Balaram Bose — Master’s exalted spiritual state — The younger Naren — Mystery of Divine Incarnation — Seek God in man — God known to the pure mind — Master’s love for Narayan — The purpose of the scriptures — Mere scholarship condemned — Narendra’s many virtues — Master’s prayer — At Girish’s house — Narendra and Girish argue about God — Qualified Monism — Futility of mere reasoning — Kali and Brahman — Master’s love for Narendra — About Purna — Master at Devendra’s house — Master praises renunciation — About Girish.
March 11, 1885
ON THE MORNING of Wednesday, March 11, Sri Ramakrishna and some of his disciples visited Balaram Bose’s house. Balaram was indeed blessed among the householder disciples of the Master. Sri Ramakrishna often described him as a rasaddar, or supplier of stores, appointed by the Divine Mother to take care of his physical needs. Balaram’s house in Calcutta had been sanctified many times by the Master’s presence. There he frequently lost himself in samadhi, dancing, singing, or talking about God. Those of the Master’s disciples and devotees who could not go to Dakshineswar visited him there and received his instruction. He often asked Balaram to invite young disciples such as Rakhal, Bhavanath, and Narendra to his house, saying: “These pure souls are the veritable manifestations of God. To feed them is to feed God Himself. They are born with special divine attributes. By serving them you will be serving God.” And so it happened that whenever the Master was at Balaram’s house the devotees would gather there. It was the Master’s chief vineyard in Calcutta. It was here that the devotees came to know each other intimately.
M. taught in a school in the neighbourhood. He often brought his young students to visit the Master at Balaram’s house. On this day, having learnt of Sri Ramakrishna’s arrival, M. went there at noon during the recess hour of the school. He found the Master resting in the drawing-room after his midday meal. Several young boys were in the room. M. prostrated himself before the Master and sat by his side.
MASTER (tenderly): “How could you come now? Have you no school work?”
M: “I have come directly from school. Just now I have no important work to do.”
A DEVOTEE: “No, sir; he is playing truant today.” (All laugh.)
M. said to himself, “Alas! It is indeed as if some invisible power had drawn me here.”
The Master, looking a little thoughtful, asked M. to come nearer. He said, “Please wring out my wet towel and put my coat in the sun.” Then he continued: “My legs and feet ache. Please rub them gently.”
M. felt very happy to be given the privilege of rendering these services to the Master.
Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: “Can you tell me why I have been feeling like this the past few days? It is impossible for me to touch any metal. When I touched a metal cup I felt as if I had been stung by a horned fish. There was an excruciating pain all over my arm. But I must use a brass water-jar, and so I tried to carry it after covering it with my towel. But the moment I touched the jar I felt the same acute pain in my arm. It was an unbearable pain! At last I prayed to the Divine Mother: ‘O Mother, I shall never do it again. Please forgive me this time.’
“The younger Naren often visits me. Do you think his people at home will object? He is very pure and doesn’t know what carnal pleasure is.”
M: “He is a ‘large receptacle’.”
MASTER: “That is true. Further, he says he remembers spiritual things after hearing them once only. He told me, ‘I used to weep in my boyhood because I couldn’t see God.'”
The Master and M. were thus talking about the young devotee when someone reminded M. of his school.
MASTER: “What is the time now?”
A DEVOTEE: “It is ten minutes to one.”
MASTER'(to M.): “You had better go now. It is getting late for you. You have, left your duties. (To Latu) Where is Rakhal?”
LATU: “He has gone home.”
MASTER: “What? Has he gone away without seeing me?”
After school-hours M. returned to Balaram’s house and found the Master sitting in the drawing-room, surrounded by his devotees and disciples. Among them were Girish, Suresh, Balaram, Latu, and Chunilal. The Master’s face was beaming with a sweet smile, which was reflected in the happy faces of those in the room. M. was asked to take a seat by the Master’s side.
MASTER (to Girish): “You had better argue this point with Narendra and see what he has to say.”
GIRISH: “Narendra says that God is infinite; we cannot even so much as say that the things or persons we perceive are parts of God. How can Infinity have parts? It cannot.”
MASTER: “However great and infinite God may be, His Essence can and does manifest itself through man by His mere will. God’s Incarnation as a man cannot be explained by analogy. One must feel it for oneself and realise it by direct perception. An analogy can give us only a little glimpse. By touching the horns, legs, or tail of a cow, we in fact touch the cow herself; but for us the essential thing about a cow is her milk, which comes through the udder. The Divine Incarnation is like the udder. God incarnates Himself as man from time to time in order to teach people devotion and divine love.”
GIRISH: “Narendra says: ‘Is it ever possible to know all of God? He is infinite.'”
MASTER (to Girish): “Who can comprehend everything about God? It is not given to man to know any aspect of God, great or small. And what need is there to know everything about God? It is enough if we only realise Him. And we see God Himself if we but see His Incarnation. Suppose a person goes to the Ganges and touches its water. He will then say, ‘Yes, I have seen and touched the Ganges.’ To say this it is not necessary for him to touch the whole length of the river from Hardwar to Gangasagar. (Laughter.)
“If I touch your feet, surely that is the same as touching you. (Laughter.) If a person goes to the ocean and touches but a little of its water, he has surely touched the ocean itself. Fire, as an element, exists in all things, but in wood it is present to a greater degree.”
GIRISH (smiling): “I am looking for fire. Naturally I want to go to a place where I can get it.”
MASTER (smiling): “Yes, fire, as an element, is present more in wood than in any other object. If you seek God, then seek Him in man; He manifests Himself more in man than in any other thing. If you see a man endowed with ecstatic love, overflowing with prema, mad after God, intoxicated with His love, then know for certain that God has incarnated Himself through that man.
