Sufferings in the worldly life — Pundit Shashadhar — Efficacy of bhakti for modern times — Futility of lecturing — Rituals prepare the way for divine love — Preacher with God’s commission — Divine wisdom is inexhaustible — Master exhorts the pundit to cultivate divine love — Many paths to realise God — Three yogas explained by Master — Difficulties of the paths of jnana and karma — God fulfils all desires of His devotees — Devotee’s prayer to God — About pilgrimage — Three kinds of teachers — Advice to householders.
Wednesday, June 25, 1884
IT WAS THE DAY of the Rathayatra, the Car Festival of the Hindus. At Ishan’s invitation Sri Ramakrishna went to his house in Calcutta. For some time the Master had had a desire to meet Pundit Shashadhar Tarkachudamani, who had been staying with one of Ishan’s neighbours. So it was decided that he would visit the pundit in the afternoon.
A few devotees, including Hazra, accompanied the Master to Ishan’s house. Ishan had invited one or two brahmin scholars and a devotee who followed the Tantrik method of worship. Shrish and Ishan’s other sons were also present.
The Master noticed that the Tantrik worshipper had a vermilion mark on his forehead, and smilingly said, “I see he is branded.”
After a while M. and Narendra arrived and bowed before Sri Ramakrishna. The Master had previously informed M. that he would be at Ishan’s house.
The Master joked about the delay in serving their meal. One of the scholars quoted a Sanskrit verse about the anxiety created in people’s minds by the pangs of hunger. Proceeding to explain the verse he said: “The study of philosophy is indeed edifying, but poetry is more fascinating than philosophy. People listening to good poems think of the study of philosophy — Vedanta, Nyaya, Samkhya, and so forth — as dry and insipid. Again, music is more attractive than poetry. Music melts even a heart of stone. But a beautiful woman has an even greater attraction for a man’s heart than music. Such a woman, passing by, diverts a man’s attention from both poetry and music. But when a man feels the pangs of hunger, everything else — poetry, music, and woman — appears as of no consequence. Thus hunger is the most arresting thing.”
The Master remarked with a smile, “The pundit is witty.”
Soon Narendra began to sing. A few moments later the Master went upstairs for a little rest. M. and Shrish accompanied him. M. introduced Shrish to the Master, saying: “He is a scholar and a man of peaceful nature. We were fellow students in our boyhood. Now he is a lawyer.”
MASTER: “It is a pity that such a man should practise law.”
M: “Yes, sir. It was a mistake on his part.”
MASTER: “I know a few lawyers. One of them shows me great respect. He is a straightforward man. (To Shrish) What is your idea about the most essential thing in life?”
SHRISH: “God exists and He alone does everything. But the attributes we ascribe to Him are not the right ones. How can a man conceive of Him? His nature is infinite.”
MASTER: “What need is there of your counting the number of trees and branches in an orchard? You have come to the orchard to eat mangoes. Do that and be happy. The aim of human birth is to love God. Realise that love and be at peace.
“Suppose you have entered a tavern for a drink. Is it necessary for you to know how many gallons of wine there are in the tavern? One glass is enough for you. What need is there of your knowing the infinite qualities of God? You may discriminate for millions of years about God’s attributes and still you will not know them.”
The Master remained silent a few minutes. A brahmin pundit came into the room.
MASTER (to M.): “There is no substance whatsoever in the worldly life. The members of Ishan’s family are good; so he has some peace here. Suppose his sons had been lewd, disobedient, and addicted to drink and other vices. Then there would have been no end to his troubles. One very seldom comes across such a religious family, in which all the members are devoted to God. I have seen only two or three such families. Generally one finds quarrels, misunderstanding, jealousy, and friction. Besides, there are disease, grief, and poverty in the world. Seeing this condition, I prayed to the Divine Mother, ‘O Mother, turn my mind at once from the world to God.’
“Look at Narendra’s troubles. His father is dead and the members of his family are starving. He has been trying his utmost to secure a position, but he has not yet found one. Just see how unsettled his mind is!
