October 27, 1882
Master’s boat trip with Keshab
IT WAS FRIDAY, the day of the Lakshmi Puja. Keshab Chandra Sen had arranged a boat trip on the Ganges for Sri Ramakrishna.
About four o’clock in the afternoon the steamboat with Keshab and his Brahmo followers cast anchor in the Ganges alongside the Kāli temple at Dakshineswar. The passengers saw in front of them the bathing-ghat and the chandni. To their left, in the temple compound, stood six temples of Śiva, and to their right another group of six Śiva temples. The white steeple of the Kāli temple, the tree-tops of the Panchavati, and the silhouette of pine-trees stood high against the blue autumn sky. The gardens between the two nahabats were filled with fragrant flowers, and along the bank of the Ganges were rows of flowering plants. The blue sky was reflected in the brown water of the river, the sacred Ganges, associated with the most ancient traditions of Aryan civilization. The outer world appeared soft and serene, and the hearts of the Brahmo devotees were filled with peace.
Master in samādhi
Sri Ramakrishna was in his room talking with Vijay and Haralal. Some disciples of Keshab entered. Bowing before the Master, they said to him: “Sir, the steamer has arrived. Keshab Babu has asked us to take you there.” A small boat was to carry the Master to the steamer. No sooner did he get into the boat than he lost outer consciousness in samādhi. Vijay was with him.
M. was among the passengers. As the boat came alongside the steamer, all rushed to the railing to have a view of Sri Ramakrishna. Keshab became anxious to get him safely on board. With great difficulty the Master was brought back to consciousness of the world and taken to a cabin in the steamer. Still in an abstracted mood, he walked mechanically, leaning on a devotee for support. Keshab and the others bowed before him, but he was not aware of them. Inside the cabin there were a few chairs and a table. He was made to sit on one of the chairs, Keshab and Vijay occupying two others. Some devotees were also seated, most of them on the floor, while many others had to stand outside. They peered eagerly through the door and windows. Sri Ramakrishna again went into deep samādhi and became totally unconscious of the outer world.
As the air in the room was stuffy because of the crowd of people, Keshab opened the windows. He was embarrassed to meet Vijay, since they had differed in certain principles of the Brāhrno Samaj and Vijay had separated himself from Keshab’s organization, joining another society.
The Brahmo devotees looked wistfully at the Master. Gradually he came back to sense consciousness; but the divine intoxication still lingered. He said to himself in a whisper: “Mother, why have You brought me here? They are hedged around and not free. Can I free them?” Did the Master find that the people assembled there were locked within the prison walls of the world? Did their helplessness make the Master address these words to the Divine Mother?
God dwells in devotee’s heart
Sri Ramakrishna was gradually becoming conscious of the outside world. Nilmadhav of Ghazipur and a Brahmo devotee were talking about Pavhari Baba. Another Brahmo devotee said to the Master: “Sir, these gentlemen visited Pavhari Baba. He lives in Ghazipur. He is a holy man like yourself.” The Master could hardly talk; he only smiled. The devotee continued, “Sir, Pavhari Baba keeps your photograph in his room.” Pointing to his body the Master said with a smile, “Just a pillow-case.”
The Master continued: “But you should remember that the heart of the devotee is the abode of God. He dwells, no doubt, in all beings, but He especially manifests Himself in the heart of the devotee. A landlord may at one time or another visit all parts of his estate, but people say he is generally to be found in a particular drawing-room. The heart of the devotee is the drawing-room of God.
Attitude of jnānis and bhaktās
“He who is called Brahman by the jnanis is known as Ātman by the yogis and as Bhagavan by the bhaktas. The same brahmin is called priest, when worshipping in the temple, and cook, when preparing a meal in the kitchen. The jnani sticking to the path of knowledge, always reasons about the Reality, saying, ‘Not this, not this’. Brahman is neither ‘this’ nor ‘that’; It is neither the universe nor its living beings. Reasoning in this way, the mind becomes steady. Then it disappears and the aspirant goes into samādhi. This is the knowledge of Brahman. It is the unwavering conviction of the jnani that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory. All these names and forms are illusory, like a dream. What Brahman is cannot be described. One cannot even say that Brahman is a Person. This is the opinion of the jnanis, the followers of Vedanta philosophy.