(To M.) “There is no doubt that God exists in all things; but the manifestations of His Power are different in different beings. The greatest manifestation of His Power is through an Incarnation. Again, in some Incarnations there is a complete manifestation of God’s Power. It is the Sakti, the Power of God, that is born as an Incarnation.”
GIRISH: “Narendra says that God is beyond our words and thought.”
MASTER: “That is not altogether true. He is, no doubt, unknowable by this ordinary mind, but He can indeed be known by the pure mind. The mind and intellect become pure the moment they are free from attachment to ‘woman and gold’. The pure mind and pure intellect are one and the same. God is known by the pure mind. Didn’t the sages and seers of olden times see God? They realised the All-pervading Consciousness by means of their inner consciousness.”
GIRISH (with a smile): “I defeated Narendra in the argument.”
MASTER: “Oh, no! He said to me: ‘When Girish Ghosh has so much faith in God’s Incarnation as man, what can I say to him? It is not proper to meddle with such faith.'”
GIRISH (with a smile): “Sir, we are very free and easy with our words. But M. is sitting there with his lips shut tight. What in the world is passing through his mind? What do you say about it, sir?”
MASTER (with a laugh): “There is a common adage that tells people to beware of the following: a man with a loose tongue, a man whose mind cannot be fathomed even by an expert diver, a man who sticks the sacred tulsi-leaf in his ears as a sign of holiness, a woman wearing a long veil to proclaim her chastity, and the cold water of a reservoir covered with green scum, by bathing in which one gets typhoid fever. These are all dangerous things. (With a smile) But it is different with M. He is a serious man.” (All laugh.)
CHUNILAL: “People have begun to whisper about M.’s conduct. The younger Naren and Baburam are his students, as are Naran, Paltu, Purna, and Tejchandra. The rumour is that he brings these boys to you and so they neglect their studies. The boys’ guardians hold M. responsible.”
MASTER: “But who would believe their words?”
They were thus talking when Naran entered the room and bowed low before the Master. He was a student seventeen or eighteen years old and of fair complexion. He was dearly loved by the Master, who was very eager to see the boy and feed him. Many a time at the temple garden at Dakshineswar the Master wept silently for Naran. He looked on him as the manifestation of Narayana Himself.
GIRISH (at the sight of Naran): “There! Who told him about this? Now we realise that M. is at the root of all the mischief.” (All laugh.)
MASTER (smiling): “Stop! Hold your tongue. There is already an evil rumour about him.”
The conversation next turned to Narendra.
A DEVOTEE: “Why doesn’t he come to you so frequently nowadays?”
MASTER (quoting a proverb): “Man’s worries over bread and butter are simply amazing; they make even Kalidasa lose his wits.”
BALARAM: “Narendra frequently visits his friend Annada Guha of the family of Shiva Guha.”
MASTER: “Yes, I have heard that too. Narendra and his friends meet at the house of a government officer and conduct meetings of the Brahmo Samaj there.”
A DEVOTEE: “The officer’s name is Tarapada.”
BALARAM (smiling): “The brahmins say that Annada Guha is a very egotistic man.”
MASTER: “Never listen to what the brahmins say. You know their nature very well. If a man doesn’t give them money, they will call him bad; on the other hand, if a man is generous to them, they will call him good. (All laugh.) I know Annada. He is a good man.”
The drawing-room was full of devotees. The Master wanted to hear some songs. At his request Tarapada sang about Krishna:
O Kesava, bestow Thy grace
Upon Thy luckless servants here!
O Kesava, who dost delight
To roam Vrindavan’s glades and groves!
O Madhava, our mind’s Bewitcher!
Sweet One, who dost steal our hearts,
Sweetly playing on Thy flute!
(Chant, O Mind, the name of Hari,
Sing aloud the name of Hari,
Praise Lord Hari’s name!)
O Thou Eternal Youth of Braja,
Tamer of fierce Kaliya,
Slayer of the afflicted’s fear!
Beloved, with the arching eyes
And crest with arching peacock feather,
Charmer of Sri Radha’s heart!
Govardhan’s mighty Lifter, Thou,
All garlanded with sylvan flowers!
O Damodara, Kamsa’s Scourge!
O Dark One, who dost sport in bliss
With sweet Vrindavan’s gopi maids.
(Chant, O mind, the name of Hari,
Sing aloud the name of Hari,
Praise Lord Hari’s name!)
MASTER (to Girish): “Ah! It is a beautiful song. Did you write it?”
A DEVOTEE: “Yes, sir, he wrote all the songs for his play, the Chaitanyalila.”
MASTER: “This one has really hit the mark.”
At Sri Ramakrishna’s request Tarapada sang two more songs. In the first, Nitai exhorts people to share Radha’s love for Sri Krishna:
Come one and all! Take Radha’s love!
The high tide of her love flows by;
It will not last for very long.
Oh, come then! Come ye, one and all!
In countless streams it flows from her;
As much as you desire is yours.
Made all of love, she pours out love
Unstintingly for everyone;
Her love intoxicates the heart
With heavenly bliss, and thrills the soul.
Oh, come and sing Lord Hari’s name,
Drawn by her love. Oh, come ye all!
Next he sang about Gauranga:
Who art Thou, Gaur of the golden hue,
That quenchest the thirst of my soul?
Thou raisest a storm in the sea of Love,
And scarcely can I steady my boat.
Once as a cowherd boy in Vrindavan
Thou didst tend the cows;
In Thy hands Thou heldest the flute
That so bewitched the gopi maids.
Lifting Govardhan’s mount in Thine arms,
Thou shieldedst Vrindavan from ill;
And at the wounded gopis’ feet
Humbledst Thyself in repentant love.
