that I offer to him? Do you, too, receive what I offer
How can I understand this?
Why? Have you not read in the Gita that God receives the
fruits, flowers, water and other things that are offered
to Him with devotion?
at this reply I said, ‘Then, you are God?’ On hearing this,
the Mother laughed heartily. We too joined her. (15)
M, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, trans. Swami Nikhilananda
(Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2002), 183.
The Gospel of the Holy Mother (Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna
Math, 2000), 224.
See Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Ballantyne Books,
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 9 vols. (Calcutta:
Advaita Ashrama, 1-8, 1989; 9, 1997), 8.21.
Aitareya Upanishad, 3.1.3 from Eight Upanishads, trans.
Swami Gambhirananda, 2 vols (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1,
1977; 2, 1978), 2.71.
Swami Saradananda, Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master,
trans. Swami Jagadananda, 2 vols. (Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna
Math, 1, 1978; 2, 1984), 1.102.
Yatha saumyaikena mritpindena sarvam mrinmayam vijnatam syad-vacarambhanam
vikaro namadheyam mrittiketyeva satyam.
Chandogya Upanishad, 6.1.4.
Gospel of the Holy Mother, 112.
Citirupena ya kritsnametad-vyapya stitha jagat; Namastasyai.
Namastasyai. Namastasyai namo namah.
Chandi (Durga Saptashati), 5.78-80.
M. Talbot, Beyond the Quantum, 184; quoted in Swami
Jitatmananda, Modern Physics and Vedanta (Mumbai: Bharatiya
Vidya Bhavan, 2003), 149.
Michael White and John Gribbin, Stephen Hawking (Viking, 1992),
167; quoted in Modern Physics and Vedanta, 150.
Gospel of the Holy Mother, 331.