Passions should be directed to God — Money is the source of trouble — Do your duties and remember God — Means of Self-realisation — Keeping the pictures of holy persons — God in human forms — Divine Incarnation — Master and Keshab — God, the scripture, and the devotee are identical — Brahman and Sakti — Difficulties of householder’s life — The three gunas — The bondage of “woman and gold” — Corrupting influence of lust — Prema — Strict rules for sannyasi’s life — The sannyasi is a world teacher.
Saturday, May 24, 1884
SRI RAMAKRISHNA was sitting on the small couch in his room. Rakhal, M., and several other devotees were present. A special worship of Kali had been performed in the temple the previous night. In connexion with the worship a theatrical performance of the Vidyasundar had been staged in the natmandir. The Master had watched a part of it that morning. The actors came to his room to pay him their respects. The Master, in a happy mood, became engaged in conversation with a fair complexioned young man who had taken the part of Vidya and played his part very well.
MASTER (to the actor): “Your acting was very good. If a person excels in singing, music, dancing, or any other art, he can also quickly realise God provided he strives sincerely.
“Just as you practise much in order to sing, dance, and play on instruments, so one should practise the art of fixing the mind on God. One should practise regularly such disciplines as worship, japa, and meditation.
“Are you married? Any children?”
ACTOR: “Yes, sir. I had a girl who died. Another child has been born.”
MASTER: “Ah! A death and a birth, and all so quickly! You are so young! There is a saying: ‘My husband died just after our marriage. There are so many nights for me to weep!’ You are no doubt realizing the nature of worldly happiness. The world is like a hog plum. The hog plum has only pit and skin, and after eating it you suffer from colic.
“You are an actor in the theatre. That’s fine. But it is a very painful profession. You are young now; so you have a full, round face. Afterwards there will be hollows in your cheeks. Almost all actors become like that; they get hollow cheeks and big bellies. (Laughter.)
“Why did I stay to watch your performance? I found the rhythm, the music, and the melody all correct. Then the Divine Mother showed me that it was God alone who acted in the performance in the roles of the players.”
ACTOR: “Sir, what is the difference between lust and desire?”
MASTER: “Lust is like the root of the tree, and desires are branches and twigs.
“One cannot completely get rid of the six passions: lust, anger, greed, and the like. Therefore one should direct them to God. If you must have desire and greed, then you should desire love of God and be greedy to attain Him. If you must be conceited and egotistic, then feel conceited and egotistic thinking that you are the servant of God, the child of God.
“A man cannot see God unless he gives his whole mind to Him. The mind is wasted on ‘woman and gold’. Take your own case. You have children and are occupied with the theatre. The mind cannot he united with God on account of these different activities.
“As long as there is bhoga, there will be less of yoga. Furthermore, bhoga begets suffering. It is said in the Bhagavata that the Avadhuta chose a kite as one of his twenty-four gurus. The kite had a fish in its beak; so it was surrounded by a thousand crows. Whichever way it flew with the fish, the crows pursued it crying, ‘Caw! Caw!’ When all of a sudden the fish dropped from its beak, the crows flew after the fish, leaving the kite alone.
“The ‘fish’ is the object of enjoyment. The ‘crows’ are worries and anxiety. Worries and anxiety are inevitable with enjoyment. No sooner does one give up enjoyment than one finds peace.
“What is more, money itself becomes a source of trouble. Brothers may live happily, but they get into trouble when the property is divided. Dogs lick one another’s bodies; they are perfectly friendly. But when the householder throws them a little food, they get into a scrap.
“Come here now and then. (Pointing to M. and the others) They come here on Sundays and other holidays.”
ACTOR: “We have holidays for three months, during the rainy and harvest seasons. It is our good fortune to be able to visit you. On our way to Dakshineswar we heard of two persons — yourself and Jnanarnava.”
MASTER: “Be on friendly terms with your brothers. It looks well. You must have noticed in your theatrical performance that if four singers sing each in a different way, the play is spoiled.”
ACTOR: “Yes, sir. Many birds are trapped in a net; if they all fly together and drag the net in one direction, then many of them may be saved. But that doesn’t happen if they try to fly in different directions.
“One also sees in a theatrical performance a person keeping a pitcher of water on his head and at the same time dancing about.”
MASTER: “Live in the world but keep the pitcher steady on your head; that is to say, keep the mind firmly on God.
“I once said to the sepoys from the barracks: ‘Do your duty in the world but remember that the “pestle of death” will some time smash your hand. Be alert about it.’
“In Kamarpukur I have seen the women of carpenter families making flattened rice with a husking-machine. One woman kicks the end of the wooden beam, and another woman, while nursing her baby, turns the paddy in the mortar dug in the earth. The second woman is always alert’ lest the pestle of the machine should fall on her hand. With the other hand she fries the soaked paddy in a pan. Besides, she is talking with customers; she says: ‘You owe us so much money. Please pay it before you go.’ Likewise, do your different duties in the world, fixing your mind on God. But practice is necessary, and one should also be alert. Only in this way can one safeguard both — God and the world.”
ACTOR: “Sir, what is the proof that the soul is separate from the body?”
