God and His splendour — God Himself has become everything — Influence of company — Obstacles to yoga — Spiritual discipline — Will-power needed for renunciation — Master denounces hypocrisy — The ideal of a spiritual family — Different forms of austerity — Sin and repentance — Rules for concentration — Two forms of meditation — Meaning of Om — Ignorance, knowledge, and Supreme Wisdom — The two egos — God’s manifestation through man — The Eternal Religion — Man teaches by God’s power — Signs of Knowledge — Two kinds of renunciation — Advantage of a householder’s life — Practice of continence — Sannyasi’s absolute self-control.
Sunday, March 9, 1884
SRI RAMAKRISHNA was sitting in his room at Dakshineswar with many devotees. Among them were Mani Mallick, Mahendra Kaviraj, Balaram, M., Bhavanath, Rakhal, Latu, and Harish. The Master’s injured arm was in a splint. In spite of the injury he was constantly absorbed in samadhi or instructing the devotees.
Mani Mallick and Bhavanath referred to the exhibition which was then being held near the Asiatic Museum. They said: “Many maharajas have sent precious articles to the exhibition — gold couches and the like. It is worth seeing.”
MASTER (to the devotees, with a smile): “Yes, you gain much by visiting those things. You realise that those articles of gold and the other things sent by maharajas are mere trash. That is a great gain in itself. When I used to go to Calcutta with Hriday, he would show me the Viceroy’s palace and say: ‘Look, uncle! There is the Viceroy’s palace with the big columns.’ The Mother revealed to me that they were merely clay bricks laid one on top of another.
“God and His splendour. God alone is real; the splendour has but a two-days existence. The magician and his magic. All become speechless with wonder at the magic, but it is all unreal. The magician alone is real. The rich man and his garden. People see only the garden; they should look for its rich owner.”
MANI MALLICK (to the Master): “What a big electric light they have at the exhibition! It makes us think how great He must be who has made such an electric light.”
MASTER (to Mani): “But according to one view it is He Himself who has become everything. Even those who say that are He. It is Satchidananda Itself that has become all — the Creator, maya, the universe, and living beings.”
The conversation turned to the museum.
MASTER (to the devotees): “I visited the museum once. I was shown fossils. A whole animal has become stone! Just see what an effect has been produced by company! Likewise, by constantly living in the company of a holy man one verily becomes holy.”
MANI (smiling): “Had you visited the exhibition only once, we could receive instruction for ten or fifteen years.”
MASTER (with a smile): “How so? You mean illustrations?”
BALARAM: “No, you shouldn’t go. Your arm won’t heal if you go here and there.”
MASTER: “I should like to have two pictures. One of a yogi seated before a lighted log, and another of a yogi smoking hemp and the charcoal blazing up as he pulls. Such pictures kindle my spiritual consciousness, as an imitation fruit awakens the idea of a real one.
“The obstacle to yoga is ‘woman and gold’. Yoga is possible when the mind becomes pure. The seat of the mind is between the eyebrows; but its look is fixed on the navel and the organs of generation and evacuation, that is to say, on ‘woman and gold’. But through spiritual discipline the same mind looks upward.
“What are the spiritual disciplines that give the mind its upward direction? One learns all this by constantly living in holy company. The rishis of olden times lived either in solitude or in the company of holy persons; therefore they could easily renounce ‘woman and gold’ and fix their minds on God. They had no fear nor did they mind the criticism of others.
“In order to be able to renounce, one must pray to God for the will-power to do so. One must immediately renounce what one feels to be unreal. The rishis had this will-power. Through it they controlled the sense-organs. If the tortoise once tucks in its limbs, you cannot make it bring them out even by cutting it into four pieces.
“The worldly man is a hypocrite. He cannot be guileless. He professes to love God, but he is attracted by worldly objects. He doesn’t give God even a very small part of the love he feels for ‘woman and gold’. But he says that he loves God. (To Mani Mallick) Give up hypocrisy.”
MANI: “Regarding whom, God or man?”
MASTER: “Regarding everything — man as well as God. One must not be a hypocrite.
“How guileless Bhavanath is! After his marriage he came to me and asked, ‘Why do I feel so much love for my wife?’ Alas, he is so guileless!
“Isn’t it natural for a man to love his wife? This is due to the world-bewitching maya of the Divine Mother of the Universe. A man feels about his wife that he has no one else in the world so near and dear; that she is his very own in life and death, here and hereafter.
“Again, how much a man suffers for his wife! Still he believes that there is no other relative so near. Look at the sad plight of a husband. Perhaps he earns twenty rupees a month and is the father of three children. He hasn’t the means to feed them well. His roof leaks, but he hasn’t the wherewithal to repair it. He cannot afford to buy new books for his son. He cannot invest his son with the sacred thread. He begs a few pennies from his different friends.
