October 28, 1882
IT WAS SATURDAY. The semi-annual Brahmo festival, celebrated each autumn and spring, was being held in Benimadhav Pal’s beautiful garden house at Sinthi, about three miles north of Calcutta. The house stood in a secluded place suited for contemplation. Trees laden with flowers, artificial lakes with grassy banks, and green arbours enhanced the beauty of the grounds. Just as the fleecy clouds were turning gold in the light of the setting sun, the Master arrived.
Many devotees had attended the morning devotions, and in the afternoon people from Calcutta and the neighbouring villages joined them. Shivanath, the great Brahmo devotee whom the Master loved dearly, was one of the large gathering of members of the Brahmo Samaj who had been eagerly awaiting Sri Ramakrishna’s arrival.
When the carriage bringing the Master and a few devotees reached the garden house, the assembly stood up respectfully to receive him. There was a sudden silence, like that which comes when the curtain in a theatre is about to be rung up. People who had been conversing with one another now fixed their attention on the Master’s serene face, eager not to lose one word that might fall from his lips.
Master’s joy on seeing Shivanāth
At the sight of Shivanath the Master cried out joyously: “Ah! Here is Shivanath! You see, you are a devotee of God. The very sight of you gladdens my heart. One hemp-smoker feels very happy to meet another. Very often they embrace each other in an exuberance of joy.”
The devotees burst out laughing.
Worldly people’s indifference to spiritual life
MASTER: “Many people visit the temple garden at Dakshineswar. If I see some among the visitors indifferent to God, I say to them, ‘You had better sit over there.’ Or sometimes I say, ‘Go and see the beautiful buildings.’ (Laughter.)
“Sometimes I find that the devotees of God are accompanied by worthless people. Their companions are immersed in gross worldliness and don’t enjoy spiritual talk at all. Since the devotees keep on, for a long time, talking with me about God, the others become restless. Finding it impossible to sit there any longer, they whisper to their devotee friends: ‘When shall we be going? How long will you stay here?’ The devotees say: ‘Wait a bit. We shall go after a little while.’ Then the worldly people say in a disgusted tone: ‘Well, then, you can talk. We shall wait for you in the boat.’ (All laugh.)
Power of God’s name
“Worldly people will never listen to you if you ask them to renounce everything and devote themselves whole-heartedly to God. Therefore Chaitanya and Nitai, after some deliberation, made an arrangement to attract the worldly. They would say to such persons, ‘Come, repeat the name of Hari, and you shall have a delicious soup of magur fish and the embrace of a young woman.’ Many people, attracted by the fish and the woman, would chant the name of God. After tasting a little of the nectar of God’s hallowed name, they would soon realize that the ‘fish soup’ really meant the tears they shed for love of God, while the ‘young woman’ signified the earth. The embrace of the woman meant rolling on the ground in the rapture of divine love.
“Nitai would employ any means to make people repeat Hari’s name. Chaitanya said: ‘The name of God has very great sanctity. It may not produce an immediate result, but one day it must bear fruit. It is like a seed that has been left on the cornice of a building. After many days the house crumbles, and the seed falls on the earth, germinates, and at last bears fruit.’
Three classes of devotees
“As worldly people are endowed with sattva, rajas, and tamas, so also is bakti characterized by the three gunas.
“Do you know what a worldly person endowed with sattva is like? Perhaps his house is in a dilapidated condition here and there. He doesn’t care to repair it. The worship hall may be strewn with pigeon droppings and the courtyard covered with moss, but he pays no attention to these things. The furniture of the house may be old; he doesn’t think of polishing it and making it look neat. He doesn’t care for dress at all; anything is good enough for him. But the man himself is very gentle, quiet, kind, and humble; he doesn’t injure anyone.
“Again, among the worldly there are people with the traits of rajas. Such a man has a watch and chain, and two or three rings on his fingers. The furniture of his house is all spick and span. On the walls hang portraits of the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and other prominent people; the building is whitewashed and spotlessly clean. His wardrobe is filled with a large assortment of clothes; even the servants have their livery, and all that.
“The traits of a worldly man endowed with tamas are sleep, lust, anger, egotism, and the like.
Three kinds of bhakti
“Similarly, bhakti, devotion, has its sattva. A devotee who possesses it meditates on God in absolute secret, perhaps inside his mosquito net. Others think he is asleep. Since he is late in getting up, they think perhaps he has not slept well during the night. His love for the body goes only as far as appeasing his hunger, and that only by means of rice and simple greens. There is no elaborate arrangement about his meals, no luxury
in clothes, and no display of furniture. Besides, such a devotee never flatters anybody for money.
“An aspirant possessed of rajasic bhakti puts a tilak on his forehead and a necklace of holy rudraksha beads, interspersed with gold ones, around his neck. (All laugh.) At worship he wears a silk cloth.
“A man endowed with tamasic bhakti has burning faith. Such a devotee literally extorts boons from God, even as a robber falls upon a man and plunders his money. ‘Bind! Beat! Kill!’-that is his way, the way of the dacoits.”
Utilizing Tamas for spiritual welfare
Saying this, the Master began to sing in a voice sweet with rapturous love, his eyes turned upward:
Why should I go to Ganga or Gaya, to Kasi, Kanchi, or Prabhas,
So long as I can breathe my last with Kāli’s name upon my lips?
What need of rituals has a man, what need of devotions any more,
If he repeats the Mother’s name at the three holy hours? Rituals may pursue him close, but never can they overtake him. Charity, vows, and giving of gifts do not appeal to Madan’s mind;
The Blissful Mother’s Lotus Feet are his whole prayer and sacrifice.
