Keshab’s reverence for the Master — Tasting divine bliss in different ways — Master’s abhorrence of public preaching — Master instructs about humility — Renunciation of “woman and gold” — Yearning for God — Story of the fishwife and her basket — Personal God and Impersonal Reality — The pure mind sees God — Surendra’s vanity curbed — Maya obstructs vision of God — Renunciation, true and false — God and worldly duties — Faith in the guru — Parable of pearl oyster — Company of holy men extolled — Concerning the ego.
Saturday, January 1, 1881
KESHAB CHANDRA SEN, the leader of the Brahmo Samaj, was expected to visit Sri Ramakrishna at the temple garden at Dakshineswar. With the Master were many Brahmo celebrities — Pratap, Trailokya, Jaygopal, and others. It was only a few days before the annual festival of the Brahmo Samaj, and the Brahmos were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their leader, who was to come by steamer. They were restless and talking rather noisily. Ram, Manomohan, and several other devotees of the Master were also there.
At last Keshab entered the Master’s room with two fruits and a bouquet of flowers in his hands. Touching the Master’s feet, he laid the offering at his side. Then he saluted Sri Ramakrishna with great reverence, bowing very low before him. Sri Ramakrishna returned in like manner his distinguished visitor’s salutation. Then he laughingly began the conversation.
MASTER: “You, Keshab, want me; but your disciples don’t. I was saying to them: ‘Let us be restless. Then Govinda will come.’ (To Keshab’s disciples) See, here is your Govinda!
“We have been showing signs of restlessness all this while to set the stage for your arrival. It isn’t easy to have the vision of Govinda. You must have noticed in the Krishnayatra.1 that Narada enters Vrindavan and prays with great yearning: ‘O Govinda! O my soul! O Life of my life!’, and then Krishna comes on the stage with the cowherd boys, followed by the gopis. No one can see God without that yearning.
“Well, Keshab, say something! They are eager to hear your words.”
KESHAB (humbly, with a smile): “To open my lips here would be like trying to ‘sell needles to a blacksmith’.”
MASTER (smiling): “But don’t you know that the nature of devotees is like that of hemp-smokers? One hemp-smoker says to another, ‘Please take a puff for yourself and give me one.'” (All laugh.)
It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. They heard the music from the nahabat in the temple garden.
MASTER (to Keshab and the others): “Do you hear how melodious that music is? One player is producing only a monotone on his flute, while another is creating waves of melodies in different ragas and raginis. (Modes in Indian music.) That is my attitude. Why should I produce only a monotone when I have an instrument with seven holes? Why should I say nothing but, ‘I am He, I am He’? I want to play various melodies on my instrument with seven holes. Why should I say only, ‘Brahma! Brahma!’? I want to call on God through all the moods — through santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhur. I want to make merry with God. I want to sport with God.”
Keshab listened to these words with wonder in his eyes and said to the Brahmo devotees, “I have never before heard such a wonderful and beautiful interpretation of jnana and bhakti.”
KESHAB (to the Master): “How long will you hide yourself in this way? I dare say people will be thronging here by and by in great crowds.”
MASTER: “What are you talking of? I only eat and drink and sing God’s name. I know nothing about gathering crowds. Hanuman once declared: ‘I know nothing about the day of the week or the position of the moon and stars in the sky. I simply meditate on Rama.'”
KESHAB: “All right, sir, I shall gather the crowd. But they all must come to your place.”
MASTER: “I am the dust of the dust of everybody’s feet. If anyone is gracious enough to come here, he is welcome.”
KESHAB: “Whatever you may say, sir, your advent cannot be in vain.”
In the mean time the devotees had arranged a kirtan. Many of them had joined it. The party started at the Panchavati and moved toward the Master’s room. Hriday blew the horn, Gopidas played the drum, and two devotees played the cymbals.
Sri Ramakrishna sang:
O man, if you would live in bliss, repeat Lord Hari’s name;
Then you will lead a life of joy and go to paradise,
And feed upon the fruit of moksha evermore:
Such is the glory of His name!
I give you the name of Hari, which Siva, God of Gods,
Repeats aloud with His five mouths.
The Master danced with the strength of a lion and went into samadhi. Regaining consciousness of the outer world, he sat down in his room and began to talk with Keshab and the other devotees.
