Selflessness and Compassion
GAURI MA'S MIND was without a trace of ego. She always disliked honor and fame and was completely satisfied when people praised Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother. A few days before the sisters moved into the new convent, Gauri Ma had gone to check on the work. As she alighted from the carriage and turned toward the building, she saw near the door a white marble stone with the following words carved on it; "Established by the sannyasini Gauri Ma." As soon as she saw the inscription, she stepped back and shouted in annoyance, "Why is my name there?"
"What is it, Mother? What is wrong here?"
"Is this ashram mine? It is Mother's, so why should my name be here?" roared Gauri Ma. She was so upset she didn't enter the building but instead turned back to the carriage.
One man, greatly concerned, rushed to hold the door of the carriage, saying, "Holy Mother's name is already engraved here in large letters. Since you established the ashram, your name is carved in small letters."
"There was no need to put my name even in small letters. Holy Mother's name is there. That is enough." replied Gauri Ma.
If she was honored with name, fame, or prestige, she reacted negatively. She would be dissatisfied. She once said, "Name and fame are like the excreta of pigs. Do your work with a detached attitude. You must treat name and fame like garbage. When you go to serve others, if you find lurking in the corner of your heart any desire for praise or prestige, it is like committing suicide in your spiritual life." The incidents in Gauri Ma's life demonstrate that she deeply believed all her work and all her success were just reflections of the Lord's glory. She herself was nothing; the Lord was everything. She was only an instrument in His Hands.
The events of Gauri Ma's life also demonstrate her compassion. Even as a child, she could not bear to see others suffering or in pain. Endangering her own life, she would rush to help them. One day she took some of her girls from the ashram to bathe in the Ganges. As they reached the banks of the river, they heard shouts from a crowd of people. Glancing at the river, she spied a woman caught by the current. The woman surfaced and then sank again under the water. Gauri Ma immediately saw the danger. She scornfully addressed the men, "There is a person drowning, yet all of you men are standing here and watching the show." Without a moment's hesitation, she shouted, "Jai Mother Kali," and threw herself into the river – only she had forgotten that she didn't know how to swim!
Seeing this, the girls from the ashram began to call out, "Grandma! Grandma! Don't go any further! You will drown!"
Realizing that Gauri Ma could not swim out far enough to save the drowning woman, a few people from the crowd finally jumped in and saved her. When the woman regained consciousness, they learned that while bathing in the river she had had a fit and had accidentally fallen into the deeper water. Gauri Ma returned the woman to her home in the ashram carriage. She advised the woman's family that it was unwise and unsafe to allow someone prone to seizures to go to the river unaccompanied, warning them to be more careful in the future.
Late one night around ten o'clock, Gauri Ma was recounting stories from the Puranas to the ashram women. Just then they heard a woman crying from a house nearby. With the thought that somebody was in trouble and needed help, Gauri Ma immediately got up. Fearing it was unsafe, the residents tried to convince her not to go to a stranger's house at this hour of the night and get involved in domestic problems. But Gauri Ma replied, "When women outside the ashram are in difficulty, I have to help them, too." So saying, she took a stick in her hand and set off. The residents could only sit and await her return.
Three hours later, they saw Gauri Ma emerge from the neighboring house holding the hand of a woman who was keeping her face covered with her sari. Gauri Ma was incessantly admonishing a man who was following them. Whatever was the matter, the residents were relieved to see her. Instead of returning to the convent, however, she went off with the two people in another direction.
Gauri Ma discovered that it was a case of a family harassing their daughter-in-law. At that late hour, taking the help of the police, Gauri Ma returned the girl to the home of her parents. Later, the in-laws negotiated through Gauri Ma, begged forgiveness, and brought the girl back home. Gauri Ma sternly admonished them, "You have brought another's daughter to be Lakshmi in your home. You must treat her like your own daughter."Afterward, she often visited the house and inquired about the welfare of the daughter-in-law. That night when she returned to the ashram after taking care of these matters, it was three in the morning.
Her heart went out not just to human beings but also to animals, so that if she saw an animal in pain she would be distressed. One day, some monkeys managed to catch hold of a little puppy and carry it to the roof of the house. where they began to scratch and bite him. Seeing that agonizing scene. Gauri Ma's heart melted. There was no stairway to the roof, so first, from where she stood below. she tried to frighten the monkeys away, but her strategy didn't work. Finally, she tucked her clothes securely, tied a stick to her back, and, stepping onto a broken wall. slowly began to climb up to the roof. Meanwhile, the monkeys ran to the roofs edge where they bared their teeth, trying to frighten her. They were poised to jump at her. At this, Gauri Ma grabbed the stick from her back and began waving it at the monkeys. That proved successful in frightening them, and they finally ran off. Gauri Ma climbed up onto the roof, tied the puppy securely in her sari, then slowly and carefully climbed down, to everyone's great relief. One of the women remarked, "You saved a puppy at the risk of your own life! It was fortunate you did not slip and fall. Anything could have happened!"
Gauri Ma replied, "If a helpless creature that has been created by God dies before our eyes in this way – would that have been good?"
Such incidents demonstrate that Gauri Ma's sweet and ideal life – completely free of pride, always devoted to her ideals, full of compassion and dedication to the Lord's work – has become unforgettable.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.