(To M.) “You used to come to Dakshineswar very frequently. But why have you become such a rare visitor? Perhaps you have become particularly friendly with your wife. Is it true? Why should I blame you? The influence of ‘woman and gold’ is everywhere. Therefore I pray, ‘O Divine Mother, please don’t make me a worldly man if I am to be born again in a human body.'”
BRAHMIN SCHOLAR: “Why should you say that, sir? The scriptures extol the life of a householder.”
MASTER: “Yes, that is true. But it is very difficult to lead the true life of a householder. (To M.) How wrong of us! They are singing, especially Narendra, and we have left the room.”
About four o’clock in the afternoon the Master left in a carriage for the house where Pundit Shashadhar was staying. As soon as Sri Ramakrishna got into the carriage he went into samadhi. His physical frame was very tender as a result of the austerities he had undergone during the long years of his spiritual discipline and his constant absorption in God-Consciousness. The Master would suffer from the slightest physical discomfort and even from the vibration of worldly thoughts around him. Once Keshab Chandra Sen had said that Sri Ramakrishna, Christ, and Sri Chaitanya belonged to a delicate species of humanity that should be kept in a glass case and protected from the vulgar contact of the world.
It was the rainy season, and a fine drizzle of rain had made the road muddy. The sky was overcast. The devotees followed the carriage on foot. As the carriage stopped in front of the house, the host and his relatives welcomed the Master and took him upstairs to the drawing-room. There the Master met the pundit.
Pundit Shashadhar, a man of fair complexion and no longer young, had a string of rudraksha beads around his neck. He was one of the renowned Sanskrit scholars of his time — a pillar of orthodox Hinduism, which had reasserted itself after the first wave of Christianity and Western culture had passed over Hindu society. His clear exposition of the Hindu scriptures, his ringing sincerity, and his stirring eloquence had brought back a large number of the educated young Hindus of Bengal to the religion of their forefathers.
The pundit saluted the Master with reverence. Narendra, Rakhal, Ram, Hazra, and M., who had come with the Master, seated themselves in the room as near the Master as they could, anxious not to miss one of his words.
At the sight of the pundit the Master again went into samadhi. After a while, still remaining in that state, he looked at the pundit and said with a smile, “Very well, very well.” Then, addressing the pundit, the Master said, “Tell me how you give lectures.”
PUNDIT: “Sir, I try to explain the teachings of the Hindu scriptures.”
MASTER: “For the Kaliyuga the path of devotion described by Narada is best. Where can people find time now to perform their duties according to the scriptural injunctions? Nowadays the decoctions of roots and herbs of the orthodox Hindu physicians cannot be given to a fever patient. By the time that kind of medicine begins its slow process of curing, the patient is done for. Therefore only a drastic medicine like the allopathic ‘fever mixture’ is effective now. You may ask people to practise scriptural rites and rituals; but, when prescribing the rituals, remove the ‘head and tail’.1 I tell people not to bother about the elaborate rituals of the sandhya as enjoined in the scriptures. I say that it will be enough for them to repeat the Gayatri alone. If you must give instruction about scriptural ceremonies, do so only to a very few, like Ishan.
“You may deliver thousands of lectures, but they won’t make the slightest impression on worldly people. Can one drive a nail into a stone wall? The point of the nail will sooner break than make a dent in the stone. What will you gain by striking the tough skin of the crocodile with a sword? The sadhu’s water-bowl, made from the shell of a bitter gourd, may visit the four principal holy places of India with its owner, but it will still remain as bitter as ever. Your lectures are not helping worldly people very much; and you will realise this by and by. The calf cannot stand on its legs all at once. Now it drops to the ground and now it stands up. So it learns to stand firmly on its legs and walk.
“You cannot distinguish a lover of God from a worldly person. It isn’t your fault, of course. When the first onrush of the gale shakes the trees, it is impossible to distinguish one tree from another — the mango from the tamarind, for instance.
