Vijay, the Brahmo preacher — Tendencies from previous births — Suicide after the vision of God — Four classes of men — Parable of the fish and the net — Worldly-minded forget their lessons — Bondage removed by strong renunciation — Parable of the two farmers — Attachment to “woman” creates bondage — Story of Govindaji’s priests — Story of twelve hundred nedas — Degrading effect of serving others — Worshipping woman as Divine Mother — Difficulties of preaching — Ego alone the cause of bondage — Maya creates upadhis — Seven planes of the mind — Indescribability of highest plane — The “wicked I” — The “servant I” — The “ego of a devotee” — Path of bhakti is easy — Prema-bhakti — Purity of heart — God’s grace is the ultimate help — Vision of Divine Mother — God’s nature like that of a child — Two ways of God-realisation — Constant practice urged.
Thursday, December 14, 1882
IT WAS AFTERNOON. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on his bed after a short noonday rest. Vijay, Balaram, M., and a few other devotees were sitting on the floor with their faces toward the Master. They could see the sacred river Ganges through the door. Since it was winter all were wrapped up in warm clothes. Vijay had been suffering from colic and had brought some medicine with him.
Vijay was a paid preacher in the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, but there were many things about which he could not agree with the Samaj authorities. He came from a very noble family of Bengal noted for its piety and other spiritual qualities. Advaita Goswami, one of his remote ancestors, had been an intimate companion of Sri Chaitanya. Thus the blood of a great lover of God flowed in Vijay’s veins. As an adherent of the Brahmo Samaj, Vijay no doubt meditated on the formless Brahman; but his innate love of God, inherited from his distinguished ancestors, had merely been waiting for the proper time to manifest itself in all its sweetness. Thus Vijay was irresistibly attracted by the God-intoxicated state of Sri Ramakrishna and often sought his company. He would listen to the Master’s words with great respect, and they would dance together in an ecstasy of divine love.
It was a week-day. Generally devotees came to the Master in large numbers on Sundays; hence those who wanted to have intimate talks with him visited him on week-days.
A boy named Vishnu, living in Ariadaha, had recently committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor. The talk turned to him.
MASTER: “I felt very badly when I heard of the boy’s passing away. He was a pupil in a school and he used to come here. He would often say to me that he couldn’t enjoy worldly life. He had lived with some relatives in the western provinces and at that time used to meditate in solitude, in the meadows, hills, and forests. He told me he had visions of many divine forms.
“Perhaps this was his last birth. He must have finished most of his duties in his previous birth. The little that had been left undone was perhaps finished in this one.
“One must admit the existence of tendencies inherited from previous births. There is a story about a man who practised the sava-sadhana. (A religious practice prescribed by the Tantra, in which the aspirant uses a sava, or corpse, as his seat for meditation.) He worshipped the Divine Mother in a deep forest. First he saw many terrible visions. Finally a tiger attacked and killed him. Another man, happening to pass and seeing the approach of the tiger, had climbed a tree. Afterwards he got down and found all the arrangements for worship at hand. He performed some purifying ceremonies and seated himself on the corpse. No sooner had he done a little japa than the Divine Mother appeared before him and said: ‘My child, I am very much pleased with you. Accept a boon from Me.’ He bowed low at the Lotus Feet of the Goddess and said: ‘May I ask You one question, Mother? I am speechless with amazement at Your action. The other man worked so hard to get the ingredients for Your worship and tried to propitiate You for such a long time, but You didn’t condescend to show him Your favour. And I, who don’t know anything of worship, who have done nothing, who have neither devotion nor knowledge nor love, and who haven’t practised any austerities, am receiving so much of Your grace.’ The Divine Mother said with a laugh; ‘My child, you don’t remember your previous births. For many births you tried to propitiate Me through austerities. As a result of those austerities all these things have come to hand, and you have been blessed with My vision. Now ask Me your boon.'”
A DEVOTEE: “I am frightened to hear of the suicide.”
MASTER: “Suicide is a heinous sin, undoubtedly. A man who kills himself must return again and again to this world and suffer its agony.
“But I don’t call it suicide if a person leaves his body after having the vision of God. There is no harm in giving up one’s body that way. After attaining Knowledge some people give up their bodies. After the gold image has been cast in the clay mould, you may either preserve the mould or break it.
“Many years ago a young man of about twenty used to come to the temple garden from Baranagore: his name was Gopal Sen. In my presence he used to experience such intense ecstasy that Hriday had to support him for fear he might fall to the ground and break his limbs. That young man touched my feet one day and said: ‘Sir. I shall not be able to see you any more. Let me bid you good-bye.’ A few days later I learnt that he had given up his body.
“It is said that there are four classes of human beings: the bound, those aspiring after liberation, the liberated, and the ever-perfect.
“This world is like a fishing net. Men are the fish, and God, whose maya has created this world, is the fisherman. When the fish are entangled in the net, some of them try to tear through its meshes in order to get their liberation. They are like the men striving after liberation. But by no means all of them escape. Only a few jump out of the net with a loud splash, and then people say, ‘Ah! There goes a big one!’ In like manner, three or four men attain liberation. Again, some fish are so careful by nature that they are never caught in the net; some beings of the ever-perfect class, like Narada, are never entangled in the meshes of worldliness. Most of the fish are trapped; but they are not conscious of the net and of their imminent death. No sooner are they entangled than they run headlong, net and all, trying to hide themselves in the mud. They don’t make the least effort to get free. On the contrary, they go deeper and deeper into the mud. These fish are like the bound men. They are still inside the net, but they think they are quite safe there. A bound creature is immersed in worldliness, in ‘woman and gold’, having gone deep into the mire of degradation. But still he believes he is quite happy and secure. The liberated, and the seekers after liberation, look on the world as a deep well. They do not enjoy it. Therefore, after the attainment of Knowledge, the realisation of God, some give up their bodies. But such a thing is rare indeed.
