Signs of a perfect soul — Description of the Bauls — Different paths leading to God — Devotion to one’s own path and respect for others’ — The tides in the Ganges — Master in ecstasy — Advice to Adhar about renunciation — Signs of a real devotee — Master’s genuine love for his disciples — God takes charge of His devotees — Living in the world after realisation of God — Futility of mere study of scriptures — Futility of reasoning — Glory of God’s name — Master at Jadu’s garden — His worry over Rakhal’s illness.
Sunday, September 7, 1884
IT WAS ABOUT ELEVEN O’CLOCK. The Master was sitting in his room at Dakshineswar. He had not yet taken his midday meal.
Arrangements had been made with the musician Shyamdas to entertain the Master and the devotees with his kirtan. Baburam, M., Manomohan, Bhavanath, Kishori, Chunilal, Haripada, the Mukherji brothers, Ram, Surendra, Tarak, Niranjan, and others arrived at the temple garden. Latu, Harish, and Hazra were staying with the Master.
When M. saluted Sri Ramakrishna, the Master asked: “Where is Narendra? Isn’t he coming?” M. told him that Narendra could not come.
A brahmin devotee was reading to the Master from a book of devotional songs by Ramprasad. Sri Ramakrishna asked him to continue. The brahmin read a song, the first line of which was: “O Mother, put on Thy clothes.”
MASTER: “Stop, please! These ideas are outlandish and bizarre.’ Read something that will awaken bhakti.”
The brahmin read:
Who is there that can understand what Mother Kali is?
Even the six darsanas are powerless to reveal Her. . . .
MASTER (to M.): “I got a pain because I lay too long on one side while in samadhi yesterday at Adhar’s house; so now I’ll take Baburam with me when I visit the houses of the devotees. He is a sympathetic soul.”
With these words the Master sang:
How shall I open my heart, O friend?
It is forbidden me to speak.
I am about to die, for lack of a kindred soul
To understand my misery.
Simply by looking in his eyes,
I find the beloved of my heart;
But rare is such a soul, who swims in ecstatic bliss
On the high tide of heavenly love.
MASTER: “The Bauls sing songs like that. They also sing another kind of song:
Stay your steps, O wandering monk!
Stand there with begging-bowl in hand,
And let me behold your radiant face.
“According to the Sakti cult the siddha is called a koul, and according to the Vedanta, a paramahamsa. The Bauls call him a sai. They say, ‘No one is greater than a sai.’ The sai is a man of supreme perfection. He doesn’t see any differentiation in the world. He wears a necklace, one half made of cow bones and the other of the sacred tulsi-plant. He calls the Ultimate Truth ‘Alekh’, the ‘Incomprehensible One’. The Vedas call It ‘Brahman’. About the jivas the Bauls say, ‘They come from Alekh and they go unto Alekh.’ That is to say, the individual soul has come from the Unmanifest and goes back to the Unmanifest. The Bauls will ask you, ‘Do you know about the wind?’ The ‘wind’ means the great current that one feels in the subtle nerves, Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna, when the Kundalini is awakened. They will ask you further, ‘In which station are you dwelling?’ According to them there are six ‘stations’, corresponding to the six psychic centres of Yoga. If they say that a man dwells in the ‘fifth station’, it means that his mind has climbed to the fifth centre, known as the Visuddha chakra. (To M.) At that time he sees the Formless.”
Saying this the Master sang:
Within the petals of this flower there lies concealed a subtle space,
Transcending which, one sees at length the universe in Space dissolve.
“Once a Baul came here. I asked him, ‘Have you finished the task of “refining the syrup”? Have you taken the pot off the stove?’ The more you boil the juice of sugar-cane, the more it is refined. In the first stage of boiling it is simply the juice of the sugar-cane. Next it is molasses, then sugar, then sugar candy, and so on. As it goes on boiling, the substances you get are more and more refined.
“When does a man take the pot oft the stove? That is, when does a man come to the end of his sadhana? He comes to the end when he has acquired complete mastery over his sense-organs. His sense-organs become loosened and powerless, as the leech is loosened from the body when you put lime on its mouth. In that state a man may live with a woman, but he does not feel any lust for her.
“Many of the Bauls follow a ‘dirty’ method of spiritual discipline. It is like entering a house through the back door by which the scavengers come.
“One day I was taking my meal when a Baul devotee arrived. He asked me, ‘Are you yourself eating, or are you feeding someone else?’ The meaning of his words was that the siddha sees God dwelling within a man. The siddhas among the Bauls will not talk to persons of another sect; they call them ‘strangers’.
“The Bauls designate the state of perfection as the ‘sahaja’, the ‘natural’ state. There are two signs of this state. First, a perfect man will not ‘smell of Krishna’. Second, he is like the bee that lights on the lotus but does not sip the honey. The first means that he keeps all his spiritual feelings within himself. He doesn’t show outwardly any sign of spirituality. He doesn’t even utter the name of Hari. The second means that he is not attached to woman. He has completely mastered his senses.
“The Bauls do not like the worship of an image. They want a living man. That is why one of their sects is called the Kartabhaja. They worship the karta, that is to say, the guru, as God.
“You see how many opinions there are about God. Each opinion is a path. There are innumerable opinions and innumerable paths leading to God.”
BHAVANATH: “Then what should we do?”
MASTER: “You must stick to one path with all your strength. A man can reach the roof of a house by stone stairs or a ladder or a rope-ladder or a rope or even by a bamboo pole. But he cannot reach the roof if he sets foot now on one and now on another. He should firmly follow one path. Likewise, in order to realise God a man must follow one path with all his strength.
“But you must regard other views as so many paths leading to God. You should not feel that your path is the only right path and that other paths are wrong. You mustn’t bear malice toward others.
“Well, to what path do I belong? Keshab Sen, used to say to me: ‘You belong to our path. You are gradually accepting the ideal of the formless God.’ Shashadhar says that I belong to his path. Vijay, too, says that I belong to his — Vijay’s — path.”
