A man is able to see God as soon as he gets rid of ego and other limitations. He sees God as soon as he is free from such feelings as ‘I am a scholar’, ‘I am the son of such and such a person’, ‘I am wealthy’, ‘I am honorable’, and so forth. ‘God alone is real and all else unreal; the world is illusory’ – that is discrimination. One cannot assimilate spiritual instruction without discrimination. Through the practice of spiritual discipline one attains perfection, by the grace of God. But one must labor a little. Then one sees God and enjoys bliss.
(p.363, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Reamakrishna’s advice to M on 24 December 1883)
In the middle of December, Baburam’s mother, Matangini Devi, invited the young monks to visit her native village, Antpur, during the Christmas vacation. Narendra, Baburam, Sharat, Shashi, Tarak, Kali, Niranjan, Gangadhar and Sarada boarded the Tarakeswar train at Howrah Station. They had taken musical instruments with them; so as soon as the train moved off, Narendra started singing, and the others joined in. They got down at Haripal station, and went to Antpur in a carriage. In the calm and quiet of the village, the spiritual fire in the young monks blazed up into a conflagration. Narendra’s enthusiasm fanned the flames. The spirit of the Master as it were spoke and worked through him. He was intensely possessed by the vision of the sannyasi’s life and would cry out, “Let man-making be the goal of our lives! Let us make this our only spiritual discipline! Away with vain learning! Let not the glamour of the world captivate our minds even for a moment! Realization of God is the one and only thing in life! That is what Shri Ramakrishna’s life represented! We must realize God!” Inspired by these thoughts and fired by a oneness of purpose, the young men became aware of a sense of unity–a feeling that they were all linked by some wonderful spiritual power. During their stay at Antpur they seemed to grow into one body, one mind and one soul. The days passed in Sadhana. Ramakrishna was in their minds; his name on their lips. Upon all alike there seemed to descend a spirit of renunciation, a desire to take the sannyasi’s vow, each in the presence of the others. The monastic spirit seemed to be intensified in their hearts, both for their own liberation and for the good of the world. Each disciple saw in his brother – disciples a world of spiritual force; and that vision intensified the love among them. This was as it should have been, for the Master’s spirit was destined to be perpetuated, not through one or several individual disciples having disciples of their own, which is what happens usually, but in a definite organized form.
Thus at Antpur, in still hours, subtle things were happening, knitting the brothers together. It all found expression one night before a huge Dhuni (sacred fire) in the compound. Overhead was the clear night sky, and all around was quiet. Meditation lasted a long time. When a break was made Narendra began to tell the story of Jesus, beginning with the mystery of his birth, through to his death and resurrection. Through his eloquence, the brother – disciples could catch something of the apostolic fervour that had impelled Paul to spread the Christian gospel far and wide in the face of adversities. Narendra charged them to become Christs themselves, and so aid in the redemption of the world; to realize God and to deny themselves as Jesus had done. Standing there before the sacred fire, their faces lit up by the flames, the crackling of the wood the sole disturbing sound, they took the vows of renunciation before God and one another. The very air was vibrant with their ecstatic fervour. Strangely, the monks discovered afterwards that all this had happened on Christmas – eve!
(p.195-6, V.1, Life of Swami Vivekananda)