"Latu is the greatest miracle of Sri Rama-krishna,” Swami Vivekananda once said with reference to Swami Adbhutananda, "having absolutely no education, he has attained to the highest wisdom simply at the touch of the Master." Yes, Latu Maharaj, by which name Swami Adbhutananda was popularly known, was the peer of the Master in this respect that he was entirely innocent of the knowledge of the three R’s. Nay, he even surpassed Sri Ramakrishna in this ignorance; for whereas the Master could somehow manage to read and write, with Latu Maharaj any reading or writing was out of the question. It is said that once Sri Ramakrishna attempted to teach young Latu how to read and write. But in spite of repeated attempts Latu pronounced the Bengali alphabet in such a distorted way that the Master out of sheer despair gave up the attempt to educate Latu. But it does not matter that Latu had no book-learning. Books supply us knowledge by proxy, as it were. Latu had direct access to the Fountain-head of Knowledge. The result was that great scholars and philosophers would sit dumb at his feet to hear the words of wisdom that dropped from his lips. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that when a ray of light comes from the Great Source of all light, all book-learning loses its value. Sri Ramakrishna's own life bore testimony to this fact. And to some extent this could be witnessed even in the life of Swami Adbhutananda, his disciple.
The early name of Swami Adbhutananda was Rakhturam. He was born of humble parents in a village in the district of Chapra in Bihar. His early life is shrouded in obscurity. It was very difficult to draw him out on that point. As a Sannyasin he was discreetly silent on matters relating to his home and relations. If anybody would ask him any question about his early days he would sharply answer, " Giving up all thought about God will you be busy about these trifles ?” And then he would become so grave that the questioner would be awed into silence. Once a devotee expressed a desire to write a biography of Latu Maharaj. To this he raised objection saying: ‘ ‘ What is the use of writing my life ? If you want to write a biography, just write the biography of the Master and of Swami Viveka-nanda. That will be doing good to the world.” Thus his humility did not allow anybody to have access to his inner greatness nor did it let people know many incidents of his life which would otherwise have been of great interest and profit to the public.
From the meagre details that fell from the lips of Latu Maharaj in his unguarded moments it was known that his parents were very poor—so much so that they could hardly make both ends meet in spite of their constant hard labour.
Scarcely was Rakhturam five years old, when he lost both his parents. His uncle- then looked after him. As ill luck would have it, Rakhtu-ram’s uncle also had an unfortunate turn of circumstances and he had to leave his parental homestead and come to Calcutta for means of livelihood. The boy Rakhturam also accompanied him, and after a hard struggle for some days in Calcutta got employment as a house-boy in the house of Ramchandra Dutt, who was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna.
Sometimes out of evil cometh good. Dire poverty drove Rakhturam to Calcutta, but there he got shelter in the house of one who was afterwards instrumental in opening out a new world for him.
As a servant Rakhturam was hard-working and faithful, but he had a keen sense of self-respect even at that early age. Once a friend of Ramchandra gave the indication of a suspicion that Rakhturam might pocket some money from the amount given him for marketing. Young Rakhtu at once flared up and said in half Bengali and half Hindusthani words, " Know for certain, sir, I am a servant but not a thief." With such firmness and dignity did he utter these words that the man was at once silenced. But he could not tolerate this affront from a boy servant. He reported the matter to Ramchandra, who, however, supported Rakhturam rather than his friend —the boy servant had already won the confidence of the master so much. Unsophisticated as he was, Rakhturam was very plain-spoken, sometimes to the point of supposed rudeness. And he was no respecter of persons. As such even the friends of Ramchandra had sometimes to fear Rakhturam. This characteristic, good or bad, could be seen in Latu Maharaj throughout his whole life.
Ramchandra being a devotee, in his house there was a religious atmosphere and religious discussions could be heard. This had a great influence on the mind of Rakhturam, especially at his impressionable age. Once Rakhturam heard Ramchandra saying: ‘ ‘ One who is sincere and earnest about God realises Him as sure as anything," "One should go into solitude and pray and weep for Him, then and then only will He reveal Himself,” and such other things. These simple words impressed Rakhturam so much that throughout his whole life he remembered them, and often would he repeat them to others exactly as they were heard. From these words he found a clue as to how to build up his religious life, and they shaped his life. Sometimes Rakhturam could be seen lying down, covering himself with a blanket, his eyes moistened with tears which he was wiping with his left hand. The kind ladies of the house thought that the young boy was weeping for his uncle or village associations, and they would try to console him. Only the incidents of his after life indicated why Rakhturam was weeping at that time.
