During his training with Shri Ramakrishna, the story of Naren’s life is to be told in terms of ideas and realisations. Wonderful was the relationship between Shri Ramakrishna and Naren, the full account of which can never be given. So close, so deep was their love and regard for each other, that the disciples of both, always think of them as two souls in one—Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. For the thought of the one implies the awareness of the other. From the first, it was a spiritual relationship without the slightest tinge of worldliness. From the moment that Naren came to the Master and asked, “Sir, have you seen God?” began the spiritual growth of the disciple ending in illumination. The climax was reached when the spirit of the Master, before he left the body, descended upon the disciple. This relationship served a great impersonal purpose—the revival of the religion of the Vedas and the preaching of the Modern Gospel to the peoples of the earth.
Great Teachers who have themselves realised the highest spiritual Truth, when they come in touch with a fit disciple, are eager to impart that Truth. Shri Ramakrishna recognised Naren’s great spiritual potentialities. But, at the same time, Naren needed the ripening influence of time, as we see by his terror of losing his individuality, when the Master tried to put him into Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Shri Ramakrishna once referred wittily to this incident and said to Naren, “A man died and became an evil spirit and was anxious to get a companion. Whenever it heard that someone had passed away it would at once go to the place hoping to get a companion, but every time returned disappointed, because the soul had been liberated through some act or other of piety. Such is the case with me. As soon as I saw you I thought I had a friend, but you too said that you had father and mother at home! I am therefore living alone without a companion like the spirit in the story.” Shri Ramakrishna’s love for Naren was so deep that if Naren failed to come to Dakshineswar for some days he would become disconsolate. He would weep and would pray to the Divine Mother, begging Her to make him come and refusing to be comforted in the meantime. The other devotees did not understand, nor did Naren. Sometimes he regarded Shri Ramakrishna as an old man subject to hallucinations ; at other times he was overcome by the Master’s affection and lovingly responded to it. It was really the Master’s love which enabled Naren to hold on until he could appreciate him intellectually. Something “held” him, as it were. As Naren said at that time, “It is his love for me that binds me to him.”
Once Narendra did not appear at Dakshineswar for several days and Shri Ramakrishna was much disturbed. One day two devotees, Ramdayal and Baburam, came to see the Master. Shri Ramakrishna asked Ramdayal about Narendra Nath and said, “Well, he has not come here for a long time. I long to see him. Will you please ask him to come here soon? You won’t forget it?” The visitors remained there for the night. At about 11 o’clock at night when every one had retired to bed, Shri Ramakrishna with his cloth under his arm suddenly approached them and said to Ramdayal, “Well, are you asleep?” “No, sir,” replied Ramdayal and both hurriedly sat up. “Look here. Please tell Naren to come, I feel as if somebody were wringing my heart like a wet towel,” Shri Ramakrishna said, twisting his cloth. Ramdayal, who was familiar with the childlike simplicity of Shri Ramakrishna’s character, consoled him in various ways and assured him that: he would persuade Naren to come to Dakshineswar. At the same time the two devotees were greatly puzzled by Shri Ramakrishna’s eagerness to see Narendra. This scene was repeated several times during the night.
Another devotee of Shri Ramakrishna, Vaikuntha Nath Sanyal, once found the Master very restless on account of the prolonged absence of Narendra Nath. Vaikuntha said later on, “The Master was that day full of praise of Narendra Nath. Talking about him made him so desirous of seeing him that he was completely overwhelmed, and could no longer control himself; he hurried to the adjacent verandah and cried out ‘Blessed Mother, I cannot live without seeing him/ When he returned, he said to us, in a voice full of grief, ‘I have wept so much, and yet Narendra has not come. My heart is being squeezed as it were, so excruciating is the pain at not seeing him. But he does not care/ He left the room again but soon returned and said, ‘An old man pining and weeping for the boy! What will people think of me? Von are my own people ; I do not feel ashamed to confess it before you. But how will others take it? I cannot control myself!’ But his joy was correspondingly great when Naren came,’’ At one time when the devotees were celebrating the Master’s birthday at Dakshincswar, and the beloved disciple did not come until noon, he asked about him again and again. When Naren finally appeared and bowed before him, the Master leaned on his shoulder and fell into deep Samadhi. When he returned to normal consciousness, he fed and caressed Naren. Often, the mere sight of Naren would send the Master into Samadhi. Once when he had not seen him for some time, he went to meet him at the landing ghat at Dakshineswar. and touching the disciple’s face began to chant the most holy word of the Vedas and went into Samadhi.
