Master’s attitude toward young disciples — His yearning for Narendra — Reminiscences of his God-intoxicated state — Reassurance to the devotees — Parable of the tigress — Parable of the false ascetic — The world is a dream — Parable of the farmer — Law of karma — Different kinds of samadhi — Paths of love and knowledge — Master’s exhortation to a devotee to go forward — Reminiscences of boyhood — Earnestness in spiritual life extolled — Different manifestations of God — Traits of a true devotee — Seven planes of the Vedas — Advice to householders — Problem of good and evil — Result of yoga through bhakti — Different classes of men.
Monday, June 4, 1883
ABOUT NINE O’CLOCK in the morning the devotees began to arrive at the temple garden. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the porch of his room facing the Ganges. M., who had spent the previous night with the Master, sat near him. Balaram and several other devotees were present. Rakhal lay on the floor, resting his head on the Master’s lap. For the past few days the Master had been regarding Rakhal as the Baby Krishna.
Seeing Trailokya1 passing on his way to the Kali temple, Sri Ramakrishna asked Rakhal to get up. Trailokya bowed to the Master.
MASTER (to Trailokya): “Was there no yatra performance last night?”2
TRAILOKYA: “No, sir. We couldn’t conveniently arrange it.”
MASTER: “What is done is done. But please see that this doesn’t happen again. The traditions of the temple should be properly observed.”
Trailokya gave a suitable reply and went on his way. After a while Ram Chatterji, the priest of the Vishnu temple, came up to Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER: “Well, Ram, I told Trailokya that the yatra performance should not be omitted again. Was I right in saying that?”
RAM: “What of it, sir? Of course you were right. The traditions should be observed.”
The Master asked Balaram to stay for his midday meal. Before the meal Sri Ramakrishna described to the devotees the days of his God-intoxication. Rakhal, M., Ramlal, and a few others were present.
MASTER: “Now and then Hazra comes forward to teach me. He says to me, ‘Why do you think so much about the youngsters?’ One day, as I was going to Balaram’s house in a carriage, I felt greatly troubled about it. I said to the Divine Mother: ‘Mother, Hazra admonishes me for worrying about Narendra and the other young boys. He asks me why I forget God and think about these youngsters.’ No sooner did this thought arise in my mind than the Divine Mother revealed to me in a flash that it is She Herself who has become man. But She manifests Herself most clearly through a pure soul. At this vision I went into samadhi. Afterwards I felt angry with Hazra. I said to myself, ‘That rascal made me miserable.’ Then I thought: ‘But why should I blame the poor man? How is he to know?’
“I know these youngsters to be Narayana Himself. At my first meeting with Narendra I found him completely indifferent to his body. When I touched his chest with my hand, he lost consciousness of the outer world. Regaining consciousness, Narendra said: ‘Oh, what have you done to me? I have my father and mother at home!’ The same thing happened at Jadu Mallick’s house. As the days passed I longed more and more to see him. My heart yearned for him. One day at that time I said to Bholanath: (A clerk at the Dakshineswar temple garden.) ‘Can you tell me why I should feel this way? There is a boy called Narendra, of the kayastha caste. Why should I feel so restless tor him?’ Bholanath said: ‘You will find the explanation in the Mahabharata. On coming down to the plane of ordinary consciousness, a man established in samadhi enjoys himself in the company of sattvic people. He feels peace of mind at the sight of such men.’ When I heard this my mind was set at ease. Now and then I would sit alone and weep for the sight of Narendra.
“Oh, what a state of mind I passed through! When I first had that experience, I could not perceive the coming and going of day or night. People said I was insane. What else could they say? They made me marry. I was then in a state of God-intoxication. At first I felt worried about my wife. Then I thought she too would eat and drink and live like me.
“I visited my father-in-law’s house. They arranged a kirtan. It was a great religious festival, and there was much singing of God’s holy name. Now and then I would wonder about my future. I would say to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, I shall take my spiritual experiences to be real if the landlords of the country show me respect.’ They too came of their own accord and talked with me.
“Oh, what an ecstatic state it was! Even the slightest suggestion would awaken my spiritual consciousness. I worshipped the ‘Beautiful’ in a girl fourteen years old. I saw that she was the personification of the Divine Mother. At the end of the worship I bowed before her and offered a rupee at her feet. One day I witnessed a Ramlila performance. I saw the performers to be the actual Sita, Rama, Lakshmana, Hanuman, and Bibhishana. Then I worshipped the actors and actresses who played those parts.
“At that time I used to invite maidens here and worship them, I found them to be embodiments of the Divine Mother Herself.
“One day I saw a woman in blue standing near the bakul-tree. She was a prostitute. But she instantly kindled in me the vision of Sita. I forgot the woman. I saw that it was Sita herself on her way to meet Rama after her rescue from Ravana in Ceylon. For a long time I remained in samadhi, unconscious of the outer world.
“Another day I had gone to the Maidan in Calcutta for fresh air. A great crowd had assembled there to watch a balloon ascension. Suddenly I saw an English boy leaning against a tree. As he stood there his body was bent in three places. The vision of Krishna came before me in a flash. I went into samadhi.
“Once, at Sihore, I fed the cowherd boys. I put sweetmeats into their hands. I saw that these boys were actually the cowherd boys of Vrindavan, and I partook of the sweetmeats from their hands.
“At that time I was almost unconscious of the outer world. Mathur Babu kept me at his Janbazar mansion a few days. While living there I regarded myself as the handmaid of the Divine Mother. The ladies of the house didn’t feel at all bashful with me. They felt as free before me as women feel before a small boy or girl. I used to escort Mathur’s daughter to her husband’s chamber with the maidservant.
“Even now the slightest thing awakens God-Consciousness in me. Rakhal used to repeat the name of God half aloud. At such times I couldn’t control myself. It would rouse my spiritual consciousness and overwhelm me.”
Sri Ramakrishna went on describing the different experiences he had had while worshipping the Divine Mother as Her handmaid. He said: “Once I imitated a professional woman singer for a man singer. He said my acting was quite correct and asked me where I had learnt it.” The Master repeated his imitation for the devotees, and they burst into laughter.
After his noon meal the Master took a short rest. Manilal Mallick, an old member of the Brahmo Samaj, entered the room and sat down after saluting the Master, who was still lying on his bed. Manilal asked him questions now and then, and the Master, still half asleep, answered with a word or two. Manilal said that Shivanath admired Nityagopal’s spiritual state. The Master asked in a sleepy tone what they thought of Hazra.
Then Sri Ramakrishna sat up on his bed and told Manilal about Bhavanath’s devotion to God.
MASTER: “Ah, what an exalted state he is in! He has hardly begun to sing about God before his eyes fill with tears. The very sight of Harish made him ecstatic. He said that Harish was very lucky. He made the remark because Harish was spending a few days here, now and then, away from his home.”
Sri Ramakrishna asked M., “Well, what is the cause of bhakti? Why should the spiritual feeling of young boys like Bhavanath be awakened?” M. remained silent.
MASTER: “The fact is, all men may look alike from the outside, but some of them have fillings of ‘condensed milk’. Cakes may have fillings of condensed milk or powdered black grams, but they all look alike from the outside. The desire to know God, ecstatic love of Him, and such other spiritual qualities are the ‘condensed milk’.”