The devotees pressed M. to sing; but M. was shy and asked them in a whisper to excuse him.
GIRISH (to the Master): “Sir, we can’t find a way to persuade M. to sing.’
MASTER (annoyed): “Yes, he can bare his teeth at school, but shyness overpowers him when he is asked to sing!”
M., feeling greatly distressed, remained speechless.
Suresh Mitra, a beloved householder disciple of the Master, was seated at a distance. The Master cast an affectionate glance at him and said to him, pointing to Girish, “You talk of having lived a wild life, but here is one you could not surpass.”
SURESH (with a smile) : “Yes, sir, he is my elder brother in that respect.” (All laugh.)
GIRISH (to the Master): “Well, sir, I didn’t have any education during my boyhood, but still people say I am a learned man.”
MASTER: “Mahimacharan has studied many scriptures. A big man. (To M.) Isn’t that so?”
M: “Yes, sir.”
GIRISH: “What? Book-learning? I have seen enough of it. It can’t fool me any more.
MASTER (with a smile): “Do you know my attitude? Books, scriptures, and things like that only point out the way to reach God. After finding the way, what more need is there of books and scriptures? Then comes the time for action.
“A man received a letter from home informing him that certain presents were to be sent to his relatives. The names of the articles were given in the letter. As he was about to go shopping for them, he found that the letter was missing. He began anxiously to search for it, several others joining in the search. For a long time they continued to search. When at last the letter was discovered, his joy knew no bounds. With great eagerness he opened the letter and read it. It said that he was to buy five seers of sweets, a piece of cloth, and a few other things. Then he did not need the letter any more, for it had served its purpose. Putting it aside, he went out to buy the things. How long is such a letter necessary? As long as its contents are not known. When the contents are known one proceeds to carry out the directions.
“In the scriptures you will find the way to realise God. But after getting all the information about the path, you must begin to work. Only then can you attain your goal.
“What will it avail a man to have mere scholarship? A pundit may have studied many scriptures, he may recite many sacred texts, but if he is still attached to the world and if inwardly he loves ‘woman and gold’, then he has not assimilated the contents of the scriptures. For such a man the study of scriptures is futile.
“The almanac forecasts the rainfall tor the year. You may squeeze the book, but you won’t get a drop of water — not even a single drop.” (Laughter.)
GIRISH (smiling): “What did you say, sir, about squeezing the almanac? Won’t a single drop of water come out of it?” (All laugh.)
MASTER (with a smile): “The pundits talk big, but where is their mind fixed? On ‘woman and gold’, on creature comforts and money. The vulture soars very high in the sky, but its eyes are fixed on the charnel-pit. It is continually looking for charnel-pits, carcasses, and dead bodies.
(To Girish) “Narendra is a boy of a very high order. He excels in everything: vocal and instrumental music and studies. Again, he has control over his sense-organs. He is truthful and has discrimination and dispassion. So many virtues in one person! (To M.) What do you say? Isn’t he unusually good?”
M: “Yes, sir, he is.”
MASTER (aside to M.): “He [meaning Girish] has great earnestness and faith.”
M. looked at Girish, and marvelled at his tremendous faith. Girish had been coming to Sri Ramakrishna only a short time and had already recognized his spiritual power. To M. he seemed a familiar friend and kinsman, related to him by the strong bond of spirituality. Girish was one of the gems in the necklace of the Master’s devotees.
Narayan asked the Master whether he would sing. Sri Ramakrishna sang of the Divine Mother:
Cherish my precious Mother Syama
Tenderly within, O mind;
May you and I alone behold Her,
Letting no one else intrude.
O mind, in solitude enjoy Her,
Keeping the passions all outside;
Take but the tongue, that now and again
It may cry out, “O Mother! Mother!”
Suffer no breath of base desire
To enter and approach us there,
But bid true knowledge stand on guard,
Alert and watchful evermore.
Then he sang, as if he were one of the afflicted souls of the world:
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? . . .
Again he sang about the bliss of the Divine Mother:
Behold my Mother playing with Siva, lost in an ecstasy of joy!
Drunk with a draught of celestial wine. She reels and yet She does not fall. . . .
The devotees listened to the songs in deep silence. After a few moments Sri Ramakrishna said, “I have a slight cold; so I couldn’t sing well.”
Gradually it became dusk. The shadow of evening fell on Calcutta. For the moment the noise of the busy metropolis was stilled. Gongs and conch-shells proclaimed the evening worship in many Hindu homes. Devotees of God set aside their worldly duties and turned their minds to prayer and meditation. This joining of day and night, this mystic twilight, always created an ecstatic mood in the Master.
The devotees seated in the room looked at Sri Ramakrishna as he began to chant the sweet name of the Divine Mother. After the chanting he began to pray. What was the need of prayer to a soul in constant communion with God? Did he not rather want to teach erring mortals how to pray? Addressing the Divine Mother, he said, “O Mother, I throw myself on Thy mercy; I take shelter at Thy Hallowed Feet. I do not want bodily comforts; I do not crave name and fame; I do not seek the eight occult powers. Be gracious and grant that I may have pure love for Thee, a love unsmitten by desire, untainted by any selfish ends — a love craved by the devotee for the sake of love alone. And grant me the favour, O Mother, that I may not be deluded by Thy world-bewitching maya, that I may never be attached to the world, to ‘woman and gold’, conjured up by Thy inscrutable maya! O Mother, there is no one but Thee whom I may call my own. Mother, I do not know how to worship; I am without austerity; I have neither devotion nor knowledge. Be gracious, Mother, and out of Thy infinite mercy grant me love for Thy Lotus Feet.”