MASTER: “Proof? God can be seen. By practising spiritual discipline one sees God, through His grace. The rishis directly realised the Self. One cannot know the truth about God through science. Science gives us information only about things perceived by the senses, as for instance: this material mixed with that material gives such and such a result, and that material mixed with this material gives such and such a result.
“For this reason a man cannot comprehend spiritual things with his ordinary intelligence. To understand them he must live in the company of holy persons. You learn to feel the pulse by living with a physician.”
ACTOR: “Yes, sir. Now I understand.”
MASTER: “You must practise tapasya. Only then can you attain the goal. It will avail you nothing even if you learn the texts of the scriptures by heart. You cannot become intoxicated by merely saying ‘siddhi’ over and over. You must swallow some.
“One cannot explain the vision of God to others. One cannot explain conjugal happiness to a child five years old.”
ACTOR: “How does one realise the Atman?”
Just then Rakhal was about to take his meal in the Master’s room. He hesitated at the sight of so many people. During those days the Master looked on Rakhal as Gopala and on himself as Mother Yasoda.
MASTER (to Rakhal): “Why don’t you eat? Let the people stand aside if you wish it. (To a devotee) Keep some ice for Rakhal. (To Rakhal) Do you intend to go to Vanhooghly? Don’t go in this sun.”
Rakhal sat down to his meal. Sri Ramakrishna again spoke to the actor.
MASTER: “Why didn’t all of you take your meal from the kitchen of the Kali temple? That would have been nice.”
ACTOR: “All of us don’t have the same opinion about food; so our food is cooked separately. All don’t like to eat in the guest-house.”
While Rakhal was taking his meal, the Master and the devotees sat on the porch and continued their conversation.
MASTER (to the actor): “You asked me about Self-realisation. Longing is the means of realizing Atman. A man must strive to attain God with all his body, with all his mind, and with all his speech. Because of an excess of bile one gets jaundice. Then one sees everything as yellow; one perceives no colour but yellow. Among you actors, those who take only the roles of women acquire the nature of a woman; by thinking of woman your ways and thoughts become womanly. Just so, by thinking day and night of God one acquires the nature of God.
“The mind is like white linen just returned from the laundry. It takes on the colour you dip it in.”
ACTOR : “But it must first be sent to the laundry.”
MASTER: “Yes. First is the purification of the mind. Afterwards, if you direct the mind to the contemplation of God, it will be coloured by God-Consciousness. Again, if you direct the mind to worldly duties, such as the acting of a play, it will be coloured by worldliness.”
Sri Ramakrishna had rested on his bed only a few minutes when Hari,1 Narayan, Narendra Bannerji, and other devotees arrived from Calcutta and saluted him. Narendra Bannerji was the son of the professor of Sanskrit at the Presidency College of Calcutta. Because of friction with other members of the family, he had rented a separate house where he lived with his wife and children. Narendra was a very simple and guileless man. He practised spiritual discipline and, at the time of meditation, heard various sounds — the sound of a gong, and so on. He had travelled in different parts of India and he visited the Master now and then.
Narayan was a schoolboy sixteen or seventeen years old. He often visited the Master, who was very fond of him.
Hari lived with his brothers at their Baghbazar house. He had studied up to the matriculation class in the General Assembly Institution. Then he had given up his studies and devoted his time at home to the contemplation of God, the reading of the scriptures, and the practice of yoga. He also visited the Master now and then. Sri Ramakrishna often sent for Hari when he went to Balaram’s house in Baghbazar.
MASTER (to the devotees): “I have heard a great deal about Buddha. He is one of the ten Incarnations of God. (Hindu mythology speaks of ten Incarnations of God.) Brahman is immovable, immutable, inactive, and of the nature of Consciousness. When a man merges his buddhi, his intelligence, in Bodha, Consciousness, then he attains the Knowledge of Brahman; he becomes buddha, enlightened.
“Nangta used to say that the mind merges in the buddhi, and the buddhi in Bodha, Consciousness.
“The aspirant does not attain the Knowledge of Brahman as long as he is conscious of his ego. The ego comes under one’s control after one has obtained the Knowledge of Brahman and seen God. Otherwise the ego cannot be controlled. It is difficult to catch one’s own shadow. But when the sun is overhead, the shadow is within a few inches of the body.”
A DEVOTEE: “What is the vision of God like?”
MASTER: “Haven’t you seen a theatrical performance? The people are engaged in conversation, when suddenly the curtain goes up. Then the entire mind of the audience is directed to the play. The people don’t look at other things any longer. Samadhi is to go within oneself like that. When the curtain is rung down, people look around again. Just so, when the curtain of maya falls, the mind becomes externalized.
(To Narendra Bannerji) “You have travelled a great deal. Tell us something about the sadhus.”
Narendra told the story of two yogis in Bhutan who used to drink daily a pound of the bitter juice of neem-leaves. He had also visited the hermitage of a holy man on the bank of the Narmada. At the sight of the Bengali Babu dressed in European clothes, the sadhu had remarked, “He has a knife hidden under his clothes, next to his belly.”