Sri Ramakrishna spoke reassuringly to the devotees.
MASTER (to M.): “Some think: ‘Oh, I am a bound soul. I shall never acquire knowledge and devotion.’ But if one receives the guru’s grace, one has nothing to fear. Once a tigress attacked a flock of goats. As she sprang on her prey, she gave birth to a cub and died. The cub grew up in the company of the goats. The goats ate grass and the cub followed their example. They bleated; the cub bleated too. Gradually it grew to be a big tiger. One day another tiger attacked the same flock. It was amazed to see the grass-eating tiger. Running after it, the wild tiger at last seized it, whereupon the grass-eating tiger began to bleat. The wild tiger dragged it to the water and said: ‘Look at your face in the water. It is just like mine. Here is a little meat. Eat it.’ Saying this, it thrust some meat into its mouth. But the grass-eating tiger would not swallow it and began to bleat again. Gradually, however, it got the taste for blood and came to relish the meat. Then the wild tiger said: ‘Now you see there is no difference between you and me. Come along and follow me into the forest.’
“So there can be no fear if the guru’s grace descends on one. He will let you know who you are and what your real nature is.
“I£ the devotee practises spiritual discipline a little, the guru explains everything to him. Then the disciple understands for himself what is real and what is unreal. God alone is real, and the world is illusory.
“One night a fisherman went into a garden and cast his net into the lake in order to steal some fish. The owner heard him and surrounded him with his servants. They brought lighted torches and began to search for him. In the mean time the fisherman smeared his body with ashes and sat under a tree, pretending to be a holy man. The owner and his men searched a great deal but could not find the thief. All they saw was a holy man covered with ashes, meditating under a tree. The next day the news spread in the neighbourhood that a great sage was staying in the garden. People gathered there and saluted him with offerings of fruit, flowers, and sweets. Many also offered silver and copper coins. ‘How strange!’ thought the fisherman. ‘I am not a genuine holy man, and still people show such devotion to me. I shall certainly realise God if I become a true sadhu. There is no doubt about it.’
“If a mere pretence of religious life can bring such spiritual awakening, you can imagine the effect of real sadhana. In that state you will surely realise what is real and what is unreal. God alone is real, and the world is illusory.”
One of the devotees said to himself: “Is the world unreal, then? The fisherman, to be sure, renounced worldly life. What, then, will happen to those who live in the world? Must they too renounce it?” Sri Ramakrishna, who could see into a man’s innermost thought, said very tenderly: “Suppose an office clerk, has been sent to jail. He undoubtedly leads a prisoner’s life there. But when he is released from jail, does he cut capers in the street? Not at all. He gets a job as a clerk again and goes on working as before. Even after attaining Knowledge through the guru’s grace, one can very well live in the world as a jivanmukta.” Thus did Sri Ramakrishna reassure those who were living as householders.
MANILAL: “Sir, where shall I meditate on God when I perform my daily worship?”
MASTER: “Why, the heart is a splendid place. Meditate on God there.”
Manilal, a member of the Brahmo Samaj, believed in a formless God. Addressing him, the Master said: “Kabir used to say: ‘God with form is my Mother, the formless God my Father. Whom should I blame? Whom should I adore? The two sides of the scales are even.’ During the day-time Haladhari used to meditate on God with form, and at night on the formless God. Whichever attitude you adopt, you will certainly realise God if you have firm faith. You may believe in God with form or in God without form, but your faith must be sincere and whole-hearted. Sambhu Mallick used to come on foot from Baghbazar to his garden house at Dakshineswar. One day a friend said to him: ‘It is risky to walk such a long distance. Why don’t you come in a carriage?’ At that Sambhu’s face turned red and he exclaimed: ‘I set out repeating the name of God! What danger can befall me?’ Through faith alone one attains everything. I used to say, ‘I shall take all this (His spiritual experiences.) to be true if I meet a certain person or if a certain officer of the temple garden talks to me.’ What I would think of would invariably come to pass.”
M. had studied English logic. In the chapters on fallacies he had read that only superstitious people believed in the coincidence of morning dreams with actual events. Therefore he asked the Master, “Was there never any exception?”
MASTER: “No. At that time everything happened that way. I would repeat the name of God and believe that a certain thing would happen, and it would invariably come to pass. (To Manilal) But you must remember, unless one is guileless and broad-minded, one cannot have such faith. Bony people, the hollow-eyed, the cross-eyed — people with physical traits like those cannot easily acquire faith. What can a man do if there are evil omens on all sides?”
It was dusk. The maidservant entered the room and burnt incense. Manilal and some other devotees left for Calcutta. M. and Rakhal were in the room. The Master was seated on his small couch absorbed in meditation on the Divine Mother. There was complete silence.
After a time Bhagavati, an old maidservant of the temple proprietor, entered the room and saluted the Master from a distance. Sri Ramakrishna bade her sit down. The Master had known her for many years. In her younger days she had lived a rather immoral life; but the Master’s compassion was great. Soon he began to converse with her.
MASTER: “Now you are pretty old. Have you been feeding the Vaishnavas and holy men, and thus spending your money in a noble way?”
BHAGAVATI (smiling): “How can I say that?”3
MASTER: “Have you been to Vrindavan, Benares, and the other holy places?”
BHAGAVATI (shrinkingly): “How can I say that? — I have built a bathing-place, and my name is inscribed there on a slab.”
BHAGAVATI: “Yes, sir. My name, ‘Srimati Bhagavati Dasi’, is written there.”
MASTER (with a smile): “How nice!”
Emboldened by the Master’s words, Bhagavati approached and saluted him, touching his feet. Like a man stung by a scorpion, Sri Ramakrishna stood up and cried out, “Govinda! Govinda!” A big jar of Ganges water stood in a corner of the room. He hurried there, panting, and washed with the holy water the spot the maidservant had touched. The devotees in the room were amazed to see this incident. Bhagavati sat as if struck dead.
Sri Ramakrishna consoled her and said in a very kindly tone, “You should salute me from a distance.” In order to relieve her mind of all embarrassment, the Master said tenderly, “Listen to a few songs.”
The Master then sang about the Divine Mother:
The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Syama’s feet. . . .
Then he sang:
High in the heaven of the Mother’s feet, my mind was soaring like a kite,
When came a gust of sin’s rough wind that drove it swiftly toward the earth. . . .
Dwell, O mind, within yourself;
Enter no other’s home.
If you but seek there, you will find
All you are searching for.
God, the true Philosopher’s Stone,
Who answers every prayer,
Lies hidden deep within your heart,
The richest gem of all.
How many pearls and precious stones
Are scattered all about
The outer court that lies before
The chamber of your heart!
Tuesday, June 5, 1883
Rakhal and Hazra were staying with the Master in the temple garden at Dakshineswar. M., too, had been there since the previous Sunday. As it was a week-day there were only a few devotees in the room. Generally people gathered there in large numbers on Sundays or holidays.
It was afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna was telling the devotees about his experiences during his God-intoxicated state.
MASTER (to M.): “Oh, what a state I passed through! At that time I didn’t eat my meals here. I would enter the house of a brahmin in the village or at Baranagore or at Ariadaha. Generally it would be past meal-time. I would just sit down there without saying a word. If the members of the household asked me why I had come, I would simply, say, ‘I want something to eat.’ Now and then I would go, uninvited of course, to Ram Chatterji’s house at Alambazar or to the Choudhurys at Dakshineswar. But I didn’t relish the food at the Choudhurys’ house.