Who could ever have conceived the power Her name possesses?
Śiva Himself, the God of Gods, sings Her praise with His five mouths!
The Master was beside himself with love for the Divine Mother. He sang with fiery enthusiasm:
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, “One must take the firm attitude: ‘What? I have chanted the Mother’s name. How can I be a sinner any more? I am Her child, heir to Her powers and glories.’
“If you can give a spiritual turn to your tamas, you can realize God with its help. Force your demands on God. He is by no means a stranger to you. He is indeed your very own.
Illustration of physicians
“Again, you see, the quality of tamas can be used for the welfare of others. There are three classes of physicians: superior, mediocre, and inferior. The physician who feels the patient’s pulse and just says to him, ‘Take the medicine regularly’ belongs to the inferior class. He doesn’t care to inquire whether or not the patient has actually taken the medicine. The mediocre physician is he who in various ways persuades the patient to take the medicine, and says to him sweetly: ‘My good man, how will you be cured unless you use the medicine? Take this medicine. I have made it for you myself.’ But he who, finding the patient stubbornly refusing to take the medicine, forces it down his throat, going so far as to put his knee on the patient’s chest, is the best physician. This is the manifestation of the tamas of the physician. It doesn’t injure the patient; on the contrary, it does him good.
Three types of gurus
“Like the physicians, there are three types of religious teachers. The inferior teacher only gives instruction to the disciples but makes no inquiries about their progress. The mediocre teacher, for the good of the student, makes repeated efforts to bring the instruction home to him, begs him to assimilate it, and shows him love in many other ways. But there is a type of teacher who goes to the length of using force when he finds the student persistently unyielding; I call him the best teacher.”
No finality about God’s nature
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Sir, has God forms or has He none?”
MASTER: “No one can say with finality that God is only ‘this’ and nothing else. He is formless, and again He has forms. For the bhakta He assumes forms. But He is formless for the jnani, that is, for him who looks on the world as a mere dream. The bhakta feels that he is one entity and the world another. Therefore God reveals Himself to him as a Person. But the jnani-the Vedantist, for instance-always reasons, applying the process of ‘Not this, not this’. Through this discrimination he realizes, by his inner perception, that the ego and the universe are both illusory, like a dream. Then the jnani realizes Brahman in his own consciousness. He cannot describe what Brahman is.
“Do you know what I mean? Think of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, as a shoreless ocean. Through the cooling influence, as it were, of the bhakta’s love, the water has frozen at places into blocks of ice. In other words, God now and then assumes various forms for His lovers and reveals Himself to them as a Person. But with the rising of the sun of Knowledge, the blocks of ice melt. Then one doesn’t feel any more that God is a Person, nor does one see God’s forms. What He is cannot be described. Who will describe Him? He who would do so disappears. He cannot find his ‘I’ any more.
Illusoriness of “I”
“If one analyses oneself, one doesn’t find any such thing as ‘I’. Take an onion, for instance. First of all you peel off the red outer skin; then you find thick white skins. Peel these off one after the other, and you won’t find anything inside.
“In that state a man no longer finds the existence of his ego. And who is there left to seek it? Who can describe how he feels in that state-in his own Pure Consciousness-about the real nature of Brahman? Once a salt doll went to measure the depth of the ocean. No sooner was it in the water than it melted. Now who was to tell the depth?
Sign of Perfect Knowledge
“There is a sign of Perfect Knowledge. Man becomes silent when It is attained. Then the ‘I’, which may be likened to the salt doll, melts in the Ocean of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute and becomes one with It. Not the slightest trace of distinction is left.
“As long as his self-analysis is not complete, man argues with much ado. But he becomes silent when he completes it. When the empty pitcher has been filled with water, when the water inside the pitcher becomes one with the water of the lake outside, no more sound is heard. Sound comes from the pitcher as long as the pitcher is not filled with water.
“People used to say in olden days that no boat returns after having once entered the ‘black waters’ of the ocean.
“All trouble and botheration come to an end when the ‘I’ dies. You may indulge in thousands of reasoning, but still the ‘I’ doesn’t disappear. For people like you and me, it is good to have the feeling, ‘I am a lover of God.’
Personal God for devotees
“The Saguna Brahman is meant for the bhaktas. In other words, a bhakta believes that God has attributes and reveals Himself to men as a Person, assuming forms. It is He who listens to our prayers. The prayers that you utter are directed to Him alone. You are bhaktas, not jnanis or Vedantists. It doesn’t matter whether you accept God with form or not. It is enough to feel that God is a Person who listens to our prayers, who creates, preserves, and destroys the universe, and who is endowed with infinite power.
“It is easier to attain God by following the path of devotion.”
BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Sir, is it possible for one to see God? If so, why can’t we see Him?”
MASTER: “Yes, He can surely be seen. One can see His forms, and His formless aspect as well. How can I explain that to you?”
Intense longing enables one to see God
BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “What are the means by which one can see God?”
MASTER: “Can you weep for Him with intense longing of heart? Men shed a jugful of tears for the sake of their children, for their wives, or for money. But who weeps for God? So long as the child remains engrossed with its toys, the mother looks after her cooking and other household duties. But when the child no longer relishes the toys, it throws them aside and yells for its mother. Then the mother takes the rice-pot down from the hearth, runs in haste, and takes the child in her arms.”
Why so much controversy about God?
BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Sir, why are there so many different opinions about the nature of God? Some say that God has form, while others say that He is formless. Again, those who speak of God with form tell us about His different forms. Why all this controversy?”