MASTER: “One should keep pictures of holy men in one’s room. That constantly quickens divine ideas.”
BANNERJI: “I have your picture in my room; also the picture of a sadhu living in the mountains, blowing on a piece of lighted charcoal in a bowl of hemp.” (Many wandering monks smoke Indian hemp.)
MASTER: “It is true that one’s spiritual feelings are awakened by looking at the picture of a sadhu. It is like being reminded of the custard-apple by looking at an imitation one, or like stimulating the desire for enjoyment by looking at a young woman. Therefore I tell you that you should constantly live in the company of holy men.
(To Bannerji) “You know very well the suffering of the world. You suffer whenever you accept enjoyment. As long as the kite kept the fish in its beak, it was tormented by the flock of crows.
“One finds peace of mind in the company of holy men. The alligator remains under water a long time. But every now and then it rises to the surface and breathes with a deep wheezing noise. Then it gives a sigh of relief.”
ACTOR: “Revered sir, what you have just said about enjoyment is very true. One ultimately courts disaster if one prays to God for enjoyment. Various desires come to the mind and by no means all of them are good. God is the Kalpataru, the Wish-fulfilling Tree. A man gets whatever he asks of God. Suppose it comes to his mind: ‘God is the Kalpataru. Well, let me see if a tiger will appear before me.’ Because he thinks of the tiger, it really appears and devours him.”
MASTER: “Yes, you must remember that the tiger comes. What more shall I tell you? Keep your mind on God. Don’t forget Him. God will certainly reveal Himself to you if you pray to Him with sincerity. Another thing, Sing the name of God at the end of each performance. Then the actors, the singers, and the audience will go home with the thought of God in their minds.”
The actors saluted the Master and took their leave.
Two ladies, devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, entered the room and saluted the Master. They had been fasting in preparation for this visit. They were sisters-in-law, the wives of two brothers, and were twenty-two or twenty- three years old. They were mothers of children. Both of them had their faces covered with veils.
MASTER (to the ladies): “Worship Siva. This worship is described in a book called the Nityakarma. Learn the rituals from it. In order to perform the worship of God you will be preoccupied for a long time with such religious duties as plucking flowers, making sandal-paste, polishing the utensils of worship, and arranging offerings. As you perform these duties your mind will naturally be directed to God. You will get rid of meanness, anger, jealousy, and so forth. When you two sisters talk to each other, always talk about spiritual matters.
“The thing is somehow to unite the mind with God. You must not forget Him, not even once. Your thought of Him should be like the flow of oil, without any interruption. It you worship with love even a brick or stone as God, then through His grace you can see Him.
“Remember what I have just said to you. One should perform such worship as the Siva Puja. Once the mind has become mature, one doesn’t have to continue formal worship for long. The mind then always remains united with God; meditation and contemplation become a constant habit of mind.”
ELDER SISTER-IN-LAW: “Will you please give us some instruction?”
MASTER (affectionately): “I don’t give initiation. If a guru gives initiation he must assume responsibility for the disciple’s sin and suffering. The Divine Mother has placed me in the state of a child. Perform the Siva Puja as I told you. Come here now and then. We shall see what happens later on through the will of God. I asked you to chant the name of Hari at home. Are you doing that?”
ELDER SISTER-IN-LAW: “Yes.”
MASTER: “Why have you fasted? You should take your meal before you come here. Women are but so many forms of my Divine Mother. I cannot bear to see them suffer. You are all images of the Mother of the Universe. Come here after you have eaten, and you will feel happy.”
Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna asked Ramlal to give the ladies some food. They were given fruit, sweets, drinks, and other offerings from the temple.
The Master said: “You have eaten something. Now my mind is at peace. I cannot bear to see women fast.”
It was about five o’clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the steps of the Siva temples. Adhar, Dr. Nitai, M., and several other devotees were with him.
MASTER (to the devotees): “I want to tell you something. A change has been coming over my nature.”
The Master came down a step and sat near the devotees. It seemed that he intended to communicate some of his deeper experiences to them.
MASTER: “You are devotees. I have no hesitation in telling you this. Nowadays I don’t see the Spirit-form of God. He is revealed to me in human form. It is my nature to see the form of God, to touch and embrace Him. God is saying to me, ‘You have assumed a body; therefore enjoy God through His human forms.’
“God no doubt dwells in all, but He manifests Himself more through man than through other beings. Is man an insignificant thing? He can think of God, he can think of the Infinite, while other living beings cannot. God exists in other living beings — animals, plants, nay, in all beings —, but He manifests Himself more through man than through these others. Fire exists in all beings, in all things; but its presence is felt more in wood. Rama said to Lakshmana: ‘Look at the elephant, brother. He is such a big animal, but he cannot think of God.’
“But in the Incarnation there is a greater manifestation of God than in other men. Rama said to Lakshmana, ‘Brother, if you see in a man ecstatic love of God, if he laughs, weeps, and dances in divine ecstasy, then know for certain that I dwell in him.”
The Master remained silent. After a few minutes he resumed the conversation.
MASTER: “Keshab Sen used to come here frequently. As a result he changed a great deal. Of late he became quite a remarkable man. Many a time he came here with his party; but he also wanted to come alone. In the earlier years of his life Keshab didn’t have much opportunity to live in the company of holy men.