“But the bhaktas accept all the states of consciousness. They take the waking state to be real also. They don’t think the world to be illusory, like a dream. They say that the universe is a manifestation of God’s power and glory. God has created all these – sky, stars, moon, sun, mountains, ocean, men, animals. They constitute His glory. He is within us, in our hearts. Again, He is outside. The most advanced devotees say that He Himself has become all this – the twenty-four cosmic principles, the universe, and all living beings. The devotee of God wants to eat sugar, not to become sugar. (All laugh.)
“Do you know how a lover of God feels? His attitude is: ‘O God, Thou are the Master, and I am Thy servant. Thou art the Mother, and I am Thy child.’ Or again: ‘Thou art my Father and Mother. Thou art the Whole, and I am a part.’ He doesn’t like to say, ‘I am Brahman.’
Attitude of yogis
“The yogi seeks to realize the Paramatman, the Supreme Soul. His ideal is the union of the embodied soul and the Supreme Soul. He withdraws his mind from sense-objects and tries to concentrate it on the Paramatman. Therefore, during the first stage of his spiritual discipline, he retires into solitude and with undivided attention practises meditation in a fixed posture.
“But the Reality is one and the same. The difference is only in name. He who is Brahman is verily Ātman, and again, He is the Bhagavan. He is Brahman to the followers of the path of knowledge, Paramatman to the yogis, and Bhagavan to the lovers of God.”
The steamer had been going toward Calcutta; but the passengers, with their eyes fixed on the Master and their ears given to his nectar-like words, were oblivious of its motion. Dakshineswar, with its temples and gardens, was left behind. The paddles of the boat churned the waters of the Ganges with a murmuring sound. But the devotees were indifferent to all this. Spellbound, they looked on a great yogi, his face lighted with a divine smile, his countenance radiating love, his eyes sparkling with joy-a man who had renounced all for God and who knew nothing but God. Unceasing words of wisdom flowed from his lips.
Reasoning of jnanis
MASTIER: “The jnanis, who adhere to the non-dualistic philosophy of Vedanta, say that the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, the universe itself and all its living beings, are the manifestations of Śakti, the Divine Power. If you reason it out, you will realize that all these are as illusory as a dream. Brahman alone is the Reality, and all else is unreal. Even this very Śakti is unsubstantial, like a dream.
“But though you reason all your life, unless you are established in samādhi, you cannot go beyond the jurisdiction of Śakti. Even when you say, ‘I am meditating’, or ‘I am contemplating’, still you are moving in the realm of Śakti, within Its power.
Identity of Brahman and Śakti
“Thus Brahman and Śakti are identical. If you accept the one, you must accept the other. It is like fire and its power to burn. If you see the fire, you must recognize its power to burn also. You cannot think of fire without its power to burn, nor can you think of the power to burn without fire. You cannot conceive of the sun’s rays without the sun, nor can you conceive of the sun without its rays.
“What is milk like? Oh, you say, it is something white. You cannot think of the milk without the whiteness, and again, you cannot think of the whiteness without the milk.
“Thus one cannot think of Brahman without Śakti, or of Śakti without Brahman. One cannot think of the Absolute without the Relative, or of the Relative without the Absolute.
“The Primordial Power is ever at play. She is creating, preserving, and destroying in play, as it were. This Power is called Kāli. Kāli is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kāli. It is one and the same Reality. When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, then we call It Brahman. But when It engages in these activities, then we call It Kāli or Śakti. The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form.
