April 22, 1883
Master’s visit to Brahmo festival
SRI RAMAKRISHNA paid a visit to Benimadhav Pal’s garden house at Sinthi, near Calcutta, on the occasion of the semi-annual festival of the Brahmo Samaj. Many devotees of the Samaj were present and sat around the Master. Now and then some of them asked him questions.
Love and prayer
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Sir, what is the way?”
MASTER: “Attachment to God, or, in other words, love for Him. And secondly, prayer.” BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “Which one is the way-love or prayer?”
MASTER: “First love, and then prayer.” The Master sang:
Cry to your Mother Syama with a real cry, O mind!
And how can She hold Herself from you?
How can Syama stay away? . . .
Continuing, the Master said: “And one must always chant the name and glories of God and pray to Him. An old metal pot must be scrubbed every day. What is the use of cleaning it only once? Further, one must practise discrimination and renunciation; one must be conscious of the unreality of the world.”
BRAHMO: “Is it good to renounce the world?”
MASTER: “Not for all. Those who have not yet come to the end of their enjoyments should not renounce the world. Can one get drunk on two ānnās‘ worth of wine?”
How to lead a householder’s life
BRAHMO: “Then should they lead a worldly life?”
MASTER: “Yes, they should try to perform their duties in a detached way. Before you break the jack-fruit open, rub your hands with oil, so that the sticky milk will not smear them. The maidservant in a rich man’s house performs all her duties, but her mind dwells on her home in the country. This is an example of doing duty in a detached way. You should renounce the world only in mind. But a sannyasi should renounce the world both inwardly and outwardly.”
BRAHMO: “What is the meaning of the ‘end of enjoyments’?”
MASTER: “I mean the enjoyment of ‘woman and gold’. It is risky to put a typhoid patient in a room where pitchers of water and jugs of pickled tamarind are kept. Most
people don’t feel any longing for God unless they have once passed through the experience of wealth, name, fame, creature comforts, and the like, that is to say, unless they have seen through these enjoyments.”
BRAHMO: “Who is really bad, man or woman?”
MASTER: “As there are women endowed with vidyaŚakti, so also there are women with avidyaŚakti. A woman endowed with spiritual attributes leads a man to God, but a woman who is the embodiment of delusion makes him forget God and drowns him in the ocean of worldliness.
“This universe is created by the Mahamaya of God. Mahamaya contains both Vidyā-māyā, the illusion of knowledge, and Avidyā-māyā, the illusion of ignorance. Through the help of Vidyā-māyā one cultivates such virtues as the taste for holy company, knowledge, devotion, love, and renunciation. Avidyā-māyā consists of the five elements and the objects of the five senses- form, flavour, smell, touch, and sound. These make one forget God.”
Why there is evil in the world
BRAHMO: “If the power of avidyā is the cause of ignorance, then why has God created it?”
MASTER: “That is His play. The glory of light cannot be appreciated without darkness. Happiness cannot be understood without misery. Knowledge of good is possible because of knowledge of evil.
“Further, the mango grows and ripens on account of the covering skin. You throwaway the skin when the mango is fully ripe and ready to be eaten. It is possible for a man to attain gradually to the Knowledge of Brahman because of the covering skin of maya. Maya in its aspects of vidyā and avidyā may be likened to the skin of the mango. Both are necessary.”
BRAHMO: “Sir, is it good to worship God with form, an image of the Deity made of clay?”
MASTER: “You do not accept God with form. That is all right. The image is not meant for you. For you it is good to deepen your feeling toward your own Ideal. From the worshippers of the Personal God you should learn their yearning-for instance, Sri Krishna’s attraction for Radha. You should learn from the worshippers of the Personal God their love for their Chosen Ideal. When the believers in the Personal God worship the images of Kāli and Durga, with what feeling they cry from the depths of their souls, ‘Mother! O Mother!’ How much they love the Deity! You should accept that feeling. You don’t have to accept the image.”
BRAHMO: “How does one cultivate the spirit of dispassion? Why don’t all attain it?”
MASTER: “Dispassion is not possible unless there is satiety through enjoyment. You can easily cajole a small child with candies or toys. But after eating the candies and finishing
its play, it cries, ‘I want to go to my mother.’ Unless you take the child to its mother, it will throw away the toy and scream at the top of its voice.”
