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"Latu is the greatest miracle of Sri Ramakrishna," Swamiji once said with reference to Swami Adbhutananda. "Having absolutely no education, he has attained to the highest wisdom simply at the touch of the Master." Yes Latu Maharaj, by which name Swami Adbhutananda was popularly known, was the peer of the Master in this respect that he was entirely innocent of the knowledge of the three R's. Nay, he even surpassed of the Master in this ignorance; for whereas the Master could somehow manage to read and write, with Latu Maharaj any reading or writing was out of the question.

Once Sri Ramakrishna attempted to teach young Latu how to read and write. But inspite of repeated attempts Latu pronounced the Bengali alphabet in such a distorted way that the Master, out of sheer despair gave up the attempt to educate Latu. It did not matter, however, that Latu had no book-learning. Books supply us knowledge by proxy, as it were. Latu had direct access to the Fountain-head of Knowledge. The result was that great scholars and philosophers would sit dumb at his feet to hear the words of wisdom that dropped from his lips. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that when a ray of light comes from the Great Source of all light, all book learning loses its value. His own life bore testimony to this fact. And to some extent this could be witnessed even in the life of Swami Adbhutananda, his disciple. The early name of Swami Adbhutananda was Rakhturam, which was shortened to Latu.

How service to the Guru leads to God realisation is exemplified in the life of Latu Maharaj. He was to Sri Ramakrishna what Hanuman was to Sri Ramachandra. He did not care for anything in the world, his only concern in life was how to serve the Master faithfully. A mere wish of the Master was more than a law - a sacred injunction with Latu. Latu was once found sleeping in the evening. Perhaps he was over-tired by the day's work. The Master mildly reproved Latu for sleeping at such a time, when will you meditate?" That was enough, and Latu gave up sleeping at night. For the rest of his life, he would have a short nap in the day time, and the whole night he would pass awake, a living illustration of the verse in the Gita: "What is night to the ordinary people is day to the Yogi."

Unsophisticated as Latu was, he had this great advantage: he would spend all his energy in action and waste no time in vain discussions. Modern minds, the sad outcome of the education they receive, will doubt everything they hear, and therefore discuss, reason, and examine to see if that be true or right. Thus so much energy is lost in arriving at the truth that nothing is left for action. It was just the opposite with Latu. As soon as he heard a word from the Master he rushed headlong to put it into practice. Afterwards he would rebuke devotees, who came to him for instruction, by saying," You will simply talk and talk and do nothing. What's the use of mere discussions?" Of course Latu was fortunate in having a Guru in whose words there was no room for any doubt or discussion and whom it was blessedness to obey and the more implicit that obedience, the greater was the benefit that could be reaped. And Latu was a fit disciple to take the fullest advantage of this rare privilege.

Outwardly Latu Maharaj was stern and at times he would not reply though asked questions repeatedly. But when in a mood to talk and mix with people, he was amazingly free and sociable. He had not the least trace of egotism in him. Beneath the rough exterior he hid a very soft heart. Those who were fortunate in having access to that found in him a friend, philosopher, and guide. Even little boys were very free with him. They played with him, scrambled over his shoulders, and found in him, a delightful companion. Persons who were lowly and despised found a sympathetic response from his kindly heart. Once asked how he could associate himself with them, he replied, "They are at least more sincere."

Once a man, tipsy with drink, came to him at midnight with some articles of food and requested that Latu Maharaj must accept them, for after that he himself could partake of them as sacramental food. A stern ascetic like Latu Maharaj quietly submitted to the importunities of this vicious character, and the man went away satisfied, all the way singing merry songs. When asked how he could stand that situation, Latu Maharaj said, "They want a little sympathy. Why should one grudge that?"

During the last period of his life, he would not like very much to mix with people. But if he would talk, he would talk only of higher things. He would grow warm with enthusiasm while talking about the Master and Swamiji.

Hard spiritual practices and total indifference to bodily needs told upon his once strong health. The last two or three years of his life he suffered from dyspepsia and various other accompanying ailments. Still he remained as negligent about his health as ever, and one would very often hear him say, "It is a great botheration to have a body."

It is said that when Latu Maharaj passed away, Hindus, Mohammedans - all, irrespective of caste or creed-rushed to pay homage to that great soul. Such was his influence!

Extract from: The Apostles of Sri Ramakrishna;
Compiled and Edited by Swami Gambhirananada;
Advaita Ashrama; Mayavati; June 1995

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