MASTER: “God can be realised through all paths, it is like your coming to Dakshineswar by carriage, by boat, by steamer, or on foot. You have chosen the way according to your convenience and taste; but the destination is the same. Some of you have arrived earlier than others; but all have arrived.
“The more you rid yourself of upadhis, the nearer you will feel the presence of God. Rain-water never collects on a high mound; it collects only in low land. Similarly, the water of God’s grace cannot remain on the high mound of egotism. Before God one should feel lowly and poor.
“One should be extremely watchful. Even clothes create vanity. I notice that even a man suffering from an enlarged spleen sings Nidhu Babu’s light songs when he is dressed up in a black-bordered cloth. There are men who spout English whenever they put on high boots. And when an unfit person puts on an ochre cloth he becomes vain; the slightest sign of indifference to him arouses his anger and pique.
“God cannot be seen without yearning of heart, and this yearning is impossible unless one has finished with the experiences of life. Those who live surrounded by ‘woman and gold’, and have not yet come to the end of their experiences, do not yearn for God.
“When I lived at Kamarpukur, Hriday’s son, a child four or five years old, used to spend the whole day with me. He played with his toys and almost forgot everything else. But no sooner did evening come than he would say, ‘I want to go to my mother.’ I would try to cajole him in various ways and would say, ‘Here, I’ll give you a pigeon.’ But he wouldn’t be consoled with such things; he would weep and cry, ‘I want to go to my mother.’ He didn’t enjoy playing any more. I myself wept to see his state.
“One should cry for God that way, like a child. That is what it means to be restless for God. One doesn’t enjoy play or food any longer. After one’s experiences of the world are over, one feels this restlessness and weeps for God.”
The devotees sat in silence, listening to the Master’s words. When evening came, a lamp was lighted in the room. Preparations were being made for feeding Keshab and the devotees.
KESHAB (with a smile): “What? Puffed rice again today?”
MASTER (smiling): “Hriday knows.”
The devotees were served first with puffed rice, and then with luchi and curries on leaf-plates. All enjoyed the meal very much. It was about ten o’clock when supper was over.
The Master went to the Panchavati with Keshab and the devotees.
MASTER (to Keshab and the others): “One can very well live in the world after realizing God. Why don’t you first touch the ‘granny’ and then play hide-and-seek?
“After attaining God, a devotee becomes unattached to the world. He lives like a mudfish. The mudfish keeps its body unstained though it lives in mud.”
About eleven o’clock the Brahmos became eager to go home. Pratap said, “It would be nice if we could spend the night here.”
MASTER (to Keshab): “Why not stay here tonight?”
KESHAB (smiling): “No, I have business to attend to. I must go.”
MASTER: “Why must you, my dear sir? Can’t you sleep without your fish-basket? Once a fishwife was a guest in a gardener’s house. She was asked to sleep in a room full of flowers. But she couldn’t get any sleep there. (All laugh.) She was restless and began to fidget about. The gardener called to her: ‘Hello there! Why aren’t you asleep?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know’, said the fishwife. ‘There are flowers here. The smell keeps me awake. Can’t you bring me my fish-basket?’ She sprinkled a little water in the basket, and when she smelled the fish she fell fast asleep.” (All laugh heartily.)
Keshab took a few of the flowers that he had offered at Sri Ramakrishna’s feet on his arrival. He and his Brahmo devotees cried out as they saluted the Master, “Hail, Navavidhan!” Thus they bade him adieu.
One day during the rainy season of 1881 Sri Ramakrishna and a number of devotees visited Surendra’s house. It was about dusk.
The Master entered the drawing-room on the second floor, where several of Surendra’s neighbours had already, gathered. Keshab had also been invited but could not come. Trailokya and a few Brahmo devotees were present. A mat covered with a white sheet was spread on the floor, and on it had been placed a beautiful carpet with a cushion. Surendra requested the Master to sit on the carpet; but Sri Ramakrishna would not listen to him and sat on the mat next to Mahendra Goswami, one of Surendra’s neighbours.
MAHENDRA (to the devotees): “For several months I spent most of my time with him [meaning Sri Ramakrishna]. I have never before seen such a great man. His spiritual moods are not of the ordinary kind.”