The members of the Brahmo Samaj are opposed to the traditional guru system of orthodox Hinduism. Therefore the Brahmo devotee asked the Master about it.
The need of a guru
BRAHMO: “Is spiritual knowledge impossible without a guru?”
MASTER: “Satchidananda alone is the Guru. If a man in the form of a guru awakens spiritual consciousness in you, then know for certain that it is God the Absolute who has assumed that human form for your sake. The guru is like a companion who leads you by the hand. After the realization of God, one loses the distinction between the guru and the disciple. ‘That creates a very difficult situation; there the guru and the disciple do not see each other.’ It was for this reason that Janaka said to Sukadeva, ‘Give me first my teacher’s fee if you want me to initiate you into the Knowledge of Brahman.’ For the distinction between the teacher and the disciple ceases to exist after the disciple attains to Brahman. The relationship between them remains as long as the disciple does not see God.”
It was dusk. Some of the Brahmo devotees said to the Master, “Perhaps it is time for your evening devotions.”
MASTER: “No, it isn’t exactly that. One should pass through these disciplines in the beginning. Later one doesn’t need the rituals of formal worship or to follow the injunctions.”
After dusk the preacher of the Brahmo Samaj conducted the service from the pulpit. The service was interspersed with recitations from the Upanishads and the singing of Brahmo songs.
After the service the Master and the preacher conversed.
Personal God and formless Deity
MASTER: “Well, it seems to me that both the formless Deity and God with form are real. What do you say?”
PREACHER: “Sir, I compare the formless God to the electric current, which is not seen with the eyes but can be felt.”
MASTER: “Yes, both are true. God with form is as real as God without form. Do you know what describing God as being formless only is like? It is like a man’s playing only a monotone on his flute, though it has seven holes. But on the same instrument another man plays different melodies. Likewise, in how many ways the believers in a Personal God enjoy Him! They enjoy Him through many different attitudes: the serene attitude, the attitude of a servant, a friend, a mother, a husband, or a lover.
“You see, the thing is somehow or other to get into the Lake of the Nectar of Immortality. Suppose one person gets into It by propitiating the Deity with hymns and
worship, and you are pushed into It. The result will be the same. Both of you will certainly become immortal.
“I give the Brahmos the illustration of water and ice. Satchidananda is like an endless expanse of water. The water of the great ocean in cold regions freezes into blocks of ice. Similarly, through the cooling influence of divine love, Satchidananda assumes forms for the sake of the bhaktas. The rishis had the vision of the supersensuous Spirit-form and talked with It. But devotees acquire a ‘love body’, and with its help they see the Spirit-form of the Absolute.
“It is also said in the Vedas that Brahman is beyond mind and words. The heat of the sun of Knowledge melts the ice-like form of the Personal God. On attaining the Knowledge of Brahman and communing with It in nirvikalpa samādhi, one realizes Brahman, the Infinite, without form or shape and beyond mind and words.
God’s true nature cannot be described
“The nature of Brahman cannot be described. About It one remains silent. Who can explain the Infinite in words? However high a bird may soar, there are regions higher still. What do you say?”
PREACHER: “Yes, sir, it is so stated in the Vedanta philosophy.”
MASTER: “Once a salt doll went to the ocean to measure its depth. But it could not come back to give a report. According to one school of thought, sages like Sukadeva saw and touched the Ocean of Brahman, but did not plunge into It.
“Once I said to Vidyasagar, ‘Everything else but Brahman has been polluted, as it were, like food touched by the tongue.’ In other words, no one has been able to describe what Brahman is. A thing once uttered by the tongue becomes polluted. Vidyasagar, great pundit though he was, was highly pleased with my remarks.
“It is said that there are places near Kedār that are covered with eternal snow; he who climbs too high cannot come back. Those who have tried to find out what there is in the higher regions, or what one feels there, have not come back to tell us about it.
“After having the vision of God man is overpowered with bliss. He becomes silent. Who will speak? Who will explain?
“The king lives beyond seven gates. At each gate sits a man endowed with great power and glory. At each gate the visitor asks, ‘Is this the king?’ The gate-keeper answers, ‘No. Not this, not this.’ The visitor passes through the seventh gate and. becomes overpowered with joy. He is speechless. This time he doesn’t have to ask, ‘Is this the king?’ The mere sight of him removes all doubts.”