Every word of this prayer, uttered from the depths of his soul, stirred the minds of the devotees. The melody of his voice and the childlike simplicity of his face touched their hearts very deeply.
Girish invited the Master to his house, saying that he must go there that very night.
MASTER: “Don’t you think it will be late?”
GIRISH: “No, sir. You may return any time you like. I shall have to go to the theatre tonight to settle a quarrel there.”
It was nine o’clock in the evening when the Master was ready to start for Girish’s house. Since Balaram had prepared supper for him, Sri Ramakrishna said to Balaram: “Please send the food you have prepared for me to Girish’s. I shall enjoy it there.” He did not want to hurt Balaram’s feelings.
As the Master was coming down from the second floor of Balaram’s house, he became filled with divine ecstasy. He looked as if he were drunk. Narayan and M. were by his side; a little behind came Ram, Chuni, and the other devotees. No sooner did he reach the ground floor than he became totally overwhelmed. Narayan came forward to hold him by the hand lest he should miss his footing and fall. The Master expressed annoyance at this. A few minutes later he said to Narayan affectionately: “If you hold me by the hand people may think I am drunk. I shall walk by myself.”
Girish’s house was not far away. The Master passed the crossing at Bosepara Lane. Suddenly he began to walk faster. The devotees were left behind. Presently Narendra was seen coming from a distance. At other times the Master’s joy would have been unbounded at the thought of Narendra or at the mere mention of his name; but now he did not even exchange a word with his beloved disciple.
As the Master and the devotees entered the lane where Girish lived, he was able to utter words. He said to Narendra: “Are you quite well, my child? I could not talk to you then.” Every word the Master spoke was full of infinite tenderness. He had not yet reached the door of Girish’s house, when suddenly he stopped and said, looking at Narendra: “I want to tell you something. ‘This’ is one and ‘that’ is another.” Who could know what was passing through his innermost soul at that moment?
Girish stood at the door to welcome the Master. As Sri Ramakrishna entered the house, Girish fell at his feet and lay there on the floor like a rod. At the Master’s bidding he stood up, touching the Master’s feet with his forehead. Sri Ramakrishna was taken to the drawing-room on the second floor. The devotees followed him and sat down, eager to get a view of the Master and listen to every word that fell from his lips.
As Sri Ramakrishna was about to take the seat reserved for him, he saw a newspaper lying near it. He signed to someone to remove the paper. Since a newspaper contains worldly matters — gossip and scandal —, he regarded it as unholy. After the paper was removed he took his seat. Nityagopal came forward and bowed low before the Master.
MASTER: “Well! You haven’t been to Dakshineswar for a long time.”
NITYAGOPAL: “True, sir. I haven’t been able to go there. I haven’t been well. I have had pains all over my body.”
MASTER: “How are you now?”
NITYAGOPAL: “Not so well, sir.”
MASTER: “Bring your mind down one or two notes.”
NITYAGOPAL: “I don’t like people’s company. They say all kinds of things about me. That sometimes frightens roe, but again I feel great strength within.”
MASTER: “That’s only natural. Who lives with you?”
NITYAGOPAL: “Tarak.1 He is always with me. But sometimes he too gets on my nerves.”
MASTER: “Nangta told me that there lived at his monastery an ascetic who had acquired occult powers. He used to go about with his eyes fixed on the sky. But when one of his companions left him, he became disconsolate.”
Again the Master went into an ecstatic mood. Strange thoughts seemed to stir his mind and he remained speechless. After a while he said: “Art Thou come? I too am here.” Who could pretend to understand these words?
Many of his devotees were in the room: Narendra, Girish, Ram, Haripada, Chuni, Balaram, and M. Narendra did not believe that God could incarnate Himself in a human body. But Girish differed with him; he had the burning faith that from time to time the Almighty Lord, through His inscrutable Power, assumes a human body and descends to earth to serve a divine purpose.
The Master said to Girish, “I should like to hear you and Narendra argue in English.”
The discussion began; but they talked in Bengali. Narendra said: “God is Infinity. How is it possible for us to comprehend Him? He dwells in every human being. It is not the case that He manifests Himself through one person only.”
SRI RAMAKRISHNA (tenderly): “I quite agree with Narendra. God is everywhere. But then you must remember that there are different manifestations of His Power in different beings. At some places there is a manifestation of His avidyasakti, at others a manifestation of His vidyasakti. Through different instruments God’s Power is manifest in different degrees, greater and smaller. Therefore all men are not equal.”
RAM: “What is the use of these futile arguments?”
MASTER (sharply): “No! No! There is a meaning in all this.”
GIRISH (to Narendra): “How do you know that God does not assume a human body?”
NARENDRA: “God is ‘beyond words or thought’.”
MASTER: “No, that is not true. He can be known by the pure buddhi, which is the same as the Pure Self. The seers of old directly perceived the Pure Self through their pure buddhi.”
GIRISH (to Narendra): “Unless God Himself teaches men through His human Incarnation, who else will teach them spiritual mysteries? God takes a human body to teach men divine knowledge and divine love. Otherwise, who will teach?”
NARENDRA: “Why, God dwells in our own heart; He will certainly teach us from within the heart.”
MASTER (tenderly): “Yes, yes. He will teach us as our Inner Guide.”
Gradually Narendra and Girish became involved in a heated discussion. If God is Infinity, how can He have parts? What did Hamilton say? What were the views of Herbert Spencer, of Tyndall, of Huxley? And so forth and so on.
MASTER (to M.): “I don’t enjoy these discussions. Why should I argue at all? I clearly see that God is everything; He Himself has become all. I see that whatever is, is God. He is everything; again, He is beyond everything. I come to a state in which my mind and intellect merge in the Indivisible. At the sight of Narendra my mind loses itself in the consciousness of the Absolute. (To Girish) What do you say to that?”