MASTER (to Mahendra): “How dare you say that? I am the most insignificant of the insignificant, the lowliest of the lowly. I am the servant of the servants of God. Krishna alone is great.
“Krishna is none other than Satchidananda, the Indivisible Brahman. The water of the ocean looks blue from a distance. Go near it and you will find it colourless. He who is endowed with attributes is also without attributes. The Absolute and the Relative belong to the same Reality.
“Why is Krishna tribhanga, bent in three places? Because of His love for Radha.
“That which is Brahman is also Kali, the Adyasakti, who creates, preserves, and destroys the universe. He who is Krishna is the same as Kali. The root is one — all these are His sport and play.
“God can be seen. He can be seen through the pure mind and the pure intelligence. Through attachment to ‘woman and gold’ the mind becomes impure.
“The mind is everything. It is like a white cloth just returned from the laundry. It will take any colour you dye it with. Knowledge is of the mind, and ignorance is also of the mind. When you say that a certain person has become impure, you mean that impurity has coloured his mind.”
Surendra approached the Master with a garland and wanted to put it around his neck. But the Master took it in his hand and threw it aside. Surendra’s pride was wounded and his eyes filled with tears. He went to the west porch and sat with Ram, Manomohan, and the others. In a voice choked with sadness he said: “I am really angry. How can a poor brahmin know the value of a thing like that? I spent a lot of money for that garland, and he refused to accept it. I was unable to control my anger and said that the other garlands were to be given away to the devotees. Now I realise it was all my fault. God cannot be bought with money; He cannot be possessed by a vain person. I have really been vain. Why should he accept my worship? I don’t feel like living any more.” Tears streamed down his cheeks and over his chest.
In the mean time Trailokya was singing inside the room. The Master began to dance in an ecstasy of joy. He put around his neck the garland that he had thrown aside; holding it with one hand, he swung it with the other as he danced and sang. Now Surendra’s joy was unbounded. The Master had accepted his offering. Surendra said to himself, “God crushes one’s pride, no doubt, but He is also the cherished treasure of the humble and lowly.”
The Master now sang:
Behold, the two brothers have come, who weep while chanting Hari’s name,
The brothers who, in return for blows, offer to sinners Hari’s love!
Behold them, drunk with Hari’s love, who make the world drunk as well,
Embracing everyone as brother, even the outcaste shunned by men.
Behold, the two brothers have come, who once were Kanai and Balai of Braja. . . .
Many of the devotees danced while Sri Ramakrishna sang this song. When the kirtan was over, everyone sat around the Master and became engaged in pleasant conversation. Sri Ramakrishna said to Surendra, “Won’t you give me something to eat?” Then he went into the inner apartments, where the ladies saluted him. After the meal Sri Ramakrishna left for Dakshineswar.
Saturday, December 3, 1881
In the afternoon Sri Ramakrishna paid a visit to his householder disciple Manomohan, at 23 Simla Street, Calcutta. It was a small two-storey house with a courtyard. The Master was seated in the drawing-room on the first floor. Ishan of Bhawanipur asked him: “Sir, why have you renounced the world? The scriptures extol the householder’s life as the best.”
MASTER: “I don’t know much about what is good and what is bad. I do what God makes me do and speak what He makes me speak.”
ISHAN: “If everybody renounced the world, they would be acting against God’s will.”
MASTER: “Why should everybody renounce? On the other hand, can it be the will of God that all should revel in ‘woman and gold’ like dogs and jackals? Has He no other wish? Do you know what accords with His will and what is against it?
“You say that God wants everybody to lead a worldly life. But why don’t you see it as God’s will when your wife and children die? Why don’t you see His will in poverty, when you haven’t a morsel to eat?
“Maya won’t allow us to know the will of God. On account of God’s maya the unreal appears as real, and the real as unreal. The world is unreal. This moment it exists and the next it disappears. But on account of His maya it seems to be real. It is only through His maya that the ego seems to be the doer. Furthermore, on account of this maya a man regards his wife and children, his brother and sister, his father and mother, his house and property, as his very own.
“There are two aspects of maya: vidya and avidya. Avidya deludes one with worldliness, and vidya — wisdom, devotion, and the company of holy men — leads one to God.