During the five years of Narendra’s discipleship he went to see the Master once or twice a week. Sometimes he would stay over for a few days. During the last years family troubles prevented him from going to Dakshineswar as frequently as lie would have wished. Shri Ramakrishna consoled himself during those days with the thought, “It is good that Naren does not come, for I experience a commotion of feeling when I see him. His coming makes a great event here.”
Shri Ramakrishna’s greatest attractions in Naren’s eyes were his renunciation, purity and constant devotion to God ; whereas, in his disciple the Master respected the unbounded self-reliance, manly spirit and single-minded devotion to Truth. It is impossible for us to describe Shri Ramakrishna’s faith in Naren. Ordinary people looked upon Naren’s self-reliance as foolhardiness. His manliness appeared to them as obstinacy. His uncompromising regard for Truth was described as evidence of an immature intellect. People could not understand his supreme disregard for praise or contumely, his childlike frankness and, above all, his spirit of freedom and fearlessness in thought, speech and action. But Shri Ramakrishna from the very outset knew the apparent vanity and obstinacy of Narendra Nath to be but the manifestations of his self-reliance and the consciousness of his uncommon mental powers, his freedom in thought and action to be the outcome of self-control, and his great indifference to human praise or blame to be due to the purity of his heart. He foresaw that when the latent genius of Narendra Nath would develop into full maturity, the apparent pride and stubbornness would be transformed into love and pity for the afflicted, his self-reliance would inspire the hopeless and the despondent witli courage and manliness, and his love of freedom would show mankind the way to liberation.
He used to call Naren and a few others Nitya-siddhas, perfect even from birth. ’‘What training they go through,” he used to say, “they do not need for themselves ; it is for the good of the world.” Indeed the Master thought so highly of Naren that if anybody spoke disparagingly of him, he would remonstrate with the speaker saying, “What are you doing! You are committing Shivaninda!” meaning that to speak slightingly of Naren was as bad as blasphemy against Shiva. He would also say, “Let no one judge Naren. No one will ever be able to understand him fully.” Once when a devotee brought the news to him that Naren was falling into evil ways by mixing with persons of questionable character, Shri Ramakrishna took him sharply to task saying, “That is not true. Mother has told me that Naren can never fall into evil ways. If you talk to me in that strain any more, I shall never see you again.” Shri Ramakrishna never hesitated to praise Naren before his devotees. He knew well that such encomiums might give rise to pride and vanity in weaker minds, but he was convinced that Narendra was above such pettiness and narrowness. One day Shri Ramakrishna was seated in his room with Keshab Chandra Sen, Vijay Krishna Goswami and other celebrated leaders of the Brahmo Samaj. Narendra Nath was also present. The Master, in an exalted mood, cast his eyes upon the Brahmos and then on Naren, and a picture of the latter’s future greatness Hashed across his mind, and he was filled with tenderness for the disciple. After the meeting was over he said to some devotees, “Well, if Keshab is possessed of one mark of greatness which has made him famous, Naren has eighteen such marks. In Keshab and Vijay I saw the light of knowledge burning like a candle’ flame, but in Narendra it was like a blazing sun, dispelling the last vestige of ignorance and delusion.” An ordinary man would have become inflated at such compliments. But Naren was quite different. In comparison with Keshab and Vijay he thought himself very insignificant and he protested to the Master, “Sir, why do you say such things! People will think you inad. How can you compare the world-renowned Keshab and the saintly Vijay with an insignificant young student like me? Please do not do so again.” At this Shri Ramakrishna was pleased and said, “I cannot help it. Do you think those were my words! The Divine Mother showed me certain things which I simply repeated. And She never reveals to me anything but the truth.” This reference to divine revelation for support did not impress Narendra Nath. He doubted and said frankly and boldly, “Who knows if these are the revelations from the Mother or the mere fancies of your brain? If I were in your position I would attribute them to imagination, pure and simple. Western science and philosophy have demonstrated that we are often deceived by our senses, and the chances of deception are much more when there is a personal predisposition thereto. Since you love me and always wish to see me great, it is but natural that these fancies come into your mind.” When the Master’s mind was on higher planes, he would take no notice of Naren’s words ; at other times Naren’s apparently incontrovertible reasoning upset him. In his perplexity the Master appealed to the Divine Mother and was comforted when She said, “Why do you care for what he says? In a few days he will admit every word of it to be true!”