“Without having realised God one cannot give up rituals altogether. How long should one practise the sandhya and other forms of ritualistic worship? As long as one does not shed tears of joy at the name of God and feel a thrill in one’s body. You will know that your ritualistic worship has come to an end when your eyes become filled with tears as you repeat ‘Om Rama’. Then you do not have to continue your sandhya or other rituals.
“When the fruit appears the blossom drops off. Love of God is the fruit, and rituals are the blossom. When the daughter-in-law of the house becomes pregnant, she cannot do much work. Her mother-in-law gradually lessens her duties in the house. When her time arrives she does practically nothing. And after the child is born her only work is to play with it. She doesn’t do any household duties at all. The sandhya merges in the Gayatri, the Gayatri in Om, and Om in samadhi. It is like the sound of a bell: t — a — m. The yogi, by following in the trail of the sound Om, gradually merges himself in the Supreme Brahman. His sandhya and other ritualistic duties disappear in samadhi. Thus the duties of the jnani come to an end.”
As the Master talked of samadhi, he himself went into that state. His face radiated a heavenly light. Bereft of outer consciousness, he could not utter another word. His gaze was indrawn and transfixed in communion with the Self. After a long time the Master began to recognize the world around him and said, like a child, “I shall have a drink of water.” Whenever after samadhi the Master asked for a drink of water, his devotees knew that he was gradually becoming conscious of the outer world.
Still lingering in the state of ecstasy, he said to the Divine Mother: “O Mother, the other day You showed me Pundit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. Then I told You that I should like to see another pundit, and so You have brought me here.”
Looking at the pundit, he said: “My child, add a little more to your strength. Practise spiritual discipline a few days more. You have hardly set your foot on the tree, yet you expect to lay hold of a big cluster of fruit. But, of course, you are doing all this for the welfare of others.” With these words he bowed his head before the pundit.
The Master continued: “When I first heard about you, I inquired whether you were merely erudite or whether you had discrimination and renunciation. A pundit who doesn’t know how to discriminate between the Real and the unreal is no pundit at all.
“There is no harm in teaching others if the preacher has a commission from the Lord. Nobody can confound a preacher who teaches people after having received the command of God. Getting a ray of light from the goddess of learning, a man becomes so powerful that before him big scholars seem mere earthworms.
“When the lamp is lighted the moths come in swarms. They don’t have to he invited. In the same way, the preacher who has a commission from God need not invite people to hear him. He doesn’t have to announce the time of his lectures. He possesses such irresistible attraction that people come to him of their own accord. People of all classes, even kings and aristocrats, gather around him. They say to him: ‘Revered sir, what can we offer you? Here are mangoes, sweets, money, shawls, and other things. What will you be pleased to accept?’ In that case I say to them: ‘Go away. I don’t care for these. I don’t want anything.’
“Does the magnet say to the iron, ‘Come near me?’ That is not necessary. Because of the attraction of the magnet, the iron rushes to it.
“Such a preacher may not be a scholarly person, but don’t conclude from that that he has any lack of wisdom. Does book-learning make one wise? He who has a commission from God never runs short of wisdom. That wisdom comes from God; it is inexhaustible. At Kamarpukur I have seen people measuring grain. It lies in a heap. One man keeps pushing grain from the heap toward another man, who weighs it on a scales. So the man who weighs doesn’t run short of grain. It is the same with the preacher who has received a commission from God. As he teaches people, the Divine Mother Herself supplies him with fresh knowledge from behind. That knowledge never comes to an end.
“Can a preacher ever lack knowledge if but once he is favoured with a benign glance from the Divine Mother? Therefore I ask you whether you have received any commission from God.”
HAZRA: “Oh yes, he must have it. (To the pundit) Isn’t it true, sir?”
PUNDIT: “Commission? No, sir, I am afraid I haven’t received any such thing.”
HOST: “He may not have received the commission, but he preaches from a sense of duty.”