At Ramchandra’s house Rakhturam heard of Sri Ramakrishna, and naturally he felt eager to see him. And soon Rakhturam found an opportunity to go to Dakshineswar and meet the Master. At the very first meeting Sri Rama-krishna was greatly impressed with the spiritual potentiality of the boy, and Rakhturam felt immensely drawn to the Master even without knowing anything about his greatness. The pent-up feelings of love of this orphan boy found here an outlet for expression, and he felt so very attached to Sri Ramakrishna that henceforward it was impossible for Rakhturam to do his allotted duties with as much vigour and attention as he used formerly to do. All at Ramchandra’s house noticed in Rakhturam a kind of indifference to everything, but they loved him so much that they did not like to disturb him.
Shortly after Rakhturam’s meeting with Sri Ramakrishna, the latter went to Kamarpukur and remained there for about eight months. Rakhturam felt a great void in his heart at this absence of the one whom he loved so much. But he would still go to Dakshineswar now and then and passed some time there sad and morose. Those who knew him thought he had perhaps been reprimanded for some neglect of duty at the house of Ramchandra and had come to ease his mind. For how could they know the great anguish that made his heart heavy ? Latu Maharaj afterwards said: “You cannot conceive of the sufferings I had at that time. I would go to Sri Ramakrishna’s room, wander in the garden, stroll hither and thither. But everything would seem insipid. I would weep alone to unburden my heart. It was only Ram Babu who could to some extent understand my feelings, and he gave me a photograph of the Master.”
When Sri Ramakrishna returned from his native village, Rakhturam acquired a new life, as it were, and he would lose no opportunity to go to Dakshincswar to meet the Master. Ram-chandra would now and then send fruits and sweets to the Master through this boy servant of his, and Rakhturam welcomed and greatly longed for such occasions.
Gradually it became impossible for Rakhturam to continue his service. He was athirst to be with the Master as much as possible, and the moment he came away from Dakshineswar he felt his life miserable. He openly expressed his desire to give up his job and remain at Dakshineswar. The members of Ramchandra’s family would poke fun at him by saying, “Who will feed and clothe you at Dakshineswar?” But with this innocent boy that was not at all a serious problem. The only thing he wanted was to be with the Master at Dakshineswar.
At this time Sri Ramakrishna also felt the necessity of an attendant who could look after him. And when he proposed the name of Rakhturam to Ramchandra, the latter at once agreed to spare him. And thus Rakhturam got the long-wished-for opportunity of serving Sri Ramakrishna. As a mark of endearment Sri Ramakrishna would call Rakhturam “Leto,” “Neto,” or “Latu.” Afterwards “Latu” was the name which became current. Of all the monastic disciples Latu was the first to come to the Master.
Latu deemed it a rare privilege to be an attendant of one whom he loved so much, and he threw himself heart and soul into his new duties. How service to the Guru leads to God-realisation is exemplified in the life of Latu Maharaj. He was to Sri Ramakrishna what Hanuman was to Sri Ramchandra. He did not care for anything in the world, his only concern in life was how to serve the Master faithfully. A mere wish of Sri Ramakrishna was more than a law—a sacred injunction with Latu. Latu was once found sleeping in the evening. Perhaps he was overtired by the day's work. Sri Ramakrishna mildly reproved Latu for sleeping at such an odd time, saying, “ If you sleep at such a time, when will you meditate?” That was all, and Latu gave up sleeping at night. For the rest of his life Latu would have a short nap in the day-time, and the whole night he would pass awake. He became the living illustration of the verse in the Gita—“What is night to the ordinary people is day to the Yogi.”