“The bound creatures, entangled in worldliness, will not come to their senses at all. They suffer so much misery and agony, they face so many dangers, and yet they will not wake up.
“The camel loves to eat thorny bushes. The more it eats the thorns, the more the blood gushes from its mouth. Still it must eat thorny plants and will never give them up. The man of worldly nature suffers so much sorrow and affliction, but he forgets it all in a few days and begins his old life over again. Suppose a man has lost his wife or she has turned unfaithful. Lo! He marries again.
“Or take the instance of a mother: her son dies and she suffers bitter grief; but after a few days she forgets all about it. The mother, so overwhelmed with sorrow a few days before, now attends to her toilet and puts on her jewelry. A father becomes bankrupt through the marriage of his daughters, yet he goes on having children year after year. People are ruined by litigation, yet they go to court all the same. There are men who cannot feed the children they have, who cannot clothe them or provide decent shelter for them; yet they have more children every year.
“Again, the worldly man is like a snake trying to swallow a mole. The snake can neither swallow the mole nor give it up. The bound soul may have realised that there is no substance to the world — that the world is like a hog plum, only stone and skin — but still he cannot give it up and turn his mind to God.
“I once met a relative of Keshab Sen, fifty years old. He was playing cards. As if the time had not yet come for him to think of God!
“There is another characteristic of the bound soul. If you remove him from his worldly surroundings to a spiritual environment, he will pine away. The worm that grows in filth feels very happy there. It thrives in filth. It will die if you put it in a pot of rice.”
All remained silent.
VIJAY: “What must the bound soul’s condition of mind be in order to achieve liberation?”
MASTER: “He can free himself from attachment to ‘woman and gold’ if, by the grace of God, he cultivates a spirit of strong renunciation. What is this strong renunciation? One who has only a mild spirit of renunciation says, ‘Well, all will happen in the course of time; let me now simply repeat the name of God.’ But a man possessed of a strong spirit of renunciation feels restless for God, as the mother feels for her own child. A man of strong renunciation seeks nothing but God. He regards the world as a deep well and feels as if he were going to be drowned in it. He looks on his relatives as venomous snakes; he wants to fly away from them. And he does go away. He never thinks, ‘Let me first make some arrangement for my family and then I shall think of God.’ He has great inward resolution.
“Let me tell you a story about strong renunciation. At one time there was a drought in a certain part of the country. The farmers began to cut long channels to bring water to their fields. One farmer was stubbornly determined. He took a vow that he would not stop digging until the channel connected his field with the river. He set to work. The time came for his bath, and his wife sent their daughter to him with oil. ‘Father,’ said the girl, ‘it is already late. Rub your body with oil and take your bath.’ ‘Go away!’ thundered the farmer. ‘I have too much to do now.’ It was past midday, and the farmer was still at work in his field. He didn’t even think of his bath. Then his wife came and said: ‘Why haven’t you taken your bath? The food is getting cold. You overdo everything. You can finish the rest tomorrow or even today after dinner.’ The farmer scolded her furiously and ran at her, spade in hand, crying: ‘What? Have you no sense? There’s no rain. The crops are dying. What will the children eat? You’ll all starve to death. I have taken a vow not to think of bath and food today before I bring water to my field.’ The wife saw his state of mind and ran away in fear. Through a whole day’s back-breaking labour the farmer managed by evening to connect his field with the river. Then he sat down and watched the water flowing into his field with a murmuring sound. His mind was filled with peace and joy. He went home, called his wife, and said to her, ‘Now give me some oil and prepare me a smoke.’ With serene mind he finished his bath and meal, and retired to bed, where he snored to his heart’s content. The determination he showed is an example of strong renunciation.
“Now, there was another farmer who was also digging a channel to bring water to his field. His wife, too, came to the field and said to him: ‘It’s very late. Come home. It isn’t necessary to overdo things.’ The farmer didn’t protest much, but put aside his spade and said to his wife, ‘Well, I’ll go home since you ask me to.’ (All laugh.) That man never succeeded in irrigating his field. This is a case of mild renunciation.
“As without strong determination the farmer cannot bring water to his field, so also without intense yearning a man cannot realise God. (To Vijay Why don’t you come here now as frequently as before?”
VIJAY: “Sir, I wish to very much, but I am not free. I have accepted work in the Brahmo Samaj.”
MASTER: “It is ‘woman and gold’ that binds man and robs him of his freedom. It is woman that creates the need for gold. For woman one man becomes the slave of another, and so loses his freedom. Then he cannot act as he likes.
“The priests in the temple of Govindaji at Jaipur were celibates at first, and at that time they had fiery natures. Once the King of Jaipur sent for them, but they didn’t obey him. They said to the messenger, ‘Ask the king to come to see us.’ After consultation, the king and his ministers arranged marriages for them. From then on the king didn’t have to send for them. They would come to him of themselves and say: ‘Your Majesty, we have come with our blessings. Here are the sacred flowers of the temple. Deign to accept them.’ They came to the palace, for now they always wanted money for one thing or another: the building of a house, the rice-taking ceremony of their babies, or the rituals connected with the beginning of their children’s education.
“There is the story of the twelve hundred nedas (Literally, “shaven-headed”. Among the Vaishnava devotees, those who renounce the world shave their heads.) and thirteen hundred nedis. (Vaishnava nuns.) Virabhadra, the son of Nityananda Goswami, had thirteen hundred ‘shaven-headed’ disciples. They attained great spiritual powers. That alarmed their teacher. ‘My disciples have acquired great spiritual powers’, thought Virabhadra. ‘Whatever they say to people will come to pass. Wherever they go they may create alarming situations; for people offending them unwittingly will come to grief.’ Thinking thus, Virabhadra one day called them to him and said, ‘See me after performing your daily devotions on the bank of the Ganges.’ These disciples had such a high spiritual nature that, while meditating, they would go into samadhi and be unaware of the river water flowing over their heads during the flood-tide. Then the ebb-tide would come and still they would remain absorbed in meditation.