Sri Ramakrishna walked toward the Panchavati with M. and a few other devotees. It was midday and time for the flood-tide in the Ganges.
They waited in the Panchavati to see the bore of the tide.
MASTER (to the devotees): “The ebb-tide and flood-tide are indeed amazing. But notice one thing. Near the sea you see ebb-tide and flood-tide in a river, but far away from the sea the river flows in one direction only. What does this mean? Try to apply its significance to your spiritual life. Those who live very near God feel within them the currents of bhakti, bhava, and the like. In the case of a few — the Isvarakotis, for instance — one sees even mahabhava and prema.
(To M.) “What is the explanation of the ebb-tide and flood-tide?”
M: “According to Western astronomy, they are due to the attraction of the sun and the moon.”
In order to explain it, M. drew figures on the earth and began to show the Master the movement of the earth, the sun, and the moon. The Master looked at the figures for a minute and said: “Stop, please! It gives me a headache.”
Presently the tide came up the Ganges. They heard the sound of the rushing water. The tide struck the bank of the river and flowed toward the north. Sri Ramakrishna looked at it intently and exclaimed like a child:
“Look at that boat! I wonder what is going to happen to it.”
The Master and M. sat down for a while in the Panchavati, Sri Ramakrishna placing his umbrella on the cement platform. The conversation turned to Narayan. The boy was a student Sri Ramakrishna looked upon him as Narayana, God Himself, and was very fond of him.
MASTER: “Have you noticed Naran’s1 nature? He can mix with all, old and young. One cannot do this without a special power. Besides, all love him. Is he really artless?”
M: “I think so.”
MASTER: “I understand that he goes to your place. Is that so?”
M: “Yes, sir. He has visited me once or twice.”
MASTER: “Will you give him a rupee? Or shall I ask Kali (A devotee of the Master.) about it?”
M: “Very well, sir. I shall give him the money.”
MASTER: “That’s fine. It is good to help those who yearn for God. Thus one makes good use of one’s money. What will you gain by spending everything on your family?”
Kishori had several children. His salary was too small to support his family. Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: “Naran said he would get a job for Kishori. Please remind him of it.”
The Master walked away in the direction of the pine-grove. Returning to the Panchavati, he said to M.: “Please ask someone to spread a mat outside my room. I shall lie down a few minutes. I am coming presently.”
When the Master returned to his room, he could not find his umbrella and exclaimed: “You have all forgotten the umbrella! The busybody doesn’t see a thing even when it is very near him. A man went to a friend’s house to light the charcoal for his smoke, though all the time he had a lighted lantern in his hand. Another man looked everywhere for his towel. Finally he discovered that it had been on his shoulder all the time.”
It was about one o’clock in the afternoon. The Master ate the prasad from the Kali temple. Then he wanted to rest awhile, but the devotees were still sitting in his room. They were asked to go out, and then the Master lay down. He said to Baburam, “Come here; sit near me.” Baburam answered, “I am preparing betel-leaf.” The Master said, “Put your betel-leaf aside.”
The devotees sat under the bakul-tree in the Panchavati. Tarak, who had just returned from Vrindavan, told them stories of his visit.
A little later Sri Ramakrishna was seated again on his couch, the devotees sitting on the floor. Shyamdas was singing with his party. He sang of the gopis’ grief at their separation from Sri Krishna:
Dry as a desert seemed the happy lake to them:
The chatak died of thirst, gazing toward the clouds.
The Master became somewhat abstracted, but the musician could not create a spiritual atmosphere. Sri Ramakrishna asked Nabai of Konnagar to sing a kirtan. Nabai was Manomohan’s uncle. He lived on the bank of the Ganges, devoting his time to prayer and meditation, and was a frequent visitor of Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar.
Nabai began the kirtan in a loud voice. The Master left the couch and began to dance. Immediately Nabai and other devotees began to dance around him. The atmosphere became intense with spiritual fervour.
After the kirtan, Sri Ramakrishna resumed his seat. With great feeling he began to sing of the Divine Mother, his eyes turned upward:
O Mother, ever blissful as Thou art,
Do not deprive Thy worthless child of bliss!
My mind knows nothing but Thy Lotus Feet.
The King of Death scowls at me terribly;
Tell me, Mother, what shall I say to him? . . .
He sang again:
As is a man’s meditation, so is his feeling of love;
As is a man’s feeling of love, so is his gain;
And faith is the root of all. . . .
This world, O Mother, is Thy madhouse! What can I say of all Thy virtues?
Setting aside Thine elephant, Thou roamest about on foot;
Putting off Thy gems and pearls, O Self-willed Mother,
Thou dost adorn Thy comely neck with a garland of human heads.
Now Thou must rescue Ramprasad out of the forest of this world.
Again he sang:
Why should I go to Ganga or Gaya, to Kasi, Kanchi, or Prabhas,
So long as I can breathe my last with Kali’s name upon my lips? . . .
Dwell, O mind, within yourself;
Enter no other’s home.
If you but seek there, you will find
All you are searching for. . . .
The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Syama’s feet. . . .
Cherish my precious Mother Syama
Tenderly within, O mind;
May you and I alone behold Her,
Letting no one else intrude. . . .
As the Master sang this last song he stood up. He was almost intoxicated with divine love. Again and again he said to the devotees, “Cherish my precious Mother Syama tenderly within.” Then he danced and sang;
Is Kali, my Mother, really black?
The Naked One, of blackest hue,
Lights the Lotus of the Heart. . . .
The Master reeled as he sang. Niranjan came forward to hold him. The Master said to him softly, “Don’t touch me, you rascal!” Seeing the Master dance, the devotees stood up. He caught hold of M.’s hand and said: “Don’t be foolish! Dance!”
Sri Ramakrishna resumed his seat, still charged with divine ecstasy. Coming down a little to the normal state, he said: “Om! Om! Om! Om! Om! Om Kali!” Again he said, “Let me have a smoke.” Many of the devotees stood around. Mahimacharan was fanning him. The Master asked him to sit down and recite from the scriptures. Mahimacharan recited from the Mahanirvana Tantra:
Om. I bow to Thee, the Everlasting Cause of the world;
I bow to Thee, Pure Consciousness, the Soul that sustains the whole universe.
