Gift of God

Little St Patrick at Dublin Cathedral

March 17 is an important Festival Day in the whole of Ireland. It is celebrated as St Patrick Day. He is the Patron Saint of Ireland. Apart from the associated mirth and colour that take many diverse forms including the unmanageable consumption of drinks and dancing, the life and teachings of St Patrick have inspired people for years and years. His belief in God the Lord was not just a statement but born out of deep conviction. The conviction, in turn, was born of his realisation. He saw God face to face as it were and he was transformed into a magnet to which millions of people were attracted to.

I had no idea about this great Saint before I was posted to Ireland. Once it was decided that I would be moving to Ireland which was for a long time, dearest in my heart due to its being the birth country of our Sister Nivedita (Margaret Elizabeth Noble), I started to read about Ireland. I came to know that this country was famous for its ‘Saints and Scholars’. Then I read about the Patron Saint Patrick who is lovingly called by people as St Paddy.

Recently when I was glancing through books in a book store by name Veritas in Dublin City, brother Swami Purnananda asked what I was looking for. I said I was on the lookout for a short account of St Patrick and he immediately picked up a book “Patrick in his own words” by Joseph Duffy and presented it to me saying ‘with my compliments!’
The book was unputdownable, to say the least! Plenty of inspiring things about St Patrick! His strong conviction that ‘nothing was impossible for God’ kept my attention on and made me compare to the parable of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna where the devotee on hearing that Lord was trying to send a mammoth elephant through the eye of a needle exclaimed ‘Oh that was simple! Because nothing was impossible for God!”

Latu Maharaj [later Swami Adbhutananda] was extremely fortunate that he got the opportunity to live with Ramakrishna and serve him for over six years. Sri Ramakrishna taught Latu various spiritual disciplines. One day while Latu was massaging Ramakrishna’s feet, the Master asked, “Do you know what your Lord Rama is doing now?” Latu was dumbfounded and kept quiet. The Master said, “Your Lord Rama is now passing an elephant through the eye of a needle.” Latu understood that Ramakrishna, out of compassion, was pouring spirituality into him.

An incident that proved St Patrick’s conviction is worth reproducing here: “After three days we reached land, and then for twenty-eight days we journeyed through an uninhabited country.  The food ran out and hunger overtook us.  One day the steersman said to me, “Why are we hungry, Christian?  You say your God is great and all-powerful, then why can you not pray for us? Otherwise, we may perish of hunger.”  I said to them confidently, “Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him and everywhere he abounds.  Today he will send you food on your road until you are full.”  And with God’s help, this came to pass.  A herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and they slew many of them.  We remained there for two nights, and the men were full of meat and well restored; whereas before this many of them had fainted and would otherwise have been left half dead by the wayside.  After this, they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was highly esteemed in their eyes, and from that day on they had food abundantly.  On the journey, God provided us with food and fire and dry weather every day until on the tenth day we came upon people.” 

The Éire Vedanta Society here in Dublin celebrated the Day with due solemnity. In an evening function, the star of the function was Arka Chatterjee (15) who played violin instrument to the delight of the assembled devotees. He played a few Irish tunes admirably well. Sindhu Menon sang a sweet Krishna bhajan in Tamil mellifluously. Jayita sang with emotion a few Bengali bhajans on Sri Ramakrishna. The welcome speech was given by Swami Purnananda while the closing thanks speech was given by Swami Vimokshananda.

A few snaps of the St Patrick Day function:

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Prayer Power

Today we, with fondness and reverence, remember Mahatma Gandhi. His prayerful life was a powerful pointer in keeping the name of God in whatever situation one is. Just two days before his assassination, i.e., on 28th January he said: “If I am to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smiling. There must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my lips.”

His connection with South Africa as given in History.com runs thus:

Settling in Natal, he was subjected to racism and South African laws that restricted the rights of Indian laborers. Gandhi later recalled one such incident, in which he was removed from a first-class railway compartment and thrown off a train, as his moment of truth. From thereon, he decided to fight injustice and defend his rights as an Indian and a man. When his contract expired, he spontaneously decided to remain in South Africa and launched a campaign against legislation that would deprive Indians of the right to vote. He formed the Natal Indian Congress and drew international attention to the plight of Indians in South Africa. In 1906, the Transvaal government sought to further restrict the rights of Indians, and Gandhi organized his first campaign of satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience. After seven years of protest, he negotiated a compromise agreement with the South African government.

According to him, “prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.”

As a sequel to the earlier Post on Master’s manifestation as Kalpataru in fulfilling the prayers of His devotees, I would like to narrate a few real life incidents here.

Many of this Blog’s readers know that the Ramakrishna Centre in South Africa has 7 sub-centres and 8 Satsang groups. Some of my visits to certain Sub-centres have become routine: such as Chatsworth – every third Sunday for conducting Gospel class; Pietermaritzburg – every first Sunday for the same purpose. To Phoenix Sub-centre I generally go and address the Senior Citizens’ Forum, if not every month, at least more than 6 times a year.