“Now, one hundred of these disciples had anticipated what their teacher would ask of them. Lest they should have to disobey his injunctions, they had quickly disappeared from the place before he summoned them. So they did not go to Virabhadra with the others. The remaining twelve hundred disciples went to the teacher after finishing their meditation. Virabhadra said to them: ‘These thirteen hundred nuns will serve you. I ask you to marry them.’ ‘As you please, revered sir’, they said. ‘But one hundred of us have gone away.’ Thenceforth each of these twelve hundred disciples had a wife. Consequently they all lost their spiritual power. Their austerities did not have their original fire. The company of woman robbed them of their spirituality because it destroyed their freedom.
(To Vijay) “You yourself perceive how far you have gone down by being a servant of others. Again, one finds that people with many university degrees, scholars with their vast English education, accept service under their English masters and are daily trampled under their boots. The one cause of all this is woman. They have married and set up a ‘gay fair’ with their wives and children. Now they cannot go back, much as they would like to. Hence all these insults and humiliations, all this suffering from slavery.
“Once a man realises God through intense dispassion, he is no longer attached to woman. Even if he must lead the life of a householder, he is free from fear of and attachment to woman. Suppose there are two magnets, one big and the other small. Which one will attract the iron? The big one, of course. Cod is the big magnet. Compared to Him, woman is a small one. What can ‘woman’ do?”
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, shall we hate women then?”
MASTER: “He who has realised God does not look upon a woman with the eye of lust; so he is not afraid of her. He perceives clearly that women are but so many aspects of the Divine Mother. He worships them all as the Mother Herself.
(To Vijay) “Come here now and then. I like to see you very much.”
VIJAY: “I have to do my various duties in the Brahmo Samaj; that is why I can’t always come here. But I shall visit you whenever I find it possible.”
MASTER (to Vijay): “The task of a religious teacher is indeed difficult. One cannot teach men without a direct command from God. People won’t listen to you if you teach without such authority. Such teaching has no force behind it. One must first of all attain God through spiritual discipline or some other means. Thus armed with authority from God, one can deliver lectures.
“After receiving the command from God, one can be a teacher and give lectures anywhere. He who receives authority from God also receives power from Him. Only then can he perform the difficult task of a teacher.
“An insignificant tenant was once engaged in a lawsuit with a big landlord. People realised that there was a powerful man behind the tenant. Perhaps another big landlord was directing the case from behind. Man is an insignificant creature. He cannot fulfil the difficult task of a teacher without receiving power direct from God.”
VIJAY: “Don’t the teachings of the Brahmo Samaj bring men salvation?”
MASTER; “How is it ever possible for one man to liberate another from the bondage of the world? God alone, the Creator of this world-bewitching maya can save men from maya. There is no other refuge but that great Teacher, Satchidananda. How is it ever possible for men who have not realised God or received His command, and who are not strengthened with divine strength, to save others from the prison-house of the world?
“One day as I was passing the Panchavati on my way to the pine-grove, I heard a bullfrog croaking. I thought it must have been seized by a snake. After some time, as I was coming back, I could still hear its terrified croaking. I looked to see what was the matter, and found that a water-snake had seized it. The snake could neither swallow it nor give it up. So there was no end to the frogs suffering. I thought that had it been seized by a cobra it would have been silenced after three croaks at the most. As it was only a water-snake, both of them had to go through this agony. A man’s ego is destroyed after three croaks, as it were, if he gets into the clutches of a real teacher. But if the teacher is an ‘unripe’ one, then both the teacher and the disciple undergo endless suffering. The disciple cannot get rid either of his ego or of the shackles of the world. If a disciple falls into the clutches of an incompetent teacher, he doesn’t attain liberation.”
VIJAY: “Sir, why are we bound like this? Why don’t we see God?”
MASTER: “Maya is nothing but the egotism of the embodied soul. This egotism has covered everything like a veil. ‘All troubles come to an end when the ego dies.’ If by the grace of God a man but once realises that he is not the doer, then he at once becomes a jivanmukta. Though living in the body, he is liberated. He has nothing else to fear.
“This maya, that is to say, the ego, is like a cloud. The sun cannot be seen on account of a thin patch of cloud; when that disappears one sees the sun. If by the grace of the guru one’s ego vanishes, then one sees God.
“Rama, who is God Himself, was only two and a half cubits ahead of Lakshmana. But Lakshmana couldn’t see Him because Sita stood between them. Lakshmana may be compared to the jiva, and Sita to maya. Man cannot see God on account of the barrier of maya. Just look: I am creating a barrier in front of my face with this towel. Now you can’t see me, even though I am so near. Likewise, God is the nearest of all, but we cannot see Him on account of this covering of maya.
“The jiva is nothing but the embodiment of Satchidananda. But since maya, or ego, has created various upadhis, he has forgotten his real Self.
“Each upadhi changes man’s nature. If he wears a fine black-bordered cloth, you will at once find him humming Nidhu Babu’s love-songs. Then playing-cards and a walking-stick follow. If even a sickly man puts on high boots, he begins to whistle and climbs the stairs like an Englishman, jumping from one step to another. If a man but holds a pen in his hand, he scribbles on any paper he can get hold of — such is the power of the pen!
“Money is also a great upadhi. The possession of money makes such a difference in a man! He is no longer the same person. A brahmin used to frequent the temple garden. Outwardly he was very modest. One day I went to Konnagar with Hriday. No sooner did we get off the boat than we noticed the brahmin seated on the bank of the Ganges. We thought he had been enjoying the fresh air. Looking at us, he said: ‘Hello there, priest! How do you do?’ I marked his tone and said to Hriday: ‘The man must have got some money. That’s why he talks that way.’ Hriday laughed.