MASTER: “A devotee thinks of God as he sees Him. In reality there is no confusion about God. God explains all this to the devotee if the devotee only realizes Him somehow. You haven’t set your foot in that direction. How can you expect to know all about God?
Parable of the chameleon
“Listen to a story. Once a man entered a wood and saw a small animal on a tree. He came back and told another man that he had seen a creature of a beautiful red colour on a certain tree. The second man replied: ‘When I went into the wood, I also saw that animal. But why do you call it red? It is green.’ Another man who was present contradicted them both and insisted that it was yellow. Presently others arrived and contended that it was grey, violet, blue, and so forth and so on. At last they started quarrelling among themselves. To settle the dispute they all went to the tree. They saw a man sitting under it. On being asked, he replied: ‘Yes, I live under this tree and I know the animal very well. All your descriptions are true. Sometimes it appears red, sometimes yellow, and at other times blue, violet, grey, and so forth. It is a chameleon. And sometimes it has no colour at all. Now it has a colour, and now it has none.’
“In like manner, one who constantly thinks of God can know His real nature; he alone knows that God reveals Himself to seekers in various forms and aspects. God has attributes; then again He has none. Only the man who lives under the tree knows that the chameleon can appear in various colours, and he knows, further, that the animal at times has no colour at all. It is the others who suffer from the agony of futile argument.
“Kabir used to say, ‘The formless Absolute is my Father, and God with form is my Mother.’
“God reveals Himself in the form which His devotee loves most. His love for the devotee knows no bounds. It is written in the Purana that God assumed the form of Rama for His heroic devotee, Hanuman.
“The forms and aspects of God disappear when one discriminates in accordance with the Vedanta philosophy. The ultimate conclusion of such discrimination is that Brahman alone is real and this world of names and forms illusory. It is possible for a man to see the forms of God, or to think of Him as a Person, only so long as he is conscious that he is a devotee. From the standpoint of discrimination this ‘ego of a devotee’ keeps him a little away from God.
“Do you know why images of Krishna or Kāli are three and a half cubits high? Because of distance. Again, on account of distance the sun appears to be small. But if you go near
it you will find the sun so big that you won’t be able to comprehend it. Why have images of Krishna and Kāli a dark-blue colour? That too is on account of distance, like the water of a lake, which appears green, blue, or black from a distance. Go near, take the water in the palm of your hand, and you will find that it has no colour. The sky also appears blue from a distance. Go near and you will see that it has no colour at all.
“Therefore I say that in the light of Vedantic reasoning Brahman has no attributes. The real nature of Brahman cannot be described. But so long as your individuality is real, the world also is real, and equally real are the different forms of God and the feeling that God is a Person.
“Yours is the path of bhakti. That is very good; it is an easy path. Who can fully know the infinite God? and what need is there of knowing the Infinite? Having attained this rare human birth, my supreme need is to develop love for the Lotus Feet of God.
“If a jug of water is enough to remove my thirst, why should I measure the quantity of water in a lake? I become drunk on even half a bottle of wine-what is the use of my calculating the quantity of liquor in the tavern? What need is there of knowing the Infinite?
“The various states of mind of the Brahmajnani are described in the Vedas. The path of knowledge is extremely difficult. One cannot obtain jnāna if one has the least trace of worldliness and the slightest attachment to ‘woman and gold’. This is not the path for the Kaliyuga.
Seven planes of the mind
“The Vedas speak of seven planes where the mind dwells. When the mind is immersed in worldliness it dwells in the three lower planes- at the naval, the organ of generation, and the organ of evacuation. In that state the mind loses all its higher visions-it broods only on ‘woman and gold’. The fourth plane of the mind is at the heart. When the mind dwells there, one has the first glimpse of spiritual consciousness. One sees light all around. Such a man, perceiving the divine light, becomes speechless with wonder and says: ‘Ah! What is this? What is this?’ His mind does not go downward to the objects of the world.
“The fifth plane of the mind is at the throat. When the mind reaches this, the aspirant becomes free from all ignorance and illusion. He does not enjoy talking or hearing about anything but God. If people talk about worldly things, he leaves the place at once.
“The sixth plane is at the forehead. When the mind reaches it, the aspirant sees the form of God day and night. But even then a little trace of ego remains. At the sight of that incomparable beauty of God’s form, one becomes intoxicated and rushes forth to touch and embrace it. But one doesn’t succeed. It is like the light inside a lantern. One feels as if one could touch the light, but one cannot on account of the pane of glass.
“In the top of the head is the seventh plane. When the mind rises there, one goes into samādhi. Then the Brahmajnani directly perceives Brahman. But in that state his body
does not last many days. He remains unconscious of the outer world. If milk is poured into his mouth, it runs out. Dwelling on this plane of consciousness, he gives up his body in twenty-one days. That is the condition of the Brahmajnani. But yours is the path of devotion. That is a very good and easy path.
“Once a man said to me, ‘Sir, can you teach me quickly the thing you call samādhi?’ (All laugh.)
Duties drop away with deepening of spiritual mood
“After a man has attained samādhi all his actions drop away. All devotional activities, such as worship, japa, and the like, as well as all worldly duties, cease to exist for such a person. At the beginning there is much ado about work. As a man makes progress toward God, the outer display of his work becomes less and less-so much so that he cannot even sing the name and glories of God. (To Shivanath) As long as you were not here at the meeting, people talked a great deal about you and discussed your virtues. But no sooner did you arrive here than all that stopped. Now the very sight of you makes everyone happy. People now simply say, ‘Ah! Here is Shivanath Babu.’ All other talk about you has stopped.
