(Translated from Bengali )
(From the Diary of a Disciple)
(The disciple is Sharatchandra Chakravarty, who published his records in a Bengali book, Swami-Shishya-Samvâda, in two parts. The present series of “Conversations and Dialogues” is a revised translation from this book. Five dialogues of this series have already appeared in the Complete Works, Vol. V. )
[Place: On the way from Calcutta to Cossipore and in the garden of the late Gopal Lal Seal. Year: 1897.]
Today Swamiji was taking rest at noon in the house of Srijut Girish Chandra Ghosh.1 The disciple arriving there saluted him and found that Swamiji was just ready to go to the garden-house of Gopal Lal Seal. A carriage was waiting outside. He said to the disciple, “Well come with me.” The disciple agreeing, Swamiji got up with him into the carriage and it started. When it drove up the Chitpur road, on seeing the Gangâ, Swamiji broke forth in a chant, self-involved: “गङ्गातरङ्ग-रमणीय-जटा-कलापं” etc.2 The disciple listened in silent wonder to that wave of music, when after a short while, seeing a railway engine going towards the Chitpur hydraulic bridge, Swamiji said to the disciple, “Look how it goes majestically like a lion! ” The disciple replied, “But that is inert matter. Behind it there is the intelligence of man working, and hence it moves. In moving thus, what credit is there for it?”
Swamiji: Well, say then, what is the sign of consciousness?
Disciple: Why, sir, that indeed is conscious which acts through intelligence.
Swamiji: Everything is conscious which rebels against nature: there, consciousness is manifested. Just try to kill a little ant, even it will once resist to save its life. Where there is struggle, where there is rebellion, there is the sign of life, there consciousness is manifested.
Disciple: Sir, can that test be applied also in the case of men and of nations?
Swamiji: Just read the history of the world and see whether it applies or not. You will find that excepting yours, it holds good in the case of all other nations. It is you only who are in this world lying prostrate today like inert matter. You have been hypnotised. From very old times, others have been telling you that you are weak, that you have no power, and you also, accepting that, have for about a thousand years gone on thinking, “We are wretched, we are good for nothing.” (Pointing to his own body:) This body also is born of the soil of your country; but I never thought like that. And hence you see how, through His will, even those who always think us low and weak, have done and are still doing me divine honour. If you can think that infinite power, infinite knowledge and indomitable energy lie within you, and if you can bring out that power, you also can become like me.
Disciple: Where is the capacity in us for thinking that way, sir? Where is the teacher or preceptor who from our childhood will speak thus before us and make us understand? What we have heard and have learnt from all is that the object of having an education nowadays is to secure some good job.
Swamiji: For that reason is it that we have come forward with quite another precept and example. Learn that truth from us, understand it, and realise it and then spread that idea broadcast, in cities, in towns, and in villages. Go and preach to all, “Arise, awake, sleep no more; within each of you there is the power to remove all wants and all miseries. Believe this, and that power will be manifested.” Teach this to all, and, with that, spread among the masses in plain language the central truths of science, philosophy, history, and geography. I have a plan to open a centre with the unmarried youths; first of all I shall teach them, and then carry on the work through them.
Disciple: But that requires a good deal of money. Where will you get this money?
Swamiji: What do you talk! Isn’t it man that makes moneys Where did you ever hear of money making man? If you can make your thoughts and words perfectly at one, if you can, I say, make yourself one in speech and action, money will pour in at your feet of itself, like water.
Disciple: Well, sir, I take it for granted that money will come, and you will begin that good work. But what will that matter? Before this, also, many great men carried out many good deeds. But where are they now? To be sure, the same fate awaits the work which you are going to start. Then what is the good of such an endeavour?
Swamiji: He who always speculates as to what awaits him in future, accomplishes nothing whatsoever. What you have understood as true and good, just do that at once. What’s the good of calculating what may or may not befall in future? The span of life is so, so short — and can anything be accomplished in it if you go on forecasting and computing results. God is the only dispenser of results; leave it to Him to do all that. What have you got to do with on working.
While he was thus going on, the cab reached the gardenhouse. Many people from Calcutta came to the garden that day to see Swamiji. Swamiji got down from the carriage, took his seat in the room, and began conversation with them all. Mr. Goodwin, a Western disciple of Swamiji, was standing near by, like the embodiment of service, as it were. The disciple had already made his acquaintance; so he came to Mr. Goodwin, and both engaged in a variety of talk about Swamiji.