I bow to Thee, who art One without duality, who dost bestow liberation;
I bow to Thee, Brahman, the all-pervading Attributeless Reality.
Thou alone art the Refuge, the only Object of adoration;
Thou art the only Cause of the universe, the Soul of everything that is;
Thou alone art the world’s Creator, Thou its Preserver and Destroyer;
Thou art the immutable Supreme Lord, the Absolute; Thou art unchanging Consciousness.
Dread of the dreadful! Terror of the terrible!
Refuge of all beings! Purity of purifiers!
Thou alone dost rule over those in the high places,
Supreme over the supreme, the Protector of protectors.
Almighty Lord, who art made manifest as the Form of all, yet art
Thyself unmanifest and indestructible;
Thou who art imperceptible to the senses, yet art the very Truth;
Incomprehensible, imperishable, all-pervading, hidden, and without form;
O Lord! O Light of the Universe! Protect us from harm.
On that One alone we meditate; that One is the sole object of our worship;
To That alone, the non-dual Witness of the Universe, we bow.
In that One who alone exists and who is our sole eternal Support, we seek refuge,
The self-dependent Lord, the Vessel of Safety in the ocean of existence.
Sri Ramakrishna listened to the hymn with folded hands. After it was sung he saluted Brahman. The devotees did likewise.
Adhar arrived from Calcutta and bowed down before the Master.
MASTER (to M.): “We have had such joy today! How much joy Hari’s name creates! Is it not so?”
M: “Yes, sir.”
Mahimacharan was a student of philosophy. That day he too had chanted the name of Hari and danced during the kirtan. This made the Master very happy.
It was about dusk. Many of the devotees took their leave. A lamp was lighted in Sri Ramakrishna’s room and incense was burnt. After some time the moon came out, flooding the sky with its light.
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on his couch. He was in a spiritual mood, absorbed in contemplation of the Divine Mother. Now and then he chanted Her hallowed name. Adhar was sitting on the floor. M. and Niranjan, too, were there. Sri Ramakrishna began to talk to Adhar.
MASTER: “What! You have come just now! We have had so much kirtan and dancing. Shyamdas began the kirtan. He is Ram’s music teacher. But I didn’t enjoy his singing very much; I didn’t feel like dancing. Later I heard about his character. I was told that he had as many mistresses as there are hairs on a man’s head.
“Didn’t you get the job?”
Adhar held the post of deputy magistrate, a government post that carried with it great prestige. He earned three hundred rupees a month. He had applied for the office of vice-chairman of the Calcutta Municipality. The salary attached to this office was one thousand rupees. In order to secure it, Adhar had interviewed many influential people in Calcutta.
MASTER (to M. and Niranjan): “Hazra said to me, ‘Please pray to the Divine Mother for Adhar, that he may secure the job.’ Adhar made the same request to me. I said to the Mother: ‘O Mother, Adhar has been visiting You. May he get the job if it pleases You.’ But at the same time I said to Her: ‘How small-minded he is! He is praying to You for things like that and not for Knowledge and Devotion.’
(To Adhar) “Why did you dance attendance on all those small-minded people? You have seen so much; you have heard so much! ‘After reading the entire Ramayana, to ask whose wife Sita is!'”
ADHAR: “A man cannot but do these things if he wants to lead a house-holder’s life. You haven’t forbidden us to, have you?”
MASTER: “Nivritti alone is good, and not pravritti.2 Once, when I was in a God-intoxicated state, I was asked to go to the manager of the Kali temple to sign the receipt for my salary.3 They all do it here. But I said to the manager: ‘I cannot do that. I am not asking for any salary. You may give it to someone else if you want.’ I am the servant of God alone. Whom else shall I serve? Mallick noticed the late hours of my meals and arranged for a cook. He gave me one rupee for a month’s expenses. That embarrassed me. I had to run to him whenever he sent for me. It would have been quite a different thing if I had gone to him of my own accord.
“In leading the worldly life one has to humour mean-minded people and do many such things. After the attainment of my exalted state, I noticed how things were around me and said to the Divine Mother, ‘O Mother, please change the direction of my mind right now, so that I may not have to flatter rich people.’
(To Adhar) “Be satisfied with the job you have. People hanker after a post paying fifty or a hundred rupees, and you are earning three hundred rupees! You are a deputy magistrate. I saw a deputy magistrate at Kamarpukur. His name was Ishwar Ghoshal. He had a turban on his head. Men’s very bones trembled before him. I remember having seen him during my boyhood. Is a deputy magistrate a person to be trifled with?
“Serve him whom you are already serving. The mind becomes soiled by serving but one master. And to serve five masters!
“Once a woman became attached to a Mussalman and invited him to her room. But he was a righteous person; he said to her that he wanted to use the toilet and must go home to get his water-jar for water. The woman offered him her own, but he said: ‘No, that will not do. I shall use the jar to which I have already exposed myself. I cannot expose myself before a new one.’ With these words he went away. That brought the woman to her senses. She understood that a new water-jar, in her case, signified a paramour.”
Narendra was in straitened circumstances on account of his father’s unexpected death. He had been seeking a job to maintain his mother, brothers, and sisters. He had served a few days as headmaster of the Vidyasagar School at Bowbazar.
ADHAR: “May I ask if Narendra would accept a job?”
MASTER: “Yes, he would. He has his mother, brothers, and sisters to support.”
ADHAR: “Well, Narendra can support his family with fifty or with a hundred rupees. Will he try for a hundred?”
MASTER: “Worldly people think highly of their wealth. They feel that there is nothing like it. Sambhu said, ‘It is my desire to leave all my property at the Lotus Feet of God.’ But does God care for money? He wants from His devotees knowledge, devotion, discrimination, and renunciation.