GIRISH (with a smile): “Why ask me? As if I understood everything except that one point!” (All laugh.)
MASTER: “Again, I cannot utter a word unless I come down at least two steps from the plane of samadhi. Sankara’s Non-dualistic explanation of Vedanta is true, and so is the Qualified Non-dualistic interpretation of Ramanuja.”
NARENDRA: “What is Qualified Non-dualism?”
MASTER: “It is the theory of Ramanuja. According to this theory, Brahman, or the Absolute, is qualified by the universe and its living beings. These three — Brahman, the world, and living beings — together constitute One. Take the instance of a bel-fruit. A man wanted to know the weight of the fruit. He separated the shell, the flesh, and the seeds. But can a man get the weight by weighing only the flesh? He must weigh flesh, shell, and seeds together. At first it appears that the real thing in the fruit is the flesh, and not its seeds or shell. Then by reasoning you find that the shell, seeds, and flesh all belong to the fruit; the shell and seeds belong to the same thing that the flesh belongs to. Likewise, in spiritual discrimination one must first reason, following the method of ‘Not this, not this’: God is not the universe; God is not the living beings; Brahman alone is real and all else is unreal. Then one realises, as with the bel-fruit, that the Reality from which we derive the notion of Brahman is the very Reality that evolves the idea of living beings and the universe. The Nitya and the Lila are the two aspects of one and the same Reality; therefore, according to Ramanuja, Brahman is qualified by the universe and the living beings. This is the theory of Qualified Non-dualism.
(To M.) “I do see God directly. What shall I reason about? I clearly see that He Himself has become everything; that He Himself has become the universe and all living beings.
“But without awakening one’s own inner consciousness one cannot realise the All-pervading Consciousness. How long does a man reason? So long as he has not realised God. But mere words will not do. As for myself, I clearly see that He Himself has become everything. The inner consciousness must be awakened through the grace of God. Through this awakening a man goes into samadhi. He often forgets that he has a body. He gets rid of his attachment to ‘woman and gold’ and does not enjoy any talk unless it is about God. Worldly talk gives him pain. Through the awakening of the inner consciousness one realises the All-pervading Consciousness.”
The discussion came to a close. Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: “I have observed that a man acquires one kind of knowledge about God through reasoning and another kind through meditation; but he acquires a third kind of Knowledge about God when God reveals Himself to him, His devotee. If God Himself reveals to His devotee the nature of Divine Incarnation — how He plays in human form —, then the devotee doesn’t have to reason about the problem or need an explanation. Do you know what it is like? Suppose a man is in a dark room. He goes on rubbing a match against a match-box and all of a sudden light comes. Likewise, if God gives us this flash of divine light, all our doubts are destroyed. Can one ever know God by mere reasoning?”
Sri Ramakrishna asked Narendra to sit by his side. He tenderly inquired about his health and showed him much affection.
NARENDRA (to the Master): “Why, I have meditated on Kali for three or four days, but nothing has come of it.”
MASTER: “All in good time, my child. Kali is none other, than Brahman That which is called Brahman is really Kali. She is the Primal Energy. When that Energy remains inactive, I call It Brahman, and when It creates. preserves, or destroys, I call It Sakti or Kali. What you call Brahman I call Kali.
“Brahman and Kali are not different. They are like fire and its power to burn: if one thinks of fire one must think of its power to burn. If one recognizes Kali one must also recognize Brahman; again, if one recognizes Brahman one must recognize Kali. Brahman and Its Power are identical. It is Brahman whom I address as Sakti or Kali.”
It was late at night. Girish asked Haripada to call a cab, for he had to go to the theatre. As Haripada was about to leave the room the Master said with a smile: “Mind, a cab. Don’t forget to bring one.” (All laugh.)
HARIPADA (smiling): “Yes, sir. I am going out just for that. How can I forget it?”
GIRISH: “That I should have to go to the theatre and leave you here!”
MASTER: “No, no. You must hold to both. King Janaka paid attention to both religious and worldly duties and ‘drank his milk from a brimming cup’.” (All laugh.)
GIRISH: “I have been thinking of leaving the theatre to the youngsters.”
MASTER: “No, no. It is all right. You are doing good to many.”
Narendra said in a whisper, “Just a moment ago he [meaning Girish] was calling him [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] God, an Incarnation, and now he is attracted to the theatre!”
Narendra was sitting beside the Master. The latter looked at him intently and suddenly moved closer to his beloved disciple. Narendra did not believe in God’s assuming a human body; but what did that matter? Sri Ramakrishna’s heart overflowed with more and more love for his disciple. He touched Narendra’s body and said, quoting from a song:
Do you2 feel that your pride is wounded?
So be it, then; we too have our pride.
Then the Master said to Narendra: “As long as a man argues about God, he has not realised Him. You two were arguing. I didn’t like it.
“How long does one hear noise and uproar in a house where a big feast is being given? So long as the guests are not seated for the meal. As soon as food is served and people begin to eat, three quarters of the noise disappears. (All laugh.) When the dessert is served there is still less noise. But when the guests eat the last course, buttermilk, then one hears nothing but the sound ‘soop, sup’. When the meal is over, the guests retire to sleep and all is quiet.
“The nearer you approach to God, the less you reason and argue. When you attain Him, then all sounds — all reasoning and disputing — come to an end. Then you go into samadhi — sleep —, into communion with God in silence.”
