From the undivine tree to the divine fruit: Girish Chandra Ghosh
Tributes to Girish Chandra Ghosh
— Sri Ramakrishna"
— Swami Vivekananda"
— Nag Mahashay"
What kind of man is this?In his early days, Girish Chandra Ghosh lived an undivine life to the extreme. He did not care for spirituality at all, but he had a good heart. In the course of time, he became an eminent actor, playwright, poet and literary figure in his native Bengal.
Three times Girish failed to accept Sri Ramakrishna as his Master. The first time, he happened to go to the house of a friend of his. Sri Ramakrishna was invited that same day. Sri Ramakrishna sang most soulfully some spiritual songs and he also answered questions. On several occasions he entered into trance.
Evening descended and the owner of the house lit the lamps. Sri Ramakrishna asked those who were around him, "Is it evening? Is it evening?"
Girish thought to himself, "What kind of man is this? If it is not evening, will they set out lamps? Is this supposed to be the sign of a God-realised soul?"
He was quite disappointed. He did not see anything unusual in Sri Ramakrishna and he left the place.
A poor impressionThe second time Girish saw Sri Ramakrishna was at the house of another admirer. Girish was invited by his friend and he agreed to go. When he entered the room, he saw that Sri Ramakrishna was talking with a young girl and cutting jokes with her. Her name was Bidhu. She was sitting in front of Sri Ramakrishna. Then Sri Ramakrishna asked her to sing a few songs for him.
"How can a God-realised person cut jokes like this?" said Girish. Because his mind was filled with doubts, he could not decide whether or not he should approach Sri Ramakrishna. Then an old friend of his who was the founder of Amrita Bazar Patrika, Bengal's most famous popular newspaper in English, came up to him. The friend's name was Sisir Kumar Ghosh and he was quite well-known. Unfortunately, he also did not see anything in Sri Ramakrishna. He said to Girish, "Tell me, how can a spiritual man lead this kind of life? Let us go."
Girish replied, "Wait and see a little longer." But his friend was impatient. "No, no, do not waste your time," he said. So both of them left the house after ridiculing Sri Ramakrishna's behaviour. Sri Ramakrishna made a very poor impression on them.
That was Girish's second encounter with Sri Ramakrishna.
Sri Ramakrishna attends a playOne day Sri Ramakrishna went to Girish's Star Theatre to see "The Life of Sri Chaitanya," a play which Girish wrote and directed. Sri Ramakrishna was accompanied by two or three of his attendants, including M. (Mahendranath Gupta), who was his biographer. Since Girish was the director of the theatre, M. went to him and said, "Sri Ramakrishna has come. Do you think you can give him a free ticket? Otherwise, we shall pay."
Girish said to M., "I can give him a free ticket, but not those who are accompanying him. The others will have to pay." M. gave the news to Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramakrishna alighted from the carriage. As soon as he saw Girish, Sri Ramakrishna bowed to him. Then Girish Ghosh bowed to Sri Ramakrishna. Once more Sri Ramakrishna bowed to Girish.
Girish said to himself, "This will never end!" and so he took Sri Ramakrishna to a nice place in the theatre hall which was reserved for expensive tickets. After making sure that Sri Ramakrishna was comfortable, Girish went home because he was not feeling well.
That was his third meeting with Sri Ramakrishna.
Girish's heart melts a littleOnce Sri Ramakrishna was on his way to a disciple's home when he saw someone standing on the verandah outside a particular house. It was Girish Ghosh. Sri Ramakrishna looked at Girish and bowed to him, and Girish also bowed to Sri Ramakrishna. Then Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples continued on to their destination.
There the disciples were asking Sri Ramakrishna questions and he was going into trance. Suddenly Sri Ramakrishna said to one of them, "Go and invite Girish." The disciple ran and gave Girish the message.
Girish said, "Since he has invited me, let me go and see him."
At that period in his life, Girish was having a tremendous struggle between doubt and faith, between the existence of God and the non-existence of God. All positive and negative feelings were in conflict inside him. As a result, he was utterly miserable.