“But a wife endowed with spiritual wisdom is a real partner in life. She greatly helps her husband to follow the religious path. After the birth of one or two children they live like brother and sister. Both of them are devotees of God — His servant and His handmaid. Their family is a spiritual family. They are always happy with God and His devotees. They know that God alone is their own, from everlasting to everlasting. They are like the Pandava brothers; they do not forget God in happiness or in sorrow.
“The longing of the worldly-minded for God is momentary, like a drop of water on a red-hot frying-pan. The water hisses and dries up in an instant. The attention of the worldly-minded is directed to the enjoyment of worldly pleasure. Therefore they do not feel yearning and restlessness for God.
“People may observe the ekadasi in three ways. First, the ‘waterless’ ekadasi — they are not permitted to drink even a drop of water. Likewise, an all-renouncing religious mendicant completely gives up all forms of enjoyment. Second, while observing the ekadasi they take milk and sandesh. Likewise, a householder devotee keeps in his house simple objects of enjoyment. Third, while observing the ekadasi they eat luchi and chakka. They eat their fill. They keep a couple of loaves soaking in milk, which they will eat later on.1
“A man practises spiritual discipline, but his mind is on ‘woman and gold’ — it is turned toward enjoyment. Therefore, in his case, the spiritual discipline does not produce the right result.
“Hazra used to practise much japa and austerity here. But in the country he has his wife, children, and land. Therefore along with his spiritual discipline he carried on the business of a broker. Such people cannot be true to their word. One moment they say they will give up fish, but the next moment they break their vow.
“Is there anything that a man will not do for money? He will even compel a brahmin or a holy man to carry a load.
“In my room sweets would turn bad; still I could not give them away to the worldly-minded. I could accept dirty water from others, but not even touch the jar of a worldly person.
“At the sight of rich people Hazra would call them to him. He would give them long lectures. He would say to them: ‘You see Rakhal and the other youngsters. They do not practise any spiritual discipline. They simply wander about merrily.’
“A man may live in a mountain cave, smear his body with ashes, observe fasts, and practise austere discipline; but if his mind dwells on worldly objects, on ‘woman and gold’, I say, ‘Shame on him!’ But I say that a man is blessed indeed who eats, drinks, and roams about, but who keeps his mind free from ‘woman and gold’.
(Pointing to Mani Mallick) “There is no picture of a holy man at his house. Divine feeling is awakened through such pictures.”
MANILAL: “Yes, there is. In one room there is a picture of a pious Christian woman engaged in prayer. There is another picture in which a man holds to the Hill of Faith; below is an ocean of immeasurable depth. If he gives up his hold on faith, he will drop into the bottomless water. There is still a third picture. Several virgins are keeping vigil, feeding their lamps with oil in expectation of the Bridegroom. A sleeping virgin is by their side. She will not behold the Bridegroom when He arrives. God is described here as the Bridegroom.”
MASTER (smiling): “That’s very nice.”
MANILAL: “I have other pictures too — one of the Tree of Faith’ and another of ‘Sin and Virtue’.”
MASTER (to Bhavanath): “Those are good pictures. Go to his house and see them.”
The Master remained silent a few minutes.
MASTER: “Now and then I reflect on these ideas and find that I do not like them. In the beginning of spiritual life a man should think about sin and how to get rid of it. But when, through the grace of God, devotion and ecstatic love are awakened in his heart, then he altogether forgets virtue and sin. Then he leaves the scriptures and their injunctions far behind. Thoughts of repentance and penance do not bother him at all.
“It is like going to your destination along a winding river. This requires great effort and a long time. But when there is a flood all around, then you can go straight to your destination in a short time. Then you find the land lying under water deep as a bamboo pole.
“In the beginning of spiritual life one goes by a roundabout way. One has to suffer a great deal. But the path becomes very easy when ecstatic love is awakened in the heart. It is like going over the paddy-field after the harvest is over. You may then walk in any direction. Before the harvest you had to go along the winding balk, but now you can walk in any direction. There may be stubble in the field, but you will not be hurt by it if you walk with your shoes on. Just so, an aspirant does not suffer if he has discrimination, dispassion, and faith in the guru’s words.”
MANILAL (to the Master): “Well, what is the rule for concentration? Where should one concentrate?”
MASTER: “The heart is a splendid place. One can meditate there or in the Sahasrara. These are rules for meditation given in the scriptures. But you may meditate wherever you like. Every place is filled with Brahman-Consciousness. Is there any place where It does not exist? Narayana, in Vali’s presence, covered with two steps the heavens, the earth, and the interspaces.2 Is there then any place left uncovered by God? A dirty place is as holy as the bank of the Ganges. It is said that the whole creation is the Virat, the Universal Form of God.