“One day I begged Mathur to take me to Devendra Tagore’s house. I said: ‘Devendra chants the name of God. I want to see him. Will you take me there?’ Mathur Babu was a very proud man. How could one expect him to go to another man’s house uninvited? At first he hesitated. But then he said: ‘All right. Devendra and I were fellow students. I will take you to him.’
“Another day I learnt of a good man named Dina Mukherji, living at Baghbazar near the bridge. He was a devotee. I asked Mathur to take me there. Finding me insistent, he took me to Dina’s house in a carriage. It was a small place. The arrival of a rich man in a big carriage embarrassed the inmates. We too were embarrassed. That day Dina’s son was being invested with the sacred thread. The house was crowded, and there was hardly any place for Dina to receive us. We were about to enter a side room, when someone cried out: ‘Please don’t go into that room. There are ladies there.’ It was really a distressing situation. Returning, Mathur Babu said, ‘Father, I shall never listen to you again.’ I laughed.
“Oh, what a state I passed through! Once Kumar Singh gave a feast to the sadhus and invited me too. I found a great many holy men assembled there. When I sat down for the meal, several sadhus asked me about myself. At once I felt like leaving them and sitting alone. I wondered why they should bother about all that. The sadhus took their seats. I began to eat before they had started. I heard several of them remark, ‘Oh! What sort of man is this?'”
It was about five o’clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the steps of his verandah. Hazra, Rakhal, and M. were near him. Hazra had the attitude of a Vedantist: “I am He.
MASTER (to Hazra): “Yes, all one’s confusion comes to an end if one only realises that it is God who manifests Himself as the atheist and the believer, the good and the bad, the real and the unreal; that it is He who is present in waking and in sleep; and that He is beyond all these.
“There was a farmer to whom an only son was born when he was rather advanced in age. As the child grew up, his parents became very fond of him. One day the farmer was out working in the fields, when a neighbour told him that his son was dangerously ill — indeed, at the point of death. Returning home he found the boy dead. His wife wept bitterly, but his own eyes remained dry. Sadly the wife said to her neighbours, ‘Such a son has passed away, and he hasn’t even one tear to shed!’ After a long while the farmer said to his wife: ‘Do you know why I am not crying? Last night I dreamt I had become a king, and the father of seven princes. These princes were beautiful as well as virtuous. They grew in stature and acquired wisdom and knowledge in the various arts. Suddenly I woke up. Now I have been wondering whether I should weep for those seven children or this one boy.’ To the jnanis the waking state is no more real than the dream state.
“God alone is the Doer. Everything happens by His will.”
HAZRA: “But it is very difficult to understand that. Take the case of the sadhu of Bhukailas. How people tortured him and; in a way, killed him! They had found him in samadhi. First they buried him, then they put him under-water, and then they branded him with a hot iron. Thus they brought him back to consciousness of the world. But in the end the sadhu died as a result of these tortures. He undoubtedly suffered at the hands of men, though, as you say, he died by the will of God.”
MASTER: “Man must reap the fruit of his own karma. But as far as the death of that holy man is concerned, it was brought about by the will of God. The kavirajs prepare makaradhvaja4 in a bottle. The bottle is covered with clay and heated in the fire. The gold inside the bottle melts and combines with the other ingredients, and the medicine is made. Then the physicians break the bottle carefully and take out the medicine. When the medicine is made, what difference does it make whether the bottle is preserved or broken? So people think that the holy man was killed. But perhaps his inner stuff had been made. After the realisation of God, what difference does it make whether the body lives or dies?
“The sadhu of Bhukailas was in samadhi. There are many kinds of samadhi. My own spiritual experiences tally with the words I heard from a sadhu of Hrishikesh. Sometimes I feel the rising of the spiritual current inside me, as though it were the creeping of an ant. Sometimes it feels like the movement of a monkey jumping from one branch to another. Again, sometimes it feels like a fish swimming in water. Only he who experiences it knows what it is like. In samadhi one forgets the world. When the mind comes down a little, I say to the Divine Mother: ‘Mother, please cure me of this. I want to talk to people.’
“None but the Isvarakotis can return to the plane of relative consciousness after attaining samadhi. Some ordinary men attain samadhi through spiritual discipline; but they do not come back. But when God Himself is born as a man, as an Incarnation, holding in His hand the key to others’ liberation, then for the welfare of humanity the Incarnation returns from samadhi to consciousness of the world.”
M. (to himself): “Does the Master hold in his hand the key to man’s liberation?”
HAZRA: “The one thing needful is to please God. What does it matter whether an Incarnation of God exists or not?”
It was the day of the new moon. Gradually night descended and dense darkness enveloped the trees and the temples. A few lights shone here and there in the temple garden. The black sky was reflected in the waters of the Ganges.
The Master went to the verandah south of his room. A spiritual mood was the natural state of his mind. The dark night of the new moon, associated with the black complexion of Kali, the Divine Mother, intensified his spiritual exaltation. Now and then he repeated “Om” and the name of Kali. He lay down on a mat and whispered to M.
MASTER: “Yes, God can be seen. X— has had a vision of God. But don’t tell anyone about it. Tell me, which do you like better, God with form, or the formless Reality?”
M: “Sir, nowadays I like to think of God without form. But I am also beginning to understand that it is God alone who manifests Himself through different forms.”
MASTER: “Will you take me in a carriage some day to Mati Seal’s garden house at Belgharia? When you throw puffed rice into the lake there, the fish come to the surface and eat it. Ah! I feel so happy to see them sport in the water. That will awaken your spiritual consciousness too. You will feel as if the fish of the human soul were playing in the Ocean of Satchidananda. In the same manner, I go into an ecstatic mood when I stand in a big meadow. I feel like a fish released from a bowl into a lake.
“Spiritual discipline is necessary in order to see God. I had to pass through very severe discipline. How many austerities I practised under the bel-tree! I would lie down under it, crying to the Divine Mother, ‘O Mother, reveal Thyself to me.’ The tears would flow in torrents and soak my body.”
M: “You practised so many austerities, but people expect to realise God in a moment! Can a man build a wall simply by moving his finger around his home?”
MASTER (with a smile): “Amrita says that one man lights a fire and ten bask in its heat. I want to tell you something else. It is good to remain on the plane of the Lila after reaching the Nitya.”
M: “You once said that one comes down to the plane of the Lila in order to enjoy the divine play.”
MASTER: “No, not exactly that. The Lila is real too.
“Let me tell you something. Whenever you come here, bring a trifle with you.5 Perhaps I shouldn’t say it; it may look like egotism. I also told Adhar Sen that he should bring a pennyworth of something with him. I asked Bhavanath to bring a pennyworth of betel-leaf. Have you noticed Bhavanath’s devotion? Narendra and he seem like man and woman. He is devoted to Narendra. Bring Narendra here with you in a carriage, and also bring some sweets with you. It will do you good.
“Knowledge and love — both are paths leading to God. Those who follow the path of love have to observe a little more outer purity. But the violation of this by a man following the path of knowledge cannot injure him. It is destroyed in the fire of knowledge. Even a banana tree is burnt up when it is thrown into a roaring fire.
