Jesus and Sarada

Sarada Devi
Note: Let truth guide you, not us. Our humble disclaimer.

This past weekend was the birthday of Sarada Devi, one of the trio of homegrown saints worshipped here at the Ramakrishna Mission in Delhi. Thousands of people showed up for morning prayer services, which overflowed into two wedding-hall-sized tents, and the entire campus had a festive air.

Sarada is revered for her embodiment of motherly love and wifely devotion. She was a simple village girl married off to a man who turned out to be a saint, Sri Ramakrishna. Because she devoted herself fully to her saintly husband, she in turn also acquired the habits and outlook of a saint. But whereas her husband reportedly mastered all of the major spiritual disciples, Sarada stayed true to her roots and focused on the devotional, loving side of faith, known as bhakti yoga. She took her devotion and love as wife and expanded it into a devotion and love for all of mankind.

Because Sarada was a paragon of love, she shares a lot with another saint who was born this time of year: Jesus Christ.

During Sarada's birthdayThe central message of Jesus was love. He taught love for fellow man, and he loved so deeply that he was willing to die on man’s behalf. His teachings were very bhakti yoga: through love you both find God and serve Him.

Sarada also embodied love, but hers was cast through the highest expression of womanhood: the role of mother. Jesus preached “loved thy neighbor as thyself,” and Sarada loved everyone as her child. Both advocated loving service as the highest ideal.

Loving others is important because all roads lead back to love; every major faith tradition, every moral code, comes back to loving others. There are many ways to find God and a deeper meaning in life, but love enters into the picture no matter how you get there. That’s because God is love. Each faith gives its own explanation, but all resolve to love in the end. In Vedanta, love is when we see God in someone—the love we feel is us connecting with God.

The trick is actually loving someone; Jesus gave ample instructions for truly loving others, but we generally ignore his advice and say we “love” when really we just enjoy some quality in a person. We’re not connecting with the other person, we’re wanting something from them: We want them to think or act a certain way. We want them to love us back. We want ownership of their body. We want them to look pretty. We want them to take care of us.

Loving is connecting with the essence of a person, connecting on the God level, it isn’t asking something of a person. Only the kernel of God is in this pseudo-loving.

Sarada DeviSo how do we achieve real love? We can return to Jesus, and the wonderful charity he encourages. We also can return to motherhood, the place where selfless love stands most naturally; selfless love is biologically encoded in most mothers, and it is driven home by the one-becomes-two experience of childbirth. This is where Sarada Devi, who felt motherly love for all, becomes instructive.

Sarada gives us a practical way to find real love through a conversation she once had with a young girl.

A little girl used to visit Sarada, and one day Sarada saw the opportunity for a teaching moment. She asked: “Will you still love me when I am away traveling?”

“Yes, I will love you just the same. I shall not forget you,” said the girl.

“How shall I know it?”

“What should I do to make you know it?”

“I shall be sure of your love for me if you can love everyone at home.”

“All right, I will love all of them. I will not be naughty anymore.”

“That’s very good. But how shall I know that you will love all equally, and not some more and some less?”

“What shall I do to love all equally?”

“Let me tell you how to love all equally. Do not demand anything of those you love. If you make demands, some will give you more and some less. In that case you will love more those who give you more and less those who give you less. Thus your love will not be the same for all. You will not be able to love all impartially.”

How do we really love, which is one of the best ways to connect with God? We love like an ideal mother, which means not favoring one child over another, not loving the child for particular qualities. We don’t demand anything of people—we just love each person for who they are.

Applied regularly, this idea cultivates an endless bounty of real love. Applied in every moment, this idea goes further and connects us with God.

Saints know this trick, and they use it. That’s why we remember the birthdays of people like Sarada Devi and Jesus Christ. They were shining examples of how we all can find God and deeper meaning in our lives. We just have to love.


1 Comment

  1. by Mae

    On January 1, 2012

    Another term for what you describe is “unconditional love.”

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