Not long before, he had gone to visit a friend of his who was a painter. This friend told him, "Without a Guru, one cannot realise God. One needs a Guru."
Girish returned home weeping. He cried, "O God, when am I going to get a Guru? The one that I saw, Sri Ramakrishna, is no good. He is a fake. When will I find a true Guru?"
This was Girish's inner condition when he accepted Sri Ramakrishna's personal invitation. He went to that particular house and entered the room where Sri Ramakrishna was sitting with the disciples. Then he asked Sri Ramakrishna, "What is a Guru?"
Sri Ramakrishna replied, "A Guru is a matchmaker. He makes the appointment between man and God. Then his job is over."
When Girish heard these words, his heart melted a little. He sat in silence for some time and then he asked, "What is mantra?"
"Mantra is the Name of God," said Sri Ramakrishna.
Gradually, gradually, Girish was melting. Sri Ramakrishna was giving Girish many indications that he was Girish's Guru, but still Girish could not fully accept Sri Ramakrishna.
So that was their fourth meeting.
Sri Ramakrishna pays full priceOne day Girish went to Dakshineshwar with some friends to visit Sri Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna said to him, "Girish, I liked your play about Sri Chaitanya. I found it so real. I was deeply moved by the performance and the feeling of Sri Chaitanya's life that you created. I want to go to your theatre again. This time I do not want you to give me a free ticket. I want to pay."
"All right," said Girish, "then the price is eight annas."
"Eight annas you charge for that damn seat!" said Sri Ramakrishna. "Eight annas I have to pay? I need a better seat."
"Definitely we shall give you a much better seat," said Girish.
"Then I am ready to give you one rupee," said Sri Ramakrishna.
"If that is what you want to give, I will accept it," was the reply Girish gave.
Now look at this! The first time Sri Ramakrishna went to the theatre, Girish gave him the ticket for free. The second time he accepted money from Sri Ramakrishna. God knows, perhaps this was all Sri Ramakrishna's affectionate joke with Girish. Sri Ramakrishna wanted to pay and Girish wanted to take some blessing-money from Sri Ramakrishna.
A tremendous transformationAfter they had discussed the price of the ticket, Sri Ramakrishna said to Girish, "I can see that a tremendous transformation is taking place in you. You see only your outer life, what you are doing outwardly, but inside you there is so much divinity and love for God."
Girish was simply astonished. He said, "I am living such an undivine life and you see so much purity and divinity in me! And love for God! If I had even an iota of love for God, would I be leading this kind of unspiritual life? Absolutely not!"
Sri Ramakrishna said, "No, no, I am seeing it! I am seeing it!"
So Girish was puzzled and, at the same time, he was getting great joy from the idea that there was something divine inside him. On the one hand, he had now developed some faith in Sri Ramakrishna, but on the other hand, the life that he lived was totally contradictory to what Sri Ramakrishna was saying about him.
Give me your power of attorneyOne day Sri Ramakrishna said to Girish, "I see what kind of life you are leading, but do not worry. You just give me your power of attorney."
"What is this?" asked Girish. "What do you mean by 'power of attorney'?"
Sri Ramakrishna said to him, "Whatever you are doing, you can continue doing, only say that I am responsible."
"How can I do that?" cried Girish.
"I am telling you to do it," said Sri Ramakrishna. "I am ready to take all your so-called sins."
So Girish gave Sri Ramakrishna his power of attorney. Then Girish found that he could no longer lead his old life. He was trying desperately to continue drinking, mixing with women and so forth, but he was unable to fully enter into those activities because he could not bear to bring Sri Ramakrishna into those situations. He was hesitating and hesitating with regard to his old habits because he did not want to cause Sri Ramakrishna any suffering.
Sri Ramakrishna had assured him, "I will not suffer. You do whatever you want to do. Do not give up anything."
This is how Girish came to accept Sri Ramakrishna and develop such faith in him. Eventually, it came to the point where Girish was so devoted and surrendered to Sri Ramakrishna that he would challenge anybody who dared to say that Sri Ramakrishna was not God-realised.
