Sunday, January 25, 2009

Worship with a Broom - by Swami Nirvikalpananda

(Swami Nirvikalpananda is the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama in Dehra Dun, India.

This article was originally published in the January, 2008 issue of Prabuddha Bharata).

This is the story of another son of Holy Mother. His name was Shantiram Das. He belonged to Haldi, a village near Jayrambati. His birth itself was a blessing of the Mother. Shanti's father, Yogesh Das, was an ardent devotee of Holy Mother and regularly served Mother as a palanquin bearer. Occasionally, he would sweep and clean the compound of Mother's new house. He had five daughters and greatly yearned for a son. So one day he came to Mother and expressed his sorrow, saying, "Mother, I have five daughters who work with their mother. If I had a son, I could have brought him here along with me and engaged him in your service. It is my humble prayer to you, Mother, that if another child is to be born to me, it should be a son. Without that I shall have no peace." 

Mother thought for a while and said, "All right, I shall pray to Thakur." As it happened, a male child was born to him the next year. Yogesh's joy knew no bounds; he came running to the Mother and exclaimed, "Mother, by your grace I have got a son." Mother smilingly asked, "So now are you at peace?" He replied, "Yes Mother, my heart is full of peace." Then Mother said, "Then let the boy be named Shanti (peace)." During the boy's annaprashan ceremony, when the child is fed with cooked cereals for the first time, Mother gave him a pair of gold-plated bangles, which he preserved throughout his life. 

His family believed that after Shanti received these bangles from Mother, whom they looked upon as Goddess Lakshmi herself, their financial condition improved greatly. As the boy Shanti grew older, he started coming to Mother's house along with his father. Yogesh had his son on one shoulder and his youngest daughter on the other, the latter being only one and a half years older than Shanti. So whatever fruit Mother had she would divide exactly into two for the children, lest they should fight. 

When Shanti saw his father cleaning the compound with a broom, he too started doing the same—with difficulty, as the broom was very big for him. Seeing him struggle with the big broom, Mother procured a smaller one and gave it to him, saying, "This is the broom for you; you can serve with this one." Thereafter, he unfailingly continued his devotional service to Mother with great zeal and enthusiasm. 

A few years passed in this way, during which Shanti enjoyed Mother's unbounded love and affection. Eventually, Holy Mother became seriously ill, and it was decided that she would move to her Calcutta residence. As Mother was about to leave, Shanti asked her with tearful eyes, "Now for whom shall I work, Mother, whom shall I serve?" Mother replied with affection, "My child, you shall continue your service to me, thinking that I am always present here and am always watching you. Where shall I go?" Shanti's simple heart couldn't doubt Mother's words; he continued his service to Mother daily with the same enthusiasm as before, feeling her eternal presence even after she left the mortal world. 

In 1923, the Matri Mandir was established on the birthplace of Holy Mother, and the things in Jayrambati changed, but there was no change in Shanti's attitude and sincerity. In fact, his faith and devotion increased with time, and whether it was winter, summer, or the rainy season, Shanti was seen every morning with a broom in hand, serving with a blissful heart. He never accepted any money for his service, as it was all for his own Mother. On festival days he accepted a dhoti and chadar—gifts that were distributed to all. He had a job as the chowkidar (watchman) of the Haldi village and thus earned his living, but he spent most of his spare time at the ashrama.

When he became old and weak, the ashrama authorities asked him not to exert himself in hard work, but nobody could persuade him to stop his service to Mother. If somebody asked him to stop his work he would answer promptly, "Who are you to ask me to stop? It is Mother who appointed me to this service. I am her servant. She didn't teach me any shastra or sadhan-bhajan; she only gave me a broom. Hence this is my sadhana, my worship to her." His service continued until he became bedridden. 

On his last day, lying in bed, suddenly his face became bright and blissful. And he breathed his last with a smile on his face and Mother's name on his lips. Shanti's last rites were performed with due respect at the ghat on the bank of the Amodar river at Jayrambati. He was honoured as a great devotee of Mother. The bangles which Mother had given to him are preserved by his family. Also, many of his relatives serve at the ashrama. Countless are the living examples of Mother's grace and infinite love. She used to say repeatedly, "I am the Mother of all." How many of us have the kind of unbounded faith in her words that Shanti had?


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