Mother and Her Son, Girish

by Joan Shack

Girish Chandra Ghosh, well known to the readers of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, was a man of opposite extremes. On the one hand he drank a lot, visited brothels, and was addicted to opium for fifteen years. On the other hand, his great intellectual power is considered second only to that of Swami Vivekananda among Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples and his gigantic heart was especially evident in his care for the downtrodden. Phenomenally productive as a playwright, actor, and director, he dominated the Bengali stage in all three of these arenas for over 40 years.

Personal tragedy, the loss of his wife and a young son, brought him to Holy Mother’s feet. He journeyed to Jayrambati for her darshan with Swami Niranjanananda, who opened his eyes to Mother’s true nature. In his typically bold, direct, and unequivocal fashion, Girish inquired, “What kind of Mother are you?” She replied, “Your real Mother, not just the wife of your guru, not a foster mother, not a vague sort of mother, your real Mother.”

Sixteen years earlier, before he had met Sri Ramakrishna, Girish was ill with a virulent strain of cholera. Physicians had given up hope he would recover. It was while in a semiconscious state that he had a vision: a “resplendent woman appeared…wearing a red-bordered cloth. Her face was full of compassion and love.” Sitting near him on the bed, she had placed prasad in his mouth, requesting him to partake of it. Following this experience, his health gradually improved. Much to Girish’s delight, upon meeting Sarada Devi, he recognized Mother as She who had saved his life; his longsearch for the one who pulled him back from the brink of death had ended.

Sri Ramakrishna left Holy Mother behind to continue their grand play on this worldly stage. She carried on this mission for thirty-four years, protecting, consoling, and guiding his devotees: seeing them as her children. For Girish, Ramakrishna’s passing burdened his conscience every time he acted. Having given his power of attorney to Ramak- rishna, his actions were no longer his to make. Even weeping for the passing of his wife and children was to him abetrayal; it demonstrated a lack of submission to his guru’s will. Now in the presence of Holy Mother, his troubled heart found peace. Remembering the words of Ramakrishna, “Brahman and Shakti are one and the same—though in manifestation they appear to us as two,” Girish realized his guru was still supporting him in the form of the Holy Mother. Recalling those blessed days in Jayrambati, Girish wrote: “As soon as I went to her all my sorrow and misery vanished completely, and I felt a supreme serenity of mind which I had never experienced before.” Though physically robust, possessing a gigantic personality and an indomitable will, in Mother’s presence he was, as he himself confessed, “a little child coming to its own mother.” On one occasion, he forcefully declared: “She is the Mother of the Universe—maha-maya, maha-shakti—appearing on earth for the salvation of all creatures and at the same time exemplifying the idea of true motherhood.”

In 1907, Mother came from Jayrambati to Calcutta to attend the four-day celebration of Durga Puja at Girish’s house. Though in poor health due to malarial fever, she attended each puja so as not to disappoint her son. All his relatives and friends from the theatre were invited and received Mother’s blessing.

Like Ramakrishna, Mother attended a number of plays written and directed by Girish. On several occasions Mother lost outer consciousness while watching the play. In April 1906, she saw Chaitanya Lila, commenting: “That girl (Bhushan) was full of devotion; otherwise one cannot act in that role. She looked and dressed like the real Chaitanya. Who could tell she was a woman?” Like Ramakrishna, Mother understood the importance of the theater in transmitting the cultural and religious heritage of India as well as its history to the masses. Most of the roughly ninety plays which Girish wrote were written after meeting Ramakrishna, so topics like faith, renunciation, and self-surrender were prominent. Sometimes Ramakrishna’s very words were used. Other times, Girish introduced his guru’s ideals of religious harmony, universal love, or the spirit of service in the dialogue. Sometimes he created characters based on his disciples.

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