Affectionately called Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi was a consort and spiritual companion of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and the mentor of Swami Vivekananda. She combined the exemplary traits of a novice, mother, and spiritual master of the highest level.
The extraordinary personality of the Holy Mother – in whom and through whom Sri Ramakrishna sought to give the whole world the ideal of femininity in its best and noblest manifestation – is beyond comparison.
Maa Sarada Devi’s simple and humble life, though spent mostly in domestic and rural seclusion, is imbued with charm and serenity of exceptional importance. For many, the unfathomable depth of her personality remained beyond comprehension. At the same time, to some she graciously opened herself, happily lifting the veil that hid the supernatural greatness of her inner world.
The early life of Sarada Devi
Sarada Devi was born in a small Bengal village called Jayrambati on December 22, 1853. Her parents were a pious couple of Brahmins, her father’s name was Ramchandra Mukhopadhya, and her mother’s name was Syamasundari Devi, a loving and hard-working woman.
Ramachandra worked tirelessly to support the family with three brothers, making a living from the crop of a few acres of paddy field and the paltry earnings as a village priest, but there was contentment. Since the family’s needs were limited, the small income sometimes even left a margin for charity.
One day, Ramachandra dreams about a very beautiful girl with golden skin. She hugged Ramachandra’s neck with her little hand and said she would come to her house.
A few days later, Syamasundari was returning from her hometown, Sehore. Due to the hot weather, she sat under a Vilwa tree to rest. Suddenly she heard the sound of a bracelet and saw a sweet and very beautiful black girl. The girl came down from the Vilwa tree and hugged Syamasundari. Her touch made Syamasundari unconscious. When she regained consciousness, she felt she was pregnant.
At that time, the family was in precarious economic conditions. After arcane visions followed the coming into the little girl’s world, the parents hugged their daughter like a light from heaven, and their hearts were filled with heavenly joy.
Sarada Devi had something out of the ordinary about her frame of mind. She was always very simple in her habits, she invariably acted as a peacemaker among playmates. Rather dignified and controlled from an early age, she had a natural disposition for uplifting amusements.
Her dollhouse contained small images of the Goddesses Kali and Goddess Lakshmi she loved to worship. This kind of pastime truly amused her, offering her congenial opportunities to show marvelous feats of self-absorption. Sometimes even the adults were left speechless to find her absorbed in a deep state of meditation.
As for her education, as soon as she was ready, she was admitted to the traditional Home-training course. Those who knew her closely could not fail to note that she was a gifted child. Thus, she was often seen immersed in deep thought.
Sarada Devi showed her extraordinary love and compassion for those in need with maternal concern. Although she did not receive a decent book education, she surpassed many in the very deep foundations of a culture that shapes the goals and values of education.
Destined marriage to Ramakrishna
When Sarada was two years old, she was taken to a Shiva temple. An old woman asks her jokingly, who she wants to marry when she grows; Sarada points to a twenty-year-old man named Gadadhar (Ramakrishna). Three years later, in May 1859, Sarada was married to the same Gadadhar! Sarada’s marriage to Ramakrishna was indeed destined as the holy union of divine souls.
When Ramakrishna found out that his mother and brother’s attempt to find a bride for him was unsuccessful, Ramakrishna told them that the girl chosen for him was at Ramachandra Mukhopadhyaya’s house in Jayrambati. Their astrological charts were also very compatible.
Devoid of any sensual connotation, this was the union of two immaculate souls in unfathomable love. It was a sacred union of two soul mates. After this strange marriage, Sarada returned to her home in Jayrambati. Ramakrishna returned to the Kali temple in Dakshineswar to practice spiritual discipline.
Later, there were two significant encounters with Sri Ramakrishna: the first at 13 and the second at 14, when she had the opportunity to live with him for a brief period and receive his first teachings.