PREACHER: “Yes, sir, it is so described in Vedanta.”
MASTER: “When the Godhead is thought of as creating, preserving, and destroying, It is known as the Personal God, Saguna Brahman, or the Primal Energy, Ādyāśakti. Again, when It is thought of as beyond the three gunas, then It is called the Attributeless Reality, Nirguna Brahman, beyond speech and thought; this is the Supreme Brahman, Parabrahman.
The three gunas
“Under the spell of God’s maya man forgets his true nature. He forgets that he is heir to the infinite glories of his Father. This divine maya is made up of three gunas. And all three are robbers; for they rob man of all his treasures and make him forget his true nature. The three gunas are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Of these, sattva alone points the way to God. But even sattva cannot take a man to God.
Parable of the three robbers
“Let me tell you a story. Once a rich man was passing through a forest, when three robbers surrounded him and robbed him of all his wealth. After snatching all his possessions from him, one of the robbers said: ‘What’s the good of keeping the man alive? Kill him.’ Saying this, he was about to strike their victim with his sword, when the second robber interrupted and said: ‘There’s no use in killing him. Let us bind him fast and leave him here. Then he won’t be able to tell the police.’ Accordingly the robbers tied him with a rope, left him, and went away.
“After a while the third robber returned to the rich man and said: ‘Ah! You’re badly hurt, aren’t you? Come, I’m going to release you.’ The third robber set the man free and led him out of the forest. When .they came near the highway, the robber said, ‘Follow this road and you will reach home easily.’ ‘But you must come with me too’, said the man. ‘You have done so much for me. We shall all be happy to see you at our home.’ ‘No,’ said the robber, ‘it is not possible for me to go there. The police will arrest me.’ So saying, he left the rich man after pointing out his way.
“Now, the first robber, who said: ‘What’s the good of keeping the man alive? Kill him’, is tamas. It destroys. The second robber is rajas, which binds a man to the world and entangles him in a variety of activities. Rajas makes him forget God. Sattva alone shows the way to God. It produces virtues like compassion, righteousness, and devotion. Again, sattva is like the last step of the stairs. Next to it is the roof. The Supreme Brahman is man’s own abode. One cannot attain the Knowledge of Brahman unless one transcends the three gunas.”
PREACHER: “You have given us a fine talk, sir.”
MASTER (with a smile): “Do you know the nature of devotees? When one devotee meets another, he says, ‘Let me speak and you listen; and when you speak I shall listen.’ You are a preacher and teach so many people! You are a steamship, and I am a mere fishing-boat.’ (All laugh.)
Wednesday, May 2, 1883
About five o’clock in the afternoon Sri Ramakrishna arrived at the temple of the Brahmo Samaj in Nandanbagan, accompanied by M., Rakhal, and a few other devotees. At first the Master sat in the drawing-room on the ground floor, where the Brahmo devotees gradually assembled. Rabindranath Tagore and a few other members of the Tagore family were present on this occasion.
Sri Ramakrishna was asked to go to the worship hall on the second floor. A dais had been built on the eastern side of the room. There were a few chairs and a piano in the hall. The Brahmo worship was to begin at dusk.
Why temples are holy
As soon as the Master entered the worship hall he bowed low before the dais. Having taken his seat, he said to M. and the other devotees, “Narendra once asked me, ‘What good is there in bowing before the Brahmo Samaj temple?’ The sight of the temple recalls to my mind God alone; then God-Consciousness is kindled in my mind. God is present where people talk about Him. One feels there the presence of all the holy places. Places of worship recall God alone to my mind.
“Once a devotee was overwhelmed with ecstasy at the sight of a babla-tree. The idea flashed in his mind that the handle of the axe used in the garden of the temple of Radhakanta was made from the wood of the babla. Another devotee had such devotion for his guru that he would be overwhelmed with divine feeling at the sight of his guru’s neighbours. Krishna-consciousness would be kindled in Radha’s mind at the sight of a cloud, a blue dress, or a painting of Krishna. She would become restless and cry like a mad person, ‘Krishna, where art Thou?’ “
GHOSAL: “But madness is not desirable.”
MASTER: “What do you mean? Was Radha’s madness the madness that comes from brooding over worldly objects and makes one unconscious? One attains that madness by meditating on God. Haven’t you heard of love-madness and knowledge-madness?”
