Sri Sarada Ma (22 December 1853 – 20 July 1920) is one of the notable woman saints and mystics of the nineteenth century. She was the wife and spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, a nineteenth-century Hindu mystic and saint. The followers of Sri Ramakrishna regard Her as their own mother, and worship Her as an incarnation of the Adi Parashakti or the Divine Mother.
Sarada Ma was born in the quiet village of Jayrambati in West Bengal, India. Her father earned his living as a farmer and through the performance of priestly duties. According to traditional accounts, Her parents had visions and supernatural events foretelling the birth of a divine being as their daughter.
Sarada Ma lived the simple life of an Indian village girl. As a child Sarada Ma was fascinated by traditional Hindu folklore and narratives. As in the case of most girls of rural upbringing, She did not receive any formal education but learned to serve others as She helped Her mother run a large household and looked after Her younger brothers. During the terrible famine of 1864, Sarada Ma worked ceaselessly as Her family served food to hungry people. She was interested in the clay models of goddesses Kali and Lakshmi, which She worshiped regularly. She is said to have started meditating from Her childhood and traditional accounts recount Her mystic visions and experiences.
Sri Ramakrishna imparted to Sarada instructions on meditation and spiritual life. Ramakrishna had embraced the monastic life of a sannyasin and hence their marriage was never consummated. As a priest, Ramakrishna performed the ritual ceremony—the Shodashi Puja where Sarada Devi was worshiped as the Divine Mother Tripurasundari. According to Swami Saradananda a direct disciple of Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna married to show the world an ideal of a sexless marriage. Ramakrishna regarded Sarada as an incarnation of the Divine Mother, addressing her as Sri Ma (Holy Mother) and it was by this name that She was known to Ramakrishna’s disciples.
During Sri Ramakrishna’s last days, during which He suffered from throat cancer, Sarada Ma played an important role in nursing Him and preparing suitable food for Him and His disciples. It is reported that after Ramakrishna’s death in August 1886, when Sarada Devi tried to remove Her bracelets as the customs dictated for a widow, She had a vision of Ramakrishna in which he said, “I have not passed away, I have gone from one room to another.”According to Her, whenever She thought of dressing like a widow, She had a vision of Ramakrishna asking Her not to do so. After Ramakrishna’s death, Sarada Ma continued to play an important role in the nascent religious movement. She remained the spiritual guide of the movement for the next 34 years.
Sarada Ma did not write any books; her utterances and reminiscences have been recorded by her disciples including Swami Nikhilananda, Swami Tapasyananda. Though uneducated Sarada Ma’s spiritual insight and utterances are highly regarded by scholars. Some of Her teachings are as below:
- Practise meditation, and by and by your mind will be so calm and fixed that you will find it hard to keep away from meditation.
- The mind is everything. It is in the mind alone that one feels pure and impure. A man, first of all, must make his own mind guilty and then alone can he see another man’s guilt.
- “I tell you one thing. If you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, my child; the whole world is your own.”
- One must have devotion towards one’s own guru. Whatever may be the nature of the guru, the disciple gets salvation by dint of his unflinching devotion towards his guru.
Sarada Ma played an important role as the advisory head of a nascent organisation that became a monastic order devoted to social work—the Ramakrishna Mission. She performed Her role with tact and wisdom, always remaining in the background. She also initiated several prominent monks into the Ramakrishna Order. Swami Nikhilananda, who was a freedom fighter and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, accepted Sarada Ma as his guru and joined the Ramakrishna Order. He eventually founded the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York. Though uneducated Herself, Sarada Ma advocated education for women. In 1954, Sri Sarada Math and Ramakrishna Sarada Mission, a monastic order for women was founded in the honour of Sarada Ma.
Swami Vivekananda wrote a letter to her to get Her opinion about his intention to attend the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Only after receiving the blessing from Her did he decide to go to America.
She was mother to all. The rice, poor, beggar, pure, impure, educated, uneducated, Hindu, non-Hindu- be it anyone. Her love flowed ceaselessly on everyone equally. She took many countless disciples under Her Divine fold and gave them Divine Bliss. Her disciples never suffered from any material or spiritual wants for She would instantly provide them whatever they needed. Meditating on Her form instantly gives peace and bliss to the meditator. Many miraculous experiences of devotees have been narrated wherein Sarada Ma blessed and bestowed Her Grace on them. However, She Herself never talked about any miracles and quietly kept showering Her Grace on Her children. Many books on Her life and teachings have been published. They provide the readers a glimpse of Her Divine life and demonstrate how one can live a spiritual life in the midst of active, restless world.
Pray to Sarada Ma for spiritual bliss and material benefits. The merciful, loving, benevolent mother will rush to you at your slightest call. Glory to Sarada Ma !