The affectionate term “Holy Mother” refers to Sarada Devi (1853-1920), Ramakrishna’s wife and spiritual counterpart. According to the custom then prevalent in India, she was betrothed to him while still a child. At the age of 18, she left her parental home to join her husband, who lived some sixty miles away, near Calcutta.

By that time Ramakrishna had dedicated his body and mind to the spiritual search and lived the life of a monk. Yet he received Sarada very kindly, feeling that Divine Providence had brought her. After nursing her to recovery from an illness contracted on the journey, Ramakrishna one day asked her why she had come to join him.

She replied that she had come only to help him in his chosen way, which—as she well knew—meant the way of complete renunciation of all earthly ties for the sake of God-realization. Thus, instead of seeking conjugal fulfillment, she became his first disciple.

Sarada Devi was a spiritual giant in her own right and yet, in her simple and unassuming way, she served Ramakrishna and his disciples for many years. After Ramakrishna’s passing away, she carried on his religious ministry, serving as guide and inspiration of the new spiritual movement.

Within the ambiance of her natural simplicity and modesty, she set a unique example of an ideal disciple, nun, wife, teacher, and also mother to her countless spiritual children. Those who associated with her were overwhelmed by her unconditional love and selfless service. All were her children irrespective of nationality, religious affiliation, or social position. No one was ever turned away. She accepted all.