“It is like water, called in different languages by different names, such as ‘jal’, ‘pani’, and so forth. There are three or four ghats on a lake. The Hindus, who drink water at one place, call it ‘jal’. The Mussalmans at another place call it ‘pani’. And the English at a third place call it ‘water’. All three denote one and the same thing, the difference being in the name only. In the same way, some address the Reality as ‘Allah’, some as ‘God’, some as ‘Brahman’, some as ‘Kāli’, and others by such names as ‘Rama’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Durga’, ‘Hari.’ “
Different manifestations of Kāli
KESHAB (with a smile): “Describe to us, sir, in how many ways Kāli, the Divine Mother, sports in this world.”
MASTER (with a smile): “Oh, She plays in different ways. It is She alone who is known as Maha-Kāli, Nitya-Kāli, Smasana-Kāli, Raksha-Kāli, and Syama-Kāli. Maha-Kāli and Nitya-Kāli are mentioned in the Tantra philosophy. When there were neither the creation, nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the earth and when darkness was enveloped in darkness, then the Mother, the Formless One, Maha-Kāli, the Great Power, was one with Maha-Kala, the Absolute.
“Syama-Kāli has a somewhat tender aspect and is worshipped in the Hindu households. She is the Dispenser of boons and the Dispeller of fear. People worship Raksha-Kāli, the Protectress, in times of epidemic, famine, earthquake, drought, and flood. Smasana-Kāli is the embodiment of the power of destruction. She resides in the cremation ground, surrounded by corpses, jackals, and terrible female spirits. From Her mouth flows a stream of blood, from Her neck hangs a garland of human heads, and around Her waist is a girdle made of human hands.
Beginning of a cycle
“After the destruction of the universe, at the end of a great cycle, the Divine Mother garners the seeds for the next creation. She is like the elderly mistress of the house, who has a hotchpotch-pot in which she keeps different articles for household use. (All laugh.)
“Oh, yes! Housewives have pots like that, where they keep ‘sea-foam’, blue pills, small bundles of seeds of cucumber, pumpkin, and gourd, and so on. They take them out when they want them. In the same way, after the destruction of the universe, my Divine Mother, the Embodiment of Brahman, gathers together the seeds for the next creation. After the creation the Primal Power dwells in the universe itself. She brings forth this phenomenal world and then pervades it. In the Vedas creation is likened to
the spider and its web. The spider brings the web out of itself and then remains in it. God is the container of the universe and also what is contained in it.
“Is Kāli, my Divine Mother, of a black complexion? She appears black because She is viewed from a distance; but when intimately known She is no longer so. The sky appears blue at a distance; but look at it close by and you will find that it has no colour. The water of the ocean looks blue at a distance, but when you go near and take it in your hand, you find that it is colourless.”
The Master became intoxicated with divine love and sang:
Is Kāli, my Mother, really black?
The Naked One, of blackest hue,
Lights the Lotus of the Heart. . . .
The Master continued: “Bondage and liberation are both of Her making. By Her Maya worldly people become entangled in ‘woman and gold’, and again, through Her grace they attain their liberation. She is called Saviour, and the remover of the bondage that binds one to the world.”
Divine Mother’s sport
Then the Master sang the following song in his melodious voice:
In the world’s busy market-place, O Syama, Thou art flying kites;
High up they soar on the wind of hope, held fast by maya’s string.
Their frames are human skeletons, their sails of the three gunas made;
But all their curious workmanship is merely for ornament. Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed the manja-paste of worldliness,
So as to make each straining strand all the more sharp and strong.
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
And Thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them!
On favouring winds, says Ramprasad, the kites set loose will speedily
Be borne away to the Infinite, across the sea of the world.
The Master said: “The Divine Mother is always playful and sportive. This universe is Her play. She is self-willed and must always have Her own way. She is full of bliss. She gives freedom to one out of a hundred thousand.”
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “But, sir, if She likes, She can give freedom to all. Why, then, has She kept us bound to the world?”