There are two kinds of meditation, one on the formless God and the other on God with form. But meditation on the formless God is extremely difficult. In that meditation you must wipe out all that you see or hear. You contemplate only the nature of your Inner Self. Meditating on His Inner Self, Siva dances about. He exclaims, ‘What am I! What am I!’ This is called the ‘Siva yoga’. While practising this form of meditation, one directs one’s look to the forehead. It is meditation on the nature of one’s Inner Self after negating the world, following the Vedantic method of ‘Neti, neti’.
“There is another form of meditation known as the ‘Vishnu yoga’. The eyes are fixed on the tip of the nose. Half the look is directed inward and the other half outward. This is how one meditates on God with form. Sometimes Siva meditates on God with form, and dances. At that time he exclaims, ‘Rama! Rama!’ and dances about.”
Sri Ramakrishna then explained the sacred Word “Om” and the true Knowledge of Brahman and the state of mind after the attainment of Brahma jnana.
MASTER: “The sound Om is Brahman. The rishis and sages practised austerity to realise that Sound-Brahman. After attaining perfection one hears the sound of this eternal Word rising spontaneously from the navel.
“‘What will you gain’, some sages ask, ‘by merely hearing this sound?’ You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal. But such vision is not possible as long as you are conscious of your ego. A man realises Brahman only when he feels neither ‘I’ nor ‘you’, neither ‘one’ nor ‘many’.
“Think of the sun and of ten jars filled with water. The sun is reflected in each jar. At first you see one real sun and ten reflected ones. If you break nine of the jars, there will remain only the real sun and one reflection. Each jar represents a jiva. Following the reflection one can find the real sun. Through the individual soul one can reach the Supreme Soul. Through spiritual discipline the individual soul can get the vision of the Supreme Soul. What remains when the last jar is broken cannot be described.
“The jiva at first remains in a state of ignorance. He is not conscious of God, but of the multiplicity. He sees many things around him. On attaining Knowledge he becomes conscious that God dwells in all beings. Suppose a man has a thorn in the sole of his foot. He gets another thorn and takes out the first one. In other words, he removes the thorn of ajnana, ignorance, by means of the thorn of jnana, knowledge. But on attaining vijnana, he discards both thorns, knowledge and ignorance. Then he talks intimately with God day and night. It is no mere vision of God.
“He who has merely heard of milk is ‘ignorant’. He who has seen milk has ‘knowledge’. But he who has drunk milk and been strengthened by it has attained vijnana.”
Thus the Master described his own state of mind to the devotees. He was indeed a vijnani.
MASTER (to the devotees): “There is a difference between a sadhu endowed with jnana and one endowed with vijnana. The jnani sadhu has a certain way of sitting. He twirls his moustache and asks the visitor, ‘Well, sir! Have you any question to ask?’ But the man who always sees God and talks to Him intimately has an altogether different nature. He is sometimes like an inert thing, sometimes like a ghoul, sometimes like a child, and sometimes like a madman.
“When he is in samadhi, he becomes unconscious of the outer world and appears inert. He sees everything to be full of Brahman-Consciousness; therefore he behaves like a ghoul. He is not conscious of the holy and the unholy. He does not observe any formal purity. To him everything is Brahman. He is not aware of filth as such. Even rice and other cooked food after a few days become like filth.
‘”Again, he is like a madman. People notice his ways and actions and think of him as insane. Or sometimes he is like a child — no bondage, no shame, no hatred, no hesitation, or the like.
“One reaches this state of mind after having the vision of God. When a boat passes by a magnetic hill, its screws and nails become loose and drop out. Lust, anger, and the other passions cannot exist after the vision of God.
“Once a thunderbolt struck the Kali temple. I noticed that it flattened the points of the screws.
“It is no longer possible for the man who has seen God to beget children and perpetuate the creation. When a grain of paddy is sown it grows into a plant; but a grain of boiled paddy does not germinate.
“He who has seen God retains his ‘I’ only in name. No evil can be done by that ‘I’. It is a mere appearance, like the mark left on the coconut tree by its branch. The branch has fallen off. Only the mark remains.
“I said to Keshab Sen, ‘Give up the ego that makes you feel, “I am the doer; I am teaching people.”‘ Keshab said to me, ‘Sir, then I cannot keep the organization.’ Thereupon I said to him, ‘Give up the “wicked ego”.’ One doesn’t have to renounce the ego that makes one feel, ‘I am the servant of God; I am His devotee.’ One doesn’t develop the ‘divine ego’ as long as one retains the ‘wicked ego’. If a man is in charge of the store-room, the master of the house doesn’t feel responsible for it.