Unsophisticated as Latu was, he had this great advantage: he would spend all his energy in action and waste no time in vain discussions. Modem minds, the sad outcome of the education they receive, will doubt everything they hear, and therefore discuss, reason, examine to see if that be true or right. Thus so much energy is lost in arriving at the truth that nothing is left for action. It was just the opposite with Latu. As soon as he heard a word from the Master he rushed headlong to put it into action. Afterwards he would rebuke devotees who would come to him for instruction by saying: "You will simply talk and talk and do no work. What’s the use of mere discussions?" Of course Latu was fortunate in having a Guru in whose words there was no room for any doubt or discussion and whom it was blessedness to obey and the more implicit that obedience the greater the benefit that could be reaped. And Latu was a fit disciple to take the fullest advantage of this rare privilege.
When Latu came to Sri Ramakrishna he did not bother much about the spiritual greatness of the Master. He loved the Master and so he longed to be with him. But the influence of such holy association was sure to have its effect. So there began to come a gradual transformation in the life of Latu. With reference to this the Master one day said to Latu that God was passing a camel through the eye of a needle. Thereby Latu understood, humility personified as he was, that unfit though he was God was moulding his life to make him a proper recipient of His grace.
Sri Ramakrishna gave him instructions in spiritual practices; and Latu with his tremendous faith in the words of the Master lost no time in putting them into practice. Many incidents are told of his power of deep meditation. One day Latu was meditating sitting on the bank of the Ganges. Then there came the flood-tide, and waters surrounded Latu. But he was unconscious of the external world. The news reached the Master, who at once came and brought back his consciousness by loudly .calling him. Another day Latu went to meditate in one of the Shiva temples just after noon. But it was almost evening, and still there was no news of Latu.* The Master was anxious about him and sent some one to search for him. It was found that Latu was deeply absorbed in meditation and his whole body was wet with perspiration. On hearing this Sri Ramakrishna came to the temple and began to fan him. After some time Latu returned to the plane of consciousness and felt greatly embarrassed at seeing the Master fanning him. Sri Ramakrishna, however, removed his embarrassment by his sweet and affectionate words.
At this time Latu was day and night in high spiritual moods. With reference to this, the Master himself once remarked, “Latu will not come down, as it were, from his ecstatic condition.”
Latu loved Kirtan—congregational songs to the accompaniment of devotional dance. Even while at the house of Ramchandra, if he would see a Kirtan party, he would run to join it, sometimes forgetful of his daily work. When Latu came to Dakshineswar he got greater opportunities to attend the Kirtan parties. On many occasions he would go into ecstasy while singing with them.
A straw best shows which way the wind blows. Sometimes insignificant incidents indicate the direction of the mind of a man. One day Latu, along with others, was playing at an indoor game called “ Golakdham.” " Golak ” means heaven. The point aimed at by each player was that his ‘'piece” should reach “Golak.” In the course of the play, when the “piece” of Latu reached the destination he was so beside himself with joy that one could see that he felt as if he had actually reached the salvation of life. Sri Ramakrishna was witnessing the game. When he saw the great ecstasy of Latu he is said to have remarked that Latu was so happy because in personal life he was greatly eager to attain liberation.
Sri Ramakrishna used to say that frankness is a virtue which one gets as a result of hard Tapasya in many previous births; and having frankness one can expect to realise God very easily. Latu was so very frank that one would wonder at seeing such a childlike trait in him. He would unreservedly speak of his struggle with the flesh to the Master and receive instructions from him.
Once Sri Ramakrishna told Latu, “Don’t forget Him throughout the day or night.” And of all forms of spiritual practices it seems Latu laid the greatest stress on repeating the sacred Name. This was also his instruction to others who would come to him for guidance in later days. To a devotee who pathetically asked him,
‘ ‘ How can we have self-surrender to God whom we have never seen,” Latu Maharaj said in his inimitable simple way: “It does not matter if you do not know Him. You know His name. Just take His name, and you will progress spiritually. What do they do in an office ? Without having seen or known the officer, one sends an application addressed to his name. Similarly send your application to God, and you will receive His grace.”
With all his spiritual longing, Latu's chief endeavour in life was to serve the Master. Once he said in reply to one who questioned him as to how the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna got time for worship when they were so much devoted to his service, “Well, service to him was our greatest worship and meditation.”