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “How can one realize God?”
MASTER: “By directing your love to Him and constantly reasoning that God alone is real and the world illusory. The Aśwattha tree alone is permanent; its fruit is transitory.”
How to spiritualize the passions
BRAHMO: “We have passions like anger and lust. What shall we do with these?” MASTER: “Direct the six passions to God. The impulse of lust should be turned into the desire to have intercourse with Ātman. Feel angry at those who stand in your way to God. Feel greedy for Him. If you must have the feeling of I and Mine, then associate it with God. Say, for instance, ‘My Rama, my Krishna.’ If you must have pride, then feel like Bibhishana, who said, ‘I have touched the feet of Rama with my head; I will not bow this head before anyone else.'”
Responsibility for sins
BRAHMO: “If it is God that makes me do everything, then I am not responsible for my sins.”
MASTER (with a smile): “Yes, Duryodhana also said that. ‘O Krishna, I do what Thou, seated in my heart, makest me do.’ If a man has the firm conviction that God alone is the Doer and he is His instrument, then he cannot do anything sinful. He who has learnt to dance correctly never makes a false step. One cannot even believe in the existence of God until one’s heart becomes pure.”
Sri Ramakrishna looked at the devotees assembled in the worship hall and said: “It is very good to gather in this way, now and then, and think of God and sing His name and glories. But the worldly man’s yearning for God is momentary. It lasts as long as a drop of water on a red-hot frying-pan.”
The worship was about to begin, and the big hall was filled with Brahmo devotees. Some of the Brahmo ladies sat on chairs, with music books in their hands. The songs of the Brahmo Samaj were sung to the accompaniment of harmonium and piano. Sri Ramakrishna’s joy was unbounded. The invocation was followed by a prayer, and then the worship began. The acharyas, seated on the platform, recited from the Vedas:
Om. Thou art our Father. Give us right knowledge; do not destroy us! We bow to Thee.
The Brahmo devotees chanted in chorus with the acharyas:
Om. Brahman is Truth, Knowledge, Infinity.
It shines as Bliss and Immortality.
Brahman is Peace, Blessedness, and the One without a Second;
It is pure and unstained by sin.
The acharyas chanted in praise of God:
Om. O Reality, Cause of the Universe, we bow to Thee!
Then the acharyas chanted their prayer together:
From the unreal lead us to the Real;
From darkness lead us to Light;
From death lead us to Immortality.
Reach us through and through,
O Rudra, and protect us evermore with Thy Compassionate
As Sri Ramakrishna heard these hymns, he went into a spiritual mood. After this an Āchārya read a paper.
The worship was over. Most of the devotees went downstairs or to the courtyard for fresh air while the refreshments were being made ready. It was about nine o’clock in the evening. The hosts were so engrossed with the other invited guests that they forgot to pay any attention to Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER (to Rakhal and the other devotees): “What’s the matter? Nobody is paying any attention to us!”
RAKHAL (angrily): “Sir, Let us leave here and go to Dakshineswar.”
MASTER (with a smile): “Keep quiet! The carriage hire is three rupees and two ānnās. Who will pay that? Stubbornness won’t get us anywhere. You haven’t a penny, and you are making these empty threats! Besides, where shall we find food at this late hour of the night?”
After a long time dinner was announced. The devotees were asked to take their seats. The Master, with Rakhal and the others, followed the crowd to the second floor. No room could be found for him inside the hall. Finally, with great difficulty, a place was found for him in a dusty corner. A brahmin woman served some curry, but Sri Ramakrishna could not eat it. He ate luchi with salt and took some sweets.
There was no limit to the Master’s kindness. The hosts were mere youngsters; how could he be displeased with them, even though they did not show him proper respect? Further, it would have been inauspicious for the household if a holy man had left the place without taking food. Finally the feast had been prepared in the name of God.