(To the devotees) “You see, my nature is changing on account of this injury to my arm. It is being revealed to me that there is a greater manifestation of God in man than in other created beings. God is telling me, as it were: ‘I dwell in men. Be merry with men.’ Among men God manifests Himself in a still greater degree in pure-souled devotees. That is why I feel great longing for Narendra, Rakhal, and other such youngsters.
“One often sees small holes along the edge of a lake. Fish and crabs accumulate there. Just so, there is a greater accumulation of divinity in man. It is said that man is greater than the salagram. Man is Narayana Himself. If God can manifest Himself through an image, then why not through man also?
“God is born as man for the purpose of sporting as man. Rama, Krishna, and Chaitanya are examples. By meditating on an Incarnation of God one Meditates on God Himself.”
Bhagavan Das, a Brahmo devotee, arrived.
MASTER (to Bhagavan Das): “The Eternal Religion, the religion of the rishis, has been in existence from time out of mind and will exist eternally. There exist in this Sanatana Dharma all forms of worship — worship of God with form and worship of the Impersonal Deity as well. It contains all paths — the path of knowledge, the path of devotion, and so on. Other forms of religion, the modern cults, will remain for a few days and then disappear.”
March 23, 1884
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in his room after his midday meal, with Rakhal, Ram, and some other devotees. He was not quite well. The injured arm was still bandaged.
But in spite of his illness, his room was a veritable mart of joy and he the centre of it. Devotees thronged there daily to see the Master. Spiritual talk went on incessantly, and the very air of the room vibrated with bliss. Sometimes the Master would sing the name and glories of God, and sometimes he would go into samadhi, the devotees being amazed at the ease with which the Master freed himself from the consciousness of the body.
RAM: “There is talk of Narendra’s marrying Mr. R. Mitra’s daughter. Narendra has been offered a large dowry.”
MASTER (smiling): “Yes, Narendra may thus become a leader of society or something like that. He will be an outstanding man, whatever career he follows.”
The Master did not much encourage the conversation about Narendra.
MASTER (to Ram): “Well, can you tell me why I become so impatient when I am ill? Sometimes I ask this man and sometimes that man how I may be cured. You see, one must either believe everyone or no one at all.
“It is God Himself who has become the physicians. Therefore one must believe all of them. But one cannot have faith in them if one thinks of them as mere men.
“Sambhu was fearfully delirious. Dr. Sarvadhikari said that the delirium was due to the strong medicine. Haladhari asked the doctor to feel his pulse. The doctor said: ‘Let me see your eyes. Oh, it is an enlargement of the spleen!’ Haladhari said he had nothing of the sort. But Dr. Madhu gives good medicine.”
RAM: “The medicine by itself does no good, though it greatly helps nature.”
MASTER: “If that is so, why does opium cause constipation?”
Ram referred to Keshab Sen’s death.
RAM: “You were quite right. You said that a gardener uncovers the roots of a good rose-plant so that it may absorb the dew and grow stronger and healthier. The words of a holy man have been fulfilled.”
MASTER: “I don’t know about that. I wasn’t calculating when I said it. It is you who say that.”
RAM: “The Brahmos have published something about you in their magazine.”
MASTER: “Published about me? Why? Why should they write now? I eat and drink and make merry. I don’t know anything else.
“I once asked Keshab, ‘Why have you written about me?’ He said that it would bring people here. But man cannot teach by his own power. One cannot conquer ignorance without the power of God.
“At one time two men were engaged to wrestle. One of them was Hanuman Singh and the other a Mussalman from the Punjab. The Mussalman was a strong, stout man. He had eaten lustily of butter and meat for fifteen days before the day of the wrestling-match, and even on that day. All thought he would be the victor. Hanuman Singh, on the other hand, clad in a dirty cloth, had eaten sparingly for some days before the day of the match and devoted himself to repeating the holy name of Mahavir. (Mahavir, or Hanuman, is the patron deity of wrestlers.) On the day of the match he observed a complete fast. All thought that he would surely be defeated. But it was he who won, while the man who had feasted for fifteen days lost the fight.
“What is the use of printing and advertising? He who teaches men gets his power from God. None but a man of renunciation can teach others. I am the greatest of all fools!” (All laugh.)
A DEVOTEE: “Then how is it that the Vedas and the Vedanta, and many things besides, come out of your mouth?”
MASTER (smiling): “During my boyhood I could understand what the sadhus read at the Lahas’ house at Kamarpukur, although I would miss a little here and there. If a pundit speaks to me in Sanskrit I can follow him, but I cannot speak it myself.