In the evening Swamiji called the disciple and asked him, “Have you got the Katha Upanishad by heart?”
Disciple: No, sir, I have only read it with Shankara’s commentary.
Swamiji: Among the Upanishads, one finds no other book so beautiful as this. I wish you would all get it by heart. What will it do only to read it? Rather try to bring into your life the faith, the courage, the discrimination, and the renunciation of Nachiketâ.
Disciple: Give your blessings, please, that I may realise these.
Swamiji: You have heard of Shri Ramakrishna’s words, haven’t you? He used to say, “The breeze of mercy is already blowing, do you only hoist the sail.” Can anybody, my boy, thrust realisation upon another? One’s destiny is in one’s own hands — the Guru only makes this much understood. Through the power of the seed itself the tree grows, the air and water are only aids.
Disciple: There is, sir, the necessity also of extraneous help.
Swamiji: Yes, there is. But you should know that if there be no substance within, no amount of outside help will avail anything. Yet there comes a time for everyone to realise the Self. For everyone is Brahman. The distinction of higher and lower is only in the degree of manifestation of that Brahman. In time, everyone will have perfect manifestation. Hence the Shâstras say, “कालेनात्मनि विन्दति — In time, That is realised in one’s self.”
Disciples When, alas, will that happen, sir? From the Shastras we hear how many births we have had to pass in ignorance!
Swamiji: What’s the fear? When you have come here this time, the goal shall be attained in this life. Liberation or Samâdhi — all this consists in simply doing away with the obstacles to the manifestation of Brahman. Otherwise the Self is always shining forth like the sun. The cloud of ignorance has only veiled it. Remove the cloud and the sun will manifest. Then you get into the state of “भिद्यते हृदयग्रन्थिः” (“the knot of the heart is broken”) etc. The various paths that you find, all advise you to remove the obstacles on the way. The way by which one realises the Self, is the way which he preached to all. But the goal of all is the knowledge of the Self, the realisation of this Self. To it all men, all beings have equal right. This is the view acceptable to all.
Disciple: Sir, when I read or hear these words of the Shastras, the thought that the Self has not yet been realised makes the heart very disconsolate.
Swamiji: This is what is called longing. The more it grows the more will the cloud of obstacles be dispelled, and stronger will faith be established. Gradually the Self will be realised like a fruit on the palm of one’s hand. This realisation alone is the soul of religion. Everyone can go on abiding by some observances and formalities. Everyone can fulfil certain injunctions and prohibitions but how few have this longing for realisation! This intense longing — becoming mad after realising God or getting the knowledge of the Self — is real spirituality. The irresistible madness which the Gopis had for the Lord, Shri Krishna, yea, it is intense longing like that which is necessary for the realisation of the Self! Even in the Gopis’ mind there was a slight distinction of man and woman. But in real Self-knowledge, there is not the slightest distinction of sex.
While speaking thus, Swamiji introduced the subject of Gita-Govindam (of Jayadeva) and continued saying:
Jayadeva was the last poet in Sanskrit literature though he often cared more for the jingling of words than for depth of sentiment. But just see how the poet has shown the culmination of love and longing in the Shloka “पतति पतत्रे” etc.3 Such love indeed is necessary for Self-realisation. There must be fretting and pining within the heart. Now from His playful life at Vrindaban come to the Krishna of Kurukshetra, and see how that also is fascinating — how, amidst all that horrible din and uproar of fighting, Krishna remains calm, balanced, and peaceful. Ay, on the very battlefield, He is speaking the Gita to Arjuna and getting him on to fight, which is the Dharma of a Kshatriya! Himself an agent to bring about this terrible warfare, Shri Krishna remains unattached to action — He did not take up arms! To whichsoever phase of it you look, you will find the character of Shri Krishna perfect. As if He was the embodiment of knowledge, work, devotion, power of concentration, and everything! In the present age, this aspect of Shri Krishna should be specially studied. Only contemplating the Krishna of Vrindaban with His flute won’t do nowadays — that will not bring salvation to humanity. Now is needed the worship of Shri Krishna uttering forth the lion-roar of the Gita, of Râma with His bow and arrows, of Mahâvira, of Mother Kâli. Then only will the people grow strong by going to work with great energy and will. I have considered the matter most carefully and come to the conclusion that of those who profess and talk of religion nowadays in this country, the majority are full of morbidity — crack-brained or fanatic. Without development of an abundance of Rajas, you have hopes neither in this world, nor in the next. The whole country is enveloped in intense Tamas; and naturally the result is — servitude in this life and hell in the next.