Sri Ramakrishna got into a carriage: but who was to pay the hire? The hosts could not be found. Referring to this incident afterwards, the Master said to the devotees, jokingly: “The boys went to our hosts for the carriage hire. First they were put out, but at last they managed to get together three rupees. Our hosts refused to pay the extra two ānnās and said, ‘No, that will do.’ “
Sunday, May 13, 1883
The Master paid a visit to the Hari-Bhakti-Pradayini-Sabha of Kansharipara, in Calcutta, on the anniversary day of that religious society. Kirtan and other forms of devotional music had been arranged for the occasion. The songs centred round the Vrindāvan episode of Sri Krishna’s life. The theme was Radha’s pique because of Sri Krishna’s having visited Chandravali, another of the gopis of Vrindāvan. Radha’s friends tried to console her and said to her: “Why are you piqued? It seems you are not thinking of Krishna’s happiness, but only of your own.” Radha said to them: “I am not angry at His going to Chandravali’s grove. But why should He go there? She doesn’t know how to take care of Him.”
The following Sunday a kirtan was arranged at the house of Ram, one of the Master’s householder devotees. Sri Ramakrishna graced the occasion with his presence. The musicians sang about Radha’s pangs at her separation from Krishna:
Radha said to her friends: “I have loved to see Krishna from my childhood. My finger-nails are worn off from counting the days on them till I shall see Him. Once He gave me a garland. Look, it has withered, but I have not yet thrown it away. Alas! Where has the Moon of Krishna risen now? Has that Moon gone away from my firmament, afraid of
the Rahu of my pique? Alas! Shall I ever see Krishna again? O my beloved Krishna, I have never been able to look at You to my heart’s complete satisfaction. I have only one pair of eyes; they blink and so hinder my vision. And further, on account of streams of tears I could not see enough of my Beloved. The peacock feather on the crown of His head shines like arrested lightning. The peacocks, seeing Krishna’s dark-cloud complexion, would dance in joy, spreading their tails. O friends, I shall not be able to keep my life-breath. After my death, place my body on a branch of the dark tamala tree and inscribe on my body Krishna’s sweet name.”
The Master said: “God and His name are identical; that is the reason Radha said that. There is no difference between Rama and His holy name.”
May 27, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna was in his room at Dakshineswar, conversing with the devotees. It was about nine o’clock in the morning.
Religious quarrels condemned
MASTER (to M. and the other devotees): “It is not good to harbour malice. The Saktas, the Vaishnavas, and the Vedantists quarrel among themselves. That is not wise. Padmalochan was court pundit of the Maharaja of Burdwan. Once at a meeting the pundits were discussing whether Śiva was superior to Brahma, or Brahma to Śiva. Padmalochan gave an appropriate reply. ‘I don’t know anything about it’, said he. ‘I haven’t talked either to Śiva or to Brahma.’
“If people feel sincere longing, they will find that all paths lead to God. But one should have nishtha, single-minded devotion. It is also described as chaste and unswerving devotion to God. It is like a tree with only one trunk shooting straight up. Promiscuous devotion is like a tree with five branches.
Such was the single-minded devotion of the gopis to Krishna that they didn’t care to look at anyone but the Krishna they had seen at Vrindāvan-the Shepherd Krishna, bedecked with a garland of yellow wild-flowers and wearing a peacock feather on His crest. At the sight of Krishna at Mathura with a turban on His head and dressed in royal robes, the gopis pulled down their veils. They would not look at His face. ‘Who is this man?’ they said. ‘Should we violate our chaste love for Krishna by talking to him?’
“The devotion of the wife to her husband is also an instance of unswerving love. She feeds her brothers-in-law as well, and looks after their comforts, but she has a special relationship with her husband. Likewise, one may have that single-minded devotion to one’s own religion; but one should not on that account hate other faiths. On the contrary, one should have a friendly attitude, toward them.”
The Master bathed in the Ganges and then went to the Kāli temple with M. He sat before the image and offered flowers at the feet of the Divine Mother. Now and then he put flowers on his own head and meditated.
After a long time he stood up. He was in a spiritual mood and danced before the image, chanting the name of Kāli. Now and again he said: “O Mother! O Destroyer of suffering! O Remover of grief and agony!” Was he teaching people thus to pray to the Mother of the Universe with a yearning heart, in order to get rid of the suffering inevitable in physical life?
Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room and sat on the west porch. Rakhal, M., Nakur Vaishnav, and other devotees were with him. Nakur had been known to the Master for about twenty-five years. He was a devotee of Gauranga and had a small shop which Sri Ramakrishna had often visited when he first came to Calcutta from Kamarpukur.