“To realise God is the one goal of life. While aiming his arrow at the mark, Arjuna said, ‘I see only the eye of the bird and nothing else — not the kings, not the trees, not even the bird itself.’
“The realisation of God is enough for me. What does it matter if I don’t know Sanskrit?
“The grace of God falls alike on all His children, learned and illiterate — whoever longs for Him. The father has the same love for all his children. Suppose a father has five children. One calls him ‘Baba’, some ‘Ba’, and some ‘Pa’. These last cannot pronounce the whole word. Does the father love those who address him as ‘Baba’ more than those who call him ‘Pa’? The father knows that these last are simply too young to say ‘Baba’ correctly.
“Since this injury to my arm a change has been coming over my mind. I have been feeling much inclined to the Naralila. It is God Himself who plays about as human beings. If God can be worshipped through a clay image, then why not through a man?
“Once a merchant was shipwrecked. He floated to the shore of Ceylon, where Bibhishana was the king of the monsters. Bibhishana ordered his servants to bring the merchant to him. At the sight of him Bibhishana was overwhelmed with joy and said: ‘Ah! He looks like my Rama. The same human form!’ He adorned the merchant with robes and jewels, and worshipped him. When I first heard this story, I felt such joy that I cannot describe it.
“Vaishnavcharan said to me, ‘If a person looks on his beloved as his Ishta, he finds it very easy to direct his mind to God.’ The men and women of a particular sect3 at Syambazar, near Kamarpukur, say to each other, ‘Whom do you love?’ ‘I love so-and-so.’ ‘Then know him to be your God.’ When I heard this, I said to them: ‘That is not my way. I look on all women as my mother.’ I found out that they talked big but led immoral lives. The women then asked me if they would have salvation. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘if you are absolutely faithful to one man and look on him as your God. But you cannot be liberated if you live with five men.'”
RAM: “I understand that Kedar Babu has recently visited the Kartabhajas’ place.”
MASTER: “He gathers honey from various flowers. (To Ram, Nityagopal, and the others) If a devotee believes one hundred per cent that his Chosen Ideal is God, then he attains God and sees Him.
“People of bygone generations had tremendous faith. What faith Haladhari’s father had! Once he was on the way to his daughter’s house when he noticed some beautiful flowers and vilwa-leaves. He gathered them for the worship of the Family Deity and walked back five or six miles to his own house.
“Once a theatrical troupe in the village was enacting the life of Rama. When Kaikeyi asked Rama to go into exile in the forest, Haladhari’s father, who had been watching the performance, sprang up. He went to the actor who played Kaikeyi, crying out, ‘You wretch!’, and was about to burn the actor’s face with a torch. He was a very pious man. After finishing his ablutions he would stand in the water and meditate on the Deity, reciting the invocation: ‘I meditate on Thee, of red hue and four faces’, while tears streamed down his cheeks.
“When my father walked along the lanes of the village wearing his wooden sandals, the shopkeepers would stand up out of respect and say, ‘There he comes!’ When he bathed in the Haldarpukur, the villagers would not have the courage to get into the water. Before bathing they would inquire if he had finished his bath.
“When my father chanted the name of Raghuvir, his chest would turn crimson. This also happened to me. When I saw the cows at Vrindavan returning from the pasture, I was transported into a divine mood and my body became red.
“Very strong was the faith of the people in those days. One hears that God used to dance then, taking the form of Kali, while the devotee clapped his hands keeping time.”
A hathayogi was staying in the hut at the Panchavati. Ramprasanna, the son of Krishnakishore of Ariadaha, and several other men had become his devotees. The yogi needed twenty-five rupees a month for his milk and opium; so Ramprasanna had requested Sri Ramakrishna to speak to his devotees about the yogi and get some money. The Master said to several devotees: “A hathayogi has come to the Panchavati. Go and visit him. See what sort of man he is.”
A young man of twenty-seven or twenty-eight, known as Thakur Dada, entered the room with a few friends and saluted the Master. He lived at Baranagore and was the son of a brahmin pundit. He was practising the kathakata4 in order to earn money to meet his family’s expenses. At one time he had been seized with the spirit of renunciation and had gone away from his family. Even now he practised spiritual discipline at home.
MASTER: “Have you come on foot? Where do you live?”
DADA: “Yes, sir, I have walked from home. I live at Baranagore.”
MASTER: “Have you come here for any particular purpose?”
DADA: “I have come here to visit you. I pray to God. But why do I suffer now and then from worries? For a few days I feel very happy. Why do I feel restless afterwards?”
MASTER: “I see. Things have not been fitted quite exactly. The machine works smoothly if the mechanic fits the cogs of the wheels correctly. In your case there is an obstruction somewhere.”