MASTER: “That is Her will. She wants to continue playing with Her created beings. In a game of hide-and-seek the running about soon stops if in the beginning all the players touch the ‘granny’. If all touch her, then how can the game go on? That displeases her. Her pleasure is in continuing the game. Therefore the poet said:
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
And Thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them!
Reassurance to householders
“It is as if the Divine Mother said to the human mind in confidence, with a sign from Her eye, ‘Go and enjoy the world.’ How can one blame the mind? The mind can disentangle itself from worldliness if, through Her grace, She makes it turn toward Herself. Only then does it become devoted to the Lotus Feet of the Divine Mother.”
Whereupon Sri Ramakrishna, taking upon himself, as it were, the agonies of all householders, sang a song complaining to the Divine Mother:
Mother, this is the grief that sorely grieves my heart,
That even with Thee for Mother, and though I am wide awake,
There should be robbery in my house.
Many and many a time I vow to call on Thee,
Yet when the time for prayer comes round, I have forgotten.
Now I see it is all Thy trick.
As Thou hast never given, so Thou receivest naught;
Am I to blame for this, O Mother? Hadst Thou but given,
Surely then Thou hadst received;
Out of Thine own gifts I should have given to Thee.
Glory and shame, bitter and sweet, are Thine alone;
This world is nothing but Thy play.
Then why, O Blissful One, dost Thou cause a rift in it?
Says Ramprasad: Thou hast bestowed on me this mind,
And with a knowing wink of Thine eye
Bidden it, at the same time, to go and enjoy the world.
And so I wander here forlorn through Thy creation,
Blasted, as it were, by someone’s evil glance,
Taking the bitter for the sweet,
Taking the unreal for the Real.
The Master continued: “Men are deluded through Her maya and have become attached to the world.
Says Ramprasad: Thou hast bestowed on me this mind,
And with a knowing wink of Thine eye
Bidden it, at the same time, to go and enjoy the world.”
BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Sir, can’t we realize God without complete renunciation?”
MASTFR (with a laugh): “Of course you can! Why should you renounce everything? You are all right as you are, following the middle path-like molasses partly solid and partly liquid. Do you know the game of nax? Having scored the maximum number of points, I am out of the game. I can’t enjoy it. But you are very clever. Some of you have scored ten points, some six, and some five. You have scored just the right number; so you are not out of the game like me. The game can go on. Why, that’s fine! (All laugh.)
“I tell you the truth: there is nothing wrong in your being in the world. But you must direct your mind toward God; otherwise you will not succeed. Do your duty with one hand and with the other hold to God. After the duty is over, you will hold to God with both hands.
Bondage and liberation are of the mind
“It is all a question of the mind. Bondage and liberation are of the mind alone. The mind will take the colour you dye it with. It is like white clothes just returned from the laundry. If you dip them in red dye, they will be red. If you dip them in blue or green, they will be blue or green. They will take only the colour you dip them in, whatever it may be. Haven’t you noticed that, if you read a little English, you at once begin to utter English words: Foot fut it mit? Then you put on boots and whistle a tune, and so on. It all goes together. Or, if a scholar studies Sanskrit, he will at once rattle off Sanskrit verses. If you are in bad company, then you will talk and think like your companions. On the other hand, when you are in the company of devotees, you will think and talk only of God.
“The mind is everything. A man has his wife on one side and his daughter on the other. He shows his affection to them in different ways. But his mind is one and the same.
“Bondage is of the mind, and freedom is also of the mind. A man is free if he constantly thinks: ‘I am a free soul. How can I be bound, whether I live in the world or in the forest? I am a child of God, the King of Kings. Who can bind me?’ If bitten by a snake, a man may get rid of its venom by saying emphatically, ‘There is no poison in me.’ In the same way, by repeating with grit and determination, ‘I am not bound, I am free’, one really becomes so-one really becomes free.