Latu accompanied Sri Ramakrishna as a devoted attendant when he was removed to Shyam-pukur and thence to Cossipore and served him till the last moment. Latu was one of the chosen few to whom the Master gave the Gerua cloth as a symbol of Sannyasa. Afterwards when the actual rite was performed and the family name had to be changed, Latu was named Swami Adbhutananda by the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, perhaps because the life of Latu Maharaj was so wonderful—Adbhut—in every respect. Latu Maharaj was one of the first three members of the Ramakrishna Math at Baranagore. It was they who first gave the start and others joined them to make the Brotherhood complete.
After the passing away of the Master Latu Maharaj accompanied the Holy Mother to Vrinda-van and stayed there for a short period. His love and reverence for the Holy Mother was next to that for the Master, if not equal. The Holy Mother also looked upon him exactly as her own child. At Dakshineswar when she had had to pass through hard days of work, Latu had been her devoted assistant. Brought up in a village atmosphere she was very shy and would not talk with anyone outside a limited group. But as Latu was very young and had a childlike attitude towards her, she was free with Latu. The depth of love and devotion of Latu Maharaj to the Holy Mother throughout his whole life was amazing and beggars description.
At Baranagore, Latu Maharaj along with other brother-disciples passed continuously one year and a half in hard spiritual practices. He would spend the whole night in one or other form of Sadhana and in the day-time he would have a short sleep; That became his habit for his whole life. Even if ill, he would sit for meditation in the evening. At Baranagore he was at one time very ill with pneumonia. He was too weak to rise. But he would insist that he should be helped to sit in the evening. When reminded that the doctor had forbidden him to do that, he would show great resentment and say: “What does the doctor know? It is his (the Master's) direction, and it must be done." He would be so engrossed in spiritual practices and always so much in spiritual mood that he could not stick to any regular time for food and drink. It is said that at Baranagore because of this characteristic sometimes food would be sent to his room. But on many days the food that was sent in the morning remained untouched till at night. Latu Maharaj had no idea that he had not taken any meal. At night when others retired Latu Maharaj would lie in his bed feigning sleep. When others were fast asleep, he would quietly rise and tell his beads. Once a funny incident happened on one of such occasions. While Latu Maharaj was telling his beads, a little sound was made. One of his brother-monks thought that a rat had come into the room and he kindled a light to drive it away. At this all found out the trick that Latu Maharaj was playing on them, and they began to poke fun at him.
Latu Maharaj had his own way of living and he could not conform to the routine life of an institution. Because of this ’he would afterwards live mostly outside the monastery with occasional short stays at the Alambazar or Belur Math. It is said that Swami Vivekananda once made it a rule that every one should get up in the early hours of the morning, with the ringing of a bell, and meditate. The next day Latu Maharaj was on his way to leave the Math. Swami Vivekananda heard the news and asked Latu Maharaj what the matter was with him. Latu Maharaj said: “My mind has not reached such a stage that it can with the ringing of your bell be ready for meditation. I shall not be able to sit for meditation at your appointed hours." The Swami understood the whole situation and waived the rule in favour of Latu Maharaj.
Sometimes Latu Maharaj stayed at the house of devotees, sometimes in a room at the Vasumati Press belonging to a lay disciple of the Master, and very often he lived on the bank of the Ganges without any fixed shelter. The day-time he would pass at one bathing ghat, the night time he would spend at some other ghat with or without any roof. The policeman who kept watch came to know him and so would not object to his remaining there at night.
One night while it was raining Latu Maharaj took shelter in an empty compartment of a railway carriage that stood near by for taking goods. Soon the engine came and dragged the carriage to a great distance before Latu Maharaj was conscious of what had happened. He then got down and walked back to his accustomed spot. About his food Latu Maharaj was not at all particular. Sometimes a little quantity of gram soaked in water would serve for him the purpose of a meal. He lived on a plane where physical needs do not very much trouble a man, nor can the outside world disturb the internal peace. When asked how he could stay in a room in a printing press where there was so much noise, Latu Maharaj replied that he did not feel much difficulty.
But the main source of strength of Latu Maharaj was his dependence on the Master. He would always think that the Master would supply him with everything that he needed or was good for him. Latterly he would say to those who sought guidance from him: “Your dependence on God is so very feeble. If you do not get a result according to your own liking, in two days you give up God and follow your own plan as if you are wiser than He. Real self-surrender means that you will not waver in your faith even in the face of great losses." There was nothing in the world which could tempt Latu Maharaj away from his faith in God and the Guru.