What happens after samādhi
“After attaining samādhi, I once went to the Ganges to perform tarpan. But as I took water in the palm of my hand, it trickled down through my fingers. Weeping, I said to Haladhāri, ‘Cousin, what is this?’ Haladhāri replied, ‘It is called galitahasta in the holy books.’ After the vision of God, such duties as the performance of tarpan drop away.
“In the kirtan the devotee first sings, ‘Nitai amar mata hati.’ As the devotional mood deepens, he simply sings, ‘Hati! Hati!’ Next, all he can sing is ‘Hati’. And last of all he simply sings, ‘Ha!’ and goes into samādhi. The man who has been singing all the while then becomes speechless.
“Again, at a feast given to the brahmins one at first hears much noise of talking. When the guests sit on the floor with leaf-plates in front of them, much of the noise ceases. Then one hears only the cry, ‘Bring some luchi!’ As they partake of the luchi and other dishes, three quarters of the noise subsides. When the curd, the last course, appears, one hears only the sound ‘soop, soop’ as the guests eat the curd with their fingers. Then there is practically no noise. Afterwards all retire to sleep, and absolute silence reigns.
“Therefore I say, at the beginning of religious life a man makes much ado about work, but as his mind dives deeper into God, he becomes less active. Last of all comes the renunciation of work, followed by samādhi.
“Generally the body does not remain alive after the attainment of samādhi. The only exceptions are such sages as Narada, who keep their bodies alive in order to bring spiritual light to others. It is also true of Divine Incarnations, like Chaitanya. After the well is dug, one generally throws away the spade and the basket. But some keep them
in order to help their neighbours. The great souls who retain their bodies after samādhi feel compassion for the suffering of others. They are not so selfish as to be satisfied with their own illumination. You are well aware of the nature of selfish people. If you ask them to spit at a particular place, they won’t, lest it should do you good. If you ask them to bring a sweetmeat worth a cent from the store, they will perhaps lick it on the way back. (All laugh.)
“But the manifestations of Divine Power are different in different beings. Ordinary souls are afraid to teach others. A piece of worthless timber may itself somehow float across the water, but it sinks even under the weight of a bird. Sages like Narada are like a heavy log of wood, which not only floats on the water but also can carry men, cows, and even elephants.
(To Shivanath and the other Brahmo devotees) “Can you tell me why you dwell so much on the powers and glories of God? I asked the same thing of Keshab Sen. One day Keshab and his party came to the temple garden at Dakshineswar. I told them I wanted to hear how they lectured. A meeting was arranged in the paved courtyard above the bathing-ghat on the Ganges, where Keshab gave a talk. He spoke very well. I went into a trance. After the lecture I said to Keshab, ‘Why do you so often say such things as: “O God, what beautiful flowers Thou hast made! O God, Thou hast created the heavens, the stars, and the ocean!” and so on?’ Those who love splendour themselves are fond of dwelling on God’s splendour.
“Once a thief stole the jewels from the images in the temple of Radhakanta. Mathur Babu entered the temple and said to the Deity: ‘What a shame, O God! You couldn’t save Your own ornaments.’ ‘The idea!’ I said to Mathur. ‘Does He who has Lakshmi for His handmaid and attendant ever lack any splendour? Those jewels may be precious to you, but to God they are no better than lumps of clay. Shame on you! You shouldn’t have spoken so meanly. ‘What riches can you give to God to magnify His glory?’
“Therefore I say, a man seeks the person in whom he finds joy. What need has he to ask where that person lives, the number of his houses, gardens, relatives, and servants, or the amount of his wealth? I forget everything when I see Narendra. Never, even unwittingly, have I asked him where he lived, what his father’s profession was, or the number of his brothers.
“Dive deep in the sweetness of God’s Bliss. What need have we of His infinite creation and unlimited glory?”
The Master sang:
Dive deep, O mind, dive deep in the Ocean of God’s Beauty;
If you descend to the uttermost depths,
There you will find the gem of Love.
Go seek, O mind, go seek Vrindāvan in your heart,
Where with His loving devotees
Sri Krishna sports eternally.
Light up, O mind, light up true wisdom’s shining lamp,
And let it burn with steady flame
Unceasingly within your heart.
Who is it that steers your boat across the solid earth?
It is your guru, says Kubir;
Meditate on his holy feet.
Sri Ramakrishna continued: “It is also true that after the vision of God the devotee desires to witness His lila. After the destruction of Ravana at Rama’s hands, Nikasha, Ravana’s mother, began to run away for fear of her life. Lakshmana said to Rama: ‘Revered Brother, please explain this strange thing to me. This Nikasha is an old woman who has suffered a great deal from the loss of her many sons, and yet she is so afraid of losing her own life that she is taking to her heels!’ Rama bade her come near, gave her assurance of safety, and asked her why she was running away. Nikasha answered: ‘O Rama, I am able to witness all this lila of Yours because I am still alive. I want to live longer so that I may see the many more things You will do on this earth.’ (All laugh.)
(To Shivanath) “I like to see you. How can I live unless I see pure-souled devotees? I feel as if they had been my friends in a former incarnation.”
Reincarnation of soul & Inscrutability of God’s ways
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Sir, do you believe in the reincarnation of the soul?”