“I visited him at his house in Colootola Street. Hriday was with me. We were shown into the room where Keshab was working. He was writing something. After a long while he put aside his pen, got off his chair, and sat on the floor with us. But he didn’t salute us or show us respect in any other way.
“He used to come here now and then. One day in a spiritual mood I said to him: ‘One should not sit before a sadhu with one leg over the other. That increases one’s rajas.’ As soon as he and his friends would arrive, I would salute them before they bowed to me. Thus they gradually learnt to salute a holy man, touching the ground with their foreheads.
“I said to Keshab: ‘Chant the name of Hari. In the Kaliyuga one should sing the name and glories of God.’ After that they began to sing the name of God with drums and cymbals.2
“Do you know how my faith in the name of Hari was all the more strengthened? Holy men, as you know, frequently visit the temple garden. Once a sadhu from Multan arrived. He was waiting for a party going to Gangasagar. (Pointing to M.) The sadhu was of his age. It was he who said to me, ‘The way to realise God in the Kaliyuga is the path of bhakti as prescribed by Narada.’
“One day Keshab came here with his followers. They stayed till ten at night. We were all seated in the Panchavati. Pratap and several others said they would like to spend the night here. Keshab said: ‘No, I must go. I have some work to do.’ I laughed and said: ‘Can’t you sleep without the smell of your fish-basket? Once a fishwife was a guest in the house of a gardener who raised flowers. She came there with her empty basket, after selling fish in the market, and was asked to sleep in a room where flowers were kept. But, because of the fragrance of the flowers, she couldn’t get to sleep for a long time. Her hostess saw her condition and said, “Hello! Why are you tossing from side to side so restlessly?” The fishwife said: “I don’t know, friend. Perhaps the smell of the flowers has been disturbing my sleep. Can you give me my fish-basket? Perhaps that will put me to sleep.” The basket was brought to her. She sprinkled water on it and set it near her nose. Then she fell sound asleep and snored all night.’
“At this story the followers of Keshab burst into loud laughter.
“Keshab conducted the prayer that evening at the bathing-ghat on the river. After the worship I said to him: ‘It is God who manifests Himself, in one aspect, as the scriptures; therefore one should worship the sacred books, such as the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Tantras. In another aspect He has become the devotee. The heart of the devotee is God’s drawing-room. One can easily find one’s master in the drawing-room. Therefore, by worshipping His devotee, one worships God Himself.’
“Keshab and his followers listened to my words with great attention. It was a full-moon night. The sky was flooded with light. We were seated in the open court at the top of the stairs leading to the river. I said, ‘Now let us all chant, “Bhagavata — Bhakta — Bhagavan.”‘ All chanted in unison, ‘Bhagavata — Bhakta — Bhagavan.’ Next I said to them, ‘Say, “Brahman is verily Sakti; Sakti is verily Brahman.”‘ Again they chanted in unison, ‘Brahman is verily Sakti; Sakti is verily Brahman.’ I said to them: ‘He whom you address as Brahma is none other than She whom I call Mother. Mother is a very sweet name.’
“Then I said to them, ‘Say, “Guru — Krishna — Vaishnava.”‘3 At this Keshab said: ‘We must not go so far, sir. If we do that, then all will take us for orthodox Vaishnavas.’
“I used to tell Keshab now and then: ‘He whom you address as Brahma is none other than She whom I call Sakti, the Primal Energy. It is called Brahman in the Vedas when It transcends speech and thought and is without attributes and action. I call It Sakti, Adyasakti, and so forth, when I find It creating, preserving, and destroying the universe.’
“I said to Keshab: ‘It is extremely difficult to realise God while leading a worldly life. How can a typhoid patient be cured if he is kept in a room where tamarind, pickle, and jars of water are kept? Therefore one should go into solitude now and then to practise spiritual discipline. When the trunk of a tree becomes thick and strong, an elephant can be tied to it; but a young sapling is eaten by cattle.’ That is why Keshab would say in his lectures, “Live in the world after being strengthened in spiritual life.’
(To the devotees) “You see, Keshab was a great scholar. He lectured in English. Many people honoured him. Queen Victoria herself talked to him. But when Keshab came here he would be bare-bodied and bring some fruit, as one should when visiting a holy man. He was totally free from egotism.
(To Adhar) “You are a scholar and a deputy magistrate, but with all that you are hen-pecked. Go forward. Beyond the forest of sandal-wood there are many more valuable things: silver-mines, gold-mines, diamonds, and other gems. The wood-cutter was chopping wood in the forest; the brahmachari said to him, ‘Go forward.'”
Sri Ramakrishna came down from the steps of the Siva temples and went to his own room through the courtyard. The devotees were with him. Just then Ram Chatterji came and said that the Holy Mother’s attendant had had an attack of cholera.
RAM (to the Master): “I told you about it at ten o’clock this morning, but you didn’t pay any attention to me.”
MASTER: “What could I do?”
RAM: “Yes, what could you do! But there were Rakhal, Ramlal, and others. Even they didn’t pay any attention.”