Disciple: Do you expect in view of the Rajas in the Westerners that they will gradually become Sâttvika?
Swamiji: Certainly. Possessed of a plenitude of Rajas, they have now reached the culmination of Bhoga, or enjoyment. Do you think that it is not they, but you, who are going to achieve Yoga — you who hang about for the sake of your bellies? At the sight of their highly refined enjoyment, the delineation in Meghaduta — “विद्युद्वन्तं ललितवसनाः” etc.4 — comes to my mind. And your Bhoga consists in lying on a ragged bed in a muggy room, multiplying progeny every year like a hog! — Begetting a band of famished beggars and slaves! Hence do I say, let people be made energetic and active in nature by the stimulation of Rajas. Work, work, work; “नान्यः पन्था विद्यतेऽयनाय” — There is no other path of liberation but this.”
Disciple: Sir, did our forefathers possess this kind of Rajas?
Swamiji: Why, did they not? Does not history tell us that they established colonies in many countries, and sent preachers of religion to Tibet, China, Sumatra, and even to far-off Japan? Do you think there is any other means of achieving progress except through Rajas?
As conversation thus went on, night approached; and meanwhile Miss Müller came there. She was an English lady, having great reverence for Swamiji. Swamiji introduced the disciple to her, and after a short talk Miss Müller went upstairs.
Swamiji: See, to what a heroic nation they belong! How far-off is her home, and she is the daughter of a rich man — yet how long a way has she come, only with the hope of realising the spiritual ideal!
Disciple: Yes, sir, but your works are stranger still! How so many Western ladies and gentlemen are always eager to serve you! For this age, it is very strange indeed!
Swamiji: If this body lasts, you will see many more things. If I can get some young men of heart and energy, I shall revolutionize the whole country. There are a few in Madras. But I have more hope in Bengal. Such clear brains are to be found scarcely in any other country. But they have no strength in their muscles. The brain and muscles must develop simultaneously. Iron nerves with an intelligent brain — and the whole world is at your feet.
Word was brought that supper was ready for Swamiji. He said to the disciple, “Come and have a look at my food.” While going on with the supper, he said, “It is not good to take much fatty or oily substance. Roti is better than Luchi. Luchi is the food of the sick. Take fish and meat and fresh vegetables, but sweets sparingly.” While thus talking, he inquired, “Well, how many Rotis have I taken? Am I to take more? He did not remember how much he took and did not feel even it he yet had any appetite. The sense of body faded away so much while he was talking!
He finished after taking a little more. The disciple also took leave and went back to Calcutta. Getting no cab for hire, he had to walk; and while walking, he thought over in his mind how soon again he could come the next day to see Swamiji.
- ^The famous actor and dramatist of Bengal and a foremost devotee of Shri Ramakrishna.
- ^From Vyâsa’s Hymn to Vishvanâtha, meaning “whose matted locks look charming with the waves of the Ganga playing among them”.
- ^“पतति पतत्रे विचलति पत्रे शङ्कितभवदुपयानम् ।
रचयति शयनं सचकितनयनं पश्यति तव पन्थानम् ॥”
“At the flying of a bird or the stirring of a leaf, she fancies you are coming; she arranges your bed with eyes all alert looking towards the way you would come.”
- ^विद्युद्वन्तं ललितवसनाः सेन्द्रचापं सचित्राः
सङ्गीताय प्रहतमुरजाः स्निग्धगम्भीरघोषम् ।
प्रासादास्त्वां तुलयितुमलं यत्र तैस्तैर्विशेषैः ॥
— “The mansions of that city may well be compared with you, O cloud, there is correspondence in features: while flashes of lightning play within you, they have charmingly attired damsels moving within them; while you have the rainbow, they have their paintings; you have your deep, rolling rumble, they have their drums sounding forth music, you contain pellucid water within you, they have their interior bedecked with transparent gems; you soar so high, their roofs also kiss the sky” (Meghaduta, II. 1). Kalidasa thus introduces his description of the enjoyments of Alakâpuri. So the reference here is not only to the first verse quoted but also to the whole description which follows.