“He who has gone beyond maya, through the grace of God, views alike both vidya and avidya. Worldly life is a life of enjoyment. After all, what is there to enjoy in ‘woman and gold’? As soon as a sweetmeat has gone down the throat, one doesn’t remember whether it tasted sweet or sour.
“But why should everybody renounce? Is renunciation possible except in the fullness of time? The time for renunciation comes when one reaches the limit of enjoyment. Can anybody force himself into renunciation? There is a kind of renunciation known as ‘monkey renunciation’. Only small-minded people cultivate it. Take the case of a fatherless boy. His poor widowed mother earns her livelihood by spinning. The boy loses his insignificant job and suddenly is seized with a fit of renunciation. He puts on the ochre cloth of a monk and goes to Benares. A few days later he writes home, ‘I have secured a job for ten rupees a month.’ In the mean time he tries to buy a gold ring and beautiful clothes. How can he stifle his desire for enjoyment?”
Keshab arrived with some Brahmo devotees and respectfully saluted the Master. He took a seat on Sri Ramakrishna’s left, Ram on his right. For some time a reader recited from the Bhagavata and explained the text.
MASTER (to the devotees): “It is very difficult to do one’s duty in the world. If you whirl round too fast you feel giddy and faint; .but there is no such fear if you hold on to a post. Do your duty, but do not forget God.
“You may ask, ‘If worldly life is so difficult, then what is the way?’ The way is constant practice. At Kamarpukur I have seen the women of the carpenter families flattening rice with a husking-machine. They are always fearful of the pestle’s smashing their fingers; and at the same time they go on nursing their children and bargaining with customers. They say to the customers, ‘Pay us what you owe before you leave.’
“An immoral woman goes on performing her household duties, but all the time her mind dwells on her sweetheart.
“But one needs spiritual discipline to acquire such a state of mind; one should pray to God in solitude every now and then. It is possible to perform worldly duties after obtaining love for God. If you try to break a jack-fruit, your hands will be smeared with its sticky juice. But that won’t happen if, beforehand, you rub them with oil.”
The kirtan began. Trailokya was singing. The Master danced, Keshab and the other devotees dancing with him. Though it was winter the Master became hot and perspired. After the music he wanted something to eat. A plate of sweetmeats was sent from the inner apartments. Keshab held the plate before Sri Ramakrishna and the Master ate. When he had finished, Keshab poured water on his hands and then dried the Master’s hands and face with a towel. Afterwards he began to fan the Master.
MASTER (to Keshab and the other devotees): “They are heroes indeed who can pray to God in the midst of their worldly activities. They are like men who strive for God-realisation while carrying heavy loads on their heads. Such men are real heroes. You may say that this is extremely difficult. But is there anything, however hard, that cannot be achieved through God’s grace? His grace makes even the impossible possible. If a lamp is brought into a room that has been dark a thousand years, does it illumine the room little by little? The room is lighted all at once.”
These reassuring words gladdened the hearts of Keshab and the other householder devotees.
KESHAB (to Rajendra Mitra, the uncle of Ram and Manomohan): “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could arrange a festival like this at your house one day?”
RAJENDRA: “Very good, I will. Well, Ram, you’ll have to take charge of everything.”
Sri Ramakrishna was asked to go to the inner apartments, where Manomohan’s mother had prepared his meal. A glass of ice-water, of which the Master was very fond, was placed near his plate.
Keshab and the other devotees sat in the courtyard and were treated to a sumptuous feast. The Master joined them and watched them eat. He danced and sang to entertain the guests.
When it was time for Sri Ramakrishna to leave for Dakshineswar, Keshab and the other devotees took the dust of his feet and saw him off in a hired carriage.
Saturday, December 10, 1881
At Keshab’s request Rajendra Mitra arranged a religious festival at his home in Calcutta and invited Sri Ramakrishna and the devotees, including the members of the Brahmo Samaj.
Two days before, Aghorenath, a prominent member of the Brahmo Samaj, had suddenly passed away in Lucknow. Keshab and the other Brahmo devotees were in mourning, and Rajendra thought they could not possibly join in the festival at his house. This worried him. But Ram, the Master’s devotee, said to him: “Why are you so sad? If Keshab can’t come, let him stay away. Our Master will be here. He is always in communion with God. He enables one to see God. And his presence will make the festival a success.”