Ramakrishna taught Sarada Devi to pray, meditate, and even do homework. He also taught her ways to communicate with different types of people. After living in Kamarpukur for a few months, Sarada returned to Jayrambati. After that, she did not have the opportunity to meet her husband for several years as he lived a god-intoxicated life.
Journey with her Husband
At eighteen, when Sarada Devi was still living with her parents in Jayrambati, she began to hear rumors that her husband had gone mad. At that moment, she felt it was her duty as a wife to come to him and offer her support.
At that time, Ramakrishna was already totally dedicated to his spiritual practices, leading the life of a celibate monk in Dakshineswar. In this condition, and with all kindness, he received his young wife, who was relieved to conclude that he was in perfect health, both physical and mental.
Just like Ramakrishna, Sarada was also not interested in worldly life. Ramakrishna began to impart spiritual teachings to Sarada and trained her to do housework. It was obvious that Ramakrishna was beginning to prepare her for the mission and assignment, the fulfillment of which he expected from her in the future.
Thanks to her innate intuition, Sarada fully realized what her husband expected from her. With sincere devotion to him as her supreme mentor, she, like obedient clay, willingly submitted to his wise hands. From Sri Ramakrishna, who had already gone a lot along the path of spiritual searches, she received and carefully preserved knowledge about the divine purpose of life.
When Husband worshiped his Wife
Soon, in 1872, on the day of Phalaharini Kali Puja, Ramakrishna worshiped Sarada as the incarnation of Goddess Kali and presented all the fruits of his spiritual life to Sarada. This unique event is very significant in the spiritual history of man.
It proves that lust can be eliminated with the attitude of seeing all women as mothers. Through this worship, Ramakrishna gave Sarada all his spiritual powers and evoked the nature of universal motherhood in Sarada.
Life of Sarada Devi in Dakshineswar
Sarada Devi lived in a small room on the ground floor of the Kali temple, Dakshineswar, for thirteen years. During this period, she often traveled to Jayrambati to manage her family in the village. Although she lives a miserable life, she is happy to be near her husband.
The day starts at three in the morning before everyone else gets up. She bathed in Ganga in the early morning darkness. Then she spent an hour and a half praying in the room. After that, she cooked for Sri Ramakrishna. By evening, she prepared the wick of the lamps and lit them, and then sat down to pray and meditate. Then she cooked dinner for Sri Ramakrishna.
Sarada Devi’s life in Dakshineswar passed happily. When the people began to surround Sri Ramakrishna for spiritual teachings, Sarada also played her role by providing food for the visitors. Sometimes, late at night, she had to cook for the followers of Ramakrishna. Sometimes, for days she did not have the opportunity to meet Sri Ramakrishna, who was busy giving spiritual teachings to his followers.
Separation from the Physical Form of Sri Ramakrishna
Around September 1885, Sri Ramakrishna suffered a sore throat, which doctors identified as cancer. Because he needed constant treatment, he was taken to a garden house in Kasipur, closer to Calcutta. Sarada cooked for him and the young disciples who lived there. Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples took care of her in turn.
Narendra, the future Swami Vivekananda, and many other young men seem to take care of Sri Ramakrishna all the time. His condition worsened, and at this point, he instructed Sarada to continue with the work of caring for his followers after his death.
On August 16, 1886, Ramakrishna left his body. After performing his cremation ceremony, Sarada took off her jewelry. As she was about to take off her bracelet, Ramakrishna’s spirit appeared before her. Pressing Sarada’s hand, he said: Am I dead? You act like a widow. I only moved from one room to another.
Living in Poverty
Soon after, she left for Ramakrishna’s ancestral home in Kamarpukur. Before his maha samadhi, Ramakrishna had asked Sarada to go to his ancestral home in Kamarpukur and live there alone. Now, Sarada is fulfilling her promise to Ramakrishna.
For almost nine months, she lived in Kamarpukur in poverty. Later, she planted vegetables in her backyard. Calmly, Sarada endured poverty; she was just sad not to be able to bathe in the Ganges River, as she usually did in Dakshineswar.