But the eulogistic opinion of Shri Ramakrishna served to give Naren great strength of will and inspiration, especially in later years when as the Swami Vivekananda he was preaching his great message to the world.
Once several days elapsed between Naren’s visits to Dakshi-neswar. Shri Ramakrishna became very anxious and sent for him. But Naren did not come. Thereupon Shri Ramakrishna set out for Calcutta himself. Surmising that Naren would be present at the evening services of the Brahmo Samaj, it was there that he directed his steps. He had often visited the Samaj and knew intimately many of its prominent members. The service was already in progress when Shri Ramakrishna in a semi-conscious state made his appearance. The preacher broke off his sermon, and the congregation started at the new-comer. Shri Ramakrishna, unmindful of the commotion his presence was causing, advanced slowly to the pulpit and fell into a superconscious state! This further heightened the curiosity of the assembly and the disorder increased. Some of the leading Brahmos present, connecting Shri Ramakrishna with a recent split in their camp because Keshab and Vijay had changed their views under his influence, considered this visit an intrusion. They turned off the lights in order to bring order. This only added to the confusion and everybody rushed towards the door! Naren who was in the choir guessed the reason of the Master’s visit and went instantly to his rescue, conducted him through the crowd to the backdoor and so on to Dakshineswar. Shri Ramakrishna paid no heed to Naren’s expostulations as to the wisdom of his action and was not in the least repentant.
Naren would say, “I did not hesitate to use harsh words for his blind love for me. I used to warn him saying that if he constantly thought of me, he would become like me, even as King Bharata of the old legend, who so doted upon his pet deer that even at the time of death he was unable to think of anything else, and, as a result, was born as a deer in his next life. At these words, the Master, so simple was he, became very nervous, and said, ‘What you say is quite true. What is to become of me, for I cannot bear to be separated from you?’
Sadly dejected, he went to the Kali temple, whence he returned in a few minutes smiling and said. ‘You rogue. I would not listen to you any more. Mother says that I love you because I see the Lord in you, and the day I shall no longer do so, I shall not be able to bear even the sight of you.’ By this short but emphatic statement he dismissed once for all everything that I had ever said to him on the subject.”
This was really the key to Shri Ramakrishna’s overwhelming love for Naren and his other disciples. The Master had dignified their relationship beyond any human or personal sentiment.
On another occasion referring to his relationship with Naren and the other young boys, Shri Ramakrishna said, “Hazra took me to task because I am anxious to see the boys. He said, ‘When do you think of God?’ I felt uneasy and said to Mother, ‘Hazra asks why I should think so much of Naren and the other boys.’ And Mother at once showed me that She Herself was in all human forms. She manifests Herself specially in pure bodies. When I came out of this Samadhi, I was angry with Hazra and said, ‘Oh, what a fool! How he unsettled my mind! ’ But to myself, ‘Why blame the poor fellow! How could he know! ’ ”
The Master continued, ‘‘I regard these boys as embodied Narayana. When I saw Naren for the first time I recognised that he had no body-idea. As soon as I touched him in the region of the heart he lost outward consciousness. Gradually intense longing came upon me to see him again and again, and it filled my heart with pain. Then I said to Bholanath (an officer of the Kali temple), ‘How is it that I feel this, and that for a boy, a Kayastha by caste?’ And Bholanath said, ‘Sir, that is all right. It is explained in the Mahabharata that when the mind of a man of Samadhi comes down to the normal plane, it finds recreation only in the company of men of Sattva quality, men of the highest spirituality.’ This comforted me.”