It is very difficult to trace the chronological events of Latu Maharaj’s life: firstly because there were no events in his life excepting the fact that it was one long stillness of prayer and secondly because now and then he was out of touch with all. But Latu Maharaj wanted to live within a few miles of Dakshineswar, the great seat of Sadhana of the Master. In 1895 or 1896 he once went to Puri, in 1903 he was again at that holy city for about a month; and in the same year he visited some places of Northern India like Benares, Allahabad and Vrindavan. Swami Vivekananda took him in the party on his tour in Kashmir and Rajputana. Excepting these occasions Latu Maharaj lived mostly in Calcutta or near about. It is said that Latu Maharaj prayed to Jagannath at Puri that he might be vouchsafed two boons—first that he could engage himself in spiritual practices without having a wandering habit and second that he might have a good digestion. When asked why he asked for the second boon which seemed so strange, Latu Maharaj is said to have remarked: “Well, it is very important in a Sadhu life. There is no knowing what kind of food a Sadhu will get. If he has got a good stomach he can take any food that chance may bring, and thus preserving his health can devote his energy to spiritual practices.”
Towards the end of 1898 when Ramchandra Dutt was on his death-bed, Latu Maharaj was by his side. For more than three weeks he incessantly nursed his old master who had been instrumental in bringing him in contact with one who had kindled the spiritual flame of his life. It is said that Latu Maharaj went on attending to the needs of the patient almost throughout twenty-four hours of the day. He took upon himself the main brunt of looking after the patient. With the same earnestness did he nurse the wife of Ramchandra Dutt, whom he regarded as his mother, in her dying moments. For about a month or so with anxious care and unsparingly Latu Maharaj attended her. It was only when she passed away that he left the house.
Though Latu Maharaj was never closely connected with the works of the Ramakrishna Mission, his love for his brother-disciples especially for the leader, whom he would call “ Loren ” in his distorted Bengali pronunciation, was very great. Latu Maharaj could not identify himself with the works started by Swami Vivekananda as they caused distraction to the inner flow of his spiritual life. But he had great faith in the mission of one whom the Master praised so much. He used to say, “I am ready to take hundreds of births if I can have the companionship of ' Loren-bhai.’ ” Swami Vivekananda infinitely reciprocated the love of Latu Maharaj. When on his return to Calcutta from the West, he was given a splendid reception and everybody was eager to see and talk with him, Swami Vivekananda made anxious inquiry about Latu Maharaj and when the latter came he took him by his hand and asked why he had not come for so long. Latu Maharaj with his characteristic frankness said that he was afraid he would be a misfit in the aristocratic company where the Swami was. At this the Swami very affectionately said, “You are ever my Latu-bhai (Brother Latu) and I am your Loren-bhai,” and dragged Latu Maharaj with him to take their meals together. The childlike simplicity and open-mindedness of Latu Maharaj made a special appeal to his brother-disciples, but they also had deep regard for his great spirituality. Sometimes they would poke fun at him taking advantage of his simplicity, though they always had high appreciation of his wonderful life. Swami Vivekananda used to say: “Our Master was original, and every one of his disciples also is original. Look at Latu. Bom and brought up in a poor family, he has attained to a level of spirituality which is the despair of many. We came with education. This was a great advantage. When we felt depressed or life became monotonous, we could try to get inspiration from books. But Latu had no such opportunity for diversion. Yet simply through one-pointed devotion he has made his life exalted. This speaks of his great latent spirituality.” Now and then the Swami would lovingly address Latu Maharaj as “Plato” distorting the word “Latu” into that famous Greek name—an indirect testimony to the wisdom the latter had attained. Sometimes the happy relationship between Latu Maharaj and his brother-disciples would give rise to very enjoyable situations. Once in Kashmir, Swami Viveka-nanda, after visiting a temple, remarked that it was two or three thousand years old. At this Latu Maharaj questioned how he could come to such a strange conclusion. The great Swami was in a fix and replied: ‘' It is very difficult to explain the reasons for my conclusion to you. It would be possible if you had got modem education.” Latu Maharaj, instead of being embarrassed at this, said, “Well, such is your education that you cannot teach an illiterate person like myself.” The reply threw all into roaring laughter.
