from American Vedantist, Vol 9, No. 3
a cornucopia of distilled wisdom that sings....
One of the more remarkable developments in the Ramakrishna movement over the past 50 years or so has been the increasing importance of Sri Sarada Devi, the Holy Mother. When I first came to Vedanta back in the late 1950's, we heard very little about her. The emphasis was all on Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda.
Over the years her importance has become increasingly recognized. Many altars now display her photo alongside those of Thakur and Swamiji, and sometimes all three photos are the same size. Together they have come to form a new Holy Trinity. There are organizations which focus on her so much that sometimes she seems to overshadow Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. The organization that publishes the book under review, the Sarada Ramakrishna Vivekananda Associations, is a case in point: notice the sequence of names. At one time this trend made me uneasy. I thought the focus of the Ramakrishna movement ought to be primarily on Sri Ramakrishna. But it doesn't take much thought to realize that this is just another form of exclusivism -- and we all know what Sri Ramakrishna had to say about that. Both he and his disciples recognized Holy Mother as an embodiment of divinity. Swami Vivekananda held her in such awe that he sometimes became visibly nervous when approaching her. Holy Mother herself said that Thakur had told her he would live on in her in subtle form. Swami Premananda once remarked, "These fellows who look upon Thakur and Mother as separate will not get anything."
My mistake was that I was one of "these fellows" who regarded Thakur and Mother as separate. The Ramakrishna Order has consistently taken the position that she and Sri Ramakrishna are one, and that he continued his work through her.
There is an impressive body of literature about her, and the English canon continues to grow as more texts are translated from Bengali. Now Babaji Bob Kindler has performed a great service for devotees by rendering many of her teachings into poetic form. He has arranged them by topic into 22 chapters and turned them into free verse. The result is a cornucopia of distilled wisdom that sings. Devotees will feel uplifted when reading it.
The language is simple and informal; readers are made to feel that they are actually approaching the Mother at her house in Jayrambati. The first chapter begins:My child, you have arrived!
Come! I am overjoyed to see you.
There is a pillow there, bring it and lie down near me.There are some nice transitions. One chapter ends like this:May all be blessed in this world and the next.And always remember that you have a Mother.Now come, my dear, and I will give you initiation.This is immediately followed by a chapter on initiation.Holy Mother's teachings often have a simplicity and a terseness reminiscent of sutras or mahavakyas. Sometimes a single saying summarizes the whole of spiritual life:Do your duty and keep the mind on God.Sometimes they reveal a metaphysical truth:The body is one thing and the soul is another.The soul pervades the whole body.Sometimes they reassure us when we encounter obstacles:Most obstacles to worship are not external; they are internal.They will gradually fall off one after another,by taking the Master's name and by meditation.Sometimes they mention her own role:Let all be happy, and I shall suffer for them.Often they have a disarming practicality:If you keep count while you do japa, your mind will be drawn to the counting.So do japa without counting....Don't let your mind be disturbed over trifles. It will make you forget the Lord....It is not wise that a guru and his disciple live together,for then a disciple observes the...activities of his guru and very often takes [him] to be a mere human being....It would be good if the disciple could live in a place close to the guru's residence and spend some time daily in visiting [him],enjoying his company and receiving his instructions. In brief, this is a useful and inspiring compendium of the mother's teachings, and a welcome addition to the growing body of literature about her.
from Prabuddha Bharata
Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi was the spiritual consort of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, an incarnation of God for this age. When we go through the Ramakrishna-Sarada-Vivekananda literature it becomes amply clear that just a few direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were aware of the Holy Mother's unobtrusive and veiled presence, not to speak of understanding Her towering spirituality. As her life unfolded in Sri Ramakrishna's divine play, she slowly came out of her mysterious sphere to free people from the bonds of samsara. Sri Sarada Devi is seen to give intermittent glimpses, sometimes in her unguarded moments, of who she really was: the Divine Mother of the Universe. This corroborated with what Sri Ramakrishna said of her. This knowledge coupled with her photographs and priceless words of instructions given amidst her conventional life gives us a tangible idea of the Godhead represented by her.
The book has highlighted these three dimensions admirably. Sri Sarada Devi's choicest words are compiled, selected and edited according to relevant topics and further graced by all her thirty-two known photographs in black and white. Here Holy Mother's immortal sayings issue unimpeded by historical and cultural settings in twenty-two small chapters, and enter deep into our consciousness. The topics so selected deal with man's spiritual and temporal problems in a language that is simple, direct, yet sublime. That is why Holy Mother's words have such a tremendous appeal that cut across national and racial boundaries. Yet, it is so hard for our unenlightened minds to grasp this implication, although it is unquestionably attracted to her pictures and words. Maybe this is due to the invisible umbilical cord still connecting us to her. A few sincere souls who struggle in the spiritual path have an intuitive grasp, however microscopic, of her immensity, boundless grace and unconditional compassion, even now working in the subtle universal realms and inspiring her children everywhere.
Babaji Bob Kindler, a sincere devotee, introduces this book saying that his meditation on Holy Mother and absorption in her thoughts for over thirty years after being initiated by a direct disciple of Holy Mother, resulted in a rare divine mood that lasted for ten days and later crystallized in the form of this book. The book contains nothing new, its source being the Ramakrishna Movement's literature on Sri Sarada Devi. The difference is this: the teachings are presented in verse form that is both delightful and sweet.
This book is a must-read for all the devotees of Sri Sarada Devi. The quality of paper and printing is superb and, what's more, the cover has an imprint of Holy Mother's footprints, which undoubtedly add value to the book.