In my interaction with the devotees I am careful in learning how their spiritual life is strengthened and whether they did have any personal experience to narrate and so on. Its always inspiring to listen to such abiding and unforgetful experience even it be a dream, but ultimately the result is that the devotee stands to gain in making the nascent devotion steadfast to his/her chosen ideal.

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A poor old widowed lady approached us at one of our our Sub-Centres requesting assistance with groceries. Upon enquiring about her situation at home, she informed us that she lived alone. Her son lived with his family far from her home. They rarely visited her and seldom they see to her needs. She became depressed and lonely, until she began attending the programs at our Sub-Centre regularly. One day she felt very sad and unhappy. She felt unloved and uncared for. That night she dreamt of Sri Sarada Devi, who spoke to her in Hindi and asked her why she was depressed. The Holy Mother said that she was watching over her and she need not be afraid. The Mother said that she was providing groceries to her every month and mentioned the items by name, – dal, rice, sugar etc – and all her needs were being taken care of, so why must she still worry? The old lady got up startled and felt very peaceful. When we started assisting her with groceries, she felt greatly blessed to have seen and heard the Holy Mother in her dream and she knew for certain her prayers were being heard. Within a short time she developed a deep and abiding faith in fulfilling power of our Holy Trio.

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Another old widowed lady, who lives alone, had been informed that she would have to pay a few thousand Rands to have the title deed of her house transferred over to her name. She could not afford this amount and prayed to our Master to help her out of this situation. Within a short time she received a notification that this amount had been waived and the house was transferred onto her name. She became emotional after realizing it was through the grace of the Master as a consequent to her intense prayer that her problem had been resolved.

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A frail looking old man who comes to our Sub-Centre regularly, once came with a bandage wrapped around his head. Upon enquiring if he had got hurt, he replied in the affirmative and said he had slipped in the bath-tub and fell, hitting his head. He remembered calling out to Mother Sarada and said it was indeed a miracle that he had not sustained any concussion or broken bones, and the strangest thing was that there was hardly any bleeding. He knew that Mother had protected him.

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While ruminating over these faith-bearing incidents, I was reminded of another interesting incident that happened when I was in Ranchi Sanatorium.

A devotee couple P & G used to come to the Ashrama regularly. One day the lady P was found very sad. Naturally I enquired what was the matter that made her so sad. She said that she was staying in the upper storey of the building and every day morning, on getting up from bed, she would look out through the windows and would be glad to see the freshly blossomed flowers. The sadness is due her inability to offer any of these beautiful flowers at the feet of the Master’s photo.

I asked why she could not collect flowers from down below. She replied that she could not because that the garden was maintained by the ground floor police officer’s wife and she was for obvious reasons reluctant to ask favour from her knowing how that lady was not social. Lo! that was terrible for her! I consoled her saying that whenever she sits for her doing sadhana she should pray to Master that He may bless her by providing opportunity to do offering of flowers.

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A few days passed. And one fine morning this devotee P came to Ashrama. She was palpably very happy. I could not contain my surprise and I had to ask her what was the reason that she was found in so happy mood! She replied with all enthusiasm, “Maharaj, today I could offer some of those beautiful flowers to Shri Thakur! Thats why I am so happy and came running to tell you.”

I said, “Oh! thats wonderful! Finally Master has listened to your prayer! And you also could muster courage to ask favour from the police officer’s wife”! What she said was surprising to me. P continued, “Maharaj, no I did not go to her at all. This morning I heard some one knocking my door and when I opened it that woman was standing there. I was a little intrigued to find her as she never would even greet when our eyes met. She told me that yesternight she had a dream and in that dream she saw Thakur.”

Obviously one can very well imagine that on hearing this our devotee P was very happy. She narrated what that police officer’s wife told her. “Look, I am not aware of your Thakur whom you worship. Your Thakur appeared in my dream and He was luminous. He ordered me to reach every day a few flowers at your doorstep every morning. He also said that these flowers are required for your daily puja. Thats why I have come to tell you. From now on, my servant will place a packet of flowers every morning. On seeing Shri Ramakrishna, I felt unexplainable peace!”

While narrating this most pleasant incident the devotee P broke into tears and once again she looked very sad. I told her, “See P, you have no reason to be sad now. Thakur has fulfilled your intense prayer. Are these tears, tears of joy or sorrow?”

Her husband G, who was standing nearby replied, ” Maharaj, this is really tears of sorrow.”

I was stunned! P continued, “Why you know Maharaj!, because that lady had never worshipped Thakur even by mistake. I had been a devotee of the Master from my childhood days. See, that she had ‘darshan’ of Thakur and I have never had till now!”

Well, I didn’t know whether to weep or laugh! strange are the ways of Almighty! Inscrutable is His maya!!

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