Rajendra, accompanied by Ram and a few others, paid Keshab a visit to express their condolence for the death of Aghorenath. Keshab said to Rajendra: “Why, I haven’t said I shall not join in the festival at your house. Sri Ramakrishna will be there; so how can I stay away? I am in mourning, it is true, but I shall come.”
On the wall in Keshab’s room hung a picture of Sri Ramakrishna absorbed in samadhi.
RAJENDRA (to Keshab): “Many people say that he (pointing to the picture) is an incarnation of Chaitanya.”
KESHAB (looking at the picture): “One doesn’t see such samadhi. Only men like Christ, Mohammed, and Chaitanya experienced it.”
About three o’clock in the afternoon Sri Ramakrishna arrived at Manomohan’s house. He rested there awhile and had some refreshments. Surendra took the Master in a carriage to the studio of the Bengal Photographer. The art of photography was explained to him, and he was shown how glass covered with silver nitrate takes the image. As the Master was being photographed he went into samadhi.
A little later Sri Ramakrishna arrived at Rajendra Mitra’s house. Keshab had not yet come, and Mahendra Goswami was reading from the Bhagavata. The Master conversed with the devotees.
MASTER: “Why shouldn’t one be able to lead a spiritual life in the world? But it is extremely difficult. While coming here I passed over the bridge at Baghbazar. How many chains it is tied with! Nothing will happen if one chain is broken, for there are so many others to keep it in place. Just so, there are many ties on a worldly man. There is no way for him to get rid of them except through the grace of God.
“One need not be afraid of the world after one has had the vision of God. Both vidya and avidya exist in His maya; but one becomes indifferent to them after realizing God. One understands it rightly after attaining the state of a paramahamsa. Only a swan can discard the water and drink the milk from a mixture of milk and water. A robin cannot do so.”
A DEVOTEE: “Then what is the way for a householder?”
MASTER: “Faith in the guru’s words. You should depend on his instruction. Do your duties in the world, holding fast to his words, like a person whirling round and holding fast to a pillar.
“One must not look on one’s guru as a mere human being: it is Satchidananda Himself who appears as the guru. When the disciple has the vision of the Ishta, through the guru’s grace, he finds the guru merging in Him.
“What can one not achieve through simple faith! Once there was an annaprasana ceremony2 in a guru’s house. His disciples volunteered, according ing to their powers, to supply the different articles of food. He had one disciple, a very poor widow, who owned a cow. She milked it and brought the guru a jar of milk. He had thought she would take charge of all the milk and curd for the festival. Angry at her poor offering, he threw the milk away and said to her, ‘Go and drown yourself.’ The widow accepted this as his command and went to the river to drown herself. But God was pleased with her guileless faith and, appearing before her, said: ‘Take this pot of curd. You will never be able to empty it. The more curd you pour out, the more will come from the pot. This will satisfy your teacher.’ The guru was speechless with amazement when the pot was given to him. After hearing from the widow the story of the pot, he went to the river, saying to her, ‘I shall drown myself if you cannot show God to me.’ God appeared then and there, but the guru could not see Him. Addressing God, the widow said, ‘If my teacher gives up his body because Thou dost not reveal Thyself to him, then I too shall die.’ So God appeared to the guru — but only once.
“Now you see, because of faith in her guru the disciple herself had the vision of God and also showed Him to her teacher. Therefore I say, ‘Even though my guru frequents a grog-shop, still to me he is the embodiment of Eternal Bliss.’
“All want to be the guru, but very few indeed want to be the disciple. But you know that rain-water doesn’t collect on a high mound; it collects in low land, in a hollow.
“One should have faith in the holy name given by the guru and with it practise spiritual discipline. It is said that the pearl oyster makes itself ready for the rain that falls when the star Svati is in the ascendant. Taking a drop of that rain, it dives into the fathomless depths of the ocean and remains there until the pearl is formed.”
At the sight of the many Brahmo devotees assembled there, the Master said: “Is the meeting of the Brahmos a real devotional gathering or a mere show? It is very good that the Brahmo Samaj holds regular devotions. But one must dive deep; mere ceremonial worship or lectures are of no avail. One should pray to God that one’s attachment to worldly enjoyment may disappear; that one may have pure love for His Lotus Feet.