“The jnanis follow the path of discrimination. Sometimes it happens that, discriminating between the Real and the unreal, a man loses his faith in the existence of God. But a devotee who sincerely yearns for God does not give up his meditation even though he is invaded by atheistic ideas. A man whose father and grandfather have been farmers continues his farming even though he doesn’t get any crop in a year of drought.”
Lying on the mat and resting his head on a pillow, Sri Ramakrishna continued the conversation. He said to M; “My legs are aching, Please stroke them gently.” Thus, out of his infinite compassion, the Master allowed his disciple to render him personal service.
June 8, 1883
It was a summer day. The evening service in the Kali temple was over. Sri Ramakrishna stood before the image of the Divine Mother and waved the fan a few minutes.
Ram, Kedar Chatterji, and Tarak arrived from Calcutta with flowers and sweets. Kedar was about fifty years old. At first he had frequented the Brahmo Samaj and joined other religious sects in his search for God, but later on he had accepted the Master as his spiritual guide. He was an accountant in a government office and lived in a suburb of Calcutta.
Tarak was a young man of twenty-four. His wife had died shortly after their marriage. He hailed from the village of Barasat not far from Calcutta. His father, a highly spiritual soul, had visited Sri Ramakrishna many times. Tarak often went to Ram’s house and used to go to Dakshineswar in the company of Ram and Nityagopal. He worked in a business firm, but his attitude toward the world was one of utter indifference.
As Sri Ramakrishna came out of the temple, he saw Ram, Kedar, M., Tarak, and other devotees standing outside. He showed his affection for Tarak by touching his chin. He was very happy to see him.
Returning to his room, the Master sat on the floor in an ecstatic mood, with his legs stretched before him. Ram and Kedar decorated his feet with flowers and garlands. The Master was in samadhi.
Kedar believed in certain queer practices of a religious sect to which he had once belonged. He held the Master’s big toe in his hand, believing that in this way the Master’s spiritual power would be transmitted to him. As Sri Ramakrishna regained partial consciousness, he said, “Mother, what can he do to me by holding my toe?” Kedar sat humbly with folded hands. Still, in an ecstatic mood, the Master said to Kedar: “Your mind is still attracted by ‘woman and gold’. What is the use of saying you don’t care for it? Go forward. Beyond the forest of sandal-wood there are many more things: mines of silver, gold, diamonds, and other precious stones. Having a glimpse of spirituality, don’t think you have attained everything.” The Master was again in an ecstatic mood. He said to the Divine Mother, “Mother, take him away.” At these words Kedar’s throat dried up. In a frightened tone he said to Ram, “What is the Master saying?”
At the sight of Rakhal, Sri Ramakrishna was again overpowered with a spiritual mood. He said to his beloved disciple: “I have been here many days. When did you come?”
Was the Master hinting that he was an Incarnation of God, and Rakhal his divine companion, a member of the inner circle of devotees?
Sunday, June 10, 1883
The Master was sitting in his room with Rakhal, M., Latu, Kishori, Ramlal, Hazra, and other devotees. It was about ten o’clock in the morning.
Describing his early life, Sri Ramakrishna said to them: “During my younger days the men and women of Kamarpukur were equally fond of me, They loved to hear me sing. I could imitate other people’s gestures and conversation, and I used to entertain them that way. The women would put aside things for me to eat. No one distrusted me. Everybody took me in as one of the family.
“But I was like a happy pigeon. I used to frequent only happy families. I would run away from a place where I saw misery and suffering.
“One or two young boys of the village were my close friends. I was very intimate with some of them; but now they are totally immersed in worldliness. A few of them visit me here now and then and say, ‘Goodness! He seems to be just the same. as he was in the village school!’ While I was at school, arithmetic would throw me into confusion, but I could paint very well and could also model small images of the deities.
“I loved to visit the free eating-places maintained for holy men and the poor, and would watch them for hours.
“I loved to hear the reading of sacred books such as the Ramayana and Bhagavata. If the readers had any affectations, I could easily imitate them and would entertain others with my mimicry.
“I understood the behaviour of women very well and imitated their words and intonations. I could easily recognize immoral women. Immoral widows part their hair in the middle and perform their toilet with great care. They have very little modesty. The way they sit is so different! But let’s not talk of worldly things any more.”
The Master asked Ramlal to sing. Ramlal sang:
Who is this terrible Woman, dark as the sky at midnight?
Who is this Woman dancing over the field of battle,
Like a blue lotus that floats on a crimson sea of blood?
Who is She, clad alone in the Infinite for a garment,
Rolling Her three great eyes in frenzy and savage fury?
Under the weight of Her tread the earth itself is trembling!
Siva, Her mighty Husband, who wields the fearful trident,
Lies like a lifeless corpse beneath Her conquering feet.
The next song described the grief of Mandodari at the death of her husband Ravana. As he listened to it the Master shed tears of sorrow and said: “Once, when I entered the pine-grove over there, I heard the boatmen on the Ganges singing, that song and wept bitterly for a long time. I had to be brought back to my room.”
Ramlal sang about the love of the gopis for Sri Krishna. Akrura was about to drive Sri Krishna in a chariot from Vrindavan to Mathura. The gopis would not let Him go. Some held the wheels of the chariot; some lay down in front of it. They blamed Akrura, not knowing that Sri Krishna was leaving them of His own will. Akrura was explaining this to the gopis.
Hold not, hold not the chariot’s wheels!
Is it the wheels that make it move?
The Mover of its wheels is Krishna,
By whose will the worlds are moved. . . .
About the gopis, the Master said: “What deep love, what ecstatic devotion they had for Krishna! Radha painted the picture of Sri Krishna with her own hand, but did not paint His legs lest He should run away to Mathura! I used to sing these songs very often during my boyhood. I could reproduce the whole drama from memory.”
After his meal Sri Ramakrishna sat on the couch. He had not yet found time to rest. The devotees began to assemble. One party arrived from Manirampur and another from Belgharia. Some of the devotees said, “We have disturbed your rest.”
MASTER: “Oh, no! What you say applies only to a rajasic man. About him people say, ‘Ah’, now he will enjoy his sleep.'”
The devotees from Manirampur asked the Master how, to realise God.
MASTER: “You must practise spiritual discipline a little. It will not do simply to say that milk contains butter. You must let the milk set into curd and then churn it. Only then can you get butter from it. Spiritual aspirants must go into solitude now and then. After acquiring love of God in solitude, they may live in the world. If one is wearing a pair of shoes, one can easily walk over thorns.
“The most important thing is faith.
As is a man’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 one has faith one has nothing to fear.”
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, is it necessary to have a guru?”
MASTER: “Yes, many need a guru. But a man must have faith in the guru’s words. He succeeds in spiritual life by looking on his guru as God Himself. Therefore the Vaishnavas speak of Guru, Krishna, and Vaishnava.6
“One should constantly repeat the name of God. The name of God is highly effective in the Kaliyuga. The practice of yoga is not possible in this age, for the life of a man depends on food. Clap your hands while repeating God’s name, and the birds of your sin will fly away.
“One should always seek the company of holy men. The nearer you approach the Ganges, the cooler the breeze will feel. Again, the nearer you go to a fire, the hotter the air will feel.