“A frog had a rupee, which he kept in his hole. One day an elephant was going over the hole, and the frog, coming out in a fit of anger, raised his foot, as if to kick the elephant, and said, ‘How dare you walk over my head?’ Such is the pride that money begets!
“One can get rid of the ego after the attainment of Knowledge. On attaining Knowledge one goes into samadhi, and the ego disappears. But it is very difficult to obtain such Knowledge.
“It is said in the Vedas that a man experiences samadhi when his mind ascends to the seventh plane. The ego can disappear only when one goes into samadhi. Where does the mind of a man ordinarily dwell? In the first three planes. These are at the organs of evacuation and generation, and at the navel. Then the mind is immersed only in worldliness, attached to ‘woman and gold’. A man sees the light of God when his mind dwells in the plane of the heart. He sees the light arid exclaims: ‘Ah! What is this? What is this?’ The next plane is at the throat. When the mind dwells there he likes to hear and talk only of God. When the mind ascends to the next plane, in the forehead, between the eyebrows, he sees the form of Satchidananda and desires to touch and embrace It. But he is unable to do so. It is like the light in a lantern, which you can see but cannot touch. You feel as if you were touching the light, but in reality you are not. When the mind reaches the seventh plane, then the ego vanishes completely and the man goes into samadhi.”
VIJAY : “What does a man see when he attains the Knowledge of Brahman after reaching the seventh plane?”
MASTER: “What happens when the mind reaches the seventh plane cannot not be described.
“Once a boat enters the ‘black waters’ of the ocean, it does not return. Nobody knows what happens to the boat after that. Therefore the boat cannot give us any information about the ocean.
“Once a salt doll went to measure the depth of the ocean. No sooner did it enter the water than it melted. Now who could tell how deep the ocean was? That which could have told about its depth had melted. Reaching the seventh plane, the mind is annihilated; man goes into samadhi. What he feels then cannot be described in words.
“The ‘I’ that makes one a worldly person and attaches one to ‘woman and gold’ is the ‘wicked I’. The intervention of this ego creates the difference between jiva and Atman. Water appears to be divided into two parts if one puts a stick across it. But in reality there is only one water. It appears as two on account of the stick. This ‘I’ is the stick. Remove the stick and there remains only one water as before.
“Now, what is this ‘wicked I’? It is the ego that says: ‘What? Don’t they know me? I have so much money! Who is wealthier than I?’ If a thief robs such a man of only ten rupees, first of all he wrings the money out of the thief, then he gives him a good beating. But the matter doesn’t end there: the thief is handed over to the police and is eventually sent to jail. The ‘wicked I’ says: ‘What? Doesn’t the rogue know whom he has robbed? To steal my ten rupees! How dare he?'”
VIJAY: “If without destroying the ‘I’ a man cannot get rid of attachment to the world and consequently cannot experience samadhi, then it would be wise for him to follow the path of Brahmajnana to attain samadhi. If the ‘I’ persists in the path of devotion, then one should rather choose the path of knowledge.”
MASTER: “It is true that one or two can get rid of the ‘I’ through samadhi; but these cases are very rare. You may indulge in thousands of reasonings, but still the ‘I’ comes back. You may cut the peepal-tree to the very root today, but you will notice a sprout springing up tomorrow. Therefore if the ‘I’ must remain, let the rascal remain as the ‘servant I’. As long as you live, you should say, ‘O God, Thou art the Master and I am Thy servant.’ The ‘I’ that feels, ‘I am the servant of God, I am His devotee’ does not injure one. Sweet things cause acidity of the stomach, no doubt, but sugar candy is an exception.
“The path of knowledge is very difficult. One cannot obtain Knowledge unless one gets rid of the feeling that one is the body. In the Kaliyuga the life of man is centred on food. He cannot get rid of the feeling that he is the body. and the ego. Therefore the path of devotion is prescribed for this cycle. This is an easy path. You will attain God if you sing His name and glories and pray to Him with a longing heart. There is not the least doubt about it.
“Suppose you draw a line on the surface of water with a bamboo stick. The water appears to be divided into two parts; but the line doesn’t remain for any length of time. The ‘servant I’ or the ‘devotee I’ or the ‘child I’ is only a line drawn with the ego and is not real.”
VIJAY (to the Master): “Sir, you ask us to renounce the ‘wicked I’. Is there any harm in the ‘servant I’?”
MASTER: “The ‘servant I’ — that is, the feeling, ‘I am the servant of God, I am the devotee of God’ — does not injure one. On the contrary, it helps one to realise God.”
VIJAY: “Well, sir, what becomes of the lust, anger, and other passions of one who keeps the ‘servant I’?”
MASTER: “If a man truly feels like that, then he has only the semblance of lust, anger, and the like. If, after attaining God, he looks on himself as the servant or the devotee of God, then he cannot injure anyone. By touching ing the philosopher’s stone a sword is turned into gold. It keeps the appearance of a sword but cannot injure.
“When the dry branch of a coconut palm drops to the ground, it leaves only a mark on the trunk indicating that once there was a branch at that place. In like manner, he who has attained God keeps only an appearance of ego; there remains in him only a semblance of anger and lust. He becomes like a child. A child has no attachment to the three gunas — sattva, rajas, and tamas. He becomes as quickly detached from a thing as he becomes attached to it. You can cajole him out of a cloth worth five rupees with a doll worth an anna, though at first he may say with great determination: ‘No, I won’t give it to you. My daddy bought it for me.’ Again, all persons are the same to a child. He has no feeling of high and low in regard to persons. So he doesn’t discriminate about caste. If his mother tells him that a particular man should be regarded as an elder brother, the child will eat from the same plate with him, though the man may belong to the low caste of a blacksmith. The child doesn’t know hate, or what is holy or unholy.