Once Naren was seated in his study with some of his friends. He had not visited Dakshineswar for some time. During the conversation, a voice was heard calling out, “Naren! Naren!” All started to their feet. Naren hastened down the stairs to receive Shri Ramakrishna for it was he who had come. His eyes were lilled with tears. “Naren, why do you not come to see me these days?” he asked. He was as simple as a child. He had brought with him some sweetmeats with which he fed Naren with his own hands. Ah! Indeed! Wonderful is the way the Lord points out the paths of illumination to the struggling and sincere devotee! The Lord Himself comes to him who looks for Him, the Teacher to the disciple when the latter is prepared, “Come! ” Shri Ramakrishna urged, “Sing me one of your songs.” Naren took his musical instrument, the Tanpura, and began a song to the Divine Mother. The others sat still. In a few minutes Shri Ramakrishna became unconscious to all outward things.
In one of Naren’s early visits to Dakshineswar, Shri Ramakrishna said to him, “Behold, in you is Shiva! And in me is Shakti! And these two are One!” Naren. of course, was not able to understand the meaning of such utterances then. It is singular to note that Naren was rarely allowed to offer any act of personal service to the Master, such as fanning and the like—services which the disciple is supposed to render to his spiritual guide during his training. Was it that Shri Ramakrishna saw the Divine, the Shiva, so intensely in Naren, that he held him too sacred to do any Seva or service to him? For Seva is only for the purification of heart ; what need has he for Seva whose heart is already pure! Let it not be thought, however, that Naren did not feel this as a great deprivation. He would insist on offering service, in some way or other, for love of the Master and through his own sense of humility ; but; the Master would seldom allow it, saying, “Your path is different! ”
Shri Ramakrishna’s relationship with and attitude towards Narendra differed a great deal from his treatment of the other disciples. With them he always observed great restrictions, as regards food, meditation, prayer, sleep and other affairs of daily life, There were no such restrictions with Naren. He would say, “Naren is a Nitya-siddlia, perfect in realisation even from his very birth ; Naren is Dhyana-siddha, an adept in meditation ; the roaring fire of knowledge which is always ablaze in Naren burns to ashes whatever impure food he may take. Impurity of food can never tarnish his pure mind. He is always cutting to pieces the veils of Maya by the sword of knowledge. The inscrutable Maya can never bring him under Her control.” When any admirer came to Dakshincswar with offerings of fruits and sweetmeats for the Master, they would be set aside, not to be eaten by himself or given to the disciples unless he was sure that the donor was pure in character and unselfish in motive. But he allowed Naren to take them. Nothing could affect him. he said, and sometimes, when Naren did not make his appearance, the Master would even send the delicacies to Naren’s home. Sometimes after eating at a hotel Naren would say to the Master, “Sir, I have eaten today what is considered forbidden food.’’ Shri Ramakrishna, realising that Naren was not speaking in a spirit of bravado, would say, “That would not affect you in the least. If one can keep one’s mind steadfast upon God after partaking of beef or of pork, these things are as good as Havishyanna.1 But vegetables eaten by a man engrossed in worldliness are no better than -pork or beef. That you have taken forbidden food does not make any difference to me. But if any of these (pointing to the other devotees) had done so, I could not even bear to have them touch me.”