“But one cannot achieve anything through laziness and procrastination. People who desire worldly enjoyment say about spiritual progress: ‘Well, it will all happen in time. We shall realise God some time or other.’
“I said to Keshab Sen: ‘When a father sees that his son has become restless for his inheritance, he gives him his share of the property even three years before the legal time. A mother keeps on cooking while the baby is in bed sucking its toy. But when it throws the toy away and cries for her, she puts down the rice-pot and takes the baby in her arms and nurses it.’ I said all this to Keshab.
“It is said that, in the Kaliyuga, if a man can weep for God one day and one night, he sees Him.
“Feel piqued at God and say to Him: ‘You have created me. Now You must reveal Yourself to me.’ Whether you live in the world or elsewhere, always fix your mind on God. The mind soaked in worldliness may be compared to a wet match-stick. You won’t get a spark, however much you may rub it. Ekalavya placed the clay image of Drona, his teacher, in front of him and thus learnt archery.7
“Go forward. The wood-cutter, following the instructions of the holy man, went forward and found in the forest sandal-wood and mines of silver and gold; and going still farther, he found diamonds and other precious stones.
“The ignorant are like people living in a house with clay walls. There is very little light inside, and they cannot see outside at all. But those who enter the world after attaining the Knowledge of God are like people living in a house made of glass. For them both inside and outside are light. They can see things outside as well as inside.
“Nothing exists except the One. That One is the Supreme Brahman. So long as He keeps the ‘I’ in us, He reveals to us that it is He who, as the Primal Energy, creates, preserves, and destroys the universe.
“That which is Brahman is also the Primal Energy. Once a king asked a yogi to impart Knowledge to him in one word. The yogi said, ‘All right; you will get Knowledge in one word.’ After a while a magician came to the king. The king saw the magician moving two of his fingers rapidly and heard him exclaim, ‘Behold, O King! Behold.’ The king looked at him amazed when, after a few minutes, he saw the two fingers becoming one. The magician moved that one finger rapidly and said, ‘Behold, O King! Behold.’ The implication of the story is that Brahman and the Primal Energy at first appear to be two. But after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman one does not see the two. Then there is no differentiation; it is One, without a second — Advaita — non-duality.”
The Master was very happy to see a musician who had come with the devotees from Belgharia. Some time before, Sri Ramakrishna had gone into an ecstatic mood on hearing his devotional music. At the Master’s request the musician sang a few songs, one of which described the awakening of the Kundalini and the six centres:
Awake, Mother! Awake! How long Thou hast been asleep
In the lotus of the Muladhara!
Fulfil Thy secret function, Mother:
Rise to the thousand-petalled lotus within the head,
Where mighty Siva has His dwelling;
Swiftly pierce the six lotuses
And take away my grief, O Essence of Consciousness!
MASTER: “The song speaks of the Kundalini’s passing through the six centres. God is both within and without. From within He creates the various states of mind. After passing through the six centres, the jiva goes beyond the realm of maya and becomes united with the Supreme Soul. This is the vision of God.
“One cannot see God unless maya steps aside from the door. Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita were walking together. Rama was in front, Sita walked in the middle, and Lakshmana followed them. But Lakshmana could not see Rama because Sita was between them. In like manner,” man cannot see God because maya is between them. (To Mani Mallick) But maya steps aside from the door when God shows His grace to the devotee. When the visitor stands before the door, the door-keeper says to the master, ‘Sir, command us, and we shall let him pass.’
“There are two schools of thought: the Vedanta and the Purana. According to the Vedanta this world is a ‘framework of illusion’, that is to say, it is all illusory, like a dream. But according to the Purana, the books of devotion, God Himself has become the twenty-four cosmic principles. Worship God both within and without.
“As long as God keeps the awareness of ‘I’ in us, so long do sense-objects exist; and we cannot very well speak of the world as a dream. There is fire in the hearth; therefore the rice and pulse and potatoes and the other vegetables jump about in the pot. They jump about as if to say: ‘We are here! We are jumping!’ This body is the pot. The mind and intelligence are the water. The objects of the senses are the rice, potatoes, and other vegetables. The ‘I-consciousness’ identified with the senses says, ‘I am jumping about.’ And Satchidananda is the fire.
“Hence the Bhakti scriptures describe this very world as a ‘mansion of mirth’. Ramprasad sang in one of his songs, ‘This world is a framework of illusion.’ Another devotee gave the reply, ‘This very world is a mansion of mirth.’ As the saying goes, ‘The devotee of Kali, free while living, is full of Eternal Bliss.’ The bhakta sees that He who is God has also become maya. Again, He Himself has become the universe and all its living beings. The bhakta sees God, maya, the universe, and the living beings as one. Some devotees see everything as Rama: it is Rama alone who has become everything. Some see everything as Radha and Krishna. To them it is Krishna alone who has become the twenty-four cosmic principles. It is like seeing everything green through green glasses.
“But the Bhakti scriptures admit that the manifestations of Power are different in different beings. It is Rama who has become everything, no doubt; but He manifests Himself more in some than in others. There is one kind of manifestation of Rama in the Incarnation of God, and another in men. Even the Incarnations are conscious of the body. Embodiment is due to maya. Rama wept for Sita. But the Incarnation of God puts a bandage over His eyes by His own will, like children playing blindman’s buff. The children stop playing when their mother calls them. It is quite different, however, with the ordinary man. The cloth his eyes are bandaged with is fastened to his back with screws, as it were. There are eight fetters. Shame, hatred, fear, caste, lineage, good conduct, grief, and secretiveness — these are the eight fetters. And they cannot be unfastened without the help of a guru.”
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, please bless us.”
MASTER: “God is in all beings. But you must apply to the Gas Company. It will connect the storage-tank with the pipe in your house.
“One must pray earnestly. It is said that one can realise God by directing to Him the combined intensity of three attractions, namely, the child’s attraction for the mother, the husband’s attraction for the chaste wife, and the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man.
“There are certain signs by which you can know a true devotee of God. His mind becomes quiet as he listens to his teacher’s instruction, just as the poisonous snake is quieted by the music of the charmer. I don’t mean the cobra. There is another sign. A real devotee develops the power of assimilating instruction. An image cannot be impressed on bare glass, but only on glass stained with a black solution, as in photography. The black solution is devotion to God. There is a third sign of a true devotee. The true devotee has controlled his senses. He has subdued his lust. The gopis were free from lust.
“You are talking about your leading a householder’? life. Suppose you are a householder. It rather helps in the practice of spiritual discipline. It is like fighting from inside a fort. The Tantriks sometimes use a corpse in their religious rites. Now and then the dead body frightens them by opening its mouth. That is why they keep fried rice and grams near them, and from time to time they throw some of the grains into the corpse’s mouth. Thus pacifying the corpse, they repeat the name of the Deity without any worry. Likewise, the householder should pacify his wife and the other members of his family. He should provide them with food and other necessities. Thus he removes the obstacles to his practice of spiritual discipline.
“Those who still have a few worldly experiences to enjoy should lead a householder’s life and pray to God. That is why Nityananda allowed the worldly to enjoy catfish soup and the warm embrace of a young woman while repeating God’s name.
