^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ SYMBOLS OF TWELVE MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^



August 5, 1882
Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar
Pundit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar was born in the village of Beersingh, not far from Kamarpukur, Sri Ramakrishna's birthplace.  He was known as a great scholar, educator, writer, and philanthropist.  One of the creators of modern Bengali, he was also well versed in Sanskrit grammar and poetry.  His generosity made his name a household word with his countrymen, most of his income being given in charity to widows, orphans, indigent students, and other needy people.  Nor was his compassion limited to human beings: he stopped drinking milk for years so that the calves should not be deprived of it, and he would not drive in a carriage for fear of causing discomfort to the horses.  He was a man of indomitable spirit, which he showed when he gave up the lucrative position of principal of the Sanskrit College of Calcutta because of a disagreement with the authorities.  His affection for his mother was especially deep.  One day, in the absence of a ferryboat, he swam a raging river at the risk of his life to fulfil her wish that he should be present at his brother's wedding.  His whole life was one of utter simplicity.  The title Vidyasagar, meaning "Ocean of Learning", was given him in recognition of his vast erudition. 
Master's visit to the scholar
Sri Ramakrishna had long wanted to visit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar.  Learning from M. that he was a teacher at Vidyasagar's school, the Master asked: "Can you take me to Vidyasagar? I should like very much to see him." M. told Iswar Chandra of Sri Ramakrishna's wish, and the pundit gladly agreed that M. should bring the Master, some Saturday afternoon at four o'clock.  He only asked M. what kind of paramahamsa the Master was, saying, "Does he wear an ochre cloth?" M. answered: "No, sir.  He is an unusual person.  He wears a red-bordered cloth and polished slippers.  He lives in a room in Rani Rasmani's temple garden.  In his room there is a couch with a mattress and mosquito net.  He has no outer indication of holiness.  But he doesn't know anything except God.  Day and night he thinks of God alone."
On the afternoon of August 5 the Master left Dakshineswar in a hackney carriage, accompanied by Bhavanath, M., and Hazra.  Vidyasagar lived in Badurbagan, in central Calcutta, about six miles from Dakshineswar.  On the way Sri Ramakrishna talked with his companions; but as the carriage neared Vidyasagar's house his mood suddenly changed.  He was overpowered with divine ecstasy.  Not noticing this, M. pointed out the garden house where Raja Rammohan Roy had lived.  The Master was annoyed and said, "I don't care about such things now." He was going into an ecstatic state. 
The carriage stopped in front of.  Vidyasagar's house.  The Master alighted, supported by M., who then led the way.  In the courtyard were many flowering plants.  As the Master walked to the house he said to M., like a child, pointing to his shirt-button: "My shirt is unbuttoned.  Will that offend Vidyasagar?" "Oh, no!" said M. "Don't be anxious about it.  Nothing about you will be offensive.  You don't have to button your shirt." He accepted the assurance simply, like a child. 
Vidyasagar was about sixty-two years old, sixteen or seventeen years older than the Master.  He lived in a two-storey house built in the English fashion, with lawns on all sides and surrounded by a high wall.  After climbing the stairs to the second floor, Sri Ramakrishna and his devotees entered a room at the far end of which Vidyasagar was seated facing them, with a table in front of him.  To the right of the table was a bench.  Some friends of their host occupied chairs on the other two sides. 
Vidyasagar rose to receive the Master.  Sri Ramakrishna stood in front of the bench, with one hand resting on the table.  He gazed at Vidyasagar, as if they had known each other before, and smiled in an ecstatic mood.  In that mood he remained standing a few minutes.  Now and then, to bring his mind back to normal consciousness, he said, "I shall have a drink of water."
In the mean time the young members of the household and a few friends and relatives of Vidyasagar had gathered around.  Sri Ramakrishna, still in an ecstatic mood, sat on the bench.  A young man, seventeen or eighteen years old, who had come to Vidyasagar to seek financial help for his education, was seated there.  The Master sat down at a little distance from the boy, saying in an abstracted mood: "Mother, this boy is very much attached to the world.  He belongs to Thy realm of ignorance."
Vidyasagar told someone to bring water and asked M. whether the Master would like some sweetmeats also.  Since M. did not object, Vidyasagar himself went eagerly to the inner apartments and brought the sweets.  They were placed before the Master.  Bhavanath and Hazra also received their share.  When they were offered to M., Vidyasagar said: "Oh, he is like one of the family.  We needn't worry about him." Referring to a young devotee, the Master said to Vidyasagar: "He is a nice young man and is sound at the core.  He is like the river Phalgu.  The surface is covered with sand; but if you dig a little you will find water flowing underneath."
After taking some of the sweets, the Master, with a smile, began to speak to Vidyasagar.  Meanwhile the room had become filled with people; some were standing and others were seated. 
MASTER: "Ah! Today, at last, I have come to the ocean.  Up till now I have seen only canals, marshes, or a river at the most.  But today I am face to face with the sagar, the ocean."(All laugh.)
VIDYASAGAR (smiling): "Then please take home some salt water." (Laughter.)
MASTER: "Oh, no! Why salt water? You aren't the ocean of ignorance.  You are the ocean of vidyā, knowledge.  You are the ocean of condensed milk." (All laugh.)
VIDYASAGAR: "Well, you may put it that way."
The pundit became silent.  Sri Ramakrishna said: "Your activities are inspired by sattva.  Though they are rajasic, they are influenced by sattva.  Compassion springs from sattva.  Though work for the good of others belongs to rajas, yet this rajas has sattva for its basis, and is not harmful.  Suka and other sages cherished compassion in their minds to give people religious instruction, to teach them about God.  You are distributing food and learning.  That is good too.  If these activities are done in a selfless spirit they lead to God.  But most people work for fame or to acquire merit.  Their activities are not selfless.  Besides, you are already a siddha."
VIDYASAGAR: "How is that, sir?"
MASTER (laughing): "When potatoes and other vegetables are well cooked, they become soft and tender.  And you possess such a tender nature! You are so compassionate!" (Laughter.)
VIDYASAGAR (laughing): "But when the paste of kalai pulse is boiled it becomes all the harder."
                                                                                              [To be continued...]

No comments: