IN THE HISTORY of the arts genius is a thing of very rare occurrence. Rarer
still, however, are the competent reporters and recorders of that genius. The
world has had many hundreds of admirable poets and philosophers; but of
these hundreds only a very few have had the fortune to attract a Boswell or
When we leave the field of art for that of spiritual religion, the scarcity of competent reporters becomes even more strongly marked. Of the day-to-day life of the great theocentric saints and contemplatives we know, in the great majority of cases, nothing whatever. Many, it is true, have recorded their doctrines in writing, and a few, such as St Augustine, Suso and St Teresa, have left us autobiographies of the greatest value. But all doctrinal writing is in some measure formal and impersonal, while the autobiographer tends to omit what he regards as trifling matters and suffers from the further disadvantage of being unable to say how he strikes other people and in what way he affects their lives. Moreover, most saints have left neither writings nor self-portraits, and for a knowledge of their lives, their characters and their teachings, we are forced to rely upon the records made by their disciples who, in most cases, have proved themselves singularly incompetent as reporters and biographers. Hence the special interest attaching to this enormously detailed account of the daily life and conversations of Sri Ramakrishna.
"M", as the author modestly styles himself, was peculiarly qualified for his task. To a reverent love for his master, to a deep and experiential knowledge of that master's teaching, he added a prodigious memory for the small happenings of each day and a happy gift for recording them in an interesting and realistic way. Making good use of his natural gifts and of the circumstances in which he found himself, "M" produced a book unique, so far as my knowledge goes, in the literature of hagiography. No other saint has had so able and indefatigable a Boswell. Never have the small events of a contemplative's daily life been described with such a wealth of intimate detail. Never have the casual and unstudied utterances of a great religious teacher been set down with so minute a fidelity. To Western readers, it is true, this fidelity and this wealth of detail are sometimes a trifle disconcerting; for the social, religious and intellectual frames of reference within which Sri Ramakrishna did his thinking and expressed his feelings were entirely Indian. But after the first few surprises and bewilderments, we begin to find something peculiarly stimulating and instructive about the very strangeness and, to our eyes, the eccentricity of the man revealed to us in "M's" narrative. What a scholastic philosopher would call the "accidents" of Ramakrishna's life were intensely Hindu and therefore, so far as we in the West are concerned, unfamiliar and hard to understand; its "essence", however, was intensely mystical and therefore universal. To read through these conversations in which mystical doctrine alternates with an unfamiliar kind of humour, and where discussions of the oddest aspects of Hindu mythology give place to the most profound and subtle utterances about the nature of Ultimate Reality is in itself a liberal education in humility, tolerance and suspense of judgment. We must be grateful to the translator for his excellent version of a book so curious and delightful as a biographical document, so precious, at the same time, for what it teaches us of the life of the spirit.
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna is the English translation of the Sri Sri
Ramakrishna Kathamrita, the conversations of Sri Ramakrishna with his
disciples, devotees, and visitors, recorded by Mahendranath Gupta, who
wrote the book under the pseudonym of "M." The conversations in Bengali
fill five volumes, the first of which was published in 1897 and the last
shortly after M.'s death in 1932. Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, has
published in two volumes an English translation of selected chapters from the
monumental Bengali work. I have consulted these while preparing my
M., one of the intimate disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, was present during all the conversations recorded in the main body of the book and noted them down in his diary. They therefore have the value of almost stenographic records. In Appendix A are given several conversations which took place in the absence of M., but of which he received a first-hand record from persons concerned. The conversations will bring before the reader's mind an intimate picture of the Master's eventful life from March 1882, to April 24, 1886, only a few months before his passing away. During this period he came in contact chiefly with English-educated Bengalis; from among them he selected his disciples and the bearers of his message, and with them he shared his rich spiritual experiences.
I have made a literal translation, omitting only a few pages of no particular interest to English-speaking readers. Often literary grace has been sacrificed for the sake of literal translation. No translation can do full justice to the original. This difficulty is all the more felt in the present work, whose contents are of a deep mystical nature and describe the inner experiences of a great seer. Human language is an altogether inadequate vehicle to express supersensuous perception. Sri Ramakrishna was almost illiterate. He never clothed his thoughts in formal language. His words sought to convey his direct realization of Truth. His conversation was in a village patois. Therein lies its charm. In order to explain to his listeners an abstruse philosophy, he, like Christ before him, used with telling effect homely parables and illustrations, culled from his observation of the daily life around him.
The reader will find mentioned in this work many visions and experiences that fall outside the ken of physical science and even psychology. With the development of modern knowledge the border line between the natural and the supernatural is ever shifting its position. Genuine mystical experiences are not as suspect now as they were half a century ago. The words of Sri Ramakrishna have already exerted a tremendous influence in the land of his birth. Savants of Europe have found in his words the ring of universal truth. But these words were not the product of intellectual cogitation; they were rooted in direct experience. Hence, to students of religion, psychology, and physical science, these experiences of the Master are of immense value for the understanding of religious phenomena in general. No doubt Sri Ramakrishna was a Hindu of the Hindus; yet his experiences transcended the limits of the dogmas and creeds of Hinduism. Mystics of religions other than Hinduism will find in Sri Ramakrishna's experiences a corroboration of the experiences of their own prophets and seers. And this is very important today for the resuscitation of religious values. The sceptical reader may pass by the supernatural experiences; he will yet find in the book enough material to provoke his serious thought and solve many of his spiritual problems.
There are repetitions of teachings and parables in the book. I have kept them purposely. They have their charm and usefulness, repeated as they were in different settings. Repetition is unavoidable in a work of this kind. In the first place, different seekers come to a religious teacher with questions of more or less identical nature; hence the answers will be of more or less identical pattern. Besides, religious teachers of all times and climes have tried, by means of repetition, to hammer truths into the stony soil of the recalcitrant human mind. Finally, repetition does not seem tedious if the ideas repeated are dear to a man's heart.
I have thought it necessary to write a rather lengthy Introduction to the book. In it I have given the biography of the Master, descriptions of people who came in contact with him, short explanations of several systems of Indian religious thought intimately connected with Sri Ramakrishna's life, and other relevant matters which, I hope, will enable the reader better to understand and appreciate the unusual contents of this book. It is particularly important that the Western reader, unacquainted with Hindu religious thought, should first read carefully the introductory chapter, in order that he may fully enjoy these conversations. Many Indian terms and names have been retained in the book for want of suitable English equivalents. Their meaning is given either in the Glossary or in the foot-notes. The Glossary also gives explanations of a number of expressions unfamiliar to Western readers. The diacritical marks are explained under Notes on Pronunciation.
In the Introduction I have drawn much material from the Life of Sri Ramakrishna, published by the Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, India. I have also consulted the excellent article on Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Nirvedananda, in the second volume of the Cultural Heritage of India.
The book contains many songs sung either by the Master or by the devotees. These form an important feature of the spiritual tradition of Bengal and were for the most part written by men of mystical experience. For giving the songs their present form I am grateful to Mr. John Moffitt, Jr.
In the preparation of this manuscript I have received ungrudging help from several friends. Miss Margaret Woodrow Wilson and Mr. Joseph Campbell have worked hard in editing my translation. Mrs. Elizabeth Davidson has typed, more than once, the entire manuscript and rendered other valuable help. Mr. Aldous Huxley has laid me under a debt of gratitude by writing the Foreword. I sincerely thank them all.
In the spiritual firmament Sri Ramakrishna is a waxing crescent. Within one hundred years of his birth and fifty years of his death his message has spread across land and sea. Romain Rolland has described him as the fulfilment of the spiritual aspirations of the three hundred millions of Hindus for the last two thousand years. Mahatma Gandhi has written: "His life enables us to see God face to face. . . . Ramakrishna was a living embodiment of godliness." He is being recognized as a compeer of Krishna, Buddha, and Christ.
The life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna have redirected the thoughts of the denationalized Hindus to the spiritual ideals of their forefathers. During the latter part of the nineteenth century his was the time-honoured role of the Saviour of the Eternal Religion of the Hindus. His teachings played an important part in liberalizing the minds of orthodox pundits and hermits. Even now he is the silent force that is moulding the spiritual destiny of India. His great disciple, Swami Vivekananda, was the first Hindu missionary to preach the message of Indian culture to the enlightened minds of Europe and America. The full consequence of Swami Vivekananda's work is still in the womb of the future.
May this translation of the first book of its kind in the religious history of the world, being the record of the direct words of a prophet, help stricken humanity to come nearer to the Eternal Verity of life and remove dissension and quarrel from among the different faiths! May it enable seekers of Truth to grasp the subtle laws of the supersensuous realm, and unfold before man's restricted vision the spiritual foundation of the universe, the unity of existence, and the divinity of the soul!
Sri Ramakrishna's Birthday
In the life of the great Saviours and Prophets of the world
it is often found that they are accompanied by souls of high
spiritual potency who play a conspicuous part in the furtherance
of their Master's mission. They become so integral a part of
the life and work of these great ones that posterity can think of
them only in mutual association. Such is the case with Sri Ramakrishna
and M., whose diary has come to be known to the world
as the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna in English and as Sri Ramakrishna
Kathamrita in the original Bengali version.
Sri Mahendra Nath Gupta1, familiarly known to the readers of the Gospel by his pen name M., and to the devotees as Master Mahashay, was born on the 14th of July, 1854 as the son of Madhusudan Gupta, an officer of the Calcutta High Court, and his wife, Swarnamayi Devi. He had a brilliant scholastic career at Hare School and the Presidency College at Calcutta. The range of his studies included the best that both occidental and oriental learning had to offer. English literature, history, economics, western philosophy and law on the one hand, and Sanskrit literature and grammar, Darsanas, Puranas, Smritis, Jainism, Buddhism, astrology and Ayurveda on the other were the subjects in which he attained considerable proficiency.
He was an educationist all his life both in a spiritual and in a secular sense. After he passed out of College, he took up work as headmaster in a number of schools in succession Narail High School, City School, Ripon College School, Metropolitan School, Aryan School, Oriental School, Oriental Seminary and Model School. The causes of his migration from school to school were that he could not get on with some of the managements on grounds of principles and that often his spiritual mood drew him away to places of pilgrimage for long periods. He worked with some of the most noted public men of the time like Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar and Surendranath Banerjee. The latter appointed him as a professor in the City and Ripon Colleges where he taught subjects like English, philosophy, history and economics. In his later days he took over the Morton School, and he spent his time in the staircase room of the third floor of it, administering the school and preaching the message of the Master. He was much respected in educational circles where he was usually referred to as Rector Mahashay. A teacher who had worked under him writes thus in warm appreciation of his teaching methods: "Only when I worked with him in school could I appreciate what a great educationist he was. He would come down to the level of his students when teaching, though he himself was so learned, so talented. Ordinarily teachers confine their instruction to what is given in books without much thought as to whether the student can accept it or not. But M., would first of all gauge how much the student could take in and by what means. He would employ aids to teaching like maps, pictures and diagrams, so that his students could learn by seeing. Thirty years ago (from 1953) when the question of imparting education through the medium of the mother tongue was being discussed, M. had already employed Bengali as the medium of instruction in the Morton School." (M The Apostle and the Evangelist by Swami Nityatmananda Part I. P. 15.)
Imparting secular education was, however, only his profession ; his main concern was with the spiritual regeneration of man a calling for which Destiny seems to have chosen him. From his childhood he was deeply pious, and he used to be moved very much by Sadhus, temples and Durga Puja celebrations. The piety and eloquence of the great Brahmo leader of the times, Keshab Chander Sen, elicited a powerful response from the impressionable mind of Mahendra Nath, as it did in the case of many an idealistic young man of Calcutta, and prepared him to receive the great Light that was to dawn on him with the coming of Sri Ramakrishna into his life.
This epoch-making event of his life came about in a very strange way. M. belonged to a joint family with several collateral members. Some ten years after he began his career as an educationist, bitter quarrels broke out among the members of the family, driving the sensitive M. to despair and utter despondency. He lost all interest in life and left home one night to go into the wide world with the idea of ending his life. At dead of night he took rest in his sister's house at Baranagar, and in the morning, accompanied by a nephew Siddheswar, he wandered from one garden to another in Calcutta until Siddheswar brought him to the Temple Garden of Dakshineswar where Sri Ramakrishna was then living. After spending some time in the beautiful rose gardens there, he was directed to the room of the Paramahamsa, where the eventful meeting of the Master and the disciple took place on a blessed evening (the exact date is not on record) on a Sunday in March 1882. As regards what took place on the occasion, the reader is referred to the opening section of the first chapter of the Gospel.
The Master, who divined the mood of desperation in M, his resolve to take leave of this 'play-field of deception', put new faith and hope into him by his gracious words of assurance: "God forbid! Why should you take leave of this world? Do you not feel blessed by discovering your Guru? By His grace, what is beyond all imagination or dreams can be easily achieved!" At these words the clouds of despair moved away from the horizon of M.'s mind, and the sunshine of a new hope revealed to him fresh vistas of meaning in life. Referring to this phase of his life, M. used to say, "Behold! where is the resolve to end life, and where, the discovery of God! That is, sorrow should be looked upon as a friend of man. God is all good." (Ibid P.33.)
After this re-settlement, M's life revolved around the Master, though he continued his professional work as an educationist. During all holidays, including Sundays, he spent his time at Dakshineswar in the Master's company, and at times extended his stay to several days.
It did not take much time for M. to become very intimate with the Master, or for the Master to recognise in this disciple a divinely commissioned partner in the fulfilment of his spiritual mission. When M. was reading out the Chaitanya Bhagavata, the Master discovered that he had been, in a previous birth, a disciple and companion of the great Vaishnava Teacher, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and the Master even saw him 'with his naked eye' participating in the ecstatic mass-singing of the Lord's name under the leadership of that Divine personality. So the Master told M, "You are my own, of the same substance as the father and the son," indicating thereby that M. was one of the chosen few and a part and parcel of his Divine mission.
There was an urge in M. to abandon the household life and become a Sannyasin. When he communicated this idea to the Master, he forbade him saying," Mother has told me that you have to do a little of Her work you will have to teach Bhagavata, the word of God to humanity. The Mother keeps a Bhagavata Pandit with a bondage in the world!" (Ibid P.36.)
An appropriate allusion indeed! Bhagavata, the great scripture that has given the word of Sri Krishna to mankind, was composed by the Sage Vyasa under similar circumstances. When caught up in a mood of depression like that of M, Vyasa was advised by the sage Narada that he would gain peace of mind only on composing a work exclusively devoted to the depiction of the Lord's glorious attributes and His teachings on Knowledge and Devotion, and the result was that the world got from Vyasa the invaluable gift of the Bhagavata Purana depicting the life and teachings of Sri Krishna. From the mental depression of the modem Vyasa, the world has obtained the Kathamrita the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
Sri Ramakrishna was a teacher for both the Orders of mankind, Sannyasins and householders. His own life offered an ideal example for both, and he left behind disciples who followed the highest traditions he had set in respect of both these ways of life. M., along with Nag Mahashay, exemplified how a householder can rise to the highest level of sagehood. M. was married to Nikunja Devi, a distant relative of Keshab Chander Sen, even when he was reading at College, and he had four children, two sons and two daughters. The responsibility of the family, no doubt, made him dependent on his professional income, but the great devotee that he was, he never compromised with ideals and principles for this reason. Once when he was working as the headmaster in a school managed by the great Vidyasagar, the results of the school at the public examination happened to be rather poor, and Vidyasagar attributed it to M's pre-occupation with the Master and his consequent failure to attend adequately to the school work. M. at once resigned his post without any thought of the morrow. Within a fortnight the family was in poverty, and M. was one day pacing up and down the verandah of his house, musing how he would feed his children the next day. Just then a man came with a letter addressed to 'Mahendra Babu', and on opening it, M. found that it was a letter from his friend Sri Surendra Nath Banerjee, asking whether he would like to take up a professorship in the Ripon College. In this way three or four times he gave up the job that gave him the wherewithal to support the family, either for upholding principles or for practising spiritual Sadhanas in holy places, without any consideration of the possible dire worldly consequences; but he was always able to get over these difficulties somehow, and the interests of his family never suffered. In spite of his disregard for worldly goods, he was, towards the latter part of his life, in a fairly flourishing condition as the proprietor of the Morton School which he developed into a noted educational institution in the city. The Lord has said in the Bhagavad Gita that in the case of those who think of nothing except Him, He Himself would take up all their material and spiritual responsibilities. M. was an example of the truth of the Lord's promise.
Though his children received proper attention from him, his real family, both during the Master's life-time and after, consisted of saints, devotees, Sannyasins and spiritual aspirants. His life exemplifies the Master's teaching that an ideal householder must be like a good maid-servant of a family, loving and caring properly for the children of the house, but knowing always that her real home and children are elsewhere. During the Master's life-time he spent all his Sundays and other holidays with him and his devotees, and besides listening to the holy talks and devotional music, practised meditation both on the Personal and the Impersonal aspects of God under the direct guidance of the Master. In the pages of the Gospel the reader gets a picture of M.'s spiritual relationship with the Master how from a hazy belief in the Impersonal God of the Brahmos, he was step by step brought to accept both Personality and Impersonality as the two aspects of the same Non-dual Being, how he was convinced of the manifestation of that Being as Gods, Goddesses and as Incarnations, and how he was established in a life that was both of a Jnani and of a Bhakta. This Jnani-Bhakta outlook and way of living became so dominant a feature of his life that Swami Raghavananda, who was very closely associated with him during his last six years, remarks: "Among those who lived with M. in latter days, some felt that he always lived in this constant and conscious union with God even with open eyes (i.e., even in waking consciousness)." (Swami Raghavananda's article on M. in Prabuddha Bharata vol. XXXVII. P. 442.)
Besides undergoing spiritual disciplines at the feet of the Master, M. used to go to holy places during the Master's life-time itself and afterwards too as a part of his Sadhana. He was one of the earliest of the disciples to visit Kamarpukur, the birthplace of the Master, in the latter's life-time itself; for he wished to practise contemplation on the Master's early life in its true original setting. His experience there is described as follows by Swami Nityatmananda: "By the grace of the Master, he saw the entire Kamarpukur as a holy place bathed in an effulgent Light. Trees and creepers, beasts and birds and men all were made of effulgence. So he prostrated to all on the road. He saw a torn cat, which appeared to him luminous with the Light of Consciousness. Immediately he fell to the ground and saluted it" (M The Apostle and the Evangelist by Swami Nityatmananda vol. I. P. 40.) He had similar experience in Dakshineswar also. At the instance of the Master he also visited Puri, and in the words of Swami Nityatmananda, "with indomitable courage, M. embraced the image of Jagannath out of season."2
The life of Sadhana and holy association that he started on at the feet of the Master, he continued all through his life. He has for this reason been most appropriately described as a Grihastha-Sannyasi (householder-Sannyasin). Though he was forbidden by the Master to become a Sannyasin, his reverence for the Sannyasa ideal was whole-hearted and was without any reservation. So after Sri Ramakrishna's passing away, while several of the Master's householder devotees considered the young Sannyasin disciples of the Master as inexperienced and inconsequential, M. stood by them with the firm faith that the Master's life and message were going to be perpetuated only through them. Swami Vivekananda wrote from America in a letter to the inmates of the Math: "When Sri Thakur (Master) left the body, every one gave us up as a few unripe urchins. But M. and a few others did not leave us in the lurch. We cannot repay our debt to them." (Swami Raghavananda's article on M. in Prabuddha Bharata vol. XXX P. 442.)
M. spent his weekends and holidays with the monastic brethren who, after the Master's demise, had formed themselves into an Order with a Math at Baranagore, and participated in the intense life of devotion and meditation that they followed. At other times he would retire to Dakshineswar or some garden in the city and spend several days in spiritual practice taking simple self-cooked food. In order to feel that he was one with all mankind he often used to go out of his home at dead of night, and like a wandering Sannyasin, sleep with the waifs on some open verandah or footpath on the road.
After the Master's demise, M. went on pilgrimage several times. He visited Banaras, Vrindavan, Ayodhya and other places. At Banaras he visited the famous Trailinga Swami and fed him with sweets, and he had long conversations with Swami Bhaskarananda, one of the noted saintly and scholarly Sannyasins of the time. In 1912 he went with the Holy Mother to Banaras, and spent about a year in the company of Sannyasins at Banaras, Vrindavan, Hardwar, Hrishikesh and Swargashram. But he returned to Calcutta, as that city offered him the unique opportunity of associating himself with the places hallowed by the Master in his life-time. Afterwards he does not seem to have gone to any far-off place, but stayed on in his room in the Morton School carrying on his spiritual ministry, speaking on the Master and his teachings to the large number of people who flocked to him after having read his famous Kathamrita known to English readers as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
This brings us to the circumstances that led to the writing and publication of this monumental work, which has made M. one of the immortals in hagiographic literature. While many educated people heard Sri Ramakrishna's talks, it was given to this illustrious personage alone to leave a graphic and exact account of them for posterity, with details like date, hour, place, names and particulars about participants. Humanity owes this great book to the ingrained habit of diary-keeping with which M. was endowed. Even as a boy of about thirteen, while he was a student in the 3rd class of the Hare School, he was in the habit of keeping a diary. "Today on rising," he wrote in his diary, "I greeted my father and mother, prostrating on the ground before them" (Swami Nityatmananda's 'M The Apostle and the Evangelist' Part I. P 29.) At another place he wrote, "Today, while on my way to school, I visited, as usual, the temples of Kali, the Mother at Thanthania, and of Mother Sitala, and paid my obeisance to them." About twenty-five years after, when he met the Great Master in the spring of 1882, it was the same instinct of a born diary-writer that made him begin his book, 'unique in the literature of hagiography', with the memorable words: "When hearing the name of Hari or Rama once, you shed tears and your hair stands on end, then you may know for certain that you do not have to perform devotions such as Sandhya any more."
In addition to this instinct for diary-keeping, M. had great endowments contributing to success in this line. Writes Swami Nityatmananda who lived in close association with M., in his book entitled M - The Apostle and Evangelist: "M.'s prodigious memory combined with his extraordinary power of imagination completely annihilated the distance of time and place for him. Even after the lapse of half a century he could always visualise vividly, scenes from the life of Sri Ramakrishna. Superb too was his power to portray pictures by words."
Besides the prompting of his inherent instinct, the main inducement for M. to keep this diary of his experiences at Dakshineswar was his desire to provide himself with a means for living in holy company at all times. Being a school teacher, he could be with the Master only on Sundays and other holidays, and it was on his diary that he depended for 'holy company' on other days. The devotional scriptures like the Bhagavata say that holy company is the first and most important means for the generation and growth of devotion. For, in such company man could hear talks on spiritual matters and listen to the glorification of Divine attributes, charged with the fervour and conviction emanating from the hearts of great lovers of God. Such company is therefore the one certain means through which Sraddha (Faith), Rati (attachment to God) and Bhakti (loving devotion) are generated. The diary of his visits to Dakshineswar provided M. with material for re-living, through reading and contemplation, the holy company he had had earlier, even on days when he was not able to visit Dakshineswar. The wealth of details and the vivid description of men and things in the midst of which the sublime conversations are set, provide excellent material to re-live those experiences for any one with imaginative powers. It was observed by M.'s disciples and admirers that in later life also whenever he was free or alone, he would be pouring over his diary, transporting himself on the wings of imagination to the glorious days he spent at the feet of the Master.
During the Master's life-time M. does not seem to have revealed the contents of his diary to any one. There is an unconfirmed tradition that when the Master saw him taking notes, he expressed apprehension at the possibility of his utilising these to publicise him like Keshab Sen; for the Great Master was so full of the spirit of renunciation and humility that he disliked being lionised. It must be for this reason that no one knew about this precious diary of M. for a decade until he brought out selections from it as a pamphlet in English in 1897 with the Holy Mother's blessings and permission. The Holy Mother, being very much pleased to hear parts of the diary read to her in Bengali, wrote to M.: "When I heard the Kathamrita, (Bengali name of the book) I felt as if it was he, the Master, who was saying all that." (Ibid Part I. P 37.)
The two pamphlets in English entitled the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna appeared in October and November 1897. They drew the spontaneous acclamation of Swami Vivekananda, who wrote on 24th November of that year from Dehra Dun to M.:"Many many thanks for your second leaflet. It is indeed wonderful. The move is quite original, and never was the life of a Great Teacher brought before the public untarnished by the writer's mind, as you are doing. The language also is beyond all praise, so fresh, so pointed, and withal so plain and easy. I cannot express in adequate terms how I have enjoyed them. I am really in a transport when I read them. Strange, isn't it? Our Teacher and Lord was so original, and each one of us will have to be original or nothing. I now understand why none of us attempted His life before. It has been reserved for you, this great work. He is with you evidently." (Vedanta Kesari Vol. XIX P. 141. Also given in the first edition of the Gospel published from Ramakrishna Math, Madras in 1911.)
And Swamiji added a post script to the letter: "Socratic dialogues are Plato all over you are entirely hidden. Moreover, the dramatic part is infinitely beautiful. Everybody likes it here or in the West." Indeed, in order to be unknown, Mahendranath had used the pen-name M., under which the book has been appearing till now. But so great a book cannot remain obscure for long, nor can its author remain unrecognised by the large public in these modern times. M. and his book came to be widely known very soon and to meet the growing demand, a full-sized book, Vol. I of the Gospel, translated by the author himself, was published in 1907 by the Brahmavadin Office, Madras. A second edition of it, revised by the author, was brought out by the Ramakrishna Math, Madras in December 1911, and subsequently a second part, containing new chapters from the original Bengali, was published by the same Math in 1922. The full English translation of the Gospel by Swami Nikhilananda appeared first in 1942.
In Bengali the book is published in five volumes, the first part having appeared in 1902 and the others in 1905, 1907, 1910 and 1932 respectively.
It looks as if M. was brought to the world by the Great Master to record his words and transmit them to posterity. Swami Sivananda, a direct disciple of the Master and the second President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, says on this topic: "Whenever there was an interesting talk, the Master would call Master Mahashay if he was not in the room, and then draw his attention to the holy words spoken. We did not know then why the Master did so. Now we can realise that this action of the Master had an important significance, for it was reserved for Master Mahashay to give to the world at large the sayings of the Master." (Vedanta Kesari Vol. XIX P 141.) Thanks to M., we get, unlike in the case of the great teachers of the past, a faithful record with date, time, exact report of conversations, description of concerned men and places, references to contemporary events and personalities and a hundred other details for the last four years of the Master's life (1882-'86), so that no one can doubt the historicity of the Master and his teachings at any time in the future.
M. was in every respect a true missionary of Sri Ramakrishna right from his first acquaintance with him in 1882. As a school teacher, it was a practice with him to direct to the Master such of his students as had a true spiritual disposition. Though himself prohibited by the Master to take to monastic life, he encouraged all spiritually inclined young men he came across in his later life to join the monastic Order. Swami Vijnanananda, a direct Sannyasin disciple of the Master and a President of the Ramakrishna Order, once remarked to M.: "By enquiry I have come to the conclusion that eighty percent and more of the Sannyasins have embraced the monastic life after reading the Kathamrita and coming in contact with you." (M The Apostle and the Evangelist by Swami Nityatmananda Part I, P 37.)
In 1905 he retired from the active life of a Professor and devoted his remaining twenty-seven years exclusively to the preaching of the life and message of the Great Master. He bought the Morton Institution from its original proprietors and shifted it to a commodious four-storeyed house at 50 Amherst Street, where it flourished under his management as one of the most efficient educational institutions in Calcutta. He generally occupied a staircase room at the top of it, cooking his own meal which consisted only of milk and rice without variation, and attended to all his personal needs himself. His dress also was the simplest possible. It was his conviction that limitation of personal wants to the minimum is an important aid to holy living. About one hour in the morning he would spend in inspecting the classes of the school, and then retire to his staircase room to pour over his diary and live in the divine atmosphere of the earthly days of the Great Master, unless devotees and admirers had already gathered in his room seeking his holy company.
In appearance, M. looked a Vedic Rishi. Tall and stately in bearing, he had a strong and well-built body, an unusually broad chest, high forehead and arms extending to the knees. His complexion was fair and his prominent eyes were always tinged with the expression of the divine love that filled his heart. Adorned with a silvery beard that flowed luxuriantly down his chest, and a shining face radiating the serenity and gravity of holiness, M. was as imposing and majestic as he was handsome and engaging in appearance. Humorous, sweet-tongued and eloquent when situations required, this great Maharishi of our age lived only to sing the glory of Sri Ramakrishna day and night. Though a very well versed scholar in the Upanishads, Gita and the philosophies of the East and the West, all his discussions and teachings found their culmination in the life and the message of Sri Ramakrishna, in which he found the real explanation and illustration of all the scriptures. Both consciously and unconsciously, he was the teacher of the Kathamrita the nectarine words of the Great Master.
Though a much-sought-after spiritual guide, an educationist of repute, and a contemporary and close associate of illustrious personages like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Keshab Chander Sen and Iswar Chander Vidyasagar, he was always moved by the noble humanity of a lover of God, which consists in respecting the personalities of all as receptacles of the Divine Spirit. So he taught without the consciousness of a teacher, and no bar of superiority stood in the way of his doing the humblest service to his students and devotees. "He was a commission of love," writes his close devotee, Swami Raghavananda, "and yet his soft and sweet words would pierce the stoniest heart, make the worldly-minded weep and repent and turn Godwards." (Prabuddha Bharata Vol. XXXVII P 499.)
As time went on and the number of devotees increased, the staircase room and terrace of the 3rd floor of the Morton Institution became a veritable Naimisaranya of modern times, resounding during all hours of the day, and sometimes of night, too, with the word of God coming from the Rishi-like face of M. addressed to the eager God-seekers sitting around. To the devotees who helped him in preparing the text of the Gospel, he would dictate the conversations of the Master in a meditative mood, referring now and then to his diary. At times in the stillness of midnight he would awaken a nearby devotee and tell him: "Let us listen to the words of the Master in the depths of the night as he explains the truth of the Pranava." (Vedanta Kesari XIX P. 142.) Swami Raghavananda, an intimate devotee of M., writes as follows about these devotional sittings: "In the sweet and warm months of April and May, sitting under the canopy of heaven on the roof-garden of 50 Amherst Street, surrounded by shrubs and plants, himself sitting in their midst like a Rishi of old, the stars and planets in their courses beckoning us to things infinite and sublime, he would speak to us of the mysteries of God and His love and of the yearning that would rise in the human heart to solve the Eternal Riddle, as exemplified in the life of his Master. The mind, melting under the influence of his soft sweet words of light, would almost transcend the frontiers of limited existence and dare to peep into the infinite. He himself would take the influence of the setting and say,'What a blessed privilege it is to sit in such a setting (pointing to the starry heavens), in the company of the devotees discoursing on God and His love!' These unforgettable scenes will long remain imprinted on the minds of his hearers." (Prabuddha Bharata Vol XXXVII P 497.)
About twenty-seven years of his life he spent in this way in the heart of the great city of Calcutta, radiating the Master's thoughts and ideals to countless devotees who flocked to him, and to still larger numbers who read his Kathamrita, the last part of which he had completed before June 1932 and given to the press. And miraculously, as it were, his end also came immediately after he had completed his life's mission. About three months earlier he had come to stay at his home at 13/2 Gurdasprasad Chaudhuary Lane at Thakur Bari, where the Holy Mother had herself installed the Master and where His regular worship was being conducted for the previous 40 years. The night of 3rd June being the Phalaharini Kali Pooja day, M. had sent his devotees who used to keep company with him, to attend the special worship at Belur Math at night. After attending the service at the home shrine, he went through the proof of the Kathamrita for an hour. Suddenly he got a severe attack of neuralgic pain, from which he had been suffering now and then of late. Before 6 a.m. in the early hours of the 4th June 1932, he passed away, fully conscious and chanting: 'Gurudeva-Ma, Kole toole na-o! O Master! O Mother! Take me in your arms!'
Sri Ramakrishna Math,
M.'s first visit to the Master Formalities and essentials of religion Second visit Master's love for Keshab Sri Ramakrishna on M.'s marriage God with and without form God and the clay image God the only real teacher Need of holy company Meditation in solitude God and worldly duties Practice of discrimination How to see God Longing and yearning Third visit Narendra How the spiritually minded should look upon the worldly God in every being Parable of the "elephant God" How to deal with the wicked Parable of the snake Four classes of men Redeeming power of faith Parable of the homa bird Master praises Narendra Fourth visit The peacock and the opium Hanuman's devotion to Rama.
IT WAS ON A SUNDAY in
spring, a few days after Sri Ramakrishna's birthday,
that M. met him the first time. Sri Ramakrishna lived at the Kalibari,
the temple garden of Mother Kali, on the bank or the Ganges at
M., being at leisure on Sundays, had gone with his friend Sidhu to visit several gardens at Baranagore. As they were walking in Prasanna Bannerji's garden, Sidhu said: "There is a charming place on the bank of the Ganges where a paramahamsa lives. Should you like to go there?" M. assented and they started immediately for the Dakshineswar temple garden. They arrived at the main gate at dusk and went straight to Sri Ramakrishna's room. And there they found him seated on a wooden couch, facing the east. With a smile on his face he was talking of God. The room was full of people, all seated on the floor, drinking in his words in deep silence.
M. stood there speechless and looked on. It was as if he were standing where all the holy places met and as if Sukadeva himself were speaking the word of God, or as it Sri Chaitanya were singing the name and glories of the Lord in Puri with Ramananda, Swarup, and the other devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna said: "When, hearing the name of Hari or Rama once, you shed tears and your hair stands on end, then you may know for certain that you do not have to perform such devotions as the sandhya any more. Then only will you have a right to renounce rituals; or rather, rituals will drop away of themselves. Then it will be enough it you repeat only the name of Rama or Hari, or even simply Om." Continuing, he said, "The sandhya merges in the Gayatri, and the Gayatri merges in Om."
M. looked around him with wonder and said to himself: "What a beautiful place! What a charming man! How beautiful his words are! I have no wish to move from this spot," After a few minutes he thought, "Let me see the place first; then I'll come back here and sit down."
As he left the room with Sidhu, he heard the sweet music of the evening service arising in the temple from gong, bell, drum, and cymbal. He could hear music from the nahabat, too, at the south end of the garden. The sounds travelled over the Ganges, floating away and losing themselves in the distance. A soft spring wind was blowing, laden with the fragrance of flowers; the moon had just appeared. It was as if nature and man together were preparing for the evening worship. M. and Sidhu visited the twelve Siva temples, the Radhakanta temple, and the temple of Bhavatarini. And as M. watched the services before the images his heart was filled with joy.
On the way back to Sri Ramakrishna's room the two friends talked. Sidhu told M. that the temple garden had been founded by Rani Rasmani. He said that God was worshipped there daily as Kali, Krishna, and Siva, and that within the gates many sadhus and beggars were fed. When they reached Sri Ramakrishna's door again, they found it shut, and Brinde, the maid, standing outside. M., who had been trained in English manners and would not enter a room without permission, asked her, "Is the holy man in?" Brinde replied, "Yes, he's in the room."
M: "How long has he lived here?"
BRINDE: "Oh, he has been here a long time."
M: "Does he read many books?"
BRINDE: "Books? Oh, dear no! They're all on his tongue."
M. had just finished his studies in college. It amazed him to hear that Sri Ramakrishna read no books.
M: "Perhaps it is time for his evening worship. May we go into the room? Will you tell him we are anxious to see him?"
BRINDE: "Go right in, children. Go in and sit down."
Entering the room, they found Sri Ramakrishna alone, seated on the wooden couch. Incense had just been burnt and all the doors were shut. As he entered, M. with folded hands saluted the Master. Then, at the Master's bidding, he and Sidhu sat on the floor. Sri Ramakrishna asked them: "Where do you live? What is your occupation? Why have you come to Baranagore?" M. answered the questions, but he noticed that now and then the Master seemed to become absent-minded. Later he learnt that this mood is called bhava, ecstasy. It is like the state of the angler who has been sitting with his rod: the fish comes and swallows the bait, and the float begins to tremble; the angler is on the alert; he grips the rod and watches the float steadily and eagerly; he will not speak to anyone. Such was the state of Sri Ramakrishna's mind. Later M. heard, and himself noticed, that Sri Ramakrishna would often go into this mood after dusk, sometimes becoming totally unconscious of the outer world.
M: "Perhaps you want to perform your evening worship. In that case may we take our leave?"
SRI RAMAKRISHNA (still in ecstasy): "No evening worship? No, it is not exactly that."
After a little conversation M. saluted the Master and took his leave. "Come again", Sri Ramakrishna said.
On his way home M. began to wonder: "Who is this serene-looking man who is drawing me back to him? Is it possible for a man to be great without being a scholar? How wonderful it is! I should like to see him again. He himself said, 'Come again.' I shall go tomorrow or the day after."
M.'s second visit to Sri Ramakrishna took place on the southeast verandah at eight o'clock in the morning. The Master was about to be shaved, the barber having just arrived. As the cold season still lingered he had put on a moleskin shawl bordered with red. Seeing M., the Master said: "So you have come. That's good. Sit down here." He was smiling. He stammered a little when he spoke.
SRI RAMAKRISHNA (to M.): "Where do you live?"
M: "In Calcutta, sir."
SRI RAMAKRISHNA: "Where are you staying here?"
M: "I am at Baranagore at my older sister's Ishan Kaviraj's house."
SRI RAMAKRISHNA: "Oh, at Ishan's? Well, how is Keshab now? He was very ill."
M: "Indeed, I have heard so too, but I believe he is well now."
SRI RAMAKRISHNA: "I made a vow to worship the Mother with green coconut and sugar on Keshab's recovery. Sometimes, in the early hours of the morning, I would wake up and cry before Her: 'Mother, please make Keshab well again. If Keshab doesn't live, whom shall I talk with when I go to Calcutta?' And so it was that I resolved to offer Her the green coconut and sugar.
"Tell me, do you know of a certain Mr. Cook who has come to Calcutta? Is it true that he is giving lectures? Once Keshab took me on a steamer, and this Mr. Cook, too, was in the party."
M: "Yes, sir, I have heard something like that; but I have never been to his lectures. I don't know much about him."
SRI RAMAKRISHNA: "Pratap's brother came here. He stayed a few days. He had nothing to do and said he wanted to live here. I came to know that he had left his wife and children with his father-in-law. He has a whole brood of them! So I took him to task. Just fancy! He is the father of so many children! Will people from the neighbourhood feed them and bring them up? He isn't even ashamed that someone else is feeding his wife and children, and that they have been left at his father-in-law's house. I scolded him very hard and asked him to look for a job. Then he was willing to leave here.
"Are you married?"
M: "Yes, sir."
SRI RAMAKRISHNA (with a shudder): "Oh, Ramlal!' (A nephew of Sri Ramakrishna, and a priest in the Kali temple.) Alas, he is married!"
Like one guilty of a terrible offence, M. sat motionless; his eyes fixed on the ground. He thought, "Is it such a wicked thing to get married?"
The Master continued, "Have you any children?"
M. this time could hear the beating of his own-heart. He whispered in a trembling voice, "Yes, sir, I have children."
Very sadly Sri Ramakrishna said, "Ah me! He even has children!"
Thus rebuked M. sat speechless. His pride had received a blow. After a few minutes Sri Ramakrishna looked at him kindly and said affectionately; "You see, you have certain good signs. I know them by looking at a person's forehead, his eyes, and so on. Tell me, now, what kind of person is your wife? Has she spiritual attributes, or is she under the power of avidya?"
M: "She is all right. But I am afraid she is ignorant."
MASTER (with evident displeasure): "And you are a man of knowledge!"
M. had yet to learn the distinction between knowledge and ignorance. Up to this time his conception had been that one got knowledge from books and schools. Later on he gave up this false conception. He was taught that to know God is knowledge, and not to know Him, ignorance. When Sri Ramakrishna exclaimed, "And you are a man of knowledge!", M.'s ego was again badly shocked.
MASTER: "Well, do you believe in God with form or without form?"
M., rather surprised, said to himself: "How can one believe in God without form when one believes in God with form? And if one believes in God without form, how can one believe that God has a form? Can these two contradictory ideas be true at the same time? Can a white liquid like milk be black?"
M: "Sir, I like to think of God as formless."
MASTER: "Very good. It is enough to have faith in either aspect. You believe in God without form; that is quite all right. But never for a moment think that this alone is true and all else false. Remember that God with form is just as true as God without form. But hold fast to your own conviction."
The assertion that both are equally true amazed M.; he had never learnt this from his books. Thus his ego received a third blow; but since it was not yet completely crushed, he came forward to argue with the Master a little more.
M: "Sir, suppose one believes in God with form. Certainly He is not the clay image!"
MASTER (interrupting): "But why clay? It is an image of Spirit."
M. could not quite understand the significance of this "image of Spirit". "But, sir," he said to the Master, "one should explain to those who worship the clay image that it is not God, and that, while worshipping it, they should have God in view and not the clay image. One should not worship clay."
MASTER (sharply): "That's the one hobby of you Calcutta people giving lectures and bringing others to the light! Nobody ever stops to consider how to get the light himself. Who are you to teach others?
"He who is the Lord of the Universe will teach everyone. He alone teaches us, who has created this universe; who has made the sun and moon", men and beasts, and all other beings; who has provided means for their sustenance; who has given children parents and endowed them with love to bring them up. The Lord has done so many things will He not show people the way to worship Him? If they need teaching, then He will be the Teacher. He is our Inner Guide.
"Suppose there is an error in worshipping the clay image; doesn't God know that through it He alone is being invoked? He will be pleased with that very worship. Why should you get a headache over it? You had better try for knowledge and devotion yourself."
This time M. felt that his ego was completely crushed. He now said to himself: "Yes, he has spoken the truth. What need is there for me to teach others? Have I known God? Do I really love Him? 'I haven't room enough for myself in my bed, and I am inviting my friend to share it with me!' I know nothing about God, yet I am trying to teach others. What a shame! How foolish I am! This is not mathematics or history or literature, that one can teach it to others. No, this is the deep mystery of God; What he says appeals to me.
This was M.'s first argument with the Master, and happily his last. MASTER: "You were talking of worshipping the clay image. Even if the image is made of clay, there is need for that sort of worship. God Himself has provided different forms of worship. He who is the Lord of the Universe has arranged all these forms to suit different men in different stages of knowledge.
"The mother cooks different dishes to suit the stomachs of her different children. Suppose she has five children. If there is a fish to cook, she prepares various dishes from it pilau, pickled fish, fried fish, and so on to suit their different tastes and powers of digestion.
"Do you understand me?"
M. (humbly'): "Yes, sir. How, sir, may we fix our minds on God?"
MASTER: "Repeat God's name and sing His glories, and keep holy company; and now and then visit God's devotees and holy men. The mind cannot dwell on God if it is immersed day and night in worldliness, in worldly duties and responsibilities; it is most necessary to go into solitude now and then and think of God. To fix the mind on God is very difficult, in the beginning, unless one practises meditation in solitude. When a tree is young it should be fenced all around; otherwise it may be destroyed by cattle.
"To meditate, you should withdraw within yourself or retire to a secluded corner or to the forest. And you should always discriminate between the Real and the unreal. God alone is real, the Eternal Substance; all else is unreal, that is, impermanent. By discriminating thus, one should shake off impermanent objects from the mind."
M. (humbly): "How ought we to live in the world?"
MASTER: "Do all your duties, but keep your mind on God. Live with all with wife and children, father and mother and serve them. Treat them as if they were very dear to you, but know in your heart of hearts that they do not belong to you.
A maidservant in the house of a rich man performs all the household duties, but her thoughts are fixed on her own home in her native village. She brings up her master's children as if they were her own. She even speaks of them as 'my Rama' or 'my Hari'. But in her own mind she knows very well that they do not belong to her at all.
The tortoise moves about in the water. But can you guess where her thoughts are? There on the bank, where her eggs are lying. Do all your duties in the world, but keep your mind on God.
If you enter the world without first cultivating love for God, you will be entangled more and more. You will be overwhelmed with its danger, its grief its sorrows. And the more you think of worldly things, the more you will be attached to them.
"First rub your hands with oil and then break open the jack-fruit; otherwise they will be smeared with its sticky milk. First secure the oil of divine love, and then set your hands to the duties of the world.
"But one must go into solitude to attain this divine love. To get butter from milk you must let it set into curd in a secluded spot: if it is too much disturbed, milk won't turn into curd. Next, you must put aside all other duties, sit in a quiet spot, and churn the curd. Only then do you get butter.
"Further, by meditating on God in solitude the mind acquires knowledge, dispassion, and devotion. But the very same mind goes downward if it dwells in the world. In the world there is only one thought: 'woman and gold'.1
"The world is water and the mind milk. If you pour milk into water they become one; you cannot find the pure milk any more. But turn the milk into curd and churn it into butter. Then, when that butter is placed in water, it will float. So, practise spiritual discipline in solitude and obtain the butter of knowledge and love. Even if you keep that butter in the water of the world the two will not mix. The butter will float.
"Together with this, you must practise discrimination. 'Woman and gold' is impermanent. God is the only Eternal Substance. What does a man get with money? Food, clothes, and a dwelling-place nothing more. You cannot realize God with its help. Therefore money can never be the goal of life. That is the process of discrimination. Do you understand?"
M: "Yes, sir. I recently read a Sanskrit play called Prabodha Chandrodaya. It deals with discrimination."
MASTER: "Yes, discrimination about objects. Consider what is there in money or in a beautiful body? Discriminate and you will find that even the body of a beautiful woman consists of bones, flesh, fat, and other disagreeable things. Why should a man give up God and direct his attention to such things? Why should a man forget God for their sake?"
M: "Is it possible to see God?"
MASTER: "Yes, certainly. Living in solitude now and then, repeating God's name and singing His glories, and discriminating between the Real and the unreal these are the means to employ to see Him."
M: "Under what conditions does one see God?"
MASTER: "Cry to the Lord with an intensely yearning heart and you will certainly see Him. People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children. They swim in tears for money. But who weeps for God? Cry to Him with a real cry."
The Master sang:
Cry to your Mother Syama with a real cry, O mind!
And how can She hold Herself from you?
How can Syama stay away?
How can your Mother Kali hold Herself away?
O mind, if you are in earnest, bring Her an offering
Of bel-leaves and hibiscus flowers;
Lay at Her feet your offering
And with it mingle the fragrant sandal-paste of Love.
Continuing, he said: "Longing is like the rosy dawn. After the dawn out
comes the sun. Longing is followed by the vision of God.
"God reveals Himself to a devotee who feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions: the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the child's attraction for its mother, and the husband's attraction for the chaste wife. If one feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions, then through it one can attain Him.
"The point is, to love God even as the mother loves her child, the chaste wife her husband, and the worldly man his wealth. Add together these three forces of love, these three powers of attraction, and give it all to God. Then you will certainly see Him.
"It is necessary to pray to Him with a longing heart. The kitten knows only how to call its mother, crying, 'Mew, mew!' It remains satisfied wherever its mother puts it. And the mother cat puts the kitten sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes on the floor, and sometimes on the bed. When it suffers it cries only, 'Mew, mew!' That's all it knows. But as soon as the mother hears this cry, wherever she may be, she comes to the kitten."
It was Sunday afternoon when M. came on his third visit to the Master. He had been profoundly impressed by his first two visits to this wonderful man. He had been thinking of the Master constantly, and of the utterly simple way he explained the deep truths of the spiritual life. Never before had he met such a man.
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the small couch. The room was filled with devotees,2 who had taken advantage of the holiday to come to see the Master. M. had not yet become acquainted with any of them; so he took his seat in a corner. The Master smiled as he talked with the devotees.