They say that Girish was the first to declare that Sri Ramakrishna was an Avatar. The pandits were arguing and he presented such strong proof in favour of his Master.
Drink, drink in front of meAlthough Girish was now always for Sri Ramakrishna and he had developed most sincere devotion to his Master, still he was not fully able to give up drinking and a few other bad habits. As a result, a few times it happened that he arrived at Dakshineshwar in a carriage and left his bottle of wine inside the carriage.
Once when Sri Ramakrishna noticed that Girish had come without his wine bottle, he said, "Now that Girish is here with me, the carriage may go away at any moment and then he may become thirsty." So Sri Ramakrishna sent a disciple to bring Girish's wine bottle.
Then Sri Ramakrishna said to Girish, "Please drink it in front of me. Drink, drink in front of me."
In this way, with utmost compassion and affection, Sri Ramakrishna conquered the heart of Girish Ghosh and Girish surrendered to him completely. After a few years, Vivekananda commented that he had seen many, many devotees, but he had not seen anybody who was the parallel of Girish Ghosh. Vivekananda said that Girish was unparalleled in self-surrender to his Master.
CommentaryI happen to be your spiritual Master. Some of you accepted me the very first time you saw me; some came out of curiosity, while others came because your parents and dear ones brought you. But if you took two or three or even four times to accept me, no harm. Even Swami Vivekananda could not accept Sri Ramakrishna at the beginning. He doubted Sri Ramakrishna and argued with him. Then Vivekananda became Sri Ramakrishna's dearest disciple on the strength of his love, devotion and surrender. Sri Ramakrishna knew who Vivekananda was inwardly, even though outwardly Vivekananda was not accepting him because he had developed a Western mind.
Now you have heard the story of Girish Ghosh. He lived a very undivine life, but Sri Ramakrishna saw his divinity. Sri Ramakrishna knew that his heart was crying and crying for God's Love and Compassion. From somebody's outer life, you cannot judge what his inner life is.
Three times Girish failed to accept Sri Ramakrishna. He failed even to see something in Sri Ramakrishna. The first time, he thought Sri Ramakrishna was an idiot. Even when the lamps were lit, Sri Ramakrishna had to keep asking, "Is it evening? Is it evening?"
The second time a girl was singing in front of Sri Ramakrishna and before that he had been cutting jokes with the same girl. Girish could not imagine that a God-realised soul would behave in such a manner.
The third time, when Sri Ramakrishna went to his Star Theatre, Girish welcomed Sri Ramakrishna politely, but he did not see anything inside him. He directed Sri Ramakrishna to a seat and then went home because he was not feeling well.
Three consecutive times he could not accept Sri Ramakrishna, but Sri Ramakrishna, being God-realised, was seeing so many divine qualities inside Girish. Sri Ramakrishna himself was divine, both in his inner life and in his outer life, but Girish was unable to see Sri Ramakrishna's divinity in the beginning. Only later did he become so devoted and self-giving.
Lucky are those who, right from the outset, can recognise their Master and make continuous progress, for the spiritual life is an endless journey. But no matter how many times you take, as long as you recognise the one who is destined to be your Master, your problems will definitely be solved. And your progress will be of the fastest if you can maintain, from the beginning to the end of your spiritual life — throughout your discipleship — your love, devotion and surrender implicitly, cheerfully, self-givingly and sleeplessly.
Crazy Bengali emotional feelingOne day Girish decided that he would not believe in Sri Ramakrishna anymore unless he received some special sign from Sri Ramakrishna. He was ready to give his life for his Master, but at the same time he was cursing his Master. This is all crazy Bengali emotional feeling. One moment we say that you are the best possible person; the next moment we say that you are the worst.
Anyway, on the very day that Girish made his decision, late at night, he heard a knock at his door. He opened it only to find his Master was standing there. Sri Ramakrishna had come to see Girish personally.
This kind of experience endowed Girish with tremendous faith in his Master.