MASTER: “What will a man accomplish by mere lectures without the commission from God? Once a Brahmo preacher said in the course of his sermon, ‘Friends, how much I used to drink!’ and so on. Hearing this the people began to whisper among themselves: ‘What is this fool saying? He used to drink!’ Now these words produced a very unfavourable effect. This shows that preaching cannot bring a good result unless it comes from a good man.
“A high government official from Barisal once said to me, ‘Sir, if you begin the work of preaching, I too shall gird my loins.’ I told him the story of people’s dirtying the bank of the Haldarpukur and of its being stopped only when a constable, armed with authority from the government, put up a notice prohibiting it.
“So I say, a worthless man may talk his head off preaching, and yet he will produce no effect. But people will listen to him if he is armed with a badge of authority from God. One cannot teach others without the commission from God. A teacher of men must have great power. There’s many a Hanumanpuri (a noted wrestler of the time) in Calcutta. It is with them that you will have to wrestle. (Pointing to the people assembled there) These are mere sheep!
“Chaitanyadeva was an Incarnation of God. How little is left of what he accomplished — not to speak of a lecturer who preaches without authority from God! What good will a lecturer do?
“Therefore I say to you, dive deep in God-Consciousness.”
Saying this, the Master began to sing in an ecstasy of love for God:
Dive deep, O mind, dive deep in the Ocean of God’s Beauty;
If you descend to the uttermost depths,
There you will find the gem of Love. . . .
The Master continued: “One does not die if one sinks in this Ocean. This is the Ocean of Immortality. Once I said to Narendra: ‘God is the Ocean of Bliss. Tell me if you want to plunge into It. Just imagine there is some syrup in a cup and that you have become a fly. Now tell me where you will sit to sip the syrup.’ Narendra answered: ‘I will sit on the edge of the cup and stretch out my neck to drink, because I am sure to die if I go far into the cup.’ Then I said to him: ‘But my child, this is the Ocean of Satchidananda. There is no fear of death in It. This is the Ocean of Immortality. Only ignorant people say that one should not have an excess of devotion and divine love. How foolish! Can there be any excess of divine love?’
(To the pundit) “Therefore I say to you, dive into the Ocean of Satchidananda. Nothing will ever worry you if you but realise God. Then you will get His commission to teach people.
“There are innumerable pathways leading to the Ocean of Immortality. The essential thing is to reach the Ocean. It doesn’t matter which path you follow. Imagine that there is a reservoir containing the Elixir of Immortality. You will be immortal if a few drops of the Elixir somehow get into your mouth. You may get into the reservoir either by jumping into it, or by being pushed into it from behind, or by slowly walking down the steps. The effect is one and the same. You will become immortal by tasting a drop of that Elixir.
“Innumerable are the ways that lead to God. There are the paths of jnana, of karma, and of bhakti. If you are sincere, you will attain God in the end, whichever path you follow. Roughly speaking, there are three kinds of yoga: jnanayoga, karmayoga, and bhaktiyoga.
“What is jnanayoga? The jnani seeks to realise Brahman. He discriminates, saying, ‘Not this, not this’. He discriminates, saying, ‘Brahman is real and the universe illusory.’ He discriminates between the Real and the unreal. As he comes to the end of discrimination, he goes into samadhi and attains the Knowledge of Brahman.
“What is karmayoga? Its aim is to fix one’s mind on God by means of work. That is what you are teaching. It consists of breath-control, (Breathing exercises as prescribed in rajayoga.) concentration, meditation, and so on, done in a spirit of detachment. If a house- holder performs his duties in the world in a spirit of detachment, surrendering the results to God and with devotion to God in his heart, he too may be said to practise karmayoga. Further, if a person performs worship, japa, and other forms of devotion, surrendering the results to God, he may be said to practise karmayoga. Attainment of God alone is the aim of karmayoga.
“What is bhaktiyoga? It is to keep the mind on God by chanting His name and glories. For the Kaliyuga the path of devotion is easiest. This is indeed the path for this age.