“Even after attaining samadhi, some retain the ‘servant ego’ or the ‘devotee ego’. The bhakta keeps this ‘I-consciousness’. He says, ‘O God, Thou art the Master and I am Thy servant; Thou art the Lord and I am Thy devotee.’ He feels that way even after the realisation of God. His ‘I’ is not completely effaced. Again, by constantly practising this kind of ‘I-consciousness’, one ultimately attains God. This is called bhaktiyoga.
“One can attain the Knowledge of Brahman, too, by following the path of bhakti. God is all-powerful. He may give His devotee Brahmajnana also, if He so wills. But the devotee generally doesn’t seek the Knowledge of the Absolute. He would rather have the consciousness that God is the Master and he the servant, or that God is the Divine Mother and he the child.”
VIJAY: “But those who discriminate according to the Vedanta philosophy also realise Him in the end, don’t they?”
MASTER: “Yes, one may reach Him by following the path of discrimination too: that is called jnanayoga. But it is an extremely difficult path. I have told you already of the seven planes of consciousness. On reaching the seventh plane the mind goes into samadhi. If a man acquires the firm knowledge that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory, then his mind merges in samadhi. But in the Kaliyuga the life of a man depends entirely on food. How can he have the consciousness that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory? In the Kaliyuga it is difficult to have the feeling, ‘I am not the body, I am not the mind, I am not the twenty-four cosmic principles; I am beyond pleasure and pain, I am above disease and grief, old age and death.’ However you may reason and argue, the feeling that the body is identical with the soul will somehow crop up from an unexpected quarter. You may cut a peepal-tree to the ground and think it is dead to its very root, but the next morning you will find a new sprout shooting up from the dead stump. One cannot get rid of this identification with the body; therefore the path of bhakti is best for the people of the Kaliyuga. It is an easy path.
“And, ‘I don’t want to become sugar; I want to eat it.’ I never feel like saving, ‘I am Brahman.’ I say, ‘Thou art my Lord and I am Thy servant.’ It is better to make the mind go up and down between the fifth and sixth planes, like a boat racing between two points. I don’t want to go beyond the sixth plane and keep my mind a long time in the seventh. My desire is to sing the name and glories of God. It is very good to look on God as the Master and oneself as His servant. Further, you see, people speak of the waves as belonging to the Ganges; but no one says that the Ganges belongs to the waves. The feeling, ‘I am He’, is not wholesome. A man who entertains such an idea, while looking on his body as the Self, causes himself great harm. He cannot go forward in spiritual life; he drags himself down. He deceives himself as well as others. He cannot understand his own state of mind.
“But it isn’t any and every kind of bhakti that enables one to realise God. One cannot realise God without prema-bhakti. Another name for prema-bhakti is raga-bhakti. (Supreme love, which makes one attached only to God.) God cannot be realised without love and longing. Unless one has learnt to love God, one cannot realise Him.
“There is another kind of bhakti, known as vaidhi-bhakti, according to which one must repeat the name of God a fixed number of times, fast, make pilgrimages, worship God with prescribed offerings, make so many sacrifices, and so forth and so on. By continuing such practices a long time one gradually acquires raga-bhakti. God cannot be realised until one has raga-bhakti. One must love God. In order to realise God one must be completely free from worldliness and direct all of one’s mind to Him.
“But some acquire raga-bhakti directly. It is innate in them. They have it from their very childhood. Even at an early age they weep for God. An instance of such bhakti is to be found in Prahlada. Vaidhi-bhakti is like moving a fan to make a breeze. One needs the fan to make the breeze. Similarly, one practises japa, austerity, and fasting, in order to acquire love of God. But the fan is set aside when the southern breeze blows of itself. Such actions as japa and austerity drop away when one spontaneously feels love and attachment for God. Who, indeed, will perform the ceremonies enjoined in the scriptures, when mad with love of God?
“Devotion to God may be said to be ‘green’ so long as’ it doesn’t grow into love of God; but it becomes ‘ripe’ when it has grown into such love.
“A man with ‘green’ bhakti cannot assimilate spiritual talk and instruction; but one with ‘ripe’ bhakti can. The image that falls on a photographic plate covered with black film (Silver nitrate.) is retained. On the other hand, thousands of images may be reflected on a bare piece of glass, but not one of them is retained. As the object moves away, the glass becomes the same as it was before. One cannot assimilate spiritual instruction unless one has already developed love of God.”
VIJAY: “Is bhakti alone sufficient for the attainment of God, for His vision?”
MASTER: “Yes, one can see God through bhakti alone. But it must be ‘ripe’ bhakti, prema-bhakti and raga-bhakti. When one has that bhakti, one loves God even as the mother loves the child, the child the mother, or the wife the husband.
“When one has such love and attachment for God, one doesn’t feel the attraction of maya to wife, children, relatives, and friends. One retains only compassion for them. To such a man the world appears a strange land, a place where he has merely to perform his duties. It is like a man’s having his real home in the country, but coming to Calcutta for work; he has to rent a house in Calcutta for the sake of his duties. When one develops love of God, one completely gets rid of one’s attachment to the world and worldly wisdom.
“One cannot see God if one has even the slightest trace of worldliness. Match-sticks, if damp, won’t strike fire though you rub a thousand of them against the match-box. You only waste a heap of sticks. The mind soaked in worldliness is such a damp match-stick. Once Sri Radha said to her friends that she saw Krishna everywhere — both within and without. The friends answered: ‘Why, we don’t see Him at all. Are you delirious?’ Radha said, ‘Friends, paint your eves with the collyrium of divine love, and then you will see Him.’