“But it is quite different with genuine sannyasis. A bee lights on flowers and on nothing else. To the chatak all water except rain is tasteless. It will drink no other water, but looks up agape for the rain that falls when the star Svati is in the ascendant. It drinks only that water. A real sannyasi will not enjoy any kind of bliss except the Bliss of God. The bee lights only on flowers. The real monk is like a bee, whereas the householder devotee is like a common fly, which lights on a festering sore as well as on a sweetmeat.
“You have taken so much trouble to come here. You must be seeking God. But almost everyone is satisfied simply by seeing the garden. Only one or two look for its owner. People enjoy the beauty of the world; they do not seek its Owner.
(Pointing to the singer) “A little while ago he sang a song describing the six centres. These are dealt with in Yoga. There are two kinds of yoga: hathayoga and rajayoga. The hathayogi practises physical exercises. His goal is to acquire supernatural powers: longevity and the eight psychic powers. These are his aims. But the aim of rajayoga is the attainment of devotion, ecstatic love, knowledge, and renunciation. Of these two, rajayoga is the better.
“There is much similarity between the seven ‘planes’ described in the Vedanta and the six ‘centres’ of Yoga. The first three planes of the “Vedas may be compared to the first three Yogic centres, namely, Muladhara, Svadhisthana, and Manipura. With ordinary people the mind dwells in these three planes, at the organs of evacuation and generation and at the navel. When the mind ascends to the fourth plane, the centre designated in Yoga as Anahata, it sees the individual soul as a flame. Besides, it sees light. At this the aspirant cries: “Ah! What is this? Ah! What is this?’
“When the mind rises to the fifth plane, the aspirant wants to hear only about God. This is the Visuddha centre of Yoga. The sixth plane and the centre known by the yogi as Ajna are one and the same. When the mind rises there, the aspirant sees God. But still there is a barrier between God and the devotee. It is like the barrier of glass in a lantern, which keeps one from touching the light. King Janaka used to give instruction about Brahmajnana from the fifth plane. Sometimes he dwelt on the fifth plane, and sometimes on the sixth.
“After passing the six centres the aspirant arrives at the seventh plane. Reaching it, the mind merges in Brahman. The individual soul and the Supreme Soul become one. The aspirant goes into samadhi. His consciousness of the body disappears. He loses the knowledge of the outer world. He does not see the manifold any more. His reasoning comes to a stop.
“Trailanga Swami once said that because a man reasons he is conscious of multiplicity, of variety. Attaining samadhi, one gives up the body in twenty-one days. Spiritual consciousness is not possible without the awakening of the Kundalini.
“A man who has realised God shows certain characteristics. He becomes like a child or a madman or an inert thing or a ghoul. Further, he is firmly convinced that he is the machine and God is its Operator, that God alone is the Doer and all others are His instruments. As some Sikh devotees once said to me, even the leaf moves because of God’s will. One should be aware that everything happens by the will of Rama. The weaver said: ‘The price of the cloth, by the will of Rama, is one rupee six annas. By the will of Rama the robbery was committed. By the will of Rama the robbers were arrested. By the will of Rama I too was arrested by the police. And at last, by the will of Rama, I was released.'”
It was dusk. Sri Ramakrishna had had no rest since his midday meal. He had talked unceasingly to the devotees about God. At last the visitors took their leave and went home.
Friday, June 15, 1883
It was a holiday on account of the Hindu religious festival Dasahara. Among the devotees who visited Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar that day were Adhar, M., and Rakhal’s father. Rakhal’s father’s father-in-law was also present. All were seated on the floor of the Master’s room.
Rakhal’s father’s father-in-law was a devotee of God. He asked the Master, “Sir, can one realise God while leading the life of a householder?”
MASTER (with a smile): “Why not? Live in the world like a mudfish. The mudfish lives in the mud but itself remains unstained. Or live in the world like a loose woman. She attends to her household duties, but her mind is always on her sweetheart. Do your duties in the world, fixing your mind on God. But this is extremely difficult. I said to the members of the Brahmo Samaj: ‘Suppose a typhoid patient is kept in a room where there are jars of pickles and pitchers of water. How can you expect the patient to recover? The very thought of spiced pickles brings water to one’s mouth.’ To a man, woman is like that pickle. The craving for worldly things, which is chronic in man, is like the patient’s craving for water. There is no end to this craving. The typhoid patient says, ‘I shall drink a whole pitcher of water.’ The situation is very difficult. There is so much confusion in the world. If you go this way, you are threatened with a shovel; if you go that way, you are threatened with a broomstick; again, in another direction, you are threatened with a shoe-beating. Besides, one cannot think of God unless one lives in solitude. The goldsmith melts gold to make ornaments. But how can he do his work well if he is disturbed again and again? Suppose you are separating rice from bits of husk. You must do it all by yourself. Every now and then you have to take the rice in your hand to see how clean it is. But how can you do your work well if you are called away again and again?”
A DEVOTEE: “What then is the way, sir?”
MASTER: “There is a way. One succeeds if one develops a strong spirit of renunciation. Give up at once, with determination, what you know to be unreal. Once, when I was seriously ill, I was taken to the physician Gangaprasad Sen. He said to me: ‘I shall give you a medicine, but you mustn’t drink any water. You may take pomegranate juice.’ Everyone wondered how I could live without water; but I was determined not to drink, it. I said to myself: ‘I am a paramahamsa and not a goose. I shall drink only milk.’8
“You have to spend a few days in solitude. If you but touch the ‘granny’9 you are safe. Turn yourself into gold and then live wherever you please. After realizing God and divine love in solitude, one may live in the world as well. (To Rakhal’s father) That is why I ask the youngsters to stay with me; for they will develop love of God by staying here a few days. After that they can very well lead the life of a householder.”
DEVOTEE: “If God is responsible for everything, then why should people speak of good and evil, virtue and vice? One commits sin also by the will of God, isn’t that so?”
ANOTHER DEVOTEE: “How can we understand the will of God?”
MASTER: “There is no doubt that virtue and vice exist in the world; but God Himself is unattached to them. There may be good and bad smells in the air, but the air is not attached to them. The very nature of God’s creation is that good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, will always exist in the world. Among the trees in the garden one finds mango and jack-fruit, and hog plum too. Haven’t you noticed that even wicked men are needed? Suppose there are rough tenants on an estate; then the landlord must send a ruffian to control them.”
The conversation again turned to the life of the householder.
MASTER (to the devotees): “You see, by leading a householder’s life a man needlessly dissipates his mental powers. The loss he thus incurs can be made up if he takes to monastic life. The first birth is a gift of the father; then comes the second birth, when one is invested with the sacred thread. There is still another birth at the time of being initiated into monastic life. The two obstacles to spiritual life are ‘woman’ and ‘gold’. Attachment to ‘woman’ diverts one from the way leading to God. Man doesn’t know what it is that causes his downfall. Once, while going to the Fort, (A reference to the fort in Calcutta.) I couldn’t see at all that I was driving down a sloping road; but when the carriage went inside the Fort, I realised how far down I had come. Alas! ‘Women keep men deluded. Captain says, ‘My wife is full of wisdom.’ The man possessed by a ghost does not realise it. He says, ‘Why, I am all right!'”
The devotees listened to these words in deep silence.
MASTER: “It is not lust alone that one should be afraid of in the life of the world. There is also anger. Anger arises when obstacles are placed in the way of desire.”