“The path of karma is very difficult. First of all, as I have just said, where will one find the time for it nowadays? Where is the time for a man to perform his duties as enjoined in the scriptures? Man’s life is short in this age. Further, it is extremely difficult to perform one’s duties in a spirit of detachment, without craving the result. One cannot work in such a spirit without first having realised God. Attachment to the result somehow enters the mind, though you may not be aware of it.
“To follow jnanayoga in this age is also very difficult. First, a man’s life depends entirely on food. Second, he has a short span of life. Third, he can by no means get rid of body-consciousness; and the Knowledge of Brahman is impossible without the destruction of body-consciousness. The jnani says: ‘I am Brahman; I am not the body. I am beyond hunger and thirst, disease and grief, birth and death, pleasure and pain.’ How can you be a jnani if you are conscious of disease, grief, pain, pleasure, and the like? A thorn enters your flesh, blood flows from the wound, and you suffer very badly from the pain; but nevertheless if you are a jnani you must be able to say: ‘Why, there is no thorn in my flesh at all. Nothing is the matter with me.’
“Therefore bhaktiyoga is prescribed for this age. By following this path one comes to God more easily than by following the others. One can undoubtedly reach God by following the paths of jnana and karma, but they are very difficult paths.
“Bhaktiyoga is the religion for this age. But that does not mean that the lover of God will reach one goal and the philosopher and worker another. It means that if a person seeks the Knowledge of Brahman he can attain It by following the path of bhakti, too. God, who loves His devotee, can give him the Knowledge of Brahman if He so desires.
“But the bhakta wants to realise the Personal God endowed with form and talk to Him. He seldom seeks the Knowledge of Brahman. But God, who does everything at His pleasure, can make His devotee the heir to His infinite glories if it pleases Him. He gives His devotee both the Love of God and the Knowledge of Brahman. If one is able somehow to reach Calcutta, one can see the Maidan and the museum and other places too. The thing is how to reach Calcutta.
“By realizing the Divine Mother of the Universe, you will get Knowledge as well as Devotion. You will get both. In bhava samadhi you will see the form of God, and in nirvikalpa samadhi you will realise Brahman, the Absolute Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. In nirvikalpa samadhi ego, name, and form do not exist.
“A lover of God prays to the Divine Mother: ‘O Mother, I am very much afraid of selfish actions. Such actions have desires behind them, and if I perform them I shall have to reap their fruit. But it is very difficult to work in a detached spirit. I shall certainly forget Thee, O Mother, if I involve myself in selfish actions. Therefore I have no use for them. “May my actions, O Divine Mother, be fewer every day till I attain Thee. May I perform, without attachment to the results, only what action is absolutely necessary for me. May I have great love for Thee as I go on with my few duties. May I not entangle myself in new work so long as I do not realise Thee. But I shall perform it if I receive Thy command. Otherwise not.'”
PUNDIT: “How far did you go in visiting the sacred places?”
MASTER: “Oh, I visited a few places. (With a smile) But Hazra went farther and also climbed higher. He visited Hrishikesh, but I didn’t go so far or so high.
“You must have noticed kites and vultures soaring very high in the sky; but their eyes are always fixed on the charnel-pits. Do you know the meaning of ‘charnel-pits’? It is ‘woman and gold’.
“What is the use of making pilgrimages if you can attain love of God remaining where you are? I have been to Benares and noticed the same trees there as here. The same green tamarind-leaves!
“Pilgrimage becomes futile if it does not enable you to attain love of God. Love of God is the one essential and necessary thing. Do you know the meaning of ‘kites and vultures’? There are many people who talk big and who say that they have performed most of the duties enjoined in the scriptures. But with all that their minds are engrossed in worldliness and deeply preoccupied with money, riches, name, fame, creature comforts, and such things.”
PUNDIT: “It is true, sir. Going on a pilgrimage is like seeking diamonds and gems, while discarding the precious stone that is worn by Narayana Himself on His breast.”