DADA: “Yes, sir. That must be so.”
MASTER: “Are you initiated?”
DADA: “Yes, sir.”
MASTER: “Do you have faith in your mantra?”
A friend of Thakur Dada said that the latter could sing well. The Master asked him to sing.
Thakur Dada sang:
I shall become a yogi and dwell in Love’s mountain cave;
I shall be lost in yoga beside the Fountain-head of Bliss.
I shall appease my hunger for Knowledge with the fruit of Truth;
I shall worship the feet of God with the flower of Dispassion.
I shall not seek a well to slake the burning thirst of my heart,
But I shall draw the water of Peace into the jar of my soul.
Drinking the glorious Nectar of Thy blessed Lotus Feet,
I shall both laugh and dance and weep and sing on the heights of Joy.
MASTER: “Ah, what a nice song! “Fountain-head of Bliss’! ‘Fruit of Truth’! ‘Laugh and dance and weep and sing’! Your song tastes very sweet to me. Why should you worry?
“Pleasure and pain are inevitable in the life of the world. One suffers now and then from a little worry and trouble. A man living in a room full of soot cannot avoid being a little stained.”
DADA: “Please tell me what I should do now.”
MASTER: “Chant the name of Hari morning and evening, clapping your hands. Come once more when my arm is healed a bit.”
Mahimacharan entered the room and saluted the Master. Sri Ramakrishna said to him: “Ah! He has sung a nice song. Please sing it again.” Thakur Dada repeated the song.
MASTER (to Mahima): “Please recite that verse, the one about devotion to Hari.”
Mahimacharan recited, quoting from the Narada Pancharatra:
What need is there of penance if God is worshipped with love?
What is the use of penance if God is not worshipped with love?
What need is there of penance if God is seen within and without?
What is the use of penance if God is not seen within and without?
MASTER: “Recite that part also — ‘Obtain from Him the love of God’.”
O Brahman! O my child! Cease from practising further penances.
Hasten to Sankara, the Ocean of Heavenly Wisdom;
Obtain from Him the love of God, the pure love praised by devotees,
Which snaps in twain the shackles that bind you to the world.
MASTER: “Yes, Sankara will bestow the love of God.”
MAHIMA: “One who is free from bondage is the eternal Siva.”
MASTER: “Shame, hatred, fear, hesitation — these are the shackles. What do you say?”
MAHIMA: “Yes, sir. And also the desire to conceal, and shrinking before praise.”
MASTER: “There are two signs of knowledge. First, an unshakable buddhi. No matter how many sorrows, afflictions, dangers, and obstacles one may be faced with, one’s mind does not undergo any change. It is like the blacksmith’s anvil, which receives constant blows from the hammer and still remains unshaken. And second, manliness — very strong grit. If lust and anger injure a man, he must renounce them once for all. If a tortoise once tucks in its limbs, it won’t put them out again though you may cut it into four pieces. (To Thakur Dada and the others) There are two kinds of renunciation: intense and feeble. Feeble renunciation is a slow process; one moves in a slow rhythm. Intense renunciation is like the sharp edge of a razor. It cuts the bondage of maya easily and at once.
“One farmer labours for days to bring water from the lake to his field. But his efforts are futile because he has no grit. Another farmer, after labouring for two or three days, takes a vow and says, ‘I will bring water into my field today, and not till then will I go home.’ He puts aside all thought of his bath or his meal. He labours the whole day and feels great joy when in the evening he finds water entering his field with a murmuring sound. Then he goes home and says to his wife: ‘Now give me some oil. I shall take my bath.’ After finishing his bath and his meal he lies down to sleep with a peaceful mind.
“A certain woman said to her husband: ‘So-and-so has developed a spirit of great dispassion for the world, but I don’t see anything of the sort in you. He has sixteen wives. He is giving them up one by one.’ The husband, with a towel on his shoulder, was going to the lake for his bath. He said to his wife: ‘You are crazy! He won’t be able to give up the world. Is it ever possible to renounce bit by bit? I can renounce. Look! Here I go.’ He didn’t stop even to settle his household affairs. He left home just as he was, the towel on his shoulder, and went away. That is intense renunciation.
“There is another kind of renunciation, called ‘markatavairagya’, ‘monkey renunciation’. A man, harrowed by distress at home, puts on an ochre robe and goes away to Benares. For many days he does not send home any news of himself. Then he writes to his people: ‘Don’t be worried about me. I have got a job here.’
“There is always trouble in family life. The wife may be disobedient. Perhaps the husband earns only twenty rupees a month. He hasn’t the means to perform the ‘rice-eating ceremony’ for his baby. He cannot educate his son. The house is dilapidated. The roof leaks and he hasn’t the money to repair it.
