But the people who were his audience felt very much embarrassed, particularly the ones who loved him immensely – thinking that this does not fit in the character of a great master. He should be beyond all these things, and he is not even beyond the food! And at such a point when he is talking of great things, suddenly the smell comes, and he stops in the middle of the sentence – he does not even complete it! He says, “Wait, I’m coming back!”
Sharda was embarrassed. She told Ramakrishna many times, “It does not look right. You are unnecessarily making yourself a laughingstock.”
His closest disciples prayed to him, “Stop doing it. Because sometimes we bring visitors and they say, ‘You call this man enlightened? This man seems to be crazy! And if he is so much attached to food, what about other things?’”
Ramakrishna listened to everybody’s advice but continued doing his thing. One day Sharda started crying and weeping and she said, “Because of you, people are continuously harassing me, saying, ‘You have to do something. Only you can prevent him.’ And what can I do? How I can prevent? At the most I can say, ‘Don’t do this.’ And whatever is being prepared is prepared for you. Within half an hour you will be eating it. There is no need to come to the kitchen, disrupting the discourse…and the discourse is about the ultimate reality!”
Seeing her tears, Ramakrishna said, “It seems you really want to know what is the secret of it. Then don’t blame me; I have been avoiding the subject, but there is a limit to everything. I will tell you the reality. Food is the only thing I am keeping myself attached to, otherwise I cannot remain in the body. That is my strategy. And the day I show indifference towards food, know that I will be here in the world only three more days. Now be satisfied and tell all those people who are so much worried about it.”
Nobody really believed it, they thought it was just to console them, a rationalization. But Sharda became very much aware and alert. One day when she brought the food in the room where Ramakrishna was resting…he used to jump out of his bed, and immediately would look into the plates, “What have you brought?” But today when he saw Sharda coming in, he turned his back towards her, did not jump out of the bed. This was the first time he had shown indifference. Sharda remembered what he had said a few years before; everybody else had forgotten it.
The plates fell from her hands; the disciples gathered. They said, “What is the matter?”
She said, “Perhaps you have forgotten, call the doctor immediately.”
And the doctor said, “He has cancer of the throat and he cannot live more than three days.” He said, “I am puzzled, how he has managed to live with this cancer for so many years? He should have been dead many years before; the cancer is old, it is not new.” And exactly after three days, he died.
Masters have been using their unique ways of lingering on this shore, and it is almost impossible to understand their strategies. People understand them only afterwards, when it is pointless.
You are asking me, will I also wait for you? I am waiting for you, and I will continue to wait for you, either in the body or out of the body.