M: “At meal-time, sometimes a cat stretches out its paw to take the fish from my plate. But I cannot show any resentment.”
MASTER: “Why? You may even beat it once in a while. What’s the harm? A worldly man should hiss, but he shouldn’t pour out his venom. He mustn’t actually injure others. But he should make a show of anger to protect himself from enemies. Otherwise they will injure him. But a sannyasi need not even hiss.”
A DEVOTEE: “I find it is extremely difficult for a householder to realise God. How few people can lead the life you prescribe for them! I haven’t found any.”
MASTER: “Why should that be so? I have heard of a deputy magistrate named Pratap Singh. He is a great man. He has many virtues: compassion and devotion to God. He meditates on God. Once he sent for me. Certainly there are people like him.
“The practice of discipline is absolutely necessary. Why shouldn’t a man succeed if he practises sadhana? But he doesn’t have to work hard if he has real faith — faith in his guru’s words. Once Vyasa was about to cross the Jamuna, when the gopis also arrived there, wishing to go to the other side. But no ferry-boat was in sight. They said to Vyasa, ‘Revered sir, what shall we do now?’ ‘Don’t worry’, said Vyasa. ‘I will take you across. But I am very hungry. Have you anything for me to eat?’ The gopis had plenty of milk, cream, and butter with them. Vyasa ate it all. Then the gopis asked, ‘Well, sir, what about crossing the river?’ Vyasa stood on the bank of the Jamuna and said, ‘O Jamuna, if I have not eaten anything today, then may your waters part so that we may all walk to the other side.’ No sooner did the sage utter these words than the waters of the Jamuna parted. The gopis were speechless with wonder. ‘He ate so much just now,’ they said to themselves, ‘and he says, “If I have not eaten anything . . .” ! ‘ Vyasa had the firm conviction that it was not himself, but the Narayana who dwelt in his heart, that had partaken of the food.
“Sankaracharya was a Brahmajnani, to be sure. But at the beginning he too had the feeling of differentiation. He didn’t have absolute faith that everything in the world is Brahman. One day as he was coming out of the Ganges after his bath, he saw an untouchable, a butcher, carrying a load of meat. Inadvertently the butcher touched his body. Sankara shouted angrily, ‘Hey there! How dare you touch me?’ ‘Revered sir,’ said the butcher, ‘I have not touched you, nor have you touched me. The Pure Self cannot be the body nor the five elements nor the twenty-four cosmic principles.’ Then Sankara came to his senses. Once Jadabharata was carrying King Rahugana’s palanquin and at the same time giving a discourse on Self-Knowledge. The king got down from the palanquin and said to Jadabharata, ‘Who are you, pray?’ The latter answered, ‘I am Not this, not this — I am the Pure Self.’ He had perfect faith that he was the Pure Self.
“‘I am He’, ‘I am the Pure Self’ — that is the conclusion of the jnanis. But the bhaktas say, ‘The whole universe is the glory of God.’ Who would recognize a wealthy man without his power and riches? But it is quite different when God Himself, gratified by the aspirant’s devotion, says to him, ‘You are the same as Myself.’ Suppose a king is seated in his court, and his cook enters the hall, sits on the throne, and says, ‘O King, you and I are the same!’ People will certainly call him a madman. But suppose one day the king, pleased with the cook’s service, says to him: ‘Come, sit beside me. There is nothing wrong in that. There is no difference between you and me.’ Then, if the cook sits on the throne with the king, there is no harm in it. It is not good for ordinary people to say, ‘I am He’. The waves belong to the water. Does the water belong to the waves?
“The upshot of the whole thing is that, no matter what path you follow, yoga is impossible unless the mind becomes quiet. The mind of a yogi is under his control; he is not under the control of his mind. When the mind is quiet the prana stops functioning. Then one gets kumbhaka. One may have the same kumbhaka through bhaktiyoga as well: the prana stops functioning through love of God too. In the kirtan the musician sings, ‘Nitai amar mata hati!’ (“My Nitai dances like a mad elephant!”) Repeating this, he goes into a spiritual mood and cannot sing the whole sentence. He simply sings, ‘Hati! Hati!’ When the mood deepens he sings only, ‘Ha! Ha!’ Thus his prana stops through ecstasy, and kumbhaka follows.
“Suppose a man is sweeping a courtyard with his broom, and another man comes and says to him: ‘Hello! So-and-so is no more. He is dead.’ Now, if the dead person was not related to the sweeper, the latter goes on with his work, remarking casually: ‘Ah! That’s too bad. He is dead. He was a good fellow.’ The sweeping goes on all the same. But if the dead man was his relative, then the broom drops from his hand. ‘Ah!’ he exclaims, and he too drops to the ground. His prana has stopped functioning. He can neither work nor think. Haven’t you noticed, among women, that if one of them looks at something or listens to something in speechless amazement, the other women say to her, ‘What? Are you in ecstasy?’ In this instance, too, the prana has stopped functioning, and so she remains speechless, with mouth agape.
“It will not do merely to repeat, ‘I am He, I am He.’ There are certain signs of a jnani. Narendra has big protruding eyes. (Pointing to a devotee) He also has good eyes and forehead.
“All men are by no means on the same level. It is said that there are four classes of men: the bound, the struggling, the liberated, and the ever-free. It is also not a fact that all men have to practise spiritual discipline. There are the ever-free and those who achieve perfection through spiritual discipline. Some realise God after much spiritual austerity, and some are perfect from their very birth. Prahlada is an example of the ever-free.
“Eternally perfect sages like Prahlada also practise meditation and prayer. But they have realised the fruit, God-vision, even before their spiritual practice. They are like gourds and pumpkins, which grow fruit first and then flowers.
(Looking at Rakhal’s father) “Even though an eternally perfect soul is born in a low family, still he retains his innate perfection. He cannot do anything else. A pea germinating in a heap of cow-dung still grows into a pea-plant.
“God has given to some greater power than to others. In one man you see it as the light of a lamp, in another, as the light of a torch. One word of Vidyasagar’s revealed to me the utmost limit of his intelligence. When I told him of the different manifestations of God’s Power in different beings, he said to me, ‘Sir, has God then given greater power to some than to others?’ At once I said: ‘Yes, certainly He has. If there are not different degrees of manifestation of His Power, then why should your name be known far and wide? You see, we have come to you after hearing of your knowledge and compassion. You haven’t grown two horns, have you?’ With all his fame and erudition, Vidyasagar said such a childish thing as ‘Has God given greater power to some than to others?’ The truth is that when the fisherman draws his net, he first catches big fish like trout and carp; then he stirs up the mud with his feet, and small fish come out — minnows, mud-fish, and so on. So also, unless a man knows God, ‘minnows’ and the like gradually come out from within him. What can one achieve through mere scholarship?”
Sunday, June 17, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna was resting in his room in the temple garden at Dakshineswar. It was afternoon. Adhar and M. arrived and saluted the Master. A Tantrik devotee also came in. Rakhal, Hazra, and Ramlal were staying with Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER (to the devotees): “Why shouldn’t one be able to attain spirituality, living the life of a householder? But it is extremely difficult. Sages like Janaka entered the world after attaining Knowledge. But still the world is a place of terror. Even a detached householder has to be careful. Once Janaka bent down his head at the sight of a bhairavi. He shrank from seeing a woman. The bhairavi said to him: ‘Janaka, I see you have not yet attained Knowledge. You still differentiate between man and woman.’