“Therefore when the youngsters come here I ask them whether they have anyone at home. (To Mahima) Why should householders renounce the world? What great troubles the wandering monks pass through! The wife of a certain man said to him: ‘You want to renounce the world? Why? You will have to beg morsels from eight different homes. But here you get all your food at once place. Isn’t that nice?’
“Wandering monks, while searching for a sadavrata,5 may have to go six miles out of their way. I have seen them travelling along the regular road after their pilgrimage to Puri and making a detour to find an eating-place.
“You are leading a householder’s life. That is very good. It is like fighting from a fort. There are many disadvantages in fighting in an open field. So many dangers, too. Bullets may hit you.
“But one should spend some time in solitude and attain Knowledge. Then one can lead the life of a householder. Janaka lived in the world after attaining Knowledge. When you have gained it, you may live anywhere. Then nothing matters.”
MAHIMA: “Sir, why does a man become deluded by worldly objects?”
MASTER: “It is because he lives in their midst without having realised God. Man never succumbs to delusion after he has realised God. The moth no longer enjoys darkness if it has once seen the light.
“To be able to realise God, one must practise absolute continence. Sages like Sukadeva are examples of an urdhareta. (A man of unbroken and complete continence.) Their chastity was absolutely unbroken. There is another class, who previously have had discharges of semen but who later on have controlled them. A man controlling the seminal fluid for twelve years develops a special power. He grows a new inner nerve called the nerve of memory. Through that nerve he remembers all, he understands all.
“Loss of semen impairs the strength. But it does not injure one if one loses it in a dream. That semen one gets from food. What remains after nocturnal discharge is enough. But one must not know a woman.
“The semen that remains after nocturnal discharge is very ‘refined’. The Lahas kept jars of molasses in their house. Every jar had a hole in it. After a year they found that the molasses had crystallized like sugar candy. The unnecessary watery part had leaked out through the hole.
“A sannyasi must absolutely renounce woman. You are already involved; but that doesn’t matter.
“A sannyasi must not look even at the picture of a woman. But this is too difficult for an ordinary man. Sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni are the seven notes of the scale. It is not possible to keep your voice on ‘ni’ a long time.
“To lose semen is extremely harmful for a sannyasi. Therefore he must live so carefully that he will not have to see the form of a woman. He must keep himself away from a woman even if she is a devotee of God. It is injurious for him to look even at the picture of a woman. He will lose semen in a dream, if not in the waking state.
“A sannyasi may have control over his senses, but to set an example to mankind he should not talk with women. He must not talk to one very long, even if she is a devotee of God.
“Living as a sannyasi is like observing the ekadasi without drinking even a drop of water. There are two other ways of observing the day. You may eat fruit or take luchi and curry. With the luchi and curry you may also take slices of bread soaked in milk. (All laugh.)
(Smiling) “Absolute fasting is not possible for you.
“Once I saw Krishnakishore eating, luchi and curry on an ekadasi day. I said to Hriday, ‘Hridu, I want to observe Krishnakishore’s ekadasi!’ (All laugh.) And so I did one day. I ate my fill. The next day I had to fast.” (Laughter.)
The devotees who had gone to the Panchavati to visit the hathayogi came back.
MASTER (addressing them): “Well, what do you think of him? I dare say you have measured him with your own tape.”
Sri Ramakrishna saw that very few of the devotees were willing to give money to the hathayogi.
MASTER: “You don’t like a sadhu if you have to give him money. Rajendra Mitra draws a salary of eight hundred rupees a month. He had been to Allahabad to see the kumbhamela. I asked him, ‘Well, what kind of sadhus did you see at the fair?’ Rajendra said: ‘I didn’t find any very great sadhu there. I noticed one, it is true. But even he accepted money.’
“I say to myself, ‘If no one gives money to a sadhu, then how will he feed himself?’ There is no collection plate here; therefore all come. And I say to myself: ‘Alas! They love their money. Let them have it.'”
The Master rested awhile. A devotee sat on the end of the small couch and gently stroked his feet. The Master said to him softly: “That which is formless again has form. One should believe in the forms of God also. By meditating on Kali the aspirant realises God as Kali. Next he finds that the form merges in the Indivisible Absolute. That which is the Indivisible Satchidananda is verily Kali.”
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the semicircular porch west of his room, talking with Mahima and other devotees about the hathayogi. The talk drifted to Ramprasanna, the son of Krishnakishore. The Master was fond of the young man.
MASTER: “Ramprasanna roams about aimlessly. The other day he came here and sat in the room, but he did not speak a word. He pressed his nostrils with his fingers, practising pranayama. I offered him something to eat, but he wouldn’t take it. On another occasion I had asked him to sit by me. He squatted on the floor placing one leg upon the other. He was rather discourteous to Captain. I weep at his mother’s suffering.