“After the theft of the jewelry from the temple of Radhakanta, Mathur Babu said: ‘O God, You could not protect Your own jewelry! What a shame!’ Once he wanted to give me an estate and consulted Hriday about it. I overheard the whole thing from the Kali temple and said to him: ‘Please don’t harbour any such thought. It will injure me greatly.'”
ADHAR: “I can tell you truthfully, sir, that not more than six or seven persons like you have been born since the creation of the world.”
MASTER: “How so? There certainly are people who have given up everything for God. As soon as a man gives up his wealth, people come to know about him. But it is also true that there are others unknown to people. Are there not such holy men in upper India?”
ADHAR: “I know of at least one such person in Calcutta. He is Devendranath Tagore.”
MASTER: “What did you say? Who has enjoyed the world as much as he? Once I visited him at his house with Mathur Babu. I saw that he had many young children. The family physician was there writing out prescriptions.
If, after having eight children, a man doesn’t think of God, then who will? If, after enjoying so much wealth, Devendranath hadn’t thought of God, then people would have cried shame upon him.”
NIRANJAN: “But he paid off all his father’s debts.”
MASTER: “Keep quiet! Don’t torment me any more. Do you call anyone a man who doesn’t pay off his father’s debts if he is able to? But I admit that Devendranath is infinitely greater than other worldly men, who are sunk in their worldliness. They can learn much from him.
“There is an ocean of difference between a real all-renouncing devotee of God and a householder devotee. A real sannyasi, a real devotee who has renounced the world, is like a bee. The bee will not light on anything but a flower. It will not drink anything but honey. But a devotee leading the worldly life is like a fly. The fly sits on a festering sore as well as on a sweet-meat. One moment he enjoys a spiritual mood, and the next moment he is beside himself with the pleasure of ‘woman and gold’.
“A devotee who has really and truly renounced all for God is like the chatak bird. It will drink only the rain-water that falls when the star Svati is in the ascendant. It will rather die of thirst than touch any other water, though all around there may lie seven oceans and rivers full to the brim with water. An all-renouncing devotee will not touch ‘woman and gold’. He will not keep ‘woman and gold’ near him lest he should feel attached.”
ADHAR: “But Chaitanya, too, enjoyed the world.”
MASTER (amazed): “What? What did he enjoy in the world?”
ADHAR: “Scholarship! Honour!”
MASTER: “It was honour in the sight of others, but nothing to him. Whether you — a deputy magistrate — or this youngster Niranjan honours me, it is all the same to me. And I tell you this truthfully: the idea of controlling a wealthy man never enters my mind. Surendra once said, rather condescendingly, that Rakhal’s father could sue me for letting Rakhal (Rakhal then was a minor.) stay with me. When I heard this from Manomohan, I said: ‘Who is this Surendra? How does he dare make a remark like that? He keeps a carpet and pillow here and gives me some money. Is that his excuse for daring to make such an impudent remark?'”
ADHAR: “I understand that he gives ten rupees a month. Isn’t that so?”
MASTER: “That covers two months’ expenses. The devotees stay here and he gives the money for their service. It is he who earns the merit. What is that to me? Is it for my personal gain that I love Narendra, Rakhal, and the others?”
M: “Your love for them is like a mother’s for her children.”
MASTER: “But even behind the mother’s love lies her hope that the children will support her later on. But I love these youngsters because I see in them Narayana Himself. These are not mere words.
(To Adhar) “Listen. There is no scarcity of moths when the lamp is lighted. When God is realised, He Himself provides everything for His devotees. He sees that they do not lack anything. When God is enshrined in the heart, many people come forward to offer their services.
Once a young sannyasi went to a householder to beg his food. He had lived as a monk from his very birth; he knew nothing of worldly matters. A young daughter of the householder came out to give him alms. He turned to her mother and said, Mother, has this girl abscesses on her chest?’ The mother said: ‘No, my child. God has given her breasts to nurse her child when she becomes a mother. Thereupon the sannyasi said: “Then why should I worry about myself? Why should I beg my food? He who has created me will certainly feed me.
“Listen If a woman renounces everything for her paramour, she can say to him, if need be, You wretch! I shall sit on your chest and devour you.’
Nangta told me of a certain king who gave a feast to the sadhus, using plates and tumblers of gold. I noticed in the monasteries at Benares with what great respect the abbots were treated. Many wealthy up-country people stood before them with folded hands, ready to obey their commands. But a true sadhu, a man who has really renounced everything, seeks neither a gold plate nor honour. God sees that he lacks nothing. God gives the devotee everything that is needed for realizing Him.
(To Adhar) “You are an executive officer. What shall I say to you? Do whatever you think best. I am an illiterate person.”
Adhar (smiling, to the devotees): “Now he is examining me.”
MASTER (smiling). “Dispassion alone is good. Do you see, I didn’t sign the receipt tor my salary? God alone is real and all else is illusory.”
Hazra entered the room and sat with the devotees on the floor. Hazra repeated now and then, “Soham! Soham!, I am He! I am He!” To Latu and other devotees he often said: “What does one gain by worshipping God with offerings? That is merely giving Him things that are His already.” He had said this once to Narendra.
The Master spoke to him.
MASTER: “I explained to Latu who the object of the devotee’s worship is.”
HAZRA: “The devotee really prays to his own Self.”
MASTER: “What you say is a very lofty thought. The aim of spiritual discipline, of chanting Gods name and glories, is to realise just that. A man attains everything when he discovers his true Self in himself. The object of sadhana is to realise that. That also is the purpose of assuming a human body. One needs the clay mould as long as the gold image has not been cast; but when the image is made, the mould is thrown away. The body may be given up after the realisation of God.
“God is not only inside us; He is both inside and outside. The Divine Mother showed me in the Kali temple that everything is Chinmaya, the Embodiment of Spirit; that it is She who has become all this — the image, myself, the utensils of worship, the door-sill, the marble floor. Everything is indeed Chinmaya.