M: “Kishori has gone to Alambazar to get medicine.”
MASTER: “Alone? Where will he get medicine?”
M: “Yes, alone. He will get it at Alambazar.”
MASTER (to M.): “Tell the nurse what to do if the illness takes a turn for the worse or if the patient feels better.”
M: “Yes, sir.”
The ladies mentioned before saluted the Master and were about to take their leave. Sri Ramakrishna again said to them: “Perform the Siva Puja according to my instruction. And have something to eat before you come here. Otherwise I shall feel unhappy. Come another day.”
Sri Ramakrishna sat down on the porch west of his room. Narendra Bannerji, Hari, M., and others sat by his side. The Master knew about Narendra’s family difficulties.
MASTER: “You see, all these sufferings are ‘because of a piece of loin-cloth’.4 A man takes a wife and begets children; therefore he must secure a job. The sadhu is worried about his loin-cloth, and the householder about his wife. Further, the householder may not live on good terms with his relatives; so he must live separately with his wife. (With a laugh) Chaitanya once said to Nityananda: ‘Listen to me, brother. A man entangled in worldliness can never be free.'”
M. (to himself): “Perhaps the Master is referring to the world of avidya. It is the world of avidya that entangles a householder.”
M. was still living in a separate house with his wife, on account of a misunderstanding with the other members of his family.
MASTER (to Bannerji, pointing to M.): “He also lives in a separate house. You two will get along very well. Once two men happened to meet. One said to the other, ‘Who are you?’ ‘Oh, I am away from my country’, was the other’s reply. The second man then asked the first, ‘And who are you, pray?’ ‘Oh, I am away from my beloved’, was the answer. Both were in the same plight; so they got along very well. (All laugh.)
“But one need not have any fear if one takes refuge in God. God protects His devotee.”
HARI: “Well, why does it take many people such a long time to realise Him?”
MASTER: “The truth is that a man doesn’t feel restless for God unless he is finished with his enjoyments and duties. The physician says, referring to the patient: ‘Let a few days pass first. Then a little medicine will do him good.’
“Narada said to Rama: ‘Rama, You are passing Your time in Ayodhya. How will Ravana be killed? You have taken this human body for that purpose alone.’ Rama replied: ‘Narada, let the right time come. Let Ravana’s past actions begin to bear fruit. Then everything will be made ready for his death.'”
HARI: “Why is there so much suffering in the world?”
MASTER: “This world is the lila of God. It is like a game. In this game there are joy and sorrow, virtue and vice, knowledge and ignorance, good and evil. The game cannot continue if sin and suffering are altogether eliminated from the creation.
“In the game of hide-and-seek one must touch the ‘granny’ in order to be free. But the ‘granny’ is never pleased if she is touched at the very outset. It is God’s wish that the play should continue for some time. Then —
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
And Thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them!
In other words, after the practice of hard spiritual discipline, one or two have the vision of God, through His grace, and are liberated. Then the Divine Mother claps Her hands in joy and exclaims, ‘Bravo! There they go!'”
HARI: “But this play of God is our death.”
MASTER (smiling): “Please tell me who you are. God alone has become all this — maya, the universe, living beings, and the twenty-four cosmic principles. ‘As the snake I bite, and as the charmer I cure.’ It is God Himself who has become both vidya and avidya. He remains deluded by the maya of avidya, ignorance. Again, with the help of the guru, He is cured by the maya of vidya, Knowledge.
“Ignorance, Knowledge, and Perfect Wisdom. The jnani sees that God alone exists and is the Doer, that He creates, preserves, and destroys. The vijnani sees that it is God who has become all this.
“After attaining mahabhava and prema one realises that nothing exists but God. Bhakti pales before bhava. Bhava ripens into mahabhava and prema.
(To Bannerji) “Do you still hear that gong-like sound at the time of meditation?”
BANNERJI: “Yes, sir. Every day. Besides, I have visions of God’s form. Do such things stop after the mind has once experienced them?”
MASTER: “True. Once the wood catches fire, it cannot be put out. (To the devotees) He knows many things about faith.”
BANNERJI: “I have too much faith.”
MASTER: “Bring the women of your family with those of Balaram’s.”
BANNERJI: “Who is Balaram?”
MASTER: “Don’t you know Balaram? He lives at Bosepara.”
Sri Ramakrishna loved guileless people. Narendra Bannerji was absolutely guileless. The Master loved Niranjan5 because he, too, was without guile.
MASTER (to M.): “Why do I ask you to see Niranjan? It is to find out if he is truly guileless.”
Sunday, May 25, 1884
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the cement platform that encircled the trunk of the old banyan-tree in the Panchavati. Vijay, Surendra, Bhavanath, Rakhal, and other devotees were present, a few of them sitting with the Master on the platform, the rest on the ground below. The devotees had thought of celebrating the Master’s birthday, which had had to be put off because of his illness. Since Sri Ramakrishna now felt much better, the devotees wanted to have the celebration that day. A woman musician, a famous singer of kirtan, was going to entertain them with devotional songs.