“Once someone gave me a book of the Christians. I asked him to read it to me. It talked about nothing but sin. (To Keshab) Sin is the only thing one hears of at your Brahmo Samaj, too. The wretch who constantly says, ‘I am bound, I am bound’ only succeeds in being bound. He who says day and night, ‘I am a sinner, I am a sinner’ verily becomes a sinner.
Redeeming power of faith
“One should have such burning faith in God that one can say: ‘What? I have repeated the name of God, and can sin still cling to me? How can I be a sinner any more? How can I be in bondage any more?’
“If a man repeats the name of God, his body, mind, and everything become pure. Why should one talk only about sin and hell, and such things? Say but once, ‘O Lord, I have undoubtedly done wicked things, but I won’t repeat them.’ And have faith in His name.”
Sri Ramakrishna became intoxicated with divine love and sang:
If only I can pass away repeating Durga’s name,
How canst Thou then, O Blessed One,
Withhold from me deliverance,
Wretched though I may be? . . .
Then he said: “To my Divine Mother I prayed only for pure love. I offered flowers at Her Lotus Feet and prayed to Her: ‘Mother, here is Thy virtue, here is Thy vice. Take them both and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy knowledge, here is Thy ignorance. Take them both and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy purity, here is Thy impurity. Take them both, Mother, and grant me only pure love for Thee. Here is Thy dharma, here is Thy adharma. Take them both, Mother, and grant me only pure love for Thee.’
(To the Brahmo devotees) “Now listen to a song by Ramprasad:
Come, let us go for a walk, O mind, to Kāli, the Wish-fulfilling
And there beneath It gather the four fruits of life.
Of your two wives, Dispassion and Worldliness,
Bring alone Dispassion only, on your way to the Tree,
And ask her son Discrimination about the Truth.
When will you learn to lie, O mind, in the abode of Blessedness,
With Cleanliness and Defilement on either side of you?
Only when you have found the way
To keep these wives contentedly under a single roof,
Will you behold the matchless form of Mother Syama.
Ego and Ignorance, your parents, instantly banish from your sight;
And should Delusion seek to drag you to its hole, Manfully cling to the pillar of Patience.
Tie to the post of Unconcern the goats of Vice and Virtue, Killing them with the sword of Knowledge if they rebel.
With the children of Worldliness, your first wife, plead from a
And, if they will not listen, drown them in Wisdom’s sea. Says Ramprasad: If you do as I say,
You can submit a good account, O mind, to the King of Death, And I shall be well pleased with you and call you my darling.
“Why shouldn’t one be able to realize God in this world? King Janaka had such realization. Ramprasad described the world as a mere ‘framework of illusion’. But if one loves God’s hallowed feet, then-
This very world is a mansion of mirth;
Here I can eat, here drink and make merry.
Janaka’s might was unsurpassed;
What did he lack of the world or the Spirit?
Holding to one as well as the other,
He drank his milk from a brimming cup!
“But one cannot be a King Janaka all of a sudden. Janaka at first practised much austerity in solitude.
Solitude for householders
“Even if one lives in the world, one must go into solitude now and then. It will be of great help to a man if he goes away from his family, lives alone, and weeps for God even for three days. Even if he thinks of God for one day in solitude, when he has the leisure, that too will do him good. People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children. But who cries for the Lord? Now and then one must go into solitude and practise spiritual discipline to realize God. Living in the world and entangled in many of its duties, the aspirant, during the first stage of spiritual life, finds many obstacles in the path of concentration. While the trees on the foot-path are young, they must he fenced around; otherwise they will be destroyed by cattle. The fence is necessary when the tree is young, but it can be taken away when the trunk is thick and strong. Then the tree won’t be hurt even if an elephant is tied to it.
Malady of worldly people and its cure
“The disease of worldliness is like typhoid. And there are a huge jug of water and a jar of savoury pickles in the typhoid patient’s room. If you want to cure him of his illness, you must remove him from that room. The worldly man is like the typhoid patient. The various objects of enjoyment are the huge jug of water, and the craving for their enjoyment is his thirst. The very thought of pickles makes the mouth water; you don’t have to bring them near. And he is surrounded with them. The companionship of woman is the pickles. Hence treatment in solitude is necessary.