MASTER: “Yes, they say there is something like that. How can we understand the ways of God through our small intellects? Many people have spoken about reincarnation; therefore I cannot disbelieve it. As Bhishma lay dying on his bed of arrows, the Pandava brothers and Krishna stood around him. They saw tears flowing from the eyes of the great hero. Arjuna said to Krishna: ‘Friend, how surprising it is! Even such a man as our grandsire Bhishma-truthful, self-restrained, supremely wise, and one of the eight Vasus-weeps, through maya, at the hour of death.’ Sri Krishna asked Bhishma about it. Bhishma replied: ‘O Krishna, You know very well that this is not the cause of my grief. I am thinking that there is no end to the Pandavas’ sufferings, though God Himself is their charioteer.7 A thought like this makes me feel that I have understood nothing of the ways of God, and so I weep.’ “
It was about half past eight when the evening worship began in the prayer hall. Soon the moon rose in the autumn sky and flooded the trees and creepers of the garden with its light. After prayer the devotees began to sing. Sri Ramakrishna was dancing, intoxicated with love of God. The Brahmo devotees danced around him to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. All appeared to be in a very joyous mood. The place echoed and re-echoed with God’s holy name. When the music had stopped, Sri Ramakrishna prostrated himself on the ground and, making salutations to the Divine Mother again and again, said: “Bhagavata-Bhakta-Bhagavan! My salutations at the feet of the jnanis! My salutations at the feet of the bhaktas! I salute the bhaktas who believe in God with form, and I salute the bhaktas who believe in God without form. I salute the
knowers of Brahman of olden times. And my salutations at the feet of the modern knowers of Brahman of the Brahmo Samaj!”
Then the Master and the devotees enjoyed a supper of delicious dishes, which Benimadhav, their host, had provided.
Wednesday, November 15, 1882 Master at the circus
Sri Ramakrishna, accompanied by Rakhal and several other devotees, came to Calcutta in a carriage and called for M. at the school where he was teaching. Then they all set out for the Maidan. Sri Ramakrishna wanted to see the Wilson Circus. As the carriage rolled along the crowded Chitpore Road, his joy was very great. Like a little child he leaned first out of one side of the carriage and then out of the other, talking to himself as if addressing the passers-by. To M. he said: “I find the attention of the people fixed on earthly things. They are all rushing about for the sake of their stomachs. No one is thinking of God.”
They arrived at the circus. Tickets for the cheapest seats were purchased. The devotees took the Master to a high gallery, and they all sat on a bench. He said joyfully: “Ha! This is a good place. I can see the show well from here.” There were exhibitions of various feats. A horse raced around a circular track over which large iron rings were hung at intervals. The circus rider, an Englishwoman, stood on one foot on the horse’s back, and as the horse passed under the rings, she jumped through them, always alighting on one foot on the horse’s back. The horse raced around the entire circle, and the woman never missed the horse or lost her balance.
When the circus was over, the Master and the devotees stood outside in the field, near the carriage. Since it was a cold night he covered his body with his green shawl.
Necessity of spiritual discipline
Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: “Did you see how that Englishwoman stood on one foot on her horse, while it ran like lightning? How difficult a feat that must be! She must have practised a long time. The slightest carelessness and she would break her arms or legs; she might even be killed. One faces the same difficulty leading the life of a householder. A few succeed in it through the grace of God and as a result of their spiritual practice. But most people fail. Entering the world, they become more and more involved in it; they drown in worldliness and suffer the agonies of death. A few only, like Janaka, have succeeded, through the power of their austerity, in leading the spiritual life as householders. Therefore spiritual practice is extremely necessary; otherwise one cannot rightly live in the world.”
The Master got into the carriage with the devotees and went to Balaram Bose’s house. He was taken with his companions to the second floor. It was evening and the lamps were lighted. The Master described the feats he had seen at the circus. Gradually other devotees gathered, and soon he was engaged in spiritual talk with them.
Master on caste-system
The conversation turned to the caste-system. Sri Ramakrishna said: “The caste-system can be removed by one means only, and that is the love of God. Lovers of God do not belong to any caste. The mind, body, and soul of a man become purified through divine love. Chaitanya and Nityananda scattered the name of Hari to everyone, including the pariah, and embraced them all. A brahmin without this love is no longer a brahmin. And a pariah with the love of God is no longer a pariah. Through bhakti an untouchable becomes pure and elevated.”
Entanglement of householders
Speaking of householders entangled in worldliness, the Master said: “They are like the silk-worm. They can come out of the cocoon of their worldly life if they wish. But they can’t bear to; for they themselves have built the cocoon with great love and care. So they die there. Or they are like the fish in a trap. They can come out of it by the way they entered, but they sport inside the trap with other fish and hear the sweet sound of the murmuring water and forget everything else. They don’t even make an effort to free themselves from the trap. The lisping of children is the murmur of the water; and the other fish are relatives and friends. Only one or two make good their escape by running away. They are the liberated souls.”
The Master then sang:
When such delusion veils the world, through Mahamaya’s spell,
That Brahma is bereft of sense,
And Vishnu loses consciousness,
What hope is left for men?
The narrow channel first is made, and there the trap is set;
But open though the passage lies,
The fish, once safely through the gate,
Do not come out again.
The silk-worm patiently prepares its closely spun cocoon;
Yet even though a way leads forth,
Encased within its own cocoon,
The worm remains to die.
The Master continued: “Man may be likened to grain. He has fallen between the millstones and is about to be crushed. Only the few grains that stay near the peg escape. Therefore men should take refuge at the peg, that is to say, in God. Call on Him. Sing His name. Then you will be free. Otherwise you will be crushed by the King of Death.”
The Master sang again:
Mother! Mother! My boat is sinking, here in the ocean of this world;
Fiercely the hurricane of delusion rages on every side!