The Master gently stroked Narendra’s body and affectionately touched his chin, uttering sweetly the holy words, “Hari Om! Hari Om! Hari Om!” He was fast becoming unconscious of the outer world. His hand was on Narendra’s foot. Still in that mood he gently stroked Narendra’s body. Slowly a change came over his mind. With folded hands he said to Narendra: “Sing a song, please; then I shall be all right. How else shall I be able to stand on my own legs?” Again he became speechless. He sat motionless as a statue. Presently he became intoxicated with divine love and said: “O Radha, watch your step! Otherwise you may fall into the Jamuna. Ah! How mad she is with love of Krishna!”
The Master was in a rapturous mood. Quoting from a song, he said:
Tell me, friend, how far is the grove
Where Krishna, my Beloved, dwells?
His fragrance reaches me even here,
But I am tired and can walk no farther.
Then the Master completely forgot the outer world. He did not notice anyone in the room, not even his beloved Narendra seated by his side. He did not know where he himself was seated. He was totally merged in God. Suddenly he stood up, shouting, “Deep drunk with the Wine of Divine Love!” As he took his seat again, he muttered, “I see a light coming, but I know not whence it comes.”
Now Narendra sang:
Lord, Thou hast lifted all my sorrow with the vision of Thy face,
And the magic of Thy beauty has bewitched my mind;
Beholding Thee, the seven worlds forget their never-ending woe;
What shall I say, then, of myself, a poor and lowly soul? . . .
Listening to the song, Sri Ramakrishna again went into deep samadhi. His eyes were closed and his body was transfixed.
Coming down from the ecstatic mood he looked around and said, “Who will take me to the temple garden?” He appeared like a child who felt confused in the absence of his companion.
It was late in the evening. The night was dark. The devotees stood by the carriage that had been brought to take the Master to Dakshineswar. They helped him in gently, for he was still in deep ecstasy. The carriage moved down the street and they looked after it with wistful eyes.
Soon the devotees turned homeward, a gentle south wind blowing in their faces. Some were humming the lines of the song:
Lord, Thou hast lifted all my sorrow with the vision of Thy face,
And the magic of Thy beauty has bewitched my mind.
April 6, 1885
Sri Ramakrishna sat in the drawing-room of Balaram’s house talking to M. It was a very hot day and long past three o’clock. He had come to Calcutta to see some of his young disciples and also to visit Devendra’s house.
MASTER (to M.): “I gave my word that I would be here at three o’clock; so I have come. But it is very hot.”
M: “Yes, sir, you must have suffered very much.”
The devotees were fanning Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER: “I have come here for Baburam and the younger Naren. Why haven’t you brought Purna?”
M: “He doesn’t like to come to a gathering of people. He is afraid you might praise him before others and his relatives might then hear about it.”
MASTER: “Yes, that’s true. I won’t do it in the future. Well, I understand that you are giving Purna religious instruction. That is fine.”
M: “As a matter of fact, the same thing is written in one of the text-books of the school. It says:
With all thy soul love God above;
And as thyself thy neighbour love.
If their guardians are displeased with such teachings, it can’t be helped.”
MASTER: “No doubt many things like that are written in those books; but the authors themselves do not assimilate what they write. This power of assimilation comes from associating with holy men. People listen to instruction only when it is given by a sadhu who has truly renounced the world; they are not much impressed by the writings or the words of a mere scholar. Suppose a physician has a big jar of molasses by his side, and he asks his patients not to eat molasses; the patients won’t pay much attention to his advice.
“Well, how do you find Purna? Does he go into ecstatic moods?”
M: “No, I haven’t noticed in him any outer sign of such emotion. One day I told him those words of yours.”
MASTER: “What words?”
M: “You told us that if a man is a ‘small receptacle’ he cannot control spiritual emotion; but if he is a ‘large receptacle’ he experiences intense emotion without showing it outwardly. You said that a big lake does not become disturbed when an elephant enters it; but when the elephant enters a pool, one sees tremendous confusion and the water splashes on the banks.”
MASTER: “Purna will not show his emotion outwardly; he hasn’t that kind of temperament. His other signs are good. What do you say?”
M: “His eyes are very bright and prominent.”
MASTER: “Mere bright eyes are not enough. The eyes of a godly person are different. Did you ask him what he felt after meeting me?”
M: “Yes, sir, we talked about that. He has been telling me for the last four or five days that whenever he thinks of God or repeats His name, tears flow from his eyes and the hair on his body stands on end — such is his joy.”
MASTER: “Indeed! That’s all he needs.”
The Master and M. were silent a few moments. Then M. said, “He is waiting —”
M: “Purna. Perhaps he has been standing at the door of his house. When any of us passes that way he will come running and salute us.”
MASTER: “Ah! Ah!”
Sri Ramakrishna was resting, reclining against a bolster. M. had brought with him a twelve-year-old boy who was a student in his school. His name was Kshirode.
M: “He is a nice boy. He finds great joy in spiritual talk.”
MASTER (smiling): “He has eyes like a deer’s.”
The boy saluted Sri Ramakrishna, touching his feet. Then he gently stroked the Master’s feet.
MASTER (to M.): “Rakhal is staying at home now; he has an abscess and is not well. I understand that his wife expects a baby.”
Paltu and Binode were seated in front of Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER (to Paltu, smiling): “What did you say to your father? (To M.) He answered back when his father told him not to come here. (To Paltu) What did you say?”
PALTU: “I said to him: ‘Yes, I go to him. Is that wrong?’ (The Master and M. laugh.) I shall say more if necessary.”
MASTER (to M., smiling): “No, no! Should he go so far?”
M: “No, sir, he should not go too far.” (Sri Ramakrishna laughs.)
MASTER (to Binode): “How are you? Why haven’t you come to Dakshineswar?”
BINODE: “I almost came, but then I was afraid of falling ill again. I have been ill and am not doing well.”