“The elephant has outer tusks and inner grinders as well. The tusks are mere ornaments; but the elephant chews its food with the grinders. The inner enjoyment of ‘woman and gold’ injures the growth of one’s devotion.
“What will you achieve through mere public lectures? The vulture undoubtedly soars high, but its eyes are fixed on the charnel-pit. The rocket undoubtedly shoots up into the sky, but the next moment it falls to the ground.
“He who has renounced his attachment to worldly enjoyments will remember nothing but God in the hour of death. Otherwise he will think only of worldly things: wife, children, house, wealth, name and fame. Through practice a bird can be trained to repeat ‘Radha-Krishna’; but when a cat catches it, it only squawks.
“Therefore one should constantly practise the singing of God’s name and glories, and meditation and contemplation as well. And further, one should always pray that one’s attachment to the world may disappear and one’s love for God’s Lotus Feet may grow.
“Householders devoted to God live in the world like a maidservant, who performs her duties for her master but always keeps her mind fixed on her own native village; that is to say, they do their duties in the world keeping their minds on God. Anyone leading a worldly life is sure to come in contact with its dirt; but a householder who is a true devotee of God lives like the mudfish, which, though remaining in the mud, is not stained by it.
“Brahman and Sakti are identical. One acquires love and devotion, quickly by calling on God as Mother.”
Saying this, the Master sang:
High in the heaven of the Mother’s feet, my mind was soaring like a kite,
When came a blast of sin’s rough wind that drove it swiftly toward the earth.
Maya disturbed its even flight by bearing down upon one side,
And I could make it rise no more.
Entangled in the twisting string of love for children and for wife,
Alas! my kite was rent in twain.
It lost its crest of wisdom soon and downward plunged as I let it go;
How could it hope to fly again, when all its top was torn away?
Though fastened with devotion’s cord, it came to grief in playing here;
Its six opponents (The six passions) worsted it.
Now Nareschandra rues this game of smiles and tears, and thinks it better
Never to have played at all.
He sang again:
O Mother, for Yasoda Thou wouldst dance, when she called Thee her precious “Blue Jewel”:3
Where hast Thou hidden that lovely form, O terrible Syama?
Dance that way once for me, O Mother! Throw down Thy sword and take the flute;
Cast off Thy garland of heads, and wear Thy wild-flower garland. . . .
As Sri Ramakrishna sang, he left his seat and began to dance. The devotees, too, stood up. Every now and then the Master went into samadhi and the devotees gazed at him intently. Dr. Dukari touched the Master’s eyeballs with his finger to test the genuineness of his samadhi. This disgusted the devotees.
When the music and dancing were over, the devotees took their seats. Just then Keshab arrived with some of his Brahmo disciples. Rajendra told him about their great joy in the Master’s kirtan and requested Trailokya to sing again. Keshab replied, “Since Sri Ramakrishna has taken his seat, the kirtan will sound flat.”
Trailokya and the Brahmo devotees sang:
Chant, O mind, the name of Hari,
Sing aloud the name of Hari,
Praise Lord Hari’s name!
And praising Hari’s name, O mind,
Cross the ocean of this world.
Hari dwells in earth, in water,
Hari dwells in fire and air;
In sun and moon He dwells.
Hari’s ever living presence
Fills the boundless universe.
While preparations were being made to give the guests something to eat, Sri Ramakrishna talked with Keshab.
MASTER (with a smile): “Today I enjoyed very much the machine by which a man’s picture is taken. One thing I noticed was that the impression doesn’t stay on a bare piece of glass, but it remains when the glass is stained with a black solution. In the same way, mere hearing of spiritual talk doesn’t leave any impression. People forget it soon afterwards. But they can retain spiritual instruction if they are stained inside with earnestness and devotion.”
The Master was conducted to the second floor of the house and was asked to sit on a beautiful carpet. The ladies waited on him while he ate his meal. Keshab and the other devotees were also sumptuously fed.