Still overpowered with divine ecstasy, the Master sang:
O Kāli, my Mother full of Bliss! Enchantress of the almighty Śiva!
In Thy delirious joy Thou dancest, clapping Thy hands together!
Eternal One! Thou great First Cause, clothed in the form of the Void
Thou wearest the moon upon Thy brow,
Where didst Thou find Thy garland of heads before the universe was made?
Thou art the Mover of all that move, and we are but Thy helpless toys;
We move alone as Thou movest us and speak as through us Thou speakest.
But worthless Kamalakanta says, fondly berating Thee: Confoundress! With Thy flashing sword
Thoughtlessly Thou hast put to death my virtue and my sin alike!
He sang again:
Mother, Thou art our sole Redeemer,
Thou the Support of the three gunas,
Higher than the most high.
Thou art compassionate, I know,
Who takest away our bitter grief.
Sandhya art Thou, and Gayatri;
Thou dost sustain this universe.
Mother, the Help art Thou
Of those that have no help but Thee,
O Eternal Beloved of Śiva!
Thou art in earth, in water Thou;
Thou liest at the root of all.
In me, in every creature,
Thou hast Thy home; though clothed with form,
Yet art Thou formless Reality.
The Master sang a few more songs in praise of the Divine Mother. Then he said to the devotees: “It is not always best to tell householders about the sorrows of life. They want bliss. Those who suffer from chronic poverty can go without food for a day or two. But it is not wise to talk about the sorrows and miseries of life to those who suffer if their food is delayed a few minutes. Vaishnavcharan used to say: ‘Why should one constantly dwell on sin? Be merry!’ “
While the Master was resting after his midday meal, Manohor Goswami, a singer of kirtan, arrived. He sang about the ecstatic love of Gauranga and the divine episode of Vrindāvan. The Master was absorbed in a deep spiritual mood. He tore off his shirt and said, to the melody of the kirtan, assuming the attitude of Radha: “O Krishna, my Beloved! O friends, bring Krishna to me. Then you will be real friends. Or take me to Him, and I will be your slave for ever.”
The musician sat spellbound at Sri Ramakrishna’s ecstasy; then he said with folded hands, “Won’t you please rid me of my worldliness?”
MASTER: “You are like the holy man who went about the city after first finding a lodging. You are a sweet person and express many sweet ideas.”
MUSICIAN: “Sir, I am like the bullock that only carries the bag of sugar but cannot taste it. Alas, I myself do not enjoy the sweetness of divine bliss.”
The melodious music went on, and all were filled with joy.
Saturday, June 2, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna had been invited to visit the homes of his devotees Balaram, Adhar, and Ram in Calcutta. Devotional music had been arranged by Adhar and Ram. The Master was accompanied in the carriage by Rakhal, M., and others.
As they drove along, Sri Ramakrishna said to the devotees: “You see, sin flies away when love of God grows in a man’s heart, even as the water of the reservoir dug in a meadow dries up under the heat of the sun. But one cannot love God if one feels attracted to worldly things, to ‘woman and gold’. Merely taking the vow of monastic life will not help a man if he is attached to the world. It is like swallowing your own spittle after spitting it out on the ground.”
After a few minutes the Master continued: ‘The members of the Brahmo Samaj do not accept God with form. Narendra says that God with form is a mere idol. He says further: ‘What? He still goes to the Kāli temple!'”
Sri Ramakrishna and his party arrived at Balaram’s house. Yajnanath of Nandanbagan came to invite the Master to his house at four o’clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna agreed to go if he felt well. After Yajnanath’s departure the Master went into an ecstatic
mood. He said to the Divine Mother: “Mother, what is all this? Stop! What are these things Thou art showing to me? What is it that Thou dost reveal to me through Rakhal and others? The form is disappearing. But, Mother, what people call ‘man’ is only a pillow-case, nothing but a pillow-case. Consciousness is Thine alone.
“The modern Brahmajnanis have not tasted Thy sweet bliss. Their eyes look dry and so do their faces. They won’t achieve anything without ecstatic love of God.
“Mother, once I asked Thee to give me a companion just like myself. Is that why Thou hast given me Rakhal?”
The Master went to Adhar’s house, where arrangements were being made for the kirtan. Many devotees and neighbours had gathered in Adhar’s drawing-room, anxious to listen to the Master’s words.
