Ramakrishna: His life and sayings
Rai Shaligrâm Saheb Bahadur.
One more case and I have done with my imperfect sketch of the stage on which Râmakrishna appears before us to act his part, together with his fellow-actors who supported and often guided him in his unselfish and devoted endeavours. We read in the Prabuddha Bhârata, May, 1898, p. 132 seq., of one Rai Shaligrâm Saheb Bahadur. Saheb Bahadur, who is now about seventy years of age, has spent a very active and useful life as an official in the Post Office, where he rose to be Postmaster-General of the North-Western Provinces. It seems that the horrors of the mutiny in 1857 made a deep impression on his mind.
[paragraph continues] He saw thousands of men, women, and children butchered before his eyes, the rich reduced to poverty, the poor raised to unexpected and undeserved wealth, so that the idea of the world's impermanent and transient nature took complete possession of him and estranged him from all that had formerly enlisted his interest and occupied his energies. From his very youth, however, his mind had been filled with religious and philosophical questions, and he is said to have devoted much time from his youth onward through all the years of his official life to the study of the Sacred Scriptures. No wonder therefore that after witnessing the horrors of the mutiny and its suppression, he should have wished to flee from this den of misery and to get happiness unalloyed and permanent where alone it could be found. He went to consult several Samnyâsins and Yogins, but they could not help him. At last one of his colleagues at the Post Office recommended his elder brother as a spiritual guide who could be trusted. For two years he attended his lectures, compared his teaching with that of the Upanishads and other holy writings, and then became his devoted pupil or Chela. During his stay at Agra he allowed no one else to serve his master. He used to grind the flour for him, to cook his meals, and feed him with his own hands. Every morning he could be seen carrying a pitcher of pure water on his head for the Guru to bathe in, which he fetched from a place two miles distant. His monthly salary also was handed over to the Saint, who used it for the support of his pupils, wife and children, and spent the rest in charity. All his home affairs were superintended by his Guru, and
this was done in spite of the opposition of his castemen who were Kayasthas, and did not approve of one of their caste cooking the Saint's food and eating from his dishes, because the Saint was a member of another caste, that of the Khetris. After some time the pupil wished to retire from the postal service, but the Saint would not allow it. When he was appointed Postmaster-General of the North-West he fell on his knees before the Saint and begged his permission to retire and enter soul and body into the true spiritual life, but the Saint once more refused, saying that the discharge of his official duties would in no way interfere with his spiritual progress. Accordingly he left Agra, and for many years held his new post at Allahabad, as it is said, with great success, having introduced many reforms and useful changes in the Postal Department.
It was not till the death of his Guru in 1897 that the Postmaster-General felt himself free and justified in leaving the service. He then became a Guru himself, and imparted spiritual instruction to those who came to seek for his help. Often those who came to listen to him were so inspired by his teaching that they renounced the world and began to lead the life of Samnyâsins, so that it became a general belief that whoever went to Rai Shaligrâm would forsake his family and become an ascetic. Nay, it was said that no one could even look at the lamp burning on the upper story of his house without being influenced to renounce the world, to forsake his relations, and thus to become useless to the community at large. When last heard of the old man was still alive, his house besieged every
day by large numbers of persons, both male and female, who flock there from different parts of the country. He holds five meetings day and night for the purpose of imparting religious instruction, so that he has hardly more than two hours left for sleep. Everybody is welcome, and no distinction is made between Brahman and !Sûdra, rich and poor, good and bad. The people are convinced that he can work miracles, but he himself regards such things as unbecoming, and below his dignity. It is said that the late Doctor Makund Lai, Assistant-Surgeon to the Viceroy, was in the habit of sending to him patients who had made themselves senseless by excessive practice of Prânâyâma, restraint of the breath, and that by a mere look he brought them back to their senses, and taught them that this practice was of little good, and in many cases injurious.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.