1. Rice specially prepared and taken with clarified butter only.
Narendra wondered at this discrimination exercised as to food and the receiving of presents from certain persons. He thought it was perhaps superstitious eccentricity or puritanical squeamishness. But Shri Ramakrishna insisted that when he refused to accept offerings it was because the giver was of questionable character. This interested Naren. Was it true? He determined to find out for himself. He observed and studied the characters of those whose offerings the Master had rejected, and he found that in every case Shri Ramakrishna had acted rightly. Amazed, he said to himself, “What a wonderful man is this! His purity is past understanding. How he can read the minds of others!”
Shri Ramakrishna was delighted when Naren engaged himself in arguments with the other devotees. Naren would storm their minds, startling them with the profundity of his knowledge as he cited Western and Eastern philosophers. For it was not mere learning which Naren revealed, it was the very spirit of learning which seemed incarnate in him. The Master’s delight knew no bounds when he found others much older than Naren unable to withstand Naren’s reasoning power.
As a member of the Brahmo Samaj, Naren was committed to a belief in a formless God with attributes, thus turning his back on the gods of Hinduism. In his enthusiasm he had persuaded Rakhal, another of Shri Ramakrishna’s great disciples, to embrace the Brahmo creed. But Rakhal was really a great devotee whose latent devotional fervour was roused to the highest pitch when he came in contact with Shri Ramakrishna. When he went with the Master to the Kali temple, he bowed down before the images, which was against the Brahmo creed to which he had subscribed. One day Naren saw him, and took him to task. Rakhal possessed a very gentle nature, and rather than argue he avoided Naren. Shri Ramakrishna intervened and said to Naren, “Please do not intimidate Rakhal. He is afraid of you. He believes now in God with forms. How are you going to change him? Every one cannot realise the formless aspect of God at the very beginning.” That was enough for Narendra and he never interfered with RakhaFs religious views again.
Sometimes Naren revealed a tendency to fanaticism. Shri Ramakrishna would admonish him, “My boy, try to see the Truth from all angles and through every perspective.” This tendency to bigotry disappeared when Naren realised the oneness of all spiritual endeavour and religious belief. But he continued to argue against image worship with Shri Ramakrishna. One day the Master, tired of trying to convince him that the images worshipped were but the presentment of spiritual ideals, said, “Why do you come here if you won’t acknowledge my Mother?” Naren replied courageously, “Must I accept Her simply because I come here?” “All right,” said the Master, “ere long you shall not only acknowledge my Blessed Mother, but weep in Her name.” Then to the other devotees he said, “This boy has no faith in the forms of God and tells me that my superscnsuous experiences are hallucinations, but he is a fine boy of pure instincts. He does not believe anything unless he gets direct proof. He has studied much and is possessed of great judgment and discrimination.”
One of the bones of contention between the Master and Naren was the Radha-Krishna episode of the Hindu scriptures. In the first place Narendra doubted the historicity of the tale, and in the second, he considered the relationship of Krishna to Radha immoral and objectionable. Unable to convince him, Shri Ramakrishna said one day, “Admitted that as a historical personality Radha did not exist and that the tale is purely an imagination of some devoted lover of God, why not fix your mind only on the intense yearning of Radha and the Gopis for That which is the Supreme? Why dwell on the expression? Though that may appear human to you, you must take the yearning and the vision as divine.”
But the Master was glad in his heart that Naren was a rebel, for without intellectual strain and struggle no one can arrive at real illumination ; besides, his own struggles would be helpful later in understanding and solving the difficulties of others. At the same time, the difficulties of Naren, his whole struggle and gradual realisation, prove the rare quality of Shri Ramakrishna’s teaching, revealing him as the living Incarnation of Hinduism.
