Just as Sita was the consort of Rama, and Radha the consort of Krishna, Sarada Devi was the consort of Ramakrishna.
Sri Ramakrishna’s whole life was a celebration of Adyashakti, the Mother of the universe. In Samadhi, he saw and spoke with Her every day for many years. As a young man he was so intoxicated with Mother Kali that many thought he had completely lost his mind.
To put his feet back on the ground, his relatives arranged for him to marry an earthly woman. He agreed, and was married to Sarada, a six-year-old girl from a neighboring village. She joined him when she came of age, but it was not a carnal marriage. When he looked at her, he saw the Mother of the Universe and fell into Samadhi. Once, as priest at Dakshineswar, he put Sarada in place of the divine image and worshipped her with flowers and other offerings. She was indeed an embodiment of the Divine Mother.
Sarada Devi was born on December 22, 1853 in a small village of Bengal. Throughout her life, she was sweet and gentle, hard working, diligent, and spiritual.. Her formal schooling was limited to simple reading and writing, but eight years after the arranged marriage, Ramakrishna returned briefly to his native village and tutored her in meditation, prayer, the moral virtues needed for a spiritual life, and simple household matters.
Four years later, Sarada Devi came to Dakeshineswar to live with her husband. He asked her if she had come to pull him down to a worldly life. She replied, “No, I am here to help you realize your Chosen Ideal.” Nevertheles, it disturbed her that Ramakrishna’s intense spiritual practice left him little time for sleep. Seeing how it affected her, he moved her to an adjacent building, where she rested better. She continued to serve him to the end of his life, while attending diligently to her own spiritual practices. When Ramakrishna left this Earth in 1886, Sarada Devi took a long pilgrimage to Vrindavan, the sacred region of Krishna’s early years. Then she took up residence in her native village. Thereafter she divided her time between the village and Calcutta.
The direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna looked up to her as if to the Master himself, and addressed her as Holy Mother—a role that came naturally to her. In her 34 remaining years she gave spiritual support to great numbers of seekers who made the pilgrimage to her native village (a hard trek in those days) just to spend a few days in her holy company.
Living so long after the passing of Ramakrishna, Sarada Devi knew and influenced many Swamis as they trained and made their way to positions around the world. With that personal contact, her caring and grace put its stamp on almost every Vedanta center. Swami Prabhavananda, a second-generation Swami, said that he had stood many times in long lines of devotees to take darshan from Holy Mother—that is, to receive the blessing of her grace by a touch. She would sit completely veiled for hours as devotees filed past, each one touching her toe. To Swami Prabhavananda, the touch brought a tingling surge of energy. Devotees who heard the Swami say this could feel it too.
Sarada Devi’s spiritual impact on Swami Vivekananda led to the establishment of a monastic center for women, though it was not built until 1954, thirty-four years after she left this world. You can visit its web site and read its history by clicking this link: http://srisaradamath.org/mathhq.html.
Sarada Devi was devoted much more to household matters than philosophical talk. Nevertheless, she achieved a high state of spiritual development. Swami Turiyananda (a direct disciple of Ramakrishna) said that “Mother never descends from her throat center,” a remark that means Sarada Devi lived in a constant state of samadhi, even when she was doing household chores.
Some saints are best known for the words they spoke. Others, such as Sarada Devi, said little but had a profound impact on those who came in direct contact with her. We know a saint such as Sarada Devi best when we hear the spoken words of people whom she touched. We are fortunate that in 2007, the Vedanta Society of Southern California produced a DVD in which Swamis who knew Holy Mother speak of her. With an enthralling background of nature videos and Sitar music, to view it is a spiritual experience. For a sample from the DVD, click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zdepwfgSmM
The DVD itself, called Unsolicited Grace: Accounts of Holy Mother Sarada Devi, can be bought at Amazon.com and some Vedanta bookstores.