“If you move about in a room filled with soot, you will soil your body, however slightly, no matter how clever you may be. I have seen householder devotees filled with spiritual emotion while performing their daily worship wearing their silk clothes. They maintain that attitude even until they take their refreshments after the worship. But afterwards they become their old selves again. They display their rajasic and tamasic natures.
“Sattva begets bhakti. Even bhakti has three aspects: sattva, rajas, and tamas. The sattva of bhakti is pure sattva. When a devotee acquires it he doesn’t direct his mind to anything but God. He pays only as much attention to his body as is absolutely necessary for its protection.
“But a paramahamsa is beyond the three gunas. Though they exist in him, yet they are practically non-existent. Like a child, he is not under the control of any of the gunas. That is why paramahamsas allow small children to come near them — in order to assume their nature.
“Paramahamsas may not lay things up; but this rule does not apply to householders. They must provide tor their families.”
TANTRIK DEVOTEE: “Is a paramahamsa aware of virtue and vice?”
MASTER: “Keshab Sen also asked that question. I said to him, ‘If I explain that to you, then you won’t be able to keep your society together.’ ‘In that case we had better stop here’, said Keshab.
“Do you know the significance of virtue and vice? A paramahamsa sees that it is God who gives us evil tendencies as well as good tendencies. Haven’t you noticed that there are both sweet and bitter fruits? Some trees give sweet fruit, and some bitter or sour. God has made the mango-tree, which yields sweet fruit, and also the hog plum, which yields sour fruit.”
TANTRIK: “Yes, sir. That is true. On the hill-top one sees extensive rose gardens, reaching as far as the eye can see.”
MASTER: “The paramahamsa realises that all these — good and bad, virtue and vice, real and unreal — are only the glories of God’s maya. But these are very deep thoughts. One realizing this cannot keep an organization together or anything like that.”
TANTRIK: “But the law of karma exists, doesn’t it?”
MASTER: “That also is true. Good produces good, and bad produces bad. Don’t you get the hot taste if you eat chillies? But these are all God’s lila, His play.”
TANTRIK: “Then what is the way for us? We shall have to reap the result of our past karma, shall we not?”
MASTER: “That may be so. But it is different with the devotees of God. Listen to a song:
O mind, you do not know how to farm!
Fallow lies the field of your life.
If you had only worked it well,
How rich a harvest you might reap!
Hedge it about with Kali’s name
If you would keep your harvest safe;
This is the stoutest hedge of all,
For Death himself cannot come near it.
Sooner or later will dawn the day
When you must forfeit your precious field;
Gather, O mind, what fruit you may.
Sow for your seed the holy name
Of God that your guru has given to you,
Faithfully watering it with love;
And if you should find the task too hard,
Call upon Ramprasad for help.
He sang again:
I have securely blocked the way by which the King of Death will come;
Henceforward all my doubts and fears are set at naught for ever.
Siva Himself is standing guard at the nine doorways of my house,10
Which has one Pillar11 for support, and three ropes12 to secure it.
The Lord has made His dwelling-place the thousand-petalled lotus flower
Within the head, and comforts me with never-ceasing care.
The Master continued: “Anyone who dies in Benares, whether a brahmin or a prostitute, will become Siva. When a man sheds tears at the name of Hari, Kali, or Rama, then he has no further need of the sandhya and other rites. All actions drop away of themselves. The fruit of action does not touch him.”
Again the Master sang:
As is a man’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.
He sang another song:
Why should I go to Ganga or Gaya, to Kasi, Kanchi, or Prabhas,
So long as I can breathe my last with Kali’s name upon my lips? . . .
Then he said, “When a man merges himself in God, he can no longer retain wicked or sinful tendencies.”
TANTRIK: “You have said rightly that he keeps only the ‘Knowledge ego’.”
MASTER: “Yes, he keeps only the ‘Knowledge ego’, the ‘devotee ego’, the ‘servant ego’, and the ‘good ego’. His ‘wicked ego’ disappears.”
TANTRIK: “Today you have destroyed many of our doubts.”
MASTER: “All doubts disappear when one realises the Self.
“Assume the tamasic aspect of bhakti. Say with force: ‘What? I have uttered the names of Rama and Kali. How can I be in bondage any more? How can I be affected by the law of karma?'”
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.
The Master continued: “Faith! Faith! Faith! Once a guru said to his pupil, ‘Rama alone has become everything.’ When a dog began to eat the pupil’s bread, he said to it: ‘O Rama, wait a little. I shall butter Your bread.’ Such was his faith in the words of his guru.
“Worthless people do not have any faith. They always doubt. But doubts do not disappear completely till one realises the Self.
“In genuine love of God there is no desire. Only through such love does one speedily realise God. Attainment of supernatural powers and so on — these are desires. Krishna once said to Arjuna: ‘Friend, you cannot realise God if you acquire even one of the eight supernatural powers. They will only ‘add a little to your power.'”
TANTRIK: “Sir, why don’t the rituals of Tantra bear fruit nowadays?”
MASTER: “It is because people cannot practise them with absolute correctness and devotion.”
In conclusion the Master said; “Love of God is the one essential thing. A true lover of God has nothing to fear, nothing to worry about. He is aware that the Divine Mother knows everything. The cat handles the mouse one way, but its own kitten a very different way.”
- ^The son of Mathur and grandson of Rani Rasmani. He had become proprietor of the temple in 1871.
- ^A special worship of the Divine Mother had taken place that night in the Kali temple. On similar occasions in previous years the proprietors of the temple had arranged the performance of the yatra.
- ^She meant “yes”. In India it is customary not to mention one’s meritorious deeds.
- ^An Indian medicine made of mercury and sulphur, in the preparation of which gold acts as a catalytic agent.
- ^The Hindu scriptures command the householder to visit a holy man with suitable presents.
- ^The Master meant that the guru, Krishna, and the Vaishnava were to be equally revered. One should honour the Vaishnava because God dwells in his heart.
- ^The story is in the Mahabharata. Drona refused to teach Ekalavya archery because the latter belonged to a low caste. Thereupon Ekalavya went to the forest and practised archery before the clay image of Drona, whom he regarded as his teacher. In course of time he became an expert archer. When Drona discovered that he excelled even Arjuna, Drona’s most beloved disciple, in this art, he asked Ekalavya to give him his thumb as the teacher’s fee. By carrying out this order, Ekalavya demonstrated his spirit of self-sacrifice and also his love for his teacher.
- ^A paramahamsa is one belonging to the highest order of monks; the word also means swan”. There is a popular tradition in India that a swan can separate the milk from a mixture of milk and water. It is said that a secretion of acid turns the milk into curd, which the swan eats, leaving the water.
- ^An allusion to the game of hide-and-seek.
(The allusion is to the Indian game of hide-and-seek, in which the leader, known as the “granny”, bandages the eyes of the players and hides herself. The players are supposed to find her. If any player can touch her, the bandage is removed from his eyes and he is released from the game.)
- ^The body with its nine apertures, such as eyes, ears, nose, mouth, etc.
- ^The three gunas.