MASTER: “I want you to remember this. You may impart thousands of instructions to people, but they will not bear fruit except in proper time. On going to bed, a child said to his mother, ‘Mother, please wake me up when I feel the call of nature.’ The mother said: ‘Don’t worry about it, my child. That call will wake you up itself.’ (All laugh.) One feels yearning for God at the proper time.
“There are three classes of physicians. The physicians of one class feel the patient’s pulse and go away, merely prescribing medicine. As they leave the room they simply ask the patient to take the medicine. They are the poorest class of physicians. Likewise, there are teachers who only give instruction, but do not stop to see whether their teachings have produced a good or bad effect. They do not think at all about the disciple.
“There are physicians of another class, who prescribe medicine and ask the patient to take it. If the patient is unwilling to follow their directions, they reason with him. They are the mediocre physicians. Likewise, there are mediocre teachers. They give instruction to the student and, further, try to persuade him in various ways to follow the instruction.
“Lastly, there are the physicians of the highest class. If the patient does not respond to their gentle persuasion, they even exert force upon him. If necessary, they press their knees on the patient’s chest and force the medicine down his throat. Likewise, there are teachers of the highest class, who even exert force to direct the mind of the pupil toward God.”
PUNDIT: “Sir, if there are such superior teachers as you have described, then why should you say that one does not get the Knowledge of God until the right time comes?”
MASTER: “You are right. But what will the physician do if the medicine runs out of the patient’s mouth and doesn’t reach his stomach? In such a case even the best physician can’t do anything.
“The teacher should judge the fitness of the student before giving him instruction. But you don’t discriminate in your instruction. When a young man comes to me for instruction, first of all I ask him about his relatives at home. Suppose he has lost his father; suppose his father has left some debts for him. How can such a person direct his mind to God? Are you listening to me?”
PUNDIT: “Yes, sir. I am paying attention to every word.”
MASTER: “One day some Sikh soldiers came to the temple garden at Dakshineswar. I met them in front of the Kali temple. One of them referred to God as very compassionate. ‘Indeed!’ I said. ‘Is that true? But how do you know?’ He answered, ‘Because, sir, God gives us food and takes every care of us.’ I said: ‘Why should that surprise you? God is the Father of us all. Who will look after the child if the father doesn’t? Do you mean to say that the people of the neighbouring village should look after the child?”
NARENDRA: “Then shouldn’t we call God kind?”
MASTER: “Have I forbidden you to? What I mean is that God is our very own. He is not a stranger to us.”
PUNDIT: “Priceless words!”
MASTER (to Narendra): “I listened to your singing, but I didn’t enjoy it. So I left the room. Your mind is now set on seeking a job, and therefore your song sounded dull.”
Narendra flushed. He felt ashamed of himself and remained silent.
The Master asked for a drink of water. A glass of water had been placed near him, but he could not take it. He asked for some fresh water. Later it was found that a man of immoral character had touched the first glass.
PUNDIT (to Hazra): “You live in his company day and night. You must be very happy.”
MASTER (with a smile): “This is indeed a great occasion for me. Today I have seen the crescent moon of the second day of the bright fortnight. (All laugh.) Do you know why I referred to the moon of the second day? Sita once said to Ravana, ‘You are the full moon and Rama is the crescent moon of the second day of the bright fortnight.’ Ravana did not understand the meaning of these words. He thought Sita was flattering him and became exceedingly happy. But Sita meant that Ravana had reached the fullest limit of his power and prosperity, and that thenceforth he would wane like the full moon. Rama, on the other hand, was like the moon of the second day. He would wax day by day.”
The Master was about to take his leave. The pundit and his friends bowed low before him.
It was not yet dusk, and Sri Ramakrishna returned to Ishan’s house with the devotees. The Master took his seat in the drawing-room with Ishan and his sons, a pundit, and a few devotees.
MASTER (smiling, to Ishan): “I said to Pundit Shashadhar: ‘You have hardly set your foot on the tree, and yet you aspire to lay hold of a big bunch of fruit. First of all practise some spiritual discipline. Then you may teach others.'”