From the first it was Shri Ramakrishna’s idea to initiate Narendra into the mysteries of the Advaita Vedanta. With that end in mind he would ask Naren to read aloud passages from Ashtavakra Samhitd and other Advaita treatises in order to familiarise him with the philosophy. To Narendra, a staunch adherent of the Brahmo Samaj, these writings seemed heretical, and he would rebel saying, “It is blasphemous, for there is no difference between such philosophy and atheism. There is no greater sin in the world than to think of myself as identical with the Creator. I am God, you are God, these created things are God—what can be more absurd than this! The sages who wrote such things must have been insane.” Shri Ramakrishna would be amused at this bluntness and would only remark, “You may not accept the views of these seers. But how can you abuse them or limit God’s infinitude? Go on praying to the God of Truth and believe in any aspect of His which He reveals to you.” But Naren did not surrender easily. Whatever did not tally with reason, he considered to be false, and it was his nature to stand against falsehood. Therefore he missed no opportunity to ridicule the Advaita philosophy.
But the Master knew that Narendra’s was the path of Juana (knowledge) ; for this reason he made it a point to continue to talk of the Advaita philosophy to him. One day he tried to bring home to him the identity of the individual soul with Brahman, but without success. Narendra left the room and going to Pratap Chandra Hazra said, “How can this be? This jug is God, this cup is God and we too are God: Nothing can be more preposterous!” Shri Ramakrishna, who was in his room in a state of semi-consciousness, hearing Naren’s laughter came out with his cloth under his arm like a child. “Hullo! what are you talking about?” he said smiling, touched Narendra and plunged into Samadlii. The effect of the touch Naren described:
“The magic touch of the Master that day immediately brought a wonderful change over my mind. I was stupefied to find that really there was nothing in the universe but God! I saw it quite clearly but kept silent, to see if the idea would last. But the impression did not abate in the course of the day. I returned home, but there too, everything I saw appeared to be Brahman. I sat down to take my meal, but found that, everything—the food, the plate, the person who served and even myself—was nothing but That. I ate a morsel or two and sat still. I was started by my mother’s words, ‘Why do you sit still? Finish your meal’,—and began to eat again. But all the while, whether eating or lying down, or going to College, I had the same experience and left myself always in a sort of comatose state. While walking in the streets, I noticed cabs plying, but I did not feel inclined to move out of the way. I felt that the cabs and myself were of one stuff. There was no sensation in my limbs, which, I thought, were getting paralysed. I did not relish eating, and felt as if some-body else were eating. Sometimes I lay down during a meal and after a few minutes got up and again began to eat. The result would be that on some days I would take too much, but it did no harm. My mother became alarmed and said that there must be something wrong with me. She was afraid that I might not live long. When the above state altered a little, the world began to appear to me as a dream. While walking in Cornwallis Square, I would strike my head against the iron railings to see if they were real or only a dream. This state of things continued for some days. When I became normal again, I realised that I must have had a glimpse of the Advaita state. Then it struck me that the words of the scriptures were not false. Thenceforth I could not deny the conclusions of the Advaita philosophy.”
Such was the greatness of the teaching of Shri Ramakrishna ; and such the training of Naren. Little by little Naren was led from doubt to beatitude, from darkness to light, from anguish of mind to the certainty of bliss, from the seething vortex of the world to the grand expanse of universal Oneness. He was taken, little by little, and by the power of Shri Ramakrishna, out of bondage into infinite freedom, from the pale of a little learning into that omniscience which is the consciousness of Brahman. He was lifted out of all objective conceptions of the Godhead into the glorious awareness of the subjective nature of True Being, above form, above thought, above sense, above all relative good and evil, into the sameness and Reality and the absolute beyondness of Brahman. The scene of Naren’s highest realisation was the Cossipore garden and the time of the occurrence, the immediate future. Now’ did Naren’s regard for the Master increase a thousandfold ; he was beginning to accept him as the highest ideal of spirituality.
Again and again the Master told his disciples to test his realisations. “Test me as the money-changers test their coins. You must not accept me until you have tested me thoroughly.” One day whilst the Master was absent in Calcutta, Naren came to Dakshineswar and found Shri Ramakrishna’s room empty. A desire arose in him to test Shri Ramakrishna’s renunciation of gold. So he secreted a rupee under the bed and then went to meditate under the Panchavati. Soon Shri Ramakrishna returned. He sat upon the bed. Directly he touched it, he started back in great pain. Naren who had returned stood watching silently. An attendant at once examined the bed ; as lie pulled off the covering the coin fell to the ground. Naren left the room without uttering a word. Ramakrishna realised that he had been tested by Naren and rejoiced.
