Sri Ramakrishna as We Saw Him – Ramendra Sundar Bhattacharya
As a young boy, Ramendra Sundar Bhattacharya (1876–1976) went to Dakshineswar with his father, Jadunath Sarvabhauma, who was a great Sanskrit scholar. There he met Ramakrishna and received his blessing. Ramendra also became a prominent Sanskrit scholar, and he established the Hatibagan Chatushpati (a Sanskrit school) in 1916 in North Calcutta. He taught Indian philosophy and scriptures for sixty years and wrote a book, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Bhagavatam, a biography of Sri Ramakrishna that consisted of more than 5,000 Sanskrit verses. In 1971 he was honoured by the Government of India as the best teacher of the year. On 12 July 1974 he reminisced about the Master, and his comments were recorded at his residence at 56/4 Arabinda Sarani in Calcutta.
When I was eight years old, I went with my father to visit Rani Rasmani’s temple garden in Dakshineswar. As far as I recall, it was a summer morning. Our country home was in Khunbaria Village in the district of Medinipur, which is twenty miles from Kamarpukur, the birthplace of Sri Ramakrishna. My father and the Master were contemporaries. They had known each other since childhood and were friends. My father lived both in the village and in Calcutta. He always visited the Master when he travelled to and from Calcutta. If the Master had any news to send to Kamarpukur, my father would get it before leaving for the village, and then he would bring the news from Kamarpukur to the Master when he returned to Calcutta. One day, before leaving for his village, my father told me: “Today I shall take you to Dakshineswar. There you will see a famous Kali temple and a living God.”
We first went to the Bhavatarini Kali temple and bowed down to the Divine Mother. Then we went to the Master’s room, but he was not there. A young man told us that he had gone towards the Panchavati. We went there and found him watching the Ganges. A couple of young devotees were with him. The Master was pleased to see my father and inquired about his welfare. I saw my father fully prostrate on the dusty ground and touch the feet of the Master. He took the dust of the Master’s feet and put it on his head as well as on mine. He then said to me: “I told you that I would show you a living God — this is the person. Bow down to him and touch his feet.”
Accordingly, I prostrated myself at the Master’s feet. He placed his hand on my head and said, “My child, get up.” Then he blessed me, saying, “You will live long and be a pandit.” I was overwhelmed when I bowed down to him and he touched my head. Although I was not in a normal state of consciousness, I heard his blessings distinctly and his words rang in my ears for a while.
On that day my father had a short conversation with the Master, and then we returned to Calcutta. That was my first and last visit to the Master. Although I was then a young boy and this happened so long ago, he is still vivid in my mind’s eye. He was tall and well-shaped, a good-looking man with a face that was bright and joyful. His complexion was not white, but fair. My father told me: “During his youth the Master’s complexion was golden. When he practised severe austerities, his body became emaciated and the brightness of his complexion diminished to some extent.”
It is due to my good karma and virtue acquired over hundreds of lives that I saw Sri Ramakrishna with my own eyes. I consider myself blessed. Two and a half years after my visit, one night I saw the Master in a dream, looking just as he had when I met him. He said to me: “My child, are you well? I am leaving.” As I heard this, I awoke, startled. Later I learned that the Master had passed away that same night.
I saw Swami Vivekananda a few times after his return from the West. A professor of the Scottish Church College, who was one of Swamiji’s teachers, was fond of me. He was a Bengali, but a Christian. He loved Swamiji and had a high opinion of him. But the professor was disappointed when he heard that this talented college student had become a disciple of a brahmin priest and taken monastic vows. One day Swamiji went to see the professor at his home. At that time Swamiji was a sannyasin, but was not yet the world-famous Vivekananda. The professor said to him: “Well, Naren, what have you done? You have enslaved yourself to a mad priest! I also hear that you consider that priest to be a god and believe that he has come to this world as a saviour. How is it possible that you could believe such an incredible story?”
Swamiji calmly replied: “Sir, you have heard correctly. I believe that he [Sri Ramakrishna] was God Himself and had taken a human form to save humanity. Previously, I had the same opinion about him as you do, and I told him that many times. He was like a child. He would laugh as he listened to my opinion. He said, ‘Am I asking you to believe in me?’ Sir, at last I was forced to believe who he was. One day he revealed to me that he was God Himself, and that He had appeared in the form of Ramakrishna. He who was Rama and he who was Krishna — both were manifested in Ramakrishna’s body. He showed me separately the form of Rama and the form of Krishna, and then both merged into his own body. Sir, it was not a hallucination; I saw this with my own eyes. Apart from that, I have seen, understood, and realized in many ways that he was God Himself.”
This I heard directly from the professor. He also told me: “I knew Naren very well. He was not a person to be hoodwinked with any kind of fakery. I understood that day that Naren did not believe Ramakrishna to be God from blind faith. And afterwards, Naren’s epic life proved that Ramakrishna was not an ordinary person.”
Several times the Master came to me in a dream and asked me to write his biography in Sanskrit verse. At first I considered these commands to be mere dreams. However, when I reached 80, the Master again appeared to me in a dream and reminded me to write the story of his life in Sanskrit. When I mentioned my age and broken health, he said: “Don’t worry. You start writing.” Many may not believe my story, but I received the Master’s command many times, and at the age of 84 I finished writing his biography. It was with the Master’s blessing that I was able to write and publish Sri Sri Ramakrishna Bhagavatam. It is the Master’s grace that he made me write this book.
I am a poor brahmin, and I gave no thought about the money needed to publish this book. The Government of India provided a grant for its publication. Many distinguished people have appreciated this book, including Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, the national professor of India; Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India; and Swami Vireswarananda, the president of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. I realized that Ramakrishna was God in human form. By his grace, the dumb become eloquent and the lame scale mountains. His infallible blessing literally came true in my life: “You will live long and be a pandit.” I have lived a long life, and I became a pandit.
I have seen Sri Ramakrishna and touched his feet. Whether I understood it or not, Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna saw me and touched my head — though only once. I know his glance and touch made me fortunate forever.
[From: Udbodhan (Udbodhan Office: Calcutta, 1992), vol. 94, no. 2]