The Hunger strike

On August 16th, 1886, Sri Ramakrishna left the body. Everybody was swimming in a sea of tears. Naren had to accept his leadership of his spiritual brothers because it was dictated by Sri Ramakrishna himself. After coming back from the cremation ground, Nag Mahashay went home and lay down, covering himself with a blanket. He would not take any food. He said, "What is the use of keeping this body? Master has left the body and my own God-realisation is still a far cry. I do not need this body any more. I shall fast unto death."

Mahatma Gandhi did this kind of thing from time to time for political reasons. He would say to Nehru or other leaders, "If you do not listen to me, I will die. I will refuse to eat."

Nag Mahashay's action was in a different mode. It was purely on a spiritual level, so it was something infinitely higher and deeper, although it borders on craziness. Sri Ramakrishna would not have asked him to do this. Sri Ramakrishna would have definitely told Nag Mahashay that after his passing he must eat. But Nag Mahashay's sincere, genuine devotion was always mixed with so-called outer craziness.

For about four days, Nag Mahashay took neither food nor drink. News reached Naren and he went with Gangadhar and Hari, two of Sri Ramakrishna's other disciples, to see Nag Mahashay. They found him living in utter poverty. His room was untidy; his hair was dishevelled and his clothes were not washed. He was lying down on a cot which was half broken.

Naren said to him, "Today we have come here to eat. You must feed us."

Then Nag Mahashay got up and went to the market. He bought food and prepared a meal for his fellow brothers. Naren said, "Now here we are three, so we will need four plates altogether."

"Oh no," said Nag Mahashay, "I am not going to eat."

"All right," said Naren, "then we shall eat. We are hungry. You give us three plates."

The three guests ate and then Naren again pleaded with Nag Mahashay, "Now you eat, you eat."

Again the disciple said, "I am not going to eat. I have not realised God, so why should I feed this body? I cannot bear the loss of the Master."

Then Naren announced, "If you do not take your food, I am not going to leave your house. Here I will stay permanently."

So poor Nag Mahashay was compelled to break his fast and eat.