The Significance of Touching Others
We touch each others in various ways. Different kinds of touch show our love, affection, friendship, respect and custom.
We shake hands with our friends, office-colleagues, neighbours and even strangers. In the Indian tradition, our elders bless us by placing their hands on our heads. We touch the feet of the holy and the elderly as mark of humility and respect. In a marriage ceremony in India, soon after the rituals are over, the newly-weds are blessed by the people present there by placing their hands on the heads or the shoulders of the newly-weds. On some special occasions in the West—and in many official circles in India, too—one has to shake hands with many persons one after the other. (Although it might be a tiring exercise, nobody ever says so). This kind of touching is so common that we do not remember the names of persons we had shaken hands with the previous day.
What is the effect of this touch? Physically speaking, our hands may be carrying quite a few germs after we have shaken hands with others—known or unknown. In such cases the shaking hands may not be good hygiene. But culturally and socially speaking, shaking hands with others is a sign of cultural acceptance or social bonding. Touching others hence will continue to stay with us.
The act of touching others, however, has a spiritual dimension which is generally overlooked. The touch of a spiritually evolved one is thrilling and spiritually helpful. We find many people undergoing an inner transformation after being touched by a saint or spiritually great person.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's touch belonged to this special genre of touch. Many disciples of Sri Ramakrishna have recorded their totally different experiences of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa"s amazing power of touch.
Incidents about the Divine Touch
Narendra (future Swami Vivekananda) had gone to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar for the first time in early 1882. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa did not touch young Narendra on that occasion, although he had a very strange experience (Sri Ramakrishna addressed him as a long lost friend) which made him doubt the mental equilibrium of Sri Ramakrishna. Narendra had promised a second visit to Dakshineswar and when he went there after about a month, he found Sri Ramakrishna alone in his room, sitting in a 'strange" mood, on his bed. He invited Narendra to sit by his side.
Soon after Narendra had taken his seat on the bed a foot or so away from Sri Ramakrishna, the latter, without uttering a word of welcome, muttered a few words in an ecstatic mood, suddenly raised his right foot and placed it on Narendra"s body. The touch had an astonishing effect. Narendra"s eyes were wide open and he was sitting in a room on the banks of Ganga at Dakshineswar. But he saw the whole world vanishing! The walls of the room, the doors, the Kali temple, the lush garden—everything was whirling round and vanishing! Even he himself was vanishing with everything there! Everything seen by him was becoming one with infinity. Was he facing death? He was terrified and he cried out loudly: 'Ah, what are you doing to me? Don"t you know that I have parents at home?"1
Hearing this earnest cry of the young Narendra, Sri Ramakrishna laughed, and immediately moving his hand on Narendra"s chest, he said: 'All right, let it stop now. It will happen in its own good time."2
What a gulf of difference between the two touches of Sri Ramakrishna to Swami Vivekananda administered in the span of a minute or two! The first touch, as Swamiji himself admitted later, cast him into the ocean of infinity, and the second one, pulled him out, as it were, from that infinite ocean and brought him back on solid earth of this mundane world. Same touch!