(To Vijay) “It is said in a song of your Brahmo Samaj:
O Lord, is it ever possible to know Thee without love,
However much one may perform worship and sacrifice?
“If the devotee but once feels this attachment and ecstatic love for God, this mature devotion and longing, then he sees God in both His aspects, with form and without form.”
VIJAY: “How can one see God?”
MASTER: “One cannot see God without purity of heart. Through attachment to ‘woman and gold’ the mind has become stained — covered with dirt, as it were. A magnet cannot attract a needle if the needle is covered with mud. Wash away the mud and the magnet will draw it. Likewise, the dirt of the mind can be washed away with the tears of our eyes. This stain is removed if one sheds tears of repentance and says, ‘O God, I shall never again do such a thing.’ Thereupon God, who is like the magnet, draws to Himself the mind, which is like the needle. Then the devotee goes into samadhi and obtains the vision of God.
“You may try thousands of times, but nothing can be achieved without God’s grace. One cannot see God without His grace. Is it an easy thing to receive the grace of God? One must altogether renounce egotism; one cannot see God as long as one feels, ‘I am the doer.’ Suppose, in a family, a man has taken charge of the store-room; then if someone asks the master, ‘Sir, will you yourself kindly give me something from the store-room?’, the master says to him: ‘There is already someone in the store-room. What can I do there?’
“God doesn’t easily appear in the heart of a man who feels himself to be his own master. But God can be seen the moment His grace descends. He is the Sun of Knowledge. One single ray of His has illumined the world with the light of knowledge. That is how we are able to see one another and acquire varied knowledge. One can see God only if He turns His light toward His own face.
“The police sergeant goes his rounds in the dark of night with a lantern (A reference to the lantern carried by the night-watch, which has dark glass on three sides.) in his hand. No one sees his face; but with the help of that light the sergeant sees everybody’s face, and others, too, can see one another. If you want to see the sergeant, however, you must pray to him: ‘Sir, please turn the light on your own face. Let me see you.’ In the same way one must pray to God: ‘O Lord, be gracious and turn the light of knowledge on Thyself, that I may see Thy face.’
“A house without light indicates poverty. So one must light the lamp of Knowledge in one’s heart. As it is said in a song:
Lighting the lamp of Knowledge in the chamber of your heart,
Behold the face of the Mother, Brahman’s Embodiment.”
As Vijay had brought medicine with him, the Master asked a devotee to give him some water. He was indeed a fountain of infinite compassion. He had arranged for Vijay’s boat fare, since the latter was too poor to pay it. Vijay, Balaram, M., and the other devotees left for Calcutta in a country boat.
Monday, January 1, 1883
At eight o’clock in the morning Sri Ramakrishna was seated on a mat spread on the floor of his room at Dakshineswar. Since it was a cold day, he had wrapped his body in his moleskin shawl. Prankrishna and M. were seated in front of him. Rakhal, too, was in the room. Prankrishna was a high government official and lived in Calcutta. Since he had had no offspring by his first wife, with her permission he had married a second time. By the second wife he had a son. Because he was rather stout, the Master addressed him now and then as “the fat brahmin”. He had great respect for Sri Ramakrishna. Though a householder, Prankrishna studied the Vedanta and had been heard to say: “Brahman alone is real and the world illusory. I am He.” The Master used to say to him: “In the Kaliyuga the life of a man depends on food. The path of devotion prescribed by Narada is best for this age.”
A devotee had brought a basket of jilipi for the Master, which the latter kept by his side. Eating a bit of the sweets, he said to Prankrishna with a smile: “You see, I chant the name of the Divine Mother; so I get all these good things to eat. (Laughter.) But She doesn’t give such fruits as gourd or pumpkin. She bestows the fruit of Amrita, Immortality — knowledge, love, discrimination, renunciation, and so forth.”
A boy six or seven years old entered the room. The Master himself became like a child. He covered the contents of the basket with the palm of his hand, as a child does to conceal sweets from another child lest the latter should snatch them. Then he put the basket aside.
Suddenly the Master went into samadhi and sat thus a long time. His body was transfixed, his eyes wide open and unwinking, his breathing hardly perceptible. After a long time he drew a deep breath, indicating his return to the world of sense.
MASTER (to Prankrishna): “My Divine Mother is not only formless, She has forms as well. One can see Her forms. One can behold Her incomparable beauty through feeling and love. The Mother reveals Herself to Her devotees in different forms.
“I saw Her yesterday. She was clad in a seamless ochre-coloured garment, and She talked with me.
“She came to me another day as a Mussalman girl six or seven years old. She had a tilak on her forehead and was naked. She walked with me, joking and frisking like a child.
“At Hriday’s house I had a vision of Gauranga. He wore a black-bordered cloth.
“Haladhari used to say that God is beyond both Being and Non-being. I told the Mother about it and asked Her, ‘Then is the divine form an illusion?’ The Divine Mother appeared to me in the form of Rati’s mother and said, ‘Do thou remain in bhava.’1 I repeated this to Haladhari. Now and then I forget Her command and suffer. Once I broke my teeth because I didn’t remain in bhava. So I shall remain in bhava unless I receive a revelation from heaven or have a direct experience to the contrary. I shall follow the path of love. What do you say?”
PRANKRISHNA: “Yes, sir.”
MASTER: “But why should I ask you about it? There is Someone within me who does all these things through me. At times I used to remain in a mood of Godhood and would enjoy no peace of mind unless I were being worshipped.
“I am the machine and God is the Operator. I act as He makes me act. I speak as He makes me speak.
Keep your raft, says Ramprasad, afloat on the sea of life,
Drifting up with the flood-tide, drifting down with the ebb.
“It is like the cast-off leaf before a gale; sometimes it is blown to a good place and sometimes into the gutter, according to the direction of the wind.