“One may enter the world after attaining discrimination and dispassion. In the ocean of the world there are six alligators: lust, anger, and so forth. But you need not fear the alligators if you smear your body with turmeric before you go into the water.
Discrimination and dispassion are the turmeric. Discrimination is the knowledge of what is real and what is unreal. It is the realization that God alone is the real and eternal Substance and that all else is unreal, transitory, impermanent. And you must cultivate intense zeal for God. You must feel love for Him and be attracted to Him. The gopis of Vrindāvan felt the attraction of Krishna. Let me sing you a song:
Listen! The flute has sounded in yonder wood.
There I must fly, for Krishna waits on the path.
Tell me, friends, will you come along or no?
To you my Krishna is merely an empty name;
To me He is the anguish of my heart.
You hear His flute-notes onlv with your ears,
But, oh, I hear them in my deepest soul.
I hear His flute calling: ‘Radha come out!
Without you the grove is shorn of its loveliness.’ “
The Master sang the song with tears in his eyes, and said to Keshab and the other Brahmo devotees: “Whether you accept Radha and Krishna, or not, please do accept their attraction for each other. Try to create that same yearning in your heart for God. Yearning is all you need in order to realize Him.”
Gradually the ebb-tide set in. The steamboat was speeding toward Calcutta. It passed under the Howrah Bridge and came within sight of the Botanical Garden. The captain was asked to go a little farther down the river. The passengers were enchanted with the Master’s words, and most of them had no idea of time or of how far they had come.
Keshab began to serve some puffed rice and grated coconut. The guests held these in the folds of their wearing-cloths and presently started to eat. Everyone was joyful. The Master noticed, however, that Keshab and Vijay rather shrank from each other, and he was anxious to reconcile them.
Disagreements necessary for enriching life
MASTEIR (to Keshab): “Look here. There is Vijay. Your quarrel seems like the fight between Śiva and Rama. Śiva was Rama’s s guru. Though they fought with each other, yet they soon came to terms. But the grimaces of the ghosts, the followers of Śiva, and the gibberish of the monkeys, the followers of Rama, would not come to an end! (Loud laughter.) Such quarrels take place even among one’s own kith and kin. Didn’t Rama fight with His own sons, Lava and Kusa? Again, you must have noticed how a mother and daughter, living together and having the same spiritual end in view, observe their religious fast separately on Tuesdays, each on her own account-as if the welfare of the mother were different from the welfare of the daughter. But what benefits the one benefits the other. In like manner, you have a religious society, and Vijay thinks he must have one too. (Laughter.) But I think all these are necessary. While Sri Krishna, Himself God Incarnate, played with the gopis at Vrindāvan, trouble-makers like Jatila and Kutila appeared on the scene. You may ask why. The answer is that the play does
not develop without trouble-makers. (All laugh.) There is no fun without Jatila and Kutila. (Loud laughter.)
“Ramanuja upheld the doctrine of Qualified Non-dualism. But his guru was a pure non-dualist. They disagreed with each other and refuted each other’s arguments. That always happens. Still, to the teacher the disciple is his own.”
All rejoiced in the Mastcr’s company and his words.
MASTER (to Keshab): “You don’t look into people’s natures, before you make them your disciples, and so they break away from you.
“All men look alike, to be sure, but they have different natures. Some have an excess of sattva, others an excess of rajas, and still others an excess of tamas. You must have noticed that the cakes known as puli all look alike. But their contents are very different. Some contain condensed milk, some coconut kernel, and others mere boiled kalai pulse. (All laugh)
“Do you know my attitude? As for myself, I eat, drink, and live happily. The rest the Divine Mother knows. Indeed, there are three words that prick my flesh: ‘guru’, ‘master’, and ‘father’.