Spiritual inspiration comes from God
MASTER (to the devotees): “Both worldliness and liberation depend on God’s will. It is God alone who has kept man in the world in a state of ignorance; and man will be free when God, of His own sweet will, calls him to Himself. It is like the mother calling the child at meal-time, when he is out playing. When the time comes for setting a man free, God makes him seek the company of holy men. Further, it is God who makes him restless for spiritual life.”
A NEIGIHBOUR: “What kind of restlessness, sir?”
MASTER: “Like the restlessness of a clerk who has lost his job. He makes the round of the offices daily and asks whether there is any vacancy. When that restlessness comes, man longs for God. A fop, seated comfortably with one leg over the other, chewing betel-leaf and twirling his moustaches-a carefree dandy-, cannot attain God.”
NEIGHBOUR: “Can one get this longing for God through frequenting the company of holy men?”
MASTER: “Yes, it is possible. But not for a confirmed scoundrel. A sannyasi’s kamandalu, made of bitter gourd, travels with him to the four great places of pilgrimage but still does not lose its bitterness.”
The kirtan began. The musician sang of Sri Krishna’s life in Vrindāvan:
RADHA: “Friend, I am about to die. Give me back my Krishna.”
FRIEND: “But, Radha; the cloud of Krishna was ready to burst into rain. It was yourself who blew it away with the strong wind of your pique. You are certainly not happy to see Krishna happy; or why were you piqued?”
RADHA: “But this pride was not mine. My pride has gone away with Him who made me proud.”
After the music Sri Ramakrishna conversed with the devotees.
MASTER: “The gopis worshipped Katyayani in order to be united with Sri Krishna. Everyone is under the authority of the Divine Mother, Mahamaya, the Primal Energy. Even the Incarnations of God accept the help of maya to fulfil their mission on earth. Therefore they worship the Primal Energy. Don’t you see how bitterly Rama wept for Sita? ‘Brahman weeps, ensnared in the meshes of maya.’
“Vishnu incarnated Himself as a sow in order to kill the demon Hiranyaksha. After killing the demon, the sow remained quite happy with her young ones. Forgetting her real nature, she was suckling them very contentedly. The gods in heaven could not persuade Vishnu to relinquish His sow’s body and return to the celestial regions. He was absorbed in the happiness of His beast form. After consulting among themselves, the gods sent Śiva to the sow. Śiva asked the sow, ‘Why have you forgotten yourself?’ Vishnu replied through the sow’s body, ‘Why, I am quite happy here.’ Thereupon with a stroke of his trident Śiva destroyed the sow’s body, and Vishnu went back to heaven.”
From Adhar’s house Sri Ramakrishna went to Ram’s house. Ramchandra Dutta, one of the chief householder disciples of the Master, lived in Calcutta. He had been one of the first to announce the Master as an Incarnation of God. The Master had visited his house a number of times and unstintingly praised the devotion and generosity of this beloved disciple. A few of the Master’s disciples made Ram’s house virtually their own dwelling-place.
Ram had arranged a special festival to celebrate the Master’s visit. The small courtyard was nicely decorated. A kathak, seated on a raised platform, was reciting from the Bhagavata when the Master arrived. Ram greeted him respectfully and seated him near the reader. The disciple was extremely happy. The kathak was in the midst of the story of King Harischandra.
Story of Harishchandra
The great King Harischandra of the Purana was the embodiment of generosity. No one ever went away from him empty-handed. Now, the sage Viswamitra, wanting to test the extent of the king’s charity, extracted from him a promise to grant any boon that he might ask. Then the sage asked for the gift of the sea-girt world, of which Harischandra was king. Without the slightest hesitation the king gave away his kingdom. Then Viswamitra demanded the auxiliary fee, which alone makes charity valid and meritorious. The kathak continued his recitation:
Viswamitra said to the king: “O King, you have given away the entire world, which was your kingdom. It now belongs to me; you cannot claim any place here. But you may live in Benares, which belongs to Śiva. I shall lead you there with your wife Saibya, and Rohitasva, your son. There you can procure the auxiliary fee that you owe me.” The royal family, accompanied by the sage, reached Benares and visited the temple of Śiva.
At the very mention of Śiva, the Master went into spiritual mood and repeated the holy name several times indistinctly.