“As the weaver said in the story: ‘The robbery was committed by the will of Rama, I was arrested by the police by the will of Rama, and again, by the will of Rama, I was set free.’
“Hanuman once said to Rama: ‘O Rama, I have taken refuge in Thee. Bless me that I may have pure devotion to Thy Lotus Feet and that I may not be caught in the spell of Thy world-bewitching maya.’
“Once a dying bullfrog said to Rama: ‘O Rama, when caught by a snake I cry for Your protection. But now I am about to die, struck by Your arrow. Hence I am silent.’
“I used to see God directly with these very eyes, just as I see you. Now I see divine visions in trance.
“After realizing God a man becomes like a child. One acquires the nature of the object one meditates upon. The nature of God is like that of a child. As a child builds up his toy house and then breaks it down, so God acts while creating, preserving, and destroying the universe. Further, as the child is not under the control of any guna, so God is beyond the three gunas — sattva, rajas, and tamas. That is why paramahamsas keep five or ten children with them, that they may assume their nature.”
Sitting on the floor in the room was a young man from Agarpara about twenty-two years old. Whenever he came to the temple garden, he would take the Master aside, by a sign, and whisper his thoughts to him. He was a new-comer. That day he was sitting on the floor near the Master.
MASTER (to the young man): “A man can change his nature by imitating another’s character. He can get rid of a passion like lust by assuming the feminine mood. He gradually comes to act exactly like a woman. I have noticed that men who take female parts in the theatre speak like women or brush their teeth like women while bathing. Come again on a Tuesday or Saturday.
(To Prankrishna) “Brahman and Sakti are inseparable. Unless you accept Sakti, you will find the whole universe unreal — ‘I’, you’, house, buildings, and family. The world stands solid because the Primordial Energy stands behind it. If there is no supporting pole, no framework can be made, and without the framework there can be no beautiful image of Durga.
“Without giving up worldliness a man cannot awaken his spiritual consciousness, nor can he realise God. He cannot but be a hypocrite as long as he has even a trace of worldly desire. God cannot be realised without guilelessness.
Cherish love within your heart; abandon cunning and deceit:
Through service, worship, selflessness, does Rama’s blessed vision come.
Even those engaged in worldly activities, such as office work or business, should hold to the truth. Truthfulness alone is the spiritual discipline in the Kaliyuga.”
PRANKRISHNA: “Yes, sir. It is said in the Mahanirvana Tantra: ‘O Goddess, this religion enjoins it upon one to be truthful, self-controlled, devoted to the welfare of others, unagitated, and compassionate.'”
MASTER: “Yes. But these ideas must be assimilated.”
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the small couch. He was in an ecstatic mood and looked at Rakhal. Suddenly he was filled with the tender feeling of parental love toward his young disciple and spiritual child. Presently he went into samadhi. The devotees sat speechless, looking at the Master with wondering eyes.
Regaining partial consciousness, the Master said: “Why is my spiritual feeling kindled at the sight of Rakhal? The more you advance toward God, the less you will see of His glories and grandeur. The aspirant at first has a vision of the Goddess with ten arms; (The allusion is to the image of Durga.) there is a great display of power in that image. The next vision is that of the Deity with two arms; there are no longer ten arms holding various weapons and missiles. Then the aspirant has a vision of Gopala, in which there is no trace of power. It is the form of a tender child. Beyond that there are other visions also. The aspirant then sees only Light.
“Reasoning and discrimination vanish after the attainment of God and communion with Him in samadhi. How long does a man reason and discriminate? As long as he is conscious of the manifold, as long as he is aware of the universe, of embodied beings, of ‘I’ and you’. He becomes silent when he is truly aware of Unity. This was the case with Trailanga Swami. (A noted monk of Benares whom the Master once met. The Swami observed a vow of silence.)
“Have you watched a feast given to the brahmins? At first there is a great uproar. But the noise lessens as their stomachs become more and more filled with food. When the last course of curd and sweets is served, one hears only the sound ‘soop, soop’ as they scoop up the curd in their hands. There is no other sound. Next is the stage of sleep — samadhi. There is no more uproar.
(To M. and Prankrishna) “Many people talk of Brahmajnana, but their minds are always preoccupied with lower things: house, buildings, money, name, and sense pleasures. As long as you stand at the foot of the Monument, (A reference to the Ochterloney Monument in Calcutta.) so long do you see horses, carriages, Englishmen, and Englishwomen. But when you climb to its top, you behold the sky and the ocean stretching to infinity. Then you do not enjoy buildings, carriages, horses, or men. They look like ants.
“All such things as attachment to the world and enthusiasm for ‘woman and gold’ disappear after the attainment of the Knowledge of Brahman. Then comes the cessation of all passions. When the log burns, it makes a crackling noise and one sees the flame. But when the burning is over and only ash remains, then no more noise is heard. Thirst disappears with the destruction of attachment. Finally comes peace.
“The nearer you come to God, the more you feel peace. Peace, peace, peace — supreme peace! The nearer you come to the Ganges, the more you feel its coolness. You will feel completely soothed when you plunge into the river.
“But the universe and its created beings, and the twenty-four cosmic principles, all exist because God exists. Nothing remains if God is eliminated. The number increases if you put many zeros after the figure one; but the zeros don’t have any value if the one is not there.”
The Master continued: “There are some who come down, as it were, after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman — after samadhi — and retain the ‘ego of Knowledge’ or the ‘ego of Devotion’, just as there are people who, of their own sweet will, stay in the market-place after the market breaks up. This was the case with sages like Narada. They kept the ‘ego of Devotion’ for the purpose of teaching men. Sankaracharya kept the ‘ego of Knowledge’ for the same purpose.
“God cannot be realised if there is the slightest attachment to the things of the world. A thread cannot pass through the eye of a needle if the tiniest fibre sticks out.