MASTER: “Come to Dakshineswar with me. The air is very good there. You will recover.”
The younger Naren entered the room. Sri Ramakrishna was going out to wash his hands and face. The younger Naren followed him with a towel; he wanted to pour water for the Master. M. was with them.
MASTER: “It’s very hot today.”
M: “Yes, sir.”
MASTER: “How do you live in that small room of yours? Doesn’t it get very hot on the upper floor?”
M: “Yes, sir, it gets very hot.”
MASTER: “Besides, your wife has been suffering from brain trouble. You should keep her in a cool room.”
M: “Yes, sir. I have asked her to sleep downstairs.”
Sri Ramakrishna returned to the drawing-room and took his seat.
MASTER (to M.): “Why didn’t you come to Dakshineswar last Sunday?”
M: “Sir, there was no one else at home. My wife was not well and no one was there to look after her.”
Sri Ramakrishna was on his way in a carriage to Devendra’s house in Nimu Goswami’s Lane. The younger Naren, M., and one or two other devotees were with him. The Master felt great yearning for Purna. He began to talk of the young disciple.
MASTER (to M.): “A great soul! Or how could he make me do japa for his welfare? But Purna doesn’t know anything about it.”
M. and the other devotees were amazed at these words.
MASTER: “It would have been nice if you had brought him here with you today. Why didn’t you?”
Seeing the younger Naren laugh, the Master and the other devotees laughed too. The Master said to M., laughing and pointing to Naren: “Look at him! Look! How naive he looks when he laughs, as if he knew nothing. He never thinks of these three things: land, wife, and money. God cannot be realised unless the mind is totally free from ‘woman and gold’.”
The carriage proceeded to Devendra’s house. Once Sri Ramakrishna had said to Devendra at Dakshineswar, “I have been thinking of visiting your house one day.” Devendra had replied: “The same idea came to my mind today, and I have come here to ask that favour of you. You must grace my house this Sunday.” “But”, the Master had said, “you have a small income. Don’t invite many people. The carriage hire will also run to a big amount.” Devendra had answered, laughing: “What if my income is small? ‘One can run into debt to eat butter!'” At these words Sri Ramakrishna had laughed a long time.
Soon the carriage reached Devendra’s house. Sri Ramakrishna said to him: “Devendra, don’t make elaborate arrangements for my meal. Something very simple will do. I am not very well today.”
Sri Ramakrishna seated himself in the drawing-room on the ground floor of Devendra’s house. The devotees sat around him. It was evening. The room was well lighted. The younger Naren, Ram, M., Girish, Devendra, Akshay, Upendra, and some other devotees were present. As the Master cast his glance on a young devotee, his face beamed with joy. Pointing to the devotee, Sri Ramakrishna said to the others: “He is totally free from attachment to land, wife, and money, the three things that entangle one in worldliness. The mind that dwells on these three cannot be fixed on God. He saw a vision, too. (To the devotee) Tell us, what did you see?”
DEVOTEE (laughing): “I saw a heap of dung. Some were seated on it, and some sat at a distance.”
MASTER: “It was a vision of the plight of the worldly people who are forgetful of God. It shows that all these desires are disappearing from his mind. Need one worry about anything if one’s mind is detached from ‘woman and gold’? How strange! Only after much meditation and japa could I get rid of these desires; and how quickly he could banish them from his mind! Is it an easy matter to get rid of lust? I myself felt a queer sensation in my heart six months after I had begun my spiritual practice. Then I threw myself on the ground under a tree and wept bitterly. I said to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, if it comes to that, I shall certainly cut my throat with a knife!’
(To the devotees) “If the mind is free from ‘woman and gold’, then what else can obstruct a man? He enjoys then only the Bliss of Brahman.”
Sashi3 had recently been visiting Sri Ramakrishna. He was studying at the Vidyasagar College for his Bachelor’s degree. The Master began to talk about him.
MASTER (to the devotees): “That boy will think of money for some time. But there are some who will never do so. Some of the youngsters will not marry.”
The devotees listened silently to the Master.
MASTER: “It is hard to recognize an Incarnation of God unless the mind is totally free from ‘woman and gold’. A man asked a seller of egg-plants the value of a diamond. He said, ‘I can give nine seers of egg-plants in exchange, and not one more.'” (See)
At these words all the devotees laughed. The younger Naren laughed very loudly. Sri Ramakrishna noticed that he had quickly understood the implication of these words.
MASTER: “What a subtle mind he has! Nangta also could understand things that way, in a flash — the meaning of the Gita, the Bhagavata, and other scriptures.
“Renunciation of ‘woman and gold’ from boyhood! Amazing indeed! It falls to the lot of a very few. A person without such renunciation is like a mango struck by a hail-stone. The fruit cannot be offered to the Deity, and even a man hesitates to eat it.
“There are people who during their youth committed many sins, but in old age chant the name of God. Well, that is better than nothing.
“The mother of a certain Mallick, who belonged to a very noble family, asked me if prostitutes would ever be saved. She herself had led that kind of life; that is why she asked the question. I said: ‘Yes, they too will be saved, if only they cry to God with a yearning heart and promise not to repeat their sins.’ What will the mere chanting of Hari’s name accomplish? One must weep sincerely.”
The kirtan began to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. The singer was a professional. He sang about Sri Gauranga’s initiation as a monk by Keshab Bharati:
Oh, what a vision I have beheld in Keshab Bharati’s hut!
Gora, in all his matchless grace,
Shedding tears in a thousand streams! . . .
Sri Ramakrishna went into ecstasy when he heard the song. The musician sang again, describing the suffering of a milkmaid of Vrindavan at her separation from Sri Krishna. She was seeking her Krishna in the madhavi (A spring creeper with fragrant flowers) bower:
O madhavi, give me back my Sweet One!