“The aim of prayer, of spiritual discipline, of chanting the name and glories of God, is to realise just that. For that alone a devotee loves God. These youngsters (Referring to Latu and the others.) are on a lower level; they haven’t reached a high spiritual state. They are following the path of bhakti. Please don’t tell them such things as ‘I am He’.”
Like the mother bird brooding over her chicks, Sri Ramakrishna was alert to protect his devotees.
Adhar and Niranjan went out on the porch to take refreshments. Presently they returned to the room.
ADHAR (smiling): “We talked about so many things. (Pointing to M.) But he didn’t utter a word.”
MASTER: “In Keshab’s organization there was a young man with four university degrees. He laughed when he saw people arguing with me. He said: ‘To argue with him! How silly!’ I saw him again, later on, at one of Keshab’s meetings. But then he did not have the same bright complexion.”
Sri Ramakrishna sat on the floor for his supper. It was a light meal of a little farina pudding and one or two luchis that had been offered in the Kali temple. M. and Latu were in the room. The devotees had brought various sweets for the Master. He touched a sandesh and asked Latu, “Who is the rascal that brought this?” He took it out of the cup and left it on the ground. He said to Latu and M.: “I know all about him. He is immoral.”
LATU: “Shall I give you this sweet?”
MASTER: “Kishori brought it.”
LATU: “Will it suit you?”
MASTER (smiling): “Yes.”
M. had received an English education. Sri Ramakrishna said to him: “It is not possible for me to eat things offered by anyone and everyone. Do you believe this?”
M: “Gradually I shall have to believe all these things.”
MASTER: “Yes, that is so.”
After finishing the meal Sri Ramakrishna washed his mouth. He said to M., “Then will you give the rupee to Naran?” “Yes,” said M., “certainly I will.”
The moon rose in ‘the clear autumn sky and was reflected in the river. It was ebb-tide in the Ganges and the river flowed south toward the sea.
Sunday, September 14, 1884
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in his room with Narendra, Bhavanath, the Mukherji brothers, and other devotees. Rakhal was staying with Balaram at Vrindavan and was laid up with an attack of fever. Narendra was preparing himself for his coming law examination.
About eleven o’clock Jnan Babu arrived. He was a government official and had received four university degrees.
MASTER (at the sight of Jnan Babu): “Well! Well! This sudden awakening of ‘knowledge’! (“Jnan Means knowledge)
JNAN (smiling): “You must admit, sir, that one sees the awakening of knowledge as a result of very good fortune.”
MASTER (smiling): “You are Jnan. Then why should you have ajnan, ignorance? Oh, I understand. Where there is knowledge there is also ignorance. The sage Vasishtha was endowed with great knowledge and still he wept at the death of his sons. Therefore I ask you to go beyond both knowledge and ignorance. The thorn of ignorance has pierced the sole of a man’s foot. He needs the thorn of knowledge to take it out. Afterwards he throws away both thorns. The jnani says, ‘This world is a “framework of illusion”.’ But he who is beyond both knowledge and ignorance describes it as a ‘mansion of mirth’. He sees that it is God Himself who has become the universe, all living beings, and the twenty-four cosmic principles.
“A man can live in the world after attaining God. Then he can lead the life of detachment. In the country I have seen the women of the carpenter families making flattened rice with a husking-machine. With one hand one of them turns the paddy in the hole and with the other she holds a nursing child. At the same time she talks with the buyer. She says to him: ‘You owe me two annas. Pay it before you go.’ But seventy-five per cent of the woman’s mind is on her hand lest it should be crushed by the pestle of the husking-machine.
“A man should do his worldly duties with only twenty-five per cent of his mind, devoting the rest to God.”
Referring to Pundit Shashadhar, the Master said to the devotees, “I found him monotonous — engaged in the dry discussion of philosophy.
“He alone who, after reaching the Nitya, the Absolute, can dwell in the Lila, the Relative, and again climb from the Lila to the Nitya, has ripe knowledge and devotion. Sages like Narada cherished love of God after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman. This is called vijnana.
“Mere dry knowledge is like an ordinary rocket: it bursts into a few sparks and then dies out. But the Knowledge of sages like Narada and Sukadeva is like a good rocket: for a while it showers balls of different colours, and then it stops; again it throws out new balls, and again it stops; and thus it goes on. Those sages had prema for God. Prema is the rope by which one can reach Satchidananda.”
The Master finished his midday meal and rested a few minutes. Bhavanath, M., the Mukherji brothers, Hazra, and several other devotees sat down under the bakul-tree and began to converse. The Master stopped there awhile on his way to the pine-grove.
HAZRA (to the younger Gopal): “Please prepare a smoke for him [meaning the Master].”
MASTER (smiling): “Why don’t you admit that you want it?” (All laugh.)
MUKHERJI (to Hazra): “You must have learnt much wisdom from him [meaning the Master].”
MASTER (smiling): “No, he has been wise like this from his boyhood.” (All laugh.)
Presently Sri Ramakrishna returned from the pine-grove. The devotees noticed that he was in an ecstatic mood and was reeling like a drunkard. After reaching his room he regained the normal state.
Many devotees gathered in the room. Among them was a new-comer, a sadhaka from Konnagar, who looked over fifty years of age and seemed to have great vanity of scholarship.
The Master stood in the middle of the room and suddenly said to M., “He came here — Naran.”
Narendra was engaged in a discussion with Hazra and a few others on the verandah. They could be heard from the room.
MASTER (referring to Narendra): “The chatterbox! But he is now much worried about his family.”
M: “Yes, sir, it is true.”
MASTER: “Once he said that he would look upon adversity as his good fortune. Isn’t that so?”
M: “He has great strength of mind.”
A DEVOTEE: “Does he lack strength in anything?”
Pointing to the sadhaka from Konnagar, a devotee said to the Master: “Sir, he has come to visit you. He has some questions to ask.” The sadhaka was seated erect, his chin up.
SADHAKA: “Sir, what is the way?”