It was one o’clock in the afternoon. M. had been looking for Sri Ramakrishna in the Master’s room. When he did not find him there, he went to the Panchavati and eagerly asked the devotees, “Where is he?” He was standing right in front of the Master but in his excitement did not notice him. The devotees laughed loudly. A moment later M. saw Sri Ramakrishna and felt very much embarrassed. He prostrated himself before the Master, who sat there facing the south and smiling happily. Kedar and Vijay were sitting at his left. These two devotees had had a misunderstanding recently when Kedar had cut off his connexion with the Brahmo Samaj.
MASTER (to M., with a smile): “You see how I have united them?”
The Master had brought a madhavi creeper from Vrindavan in the year 1868 and had planted it in the Panchavati. The creeper had grown big and strong. Some children were jumping and swinging from it. The Master observed them and laughed. He said: “They are like young monkeys. They will not give up swinging even though they sometimes fall to the ground.” Noticing that Surendra was standing before him, the Master said to him affectionately: “Come up and sit with us on the platform. Then you can dangle your feet comfortably.” Surendra went up and took his seat. Bhavanath had his coat on. Surendra said to him, “Are you going to England?”
MASTER (smiling): “God is our England. Now and then I used to leave off my clothes and joyfully roam about naked. Once Sambhu said to me: ‘It is very comfortable to walk about naked. That is why you do it. Once I did it myself.'”
SURENDRA: “On returning from the office, as I put away my coat and trousers, I say to the Divine Mother, ‘O Mother, how tightly You have bound me to the world!'”
MASTER: “There are eight fetters with which man is bound: shame, hatred, fear, pride of caste, hesitation, the desire to conceal, and so forth.”
Sri Ramakrishna sang:
Mother, this is the grief that sorely grieves my heart,
That even with Thee for Mother, and though I am wide awake,
There should be robbery in my house. . . .
In the world’s busy market-place, O Syama, Thou art flying kites;
High up they soar on the wind of hope, held fast by maya’s string.
Their frames are human skeletons, their sails of the three gunas made;
But all their curious workmanship is merely for ornament.
Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed the manja-paste of worldliness,
So as to make each straining strand all the more sharp and strong.
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
And Thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them!
On favouring winds, says Ramprasad, the kites set loose will speedily
Be borne away to the Infinite, across the sea of the world.
MASTER: “‘Maya’s string’ means wife and children.
Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed the manja-paste of worldliness.
“The three gunas — sattva, rajas, and tamas — have men under their control. They are like three brothers. As long as sattva exists, it calls on rajas for help; and rajas can get help from tamas. The three gunas are so many robbers. Tamas kills and rajas hinds. Sattva no doubt releases man from his bondage, but it cannot take him to God.”
VIJAY (smiling): “It is because sattva, too, is a robber.”
MASTER (smiling): “True. Sattva cannot take man to God, but it shows him the way.”
BHAVANATH: “These are wonderful words indeed.”
MASTER: “Yes, this is a lofty thought.”
Listening to these words of the Master, the devotees felt very happy.
MASTER: “‘Woman and gold’ is the cause of bondage. ‘Woman and gold’ alone constitutes samsara, the world. It is ‘woman and gold’ that keeps one from seeing God. (Holding the towel in front or his face) Do you see my face any more? Of course not. The towel hides it. No sooner is the covering of ‘woman and gold’ removed than one attains Chidananda, Consciousness and Bliss.
“Let me tell you something. He who has renounced the pleasure of a wife has verily renounced the pleasure of the world. God is very near to such a person.”
The devotees listened to these words in silence.
MASTER (to Kedar, Vijay, and the other devotees): “He who has renounced the pleasure of a wife has verily renounced the pleasure of the world. It is ‘woman and gold’ that hides God. You people have such imposing moustaches, and yet you too are involved in ‘woman and gold’. Tell me it isn’t true. Search your heart and answer me.”
VIJAY: “Yes, it is true.”
Kedar remained silent.
MASTER: “I see that all are under the control of woman. One day I went to Captain’s house. From there I was to go to Ram’s house. So I said to Captain, ‘Please give me my carriage hire.’ He asked his wife about it. She too held back and said: ‘What’s the matter? What’s the matter?’ At last Captain said, ‘Ram will take care of it.’ You see, the Gita, the Bhagavata, and the Vedanta all bow before a woman! (All laugh.)
“A man leaves his money, his property, and everything in the hands of his wife. But he says with affected simplicity, ‘I have such a nature that I cannot keep even two rupees with me.’
“A man went to an office in search of a job. There were many vacancies, but the manager did not grant his request. A friend said to the applicant, ‘Appeal to Golapi, and you will get the job.’ Golapi was the manager’s mistress.
“Men do not realise how far they are dragged down by women. Once I went to the Fort in a carriage, feeling all the while that I was going along a level road. At last I found that I had gone four storeys down. It was a sloping road.
“A man possessed by a ghost does not know he is under the ghost’s control. He thinks he is quite normal.”
VIJAY (smiling): “But he can be cured by an exorcist if he finds one.”
In answer to Vijay Sri Ramakrishna only said, “That depends on the will of God.” Then he went on with his talk about women.