Give me, give me back my Sweet One!
Give Him back, for He Is mine,
And make me your slave for ever.
He is my life, as water is to the fish;
O madhavi, you have hidden Him in your bosom!
I am a simple, guileless girl,
And you have stolen my Beloved.
O madhavi, I die for my Sweet One;
I cannot hear to live without Him.
Without my Madhava (A name of Krishna.) I shall die;
Oh, give Him, give Him back to me!
Now and then Sri Ramakrishna sang with the musicians, improvising lines:
How far from here is Mathura,
Where dwells the Beloved of my soul?
Sri Ramakrishna went into samadhi. His body was motionless. He remained in that state a long time.
Gradually he came down to the consciousness of the outer world. Still in a spiritual mood, he began to talk, sometimes addressing the devotees, sometimes the Divine Mother.
MASTER: “Mother, please attract him to Thee. I can’t worry about him any more. (To M.) My mind is inclined a little to your brother-in-law.
(To Girish) “You utter many abusive and vulgar words; but that doesn’t matter. It is better for these things to come out. There are some people who fall ill on account of blood-poisoning; the more the poisoned blood finds an outlet, the better it is for them. At the time when the upadhi of a man is being destroyed, it makes a loud noise, as it were. Wood crackles when it burns; there is no more noise when the burning is over.
“You will be purer day by day. You will improve very much day by day. People will marvel at you.
“I may not come many more times; but that doesn’t matter. You will succeed by yourself.”
The Master’s spiritual mood became very intense. Again he talked to the Divine Mother.
MASTER: “Mother, what credit is there in making a man good who is already good? O Mother, what wilt Thou accomplish by killing one who is already dead? Only if Thou canst kill a person who is still standing erect wilt Thou show Thy glory.”
Sri Ramakrishna remained silent a few moments. Suddenly he said in a slightly raised voice: “I have come from Dakshineswar. I am going, Mother!” It was as if a child had heard the call of its mother from a distance and was responding to it. He again became motionless, absorbed in samadhi. The devotees looked at him with unwinking eyes. Still in an ecstatic mood he said, “I shall not eat any more luchi.” At this point a few Vaishnava priests, who had come from the neighbourhood, left the place.
Sri Ramakrishna began to talk with his devotees in a very joyous spirit. It was the month of April and the day was very sultry. Devendra had made ice-cream. He offered it to the Master and the devotees. M. said in a low voice, “Encore! Encore!” The devotees laughed. At the sight of the ice-cream Sri Ramakrishna was happy as a child.
MASTER: “The kirtan was very nice. The song described beautifully the gopis’ state of mind: ‘O madhavi, give me back my Sweet One!’ The milk-maids of Vrindavan were drunk with ecstatic love for Krishna. How wonderful! Mad for Krishna!”
A devotee, pointing to another devotee, said, “He has the attitude of the gopis.”
RAM: “No, he has both — the attitude of tender love and the attitude of austere knowledge.”
MASTER: “What is it you are talking about?”
Sri Ramakrishna inquired about Surendra.
RAM: “I sent him word, but he hasn’t come.”
MASTER: “He gets very tired from his heavy office-work.”
A DEVOTEE: “Ram Babu has been writing about you.”
MASTER (smiling): “What is he writing?”
DEVOTEE: “He is writing an article on ‘The Bhakti of the Paramahamsa’.”
MASTER: “Good! That will make Ram famous.”
GIRISH (smiling): “He says he is your disciple.”
MASTER: “I have no disciple. I am the servant of the servant of Rama.”
Some people of the neighbourhood had dropped in; but they did not please the Master. He said: “What sort of place is this? I don’t find a single pious soul here.”
Devendra took Sri Ramakrishna into the inner apartments and offered him refreshments. Afterwards the Master returned to the drawing-room with a happy face and took his seat. The devotees sat around him. Upendra4 and Akshay5 sat on either side of him and stroked his feet. The Master spoke highly of the women of Devendra’s family, saying: “They are very nice. They come from the country; so they are very pious.”
The Master was absorbed in his own joy. In a happy mood he began to sing:
Unless a man is simple, he cannot recognize God, the Simple One. . . .
Again he sang:
Stay your steps, O wandering monk!
Stand there with begging-bowl in hand,
And let me behold your radiant face. . . .
A mendicant has come to us, ever absorbed in divine moods;
Holy alike is he to Hindu and Mussalman. . . .
Girish saluted the Master and took his leave. Devendra and the other devotees took the Master to his carriage. Seeing that one of his neighbours was sound asleep on a bench in the courtyard, Devendra woke him up. The neighbour rubbed his eyes and said, “Has the Paramahamsa come?” All burst into laughter. The man had come a long time before Sri Ramakrishna’s arrival, and because of the heat had spread a mat on the bench, lain down, and gone sound asleep.
Sri Ramakrishna’s carriage proceeded to Dakshineswar. He said to M. happily, “I have eaten a good deal of ice-cream; bring four or five cones for me when you come to Dakshineswar.” Continuing, he said, “Now my mind is drawn to these few youngsters: the younger Naren, Purna, and your brother-in-law.”
M: “Do you mean Dwija?”
MASTER: “No, he is all right; I mean his elder brother.”
The carriage rolled on to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar.
- ^A disciple of Sri Ramakrishna later known as Swami Shivananda.
- ^These words are addressed to Radha, the beloved of Krishna, by her companions, the gopis.
- ^Sashi later became a monastic disciple of the Master and assumed the name of Swami Ramakrishnananda.
- ^Later a famous publisher in Calcutta.
- ^The author of a life of Sri Ramakrishna in Bengali verse.