MASTER: “Faith in the guru’s words. One attains God by following the guru’s instructions step by step. It is like reaching an object by following the trail of a thread.”
SADHAKA: “Is it possible to see God?”
MASTER: “He is unknowable by the mind engrossed in worldliness. One cannot attain God if one has even a trace of attachment to ‘woman and gold’. But He is knowable by the pure mind and the pure intelligence — the mind and intelligence that have not the slightest trace of attachment. Pure Mind, Pure Intelligence, Pure Atman, are one and the same thing.”
SADHAKA: “But the scriptures say, ‘From Him words and mind return baffled.’ He is unknowable by mind and words.”
MASTER: “Oh, stop! One cannot understand the meaning of the scriptures without practising spiritual discipline. What will you gain by merely uttering the word ‘siddhi’? (Indian hemp.) The pundits glibly quote the scriptures; but what will that accomplish? A man does not become intoxicated even by rubbing siddhi on his body; he must swallow it. What is the use of merely repeating, There is butter in the milk’? Turn the milk into curd and churn it. Only then will you get butter.”
SADHAKA: “You talk about churning butter. But you too. are quoting the scriptures.”
MASTER : “What will one gain by merely quoting or hearing the scriptures? One must assimilate them. The almanac makes a forecast of the rainfall for the year, but you won’t get a drop by squeezing its pages.”
SADHAKA: “You talk about churning butter. Have you done it yourself?”
MASTER: “You don’t have to bother about what I have or haven’t done. Besides, it is very difficult to explain these things to others. Suppose someone asks you, ‘What does ghee taste like?’ Your answer will be, ‘Ghee tastes like ghee.’
“To understand these things one needs to live with holy men, just as to understand the pulse of bile,4 of phlegm, and so on, one needs to live with a physician.”
SADHAKA: “There are some people who are irritated by others’ company.”
MASTER: “That happens only after the attainment of Knowledge, after the realisation of God. Shouldn’t a beginner live in the company of holy men?”
The sadhaka sat in silence a few moments. Then he said with some irritation: “Please tell me whether you have realised God either directly or intuitively. You may answer me if you are able, or you may keep silent if you wish.” The Master said with a smile: “What shall I say? One can only give a hint.”
SADHAKA: “Then tell us that much.”
Narendra was going to sing. He said, “No one has brought a pakhoaj.”
THE YOUNGER GOPAL: “Mahimacharan has one.”
MASTER (interrupting): “No, we don’t want anything of his here.”
A devotee from Konnagar sang a song. Every now and then Sri Ramakrishna glanced at the sadhaka. The singer and Narendra became engaged in a furious discussion about musical technique. The sadhaka said to the singer, “What is the use of such discussions?” Referring to another man who had joined in the discussion, Sri Ramakrishna said to the sadhaka, “Why didn’t you scold him, too?” It could be seen that the sadhaka was not on friendly terms with his companions from Konnagar.
O Lord, must all my days pass by so utterly in vain?
Down the path of hope I gaze with longing, day and night. . . .
The sadhaka closed his eyes in meditation as he listened to the song. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. The rays of the setting sun fell on his body. Sri Ramakrishna quickly opened an umbrella and placed it near the door so that the sun might not disturb the sadhaka.
Narendra sang again:
How shall I call on Thee, O Lord, with such a stained and worldly mind?
Can a straw remain unharmed, cast in a pit of flaming coals?
Thou, all goodness, art the fire, and I, all sin, am but a straw:
How shall I ever worship Thee?
The glory of Thy name, they say, redeems those even past redeeming;
Yet, when I chant Thy sacred name, alas! my poor heart quakes with fright.
I spend my life a slave to sin; how can I find a refuge, then,
O Lord, within Thy holy way?
In Thine abounding kindliness, rescue Thou this sinful wretch;
Drag me off by the hair of my head and give me shelter at Thy feet.
Again he sang:
Sweet is Thy name, O Refuge of the humble!
It falls like sweetest nectar on our ears
And comforts us, Beloved of our souls!
The priceless treasure of Thy name alone
Is the abode of Immortality,
And he who chants Thy name becomes immortal.
Falling upon our ears, Thy holy name
Instantly slays the anguish of our hearts,
Thou Soul of our souls, and fills our hearts with bliss!
As Narendra sang the line, “And he who chants Thy name becomes immortal”, the Master went into samadhi. At first his fingers, especially the thumbs, began to tremble. The devotees from Konnagar had never seen the Master in samadhi. Seeing him silent, they were about to leave the room. Bhavanath said to them: “Why are you going away? This is his samadhi.” The devotees resumed their places.
I have laboured day and night
To make Thy seat within my heart;
Wilt Thou not be kind to me,
O Lord of the World, and enter there?
Sri Ramakrishna, still in the ecstatic mood, came down from his couch to the floor and sat by Narendra. The beloved disciple sang again:
In Wisdom’s firmament the moon of Love is rising full,
And Love’s flood-tide, in surging waves, is flowing everywhere.
O Lord, how full of bliss Thou art! Victory unto Thee! . . .
As Narendra sang the last line, Sri Ramakrishna stood up, still absorbed in samadhi.
After a long time the Master regained partial consciousness of the world and sat down on the mat. Narendra finished his singing, and the tanpura was put back in its place. The Master was still in a spiritual mood and said: “Mother, tell me what this is. They want someone to extract the butter for them and hold it to their mouths. They won’t throw the spiced bait into the lake. They won’t even hold the fishing-rod. Someone must catch the fish and put it into their hands! How troublesome! Mother, I won’t listen to any more argument. The rogues force it on me. What a bother! I shall shake it off. God is beyond the Vedas and their injunctions. Can one realise Him by studying the scriptures, the Vedas, and the Vedanta? (To Narendra) Do you understand this? The Vedas give only a hint.”
Narendra wanted the tanpura again. The Master said, “I want to sing.” He was still in an ecstatic mood and 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. . . .
The Master said, “Mother, why do You make me argue?” He sang again:
Once for all, this time, I have thoroughly understood;
From One who knows it well, I have learnt the secret of bhava. . . .
