Sri Chinmoy: In Ramakrishna’s case, he himself knew and we definitely know that his disease was not due to his own karma. It was the karma of his disciples that he accepted and embraced. Sri Ramakrishna accepted very few disciples as his very own, when he was in the land of the living. When sixteen or seventeen true disciples had come to him, he said, “Stop now.....I don’t want to have any more.” Although the number of disciples was very few, their sincerity was so genuine and pure, that he really accepted the consequences of the disciples’ wrong actions. He used to enter into the vital world, the lowest vital world, and almost every day he cleaned them and purified his disciples. Then, the ignorance that was about to attack them he would invite to himself, saying, “Don’t touch my children, touch me.” Not only the punishment for the wrong actions of the disciples did he accept gladly, but also the ignorance that would have threatened the disciples in future years. So on the strength of his intuitive oneness with his disciples, Ramakrishna accepted all his sufferings.
Now once it happened that Vivekananda, his dearest disciple, asked him, “Why don’t you go and tell Mother Kali to cure you? You have the power to cure yourself, but if you don’t want to, go and ask Mother to cure you.”
He said, “Why?”
Vivakananda said, “If you are cured, you will be able to eat. Now you cannot eat anything; you are in such pain. You cannot put anything inside you.”
So Ramakrishna went to Mother Kali and said, “Mother, Naren is telling me to ask you to cure me, so that I can eat.” The Mother said, “What is wrong with you? You are eating perfectly.” Ramakrishna said, “When? I am not eating.” She replied, “You are not eating? You are eating through your hundreds of devotees and admirers and disciples. When they eat, are you not eating? Do you have to eat separately? In their eating, you are eating.” Immediately he fell silent and went back to Vivekananda and told him, “I will never listen to you again. My Mother has told me that I am eating through you and eating through all my disciples. I am one with you.”
So on the strength of his oneness, he became fully one with the suffering of his disciples. That is how and why Sri Ramakrishna took upon himself the suffering of the disciples. Otherwise he could easily have avoided this. But on the other hand, from the ultimate point of view, we can say that Mother Kali gave him the most significant experience of true oneness through his dearest disciples.