“The anger and lust of a man who has realised God are only appearances. They are like a burnt string. It looks like a string, but a mere puff blows it away.
“God is realised as soon as the mind becomes free from attachment. Whatever appears in the Pure Mind is the voice of God. That which is Pure Mind is also Pure Buddhi; that, again, is Pure Atman, because there is nothing pure but God. But in order to realise God one must go beyond dharma and adharma.”
The Master sang in his melodious voice:
Come, let us go for a walk, O mind, to Kali, the Wish-fulfilling Tree,
And there beneath It gather the four fruits of life. . . .
Sri Ramakrishna went out on the southeast verandah of his room and sat down. Prankrishna and the other devotees accompanied him. Hazra, too, was sitting there. The Master said to Prankrishna with a smile: “Hazra is not a man to be trifled with. If one finds the big dargah here, (Referring to himself.) then Hazra is the smaller dargah.” All laughed at the Master’s words. A certain gentleman, Navakumar by name, came to the door and stood there. At sight of the devotees he immediately left. “Oh! Egotism incarnate!” Sri Ramakrishna remarked.
About half past nine in the morning Prankrishna took leave of the Master. Soon afterwards a minstrel sang some devotional songs to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. The Master was listening to the songs when Kedar Chatterji, a householder devotee, entered the room clad in his office clothes. He was a man of devotional temperament and cherished the attitude of the gopis of Vrindavan. Words about God would make him weep.
The sight of Kedar awakened in the Master’s mind the episode of Vrindavan in Sri Krishna’s life. Intoxicated with divine love, the Master stood up and sang, addressing Kedar:
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. . . .
Sri Ramakrishna assumed the attitude of Sri Radha to Krishna and went into deep samadhi while singing the song. He stood there, still as a picture on canvas, with tears of divine joy running down his cheeks. Kedar knelt before the Master. Touching his feet, he chanted a hymn:
We worship the Brahman-Consciousness in the Lotus of the Heart,
The Undifferentiated, who is adored by Hari, Hara, and Brahma;
Who is attained by yogis in the depths of their meditation;
The Scatterer of the fear of birth and death,
The Essence of Knowledge and Truth, the Primal Seed of the world.
After a time the Master regained consciousness of the relative world. Soon Kedar took his leave and returned to his office in Calcutta.
At midday Ramlal brought the Master a plate of food that had been offered in the Kali temple. Like a child he ate a little of everything.
Later in the afternoon several Marwari devotees entered the Master’s room, where Rakhal and M. also were seated.
A MARWARI DEVOTEE: “Sir, what is the way?”
MASTER: “There are two ways. One is the path of discrimination, the other is that of love. Discrimination means to know the distinction between the Real and the unreal. God alone is the real and permanent Substance; all else is illusory and impermanent. The magician alone is real; his magic is illusory. This is discrimination.
“Discrimination and renunciation. Discrimination means to know the distinction between the Real and the unreal. Renunciation means to have dispassion for the things of the world. One cannot acquire them all of a sudden. They must be practised every day. One should renounce ‘woman and gold’ mentally at first. Then, by the will of God, one can renounce it both mentally and outwardly. It is impossible to ask the people of Calcutta to renounce all for the sake of God. One has to tell them to renounce mentally.
“Through the discipline of constant practice one is able to give up attachment to ‘woman and gold’. That is what the Gita says. By practice one acquires uncommon power of mind. Then one doesn’t find it difficult to subdue the sense-organs and to bring anger, lust, and the like under control. Such a man behaves like a tortoise, which, once it has tucked in its limbs, never puts them out. You cannot make the tortoise put its limbs out again, though you chop it to pieces with an axe.”
MARWARI DEVOTEE: “Revered sir, you just mentioned two paths. What is the other path?”
MASTER: “The path of bhakti, or zealous love of God. Weep for God in solitude, with a restless soul, and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.
Cry to your Mother Syama with a real cry, O mind! And how can She hold Herself from you?”
MARWARI DEVOTEE: “Sir, what is the meaning of the worship of the Personal God? And what is the meaning of God without form or attribute?”
MASTER: “As you recall your father by his photograph, so likewise the worship of the image reveals in a flash the nature of Reality.
“Do you know what God with form is like? Like bubbles rising on an expanse of water, various divine forms are seen to rise out of the Great Akasa of Consciousness. The Incarnation of God is one of these forms. The Primal Energy sports, as it were, through the activities of a Divine Incarnation.
“What is there in mere scholarship? God can be attained by crying to Him with a longing heart. There is no need to know many things.
“He who is an acharya has to know different things. One needs a sword and shield to kill others; but to kill oneself, a needle or a nail-knife suffices.
“One ultimately discovers God by trying to know who this ‘I’ is. Is this ‘I’ the flesh, the bones, the blood, or the marrow? Is it the mind or the buddhi? Analysing thus, you realise at last that you are none of these. This is called the process of ‘Neti, neti’, ‘Not this, not this’. One can neither comprehend nor touch the Atman. It is without qualities or attributes.
“But, according to the path of devotion, God has attributes. To a devotee Krishna is Spirit, His Abode is Spirit, and everything about Him is Spirit.”
The Marwari devotees saluted the Master and took their leave.
At the approach of evening Sri Ramakrishna went out to look at the sacred river. The lamp was lighted in his room. The Master chanted the hallowed name of the Divine Mother and meditated on Her. Then the evening worship began in the various temples. The sound of gongs, floating on the air, mingled with the murmuring voice of the river. Peace and blessedness reigned everywhere.
- ^A rare state of divine exaltation, when the devotee, after realizing the Absolute, remains in the borderland between the Absolute and the Relative; in this state he sees that both the Absolute and the Relative, as the two aspects of the Godhead, are real.