The Master said, “I am quite conscious.” But he was still groggy with divine fervour. He sang once more:
I drink no ordinary wine, but Wine of Everlasting Bliss,
As I repeat my Mother Kali’s name;
It so intoxicates my mind that people take me to be drunk! . . .
Sri Ramakrishna had said, “Mother, I won’t listen to any more argument.” Narendra sang:
O Mother, make me mad with Thy love!
What need have I of knowledge or reason? . . .
Sri Ramakrishna said with a smile: “O Mother, make me mad! God cannot be realised through knowledge and reasoning, through the arguments in the scriptures.” He had been pleased with the singing of the musician from Konnagar and said to him humbly: “Please sing about the Divine Mother. Please — one song.”
MUSICIAN: “You must excuse me, sir.”
MASTER (bowing with folded hands): “No, sir. I can enforce this demand.”
Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna sang a few lines from a kirtan, assuming the attitude of a gopi:
Radha has every right to say it;
She has kept awake for Krishna.
She has stayed awake all night,
And she has every right to be piqued.
Then he said to the musician: “My dear sir, you are a child of the Divine Mother. She dwells in all beings. Therefore I have every right to enforce my demand. A farmer said to his guru, ‘I shall get my mantra from you by beating you, if I have to.'”
MUSICIAN (smiling): “By a shoe-beating?’
MASTER (smiling): “No! I won’t go that far.” Again in an abstracted mood Sri Ramakrishna said: “The beginner, the struggling, the perfect, and the supremely perfect. Which are you — perfect or supremely perfect? Come along! Sing for us.”
The musician complied. He sang just a melody.
MASTER: “My dear sir, that too makes me happy.”
The musician then sang a song. When the music was over, the devotees from Konnagar saluted the Master and took their leave. The sadhaka bowed before him with folded hands and said, “Holy man, let me say good-bye.”
Sri Ramakrishna, still in an ecstatic mood, was talking to the Divine Mother.
MASTER: “Mother, is it You or I? Do I do anything? No. no! It is You. Was it You who heard the arguments all this time, or was it I? No, not I. It was You.”
Sri Ramakrishna became conscious of the outer world and began to converse with Narendra, Bhavanath, and the other devotees. They were talking about the sadhaka.
BHAVANATH (smiling): “What kind of man is he?”
MASTER: “He is a tamasic devotee.”
BHAVANATH: “He can certainly recite Sanskrit verses.”
MASTER: “Once I said to a man about a sadhu: “He is a rajasic sadhu. Why should one give him food and other presents?’ At this another sadhu taught me a lesson by saying to me: ‘Don’t say that. There are three classes of holy men: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic.’ Since that day I have respected holy men of all classes.”
NARENDRA (smiling): “What? Is it like the elephant God’? All, indeed are God.”
MASTER (smiling): “It is God Himself who sports in the world as both vidya and avidya. Therefore I salute both. It is written in the Chandi: The Divine Mother is the good fortune of the blessed and the ill fortune of the unlucky.’ (To Bhavanath) Is that mentioned in the Vishnu Purana?”
BHAVANATH (smiling): “I don’t know, sir. The devotees from Konnagar did not understand your samadhi and were about to leave the room.”
MASTER: “Who was it that asked them to remain?”
BHAVANATH (smiling): “It was I.”
MASTER: “My child, you are equally good in bringing people here and in driving them away.”
The conversation turned to the argument that Narendra had had with the musician from Konnagar.
MUKHERJI: “Narendra didn’t spare him.”
MASTER: “That’s right. One needs such grit. This is called the influence of tamas on sattva. Must a man listen to everything another man says? Should one say to a prostitute, ‘All right, you may do whatever you like’? Must one listen to her? At one time Radha was piqued. A friend said, ‘Her ego has been roused.’ Brinde, another friend, said: ‘Whose is this ego? Her ego belongs to Krishna alone. She is proud in the pride of Krishna.'”
The conversation turned to the glory of God’s name.
BHAVANATH: “I feel such relief while chanting the name of Hari.”
MASTER: “He who relieves us of sin is Hari. He relieves us of our three afflictions in the world. Chaitanya preached the glory of Hari’s name; so it must be good. You see, he was such a great scholar, and an Incarnation too. Since he preached that name, it must be good. (Smiling) Once some peasants were invited to a feast. They were asked if they would eat a preparation of hog plum. They answered: ‘You may give it to us if the gentlemen have eaten it. If they enjoyed it, then it must be good.’ (All laugh.)
(To the Mukherji brothers) “I should like to visit Shivanath. I won’t have to hire a carriage if you take me in yours.”
MUKHERJI: “All right, sir, we shall set a day.”
MASTER (to the devotees): “Do you think the Brahmos will like me? They criticize those who believe in God with form.”
Mahendra Mukherji wanted to go on a pilgrimage. He told Sri Ramakrishna so.
MASTER (smiling): “How is that? Do you want to go when the sprout of divine love has hardly come up? First comes the sprout, then the tree, then the fruit. We are so happy to have you here to talk to.”
MAHENDRA: “I feel like visiting the holy places a little. I shall return soon.”
It was about five o’clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna left his room. The devotees were walking in the garden. Many of them were about to leave.
The Master was conversing with Hazra on the north verandah. They were talking of Narendra’s frequent visits to Annada, the eldest son of the Guhas.
HAZRA: “I hear that Annada is now practising austerity. He lives on very little food and eats rice once every four days.”
MASTER: “Is that so? ‘Who knows? One may realise God even by means of a religious garb.'”
HAZRA: “Narendra sang the agamani.”5
MASTER (eagerly): “How did he sing it?”
Kishori stood close by. The Master said to him, “Are you well?”
A little later the Master was standing on the west porch. Since it was autumn, he had put on a flannel shirt dyed with ochre. He asked Narendra, “Is it true that you6 sang the agamani?”