ISHAN: “Every preacher thinks that he enlightens others. The glow-worm also may think that it illumines the world. Imagining this to be the glow worm’s feeling, someone said to it: ‘O glow-worm, how can you bring light to the world? You only reveal the intensity of the darkness.'”
MASTER (with a smile): “But Shashadhar is not just a scholar. He also has a little discrimination and dispassion.”
A pundit who was present said to Sri Ramakrishna, “You are indeed a great soul.”
MASTER: “You may say that about sages like Narada, Prahlada, or Sukadeva. I am like your son.
“Of course, in one sense your words are true. It is said that in one respect the devotee of God is greater than God Himself, because he carries God in his heart. (All rejoice.) It is said in the Vaishnava books: ‘A devotee regards himself as a higher, and God as a lower, being.’ Yasoda, the mother of Krishna, was about to fetter Krishna, who was God Incarnate, with chains! She believed that no one but herself could take care of Krishna.
“Sometimes God acts as the magnet and the devotee as the needle. God attracts the devotee to Himself. Again, sometimes the devotee acts as the magnet and God as the needle. Such is the attraction of the devotee that God comes to him, unable to resist his love.”
The Master was about to leave for Dakshineswar. Ishan and the other devotees stood around him while he gave Ishan various words of advice.
MASTER: “A devotee who can call on God while living a householder’s life is a hero indeed. God thinks: ‘He who has renounced the world for My sake will surely pray to Me. He must serve Me. Is there anything very remarkable about it? People will cry shame on him if he fails to do so. But he is blessed indeed who prays to Me in the midst of his worldly duties. He is trying to find Me, overcoming a great obstacle — pushing away, as it were, a huge block of stone weighing a ton. Such a man is a real hero.'”
PUNDIT: “You are right, sir. The scripture says the same thing. There is in the Mahabharata the story of the ‘pious hunter’ and the ‘chaste woman’. Once a hermit was disturbed in his meditation by a crow. When he cast an angry glance at the bird, it was reduced to ashes. The hermit said to himself: ‘I have destroyed the crow by a mere glance. I must have made great progress in spiritual life.’ One day he went to a woman’s house to beg his food. She was devoted to her husband and served him day and night; she provided him with water to wash his feet and even dried them with her hair. When the hermit knocked at her door for alms, she was serving her husband and could not open the door at once. The hermit, in a fit of anger, began to curse her. The chaste woman answered from the inner apartments: ‘I am not your crow. Wait a few minutes, sir. After finishing my service to my husband I shall give you my attention.’ The hermit was very much surprised to find that this simple woman was aware of his having burnt the crow to ashes. He wanted her to give him spiritual instruction. At her bidding he went to the ‘pious hunter’ at Benares. This hunter sold meat, but he also served his parents day and night as embodiments of God. The hermit said to himself in utter amazement: ‘Why, he is a butcher and a worldly man! How can he give me the Knowledge of Brahman?’ But the hunter was a knower of Brahman and had acquired divine knowledge through the performance of his worldly duties. The hermit was illumined by the instruction of the pious hunter’.”
The Master was about to take his leave. He was standing at the door of the next house, where Ishan’s father-in-law lived. Ishan and the other devotees stood by the Master. They were waiting to bid him good-bye. Sri Ramakrishna said to Ishan: “Live in the world like an ant. The world contains a mixture of truth and untruth, sugar and sand. Be an ant and take the sugar.
“Again, the world is a mixture of milk and water, the bliss of God-Consciousness and the pleasure of sense-enjoyment. Be a swan and drink the milk, leaving the water aside.
“Live in the world like a waterfowl. The water clings to the bird, but the bird shakes it off. Live in the world like a mudfish. The fish lives in the mud, but its skin is always bright and shiny.
“The world is indeed a mixture of truth and make-believe. Discard the make-believe and take the truth.”
Sri Ramakrishna got into the carriage and left for Dakshineswar.
- ^The non-essential parts. The allusion is to the head and tail of fish, which are non-essential.