“There is only one Guru, and that is Satchidananda. He alone is the Teacher. My attitude toward God is that of a child toward its mother. One can get human gurus by the million. All want to be teachers. But who cares to be a disciple?
Difficulty of preaching
“It is extremely difficult to teach others. A man can teach only if God reveals Himself to him and gives the command. Narada, Sukadeva, and sages like them had such a command from God, and Sankara had it too. Unless you have a command from God, who will listen to your words?
“Don’t you know how easily the people of Calcutta get excited? The milk in the kettle puffs up and boils as long as the fire burns underneath. Take away the fuel and all becomes quiet. The people of Calcutta love sensations. You may see them digging a well at a certain place. They say they want water. But if they strike a stone they give up that place; they begin at another place. And there, perchance, they find sand; they give up the second place too. Next they begin at a third. And so it goes. But it won’t do if a man only imagines that he has God’s command.
“God does reveal Himself to man and speak. Only then may one receive His command. How forceful are the words of such a teacher! They can move mountains. But mere lectures? People will listen to them for a few days and then forget them. They will never act upon mere words.
“At Kamarpukur there is a small lake called the Haldarpukur. Certain people used to befoul its banks every day. Others who came there in the morning to bathe would abuse the offenders loudly. But next morning they would find the same thing. The nuisance didn’t stop. (All laugh.) The villagers finally informed the authorities about it. A constable was sent, who put up a notice on the bank which read: ‘Commit no nuisance.’ This stopped the miscreants at once. (All laugh.)
“To teach others, one must have a badge of authority; otherwise teaching becomes a mockery. A man who is himself ignorant starts out to teach others-like the blind leading the blind! Instead of doing good, such teaching does harm. After the realization of God one obtains an inner vision. Only then can one diagnose a person’s spiritual malady and give instruction.
“Without the commission from God, a man becomes vain. He says to himself, ‘I am teaching people.’ This vanity comes from ignorance, for only an ignorant person feels that he is the doer. A man verily becomes liberated in life if he feels: ‘God is the Doer. He alone is doing everything. I am doing nothing.’ Man’s sufferings and worries spring only from his persistent thought that he is the doer.
Doing good to others
“You people speak of doing good to the world. Is the world such a small thing? And who are you, pray, to do good to the world? First realize God, see Him by means of spiritual discipline. If He imparts power, then you can do good to others; otherwise not.”
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Then, sir, we must give up our activities until we realize God?”
MASTER: “No. Why should you? You must engage in such activities as contemplation, singing His praises, and other daily devotions.”
BRAHMO: “But what about our worldly duties-duties associated with our earning money, and so on?”
MASTER: “Yes, you can perform them too, but only as much as you need for your livelihood. At the same time, you must pray to God in solitude, with tears in your eyes, that you may be able to perform those duties in an unselfish manner. You should say to Him: ‘O God, make my worldly duties fewer and fewer; otherwise, O Lord, I find that I forget Thee when I am involved in too many activities. I may think I am doing unselfish work, but it turns out to be selfish.’ People who carry to excess the giving of alms, or the distributing of food among the poor, fall victims to the desire of acquiring name and fame.
“Sambhu Mallick once talked about establishing hospitals, dispensaries, and schools, making roads, digging public reservoirs, and so forth. I said to him: ‘Don’t go out of your way to look for such works. Undertake only those works that present themselves to you and are of pressing necessity-and those also in a spirit of detachment.’ It is not good to become involved in many activities. That makes one forget God. Coming to the Kalighat temple, some, perhaps, spend their whole time in giving alms to the poor. They
have no time to see the Mother in the inner shrine! (Laughter.) First of all manage somehow to see the image of the Divine Mother, oven by pushing through the crowd. Then you may or may not give alms, as you wish. You may give to the poor to your heart’s content, if you feel that way. Work is only a means to the realization of God. Therefore I said to Sambhu, ‘Suppose God appears before you; then will you ask Him to build hospitals and dispensaries for you?’ (Laughter.) A lover of God never says that. He will rather say: ‘O Lord, give me a place at Thy Lotus Feet. Keep me always in Thy company. Give me sincere and pure love for Thee.’
