The land surrounding the Panchavati (at Dakshineswar where Sri Ramakrishna lived)was not even then as it is now. It was full of pits, ditches, low lands, jungles, etc. There grew an Amalaki tree among the wild trees and plants. It was a burial ground besides being a jungle. Therefore people hardly went there even in the daytime.If they went that way at all, they never entered the jungle. So, going there at night was out of the question. No one ventured there for fear of ghosts. We have heard from Hriday that the tree grew on a low piece of land. So, anyone sitting under that tree could not be seen from the high land outside the jungle. The Master used to sit under it for meditation at night.
One night, when the Master started for that place, Hriday followed him without his knowledge and saw him enter that jungle. He did not go farther lest the Master should be annoyed. But in order to frighten him he threw stones and some gravel so that they fell round about him for some time. Seeing that this did not bring the Master back, he could not do anything but return to his room. He asked the Master during his leisure the next day, “What do you do when you enter the jungle at night?” “There is,” replied the Master, “an Amalaki tree there. I sit under it and practice meditation. The scriptures say that anyone who meditates under an Amalaki tree, with whatever desire in his mind, gets it fulfilled.”
As soon as the Master sat for meditation under that tree after that event, there happened from time to time various kinds of disturbances like stone-throwing, for a few days. Although he knew that it was all Hriday’s doing, the Master never mentioned it to him. But Hriday could not feel at ease when he found that he could not dissuade him by that means. One day he entered the jungle with a silent step shortly after the Master had gone to the tree and saw from a distance that he had put off his cloth and the sacred thread and was sitting at ease in meditation. When he saw this, he thought, “Has uncle gone mad? It is only mad people that would do so. If he wants to meditate, let him do it by all means; but why does he throw off the only cloth he has on?”
Thinking so, he immediately approached him and said, “What is this? How is it that you have put off your thread and cloth and are stark naked?” When thus shouted at a few times, the Master gained his normal consciousness and heard Hriday put those questions to him. He said, “What do you know? Thus freed from all ties, one should practice meditation. From his birth man labours under ‘eight bondages’, of hatred, fear, shame, aversion, egoism, vanity, pride of noble descent, and obsession with formal good conduct. The sacred thread also is a ‘bondage’, for it is a sign of the egoism, ‘I am a Brahmin and superior to all.’ When one calls on Mother, one should discard these ‘bondages’ and call on Her with a concentrated mind. That is why I have put off these. I shall put them on again when I return at the end of meditation.” Hriday was aghast to hear these words which he had never heard before and unable to say anything in reply, left that place. A little while previously he had thought that he would convince his uncle of his mistake in various ways and scold him, but what he actually did was nothing of the kind.
- Swami Saradananda, “Sri Ramakrishna - The Great Master”, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.