In 1903 Latu Maharaj was persuaded to take up his residence at the house of the great devotee Balaram Bose. There he stayed for about nine years till 1912. A very unusual thing for Latu Maharaj! When the request for staying there came to Latu Maharaj, he at first refused it on the ground that there was no regularity about his time of taking food and drink and therefore he did not like to inconvenience anyone. But the members of the family earnestly reiterated their request saying that it would be rather a blessing than any inconvenience if he put up at their house and that arrangements would be made so that he might live in any way he liked.
Even at this place where everyone was eager to give him all comforts, Latu Maharaj lived a very stern ascetic life. An eye-witness describes Latu Maharaj as he was seen at Balaram Babu's place: “...Latu Maharaj was a person of few words. He was also a person of few needs. His room bore witness to it. It lay immediately to the right of the house-entrance. The door was nearly always open, and as one passed, one could see the large empty space with a small thin mat on the floor, at the far end a low table for a bed, on one side a few half-dead embers in an open hearth and on them a pot of tea. I suspect that that pot of tea represented the whole of Latu Maharaj’s concession to the body."
In this room Latu Maharaj passed the whole day almost alone, absorbed in his own thought. Only in the mornings and the evenings he would be found talking with persons who would approach him for the solution of their spiritual problems. Outwardly Latu Maharaj was stem and at times he would not reply though asked questions repeatedly. But when in a mood to talk and mix with people he was amazingly free and sociable. He had not the least trace of egotism in him. Beneath the rough exterior he hid a very soft heart. Those who were fortunate in having access to that found in him a friend, philosopher and guide. Even little boys were very free with him. They played with him, scrambled over his shoulders and found in him a delightful companion. Persons who were lowly and despised found a sympathetic response from his kindly heart. Once asked how he could associate himself with them, he replied, "They are at least more sincere.”
Once a man tipsy with drink came to him at midnight with some articles of food and requested that Latu Maharaj must accept them, for after that he himself could partake of them as sacramental food. A stem ascetic like Latu Maharaj quietly submitted to the importunities of this vicious character, and the man went away satisfied, all the way singing merry songs. When asked how he could stand that situation, Latu Maharaj said: “They want a little sympathy. Why should one grudge that?"
Another day a devotee came to him drenched with rain. Latu Maharaj at once gave him his own clothes to put on. The devotee got alarmed at the very suggestion of wearing the personal clothes of the much revered Latu Maharaj and also because they were ochre clothes, which it was sacrilegious for a lay man to put on. But Latu Maharaj persuaded him to wear them as otherwise he might fall ill and fail to attend the office—a very gloomy prospect for a poor man like him.
An outward sternness Latu Maharaj maintained perhaps to protect himself against the intrusion of people. But however stern he might be externally in order to keep off people or however much he might be trying to hide his spiritual fire, people began to be attracted by his wonderful personality. Though he had no academic education whatsoever, he could solve the intricate points of philosophy or the complex problems of spiritual life in such an easy way that one felt he saw the solutions as tangibly as one sees material objects. Once there came two Western ladies to Latu Maharaj. They belonged to an atheist society. As such they believed in humanitarian works but not in God. “Why should you do good to others?" asked Latu Maharaj in the course of the conversation with them, "Where lies your interest in that ? If you don’t believe in the existence of God, there will always remain a flaw in your argument. Humanitarian work is a matter that concerns the good of society. You cannot prove that it will do good to yourself. So after some time you will get tired of doing the work that does not serve your self-interest. On the contrary if you believe in God there will be a perennial source of interest, for the same God resides in others as in you."
"But can you prove that the one God resides in many?” asked one of the ladies.
“Why not?” came the prompt reply, “but it is a subjective experience. Love cannot be explained to another. Only one who loves understands it and also the one who is loved. The same is the case with God. He knows and the one whom He blesses knows. For others He will ever remain an enigma."
“ How can it be possible that I am the Soul, I being finite and the Soul being infinite?” asked a devotee.
“ Where is the difficulty ?” replied one who had the perception of the truth as clear as daylight, “ Have you not seen jasmine flowers ? The petals of those flowers are very small. But even those petals, dew-drops falling on them, reflect the infinite sky. Do they not? In the same way through the grace of God this limited self can reflect the Infinite."
"How can an aspirant grasp Brahman which is infinite?" asked a devotee with a philosophical bent of mind.