(To Mahima) “Ramprasanna asked me to speak to you about the hathayogi. The yogi’s daily expenses are six and a half annas. But he won’t tell you about it himself.”
MAHIMA: “Who will listen to him even if he does?”
Mani Sen of Panihati entered the room with several friends, one of whom was a physician. Mani asked the Master about his injured arm. The doctor did not approve of the medicine prescribed by Pratap Mazumdar. The Master said to him: “Why should you say that? Pratap is no fool.”
Suddenly Latu cried out, “Oh! The medicine Bottle has dropped and broken.”
It was not yet dusk. The Master, seated on the couch, was talking to M. Mahimacharan was on the semicircular porch engaged in a loud discussion of the scriptures with the physician friend of Mani Sen. Sri Ramakrishna heard it and with a smile said to M.: “There! He is delivering himself. That is the characteristic of rajas. It stimulates the desire to lecture and to show off one’s scholarship. But sattva makes one introspective. It makes one hide one’s virtues. But I must say that Mahima is a grand person. He takes such delight in spiritual talk.”
Adhar entered the room, saluted the Master, and sat by M.’s side. He had not come for the past few days.
MASTER: “Hello! Why haven’t you come all these days?.”
ADHAR: “Sir, I have been busy with so many things. I had to attend a conference of the school committee and various other meetings.”
MASTER: “So you completely lost yourself in schools and meetings and forgot everything else?”
ADHAR: “Everything else was hidden away in a corner of my mind. How is your arm?”
MASTER: “Just look. It is not yet healed. I have been taking medicine prescribed by Pratap.”
After a time the Master suddenly said to Adhar: “Look here. All these are unreal — meetings, school, office, and everything else. God alone is the Substance, and all else is illusory. One should worship God with one’s whole mind.”
Adhar sat without speaking a word.
MASTER: “All else is illusory. This moment the body is and the next moment it is not. One must make haste to worship God.6
“But you don’t have to renounce everything. Live in the world the way the tortoise does. The tortoise roams about in the water but keeps its eggs on land. Its whole mind is on the eggs.
“What a nice state of mind Captain has developed! He looks like a rishi when he is seated to perform worship. He performs the arati with lighted camphor and recites beautiful hymns. When he rises from his seat after finishing the worship, his eyes are swollen from emotion, as if bitten by ants. Besides, he always devotes himself to the study of the sacred books, such as the Gita and the Bhagavata. Once I used one or two English words before him, and that made him angry. He said, ‘English-educated people are profane.'”
After a while Adhar said humbly to the Master: “Sir, you haven’t been to our place for a long time. The drawing-room smells worldly and everything else appears to be steeped in darkness.”
The Master was deeply touched by these words of his devotee. He suddenly stood up and blessed M. and Adhar in an ecstatic mood, touching their heads and hearts. In a voice choked with love the Master said: “I look upon you as Narayana Himself. You are indeed my own.”
Mahimacharan entered the room.
MASTER (to Mahima): “What I said about aspirants practising continence is true. Without chastity one cannot assimilate these teachings.
“Once a man said to Chaitanya: ‘You give the devotees so much instruction. Why don’t they make much progress?’ Chaitanya said: ‘They dissipate their powers in the company of women. That is why they cannot assimilate spiritual instruction. If one keeps water in a leaky jar, the water escapes little by little through the leak.'”
Mahima and the other devotees remained silent. After a time Mahima said, “Please pray to God for us that we may acquire the necessary strength.”
MASTER: “Be on your guard even now. It is difficult, no doubt, to check the torrent in the rainy season. But a great deal of water has gone out. If you build the embankment now it will stand.”
- ^This observance is an ekadasi in name only, since the observer fills his stomach with delicious food. By avoiding rice and a few cooked articles, he keeps to the letter of the law.
- ^A reference to a story in the Bhagavata. King Vali was proud of his charity. God appeared before him in the form of a dwarf and asked him for the space that He could cover with three steps. Vali granted the boon. With two steps the Lord covered the earth, the heavens, and the interspaces. Vali was forced to place his own head before the Lord for the third step. This curbed his pride.
- ^The reference is to certain minor sects of Vaishnavism, such as the Kartabhaja and the Navarasika, which teach that men and women should live together in the relationship of love. Gradually they should idealize their love by looking upon each other as divine, eventually realizing that their physical love is also the love of God. This is very difficult to realise.
- ^The recital of stories from religious books, with appropriate music.
- ^An eating-place where food is supplied free to monks and beggars.
- ^A few months after this conversation Adhar died.