Clumsy is my helmsman, the mind; stubborn my six oarsmen, the passions;
Into a pitiless wind
I sailed my boat, and now it is sinking!
Split is the rudder of devotion; tattered is the sail of faith; Into my boat the waters are pouring! Tell me, what shall I do? For with my failing eyes, alas! nothing but darkness do I see. Here in the waves I will swim,
O Mother, and cling to the raft of Thy name!
Mr. Viswas had been sitting in the room a long time; he now left. He had once been wealthy but had squandered everything in an immoral life. Finally he had become indifferent to his wife and children. Referring to Mr. Viswas, the Master said: “He is an unfortunate wretch. A householder has his duties to discharge, his debts to pay: his debt to the gods, his debt to his ancestors, his debt to the rishis, and his debt to wife and children. If a wife is chaste, then her husband should support her; he should also bring up their children until they are of age. Only a monk must not save; the bird and the monk do not provide for the morrow. But even a bird provides when it has young. It brings food in its bill for its chicks.”
BALARAM: “Mr. Viswas now wants to cultivate the company of holy people.”
MASTER (with a smile): “A monk’s kamandalu goes to the four principal holy places with him, but it still tastes bitter. Likewise, it is said that the Malaya breeze turns all trees into sandal-wood. But there are a few exceptions, such as the cotton-tree, the Aśwattha, and the hog plum.
“Some frequent the company of holy men in order to smoke hemp. Many monks smoke it, and these householders stay with them, prepare the hemp, and partake of the prasad.”
Thursday, November 16, 1882
The Master had come to Calcutta. In the evening he went to the house of Rajmohan, a member of the Brahmo Samaj, where Narendra and some of his young friends used to meet and worship according to the Brahmo ceremonies. Sri Ramakrishna wanted to see their worship. He was accompanied by M. and a few other devotees.
The Master was very happy to see Narendra and expressed a desire to watch the young men at their worship. Narendra sang and then the worship began. One of the young men conducted it. He prayed, “O Lord, may we give up everything and be absorbed in Thee!” Possibly the youth was inspired by the Master’s presence and so talked of utter renunciation. Sri Ramakrishna remarked in a whisper, “Much likelihood there is of that!” Rajmohan served the Master with refreshments.
Sunday, November 19, 1882
It was the auspicious occasion of the Jagaddhatri Puja, the festival of the Divine Mother. Sri Ramakrishna was invited to Surendra’s house in Calcutta; but first he went to the house of Manomohan in the neighbourhood.
The Master was seated in Manomohan’s parlour. He said: “God very much relishes the bhakti of the poor and the lowly, just as the cow relishes fodder mixed with oil-cake. King Duryodhana showed Krishna the splendour of his wealth and riches, but Krishna accepted the hospitality of the poor Vidura. God is fond of His devotees. He runs after the devotee as the cow after the calf.”
The Master sang:
And, for that love, the mighty yogis practise yoga from age to age;
When love awakes, the Lord, like a magnet, draws to Him the soul.
Then he said: “Chaitanya used to shed tears of joy at the very mention of Krishna’s name. God alone is the real Substance; all else is illusory. Man can realize God if he wants to, but he madly craves the enjoyment of ‘woman and gold’. The snake has a precious stone in its head, but it is perfectly satisfied to eat a mere frog.
“Bhakti is the one essential thing. Who can ever know God through reasoning? I want love of God. What do I care about knowing His infinite glories? One bottle of wine makes me drunk. What do I care about knowing how many gallons there are in the grog-shop? One jar of water is enough to quench my thirst. I don’t need to know the amount of water there is on earth.”
Sri Ramakrishna arrived at Surendra’s house. Many devotees had assembled there, including Surendra’s elder brother, who was a judge.
Futility of reasoning
MASTER (To Surendra’s brother): “You are a judge. That is very good. But remember, everything happens through God’s power. It is He who has given you your high position; that is how you became a judge. People think it is they who are great. The water from the roof flows through a spout that is shaped like a lion’s head. It looks as if the lion were bringing the water out through its mouth. But look at the source of the water! A cloud gathers in the sky and rain falls on the roof; then the water flows through the pipe and at last comes out through the spout.”
SURENDRA’S BROTHER: “The Brahmo Samaj preaches the freedom of women and the abolition of the caste-system. What do you think about these matters?”
MASTER: “Men feel that way when they are just beginning to develop spiritual yearning. A storm raises clouds of dust, and one cannot distinguish between the different trees-the mango, the hog plum, and the tamarind. But after the storm blows over, one sees clearly. After the first storm of divine passion is quelled, one gradually understands that
God alone is the Highest Good, the Eternal Substance, and that all else is transitory. One cannot grasp this without tapasya and the company of holy men. What is the use of merely reciting the written parts for the drum? It is very difficult to put them into practice on the instrument. What can be accomplished by a mere lecture? It is austerity that is necessary. By that alone can one comprehend.
“You asked about caste distinctions. There is only one way to remove them, and that is by love of God. Lovers of God have no caste. Through this divine love the untouchable becomes pure, the pariah no longer remains a pariah. Chaitanya embraced all, including the pariahs.
“The members of the Brahmo Samaj sing the name of Hari. That is very good. Through earnest prayer one receives the grace of God and realizes Him. God can be realized by means of all paths. The same God is invoked by different names.”
Master on Theosophy
SURENDRA’S BROTHER: “Sir, what do you think of Theosophy?”
MASTER: “I have heard that man can acquire superhuman powers through it and perform miracles. I saw a man who had brought a ghost under control. The ghost used to procure various things for his master. What shall I do with superhuman powers? Can one realize God through them? If God is not realized then everything becomes false.”