But the disciples were tested in their turn by Shri Raina-krishna. Even Naren had to pass through many ordeals before the Master accepted him. He examined Naren’s body thoroughly and remarked one day. “Your physical signs are good. The only fault I find is that you breathe rather heavily while asleep. Such a man, the Yogis say, is shortlived.” On another occasion the Master said, “Your eyes show that you are not a dry Jnani (man of knowledge). In you are blended tender devotion and deep knowledge.” As a result of these investigations Shri Ramakrishna concluded that Naren possessed in a rare degree spirituality, boldness, restraint and the spirit of self-sacrifice ; that never in the midst of the most adverse circumstances would his actions be ordinary.
On one occasion Shri Ramakrishna tested Naren severely. We have already seen how his very presence at Dakshineswar filled the Master with intense joy and delight. Even the sight of him at a distance would move him deeply. Sometimes he would even go into Samadhi at the mere sight of him. A day came, however, when all this was changed and he began to treat Naren with utter indifference. Narendra came, saluted the Master and sat down before him. He waited for a while but the Master never even spoke. Thinking the Master was, perhaps, absorbed he left the room and coming to Hazra began to chat and smoke with him. Then he heard the Master talking with others and went back to be met with worse treatment, for the Master not only failed to greet him but turned his face away from him towards the wall. When Narendra Nath left for Calcutta there was no change in the Master’s indifferent attitude.
A week later, Naren came to Dakshineswar again to find the Master’s manner towards him unchanged. He spent the day talking with Ilazra and the other devotees and returned home at nightfall. The third and the fourth time it was the same ; but Narendra Nath kept coming to Dakshineswar, and showed no resentment. Between these visits the Master would sometimes send to Calcutta to enquire about Naren’s health, but without changing his demeanour in Naren’s presence. At the end of a month, during which time there was no reaction from Naren, the Master said to him, “Though I do not exchange a single word with you, you still continue to come! How is that ?” Narendra Nath replied, “Do you think that I come here only to listen to you? I love you and want to see you. This is why I come to Dakshineswar.” Shri Ramakrishna was highly pleased at the reply and said, “I was only testing you to see if you would stay away when I did not show you love and attention. Only one of your calibre could put up with so much neglect and indifference. Any one else would have left me long ago, never to come back again.”
On another occasion Shri Ramakrishna called him to the Panchavati and said, “Through the practice of severe spiritual discipline I have acquired supernatural powers. But of what use are they to me? I cannot even keep my body properly covered. Therefore, with the Mother’s permission, I am thinking of transmitting them to you. She has made known to me that you will have to do much work for Her. If I impart these powers to you, you can use them when necessary. What do you say?” Narendra knew that the Master possessed powers. After a moment’s thought he said, “Will these help me to realise God?” “No,” replied the Master, “they will not help you to do that, but they will be very helpful to you when, after realising
God you will be engaged in doing His work.” Naren said, ” I do not want them. Let me realise God first ; maybe then I shall know whether I want them or not. If I accept them now, I may forget my ideal and in making use of them for some selfish purpose come to grief.” We do not know whether Shri Rama-krishna really wanted to impart his powers to Naren or whether he was simply testing him. But we do know that he was much pleased when Naren refused them.
It is impossible to give the reader a complete idea of the relationship between them ; of the love and liberty which Naren enjoyed in the company of the Master. Shri Ramakrishna confided the innermost secrets of his heart to Naren. He helped him to develop independence of thought, thus increasing a thousandfold Naren’s self reliance, regard for truth and innate spirituality. The Master’s love for and faith in Naren acted as a great restraint upon the freedom-loving young disciple and proved an unconscious protection from temptations.