He addressed his words particularly to a young man of nineteen, named Narendranath, (Subsequently world-famous as Swami Vivekananda.) who was a college student and frequented the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. His eyes were bright, his words were full of spirit, and he had the look of a lover of God.
M. guessed that the conversation was about worldly men, who look down on those who aspire to spiritual things. The Master was talking about the great number of such people in the world, and about how to deal with them.
MASTER (to Narendra): "How do you feel about it? Worldly people say all kinds of things about the spiritually minded. But look here! When an elephant moves along the street, any number of curs and other small animals may bark and cry after it; but the elephant doesn't even look back at them. If people speak ill of you, what will you think of them?"
NARENDRA: "I shall think that dogs are barking at me."
MASTER (smiling): "Oh, no! You mustn't go that far, my child! (Laughter.) God dwells in all beings. But you may be intimate only with good people; you must keep away from the evil-minded. God is even in the tiger; but you cannot embrace the tiger on that account. (Laughter.) You may say, 'Why run away from a tiger, which is also a manifestation of God?' The answer to that is: 'Those who tell you to run away are also manifestations of God and why shouldn't you listen to them?'
"Let me tell you a story. In a forest there lived a holy man who had many disciples. One day he taught them to see God in all beings and, knowing this, to bow low before them all. A disciple went to the forest to gather wood for the sacrificial fire. Suddenly he heard an outcry: 'Get out of the way! A mad elephant is coming!' All but the disciple of the holy man took to their heels. He reasoned that the elephant was also God in another form. Then why should he run away from it? He stood still, bowed before the animal, and began to sing its praises. The mahut of the elephant was shouting: 'Run away! Run away!' But the disciple didn't move. The animal seized him with its trunk, cast him to one side, and went on its way. Hurt and bruised, the disciple lay unconscious on the ground. Hearing what had happened, his teacher and his brother disciples came to him and carried him to the hermitage. With the help of some medicine he soon regained consciousness. Someone asked him, 'You knew the elephant was coming why didn't you leave the place?' 'But', he said, 'our teacher has told us that God Himself has taken all these forms, of animals as well as men. Therefore, thinking it was only the elephant God that was coming, I didn't run away.' At this the teacher said: 'Yes, my child, it is true that the elephant God was coming; but the mahut God forbade you to stay there. Since all are manifestations of God, why didn't you trust the mahut's words? You should have heeded the words of the mahut God.' (Laughter.) "It is said in the scriptures that water is a form of God. But some water is fit to be used for worship, some water tor washing the face, and some only for washing plates or dirty linen. This last sort cannot be used for drinking or for a holy purpose. In like manner, God undoubtedly dwells in the hearts of all holy and unholy, righteous and unrighteous; but a man should not have dealings with the unholy, the wicked, the impure. He must not be intimate with them. With some of them he may exchange words, but with others he shouldn't go even that far. He should keep aloof from such people."
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, if a wicked man is about to do harm, or actually does so, should we keep quiet then?"
MASTER; "A man living in society should make a show of tamas to protect himself from evil-minded people. But he should not harm anybody in anticipation of harm likely to be done him.
"Listen to a story. Some cowherd boys used to tend their cows in a meadow where a terrible poisonous snake lived. Everyone was on the alert for fear of it. One day a brahmachari was going along the meadow. The boys ran to him and said; 'Revered sir, please don't go that way. A venomous snake lives over there.' 'What of it, my good children?' said the brahmachari. 'I am not afraid of the snake. I know some mantras.' So saying, he continued on his way along the meadow. But the cowherd boys, being afraid, did not accompany him. In the mean time the snake moved swiftly toward him with upraised hood. As soon as it came near, he recited a mantra, and the snake lay at his feet like an earthworm. The brahmachari said: 'Look here. Why do you go about doing harm? Come, I will give you a holy word. By repeating it you will learn to love God. Ultimately you will realize Him and so get rid of your violent nature.' Saying this, he taught the snake a holy word and initiated him into spiritual life. The snake bowed before the teacher and said, 'Revered sir, how shall I practise spiritual discipline?' 'Repeat that sacred word', said the teacher, 'and do no harm to anybody.' As he was about to depart, the brahmachari said, 'I shall see you again.'
"Some days passed and the cowherd boys noticed that the snake would not bite. They threw stones at it. Still it showed no anger; it behaved as if it were an earthworm. One day one of the boys came close to it, caught it by the tail, and, whirling it round and round, dashed it again and again on the ground and threw it away. The snake vomited blood and became unconscious. It was stunned. It could not move. So, thinking it dead, the boys went their way.
"Late at night the snake regained consciousness. Slowly and with great difficulty it dragged itself into its hole; its bones were broken and it could scarcely move. Many days passed. The snake became a mere skeleton covered with a skin. Now and then, at night, it would come out in search of food. For fear of the boys it would not leave its hole during the day-time. Since receiving the sacred word from the teacher, it had given up doing harm to others. It maintained its life on dirt, leaves, or the fruit that dropped from the trees.
"About a year later the brahmachari came that way again and asked after the snake. The cowherd boys told him that it was dead. But he couldn't believe them. He knew that the snake would not die before attaining the fruit of the holy word with which it had been initiated. He found his way to the place and, searching here and there, called it by the name he had given it. Hearing the teacher's voice, it came out of its hole and bowed before him with great reverence. 'How are you?' asked the brahmachari. 'I am well, sir', replied the snake. 'But', the teacher asked, 'why are you so thin?' The snake replied: 'Revered sir, you ordered me not to harm anybody. So I have been living only on leaves and fruit. Perhaps that has made me thinner.'
"The snake had developed the quality of sattva; it could not be angry with anyone. It had totally forgotten that the cowherd boys had almost killed it.
"The brahmachari said: 'It can't be mere want of food that has reduced you to this state. There must be some other reason. Think a little.' Then the snake remembered that the boys had dashed it against the ground. It said: 'Yes, revered sir, now I remember. The boys one day dashed me violently against the ground. They are ignorant, after all. They didn't realize what a great change had come over my mind. How could they know I wouldn't bite or harm anyone?' The brahmachari exclaimed: 'What a shame! You are such a fool! You don't know how to protect yourself. I asked you not to bite, but I didn't forbid you to hiss. Why didn't you scare them by hissing?'
"So you must hiss at wicked people. You must frighten them lest they should do you harm. But never inject your venom into them. One must not injure others.
"In this creation of God there is a variety of things: men, animals, trees, plants. Among the animals some are good, some bad. There are ferocious animals like the tiger. Some trees bear fruit sweet as nectar, and others bear fruit that is poisonous. Likewise, among human beings, there are the good and the wicked, the holy and the unholy. There are some who are devoted to God, and others who are attached to the world.
"Men may be divided into four classes: those bound by the fetters of the world, the seekers after liberation, the liberated, and the ever-free.
"Among the ever-free we may count sages like Narada. They live in the world for the good of others, to teach men spiritual truth.
"Those in bondage are sunk in worldliness and forgetful of God. Not even by mistake do they think of God.
"The seekers after liberation want to free themselves from attachment to the world. Some of them succeed and others do not.
"The liberated souls, such as the sadhus and mahatmas, are not entangled in the world, in 'woman and gold'. Their minds are free from worldliness. Besides, they always meditate on the Lotus Feet of God.
"Suppose a net has been cast into a lake to catch fish. Some fish are so clever that they are never caught in the net. They are like the ever-free. But most of the fish are entangled in the net. Some of them try to free themselves from it, and they are like those who seek liberation. But not all the fish that struggle succeed; A very few do jump out of the net, making a big splash in the water. Then the fishermen shout, 'Look! There goes a big one!' But most of the fish caught in the net cannot escape, nor do they make any effort to get out. On the contrary, they burrow into the mud with the net in their mouths and lie there quietly, thinking, 'We need not fear any more; we are quite safe here.' But the poor things do not know that the fishermen will drag them out with the net. These are like the men bound to the world.
"The bound souls are tied to the world by the fetters of 'woman and gold'. They are bound hand and-foot. Thinking that 'woman and gold' will make them happy and give them security, they do not realize that it will lead them to annihilation. When a man thus bound to the world is about to die, his wife asks, 'You are about to go; but what have you done for me?' Again, such is his attachment to the things of the world that, when he sees the lamp burning brightly, he says: 'Dim the light. Too much oil is being used.' And he is on his death-bed!
"The bound souls never think of God. If they get any leisure they indulge in idle gossip and foolish talk, or they engage in fruitless work. If you ask one of them the reason, he answers, 'Oh, I cannot keep still; so I am making a hedge,' When time hangs heavy on their hands they perhaps start playing cards."
There was deep silence in the room.
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, is there no help, then, for such a worldly person?"
MASTER: "Certainly there is. From time to time he should live in the company of holy men, and from time to time go into solitude to meditate on God. Furthermore, he should practise discrimination and pray to God, 'Give me faith and devotion.' Once a person has faith he has achieved everything. There is nothing greater than faith.
(To Kedar) "You must have heard about the tremendous power of faith. It is said in the Purana that Rama, who was God Himself the embodiment of Absolute Brahman had to build a bridge to cross the sea to Ceylon. But Hanuman, trusting in Rama's name, cleared the sea in one jump and reached the other side. He had no need of a bridge. (All laugh.) "Once a man was about to cross the sea. Bibhishana wrote Rama's name on a leaf, tied it in a corner of the man's wearing-cloth, and said to him: 'Don't be afraid. Have faith and walk on the water. But look here the moment you lose faith you will be drowned.' The man was walking easily on the water. Suddenly he had an intense desire to see what was tied in his cloth. He opened it and found only a leaf with the name of Rama written on it. 'What is this?' he thought. 'Just the name of Rama!' As soon as doubt entered his mind he sank under the water.
"If a man has faith in God, then even if he has committed the most heinous sins such as killing a cow, a brahmin, or a woman he will certainly be saved through his faith. Let him only say to God, 'O Lord,! will not repeat such an action', and he need not be afraid of anything."
When he had said this, the Master sang:
If only I can pass away repeating Durga's name,
How canst Thou then, O Blessed One,
Withhold from me deliverance,
Wretched though I may be?
I may have stolen a drink of wine, or killed a child unborn,
Or slain a woman or a cow,
Or even caused a brahmin's death;
But, though it all be true,
Nothing of this can make me feel the least uneasiness;
For through the power of Thy sweet name
My wretched soul may still aspire
Even to Brahmanhood.
Pointing to Narendra, the Master said: "You all see this boy. He behaves
that way here. A naughty boy seems very gentle when with his father. But
he is quite another person when he plays in the chandni. Narendra and
people of his type belong to the class of the ever-free. They are never
entangled in the world. When they grow a little older they feel the awakening
of inner consciousness and go directly toward God. They come to the
world only to teach others. They never care for anything of the world. They
are never attached to 'woman and gold'.
"The Vedas speak of the homa bird. It lives high up in the sky and there it lays its egg. As soon as the egg is laid it begins to fall; but it is so high up that it continues to fall for many days. As it falls it hatches, and the chick falls. As the chick falls its eyes open; it grows wings. As soon as its eyes open, it realizes that it is falling and will be dashed to pieces on touching the earth. Then it at once shoots up toward the mother bird high in the sky."
At this point Narendra left the room. Kedar, Prankrishna, M., and many others remained.
MASTER: "You see, Narendra excels in singing, playing on instruments, study, and everything. The other day he had a discussion with Kedar and tore his arguments to shreds. (All laugh.)
(To M.) "Is there any book in English on reasoning?"
M: "Yes, sir, there is. It is called Logic."
MASTER: "Tell me what it says."
M. was a little embarrassed. He said: "One part of the book deals with deduction from the general to the particular. For example: All men are mortal. Scholars are men. Therefore scholars are mortal. Another part deals with the method of reasoning from the particular to the general. For example: This crow is black. That crow is black. The crows we see everywhere are black. Therefore all crows are black. But there may be a fallacy in a conclusion arrived at in this way; for on inquiry one may find a white crow in some country. There is another illustration: If there is rain, there is or has been a cloud. Therefore rain comes from a cloud. Still another example: This man has thirty-two teeth. That man has thirty-two teeth. All the men we see have thirty-two teeth. Therefore men have thirty-two teeth. English logic deals with such inductions and deductions."
Sri Ramakrishna barely heard these words. While listening he became absent-minded. So the conversation did not proceed far.
When the meeting broke up, the devotees sauntered in the temple garden. M. went in the direction of the Panchavati. It was about five o'clock in the afternoon. After a while he returned to the Master's room. There, on the small north verandah, he witnessed an amazing sight.
Sri Ramakrishna was standing still, surrounded by a few devotees, and Narendra was singing. M. had never heard anyone except the Master sing so sweetly. When he looked at Sri Ramakrishna he was struck with wonder; for the Master stood motionless, with eyes transfixed. He seemed not even to breathe. A devotee told M. that the Master was in samadhi. M. had never before seen or heard of such a thing. Silent with wonder, he thought: "Is it possible for a man to be so oblivious of the outer world in the consciousness of God? How deep his faith and devotion must be to bring about such a state!"
Narendra was singing:
Meditate, O my mind, on the Lord Hari,
The Stainless One, Pure Spirit through and through.
How peerless is the Light that in Him shines!
How soul-bewitching is His wondrous form!
How dear is He to all His devotees!
Ever more beauteous in fresh-blossoming love
That shames the splendour of a million moons,
Like lightning gleams the glory of His form,
Raising erect the hair for very joy.
The Master shuddered when this last line was sung. His hair stood on
end, and tears of joy streamed down his cheeks. Now and then his lips
parted in a smile. Was he seeing the peerless beauty of God, "that shames
the splendour of a million moons"? Was this the vision of God, the Essence
of Spirit? How much austerity and discipline, how much faith and devotion,
must be necessary for such a vision!
The song went on:
Worship His feet in the lotus of your heart;
With mind serene and eyes made radiant
With heavenly love, behold that matchless sight.
Again that bewitching smile. The body motionless as before, the eyes half
shut, as if beholding a strange inner vision.
The song drew to a close. Narendra sang the last lines:
Caught in the spell of His love's ecstasy,
Immerse yourself for evermore, O mind,
In Him who is Pure Knowledge and Pure Bliss.
The sight of the samadhi, and the divine bliss he had witnessed, left an indelible impression on M.'s mind. He returned home deeply moved. Now and then he could hear within himself the echo of those soul-intoxicating lines:
Immerse yourself for evermore, O mind,
In Him who is Pure Knowledge and Pure Bliss.
The next day, too, was a holiday for M. He arrived at Dakshineswar at
three o'clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna was in his room; Narendra,
Bhavanath, and a few other devotees were sitting on a mat spread on the
floor. They were all young men of nineteen or twenty. Seated on the small
couch, Sri Ramakrishna was talking with them and smiling.
No sooner had M. entered the room than the Master laughed aloud and said to the boys, "There! He has come again." They all joined in the laughter. M. bowed low before him and took a seat. Before this he had saluted the Master with folded hands, like one with an English education. But that day he learnt to fall down at his feet in orthodox Hindu fashion.
Presently the Master explained the cause of his laughter to the devotees. He said: "A man once fed a peacock with a pill of opium at four o'clock in the afternoon. The next day, exactly at that time, the peacock came back. It had felt the intoxication of the drug and returned just in time to have another dose." (All laugh.) M. thought this a very apt illustration. Even at home he had been unable to banish the thought of Sri Ramakrishna for a moment. His mind was constantly at Dakshineswar and he had counted the minutes until he should go again.
In the mean time the Master was having great fun with the boys, treating them as if they were his most intimate friends. Peals of side-splitting laughter filled the room, as if it were a mart of joy. The whole thing was a revelation to M. He thought: "Didn't I see him only yesterday intoxicated with God? Wasn't he swimming then in the Ocean of Divine Love a sight I had never seen before? And today the same person is behaving like an ordinary man! Wasn't it he who scolded me on the first day of my coming here? Didn't he admonish me, saying, 'And you are a man of knowledge!'? Wasn't it he who said to me that God with form is as true as God without form? Didn't he tell me that God alone is real and all else illusory? Wasn't it he who advised me to live in the world unattached, like a maidservant in a rich man's house?"
Sri Ramakrishna was having great fun with the young devotees; now and then he glanced at M. He noticed that M. sat in silence. The Master said to Ramlal: "You see, he is a little advanced in years, and therefore somewhat serious. He sits quiet while the youngsters are making merry." M. was then about twenty-eight years old.
The conversation drifted to Hanuman, whose picture hung on the wall in the Master's room.
Sri Ramakrishna said: "Just imagine Hanuman's state of mind. He didn't care for money, honour, creature comforts, or anything else. He longed only for God. When he was running away with the heavenly weapon that had been secreted in the crystal pillar, Mandodari began to tempt him with various fruits so that he might come down and drop the weapon.3 But he couldn't be tricked so easily. In reply to her persuasions he sang this song:
Am I in need of fruit?
I have the Fruit that makes this life
Fruitful indeed. Within my heart
The Tree of Rama grows,
Bearing salvation for its fruit.
Under the Wish-fulfilling Tree
Of Rama do I sit at ease,
Plucking whatever fruit I will.
But if you speak of fruit
No beggar, I, for common fruit.
Behold, I go,
Leaving a bitter fruit for you."
As Sri Ramakrishna was singing the song he went into samadhi. Again
the half-closed eyes and motionless body that one sees in his photograph.
Just a minute before, the devotees had been making merry in his company.
Now all eyes were riveted on him. Thus for the second time M. saw the
Master in samadhi.
After a long time the Master came back to ordinary consciousness. His face lighted up with a smile, and his body relaxed; his senses began to function in a normal way. He shed tears of joy as he repeated the holy name of Rama. M. wondered whether this very saint was the person who a few minutes earlier had been behaving like a child of five.
The Master said to Narendra and M., "I should like to hear you speak and argue in English." They both laughed. But they continued to talk in their mother tongue. It was impossible for M. to argue any more before the Master. Though Sri Ramakrishna insisted, they did not talk in English.
At five o'clock in the afternoon all the devotees except Narendra and M. took leave of the Master. As M. was walking in the temple garden, he suddenly came upon the Master talking to Narendra on the bank of the goose-pond. Sri Ramakrishna said to Narendra: "Look here. Come a little more often. You are a new-comer. On first, acquaintance people visit each other quite often, as is the case with a lover and his sweetheart. (Narendra and M. laugh.) So please come, won't you?"
Narendra, a member of the Brahmo Samaj, was very particular about his promises. He said with a smile, "Yes, sir, I shall try."
As they were returning to the Master's room, Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: "When peasants go to market to buy bullocks for their ploughs, they can easily tell the good from the bad by touching their tails. On being touched there, some meekly lie down on the ground. The peasants recognize that these are without mettle and so reject them. They select only those bullocks that frisk about and show spirit when their tails are touched. Narendra is like a bullock of this latter class. He is full of spirit within."
The Master smiled as he said this, and continued: "There are some people who have no grit whatever. They are like flattened rice soaked in milk soft and mushy. No inner strength!"
It was dusk. The Master was meditating on God. He said to M.: "Go and talk to Narendra. Then tell me what you think of him."
Evening worship was over in the temples. M. met Narendra on the bank of the Ganges and they began to converse. Narendra told M. about his studying in college, his being a member of the Brahmo Samaj, and so on.
It was now late in the evening and time for M.'s departure; but he felt reluctant to go and instead went in search of Sri Ramakrishna. He had been fascinated by the Master's singing and wanted to hear more. At last he found the Master pacing alone in the natmandir in front of the Kali temple. A lamp was burning in the temple on either side of the image of the Divine Mother. The single lamp in the spacious natmandir blended light and darkness into a kind of mystic twilight, in which the figure of the Master could be dimly seen.
M. had been enchanted by the Master's sweet music. With some hesitation he asked him whether there would be any more singing that evening. "No, not tonight", said Sri Ramakrishna after a little reflection. Then, as if remembering something, he added: "But I'm going soon to Balaram Bose's house in Calcutta. Come there and you'll hear me sing." M. agreed to go.
MASTER: "Do you know Balaram Bose?"
M: "No, sir. I don't."
MASTER: "He lives in Bosepara."
M: "Well, sir, I shall find him."
As Sri Ramakrishna walked up and down the hall with M., he said to him: "Let me ask you something. What do you think of me?"
M. remained silent. Again Sri Ramakrishna asked: "What do you think of me? How many annas of knowledge of God have I?"
M: "I don't understand what you mean by 'annas'. But of this I am sure: I have never before seen such knowledge, ecstatic love, faith in God, renunciation, and catholicity anywhere."
The Master laughed.
M. bowed low before him and took his leave. He had gone as far as the main gate of the temple garden when he suddenly remembered something and came back to Sri Ramakrishna, who was still in the natmandir. In the dim light the Master, all alone, was pacing the hall, rejoicing in the Self as the lion lives and roams alone in the forest.
In silent wonder M. surveyed that great soul.
MASTER (to M.): "What makes you come back?"
M: "Perhaps the house you asked me to go to belongs to a rich man. They may not let me in. I think I had better not go. I would rather meet you here."
MASTER: "Oh, no! Why should you think that? Just mention my name. Say that you want to see me; then someone will take you to me."
M. nodded his assent and, after saluting the Master, took his leave.
Master at Balaram's house Devotees in trance Bigotry condemned The mind's inability to comprehend God Master's visit to Keshab God and His glory Dangers of worldly life Prayer and holy company Earnest longing Explanation of evil Washing away the heart's impurities with tears Need of a guru.
March 11, 1882
ABOUT EIGHT O'CLOCK in the
morning Sri Ramakrishna went as planned
to Balaram Bose's house in Calcutta. It was the day of the Dola-yatra.
Ram, Manomohan, Rakhal, (A beloved disciple of the Master,
later known as Swami Brahmananda.)
Nityagopal, and other devotees were with him. M.,
too, came, as bidden by the Master.
The devotees and the Master sang and danced in a state of divine fervour. Several of them were in an ecstatic mood. Nityagopal's chest glowed with the upsurge of emotion, and Rakhal lay on the floor in ecstasy, completely unconscious of the world. The Master put his hand on Rakhal's chest and said: "Peace. Be quiet." This was Rakhal's first experience of ecstasy. He lived with his father in Calcutta and now and then visited the Master at Dakshineswar. About this time he had studied a short while in Vidyasagar's school at Syampukur.
When the music was over, the devotees sat down for their meal. Balaram stood there humbly, like a servant. Nobody would have taken him for the master of the house. M. was still a stranger to the devotees, having met only Narendra at Dakshineswar.
A few days later M. visited the Master at Dakshineswar. It was between four and five o'clock in the afternoon. The Master and he were sitting on the steps of the Siva temples. Looking at the temple of Radhakanta, across the courtyard, the Master went into an ecstatic mood.
Since his nephew Hriday's dismissal from the temple, Sri Ramakrishna had been living without an attendant. On account of his frequent spiritual moods he could hardly take care of himself. The lack of an attendant caused him great inconvenience.
Sri Ramakrishna was talking to Kali, the Divine Mother of the Universe. He said: "Mother, everyone says, 'My watch alone is right.' The Christians, the Brahmos, the Hindus, the Mussalmans, all say, 'My religion alone is true.' But, Mother, the fact is that nobody's watch is right. Who can truly understand Thee? But if a man prays to Thee with a warning heart, he can reach Thee, through Thy grace, by any path. Mother, show me sometime how the Christians pray to Thee in their churches. But Mother, what will people say if I go in? Suppose they make a fuss! Suppose they don't allow me to enter the Kali temple again! Well then, show me the Christian worship from the door of the church."
Another day the Master was seated on the small couch in his room, with his usual beaming countenance. M. arrived with Kalikrishna, who did not know where his friend M. was taking him. He had only been told: "If you want to see a grog-shop, then come with me. You will see a huge jar of wine there." M. related this to Sri Ramakrishna, who laughed about it. The Master said: "The bliss of worship and communion with God is the true wine, the wine of ecstatic love. The goal of human life is to love God. Bhakti is the one essential thing. To know God through jnana and reasoning is extremely difficult."
Then the Master sang:
Who is there that can understand what Mother Kali is?
Even the six darsanas are powerless to reveal Her. . . .
The Master said, again: "The one goal of life is to cultivate love for
God, the love that the milkmaids, the milkmen, and the cowherd boys of
Vrindavan felt for Krishna. When Krishna went away to Mathura, the
cowherds roamed about weeping bitterly because of their separation from
Saying this the Master sang, with his eyes turned upward:
Just now I saw a youthful cowherd
With a young calf in his arms;
There he stood, by one hand holding
The branch of a young tree.
"Where are You, Brother Kanai?" he cried;
But "Kanai" scarcely could he utter;
"Ka" .was as much as he could say.
He cried, "Where are You, Brother?"
And his eyes were filled with tears.
When M. heard this song of the Master's, laden with love, his eyes were moist with tears.
April 2, 1882
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in the drawing-room of Keshab Chandra
Sen's house in Calcutta; it was five o'clock in the afternoon. When Keshab
was told of his arrival, he came to the drawing-room dressed to go out, for
he was about to call on a sick friend. Now he cancelled his plan. The Master
said to him: "You have so many things to attend to. Besides, you have to
edit a newspaper. You have no time to come to Dakshineswar; so I have
come to see you. When I heard of your illness I vowed green coconut and
sugar to the Divine Mother for your recovery. I said to Her, 'Mother, if
something happens to Keshab, with whom shall I talk in Calcutta?'"
Sri Ramakrishna spoke to Pratap and the other Brahmo devotees. M. was seated near by. Pointing to him, the Master said to Keshab: "Will you please ask him why he doesn't come to Dakshineswar any more? He repeatedly tells me he is not attached to his wife and children." M. had been paying visits to the Master for about a month; his absence for a time from Dakshineswar called forth this remark. Sri Ramakrishna had asked M. to write to him, if his coming were delayed.
Pundit Samadhyayi was present. The Brahmo devotees introduced him to Sri Ramakrishna as a scholar well versed in the Vedas and the other scriptures. The Master said, "Yes, I can see inside him through his eyes, as one can see the objects in a room through the glass door."
Trailokya sang. Suddenly the Master stood up and went into samadhi, repeating the Mother's name. Coming down a little to the plane of sense consciousness, he danced and sang:
I drink no ordinary wine, but Wine of Everlasting Bliss,
As I repeat my Mother Kali's name;
It so intoxicates my mind that people take me to be drunk!
First my guru gives molasses for the making of the Wine;
My longing is the ferment to transform it.
Knowledge, the maker of the Wine, prepares it for me then;
And when it is done, my mind imbibes it from the bottle of the mantra,
Taking the Mother's name to make it pure.
Drink of this Wine, says Ramprasad,1 and the four fruits2 of life are yours.
The Master looked at Keshab tenderly, as if Keshab were his very own.
He seemed to fear that Keshab might belong to someone else, that is to
say, that he might become a worldly person. Looking at him, the Master
We are afraid to speak, and yet we are afraid to keep still;
Our minds, O Radha, half believe that we are about to lose you!
We tell you the secret that we know
The secret whereby we ourselves, and others, with our help,
Have passed through many a time of peril;
Now it all depends on you.
Quoting the last part of the song, he said to Keshab: "That is to say,
renounce everything and call on God. He alone is real; all else is illusory.
Without the realization of God everything is futile. This is the great secret."
The Master sat down again and began to converse with the devotees. For a while he listened to a piano recital, enjoying it like a child. Then he was taken to the inner apartments, where he was served with refreshments and the ladies saluted him.
As the Master was leaving Keshab's house, the Brahmo devotees accompanied him respectfully to his carriage.
Sunday, April 9, 1882
Sri Ramakrishna was seated with his devotees in the drawing-room of
Prankrishna Mukherji's house in Calcutta; it was between one and two
o'clock in the afternoon. Since Colonel Viswanath
(The Resident of the Nepalese Government in Calcutta,
and a devotee of the Master.) lived in that neighbourhood,
the Master intended to visit him before going to see Keshab at the
Lily Cottage. A number of neighbours and other friends of Prankrishna
had been invited to meet Sri Ramakrishna. They were all eager to hear his
MASTER: "God and His glory. This universe is His glory. People see His glory and forget everything. They do not seek God, whose glory is this world. All seek to enjoy 'woman and gold'. But there is too much misery and worry in that. This world is like the whirlpool of the Visalakshi. (A stream near Sri Ramakrishna's birth-place.) Once a boat gets into it there is no hope of its rescue. Again, the world is like a thorny bush: you have hardly freed yourself from one set of thorns before you find yourself entangled in another. Once you enter a labyrinth you find it very difficult to get out. Living in the world, a man becomes scared, as it were."
A DEVOTEE: "Then what is the way, sir?"
MASTER: "Prayer and the company of holy men. You cannot get rid of an ailment without the help of a physician. But it is not enough to be in the company of religious people only for a day. You should constantly seek it, for the disease has become chronic. Again, you can't understand the pulse rightly unless you live with a physician. Moving with him constantly, you learn to distinguish between the pulse of phlegm and the pulse of bile."
DEVOTEE: "What is the good of holy company?"
MASTER: "It begets yearning for God. It begets love of God. Nothing whatsoever is achieved in spiritual life without yearning. By constantly living in the company of holy men, the soul becomes restless for God. This yearning is like the state of mind of a man who has someone ill in the family. His mind is in a state of perpetual restlessness, thinking how the sick person may be cured. Or again, one should feel a yearning for God like the yearning of a man who has lost his job and is wandering from one office to another in search of work. If he is rejected at a certain place which has no vacancy, he goes there again the next day and inquires, 'Is there any vacancy today?'
"There is another way: earnestly praying to God. God is our very own. We should say to Him: 'O God, what is Thy nature? Reveal Thyself to me. Thou must show Thyself to me; for why else hast Thou created me?' Some Sikh devotees once said to me, 'God is full of compassion.' I said: 'But why should we call Him compassionate? He is our Creator. What is there to be wondered at if He is kind to us? Parents bring up their children. Do you call that an act of kindness? They must act that way.' Therefore we should force our demands on God. He is our Father and Mother, isn't He? It the son demands his patrimony and gives up food and drink in order to enforce his demand, then the parents hand his share over to him three years before the legal time. Or when the child demands some pice from his mother, and says over and over again: 'Mother, give me a couple of pice. I beg you on my knees!' then the mother, seeing his earnestness, and unable to bear it any more, tosses the money to him.
"There is another benefit from holy company. It helps one cultivate discrimination between the Real and the unreal. God alone is the Real, that is to say, the Eternal Substance, and the world is unreal, that is to say, transitory. As soon as a man finds his mind wandering away to the unreal, he should apply discrimination. The moment an elephant stretches out its trunk to eat a plaintain-tree in a neighbour's garden, it gets a blow from the iron goad of the driver."
A NEIGHBOUR: "Why does a man have sinful tendencies?"
MASTER: "In God's creation there are all sorts of things. He has created bad men as well as good men. It is He who gives us good tendencies, and it is He again who gives us evil tendencies."
NEIGHBOUR: "In that case we aren't responsible for our sinful actions, are we?"
MASTER: "Sin begets its own result. This is God's law. Won't you burn your tongue if you chew a chilli? In his youth Mathur3 led a rather fast life; so he suffered from various diseases before his death.
"One may not realize this in youth. I have looked into the hearth in the kitchen of the Kali temple when logs are being burnt. At first the wet wood bums rather well. It doesn't seem then that it contains much moisture. But when the wood is sufficiently burnt, all the moisture runs back to one end. At last water squirts from the fuel and puts out the fire.
"So one should be careful about anger, passion, and greed. Take, for instance, the case of Hanuman. In a fit of anger he burnt Ceylon. At last he remembered that Sita was living in the asoka grove. Then ,he began to treble lest the fire should injure her."
NEIGHBOUR: "Why has God created wicked people?"
MASTER: "That is His will, His play. In His maya there exists avidya as well as vidya. Darkness is needed too. It reveals all the more the glory of light. There is no doubt that anger, lust, and greed are evils. Why, then, has God created them? In order to create saints. A man becomes a saint by conquering the senses. Is there anything impossible for a man who has subdued his passions? He can even realize God, through His grace. Again, see how His whole play of creation is perpetuated through lust. "Wicked people are needed too. At one time the tenants of an estate became unruly. The landlord had to send Golak Choudhury, who was a ruffian. He was such a harsh administrator that the tenants trembled at the very mention of his name.
"There is need of everything. Once Sita said to her Husband: 'Rama, it would be grand if every house in Ayodhya were a mansion! I find many houses old and dilapidated.' 'But, my dear,' said Rama, 'if all the houses were beautiful ones, what would the masons do?' (Laughter.) God has created all kinds of things. He has created good trees, and poisonous plants and weeds as well. Among the animals there are good, bad, and all kinds of creatures tigers, lions, snakes, and so on."
NEIGHBOUR: "Sir, is it ever possible to realize God while leading the life of a householder?"
MASTER: "Certainly. But as I said just now, one must live in holy company and pray unceasingly. One should weep for God. When the impurities of the mind are thus washed away, one realizes God. The mind is like a needle covered with mud, and God is like a magnet. The needle cannot be united with the magnet unless it is free from mud. Tears wash away the mud, which is nothing but lust, anger, greed, and other evil tendencies, and the inclination to worldly enjoyments as well. As soon as the mud is washed away, the magnet attracts the needle, that is to say, man realizes God. Only the pure in heart see God. A fever patient has an excess of the watery element in his system. What can quinine do for him unless that is removed?"
"Why shouldn't one realize God while living in the world? But, as I said, one must live in holy company, pray to God, weeping for His grace, and now and then go into solitude. Unless the plants on a foot-path are protected at first by fences, they are destroyed by cattle."
NEIGHBOUR: "Then householders, too, will have the vision of God, won't they?"
MASTER: "Everybody will surely be liberated. But one should follow the instructions of the guru; if one follows a devious path, one will suffer in trying to retrace one's steps. It takes a long time to achieve liberation. A man may fail to obtain it in this life. Perhaps he will realize God only after many births. Sages like Janaka performed worldly duties. They performed them, bearing God in their minds, as a dancing-girl dances, keeping jars or trays on her head. Haven't you seen how the women in northwest India walk, talking and laughing while carrying water-pitchers on their heads?"
NEIGHBOUR "You just referred to the instructions of the guru. How shall we find him?"
MASTER: "Anyone and everyone cannot be a guru. A huge timber floats on the water and can carry animals as well. But a piece of worthless wood sinks, if a man sits on it, and drowns him. Therefore in every age God incarnates Himself as the guru, to teach humanity. Satchidananda alone is the guru.
"What is knowledge? And what is the nature of this ego? 'God alone is the Doer, and none else' that is knowledge. I am not the doer; I am a mere instrument in His hand. Therefore I say: 'O Mother, Thou art the Operator and I am the machine. Thou art the Indweller and I am the house. Thou art the Driver and I am the carriage. I move as Thou movest me. I do as Thou makest me do. I speak as Thou makest me speak. Not I, not I, but Thou, but Thou.'"
From Prankrishna's house the Master went to Colonel Viswanath's and from there to the Lily Cottage.
Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar Master's visit to the scholar Uninspired scholarship condemned The world of duality Transcendental nature of Brahman Brahman cannot be expressed in words Parable of ant and sugar hill Parable of salt doll Rishis of ancient India Jnani and vijnani Path of love is easy God's supernatural powers Different manifestations of God's power Ego causes our sufferings Evil of "I" and "mine" Power of faith Brahman and Sakti are identical Growth of divine love lessens worldly duties Parable of the wood-cutter.
August 5, 1882
PUNDIT ISWAR CHANDRA VIDYASAGAR was born in the
village of Beersingh,
not far from Kamarpukur, Sri Ramakrishna's birth-place. He was
known as a great scholar, educator, writer, and philanthropist. One of
the creators of modern Bengali, he was also well versed in Sanskrit grammar
and poetry. His generosity made his name a household word with his countrymen,
most of his income being given in charity to widows, orphans, indigent
students, and other needy people. Nor was his compassion limited to
human beings: he stopped drinking milk for years so that the calves should
not be deprived of it, and he would not drive in a carriage for fear of causing
discomfort to the horses. He was a man of indomitable spirit, which he
showed when he gave up the lucrative position of principal of the Sanskrit
College of Calcutta because of a disagreement with the authorities. His
affection for his mother was especially deep. One day, in the absence of a
ferry-boat, he swam a raging river at the risk of his life to
fulfil her wish that he
should be present at his brother's wedding. His whole life was one of utter
simplicity. The title Vidyasagar, meaning "Ocean of Learning", was given
him in recognition of his vast erudition.
Sri Ramakrishna had long wanted to visit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. Learning from M. that he was a teacher at Vidyasagar's school, the Master asked: "Can you take me to Vidyasagar? I should like very much to see him." M. told Iswar Chandra of Sri Ramakrishna's wish, and the pundit gladly agreed that M. should bring the Master, some Saturday afternoon at four o'clock. He only asked M. what kind of paramahamsa the Master was, saying, "Does he wear an ochre cloth?" M. answered: "No, sir. He is an unusual person. He wears a red-bordered cloth and polished slippers. He lives in a room in Rani Rasmani's temple garden. In his room there is a couch with a mattress and mosquito net. He has no outer indication of holiness. But he doesn't know anything except God. Day and night he thinks of God alone."
On the afternoon of August 5 the Master left Dakshineswar in a hackney carriage, accompanied by Bhavanath, M., and Hazra. Vidyasagar lived in Badurbagan, in central Calcutta, about six miles from Dakshineswar. On the way Sri Ramakrishna talked with his companions; but as the carriage neared Vidyasagar's house his mood suddenly changed. He was overpowered with divine ecstasy. Not noticing this, M. pointed out the garden house where Raja Rammohan Roy had lived. The Master was annoyed and said, "I don't care about such things now. He was going into an ecstatic state.
The carriage stopped in front of Vidyasagar's house. The Master alighted, supported by M., who then led the way. In the courtyard were many flowering plants. As the Master walked to the house he said to M., like a child, pointing to his shirt-button: "My shirt is unbuttoned. Will that offend Vidyasagar?" "Oh, no!" said M. "Don't be anxious about it. Nothing about you will be offensive. You don't have to button your shirt." He accepted the assurance simply, like a child.
Vidyasagar was about sixty-two years old, sixteen or seventeen years older than the Master. He lived in a two-storey house built in the English fashion, with lawns on all sides and surrounded by a high wall. After climbing the stairs to the second floor, Sri Ramakrishna and his devotees entered a room at the far end of which Vidyasagar was seated facing them, with a table in front of him. To the right of the table was a bench. Some friends of their host occupied chairs on the other two sides.
Vidyasagar rose to receive the Master. Sri Ramakrishna stood in front of the bench, with one hand resting on the table. He gazed at Vidyasagar, as if they had known each other before, and smiled in an ecstatic mood. In that mood he remained standing a few minutes. Now and then, to bring his mind back to normal consciousness, he said, "I shall have a drink of water."
In the mean time the young members of the household and a few friends and relatives of Vidyasagar had gathered around. Sri Ramakrishna, still in an ecstatic mood, sat on the bench. A young man, seventeen or eighteen years old, who had come to Vidyasagar to seek financial help for his education, was seated there. The Master sat down at a little distance from the boy, saying in an abstracted mood: "Mother, this boy is very much attached to the world. He belongs to Thy realm of ignorance."
Vidyasagar told someone to bring water and asked M. whether the Master would like some sweetmeats also. Since M. did not object, Vidyasagar himself went eagerly to the inner apartments and brought the sweets. They were placed before the Master. Bhavanath and Hazra also received their share. When they were offered to M., Vidyasagar said: "Oh, he is like one of the family. We needn't worry about him." Referring to a young devotee, the Master said to Vidyasagar: "He is a nice young man and is sound at the core. He is like the river Phalgu. The surface is covered with sand; but if you dig a little you will find water flowing underneath."
After taking some of the sweets, the Master, with a smile, began to speak to Vidyasagar. Meanwhile the room had become filled with people; some were standing and others were seated.
MASTER: "Ah! Today, at last, I have come to the ocean. Up till now I have seen only canals, marshes, or a river at the most. But today I am face to face with the sagar, the ocean." (A1l laugh.)
VIDYASAGAR (smiling): "Then please take home some salt water." (Laughter.)
MASTER: "Oh, no! Why salt water? You aren't the ocean of ignorance. You are the ocean of vidya, knowledge. You are the ocean of condensed milk." (All laugh.)
VIDYASAGAR: "Well, you may put it that way.
The pundit became silent. Sri Ramakrishna said: "Your activities are inspired by sattva. Though they are rajasic, they are influenced by sattva. Compassion springs from sattva. Though work for the good of others belongs to rajas, yet this rajas has sattva for its basis and is not harmful. Suka and other sages cherished compassion in their minds to give people religious instruction, to teach them about God. You are distributing food and learning. That is good too. If these activities are done in a selfless spirit they lead to God. But most people work for fame or to acquire merit. Their activities are not selfless. Besides, you are already a siddha." (Literally, "perfect" or "boiled"; the word is applied both to the perfected soul and to boiled things.)
VIDYASAGAR: "How is that, sir?"
MASTER (laughing): "When potatoes and other vegetables are well cooked, they become soft and tender. And you possess such a tender nature! You are so compassionate!" (Laughter.)
VIDYASAGAR (laughing): "But when the paste of kalai pulse is boiled it becomes all the harder."
MASTER: "But you don't belong to that class. Mere pundits are like diseased fruit that becomes hard and will not ripen at all. Such fruit has neither the freshness of green fruit nor the flavour of ripe. Vultures soar very high in the sky, but their eyes are fixed on rotten carrion on the ground. The book-learned are reputed to be wise, but they are attached to 'woman and gold'. Like the vultures, they are in search of carrion. They are attached to the world of ignorance. Compassion, love of God, and renunciation are the glories of true knowledge."
Vidyasagar listened to these words in silence. The others, too, gazed at the Master and were attentive to every word he said.
Vidyasagar was very reticent about giving religious instruction to others. He had studied Hindu philosophy. Once, when M. had asked him his opinion of it, Vidyasagar had said, "I think the philosophers have failed to explain what was in their minds." But in his daily life he followed all the rituals of Hindu religion and wore the sacred thread of a brahmin. About God he had once declared: "It is indeed impossible to know Him. What, then, should be our duty? It seems to me that we should live in such a way that, if others followed our example, this very earth would be heaven. Everyone should try to do good to the world."
Sri Ramakrishna's conversation now turned to the Knowledge of Brahman.
MASTER: "Brahman is beyond vidya and avidya, knowledge and ignorance. It is beyond maya, the illusion of duality.
"The world consists of the illusory duality of knowledge and ignorance. It contains knowledge and devotion, and also attachment to 'woman and gold; righteousness and unrighteousness; good and evil. But Brahman is unattached to these. Good and evil apply to the jiva, the individual soul, as do righteousness and unrighteousness; but Brahman is not at all affected by them.
"One man may read the Bhagavata by the light of a lamp, and another may commit a forgery by that very light; but the lamp is unaffected. The sun sheds its light on the wicked as well as on the virtuous.
"You may ask, 'How, then, can one explain misery and sin and unhappiness?' The answer is that these apply only to the jiva. Brahman is unaffected by them. There is poison in a snake; but though others may die if bitten by it, the snake itself is not affected by the poison.
"What Brahman is cannot be described. All things in the world the Vedas, the Puranas, the Tantras, the six systems of philosophy have been defiled, like food that has been touched by the tongue, for they have been read or uttered by the tongue. Only one thing has not been defiled in this way, and that is Brahman. No one has ever been able to say what Brahman is."
VIDYASAGAR (to his friends): "Oh! That is a remarkable statement. I have learnt something new today."
MASTER: "A man had two sons. The father sent them to a preceptor to learn the Knowledge of Brahman. After a few years they returned from their preceptor's house and bowed low before their father. Wanting to measure the depth of their knowledge of Brahman, he first questioned the older of the two boys. 'My child,' he said, 'you have studied all the scriptures. Now tell me, what is the nature of Brahman?' The boy began to explain Brahman by reciting various texts from the Vedas. The father did not say anything. Then he asked the younger son the same question. But the boy remained silent and stood with eyes cast down. No word escaped his lips. The father was pleased and said to him: 'My child, you have understood a little of Brahman. What It is cannot be expressed in words.'
"Men often think they have understood Brahman fully. Once an ant went to a hill of sugar. One grain filled its stomach. Taking another grain in its mouth it started homeward. On its way it thought, 'Next time I shall carry home the whole hill.' That is the way shallow minds think. They don't know that Brahman is beyond one's words and thought. However great a man may be, how much can he know of Brahman? Sukadeva and sages like him may have been big ants; but even they could carry at the utmost eight or ten grains of sugar!
"As for what has been said in the Vedas and the Puranas, do you know what it is like? Suppose a man has seen the ocean, and somebody asks him, 'Well, what is the ocean like?' The first man opens his mouth as wide as he can and says: 'What a sight! What tremendous waves and sounds!' The description of Brahman in the sacred books is like that. It is said in the Vedas that Brahman is of the nature of Bliss It is Satchidananda.
"Suka and other sages stood on the shore of this Ocean of Brahman and saw and touched the water. According to one school of thought they never plunged into it. Those who do, cannot come back to the world again.
"In samadhi one attains the Knowledge of Brahman one realizes Brahman In that state reasoning stops altogether, and man becomes mute. He has no power to describe the nature of Brahman.
"Once a salt doll went to measure the depth of the ocean. (All laugh) It wanted to tell others how deep the water was. But this it could never do, for no sooner did it get into the water than it melted. Now who was there to report the ocean's depth?"
A DEVOTEE: "Suppose a man has obtained the Knowledge of Brahman in samadhi. Doesn't he speak any more?"
MASTER: "Sankaracharya (One of the greatest philosophers of India.) retained the 'ego of Knowledge' in order to teach others. After the vision of Brahman a man becomes silent. He reasons about It as long as he has not realized It. If you heat butter in a pan on the stove, it makes a sizzling sound as long as the water it contains has not dried up. But when no trace of water is left the clarified butter makes no sound. If you put an uncooked cake of flour in that butter it sizzles again. But after the cake is cooked all sound stops. Just so, a man established in samadhi comes down to the relative plane of consciousness in order to teach others, and then he talks about God.
"The bee buzzes as long as it is not sitting on a flower. It becomes silent when it begins to sip the honey. But sometimes, intoxicated with the honey, it buzzes again.
"An empty pitcher makes a gurgling sound when it is dipped in water. When it fills up it becomes silent. (All laugh.) But if the water is poured from it into another pitcher, then you will hear the sound again. (Laughter.)
"The rishis of old attained the Knowledge of Brahman. One cannot have this so long as there is the slightest trace of worldliness. How hard the rishis laboured! Early in the morning they would go away from the hermitage, and would spend the whole day in solitude, meditating on Brahman. At night they would return to the hermitage and eat a little fruit or roots. They kept their minds aloof from the objects of sight, hearing, touch, and other things of a worldly nature. Only thus did they realize Brahman as their own inner consciousness.
"But in the Kaliyuga, man, being totally dependent on food for life, cannot altogether shake off the idea that he is the body. In this state of mind it is not proper for him to say, 'I am He.' When a man does all sorts of worldly things, he should not say, 'I am Brahman.' Those who cannot give up attachment to worldly things, and who find no means to shake off the feeling of 'I', should rather cherish the idea, 'I am God's servant; I am His devotee.' One can also realize God by following the path of devotion.
"The jnani gives up his identification with worldly things, discriminating, 'Not this, not this'. Only then can he realize Brahman. It is like reaching the roof of a house by leaving the steps behind, one by one. But the vijnani, who is more intimately acquainted with Brahman, realizes something more. He realizes that the steps are made of the same materials as the roof: bricks, lime, and brick-dust. That which is realized intuitively as Brahman, through the eliminating process of 'Not this, not this', is then found to have become the universe and all its living beings, The vijnani sees that the Reality which is nirguna, without attributes, is also saguna, with attributes.
"A man cannot live on the roof a long time. He comes down again. Those who realize Brahman in samadhi come down also and find that it is Brahman that has become the universe and its living beings. In the musical scale there are the notes sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, and ni; but one cannot keep one's voice on 'ni' a long time. The ego does not vanish altogether. The man coming down from samadhi perceives that it is Brahman that has become the ego, the universe, and all living beings. This is known as vijnana.
"The path of knowledge leads to Truth, as does the path that combines knowledge and love. The path of love, too, leads to this goal. The way of love is as true as the way of knowledge. All paths ultimately lead to the same Truth. But as long as God keeps the feeling of ego in us, it is easier to follow the path of love.
"The vijnani sees that Brahman is immovable and actionless, like Mount Sumeru. This universe consists of the three gunas sattva, rajas, and tamas. They are in Brahman. But Brahman is unattached.
"The vijnani further sees that what is Brahman is the Bhagavan, the Personal God. He who is beyond the three gunas is the Bhagavan, with His six supernatural powers. Living beings, the universe, mind, intelligence, love, renunciation, knowledge all these are the manifestations of His power. (With a laugh) If an aristocrat has neither house nor property, or if he has been forced to sell them, one doesn't call him an aristocrat any more. (All laugh.) God is endowed with the six supernatural powers. If He were not, who would obey Him? (All laugh.)
"Just see how picturesque this universe is! How many things there are! The sun, moon, and stars; and how many varieties of living beings! big and small, good and bad, strong and weak some endowed with more power, some with less."
VIDYASAGAR: "Has He endowed some with more power and others with less?"
MASTER: "As the All-pervading Spirit He exists in all beings, even in the ant. But the manifestations of His Power are different in different beings; otherwise, how can one person put ten to flight, while another can't face even one? And why do all people respect you? Have you grown a pair of horns? (Laughter.) You have more compassion and learning. Therefore people honour you and come to pay you their respects. Don't you agree with me?"
The Master continued: "There is nothing in mere scholarship. The object of study is to find means of knowing God and realizing Him. A holy man had a book. When asked what it contained, he opened it and showed that on all the pages were written the words 'Om Rama', and nothing else.
"What is the significance of the Gita? It is what you find by repeating the word ten times. It is then reversed into 'tagi', which means a person who has renounced everything for God. And the lesson of the Gita is: 'O man, renounce everything and seek God alone.' Whether a man is a monk or a householder, he has to shake off all attachment from his mind.
"Chaitanyadeva set out on a pilgrimage to southern India. One day he saw a man reading the Gita. Another man, seated at a distance, was listening and weeping. His eyes were swimming in tears. Chaitanyadeva asked him, 'Do you understand all this?' The man said, 'No, revered sir, I don't understand a word of the text.' 'Then why are you crying?' asked Chaitanya. The devotee said: 'I see Arjuna's chariot before me. I see Lord Krishna and Arjuna seated in front of it, talking. I see this and I weep.'
"Why does a vijnani keep an attitude of love toward God? The answer is that 'I-consciousness' persists. It disappears in the state of samadhi, no doubt, but it comes back. In the case of ordinary people the 'I' never disappears. You may cut down the aswattha tree, but the next day sprouts shoot up. (All laugh.) "Even after the attainment of Knowledge this 'I-consciousness' comes up, nobody knows from where. You dream of a tiger. Then you awake; but your heart keeps on palpitating! All our suffering is due to this 'I'. The cow cries, 'Hamba!', which means 'I'. That is why it suffers so much. It is yoked to the plough and made to work in rain and sun. Then it may be killed by the butcher. From its hide shoes are made, and also drums, which are mercilessly beaten. (Laughter.) Still it does not escape suffering. At last strings are made out of its entrails tor the bows used in carding cotton. Then it no longer says, 'Hamba! Hamba!', 'I! I!', but Tuhu! Tuhu!', Thou! Thou!' Only then are its troubles over. O Lord, I am the servant; Thou art the Master. I am the child; Thou art the Mother.
"Once Rama asked Hanuman, 'How do you look on Me?' And Hanuman replied: 'O Rama, as long as I have the feeling of "I", I see that Thou art the whole and I am a part; Thou art the Master and I am Thy servant. But when, O Rama, I have the knowledge of Truth, then I realize that Thou art I, and I am Thou.'
"The relationship of master and servant is the proper one. Since this 'I' must remain, let the rascal be God's servant.
"'I' and 'mine' these constitute ignorance. 'My house', 'my wealth', 'my learning', 'my possessions' the attitude that prompts one to say such things comes of ignorance. On the contrary, the attitude born of Knowledge is: 'O God, Thou art the Master, and all these things belong to Thee. House, family, children, attendants, friends, are Thine.'
"One should constantly remember death. Nothing will survive death. We are born into this world to perform certain duties, like the people who come from the countryside to Calcutta on business. If a visitor goes to a rich man's garden, the superintendent says to him, 'This is our garden', This is our lake', and so forth. But if the superintendent is dismissed for some misdeed deed, he can't carry away even his mango-wood chest. He sends it secretly by the gate-keeper. (Laughter.)
"God laughs on two occasions. He laughs when the physician says to the patient's mother, 'Don't be afraid, mother; I shall certainly cure your boy.' God laughs, saying to Himself, 'I am going to take his life, and this man says he will save it!' The physician thinks he is the master, forgetting that God is the Master. God laughs again when two brothers divide their land with a string, saying to each other, 'This side is mine and that side is yours.' He laughs and says to Himself, The whole universe belongs to Me, but they say they own this portion or that portion.'
"Can one know God through reasoning? Be His servant, surrender yourself self to Him, and then pray to Him.
(To Vidyasagar, with a smile) "Well, what is your attitude?"
VIDYASAGAR (smiling): "Some day I shall confide it to you." (All laugh.)
MASTER (laughing): "God cannot be realized through mere scholarly reasoning."
Intoxicated with divine love, the Master sang:
Who is there that can understand what Mother Kali is?
Even the six darsanas are powerless to reveal Her.
It is She, the scriptures say, that is the Inner Self
Of the yogi, who in Self discovers all his joy;
She that, of Her own sweet will, inhabits every living thing.
The macrocosm and microcosm rest in the Mother's womb;
Now do you see how vast it is? In the Muladhara
The yogi meditates on Her, and in the Sahasrara:
Who but Siva has beheld Her as She really is?
Within the lotus wilderness She sports beside Her Mate, the Swan. (Siva the Absolute)
When man aspires to understand Her, Ramprasad must smile;
To think of knowing Her, he says, is quite as laughable
As to imagine one can swim across the boundless sea.
But while my mind has understood, alas! my heart has not;
Though but a dwarf, it still would strive to make a captive of the moon.
Continuing, the Master said: "Did you notice?
The macrocosm and microcosm rest in the Mother's womb;
Now do you see how vast it is?
"Again, the poet says:
Even the six darsanas are powerless to reveal Her.
She cannot be realized by means of mere scholarship.
"One must have faith and love. Let me tell you how powerful faith is. A man was about to cross the sea from Ceylon to India. Bibhishana said to him: 'Tie this thing in a corner of your wearing-cloth, and you will cross the sea safely. You will be able to walk on the water. But be sure not to examine it, or you will sink.' The man was walking easily on the water of the sea such is the strength of faith when, having gone part of the way, he thought, 'What is this wonderful thing Bibhishana has given me, that I can walk even on the water?' He untied the knot and found only a leaf with the name of Rama written on it. 'Oh, just this!' he thought, and instantly he sank.
"There is a popular saying that Hanuman jumped over the sea through his faith in Rama's name, but Rama Himself had to build a bridge.
"If a man has faith in God, then he need not be afraid though he may have committed sin nay, the vilest sin."
Then Sri Ramakrishna sang a song glorifying the power of faith:
If only I can pass away repeating Durga's name,
How canst Thou then, O Blessed One,
Withhold from me deliverance,
Wretched though I may be? . . .
The Master continued: "Faith and devotion. One realizes God easily
through devotion. He is grasped through ecstasy of love."
With these words the Master sang again:
How are you trying, O my mind, to know the nature of God?
You are groping like a madman locked in a dark room.
He is grasped through ecstatic love; how can you fathom Him without it?
Only through affirmation, never negation, can you know Him;
Neither through Veda nor through Tantra nor the six darsanas.
It is in love's elixir only that He delights, O mind;
He dwells in the body's inmost depths, in Everlasting Joy.
And, for that love, the mighty yogis practise yoga from age to age;
When love awakes, the Lord, like a magnet, draws to Him the soul.
He it is, says Ramprasad, that I approach as Mother;
But must I give away the secret, here in the market-place?
From the hints I have given, O mind, guess what that Being is!
While singing, the Master went into samadhi. He was seated on the
bench, facing west, the palms of his hands joined together, his body erect
and motionless. Everyone watched him expectantly. Vidyasagar, too, was.
speechless and could not take his eyes from the Master.
After a time Sri Ramakrishna showed signs of regaining the normal state. He drew a deep breath and said with a smile: "The means of realizing God are ecstasy of love and devotion that is, one must love God. He who is Brahman is addressed as the Mother,
He it is, says Ramprasad, that I approach as Mother;
But must I give away the secret, here in the market-place?
From the hints I have given, O mind, guess what that Being is!
"Ramprasad asks the mind only to guess the nature of God. He wishes it
to understand that what is called Brahman in the Vedas is addressed by him
as the Mother. He who is attributeless also has attributes. He who is Brahman
man is also Sakti. When thought of as inactive, He is called Brahman, and
when thought of as the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer, He is called the
Primordial Energy, Kali.
"Brahman and Sakti are identical, like fire and its power to burn. When we talk of fire we automatically mean also its power to burn. Again, the fire's power to burn implies the fire itself. If you accept the one you must accept the other.
"Brahman alone is addressed as the Mother. This is because a mother is an object of great love. One is able to realize God just through love. Ecstasy of feeling, devotion, love, and faith these are the means. Listen to a song:
As is a marl's meditation, so is his feeling of love;
As is a man's feeling of love, so is his gain;
And faith is the root of all.
If in the Nectar Lake of Mother Kali's feet
My mind remains immersed,
Of little use are worship, oblations, or sacrifice.
"What is needed is absorption in God loving Him intensely. The 'Nectar Lake' is the Lake of Immortality. A man sinking in It does not die, but becomes immortal. Some people believe that by thinking of God too much the mind becomes deranged; but that is not true. God is the Lake of Nectar, the Ocean of Immortality. He is called the 'Immortal' in the Vedas. Sinking in It, one does not die, but verily transcends death.
Of little use are worship, oblations, or sacrifice.
If a man comes to love God, he need not trouble himself much about these
activities. One needs a fan only as long as there is no breeze. The fan may
be laid aside if the southern breeze blows. Then what need is there of a fan?
(To Vidyasagar) "The activities that you are engaged in are good. It is very good if you can perform them in a selfless spirit, renouncing egotism, giving up the idea that you are the doer. Through such action one develops love and devotion to God, and ultimately realizes Him.
"The more you come to love God, the less you will be inclined to perform action. When the daughter-in-law is with child, her mother-in-law gives her less work to do. As time goes by she is given less and less work. When the time of delivery nears, she is not allowed to do any work at all, lest it should hurt the child or cause difficulty at the time of birth.
"By these philanthropic activities you are really doing good to yourself. If you can do them disinterestedly, your mind will become pure and you will develop love of God. As soon as you have that love you will realize Him.
"Man cannot really help the world. God alone does that He who has created the sun and the moon, who has put love for their children in parents' hearts, endowed noble souls with compassion, and holy men and devotees with divine love. The man who works for others, without any selfish motive, really does good to himself.
"There is gold buried in your heart, but you are not yet aware of it. It is covered with a thin layer of clay. Once you are aware of it, all these activities of yours will lessen. After the birth of her child, the daughter-in-law in the family busies herself with it alone. Everything she does is only for the child. Her mother-in-law doesn't let her do any household duties.
"Go forward. A wood-cutter once entered a forest to gather wood. A brahmachari said to him, 'Go forward.' He obeyed the injunction and discovered some sandal-wood trees. After a few days he reflected, 'The holy man asked me to go forward. He didn't tell me to stop here.' So he went forward and found a silver-mine. After a few days he went still farther and discovered a gold-mine, and next, mines of diamonds and precious stones. With these he became immensely rich.
"Through selfless work, love of God grows in the heart. Then, through His grace, one realizes Him in course of time. God can be seen. One can talk to Him as I am talking to you."
In silent wonder they all sat listening to the Master's words. It seemed to them that the Goddess of Wisdom Herself, seated on Sri Ramakrishna's tongue, was addressing these words not merely to Vidyasagar, but to all humanity for its good.
It was nearly nine o'clock in the evening. The Master was about to leave.
MASTER (to Vidyasagar, with a smile): "The words I have spoken are really superfluous. You know all this; you simply aren't conscious of it. There are countless gems in the coffers of Varuna. But he himself isn't aware of them."
VIDYASAGAR (with a smile): "You may say as you like."
MASTER (smiling): "Oh, yes. There are many wealthy people who don't know the names of all their servants, and are even unaware of many of the precious things in their houses." (All laugh.)
Everybody was delighted with the Master's conversation. Again addressing Vidyasagar, he said with a smile: "Please visit the temple garden some time I mean the garden of Rasmani. It's a charming place."
VIDYASAGAR: "Oh, of course I shall go. You have so kindly come here to see me, and shall I not return your visit?"
MASTER: "Visit me? Oh, never think of such a thing!"
VIDYASAGAR: "Why, sir? Why do you say that? May I ask you to explain?"
MASTER (smiling): "You see, we are like small fishing-boats. (All smile.) We can ply in small canals and shallow waters and also in big rivers. But you are a ship. You may run aground on the way!" (All laugh.)
Vidyasagar remained silent. Sri Ramakrishna said with a laugh, "But even a ship can go there at this season."
VIDYASAGAR (smiling): "Yes, this is the monsoon season." (All laugh.)
M. said to himself: "This is indeed the monsoon season of newly awakened love. At such times one doesn't care for prestige or formalities."
Sri Ramakrishna then took leave of Vidyasagar, who with his friends escorted the Master to the main gate, leading the way with a lighted candle in his hand. Before leaving the room, the Master prayed for the family's welfare, going into an ecstatic mood as he did so.
As soon as the Master and the devotees reached the gate, they saw an unexpected sight and stood still. In front of them was a bearded gentleman of fair complexion, aged about thirty-six. He wore his clothes like a Bengali, but on his head was a white turban tied after the fashion of the Sikhs. No sooner did he see the Master than he fell prostrate before him, turban and all.
When he stood up the Master said: "Who is this? Balaram? Why so late in the evening?"
BALARAM: "I have been waiting here a long time, sir."
MASTER: "Why didn't you come in?"
BALARAM: "All were listening to you. I didn't like to disturb you."
The Master got into the carriage with his companions.
VIDYASAGAR (to M., softly): "Shall I pay the carriage hire?"
M: "Oh, don't bother, please. It is taken care of."
Vidyasagar and his friends bowed to Sri Ramakrishna, and the carriage started for Dakshineswar. But the little group, with the venerable Vidyasagar at their head holding the lighted candle, stood at the gate and gazed after the Master until he was out of sight.
Secret of divine communion Master's respect for other faiths Many names of one God Spiritual disciplines necessary at the beginning "Woman and gold" is the obstruction to yoga God and worldly duties Duty toward family Different groups of devotees Different moods of aspirants Seeing God everywhere Worship of the Divine Mother Master's attitude toward women His love for Narendra Krishnakishore's faith Master's outspokenness His anguish at worldly talk His ecstasy in kirtan A devotee's dream Disciplines of Tantra All is possible with God Discrimination and dispassion Futility of mere lecturing Purification of mind Narendra's many virtues Meditation on God with form Brahman and Divine Incarnations Master's ecstasy at Vrindavan.
August 13, 1882
THE MASTER WAS CONVERSING with
Kedar and some other devotees in his
room in the temple garden. Kedar was a government official and
had spent several years at Dacca, in East Bengal, where he had become
a friend of Vijay Goswami. The two would spend a great part of their time
together, talking about Sri Ramakrishna and his spiritual experiences. Kedar
had once been a member of the Brahmo Samaj. He followed the path of
bhakti. Spiritual talk always brought tears to his eyes.
It was five o'clock in the afternoon. Kedar was very happy that day, having arranged a religious festival for Sri Ramakrishna. A singer had been hired by Ram, and the whole day passed in joy.
The Master explained to the devotees the secret of communion with God.
MASTER: "With the realization of Satchidananda one goes into samadhi. Then duties drop away. Suppose I have been talking about the ostad and he arrives. What need is there of talking about him then? How long does the bee buzz around? So long as it isn't sitting on a flower. But it will not do for the sadhaka to renounce duties. He should perform his duties, such as worship, japa, meditation, prayer, and pilgrimage.
"If you see someone engaged in reasoning even after he has realized God, you may liken him to a bee, which also buzzes a little even while sipping honey from a flower."
The Master was highly pleased with the ostad's music. He said to the musician, "There is a special manifestation of God's power in a man who has any outstanding gift, such as proficiency in music."
MUSICIAN: "Sir, what is the way to realize God?"
MASTER: "Bhakti is the one essential thing. To be sure. God exists in all beings. Who, then, is a devotee? He whose mind dwells on God. But this is not possible as long as one has egotism and vanity. The water of God's grace cannot collect on the high mound of egotism. It runs down. I am a mere machine.
(To Kedar and the other devotees) "God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole.
"You may say that there are many errors and superstitions in another religion. I should reply: Suppose there are. Every religion has errors. Everyone thinks that his watch alone gives the correct time. It is enough to have yearning for God. It is enough to love Him and feel attracted to Him. Don't you know that God is the Inner Guide? He sees the longing of our heart and the yearning of our soul. Suppose a man has several sons. The older boys address him distinctly as 'Baba' or 'Papa', but the babies can at best call him 'Ba' or 'Pa'. Now, will the father be angry with those who address him in this indistinct way? The father knows that they too are calling him, only they cannot pronounce his name well. All children are the same to the father. Likewise, the devotees call on God alone, though by different names. They call on one Person only. God is one, but His names are many."
Thursday, August 24, 1882
Sri Ramakrishna was talking to Hazra on the long northeast verandah of
his room, when M. arrived. He saluted the Master reverently.
MASTER: "I should like to visit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar a few times more. The painter first draws the general outlines and then puts in the details and colours at his leisure. The moulder first makes the image out of clay, then plasters it, then gives it a coat of whitewash, and last of all paints it with a brush. All these steps must be taken successively. Vidyasagar is fully ready, but his inner stuff is covered with a thin layer. He is now engaged in doing good works; but he doesn't know what is within himself. Gold is hidden within him. God dwells within us. If one knows that, one feels like giving up all activities and praying to God with a yearning soul."
So the Master talked with M. now standing, now pacing up and down the long verandah.
MASTER: "A little spiritual discipline is necessary in order to know what lies within."
M: "Is it necessary to practise discipline all through life?"
MASTER: "No. But one must be up and doing in the beginning. After that one need not work hard. The helmsman stands up and clutches the rudder firmly as long as the boat is passing through waves, storms, high wind, or around the curves of a river; but he relaxes after steering through them. As soon as the boat passes the curves and the helmsman feels a favourable wind, he sits comfortably and just touches the rudder. Next he prepares to unfurl the sail and gets ready for a smoke. Likewise, the aspirant enjoys peace and calm after passing the waves and storms of 'woman and gold'.
"Some are born with the characteristics of the yogi; but they too should be careful. It is 'woman and gold' alone that is the obstacle; it makes them deviate from the path of yoga and drags them into worldliness. Perhaps they have some desire for enjoyment. After fulfilling their desire, they again direct their minds to God and thus recover their former state of mind, fit for the practise of yoga.
"Have you ever seen the spring trap for fish, called the 'satka-kal'?"
M: "No, sir, I haven't seen it."
MASTER: 'They use it in our part of the country. One end of a bamboo pole is fastened in the ground, and the other is bent over with a catch. From this end a line with a hook hangs over the water, with bait tied to the hook. When the fish swallows the bait, suddenly the bamboo jumps up and regains its upright position.
"Again, take a pair of scales, for example. If a weight is placed on one side, the lower needle moves away from the upper one. The lower needle is the mind, and the upper one, God. The meeting of the two is yoga.
"Unless the mind becomes steady there cannot be yoga. It is the wind of worldliness that always disturbs the mind, which may be likened to a candle-flame. If that flame doesn't move at all, then one is said to have attained yoga.
'Woman and gold' alone is the obstacle to 'yoga. Always analyse what you see. What is there in the. body of a woman? Only such things as blood, flesh, fat, entrails, and the like. Why should one love such a body?
"Sometimes I used to assume a rajasic mood in order to practise renunciation. Once I had the desire to put on a gold-embroidered robe, wear a ring on my finger, and smoke a hubble-bubble with a long pipe. Mathur Babu procured all these things for me. I wore the gold-embroidered robe and said to myself after a while, 'Mind! This is what is called a gold-embroidered robe.' Then I took it off and threw it away. I couldn't stand the robe any more. Again I said to myself, 'Mind! This is called a shawl, and this a ring, and this, smoking a hubble-bubble with a long pipe.' I threw those things away once for all, and the desire to enjoy them never arose in my mind again."
It was almost dusk. The Master and M. stood talking alone near the door on the southeast verandah.
MASTER (to M.): "The mind of the yogi is always fixed on God, always absorbed in the Self. You can recognize such a man by merely looking at him. His eyes are wide open, with an aimless look, like. the eyes of the mother bird hatching her eggs. Her entire mind is fixed on the eggs, and there is a vacant look in her eyes. Can you show me such a picture?"
M: "I shall try to get one."
As evening came on, the temples were lighted up. Sri Ramakrishna was seated on his small couch, meditating on the Divine Mother. Then he chanted the names of God. Incense was burnt in the room, where an oil lamp had been lighted. Sounds of conch-shells and gongs came floating on the air as the evening worship began in the temple of Kali. The light of the moon flooded all the quarters. The Master again spoke to M.
MASTER: "Perform your duties in an unselfish spirit. The work that Vidyasagar is engaged in is very good. Always try to perform your duties without desiring any result."
M: "Yes, sir. But may I know if one can realize God while performing one's duties? Can 'Rama' and 'desire' coexist? The other day I read in a Hindi couplet: 'Where Rama is, there desire cannot be; where desire is, there Rama cannot be.'"
MASTER: "All, without exception, perform work. Even to chant the name and glories of God is work, as is the meditation of the non-dualist on 'I am He'. Breathing is also an activity. There is no way of renouncing work altogether. So do your work, but surrender the result to God."
M: "Sir, may I make an effort to earn more money?"
MASTER: "It is permissible to do so to maintain a religious family. You may try to increase your income, but in an honest way. The goal of life is not the earning of money, but the service of God. Money is not harmful if it is devoted to the service of God."
M: "How long should a man feel obliged to do his duty toward his wife and children?"
MASTER: "As long as they-feel pinched for food and clothing. But one need not take the responsibility of a son when he is able to support himself. When the young fledgling learns to pick its own food, its mother pecks it if it comes to her for food."
M: "How long must one do one's duty?"
MASTER: "The blossom drops off when the fruit appears. One doesn't have to do one's duty after the attainment of God, nor does one feel like doing it then.
"If a drunkard takes too much liquor he cannot retain consciousness. If he takes only two or three glasses, he can go on with his work. As you advance nearer and nearer to God, He will reduce your activities little by little. Have no fear.
"Finish the few duties you have at hand, and then you will have peace. When the mistress of the house goes to bathe after finishing her cooking and other household duties, she won't come back, however you may shout after her."
M: "Sir, what is the meaning of the realization of God? What do you mean by God-vision? How does one attain it?"
MASTER: "According to the Vaishnavas the aspirants and the seers of God may be divided into different groups. These are the pravartaka, the sadhaka, the siddha, and the siddha of the siddha. He who has just set foot on the path may be called a pravartaka. He may be called a sadhaka who has for some time been practising spiritual disciplines such as worship, japa, meditation, and the chanting of God's name and glories. He may be called a siddha who has known from his inner experience that God exists. An analogy is given in the Vedanta to explain this. The master of the house is asleep in a dark room. Someone is groping in the darkness to find him. He touches the couch and says, 'No, it is not he.' He touches the window and says, 'No, it is not he.' He touches the door and says, 'No, it is not he.' This is known in the Vedanta as the process of 'Neti, neti', 'Not this, not this'. At last his hand touches the master's body and he exclaims, 'Here he is!' In other words, he is now conscious of the 'existence' of the master. He has found him, but he doesn't yet know him intimately.
"There is another type, known as the siddha of the siddha, the 'supremely perfect'. It is quite a different thing when one talks to the master intimately, when one knows God very intimately through love and devotion. A siddha has undoubtedly attained God, but the 'supremely perfect' has known God very intimately.
"But in order to realize God, one must assume one of these attitudes: santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, or madhur.
"Santa, the serene attitude. The rishis of olden times had this attitude toward God. They did not desire any worldly enjoyment. It is like the single-minded devotion of a wife to her husband. She knows that her husband is the embodiment of beauty and love, a veritable Madan.
"Dasya, the attitude of a servant toward his master. Hanuman had this attitude toward Rama. He felt the strength of a lion when he worked for Rama. A wife feels this mood also. She serves her husband with all her heart and soul. A mother also has a little of this attitude, as Yasoda had toward Krishna.
"Sakhya, the attitude of friendship. Friends say to one another, 'Come here and sit near me.' Sridama and other friends sometimes fed Krishna with fruit, part of which they had already eaten, and sometimes climbed on His shoulders.
"Vatsalya, the attitude of a mother toward her child. This was Yasoda's attitude toward Krishna. The wife, too, has a little of this. She feeds her husband with her very life-blood, as it were. The mother feels happy only when the child has eaten to his heart's content. Yasoda would roam about with butter in her hand, in order to feed Krishna.
"Madhur, the attitude of a woman toward her paramour. Radha had this attitude toward Krishna. The wife also feels it for her husband. This attitude includes all the other four."
M: "When one sees God does one see Him with these eyes?"
MASTER: "God cannot be seen with these physical eves. In the course of spiritual discipline one gets a 'love body', endowed with 'love eves', 'love ears', and so on. One sees God with those 'love eyes'. One hears the voice of God with those 'love ears'. One even gets a sexual organ made of love."
At these words M. burst out laughing. The Master continued, unannoyed, "With this 'love body' the soul communes with God."
M. again became serious.
MASTER: "But this is not possible without intense love of God. One sees nothing but God everywhere when one loves Him with great intensity. It is like a person with jaundice, who sees everything yellow. Then one feels, 'I am verily He.'
"A drunkard, deeply intoxicated, says, 'Verily I am Kali!' The gopis, intoxicated with love, exclaimed, 'Verily I am Krishna!
"One who thinks of God, day and night, beholds Him everywhere. It is like a man's seeing flames on all sides after he has gazed fixedly at one flame for some time."
"But that isn't the real flame", flashed through M.'s mind.
Sri Ramakrishna, who could read a man's inmost thought, said: "One doesn't lose consciousness by thinking of Him who is all Spirit, all Consciousness. Shivanath once remarked that too much thinking about God confounds the brain. Thereupon I said to him, 'How can one become unconscious by thinking of Consciousness?'"
M: "Yes, sir, I realize that. It isn't like thinking of an unreal object. How can a man lose his intelligence if he always fixes his mind on Him whose very nature is eternal Intelligence?"
MASTER (with pleasure): "It is through God's grace that you understand that. The doubts of the mind will not disappear without His grace. Doubts do not disappear without Self-realization.
"But one need not fear anything if one has received the grace of God. It is rather easy for a child to stumble if he holds his father's hand; but there can be no such fear if the father holds the child's hand. A man does not have to suffer any more if God, in His grace, removes his doubts and reveals Himself to him. But this grace descends upon him only after he has prayed to God with intense yearning of heart and practised spiritual discipline. The mother feels compassion for her child when she sees him running about breathlessly. She has been hiding herself; now she appears before the child."
"But why should God make us run about?" thought M.
Immediately Sri Ramakrishna said: "It is His will that we should run about a little. Then it is great fun. God has created the world in play, as it were. This is called Mahamaya, the Great Illusion. Therefore one must take refuge in the Divine Mother, the Cosmic Power Itself. It is She who has bound us with the shackles of illusion. The realization of God is possible only when those shackles are severed."
The Master continued: "One must propitiate the Divine Mother, the Primal Energy, in order to obtain God's grace. God Himself is Mahamaya, who deludes the world with Her illusion and conjures up the magic of creation, preservation, and destruction. She has spread this veil of ignorance before our eyes. We can go into the inner chamber only when She lets us pass through the door. Living outside, we see only outer objects, but not that Eternal Being, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Therefore it is stated in the Purana that deities like Brahma praised Mahamaya for the destruction of the demons Madhu and Kaitabha.
"Sakti alone is the root of the universe. That Primal Energy has two aspects: vidya and avidya. Avidya deludes. Avidya conjures up 'woman and gold', which casts the spell. Vidya begets devotion, kindness, wisdom, and love, which lead one to God. This avidya must be propitiated, and that is the purpose of the rites of Sakti worship. ( In this worship a woman is regarded as the representation of the Divine Mother.)
"The devotee assumes various attitudes toward Sakti in order to propitiate Her: the attitude of a handmaid, a 'hero', or a child. A hero's attitude is to please Her even as a man pleases a woman through intercourse.
"The worship of Sakti is extremely difficult. It is no joke. I passed two years as the handmaid and companion of the Divine Mother. But my natural attitude has always been that of a child toward its mother. I regard the breasts of any woman as those of my own mother.
"Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Sakti. In northwest India the bride holds a knife in her hand at the time of marriage; in Bengal, a nut-cutter. The meaning is that the bridegroom, with the help of the bride, who is the embodiment of the Divine Power, will sever the bondage of illusion. This is the 'heroic' attitude. I never worshipped the Divine Mother that way. My attitude toward Her is that of a child toward its mother.
"The bride is the very embodiment of Sakti. Haven't you noticed, at the marriage ceremony, how the groom sits behind like an idiot? But the bride she is so bold!
"After attaining God one forgets His external splendour, the glories of His creation. One doesn't think of God's glories after one has seen Him. The devotee, once immersed in God's Bliss, doesn't calculate any more about outer things. When I see Narendra, I don't need to ask him: 'What's your name? Where do you live?' Where is the time for such questions? Once a man asked Hanuman which day of the fortnight it was. 'Brother,' said Hanuman, 'I don't know anything of the day of the week, or the fortnight, or the position of the stars. I think of Rama alone.'"
October 16, 1882
It was Monday, a few days before the Durga Puja, the festival of the
Divine Mother. Sri Ramakrishna was in a very happy state of mind, for
Narendra was with him. Narendra had brought two or three young members
of the Brahmo Samaj to the temple garden. Besides these, Rakhal, Ramlal,
Hazra, and M. were with the Master.
Narendra had his midday meal with Sri Ramakrishna. Afterwards a temporary bed was made on the floor of the Master's room so that the disciples might rest awhile. A mat was spread, over which was placed a quilt covered with a white sheet. A few cushions and pillows completed the simple bed. Like a child, the Master sat near Narendranath on the bed. He talked with the devotees in great delight. With a radiant smile lighting his face, and his eyes fixed on Narendra, he was giving them various spiritual teachings, interspersing these with incidents from his own life.
MASTER: "After I had experienced samadhi, my mind craved intensely to hear only about God. I would always search for places where they were reciting or explaining the sacred books, such as the Bhagavata, the Mahabharata, and the Adhyatma Ramayana. I used to go to Krishnakishore to hear him read the Adhyatma Ramayana.
"What tremendous faith Krishnakishore had! Once, while at Vrindavan, he felt thirsty and went to a well. Near it he saw a man standing. On being asked to draw a little water for him, the man said: 'I belong to a low caste, sir. You are a brahmin. How can I draw water for you?' Krishnakishore said: Take the name of Siva. By repeating His holy name you will make yourself pure.' The low-caste man did as he was told, and Krishnakishore, orthodox brahmin that he was, drank that water. What tremendous faith!
"Once a holy man came to the bank of the Ganges and lived near the bathing-ghat at Ariadaha, not far from Dakshineswar. We thought of paying him a visit. I said to Haladhari; 'Krishnakishore and I are going to see a holy man. Will you come with us?' Haladhari replied, 'What is the use of seeing a mere human body, which is no better than a cage of clay?' Haladhari was a student of the Gita and Vedanta philosophy, and therefore referred to the holy man as a mere 'cage of clay'. I repeated this to Krishnakishore. With great anger he said: "How impudent of Haladhari to make such a remark! How can he ridicule as a "cage of clay" the body of a man who constantly thinks of God, who meditates on Rama, and has renounced all for the sake of the Lord? Doesn't he know that such a man is the embodiment of Spirit?' He was so upset by Haladhari's remarks that he would turn his face away from him whenever he met him in the temple garden, and stopped speaking to him.
"Once Krishnakishore asked me, 'Why have you cast off the sacred thread?' In those days of God-vision I felt as if I were passing through the great storm of Aswin, (The Master referred to the great cyclone of 1864.) and everything had blown away from me. No trace of my old self was left. I lost all consciousness of the world. I could hardly keep my cloth on my body, not to speak of the sacred thread! I said to Krishnakishore, 'Ah, you will understand if you ever happen to be as intoxicated with God as I was.'
"And it actually came to pass. He too passed through a God-intoxicated state, when he would repeat only the word 'Om' and shut himself up alone in his room. His relatives thought he was actually mad, and called in a physician. Ram Kaviraj of Natagore came to see him. Krishnakishore said to the physician, 'Cure me, sir, of my malady, if you please, but not of my Om.' (All laugh.) "One day I went to see him and found him in a pensive mood. When I asked him about it, he said: 'The tax-collector was here. He threatened to dispose of my brass pots, my cups, and my few utensils, if I didn't pay the tax; so I am worried.' I said: 'But why should you worry about it? Let him take away your pots and pans. Let him arrest your body even. How will that affect you? For your nature is that of Kha!' (Narendra and the others laugh.) He used to say to me that he was the Spirit, all-pervading as the sky. He had got that idea from the Adhyatma Ramayana. I used to tease him now and then, addressing him as 'Kha'. Therefore I said to him that day, with a smile: You are Kha. Taxes cannot move you!'
"In that state of God-intoxication I used to speak out my mind to all. I was no respecter of persons. Even to men of position I was not afraid to speak the truth.
"One day Jatindra (A titled aristocrat of Calcutta.) came to the garden of Jadu Mallick. I was there too. I asked him: 'What is the duty of man? Isn't it our duty to think of God?' Jatindra replied: 'We are worldly people. How is it possible for us to achieve liberation? Even King Yudhisthira had to have a vision of hell.' This made me very angry. I said to him: 'What sort of man are you? Of all the incidents of Yudhisthira's life, you remember only his seeing hell. You don't remember his truthfulness, his forbearance, his patience, his discrimination, his dispassion, his devotion to God.' I was about to say many more things, when Hriday stopped my mouth. After a little while Jatindra left the place, saying he had some other business to attend to.
"Many days later I went with Captain to see Raja (A title conferred on Sourindra by the Government of India. The word "raja" really means "ruler of a kingdom".) Sourindra Tagore. As soon as I met him, I said, 'I can't address you as "Raja", or by any such title, for I should be telling a lie.' He talked to me a few minutes, but even so our conversation was interrupted by the frequent visits of Europeans and others. A man of rajasic temperament, Sourindra was naturally busy with many things. Jatindra, his eldest brother, had been told of my coming, but he sent word that he had a pain in his throat and couldn't go out.
"One day, in that state of divine intoxication, I went to the bathing-ghat on the Ganges at Baranagore. There I saw Jaya Mukherji repeating the name of God; but his mind was on something else. I went up and slapped him twice on the cheeks.
"At one time Rani Rasmani was staying in the temple garden. She came to the shrine of the Divine Mother, as she frequently did when I worshipped Kali, and asked me to sing a song or two. On this occasion, while I was singing, I noticed she was sorting the flowers for worship absent-mindedly. At once I slapped her on the cheeks. She became quite embarrassed and sat there with folded hands.
"Alarmed at this state of mind myself, I said to my cousin Haladhari: 'Just see my nature! How can I get rid of it?' After praying to the Divine Mother tor some time with great yearning, I was able to shake off this habit.
"When one gets into such a state of mind, one doesn't enjoy any conversation but that about God. I used to weep when I heard people talk about worldly matters. When I accompanied Mathur Babu on a pilgrimage, we spent a few days in Benares at Raja Babu's house. One day I was seated in the drawing-room with Mathur Babu, Raja Babu, and others. Hearing them talk about various worldly things, such as their business losses and so forth, I wept bitterly and said to the Divine Mother: 'Mother, where have You brought me? I was much better off in the temple garden at Dakshineswar. Here I am in a place where I must hear about "woman and gold". But at Dakshineswar I could avoid it.'"
The Master asked the devotees, especially Narendra, to rest awhile, and he himself lay down on the smaller couch.
Late in the afternoon Narendra sang. Rakhal, Latu, (A young disciple of the Master, who later became a monk under the name of Swami Adbhutananda.) M., Hazra, and Priya, Narendra's Brahmo friend, were present. The singing was accompanied by the drum:
Meditate, O my mind, on the Lord Hari,
The Stainless One, Pure Spirit through and through.
How peerless is the light that in Him shines!
How soul-bewitching is His wondrous form!
How dear is He to all His devotees! . . .
After this song Narendra sang:
Oh, when will dawn for me that day of blessedness
When He who is all Good, all Beauty, and all Truth,
Will light the inmost shrine of my heart?
When shall I sink at last, ever beholding Him,
Into that Ocean of Delight?
Lord, as Infinite Wisdom Thou shalt enter my soul,
And my unquiet mind, made speechless by Thy sight,
Will find a haven at Thy feet.
In my heart's firmament, O Lord, Thou wilt arise
As Blissful Immortality;
And as, when the chakora beholds the rising moon,
It sports about for very joy,
So, too, shall I be filled with heavenly happiness
When Thou appearest unto me.
Thou One without a Second, all Peace, the King of Kings!
At Thy beloved feet I shall renounce my life
And so at last shall gain life's goal;
I shall enjoy the bliss of heaven while yet on earth!
Where else is a boon so rare bestowed?
Then shall I see Thy glory, pure and untouched by stain;
As darkness flees from light, so will my darkest sins
Desert me at Thy dawn's approach.
Kindle in me, O Lord, the blazing fire of faith
To be the pole-star of my life;
O Succour of the weak, fulfil my one desire!
Then shall I bathe both day and night
In the boundless bliss of Thy Love, and utterly forget
Myself, O Lord, attaining Thee.
Narendra sang again:
With beaming face chant the sweet name of God
Till in your heart the nectar overflows.
Drink of it ceaselessly and share it with all!
If ever your heart runs dry, parched by the flames
Of worldly desire, chant the sweet name of God,
And heavenly love will moisten your arid soul.
Be sure, O mind, you never forget to chant
His holy name: when danger stares in your face,
Call on Him, your Father Compassionate;
With His name's thunder, snap the fetters of sin!
Come, let us fulfil our hearts' desires
By drinking deep of Everlasting Joy,
Made one with Him in Love's pure ecstasy.
Now Narendra and the devotees began to sing kirtan, accompanied by the drum and cymbals. They moved round and round the Master as they sang:
Immerse yourself for evermore, O mind,
In Him who is Pure Knowledge and Pure Bliss.
Next they sang:
Oh, when will dawn for me that day of blessedness
When He who is all Good, all Beauty, and all Truth
Will light the inmost shrine of my heart? . . .
At last Narendra himself was playing on the drums, and he sang with the Master, full of joy:
With beaming face chant the sweet name of God . . .
When the music was over, Sri Ramakrishna held Narendra in his arms a
long time and said, "You have made us so happy today!" The flood-gate of
the Master's heart was open so wide, that night, that he could hardly contain
himself for joy. It was eight o'clock in the evening. Intoxicated with divine
love, he paced the long verandah north of his room. Now and then he
could be heard talking to the Divine Mother. Suddenly he said in an
excited voice, "What can you do to me?" Was the Master hinting that maya
was helpless before him, since he had the Divine Mother for his support?
Narendra, M., and Priya were going to spend the night at the temple garden. This pleased the Master highly, especially since Narendra would be with him. The Holy Mother, (By this name Sri Ramakrishna's wife was known among his devotees.) who was living in the nahabat, had prepared the supper. Surendra (The name by which Sri Ramakrishna addressed Suresh Mitra, a beloved householder disciple.) bore the greater part of the Master's expenses. The meal was ready, and the plates were set out on the southeast verandah of the Master's room.
Near the east door of his room Narendra and the other devotees were gossiping.
NARENDRA: "How do you find the young men nowadays?"
M: "They are not bad; but they don't receive any religious instruction."
NARENDRA: "But from my experience I feel they are going to the dogs. They smoke cigarettes, indulge in frivolous talk, enjoy foppishness, play truant, and do everything of that sort. I have even seen them visiting questionable places."
M: "I didn't notice such things during our student days."
NARENDRA: "Perhaps you didn't mix with the students intimately. I have even seen them talking with people of immoral character. Perhaps they are on terms of intimacy with them."
M: "It is strange indeed."
NARENDRA: "I know that many of them form bad habits. It would be proper if the guardians of the boys, and the authorities, kept their eyes on these matters."
They were talking thus when Sri Ramakrishna came to them and asked with a smile, "Well, what are you talking about?"
NARENDRA: "I have been asking M. about the boys in the schools. The conduct of students nowadays isn't all that it should be."
The Master became grave and said to M. rather seriously: "This kind of conversation is not good. It isn't desirable to indulge in any talk but talk of God. You are their senior, and you are intelligent. You should not have encouraged them to talk about such matters."
Narendra was then about nineteen years old, and M. about twenty-eight. Thus admonished, M. felt embarrassed, and the others also fell silent.
While the devotees were enjoying their meal, Sri Ramakrishna stood by and watched them with intense delight. That night the Master's joy was very great.
After supper the devotees rested on the mat spread on the floor of the Master's room. They began to talk with him. It was indeed a mart of joy. The Master asked Narendra to sing the song beginning with the line: "In Wisdom's firmament the moon of Love is rising full."
Narendra sang, and other devotees played the drums and cymbals:
In Wisdom's firmament the moon of Love is rising full,
And Love's flood-tide, in surging waves, is flowing everywhere.
O Lord, how full of bliss Thou art! Victory unto Thee!
On every side shine devotees, like stars around the moon;
Their Friend, the Lord All-merciful, joyously plays with them.
Behold! the gates of paradise today are open wide.
The soft spring wind of the New Day raises fresh waves of joy;
Gently it carries to the earth the fragrance of God's Love,
Till all the yogis, drunk with bliss, are lost in ecstasy.
Upon the sea of the world unfolds the lotus of the New Day,
And there the Mother sits enshrined in blissful majesty.
See how the bees are mad with joy, sipping the nectar there!
Behold the Mother's radiant face, which so enchants the heart
And captivates the universe! About Her Lotus Feet
Bands of ecstatic holy men are dancing in delight.
What matchless loveliness is Hers! What infinite content
Pervades the heart when She appears! O brothers, says Premdas,
I humbly beg you, one and all, to sing the Mother's praise!
Sri Ramakrishna sang and danced, and the devotees danced around him.
When the song was over, the Master walked up and down the northeast verandah, where Hazra was seated with M. The Master sat down there. He asked a devotee, "Do you ever have dreams?"
DEVOTEE: "Yes, sir. The other day I dreamt a strange" dream. I saw the whole world enveloped in water. There was water on all sides. A few boats were visible, but suddenly huge waves appeared and sank them. I was about to board a ship with a few others, when we saw a brahmin walking over that expanse of water. I asked him, 'How can you walk over the deep?' The brahmin said with a smile: 'Oh, there is no difficulty about that. There is a bridge under the water.' I said to him, 'Where are you going?' 'To Bhawanipur, the city of the Divine Mother', he replied. 'Wait a little', I cried. 'I shall accompany you.'"
MASTER: "Oh, I am thrilled to hear the story!"
DEVOTEE: "The brahmin said: 'I am in a hurry. It will take you some time to get out of the boat. Good-bye. Remember this path and come after me.'"
MASTER: "Oh, my hair is standing on end! Please be initiated by a guru as soon as possible."
Shortly before midnight Narendra and the other devotees lay down on a bed made on the floor of the Master's room.
At dawn some of the devotees were up. They saw the Master, naked as a child, pacing up and down the room, repeating the names of the various gods and goddesses. His voice was sweet as nectar. Now he would look at the Ganges, now stop in front of the pictures hanging on the wall and bow down before them, chanting all the while the holy names in his sweet voice. He chanted: "Veda, Purana, Tantra; Gita, Gayatri; Bhagavata, Bhakta, Bhagavan." Referring to the Gita, he repeated many times, "Tagi, tagi, tagi." (This word is formed by reversing the letters of "Gita". "Tagi" means "one who has renounced". Renunciation is the import of this sacred book.) Now and then he would say: "O Mother, Thou art verily Brahman, and Thou art verily Sakti. Thou art Purusha and Thou art Prakriti. Thou art Virat. Thou art the Absolute, and Thou dost manifest Thyself as the Relative. Thou art verily the twenty-four cosmic principles."
In the mean time the morning service had begun in the temples of Kali and Radhakanta. Sounds of conch-shells and cymbals were carried on the air. The devotees came outside the room and saw the priests and servants gathering flowers in the garden for the divine service in the temples. From the nahabat floated the sweet melody of musical instruments, befitting the morning hours.
Narendra and the other devotees finished their morning duties and came to the Master. With a sweet smile on his lips Sri Ramakrishna was standing on the northeast verandah, close to his own room.
NARENDRA: "We noticed several sannyasis belonging to the sect of Nanak in the Panchavati."
MASTER: "Yes, they arrived here yesterday. (To Narendra) I'd like to see you all sitting together on the mat."
As they sat there the Master looked at them with evident delight. He then began to talk with them. Narendra asked about spiritual discipline.
MASTER: "Bhakti, love of God, is the essence of all spiritual discipline. Through love one acquires renunciation and discrimination naturally."
NARENDRA: "Isn't it true that the Tantra prescribes spiritual discipline in the company of woman?"
MASTER: "That is not desirable. It is a very difficult path and often causes the aspirant's downfall. There are three such kinds of discipline. One may regard woman (Woman is the symbol of the Divine Mother.) as one's mistress or look on oneself as her handmaid or as her child. I look on woman as my mother. To look on oneself as her handmaid is also good; but it is extremely difficult to practise spiritual discipline looking on woman as one's mistress. To regard oneself as her child is a very pure attitude."
The sannyasis belonging to the sect of Nanak entered the room and greeted the Master, saying "Namo Narayanaya." ("Salutations to God." This is the way sadhus greet one another.) Sri Ramakrishna asked them to sit down.
MASTER: "Nothing is impossible for God. Nobody can describe His nature in words. Everything is possible for Him. There lived at a certain place two yogis who were practising spiritual discipline. The sage Narada was passing that way one day. Realizing who he was, one of the yogis said: 'You have just come from God Himself. What is He doing now?' Narada replied, 'Why, I saw Him making camels and elephants pass and repass through the eye of a needle.' At this the yogi said: 'Is that anything to wonder at? Everything is possible for God.' But the other yogi said: 'What? Making elephants pass through the eye of a needle is that ever possible? You have never been to the Lord's dwelling-place.'"
At nine o'clock in the morning, while the Master was still sitting in his room, Manomohan arrived from Konnagar with some members of his family. In answer to Sri Ramakrishna's kind inquiries, Manomohan explained that he was taking them to Calcutta. The Master said: "Today is the first day of the Bengali month, an inauspicious day for undertaking a journey. I hope everything will be well with you." With a smile he began to talk of other matters.
When Narendra and his friends had finished bathing in the Ganges, the Master said to them earnestly: "Go to the Panchavati and meditate there under the banyan-tree. Shall I give you something to sit on?"
About half past ten Narendra and his Brahmo friends were meditating in the Panchavati. After a while Sri Ramakrishna came to them. M., too, was present.
The Master said to the Brahmo devotees: "In meditation one must be absorbed in God. By merely floating on the surface of the water, can you reach the gems lying at the bottom of the sea?"
Then he sang:
Taking the name of Kali, dive deep down, O mind,
Into the heart's fathomless depths,
Where many a precious gem lies hid.
But never believe the bed of the ocean bare of gems
If in the first few dives you fail;
With firm resolve and self-control
Dive deep and make your way to Mother Kali's realm.
Down in the ocean depths of heavenly Wisdom lie
The wondrous pearls of Peace, O mind;
And you yourself can gather them.
If you but have pure love and follow the scriptures' rule.
Within those ocean depths, as well,
Six alligators lurk1 lust, anger, and the rest
Swimming about in search of prey.
Smear yourself with the turmeric of discrimination;
The very smell of it will shield you from their jaws.
Upon the ocean bed lie strewn
Unnumbered pearls and precious gems;
Plunge in, says Ramprasad, and gather up handfuls there!
Narendra and his friends came down from their seats on the raised platform
of the Panchavati and stood near the Master. He returned to his room
with them. The Master continued: "When you plunge in the water of the
ocean, you may be attacked by alligators. But they won't touch you if your
body is smeared with turmeric. There are no doubt six alligators lust, anger,
avarice, and so on within you, in the 'heart's fathomless depths'. But protect
yourself with the turmeric of discrimination and renunciation, and
they won't touch you.
"What can you achieve by mere lecturing and scholarship without discrimination and dispassion? God alone is real, and all else is unreal. God alone is substance, and all else is nonentity. That is discrimination.
"First of all set up God in the shrine of your heart, and then deliver lectures as much as you like. How will the mere repetition of 'Brahma' profit you if you are not imbued with discrimination and dispassion? It is the empty sound of a conch-shell.
"There lived in a village a young man named Padmalochan. People used to call him 'Podo', for short. In this village there was a temple in a very dilapidated condition. It contained no image of God. Aswattha and other plants sprang up on the ruins of its walls. Bats lived inside, and the floor was covered with dust and the droppings of the bats. The people of the village had stopped visiting the temple. One day after dusk the villagers heard the sound of a conch-shell from the direction of the temple. They thought perhaps someone had installed an image in the shrine and was performing the evening worship. One of them softly opened the door and saw Padmalochan standing in a corner, blowing the conch. No image had been set up. The temple hadn't been swept or washed. And filth and dirt lay every where. Then he shouted to Podo:
You have set up no image here,
Within the shrine, O fool!
Blowing the conch, you simply make
Confusion worse confounded.
Day and night eleven bats
Scream there incessantly. . . .
"There is no use in merely making a noise if you want to establish the
Deity in the shrine of your heart, if you want to realize God. First of all
purify the mind. In the pure heart God takes His seat. One cannot bring
the holy image into the temple if the droppings of bats are all around. The
eleven bats are our eleven organs: five of action, five of perception, and the
"First of all invoke the Deity, and then give lectures to your heart's content. First of all dive deep. Plunge to the bottom and gather up the gems. Then you may do other things. But nobody wants to plunge. People are without spiritual discipline and prayer, without renunciation and dispassion. They learn a few words and immediately start to deliver lectures. It is difficult to teach others. Only if a man gets a command from God, after realizing Him, is he entitled to teach."
Thus conversing, the Master came to the west end of the verandah. M. stood by his side. Sri Ramakrishna had repeated again and again that God cannot be realized without discrimination and renunciation. This made M. extremely worried. He had married and was then a young man of twenty-eight, educated in college in the Western way. Having a sense of duty, he asked himself, "Do discrimination and dispassion mean giving up 'woman and gold'?" He was really at a loss to know what to do.
M. (to the Master): "What should one do if one's wife says: 'You are neglecting me. I shall commit suicide.?"
MASTER (in a serious tone): "Give up such a wife if she proves an obstacle in the way of spiritual life. Let her commit suicide or anything else she likes. The wife that hampers her husband's spiritual life is an ungodly wife."
Immersed in deep thought, M. stood leaning against the wall. Narendra and the other devotees remained silent a few minutes. The Master exchanged several words with them; then, suddenly going to M., he whispered in his ear: "But if a man has sincere love for God, then all come under his control the king, wicked persons, and his wife. Sincere love of God on the husband's part may eventually help the wife to lead a spiritual life. If the husband is good, then through the grace of God the wife may also follow his example."
This had a most soothing effect on M.'s worried mind. All the while he had been thinking: "Let her commit suicide. What can I do?"
M. (to the Master): "This world is a terrible place indeed."
MASTER (to the devotees): "That is the reason Chaitanya said to his companion Nityananda, 'Listen, brother, there is no hope of salvation for the worldly-minded.'"
On another occasion the Master had said to M. privately: "Yes, there is no hope for a worldly man if he is not sincerely devoted to God. But he has nothing to fear if he remains in the world after realizing God. Nor need a man have any fear whatever of the world if he attains sincere devotion by practising spiritual discipline now and then in solitude. Chaitanya had several householders among his devotees, but they were householders in name only, for they lived unattached to the world."
It was noon. The worship was over, and food offerings had been made in the temple. The doors of the temple were shut. Sri Ramakrishna sat down for his meal, and Narendra and the other devotees partook of the food offerings from the temple.
Sunday, October 22, 1882
It was the day of Vijaya, the last day of the celebration of the worship of
Durga, when the clay image is immersed in the water of a lake or river.
About nine o'clock in the morning M. was seated on the floor of the Master's room at Dakshineswar, near Sri Ramakrishna, who was reclining on the small couch. Rakhal was then living with the Master, and Narendra and Bhavanath visited him frequently. Baburam had seen him only once or twice.
MASTER: "Did you have any holiday during the Durga Puja?"
M: "Yes, sir. I went to Keshab's house every day for the first three days of the worship."
MASTER: "Is that so?"
M: "I heard there a very interesting interpretation of the Durga Puja."
MASTER: "Please tell me all about it." M: "Keshab Sen held daily morning prayers in his house, lasting till ten or eleven. During these prayers he gave the inner meaning of the Durga Puja. He said that if anyone could realize the Divine Mother, that is to say, could install Mother Durga in the shrine of his heart, then Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kartika, and Ganesa2 would come there of themselves, Lakshmi means wealth, Sarasvati knowledge, Kartika strength, and Ganesa success. By realizing the Divine Mother within one's heart, one gets all these without any effort whatever."
Sri Ramakrishna listened to the description, questioning M. now and then about the prayers conducted by Keshab. At last he said to M.: "Don't go hither and thither. Come here alone. Those who belong to the inner circle of my devotees will come only here. Boys like Narendra, Bhavanath, and Rakhal are my very intimate disciples. They are not to be thought lightly of. Feed (Feeding a holy man is considered a meritorious act.) them one day. What do you think of Narendra?"
M: "I think very highly of him, sir."
MASTER: "Haven't you observed his many virtues? He is not only well versed in music, vocal and instrumental, but he is also very learned. Besides, he has controlled his passions and declares he will lead a celibate life. He has been devoted to God since his very boyhood.
"How are you getting along with vour meditation nowadays? What aspect of God appeals to your mind with form or without form?"
M: "Sir, now I can't fix my mind on God with form. On the other hand, I can't concentrate steadily on God without form."
MASTER: "Now you see that the mind cannot be fixed, all of a sudden, on the formless aspect of God. It is wise to think of God with form during the primary stages."
M: "Do you mean to suggest that one should meditate on clay images?"
MASTER: "Why clay? These images are the embodiments of Consciousness."
M: "Even so, one must think of hands, feet, and the other parts of the body. But again, I realize that the mind cannot be concentrated unless one meditates, in the beginning, on God with form. You have told me so. Well, God can easily assume different forms. May one meditate on the form of one's own mother?"
MASTER: "Yes, the mother should be adored. She is indeed an embodiment of Brahman."
M. sat in silence. After a few minutes he asked the Master: "What docs one feel while thinking of God without form? Isn't it possible to describe it?" After some reflection, the Master said, "Do you know what it is like?" He remained silent a moment and then said a few words to M. about one's experiences at the time of the vision of God with and without form.
MASTER: "You see, one must practise spiritual discipline to understand this correctly. Suppose there are treasures in a room. If you want to see them and lay hold of them, you must take the trouble to get the key and unlock the door. After that you must take the treasures out. But suppose the room is locked, and standing outside the door you say to yourself: 'Here I have opened the door. Now I have broken the lock of the chest. Now I have taken out the treasure.' Such brooding near the door will not enable you to achieve anything.
"You must practise discipline.
"The jnanis think of God without form. They don't accept the Divine Incarnation. Praising Sri Krishna, Arjuna said, 'Thou art Brahman Absolute.' Sri Krishna replied, 'Follow Me, and you will know whether or not I am Brahman Absolute.' So saying, Sri Krishna led Arjuna to a certain place and asked him what he saw there. 'I see a huge tree,' said Arjuna, 'and on it I notice fruits hanging like clusters of blackberries.' Then Krishna said to Arjuna, 'Come nearer and you will find that these are not clusters of blackberries, but clusters of innumerable Krishnas like Me, hanging from the tree.' In other words, Divine Incarnations without number appear and disappear on the tree of the Absolute Brahman.
"Kavirdas was strongly inclined to the formless God. At the mention of Krishna's name he would say: 'Why should I worship Him? The gopis would clap their hands while He performed a monkey dance.' (With a smile) But I accept God with form when I am in the company of people who believe in that ideal, and I also agree with those who believe in the formless God."
M. (smiling): "You are as infinite as He of whom we have been talking. Truly, no one can fathom your depth."
MASTER (smiling): "Ah! I see you have found it out. Let me tell you one thing. One should follow various paths. One should practise each creed for a time. In a game of satrancha a piece can't reach the centre square until it completes the circle; but once in the square it can't be overtaken by any other piece."
M: "That is true, sir."
MASTER: "There are two classes of yogis: the vahudakas and the kutichakas. The vahudakas roam about visiting various holy places and have not yet found peace of mind. But the kutichakas, having visited all the sacred places, have quieted their minds. Feeling serene and peaceful, they settle down in one place and no longer move about. In that one place they are happy; they don't feel the need of going to any sacred place. If one of them ever visits a place of pilgrimage, it is only for the purpose of new inspiration.
"I had to practise each religion for a time Hinduism, Islam, Christianity. Furthermore, I followed the paths of the Saktas, Vaishnavas, and Vedantists. I realized that there is only one God toward whom all are travelling; but the paths are different.
"While visiting the holy places, I would sometimes suffer great agony. Once I went with Mathur to Raja Babu's drawing-room in Benares. I found that they talked there only of worldly matters money, real estate, and the like. At this I burst into tears. I said to the Divine Mother, weeping: 'Mother! Where hast Thou brought me? I was much better off at Dakshineswar.' In Allahabad I noticed the same things that I saw elsewhere the same ponds, the same grass, the same trees, the same tamarind-leaves.
"But one undoubtedly finds inspiration in a holy place. I accompanied Mathur Babu to Vrindavan. Hriday and the ladies of Mathur's family were in our party. No sooner did I see the Kaliyadaman Ghat than a divine emotion surged up within me. I was completely overwhelmed. Hriday used to bathe me there as if I were a small child.
"In the dusk I would walk on the bank of the Jamuna when the cattle returned along the sandy banks from their pastures. At the very sight of those cows the thought of Krishna would Bash in my mind. I would run along like a madman, crying: 'Oh, where is Krishna? Where is my Krishna?'
"I went to Syamakunda and Radhakunda (Places near Mathura associated with the episode of Krishna and Radha.) in a palanquin and got out to visit the holy Mount Govardhan. At the very sight of the mount I was overpowered with divine emotion and ran to the top. I lost all consciousness of the world around me. The residents of the place helped me to come down. On my way to the sacred pools of Syamakunda and Radhakunda, when I saw the meadows, the trees, the shrubs, the birds, and the deer, I was over- come with ecstasy. My clothes became wet with tears. I said: 'O Krishna! Everything here is as it was in the olden days. You alone are absent.' Seated inside the palanquin I lost all power of speech. Hriday followed the palanquin. He had warned the bearers to be careful about me.
"Gangamayi became very fond of me in Vrindavan. She was an old woman who lived all alone in a hut near the Nidhuvan. Referring to my spiritual condition and ecstasy, she said, 'He is the very embodiment of Radha.' She addressed me as 'Dulali'. When with her, I used to forget my food and drink, my bath, and all thought of going home. On some days Hriday used to bring food from home and feed me. Gangamayi also would serve me with food prepared by her own hands.
"Gangamayi used to experience trances. At such times a great crowd would come-to see her. One day, in a state of ecstasy, she climbed on Hriday's shoulders.
"I didn't want to leave her and return to Calcutta. Everything was arranged for me to stay with her. I was to eat double-boiled rice, and we were to have our beds on either side of the cottage. All the arrangements had been made, when Hriday said: 'You have such a weak stomach. Who will look after you?' 'Why,' said Gangamayi, 'I shall look after him. I'll nurse him.' As Hriday dragged me by one hand and she by the other, I remembered my mother, who was then living alone here in the nahabat of the temple warden. I found it impossible to stay away from her, and said to Gangamayi, 'No, I must go.' I loved the atmosphere of Vrindavan."
About eleven o'clock the Master took his meal, the offerings from the temple of Kali. After taking his noonday rest he resumed his conversation with the devotees. Every now and then he uttered the holy word "Om" or repeated the sacred names of the deities.
After sunset the evening worship was performed in the temples. Since it was the day of Vijaya, the devotees first saluted the Divine Mother and then took the dust (A form of reverent salutation in which one touches the feet of a superior with one's forehead.) of the Master's feet.
Tuesday, October 24, 1882
It was three or four o'clock in the afternoon. The Master was standing
near the shelf where the food was kept, when Balaram and M arrived from
Calcutta and saluted him. Sri Ramakrishna said to them with a smile: "I
was going to take some sweets from the shelf, but no sooner did I put my
hand on them than a lizard dropped on my body. (The
dropping of a lizard on the body is considered an omen.) At once I
removed my hand. (All laugh.)
"Oh, yes! One should observe all these things. You see, Rakhal is ill, and my limbs ache too. Do you know what's the matter? This morning as I was leaving my bed I saw (Orthodox Hindus in Bengal believe that the first face seen in the morning indicates whether the day will bring good or evil.) a certain person, whom I took for Rakhal. (All laugh.) Oh, yes! Physical features should be studied. The other day Narendra brought one of his friends, a man with only one good eye, though the other eye was not totally blind. I said to myself, 'What is this trouble that Narendra has brought with him?'
"A certain person comes here, but I can't eat any food that he brings. He works in an office at a salary of twenty rupees and earns another twenty by writing false bills. I can't utter a word in his presence, because he tells lies. Sometimes he stays here two or three days without going to his office. Can you guess his purpose? It is that I should recommend him to someone for a job somewhere else.
"Balaram comes from a family of devout Vaishnavas. His father, now an old man, is a pious devotee. He has a tuft of hair on his head, a rosary of tulsi beads round his neck, and a string of beads in his hand. He devotes his time to the repetition of God's name. He owns much property in Orissa and has built temples to Radha-Krishna in Kothar, Vrindavan, and other places, establishing free guest-houses as well.
(To Balaram) "A certain person came here the other day. I understand he is the slave of that black hag of a wife. Why is it that people do not see God? It is because of the barrier of 'woman and gold'. How impudent he was to say to you the other day, 'A paramahamsa came to my father, who fed him with chicken curry!' (Orthodox Hindus are forbidden to eat chicken.)
"In my present state of mind I can eat a little fish soup if it has been offered to the Divine Mother beforehand. I can't eat any meat, even if it is offered to the Divine Mother; but I taste it with the end of my finger lest She should be angry. (Laughter.)
"Well, can you explain this state of my mind? Once I was going from Burdwan to Kamarpukur in a bullock-cart, when a great storm arose. Some people gathered near the cart. My companions said they were robbers. So I began to repeat the names of God, calling sometimes on Kali, sometimes on Rama, sometimes on Hanuman. What do you think of that?"
Was the Master hinting that God is one but is addressed differently by different sects?
MASTER (to Balaram): "Maya is nothing but 'woman and gold'. A man living in its midst gradually loses his spiritual alertness. He thinks all is well with him. The scavenger carries a tub of night-soil on his head, and in course of time loses his repulsion to it. One gradually acquires love of God through the practice of chanting God's name and glories. (To M.) One should not be ashamed of chanting God's holy name. As the saying goes, 'One does not succeed so long as one has these three: shame, hatred, and fear.'
"At Kamarpukur they sing kirtan very well. The devotional music is sung to the accompaniment of drums.
(To Balaram) "Have you installed any image at Vrindavan?"
BALARAM: "Yes, sir. We have a grove where Krishna is worshipped."
MASTER: "I have been to Vrindavan. The Nidhu Grove is very nice indeed."
Master's boat trip with Keshab — Master in samadhi — God dwells in devotee's heart — Attitude of jnanis and bhaktas — Attitude of yogis — Reasoning of jnanis — Identity of Brahman and Sakti — Different manifestations of Kali — Beginning of a cycle — Creation is Divine Mother's sport — Reassurance to householders — Bondage and liberation are of the mind — Redeeming power of faith — Master's prayer — Solitude for householders — Malady of worldly people and its cure — Disagreements necessary for enriching life — Master's humility — Difficulty of preaching — Doing good to others — Path of devotion most effective for Kaliyuga.
October 27, 1882
IT WAS FRIDAY, the day of the Lakshmi Puja.
Keshab Chandra Sen had
arranged a boat trip on the Ganges for Sri Ramakrishna.
About four o'clock in the afternoon the steamboat with Keshab and his Brahmo followers cast anchor in the Ganges alongside the Kali temple at Dakshineswar. The passengers saw in front of them the bathing-ghat and the chandni. To their left, in the temple compound, stood six temples of Siva, and to their right another group of six Siva temples. The white steeple of the Kali temple, the tree-tops of the Panchavati, and the silhouette of pine-trees stood high against the blue autumn sky. The gardens between the two nahabats were filled with fragrant flowers, and along the bank of the Ganges were rows of flowering plants. The blue sky was reflected in the brown water of the river, the sacred Ganges, associated with the most ancient traditions of Aryan civilization. The outer world appeared soft and serene, and the hearts of the Brahmo devotees were filled with peace.
Sri Ramakrishna was in his room talking with Vijay and Haralal. Some disciples of Keshab entered. Bowing before the Master, they said to him:
"Sir, the steamer has arrived. Keshab Babu has asked us to take you there." A small boat was to carry the Master to the steamer. No sooner did he get into the boat than he lost outer consciousness in samadhi. Vijay was with him.
M. was among the passengers. As the boat came alongside the steamer, all rushed to the railing to have a view of Sri Ramakrishna. Keshab became anxious to get him safely on board. With great difficulty the Master was brought back to consciousness of the world and taken to a cabin in the steamer. Still in an abstracted mood, he walked mechanically, leaning on a devotee for support. Keshab and the others bowed before him, but he was not aware of them. Inside the cabin there were a few chairs and a table. He was made to sit on one of the chairs, Keshab and Vijay occupying two others. Some devotees were also seated, most of them on the floor, while many others had to stand outside. They peered eagerly through the door and windows. Sri Ramakrishna again went into deep samadhi and became totally unconscious of the outer world.
As the air in the room was stuffy because of the crowd of people, Keshab opened the windows. He was embarrassed to meet Vijay, since they had differed on certain principles of the Brahmo Samaj and Vijay had separated himself from Keshab's organization, joining another society.
The Brahmo devotees looked wistfully at the Master. Gradually he came back to sense consciousness; but the divine intoxication still lingered. He said to himself in a whisper: "Mother, why have You brought me here? They are hedged around and not free. Can I free them?" Did the Master find that the people assembled there were locked within the prison walls of the world? Did their helplessness make the Master address these words to the Divine Mother?
Sri Ramakrishna was gradually becoming conscious of the outside world. Nilmadhav of Ghazipur and a Brahmo devotee were talking about Pavhari Baba. Another Brahmo devotee said to the Master: "Sir, these gentlemen visited Pavhari Baba. He lives in Ghazipur. He is a holy man like yourself." The Master could hardly talk; he only smiled. The devotee continued, "Sir, Pavhari Baba keeps your photograph in his room." Pointing to his body the Master said with a smile, "Just a pillow-case."
The Master continued: "But you should remember that the heart of the devotee is the abode of God. He dwells, no doubt, in all beings, but He especially manifests Himself in the heart of the devotee. A landlord may at one time or another visit all parts of his estate, but people say he is generally to be found in a particular drawing-room. The heart of the devotee is the drawing-room of God.
"He who is called Brahman by the jnanis is known as Atman by the yogis and as Bhagavan by the bhaktas. The same brahmin is called priest, when worshipping in the temple, and cook, when preparing a meal in the kitchen. The jnani, sticking to the path of knowledge, always reasons about the Reality, saying, 'Not this, not this'. Brahman is neither 'this' nor 'that'; It is neither the universe nor its living beings. Reasoning in this way, the mind becomes steady. Then it disappears and the aspirant goes into samadhi. This is the Knowledge of Brahman. It is the unwavering conviction of the jnani that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory. All these names and forms arc illusory, like a dream. What Brahman is cannot be described. One cannot even say that Brahman is a Person. This is the opinion of the jnanis, the followers of Vedanta philosophy.
"But the bhaktas accept all the states of consciousness. They take the waking state to be real also. They don't think the world to be illusory, like a dream. They say that the universe is a manifestation of God's power and glory. God has created all these — sky, stars, moon, sun, mountains, ocean, men, animals. They constitute His glory. He is within us, in our hearts. Again, He is outside. The most advanced devotees say that He Himself has become all this — the twenty-four cosmic principles, the universe, and all living beings. The devotee of God wants to eat sugar, not to become sugar. (All laugh.)
"Do you know how a lover of God feels? His attitude is: 'O God, Thou art the Master, and I am Thy servant. Thou art the Mother, and I am Thy child.' Or again: 'Thou art my Father and Mother. Thou art the Whole, and I am a part.' He doesn't like to say, 'I am Brahman.'
"The yogi seeks to realize the Paramatman, the Supreme Soul. His ideal is the union of the embodied soul and the Supreme Soul. He withdraws his mind from sense-objects and tries to concentrate it on the Paramatman. Therefore, during the first stage of his spiritual discipline, he retires into solitude and with undivided attention practises meditation in a fixed posture.
"But the Reality is one and the same. The difference is only in name. He who is Brahman is verily Atman, and again. He is the Bhagavan. He is Brahman to the followers of the path of knowledge, Paramatman to the yogis, and Bhagavan to the lovers of God."
The steamer had been going toward Calcutta; but the passengers, with their eyes fixed on the Master and their ears given to his nectar-like words, were oblivious of its motion. Dakshineswar, with its temples and gardens, was left behind. The paddles of the boat churned the waters of the Ganges with a murmuring sound. But the devotees were indifferent to all this. Spellbound, they looked on a great yogi, his face lighted with a divine smile, his countenance radiating love, his eyes sparkling with joy — a man who had renounced all for God and who knew nothing but God. Unceasing words of wisdom flowed from his lips.
MASTER: "The jnanis, who adhere to the non-dualistic philosophy of Vedanta, say that the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, the universe itself and all its living beings, are the manifestations of Sakti, the Divine Power. (Known as maya in the Vedanta philosophy.) If you reason it out, you will realize that all these are as illusory as a dream. Brahman alone is the Reality, and all else is unreal. Even this very Sakti is unsubstantial, like a dream.
"But though you reason all your life, unless you are established in samadhi, you cannot go beyond the jurisdiction of Sakti. Even when you say, 'I am meditating', or 'I am contemplating', still you are moving in the realm of Sakti, within Its power.
"Thus Brahman and Sakti are identical. If you accept the one, you must accept the other. It is like fire and its power to burn. If you see the fire, you must recognize its power to burn also. You cannot think of fire without its power to burn, nor can you think of the power to burn without fire. You cannot conceive of the sun's rays without the sun, nor can you conceive of the sun without its rays.
"What is milk like? Oh, you say, it is something white. You cannot think of the milk without the whiteness, and again, you cannot think of the whiteness without the milk.
"Thus one cannot think of Brahman without Sakti, or of Sakti without Brahman. One cannot think of the Absolute without the Relative, or of the Relative without the Absolute.
"The Primordial Power is ever at play. (This idea introduces the elements of spontaneity and freedom in the creation.) She is creating, preserving, and destroying in play, as it were. This Power is called Kali. Kali is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kali. It is one and the same Reality. When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, then we call It Brahman. But when It engages in these activities, then we call It Kali or Sakti. The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form.
"It is like water, called in different languages by different names, such as 'jal', pani', and so forth. There are three or four ghats on a lake. The Hindus, who drink water at one place, call it 'jal'. The Mussalmans at another place call it 'pani'. And the English at a third place call it 'water'. All three denote one and the same thing, the difference being in the name only. In the same way, some address the Reality as 'Allah', some as 'God', some as 'Brahman', some as 'Kali', and others by such names as 'Rama', 'Jesus', 'Durga', 'Hari'."
KESHAB (with a smile): "Describe to us, sir, in how many ways Kali, the Divine Mother, sports in this world."
MASTER (with a smile): "Oh, She plays in different ways. It is She alone who is known as Maha-Kali, Nitya-Kali, Smasana-Kali, Raksha-Kali, and Syama-Kali. Maha-Kali and Nitya-Kali are mentioned in the Tantra philosophy. When there were neither the creation, nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the earth, and when darkness was enveloped in darkness, then the Mother, the Formless One, Maha-Kali, the Great Power, was one with Maha-Kala, the Absolute.
"Syama-Kali has a somewhat tender aspect and is worshipped in the Hindu households. She is the Dispenser of boons and the Dispeller of fear. People worship Raksha-Kali, the Protectress, in times of epidemic, famine, earthquake, drought, and flood. Smasana-Kali is the embodiment of the power of destruction. She resides in the cremation ground, surrounded by corpses, jackals, and terrible female spirits. From Her mouth flows a stream of blood, from Her neck hangs a garland of human heads, and around Her waist is a girdle made of human hands.
"After the destruction of the universe, at the end of a great cycle, the Divine Mother garners the seeds for the next creation: She is like the elderly mistress of the house, who has a hotchpotch-pot in which she keeps different articles for household use. (All laugh.)
"Oh, yes! Housewives have pots like that, where they keep 'sea-foam', (The Master perhaps referred to the cuttlefish bone found on the seashore. The popular belief is that it is hardened sea-foam.) blue pills, small bundles of seeds of cucumber, pumpkin, and gourd, and so on. They take them out when they want them. In the same way, after the destruction of the universe, my Divine Mother, the Embodiment of Brahman, gathers together the seeds for the next creation. After the creation the Primal Power dwells in the universe itself. She brings forth this phenomenal world and then pervades it. In the Vedas creation is likened to the spider and its web. The spider brings the web out of itself and then remains in it. God is the container of the universe and also what is contained in it.
"Is Kali, my Divine Mother, of a black complexion? She appears black because She is viewed from a distance; but when intimately known She is no longer so. The sky appears blue at a distance; but look at it close by and you will find that it has no colour. The water of the ocean looks blue at a distance, but when you go near and take it in your hand, you find that it is colourless."
The Master became intoxicated with divine love and sang:
Is Kali, my Mother, really black?
The Naked One, of blackest hue,
Lights the Lotus of the Heart. . . .
The Master continued: "Bondage and liberation are both of Her making.
By Her maya worldly people become entangled in 'woman and gold', and
again, through Her grace they attain their liberation. She is called the
Saviour, and the Remover of the bondage that binds one to the world."
Then the Master sang the following song1 in his melodious voice:
In the world's busy market-place, O Syama, Thou art flying kites;
High up they soar on the wind of hope, held fast by maya's string.
Their frames are human skeletons, their sails of the three gunas made;
But all their curious workmanship is merely for ornament.
Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed the manja-paste2 of worldliness,
So as to make each straining strand all the more sharp and strong.
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
And Thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them!
On favouring winds, says Ramprasad, the kites set loose will speedily
Be borne away to the Infinite, across the sea of the world.
The Master said: "The Divine Mother is always playful and sportive.
This universe is Her play. She is self-willed and must always have Her own
way. She is full of bliss. She gives freedom to one out of a hundred
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: "But, sir, if She likes, She can give freedom to all. Why, then, has She kept us bound to the world?"
MASTER: "That is Her will. She wants to continue playing with Her created beings. In a game of hide-and-seek3 the running about soon stops if in the beginning all the players touch the 'granny'. If all touch her, then how can the game go on? That displeases her. Her pleasure is in continuing the game. Therefore the poet said:
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
And Thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them!
"It is as if the Divine Mother said to the human mind in confidence,
with a sign from Her eye, 'Go and enjoy the world.' How can one blame
the mind? The mind can disentangle itself from worldliness if, through
Her grace, She makes it turn toward Herself. Only then does it become
devoted to the Lotus Feet of the Divine Mother."
Whereupon Sri Ramakrishna, taking upon himself, as it were, the agonies of all householders, sang a song complaining to the Divine Mother:
Mother, this is the grief that sorely grieves my heart,
That even with Thee for Mother, and though I am wide awake,
There should be robbery in my house.
Many and many a time I vow to call on Thee,
Yet when the time for prayer comes round, I have forgotten.
Now I see it is all Thy trick.
As Thou hast never given, so Thou receivest naught;
Am I to blame for this, O Mother? Hadst Thou but given,
Surely then Thou hadst received;
Out of Thine own gifts I should have given to Thee.
Glory and shame, bitter and sweet, are Thine alone;
This world is nothing but Thy play.
Then why, O Blissful One, dost Thou cause a rift in it?
Says Ramprasad: Thou hast bestowed on me this mind,
And with a knowing wink of Thine eye
Bidden it, at the same time, to go and enjoy the world.
And so I wander here forlorn through Thy creation,
Blasted, as it were, by someone's evil glance,
Taking the bitter for the sweet,
Taking the unreal for the Real.
The Master continued: "Men are deluded through Her maya and have become attached to the world.
Says Ramprasad: Thou hast bestowed on me this mind,
And with a knowing wink of Thine eye
Bidden it, at the same time, to go and enjoy the world."
BRAHMO DEVOTEE: "Sir, can't we realize
God without complete renunciation?"
MASTER (with a laugh): "Of course you can! Why should you renounce everything? You are all right as you are, following the middle path — like molasses partly solid and partly liquid. Do you know the game of nax?4 Having scored the maximum number of points, I am out of the game. I can't enjoy it. But you are very clever. Some of you have scored ten points, some six, and some five. You have scored just the right number; so you are not out of the game like me. The game can go on. Why, that's fine! (All laugh.)
"I tell you the truth: there is nothing wrong in your being in the world. But you must direct your mind toward God; otherwise you will not succeed.
Do your duty with one hand and with the other hold to God. After the duty is over, you will hold to God with both hands.
"It is all a question of the mind. Bondage and liberation are of the mind alone. The mind will take the colour you dye it with. It is like white clothes just returned from the laundry. If you dip them in red dye, they will be red. If you dip them in blue or green, they will be blue or green. They will take only the colour you dip them in, whatever it may be. Haven't you noticed that, if you read a little English, you at once begin to utter English words: Foot fut it wit? (The Master was merely mimicking the sound of English.) Then you put on boots and whistle a tune, and so on. It all goes together. Or, if a scholar studies Sanskrit, he will at once rattle off Sanskrit verses. If you are in bad company, then you will talk and think like your companions. On the other hand, when you are in the company of devotees, you will think and talk only of God.
"The mind is everything. A man has his wife on one side and his daughter on the other. He shows his affection to them in different ways. But his mind is one and the same.
"Bondage is of the mind, and freedom is also of the mind. A man is free if he constantly thinks: 'I am a free soul. How can I be bound, whether I live in the world or in the forest? I am a child of God, the King of Kings. Who can bind me?' If bitten by a snake, a man may get rid of its venom by saying emphatically, There is no poison in me.' In the same way, by repeating with grit and determination, 'I am not bound, I am free', one really becomes so — one really becomes free.
"Once someone gave me a book of the Christians. I asked him to read it to me. It talked about nothing but sin. (To Keshab) Sin is the only thing one hears of at your Brahmo Samaj, too. The wretch who constantly says, 'I am bound, I am bound' only succeeds in being bound. He who says day and night, 'I am a sinner, I am a sinner' verily becomes a sinner.
"One should have such burning faith in God that one can say: 'What? I have repeated 'the name of God, and can sin still cling to me? How can I be a sinner any more? How can I be in bondage any more?'
"If a man repeats the name of God, his body, mind, and everything become pure. Why should one talk only about sin and hell, and such things? Say but once, 'O Lord, I have undoubtedly done wicked things, but I won't repeat them.' And have faith in His name."
Sri Ramakrishna became intoxicated with divine love and sang:
If only I can pass away repeating Durga's name,
How canst Thou then, O Blessed One,
Withhold from me deliverance,
Wretched though I may be? . . .
Then he said: "To my Divine Mother I prayed only for pure love. I
offered flowers at Her Lotus Feet and prayed to Her: 'Mother, here is Thy
virtue, here is Thy vice. Take them both and grant me only pure love for
Thee. Here is Thy knowledge, here is Thy ignorance. Take them both and
grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy purity, here is Thy impurity.
Take them both, Mother, and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is
Thy dharma, here is Thy adharma. Take them both, Mother, and grant me
only pure love for Thee.'
(To the Brahmo devotees) "Now listen to a song by Ramprasad:
Come, let us go for a walk, O mind, to Kali, the Wish-fulfilling Tree,
And there beneath It gather the four fruits of life.
Of your two wives, Dispassion and Worldliness,
Bring along Dispassion only, on your way to the Tree,
And ask her son Discrimination about the Truth.
When will you learn-to lie, O mind, in the abode of Blessedness,
With Cleanliness and Defilement on either side of you?
Only when you have found the way
To keep these wives contentedly under a single roof,
Will you behold the matchless form of Mother Syama.
Ego and Ignorance, your parents, instantly banish from your sight;
And should Delusion seek to drag you to its hole,
Manfully cling to the pillar of Patience.
Tie to the post of Unconcern the goats of Vice and Virtue,
Killing them with the sword of Knowledge if they rebel.
With the children of Worldliness, your first wife, plead from a goodly distance,
And, if they will not listen, drown them in Wisdom's sea.
Says Ramprasad: If you do as I say,
You can submit a good account, O mind, to the King of Death,
And I shall be well pleased with you and call you my darling.
"Why shouldn't one be able to realize God in this world? King Janaka had such realization. Ramprasad described the world as a mere 'framework of illusion'. But if one loves God's hallowed feet, then —
This very world is a mansion of mirth;
Here I can eat, here drink and make merry.
Janaka's might was unsurpassed;
What did he lack of the world or the Spirit?
Holding to one as well as the other,
He drank his milk from a brimming cup!
"But one cannot be a King Janaka all of a sudden. Janaka at first practised
much austerity in solitude.
"Even if one lives in the world, one must go into solitude now and then. It will be of great help to a man if he goes away from his family, lives alone, and weeps for God even for three days. Even if he thinks of God for one day in solitude, when he has the leisure, that too will do him good. People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children. But who cries for the Lord? Now and then one must go into solitude and practise spiritual discipline to realize God. Living in the world and entangled in many of its duties, the aspirant, during the first stage of spiritual life, finds many obstacles in the path of concentration. While the trees on the foot-path are young, they must be fenced around; otherwise they will be destroyed by cattle. The fence is necessary when the tree is young, but it can be taken away when the trunk is thick and strong. Then the tree won't be hurt even if an elephant is tied to it.
"The disease of worldliness is like typhoid. And there are a huge jug of water and a jar of savoury pickles in the typhoid patient's room. If you want to cure him of his illness, you must remove him from that room. The worldly man is like the typhoid patient. The various objects of enjoyment are the huge jug of water, and the craving for their enjoyment is his thirst. The very thought of pickles makes the mouth water; you don't have to bring them near. And he is surrounded with them. The companionship of woman is the pickles. Hence treatment in solitude is necessary.
"One may enter the world after attaining discrimination and dispassion. In the ocean of the world there are six alligators: lust, anger, and so forth. But you need not fear the alligators if you smear your body with turmeric before you go into the water. Discrimination and dispassion are the turmeric. Discrimination is the knowledge of what is real and what is unreal. It is the realization that God alone is the real and eternal Substance and that all else is unreal, transitory, impermanent. And you must cultivate intense zeal for God. You must feel love for Him and be attracted to Him. The gopis of Vrindavan felt the attraction of Krishna. Let me sing you a song:
Listen! The flute has sounded in yonder wood.
There I must fly, for Krishna waits on the path.
Tell me, friends, will you come along or no?
To you my Krishna is merely an empty name;
To me He is the anguish of my heart.
You hear His flute-notes only with your ears,
But, oh, I hear them in my deepest soul.
I hear His flute calling: 'Radha, come out!
Without you the grove is shorn of its loveliness.'"
The Master sang the song with tears in his eyes, and said to Keshab and
the other Brahmo devotees: "Whether you accept Radha and Krishna, or
not, please do accept their attraction for each other. Try to create that same
yearning in your heart for God. Yearning is all you need in order to realize
Gradually the ebb-tide set in. The steamboat was speeding toward Calcutta. It passed under the Howrah Bridge and came within sight of the Botanical Garden. The captain was asked to go a little farther down the river. The passengers were enchanted with the Master's words, and most of them had no idea of time or of how far they had come.
Keshab began to serve some puffed rice and grated coconut. The guests held these in the folds of their wearing-cloths and presently started to eat. Everyone was joyful. The Master noticed, however, that Keshab and Vijay rather shrank from each other, and he was anxious to reconcile them.
MASTER (to Keshab): "Look here. There is Vijay. Your quarrel seems like the fight between Siva and Rama. Siva was Rama's guru. Though they fought with each other, yet they soon came to terms. But the grimaces of the ghosts, the followers of Siva, and the gibberish of the monkeys, the followers of Rama, would not come to an end! (Loud laughter.) Such quarrels take place even among one's own kith and kin. Didn't Rama fight with His own sons, Lava and Kusa? Again, you must have noticed how a mother and daughter, living together and having the same spiritual end in view, observe their religious fast separately on Tuesdays, each on her own account — as if the welfare of the mother were different from the welfare of the daughter. But what benefits the one benefits the other. In like manner, you have a religious society, and Vijay thinks he must have one too. (Laughter.) But I think all these are necessary. While Sri Krishna, Himself God Incarnate, played with the gopis at Vrindavan, trouble-makers like Jatila and Kutila appeared on the scene. You may ask why. The answer is that the play does not develop without trouble-makers. (All laugh.) There is no fun without Jatila and Kutila. (Loud laughter.)
"Ramanuja upheld the doctrine of Qualified Non-dualism. But his guru was a pure non-dualist. They disagreed with each other and refuted each other's arguments. That always happens. Still, to the teacher the disciple is his own."
All rejoiced in the Master's company and his words.
MASTER (to Keshab): "You don't look into people's natures before you make them your disciples, and so they break away from you.
"All men look alike, to be sure, but they have different natures. Some have an excess of sattva, others an excess of rajas, and still others an excess of tamas. You must have noticed that the cakes known as puli all look alike. But their contents are very different. Some contain condensed milk, some coconut kernel, and others mere boiled kalai pulse. (All laugh.)
"Do you know my attitude? As for myself, I eat, drink, and live happily. The rest the Divine Mother knows. Indeed, there are three words that prick my flesh: 'guru', 'master', and 'father'.
"There is only one Guru, and that is Satchidananda. He alone is the Teacher. My attitude toward God is that of a child toward its mother. One can get human gurus by the million. All want to be teachers. But who cares to be a disciple?
"It is extremely difficult to teach others. A man can teach only if God reveals Himself to him and gives the command. Narada, Sukadeva, and sages like them had such a command from God, and Sankara had it too. Unless you have a command from God, who will listen to your words?
"Don't you know how easily the people of Calcutta get excited? The milk in the kettle puffs up and boils as long as the fire burns underneath. Take away the fuel and all becomes quiet. The people of Calcutta love sensations. You may see them digging a well at a certain place. They say they want water. But if they strike a stone they give up that place; they begin at another place. And there, perchance, they find sand; they give up the second place too. Next they begin at a third. And so it goes. But it won't do if a man only imagines that he has God's command.
"God does reveal Himself to man and speak. Only then may one receive His command. How forceful are the words of such a teacher! They can move mountains. But mere lectures? People will listen to them for a few days and then forget them. They will never act upon mere words.
"At Kamarpukur there is a small lake called the Haldarpukur. Certain people used to befoul its banks every day. Others who came there in the morning to bathe would abuse the offenders loudly. But next morning they would find the same thing. The nuisance didn't stop. (All laugh.) The villagers finally informed the authorities about it. A constable was sent, who put up a notice on the bank which read: 'Commit no nuisance.' This stopped the miscreants at once. (All laugh.)
"To teach others, one must have a badge of authority; otherwise teaching becomes a mockery. A man who is himself ignorant starts out to teach others — like the blind leading the blind! Instead of doing good, such , teaching does harm. After the realization of God one obtains an inner vision. Only then can one diagnose a person's spiritual malady and give instruction.
"Without the commission from God, a man becomes vain. He says to himself, 'I am teaching people.' This vanity comes from ignorance, for only an ignorant person feels that he is the doer. A man verily becomes liberated in life if he feels: 'God is the Doer. He alone is doing everything. I am doing nothing.' Man's sufferings and worries spring only from his persistent thought that he is the doer.
"You people speak of doing good to the world. Is the world such a small thing? And who are you, pray, to do good to the world? First realize God, see Him by means of spiritual discipline. If He imparts power, then you can do good to others; otherwise not."
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: "Then, sir, we must give up our activities until we realize God?"
MASTER: "No. Why should you? You must engage in such activities as contemplation, singing His praises, and other daily devotions."
BRAHMO: "But what about our worldly duties — duties associated with our earning money, and so on?"
MASTER: "Yes, you can perform them too, but only as much as you need for your livelihood. At the same time, you must pray to God in solitude, with tears in your eyes, that you may be able to perform those duties in an unselfish manner. You should say to Him: 'O God, make my worldly duties fewer and fewer; otherwise, O Lord, I find that I forget Thee when I am involved in too many activities. I may think I am doing unselfish work, but it turns out to be selfish.' People who carry to excess the giving of alms, or the distributing of food among the poor, fall victims to the desire of acquiring name and fame.
"Sambhu Mallick once talked about establishing hospitals, dispensaries, and schools, making roads, digging public reservoirs, and so forth. I said to him: 'Don't go out of your way to look for such works. Undertake only those works that present themselves to you and are of pressing necessity — and those also in a spirit of detachment.' It is not good to become involved in many activities. That makes one forget God. Coming to the Kalighat temple, some, perhaps, spend their whole time in giving alms to the poor. They have no time to see the Mother in the inner shrine! (Laughter.) First of all manage somehow to see the image of the Divine Mother, even by pushing through the crowd. Then you may or may not give alms, as you wish. You may give to the poor to your heart's content, if you feel that way. Work is only a means to the realization of God. Therefore I said to Sambhu, 'Suppose God appears before you; then will you ask Him to build hospitals and dispensaries for you?' (Laughter.) A lover of God never says that. He will rather say: '0 Lord, give me a place at Thy Lotus Feet. Keep me always in Thy company. Give me sincere and pure love for Thee.'
"Karmayoga is very hard indeed. In the Kaliyuga it is extremely difficult to perform the rites enjoined in the scriptures. Nowadays man's life is centred on food alone. He cannot perform many scriptural rites. Suppose a man is laid up with fever. If you attempt a slow cure with the old-fashioned indigenous remedies, before long his life may be snuffed out. He can't stand much delay. Nowadays the drastic 'D. Gupta' (A patent fever medicine containing a strong dose of quinine.) mixture is appropriate. In the Kaliyuga the best way is bhaktiyoga, the path of devotion — singing the praises of the Lord, and prayer. The path of devotion alone is the religion for this age. (To the Brahmo devotees) Yours also is the path of devotion. Blessed you are indeed that you chant the name of Hari and sing the Divine Mother's glories. I like your attitude. You don't call the world a dream, like the non-dualists. You are not Brahmajnanis like them; you are bhaktas, lovers of God. That you speak of Him as a Person is also good. You are devotees. You will certainly realize Him if you call on Him with sincerity and earnestness."
The boat cast anchor at Kayalaghat and the passengers prepared to disembark. On coming outside they noticed that the full moon was up. The trees, the buildings, and the boats on the Ganges were bathed in its mellow light. A carriage was hailed for the Master, and M. and a few devotees got in with him. The Master asked for Keshab. Presently the latter arrived and inquired about the arrangements made for the Masters return to Dakshineshwar. Then, he bowed low and took leave of Sri Ramakrishna.
The carriage drove through the European quarter of the city. The Master enjoyed the sight of the beautiful mansions on both sides of the well lighted streets. Suddenly he said: "I am thirsty. What's to be done?" Nandalal, Keshab's nephew, stopped the carriage before the India Club and went upstairs to get some water. The Master inquired whether the glass had been well washed. On being assured that it had been, he drank the water.
As the carriage went along, the Master put his head out of the window and looked with childlike enjoyment at the people, the vehicles, the horses, and the streets, all flooded with moonlight. Now and then he heard European ladies singing at the piano. He was in a very happy mood.
The carriage arrived at the house of Suresh Mitra, who was a great devotee of the Master and whom he addressed affectionately as Surendra. He was not at home.
The members of the household opened a room on the ground floor for the Master and his party. The cab fare was to be paid. Surendra would have taken care of it had he been there. The Master said to a devotee: "Why don't you ask the ladies to pay the fare? They certainly know that their master visits us at Dakshineswar. I am not a stranger to them." (All laugh.)
Narendra, who lived in that quarter of the city, was sent for. In the mean time Sri Ramakrishna and the devotees were invited to the drawing-room upstairs. The floor of the room was covered with a carpet and a white sheet. A few cushions were lying about. On the wall hung an oil painting especially painted for Surendra, in which Sri Ramakrishna was pointing out to Keshab the harmony of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions. On seeing the picture Keshab had once said, "Blessed is the man who conceived the idea."
Sri Ramakrishna was talking joyously with the devotees, when Narendra arrived. This made the Master doubly happy. He said to his young disciple, "We had a boat trip with Keshab today. Vijay and many other Brahmo devotees were there. (Pointing to M.) Ask him what I said to Keshab and Vijay about the mother and daughter observing their religious fast on Tuesdays, each on her own account, though the welfare of the one meant the welfare of the other. I also said to Keshab that trouble-makers like Jatila and Kutila were necessary to lend zest to the play. (To M.) Isn't that so?"
M: "Yes, sir. Quite so."
It was late. Surendra had not yet returned. The Master had to leave for the temple garden, and a cab was brought for him. M. and Narendra saluted him and took their leave. Sri Ramakrishna's carriage started for Dakshineswar through the moonlit streets.