Path of devotion most elective for Kaliyuga
“Karmayoga is very hard indeed. In the Kaliyuga it is extremely difficult to perform the rites enjoined in the scriptures. Nowadays man’s life is centred on food alone. He cannot perform many scriptural rites. Suppose a man is laid up with fever. If you attempt a slow cure with the old-fashioned indigenous remedies, before long his life may be snuffed out. He can’t stand much delay. Nowadays the drastic ‘D Gupta’ mixture is appropriate. In the Kaliyuga the best way is bhaktiyoga, the path of devotion-singing the praises of the Lord, and prayer. The path of devotion alone is the religion for this age. (To the Brahmo devotees) Yours also is the path of devotion. Blessed you are indeed that you chant the name of Hari and sing the Divine Mother’s glories. I like your attitude. You don’t call the world a dream like the non-dualists. You are not Brahmajnanis like them; you are bhaktas, lovers of God. That you speak of Him as a Person is also good. You are devotees. You will certainly realize Him if you call on Him with sincerity and earnestness.”
The boat cast anchor at Kayalaghat and the passengers prepared to disembark. On coming outside they noticed that the full moon was up. The trees, the buildings, and the boats on the Ganges were bathed in its mellow light. A carriage was hailed for the Master, and M. and a few devotees got in with him. The Master asked for Keshab. Presently the latter arrived and inquired about the arrangements made for the Master’s return to Dakshineswar. Then he bowed low and took leave of Sri Ramakrishna.
The carriage drove through the European quarter of the city. The Master enjoyed the sight of the beautiful mansions on both sides of the well lighted streets. Suddenly he said: “I am thirsty. What’s to be done?” Nandalal, Keshab’s nephew, stopped the carriage before the India Club and went upstairs to get some water. The Master inquired whether the glass had been well washed. On being assured that it had been, he drank the water.
As the carriage went along, the Master put his head out of the window and looked with childlike enjoyment, at the people, the vehicles, the horses, and the streets, all flooded with moonlight. Now and then he heard European ladies singing at the piano. He was in a very happy mood.
The carriage arrived at the house of Suresh Mitra, who was a great devotee of the Master and whom he addressed affectionately as Surendra. He was not at home.
The members of the household opened a room on the ground floor for the Master and his party. The cab fare was to be paid. Surendra would have taken care of it had he been there. The Master said to a devotee: “Why don’t you ask the ladies to pay the fare? They certainly know that their master visits us at Dakshineswar. I am not a stranger to them.”(All laugh.)
Narendra, who lived in that quarter of the city, was sent for. In the mean time Sri Ramakrishna and the devotees were invited to the drawing-room upstairs. The floor of the room was covered with a carpet and a white sheet. A few cushions were lying about. On the wall hung an oil painting especially painted for Surendra, in which Sri Ramakrishna was pointing out to Keshab the harmony of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions. On seeing the picture Keshab had once said, “Blessed is the man who conceived the idea.”
Sri Ramakrishna was talking joyously with the devotees, when Narendra arrived. This made the Master doubly happy. He said to his young disciple, “We had a boat trip with Keshab today. Vijay and many other Brahmo devotees were there. (Pointing to M.) Ask him what I said to Keshab and Vijay about the mother and daughter observing their religious fast on Tuesdays, each on her own account, though the welfare of the one meant the welfare of the other. I also said to Keshab that trouble-makers like jatila and Kutila were necessary to lend zest to the play. (To M.) Isn’t that so?”
M: “Yes, sir. Quite so.”
It was late. Surendra had not yet returned. The Master had to leave for the temple garden, and a cab was brought for him. M. and Narendra saluted him and took their leave. Sri Ramakrishna’s carriage started for Dakshineswar through the moonlit streets.