It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when Sri Ramakrishna arrived in Calcutta to attend the annual festival of the Brahmo Samaj, which was to be celebrated at Manilal Mallick’s house. Besides M. and other devotees of the Master, Vijay Goswami and a number of Brahmos were present. Elaborate arrangements had been made to make the occasion a success. Vijay was to conduct the worship.
The kathak recited the life of Prahlada from the Purana. Its substance was as follows: Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada’s father, was king of the demons. He bore great malice toward God and put his own son through endless tortures for leading a religious life. Afflicted by his father, Prahlada prayed to God, “O God, please give my father holy inclinations.”
At these words the Master wept. He went into an ecstatic mood. Afterwards he began to talk to the devotees.
MASTER: “Bhakti is the only essential thing. One obtains love of God by constantly chanting His name and singing His glories. Ah! What a devotee Shivanath is! He is soaked in the love of God, like a cheese-cake in syrup.
“One should not think, ‘My religion alone is the right path and other religions are false.’ God can be realized by means of all paths. It is enough to have sincere yearning for God. Infinite are the paths and infinite the opinions.
The pure in heart see God
“Let me tell you one thing. God can be seen. The Vedas say that God is beyond mind and speech. The meaning of this is that God is unknown to the mind attached to worldly objects. Vaishnavcharan used to say, ‘God is known by the mind and intellect that are pure.’ Therefore it is necessary to seek the company of holy men, practise prayer, and listen to the instruction of the guru. These purify the mind. Then one sees God. Dirt can be removed from water by a purifying agent. Then one sees one’s reflection in it. One cannot see one’s face in a mirror if the mirror is covered with dirt.
“After the purification of the heart one obtains divine love. Then one sees God, through His grace. One can teach others if one receives that command from God after seeing Him. Before that one should not ‘lecture’. There is a song that says:
You have set up no image here,
Within the shrine, O fool!
Blowing the conch, you simply make
Confusion worse confounded.
“You should first cleanse the shrine of your heart. Then you should install the Deity and arrange worship. As yet nothing has been done. What can you achieve by blowing the conch-shell and simply making a loud noise?”
Vijay sat on a raised stool and conducted the worship according to the rules of the Brahmo Samaj. Afterwards he sat by the Master.
MASTER (to Vijay): “Will you tell me one thing? Why did you harp so much on sin? By repeating a hundred times, ‘I am a sinner’, one verily becomes a sinner. One should have such faith as to be able to say, ‘What? I have taken the name of God; how can I be a sinner?’ God is our Father and Mother. Tell Him, ‘O Lord, I have committed sins, but I won’t repeat them.’ Chant His name and purify your body and mind. Purify your tongue by singing God’s holy name.”
In the afternoon Sri Ramakrishna was seated on the west porch of his room in the temple garden at Dakshineswar. Among others, Baburam, Ramdayal, and M. were present. These three were going to spend the night with the Master. M. intended to stay the following day also, for he was having his Christmas holidays. Baburam had only recently begun to visit the Master.
MASTER (to the devotees): “A man becomes liberated even in this life when he knows that God is the Doer of all things. Once Keshab came here with Sambhu Mallick. I said to him, ‘Not even a leaf moves except by the will of God.’ Where is man’s free will? All are under the will of God. Nangta was a man of great knowledge, yet even he was about to drown himself in the Ganges. He stayed here eleven months. At one time he suffered from stomach trouble. The excruciating pain made him lose control over himself, and he wanted to drown himself in the river. There was a long shoal near the bathing-ghat. However far he went into the river, he couldn’t find water above his
knees. Then he understood everything and came back. At one time I was very ill and was about to cut my throat with a knife. Therefore I say: ‘O Mother, I am the machine and Thou art the Operator; I am the chariot and Thou art the Driver. I move as Thou movest me; I do as Thou makest me do.’ “
The devotees sing kirtan in the Master’s room:
Dwell, O Lord, O Lover of bhakti,
In the Vrindāvan of my heart,
And my devotion unto Thee
Will be Thy Radha, dearly loved;
My body will be Nanda’s home,
My tenderness will be Yaśoda,
My longing for deliverance
Will be Thy gentle gopi maids.
Lift the Govardhan of my sin
And slay my six unyielding passions,
Fierce as the demons sent by Kamsa!
Sweetly play the flute of Thy grace,
Charming the milch cow of my mind;
Abide in the pasture of my soul.
Dwell by the Jamuna of my yearning,
Under the banyan of my hope,
For ever gracious to Thy servant;
And, if naught but the cowherds’ love
Can hold Thee in Vrindāvan’s vale,
Then, Lord, let Dasarathi, too,
Become Thy cowherd and Thy slave.
Again they sang:
Sing, O bird that nestles deep within my heart!
Sing, O bird that sits on the Kalpa-Tree of Brahman!
Sing God’s everlasting praise.
Taste, O bird, of the four fruits of the Kalpa-Tree,
Dharma, artha, kama, moksha.
Sing, O bird, “He alone is the Comfort of my soul!”
Sing, O bird, “He alone is my life’s enduring Joy!”
O thou wondrous bird of my life,
Sing aloud in my heart! Unceasingly sing, O bird!
Sing for evermore, even as the thirsty chatak
Sings for the raindrop from the cloud.
A devotee from Nandanbagan entered the room with his friends. The Master looked at him and said, “Everything inside him can be seen through his eyes, as one sees the objects in a room through a glass door.” This devotee and his brothers always celebrated
the anniversary of the Brahmo Samaj at their house in Nandanbagan. Sri Ramakrishna had taken part in these festivals.