Sunday, January 1, 1882
Sri Ramakrishna arrived with his devotees at the house of Jnan Choudhury, in Calcutta, to join the annual festival of the Simla Brahmo Samaj. Keshab, Ram, Manomohan, Balaram, Kedar, Narendra, Rakhal, and other devotees were present. Narendra had met the Master only a few days before at the temple garden at Dakshineswar. He used to participate now and then in the worship of the Simla Brahmo Samaj and sing for the congregation.
The worship was arranged according to the usual custom of the Samaj. First the scripture was read; then Narendra sang. It was dusk. The devotees made merry. The Master looked at the householder devotees seated around him and said with a smile: “Why shouldn’t it be possible for a householder to give his mind to God? But the truth is that he no longer has his mind with him. If he had it, then he could certainly offer it to God. But, alas, the mind has been mortgaged — mortgaged to ‘woman and gold’. So it is necessary for him constantly to live in the company of holy men. When he gets back his own mind, then he can devote it to spiritual practice; but first it is necessary to live constantly with the guru, wait on him, and enjoy the company of spiritual people. Either he should think of God in solitude day and night, or he should live with holy men. The mind left to itself gradually dries up. Take a jar of water, for instance. If the jar is set aside, the water dries up little by little. But that will not happen if the jar is kept immersed in the Ganges.
“The iron becomes red in the furnace of a smithy. Take it out and it becomes black as before. Therefore the iron must be heated in the furnace every now and then.
“Do you know what ignorance means? It is the feeling: This is my house; these are my relatives; I am the doer; and the household affairs go on smoothly because I manage them.’ But to feel, ‘I am the servant of God, His devotee, His son’ — that is a good attitude.
“The ‘I’ cannot be effaced altogether. You may explain it away through reasoning, but the next moment it reappears, nobody knows from where. It is like a goat that still bleats faintly and jerks its legs even after its head has been cut off.
“But the ‘I’ that God retains in His devotee after he has seen Him is called the ‘ripe I’. It is like a sword turned into gold by touching the philosopher’s stone; you cannot hurt anybody with it.”
Thus the Master talked, seated in the worship hall, and Keshab and the other devotees listened with rapt attention. It was about eight o’clock in the evening. The bell rang three times for the worship.
MASTER (to Keshab and the others): “What’s this? I see you haven’t yet begun your regular worship.”
KESHAB: “What further worship do we need? We are having all this.”
MASTER: “Oh no, my dear sir! Let the worship be performed according to your custom.”
KESHAB: “Why? We are getting on very well.”
At the Master’s repeated request Keshab began the worship. In the midst of it Sri Ramakrishna suddenly stood up and went into samadhi. The Brahmo devotees sang:
Chant, O mind, the name of Hari,
Sing aloud the name of Hari,
Praise Lord Hari’s name!
And praising Hari’s name, O mind,
Cross the ocean of this world. . . .
The Master still stood there absorbed in ecstasy. Keshab led him down very carefully from the. temple to the courtyard. The music went on. The Master danced to the music, the devotees dancing around him.
After the refreshments Sri Ramakrishna again talked with Keshab. Soon he began to sing. Keshab sang with the Master:
The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Syama’s feet,
The blue flower of the feet of Kali, Siva’s Consort;
Tasteless, to the bee, are the blossoms of desire.
My Mother’s feet are black, and black, too, is the bee;
Black is made one with black! This much of the mystery
My mortal eyes behold, then hastily retreat.
But Kamalakanta’s hopes are answered in the end;
He swims in the Sea of Bliss, unmoved by joy or pain.
Again they sang:
High in the heaven of the Mother’s feet, my mind was soaring like a kite,
When came a blast of sin’s rough wind that drove it swiftly toward the earth. . . .
Both Keshab and the Master were in a state of divine fervour. The other devotees joined them and sang and danced till midnight.
The Master rested a few minutes and then said to Keshab: “Why did you send me presents when your son was married? What shall I do with them? Take them back.”
Keshab smiled a little, and the Master continued: “Why do you write about me in your paper? You cannot make a man great by writing about him in books and magazines. If God makes a man great, then everybody knows about him even though he lives in a forest. When flowers bloom in the deep woods, the bees find them, but the flies do not. What can man do? Don’t look up to him. Man is but a worm. The tongue that praises you today will abuse you tomorrow. I don’t want name and fame. May I always remain the humblest of the humble and the lowliest of the lowly!”