MASTER: “Everyone I talk to says, ‘Yes, sir, my wife is good.’ Nobody says that his wife is bad. (All laugh.) Those who constantly live with ‘woman and gold’ are so infatuated with it that they don’t see things properly. Chess-players oftentimes cannot see the right move for their pieces on the board. But those who watch the game from a distance can understand the moves more accurately.
“Woman is the embodiment of maya. In the course of his hymn to Rama, Narada said: ‘O Rama, all men are parts of Thee. All women are parts of Sita, the personification of Thy maya. Please deign to grant that I may have pure love for Thy Lotus Feet and that I may not be deluded by Thy world-bewitching maya. I do not want any other favour than that.'”
Surendra’s younger brother and his nephews were present. The brother worked in an office and one of the nephews was studying law.
MASTER (to Surendra’s relatives): “My advice to you is not to become attached to the world. You see, Rakhal now understands what is knowledge and what is ignorance. He can discriminate between the Real and the unreal. So I say to him: ‘Go home. You may come here once in a while and spend a day or two with me.’
“Have a friendly relationship with one another. That will be for your good and make you all happy. In a theatre the performance goes well only if the musicians sing with one voice. And that also gladdens the hearts of the audience.
“Do your worldly duties with a part of your mind and direct most of it to God. A sadhu should think of God with three quarters of his mind and with one quarter should do his other duties. He should be very alert about spiritual things. The snake is very sensitive in its tail. Its whole body reacts when it is hurt there. Similarly, the whole life of a sadhu is affected when his spirituality is touched.”
Sri Ramakrishna was going to the pine-grove and asked Gopal of Sinthi to take his umbrella to his room. Arrangements had been made in the Panchavati for the kirtan. When the Master had returned and taken his seat again among the devotees, the musician began her song. Suddenly there came a rain-storm. The Master went back to his room with the devotees, the musician accompanying them to continue her songs there.
MASTER (to Gopal): “Have you brought the umbrella?”
GOPAL: “No, sir. I forgot all about it while listening to the music.”
The umbrella had been left in the Panchavati and Gopal hurried to fetch it.
MASTER: “I am generally careless, but not to that extent. Rakhal also is very careless. Referring to the date of an invitation, he says ‘the eleventh’ instead of ‘the thirteenth’. And Gopal — he belongs in a heard of cows!”6
The musician sang a song about the monastic life of Chaitanya. Now and then she improvised lines: “He will not look upon a woman; for that is against the sannyasi’s duty.” “Eager to take away men’s sorrows, he will not look upon a woman.” “For the Lord’s birth as Sri Chaitanya otherwise would be in vain.”
The Master stood up, as he heard about Chaitanya’s renunciation, and went into samadhi. The devotees put garlands of flowers around his neck. Bhavanath and Rakhal supported his body lest he should fall on the ground. Vijay, Kedar, Ram, M., Latu, and the other devotees stood around him in a circle, recalling one of the scenes of Chaitanya’s kirtan.
The Master gradually came down to the sense plane. He was talking to Krishna, now and then uttering the word “Krishna”. He could not say it very distinctly because of the intensity of his spiritual emotion. He said: “Krishna! Krishna! Krishna! Krishna Satchidananda! Nowadays I do not see Your form. Now I see You both inside me and outside. I see that it is You who have become the universe, all living beings, the twenty-four cosmic principles, and everything else. You alone have become mind, intelligence, everything. It is said in the “Hymn of Salutation to the Guru’: ‘I bow down to the Guru by whose grace I have realised Him who pervades the indivisible universe of the animate and the inanimate.’
“You alone are the Indivisible. Again, it is You who pervade the universe of the animate and the inanimate. You are verily the manifold universe; again, You alone are its basis. O Krishna! You are my life. O Krishna! You are my mind. O Krishna! You are my intelligence. O Krishna! You are my soul. O Govinda! You are my life-breath. You are my life itself.”
Vijay was also in an ecstatic mood. The Master asked him, “My dear sir, have you too become unconscious?” “No, sir”, said Vijay humbly.
The music went on. The musician was singing about the blinding love of God. As she improvised the lines:
O Beloved of my soul! Within the chamber of my heart
I would have kept You day and night!
the Master again went into samadhi. His injured arm rested on Bhavanath’s shoulder.
Sri Ramakrishna partly regained outer consciousness. The musician improvised:
Why should one who, for Thy sake, has given up everything
Endure so much of suffering?
The Master bowed to the musician and sat down to listen to the music. Now and then he became abstracted. When the musician stopped singing, Sri Ramakrishna began to talk to the devotees.
MASTER (to Vijay and the others): “What is prema? He who feels it, this intense and ecstatic love of God, not only forgets the world but forgets even the body, which is so dear to all. Chaitanya experienced it.”
The Master explained this to the devotees by singing a song describing the ecstatic state of prema:
Oh, when will dawn the blessed day
When tears of joy will flow from my eyes
As I repeat Lord Hari’s name? . . .