The evening worship began in the temples. The Master was seated on the small couch in his room, absorbed in meditation. He went into an ecstatic mood and said a little later: “Mother, please draw him to Thee. He is so modest and humble! He has been visiting Thee.” Was the Master referring to Baburam, who later became one of his foremost disciples?
Why so much suffering in God’s creation?
The Master explained the different kinds of samādhi to the devotees. The conversation then turned to the joy and suffering of life. Why did God create so much suffering?
M: “Once Vidyasagar said in a mood of pique: ‘What is the use of calling on God? Just think of this incident: At one time Chenghiz Khan plundered a country and imprisoned many people. The number of prisoners rose to about a hundred thousand. The commander of his army said to him: “Your Majesty, who will feed them? It is risky to keep them with us. It will be equally dangerous to release them. What shall I do?” Chenghiz Khan said: “That’s true. What can be done? Well, have them killed.” The order was accordingly given to cut them to pieces. Now, God saw this slaughter, didn’t He? But He didn’t stop it in any way. Therefore I don’t need God, whether He exists or not. I don’t derive any good from Him.'”
MASTER: “Is it possible to understand God’s action and His motive? He creates, He preserves, and He destroys. Can we ever understand why He destroys? I say to the Divine Mother: ‘O Mother, I do not need to understand. Please give me love for Thy Lotus Feet.’ The aim of human life is to attain bhakti. As for other things, the Mother knows best. I have come to the garden to eat mangoes. What is the use of my calculating the number of trees, branches, and leaves? I only eat the mangoes; I don’t need to know the number of trees and leaves.”
Baburam, M., and Ramdayal slept that night on the floor of the Master’s room.
It was an early hour of the morning, about two or three o’clock. The room was dark. Sri Ramakrishna was seated on his bed and now and then conversed with the devotees.
Compassion and attachment
MASTER: “Remember that daya, compassion, and maya, attachment, are two different things. Attachment means the feeling of ‘my-ness’ toward one’s relatives. It is the love one feels for one’s parents, one’s brother, one’s sister, one’s wife and children. Compassion is the love one feels for all beings of the world. It is an attitude of equality. If you see anywhere an instance of compassion, as in Vidyasagar, know that it is due to the grace of God. Through compassion one serves all beings. Maya also comes from God. Through maya God makes one serve one’s relatives. But one thing should be remembered: maya keeps us in ignorance and entangles us in the world, whereas daya makes our hearts pure and gradually unties our bonds.
“God cannot be realized without purity of heart. One receives the grace of God by subduing the passions-lust, anger, and greed. Then one sees God. I tried many things in order to conquer lust.
“When I was ten or eleven years old and lived at Kamarpukur, I first experienced samādhi. As I was passing through a paddy-field, I saw something and was overwhelmed. There are certain characteristics of God-vision. One sees light, feels joy, and experiences the upsurge of a great current in one’s chest, like the bursting of a rocket.”
The next day Baburam and Ramdayal returned to Calcutta. M. spent the day and the night with the Master.
It was afternoon. The Master was sitting in his room at Dakshineswar with M. and one or two other devotees. Several Marwari devotees arrived and saluted the Master. They requested Sri Ramakrishna to give them spiritual instruction. He smiled.
MASTER (to the Marwari devotees): “You see, the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ is the result of ignorance. But to say, ‘O God, Thou art the Doer; all these belong to Thee’ is the sign of Knowledge. How can you say such a thing as ‘mine’? The superintendent of the garden says, ‘This is my garden.’ But if he is dismissed because of some misconduct, then he does not have the courage to take away even such a worthless thing as his mango-wood box. Anger and lust cannot be destroyed. Turn them toward God. If you must feel desire and temptation, then desire to realize God, feel tempted by Him. Discriminate and turn the passions away from worldly objects. When the elephant is about to devour a plaintain-tree in someone’s garden, the mahut strikes it with his iron-tipped goad.
“You are merchants. You know how to improve your business gradually. Some of you start with a castor-oil factory. After making some money at that, you open a cloth shop. In the same way, one makes progress toward God. It may be that you go into solitude, now and then, and devote more time to prayer.
“But you must remember that nothing can be achieved except in its proper time. Some persons must pass through many experiences and perform many worldly duties before they can turn their attention to God; so they have to wait a long time. If an abscess is lanced before it is soft, the result is not good; the surgeon makes the opening when it is soft and has come to a head. Once a child said to its mother: ‘Mother, I am going to sleep now. Please wake me up when I feel the call of nature.’ ‘My child,’ said the mother, ‘when it is time for that, you will wake up yourself. I shan’t have to wake you.’
The Marwari devotees generally brought offerings of fruit, candy, and other sweets for the Master. But Sri Ramakrishna could hardly eat them. He would say: “They earn their money by falsehood. I can’t eat their offerings.” He said to the Marwaris: “You see, one can’t strictly adhere to truth in business. There are ups and downs in business. Nanak once said, ‘I was about to eat the food of unholy people, when I found it stained with
blood.’ A man should offer only pure things to holy men. He shouldn’t give them food earned by dishonest means. God is realized by following the path of truth. One should always chant His name. Even while one is performing one’s duties, the mind should be left with God. Suppose I have a carbuncle on my back. I perform my duties, but the mind is drawn to the carbuncle. It is good to repeat the name of Rama. ‘The same Rama who was the son of King Dasaratha has created this world. Again, as Spirit, He pervades all beings. He is very near us; He is both within and without.’ “