One day, Sarada saw Sri Ramakrishna appear before her. Out of the blue, The Ganges River sprang out of its soles and flowed swiftly! This event convinced Sarada that Sri Ramakrishna is everywhere and in everything.
Return to Calcutta
When the followers of Sri Ramakrishna in Calcutta found out about Sarada’s life in Kamarpukur, they invited her to Calcutta. A house was rented, and the followers took responsibility for taking care of Sarada Devi, whom they called the Pious Mother.
Thus, Sarada was housed in the Nilambar Babu gardens in Belur village. At this point, she is doing Panchatapa, a complicated spiritual discipline. Four bonfires were lit on the house’s terrace, each at a distance of six feet. The strain of the sun shining above is the fifth fire. Sarada and Yogini-Ma (one of her friends) bathed at dawn, sat in the middle of the bonfires, and meditated until sunset. They did this from dawn to dusk for seven days in a row.
Swami Vivekananda and Holy Mother
Narendranath, the main disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, became Swami Vivekananda. In early 1893, Vivekananda had almost decided to sail to America to participate in the World Religions Conference in Chicago. But he still had one doubt: was it God’s intention? To be sure, Vivekananda wrote a letter to Sarada Devi and expressed his wish. Swami Vivekananda left for America only after Sarada gave her blessings.
Last Days of Holy Mother
Since Sarada moved to Kolkata, she has lived in the houses of Sri Ramakrishna followers and sometimes in rented houses. Swami Saradananda, a follower of Sri Ramakrishna, was determined to get a house for Sarada. He bought a beautiful building in Baghbazar, Kolkata, by borrowing and collecting donations. On May 23, 1909, Sarada entered this new house and lived on the first floor of this house until the end of her life.
Five days before her death, Sarada Devi said to a sad disciple, why do you want to be afraid? You have seen Sri Ramakrishna… “I tell you one thing. If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather learn to see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; this whole world is your own“, This is not only the last advice of the Holy Mother to mankind but also the essence of her own life.
A long stillness of prayer ended on July 21, 1920. Under the strain of intense physical work, selflessness, and repeated attacks of malaria, her health deteriorated in the last years of her life. Her body was taken across the Ganges to the Belur Monastery and burned in a sandalwood camp. Now on the same site, a marble temple has been built to house the sacred ashes of Sarada Devi.
Teachings of Sri Sarada Devi
Some of the teachings and Quotes by Sri Maa Sarada Devi
- The mind is everything. It is in the mind alone that one feels pure and impure. A person, first of all, must make his or her own mind guilty, and then alone they can see another’s guilt.
- Does anything ever happen to another, if you enumerate their faults? It only injures you. To see the faults of others! One should never do it. Forgiveness is Tapasya (Spiritual Austerity)
- Each has to get the results of the actions he earned for this life. A pin at least must prick where a wound from a sword was due.
- Don’t be afraid. Human birth is full of suffering and one has to endure everything patiently, taking the name of God. None, not even God in human form, can escape the sufferings of body and mind.
- Ordinary human love results in misery. Love for God brings blessedness.⠀
- God cannot be realized without love. Yes, sincere love. ⠀
- The mind is by nature restless. Therefore, to make the mind steady, one may practice meditation by regulating breathing a little. That helps to steady the mind. But one must not overdo it. That heats the brain.
- You may talk of the vision of God or of meditation, but remember, the mind is everything. One gets everything when the mind becomes steady.
- True it is that He has become all living beings, but everybody reaps the fruit of his actions according to his past impressions and deeds. No doubt the sun is one, but its shining varies according to the place and the objects it illumines.
- He who has a pure mind sees everything pure.
- One must be patient like the earth. What iniquities are being perpetrated on her? Yet she quietly endures them all.⠀ ⠀
- God is one’s very ‘own’. It is an eternal relationship. He is everyone’s ‘own’. One realizes Him in proportion to the intensity of one’s feelings for Him.