Girish reaches the heightDuring the lifetime of Girish Ghosh, the British ruled India. One evening, a great patriot by the name of Vidyasagar went to watch a performance at Girish Ghosh's Star Theatre. The play was about the actions of the British. You may know that the British used to torture the poor Indians mercilessly. One particular captain was notorious. He instigated others to be cruel to the Indians because the Indians were fighting for the freedom of their Motherland. Many of these British soldiers used to ruthlessly beat and punish the Indians.
When it came to a certain point in the play where this captain was behaving most cruelly, the great scholar became furious. He stood up, took off his sandals and threw them at the actor, who happened to be Girish Ghosh.
Immediately, Girish picked up Vidyasagar's sandals and placed them on his head and on his heart saying, "Today I have reached the height of perfection in my performance. I am an Indian, but I am playing the role of a British captain. I have to become fully identified with his brutality and I have done it."
She has hidden everythingGirish Ghosh had such love, respect and devotion for Sarada Devi, Sri Ramakrishna's consort. Girish used to say to her, "We are fools! Sri Ramakrishna sometimes shows miracles using his occult power. That is why some people believe he is God. In your case, you have everything, but you have hidden it. You are acting like a little village girl. That is why it is more difficult. But our love for you is such that no matter what you are hiding inside, we know that you have the same God-realisation as Sri Ramakrishna. You are the same God the Supreme."
Once Girish fully accepted Sri Ramakrishna, he did not have any difficulty in accepting Sarada Devi. And he was older than her by almost ten years.
Grotesque devotionOne day after Sri Ramakrishna's passing, Sarada Devi was returning from her village home to Calcutta. Her train was delayed for several hours. Rakhal, Baburam and some other close disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were all waiting at the railway station to receive her blessings. Two of Sarada Devi's female attendants were also there.
When the train finally arrived and Sarada Devi stepped down, Rakhal and Baburam wanted to touch her feet but one of the attendants would not allow them. She scolded them mercilessly for keeping Sarada Devi in the hot sun.
Then Sarada Devi went with her attendants to her home and the monks followed, in spite of being badly insulted. There they found Girish Ghosh waiting to greet Sarada Devi. Girish was full of devotion to Sarada Devi. As soon as she saw Girish, the attendant said, "My words beat a retreat, Girish Babu, before your grotesque devotion." She tried to scold him, but he was equally rude to her.
When Sarada Devi observed their fight, she took the side of Girish Ghosh and said to her attendant, "I have warned you many times about criticising my children. I will not tolerate it."
The purifying touchWhenever Girish went to visit Sarada Devi, he would first bathe himself in the Ganges. According to our Indian tradition, the Ganges will wash away all your sins. Girish knew that he had led a most undivine life and he wanted to be purified before going into the presence of Sri Ramakrishna's consort.
Where are you?When Girish was in the evening of his life, he received a visit from Sister Nivedita, the dearest disciple of Swami Vivekananda. They talked for a long time about Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. Although Girish was quite ill at that time with various ailments, he was engaged in writing a new drama called Tapobal.
Sister Nivedita was always full of appreciation for Girish's dramas and so she said to him, "I am now on my way to Darjeeling for a short rest. Please try to finish your play soon so that I can read it when I return. I am so eager to read it."
Girish promised to have it ready for her when she returned to Calcutta. Alas, while Nivedita was in Darjeeling, she fell seriously ill and passed away.
Girish finished his play and dedicated it to her. He wrote,
You always rejoiced when my new dramas were staged. My new drama is being staged now, but where are you? When I was lying ill before you left for Darjeeling, you had tenderly said to me: "I hope to see you well again on my return." I am still living, child. Why do you not come to see me now? I hear that on your deathbed you remembered me. Engaged as you are in the Lord's work now, if you still remember me, accept this tearful gift of mine.
Girish Chandra Ghosh"
This was the last drama that Girish wrote. A few months later, on February 8th, 1912, he, too, passed away.
When Sarada Devi received the news of his passing, she said, "A veritable Indra has fallen."
His last words were: "Master, you have come. Please destroy my worldly intoxication. Victory to Sri Ramakrishna! Let us go."
— Girish Chandra Ghosh"