The Master began to dance, and the devotees joined him. He caught M. by the arm and dragged him into the circle. Thus dancing, Sri Ramakrishna again went into samadhi. Standing transfixed, he looked like a picture on canvas. Kedar repeated the following hymn to bring his mind down from the plane of samadhi:
We worship the Brahman-Consciousness in the Lotus of the Heart,
The Undifrerentiated, who is adored by Hari, Hara, and Brahma;
Who is attained by yogis in the depths of their meditation;
The Scatterer of the fear of birth and death,
The Essence of Knowledge and Truth, the Primal Seed of the world.
Sri Ramakrishna gradually came back to the plane of normal consciousness. He took his seat and chanted the names of God: “Om Satchidananda! Govinda! Govinda! Govinda! Yogamaya! Bhagavata — Bhakta — Bhagavan!”
The Master took dust from the place where the kirtan had been sung and touched it to his forehead.
A little later Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the semicircular porch facing the Ganges, the devotees sitting by his side. Now and then the Master would exclaim, “Ah, Krishnachaitanya!” (One of the names of Gauranga)
MASTER (to Vijay and the others): “There has been much chanting of the Lord’s name in the room. That is why the atmosphere has become so intense.”
BHAVANATH: “Words of renunciation, too.”
The Master said, “Ah, how thrilling!” Then he sang about Gauranga and Nityananda:
Gora bestows the Nectar of prema;
Jar after jar he pours it out,
And still there is no end!
Sweetest Nitai is summoning all;
Beloved Gora bids them come;
Shantipur is almost drowned,
And Nadia7 is flooded with prema!
MASTER (to Vijay and the others): “The musician sang rightly: ‘A sannyasi must not look at a woman.’ This is the sannyasi’s dharma. What a lofty ideal!”
VIJAY: “Yes indeed, sir.”
MASTER: “Others learn from the sannyasi’s example. That is why such strict rules are prescribed for him. A sannyasi must not look even at the portrait of a woman. What a strict rule! The slaughtering of a black goat is prescribed for the worship of the Divine Mother; but a goat with even a slight wound cannot be offered. A sannyasi must not only not have intercourse with woman; he must not even talk to her.”
VIJAY: “Young Haridas talked with a pious woman. For that reason Chaitanya banished him from his presence.”
MASTER: “A sannyasi associated with ‘woman and gold’ is like a beautiful damsel with a bad odour. The odour makes her beauty useless.
“Once a Marwari devotee wanted to give me some money. Mathur wanted to deed me some land. But I couldn’t accept either.
“The rules for the life of a sannyasi are very strict indeed. If a man takes the garb of a sannyasi, he must act exactly like one. Haven’t you noticed in the theatre that the man who takes the part of the king acts like a king, and the man who takes the part of a minister acts like a minister?
“But on attaining the state of the paramahamsa one becomes like a child. A child five years old doesn’t know the difference between a man and a woman. But even a paramahamsa must be careful, so as not to set a bad example to others.”
Referring to Keshab’s association with “woman and gold”, which had hindered his work as a spiritual teacher, Sri Ramakrishna said to Vijay, “He — do you understand?”
VIJAY: “Yes, sir.”
MASTER: “He couldn’t achieve very much because he wanted to satisfy both God and the world.”
VIJAY: “Chaitanya said to Nityananda: ‘Nitai, I shall not be able to do the people any good unless I renounce the world. All will imitate me and want to lead the life of a householder. No one will try to direct his whole mind to the Lotus Feet of God, renouncing “woman and gold”.'”
MASTER: “Yes. Chaitanyadeva renounced the world to set an example to mankind.
“The sannyasi must renounce ‘woman and gold’ for his own welfare. Even if he is unattached, and consequently not in danger, still, in order to set an example to others, he must not keep ‘woman and gold’ near him. The sannyasi, the man of renunciation, is a world teacher. It is his example that awakens the spiritual consciousness of men.”
It was nearly dusk. The devotees saluted the Master and took their leave.
- ^A monastic disciple of the Master, later known as Swami Turiyananda.
- ^For some years before meeting the Master, Keshab and his followers had been singing the name of “Brahma” to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. After Meeting Sri Ramakrishna in 1875, Keshab showed particular devotion to the singing of the names of Hari and the Divine Mother. [Foot-note by M. in the Bengali Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, vol. v, p. 113.]
- ^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.
- ^A reference to the following story, which Sri Ramakrishna often told his devotees: There was a sannyasi whose only possession was two pairs of loin-cloths. One day a mouse nibbled at one piece. So the holy man kept a cat to protect his loin-cloths from the mouse. Then he had to keep a cow to supply milk for the cat. Later he had to engage a servant to look after the cow. Gradually the number of his cows multiplied. He acquired pastures and farm land. He had to engage a number of servants. Thus he became, in course of time, a sort of landlord. And, last of all, he had to take a wife to look after his big household. One day, one of “is friends, another monk, happened to visit him and was surprised to see his altered circumstances. When asked the reason, the holy man said, “It is all for the sake of a piece of loin-cloth!”
- ^A young disciple of the Master, who later became a monk under the name of Swami Niranjanananda.
- ^There is a pun on the word “Gopal”, which means also “herd of cows”.
- ^Shantipur and Nadia are places associated with Chaitanya.