Accompanied by Narendra and M., Sri Ramakrishna walked to the embankment of the Ganges.
Narendra sang the agamani:
Tell me, my Uma, how have you fared, alone in the Stranger’s (Siva, Uma’s Husband.) house?
People speak so much ill of us! Alas, I die of shame!’
My Son-in-law smears His body with ashes from the funeral pyre
And roams about in great delight;
You too, along with Him, cover with ash your golden skin.
He begs the food that He eats! How can I bear it, being your mother?
This time, when He returns to claim you, I shall say to Him,
“My daughter Uma is not at home.”
Sri Ramakrishna stood listening to the song and went into samadhi. The sun was still above the horizon as the Master stood on the embankment in the ecstatic mood. On one side of him was the Ganges, flowing north with the flood-tide. Behind him was the flower garden. To his right one could see the nahabat and the Panchavati. Narendra stood by his side and sang. Gradually the darkness of evening fell upon the earth.
After Narendra and several other devotees had saluted the Master and left for Calcutta, Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room. He was absorbed in meditation on the Divine Mother and was chanting Her holy name.
Jadu Mallick had arrived at his garden house next to the Kali temple. He sent for the Master. Adhar, too, had arrived from Calcutta, and he saluted Sri Ramakrishna. The Master asked Latu to light the lantern and accompany him to Jadu’s garden.
MASTER (to M.): “Why didn’t you bring Naran with you?”
M: “Shall I come with you?”
MASTER: “Do you want to come? Adhar and the others are here. All right, you may come. Will the Mukherjis also come with us? (To the Mukherjis) Come along. Then we can leave Jadu Mallick quickly.”
The Master went to Jadu’s drawing-room. It was a well furnished room, with everything spick and span. The lamps were lighted. Jadu was sitting with his friends and was playing with the children. Servants were in attendance. Smiling, Jadu welcomed Sri Ramakrishna, but he did not get up. He treated the Master as a friend of long acquaintance.
Jadu was a devotee of Gauranga. He had just seen a performance of Gauranga’s life at the Star Theatre and told the Master about it. The Master listened to his account joyfully and played with the children. M. and the Mukherji brothers sat near him. In the course of the conversation Sri Ramakrishna told Jadu that Adhar had not been able to secure the post of vice-chairman the Calcutta Municipality. Jadu said that Adhar was still young and could try for it again. At his request the Master sang a few songs about Gauranga.
After the music was over, the Mukherjis were about to take their leave. The Master, too, was ready to go, but he was in an ecstatic mood. On coming to the porch he went into samadhi. The gate-keeper of the garden house was a pious man. Now and then he invited the Master to his house and fed him. Sri Ramakrishna stood there in samadhi, and the gate-keeper fanned him with a large fan. Ratan, the manager of the garden house, saluted the Master, and Sri Ramakrishna, returning to the consciousness of the relative world, greeted the manager and the gate-keeper, saying, “Narayana”. Then, accompanied by the devotees, he went back to the temple garden through the main gate.
MASTER (to the Mukherjis, pointing to M.): “Please visit him often.”
MUKHERJI (smiling): “Yes, henceforth he will be our teacher,”
MASTER: “It is the nature of the hemp-smoker to make merry in the company of another hemp-smoker. He will not talk even to an amir, but he will embrace a wretched hemp-smoker if he happens to meet one.” (All laugh.)
It was about nine o’clock. The Mukherji brothers saluted the Master and went away, Adhar and M. sat on the floor in the Master’s room while he talked to Adhar about Rakhal.
Rakhal was staying in Vrindavan with Balaram. The Master had learnt from a letter about Rakhal’s illness. He was so worried about him that two or three days earlier he had wept before Hazra like a child. Adhar had sent a registered letter to Rakhal but had received no reply.
MASTER (to Adhar): “Naran has received a letter from Vrindavan. Why haven’t you received a reply to yours?”
ADHAR: “I haven’t yet heard from Vrindavan.”
MASTER: “M. has also received a letter from Vrindavan.”
They began to talk of Sri Ramakrishna’s seeing a play, at the Star Theatre, about the life of Gauranga.
MASTER (smiling): “Jadu told me that one could see the play very well from a one-rupee seat.7 Very cheap! Once we were talking about going to Panihati. Jadu wanted me to go in a country boat with a whole crowd of passengers. (All laugh.)
“Formerly he liked to hear a little about God. But I don’t see Jadu much nowadays. He is always surrounded by flatterers. They have spoiled him. He is a man of a very calculating nature. I would no sooner set foot in his house than he would ask me, “How much is the carriage hire?’8 I would say: You don’t have to bother about it. You may give two and a halt rupees.’ That would keep him quiet.” (All laugh.)
It was late. Adhar was about to depart. The Master asked M. to bring Naran with him.
- ^Short for Narayan, a young disciple of the Master.
- ^Nivritti and pravritti mean, respectively, inwardness of the mind and its inclination to outer enjoyment.
- ^Sri Ramakrishna was then acting as the salaried priest of the Kali temple.
- ^According to orthodox Hindu medicine, phlegm, bile, and wind are the three humours that control physical health. A physician can determine their condition by reeling the patient’s pulse.
- ^A class of songs invoking Durga, the Divine Mother. According to Hindu mythology Durga, or Uma, is the daughter of King Himalaya. She was married, against the will of Her parents, to Siva, who roams in the cremation ground in the company of ghosts, smearing His body with ashes and living on alms. According to the terms of the marriage, Durga was allowed to stay with Her parents three days each year. The Hindu women of Bengal look on Durga as their own daughter. On the first day of the Durga Puja they sing the agamani to welcome the Divine Mother. The song is full of the tenderness and affection of a mother for her daughter who is returning home from her husband’s house after a long time.
- ^As a member of the Brahmo Samaj, Narendra at that time did not believe in the gods and goddesses of the Hindu religion.
- ^In spite of his great wealth, Jadu Mallick was very miserly.
- ^It is customary for a householder in India to pay the carriage hire of a holy man when the latter visits his house.