"You have heard music," said the monk who was quite innocent of any knowledge of academic philosophy, "you have seen how the strings of a Sittar bring out songs. In the same way the life of a devotee expresses Divinity."
Once at Baranagore Math Swami Turiyananda, who had very deep knowledge of scriptures, was saying that God was all kind and was above any sense of hatred or partiality. At this Latu Maha-raj replied, "Nice indeed! You are defending God as if He is a child."
“ If God is not impartial,” said Swami Turiyananda, "is He then a despot like the Czar of Russia, doing whatever He likes according to His caprice?”
"All right, you may defend your God if you please,” said Latu Maharaj, "but this you should not forget that He is also the power behind the despotism of a Czar."
Though he had no book-learning Latu Maharaj could instinctively see the inner significance of scriptures because of his spiritual realisations. Once a monk was reading out the Kathopanishad to him when he read the following Shloka:
" The Purusha of the size of a thumb, the inner soul, dwells always in the heart of beings. One should separate Him from the body with patience as the stalk from a grass."
When the last line was uttered Latu Maharaj was overjoyed and exclaimed, "Just the thing,” as if he was giving out his own inner experience of life.
Though he himself could not read, he liked to hear scriptures read out to him. Once at dead of night—to him day and night had no difference— he awakened a young monk who slept in his room and asked him to read out the Gita to him. The young monk did that in compliance with his wish.
Latu Maharaj talked of high spiritual things when the mood for that came, but he was too humble to think that he was doing any spiritual good to anybody. Though by coming into contact with him many lives were changed, he did not consciously make any disciple. He used to say that only those persons who were born with a mission like Swami Vivekananda were entitled to’ make disciples or preach religion. He had a contempt for those who talked or lectured on religion without directing their energies to build up their own character. He used to say that the so-called preachers go out to seek people to listen to them, but if they realise the Truth people of their own accord would flock round them for spiritual help. Whenever he felt that his words might be interpreted as if he had taken the role of a teacher, he would rebuke himself muttering half-audible words. Thus Latu Maharaj was an unconscious teacher, but the effect of his unintentional teaching was tremendous on the people who came to him.
In 1912 Latu Maharaj went to Benares to pass his last days in that holy city. He stayed at various places in Benares. But wherever he lived he radiated the highest spirituality and people circled round him. Even in advanced age he passed the whole night in spiritual practices. Sometimes in the day-time also, when he lay on his bed covered with a sheet and people took him to be sleeping, on careful observation he would be found to be absorbed in his own thoughts. During the last period of his life, he would not like very much to mix with people. But if he would talk, he would talk only of spiritual things. He would grow warm with enthusiasm while talking about the Master and Swami Vivckananda.
Hard spiritual practices and total indifference to bodily needs told upon his once strong health. The last two or three years of his life he was suffering from dyspepsia and various other accompanying ailments. But he was as negligent about his health as ever and one would very often hear him say, " It is a great botheration to have a body.”
In the last year of his life he had a blister on his leg which developed gangrene. In the course of the last four days before his passing away, he was daily operated upon twice or thrice. But the wonder of wonders was, he did not show the least indication of any feeling of pain. It was as if the operation was done on Solfcie external thing. His mind soared high up and even the body-idea was forgotten. Latterly he* would always remain indrawn. At the time of illness he was completely self-absorbed.'.His gaze was fixed on the middle of his brow, and his thoughts were withdrawn from the external world. Wide awake, but oblivious of his surroundings, he stood midway between the conscious and the superconscious planes.
Then the moment came when the great soul was completely freed from the encagement of the body. Latu Maharaj entered into Mahasamadhi on April 24, 1920.
Those who witnessed the scene say that even after the passing, in his face there was such an expression of calm, joy and compassion that they could not distinguish the dead from the living state. Everyone was struck by that unique sight. A wonderful life culminated in a wonderful death. Indeed Sri Ramakrishna was a unique alchemist. Out of dust he could create gold. He transformed an orphan boy of lowly birth, wandering in the streets of Calcutta for a means of livelihood, into a saint who commanded the spontaneous veneration of one and all. It is said that when Latu Maharaj passed away Hindus, Mohammedans, people irrespective of caste or creed rushed to pay homage to that great soul. Such was his influence.