The kathak continued:
The king could not procure the fee and was compelled to sell Saibya, his royal consort, to a brahmin. With her went Prince Rohitasva. But since even that was not enough to redeem his pledge to the sage, Harischandra sold himself to an untouchable who kept a cremation ground. He was ordered to supervise the cremations. One day, while plucking flowers for his brahmin master, Prince Rohitasva was bitten by a venomous snake and that very night died. The cruel brahmin would not leave his bed to help the poor mother cremate the body. The night was dark and stormy. Lightning rent the black clouds. Saibya started for the cremation ground alone, carrying the body of her son in her arms. Smitten with fear and overpowered with grief, the queen filled heaven and earth with her wailing. Arriving at the cremation ground, she did not recognize her husband, who demanded the usual fee for the cremation. Saibya was penniless and wept bitterly at her unending misfortunes. The impenetrable darkness was illumined only by the terrible flames of the cremation pyres. Above her the thunder roared, and before her the uncouth guardian of the cremation ground demanded his fee. She who had once been queen of the world sat there with her only child dead and cold on her lap.
The devotees burst into tears and loudly lamented this tragic episode of a royal life. And what was the Master doing? He was listening to the recital with rapt attention. Tear-drops appeared in his eyes and he wiped them away.
The kathak continued:
When the queen, wailing bitterly, uttered the name of her husband, Harischandra at once recognized his wife and son. Then the two wept for the dead prince. Yet in all these misfortunes the king never once uttered a word of regret for his charity. Finally the sage Viswamitra appeared and told them that he had only wanted to put the king’s charitable impulses to a crucial test. Then, through his spiritual power, the sage brought the prince back to life and returned to the king his lost kingdom.
Story of Uddhava
Sri Ramakrishna asked the kathak to recite the episode of Uddhava, the friend and devotee of Krishna.
At the request of Krishna, Uddhava had gone to Vrindāvan to console the cowherds and the gopis, who were sore at heart because of their separation from their beloved Krishna.
The Kathak said:
When Uddhava arrived at Vrindāvan, the gopis and cowherd boys ran to him eagerly and asked him: “How is our Krishna? Has He forgotten us altogether? Doesn’t He even speak our names?” So saying, some of them wept. Others accompanied him to various places in Vrindāvan still filled with Krishna’s sweet memory. They said: “Here it was that
Krishna lifted up Mount Govardhan, and here He killed the demons sent by the evil-minded Kamśa. In this meadow He tended His cows; here on the bank of the Jamuna He sported with the gopis. Here
He played with the cowherd boys, and here in these groves He met the gopis secretly.” Uddhava said to them: “Why are you so grief-stricken at Krishna’s absence? He resides in all beings as their indwelling Spirit. He is God Himself, and nothing can exist without God.” “But”, said the gopis, “we do not understand all that. We can neither read nor write. We know only our Krishna of Vrindāvan, who played with us here in so many ways.” Uddhava said: “Krishna is God Himself. By meditating on Him, man escapes from birth and death in the world and attains liberation.” The gopis said: “We do not understand big words like ‘liberation’. We want to see the Krishna of our hearts.”
The Master listened to the story from the Bhagavata with great attention and said at last, “Yes, the gopis were right.”
Then he sang:
Though I am never loath to grant salvation,
I hesitate indeed, to grant pure love.
Whoever wins pure love surpasses all;
He is adored by men;
He triumphs over the three worlds.
Listen, Chandravali! I shall tell you of love:
Mukti a man may gain, but rare is bhakti.
Solely for pure love’s sake did I become
King Vali’s door-keeper
Down in his realm in the nether world.
Alone in Vrindāvan can pure love be found;
Its secret none but the gopas and gopis know.
For pure love’s sake I dwelt in Nanda’s house;
Taking him as My father,
I carried his burdens on My head.
The Master said to the kathak: “The gopis had ecstatic love, unswerving and single-minded devotion to one ideal. Do you know the meaning of devotion that is not loyal to one ideal? It is devotion tinged with intellectual knowledge. It makes one feel: ‘Krishna has become all these. He alone is the Supreme Brahman. He is Rama, Śiva, and Śakti.’ But this element of knowledge is not present in ecstatic love of God. Once Hanuman came to Dwaraka and wanted to see Sita and Rama. Krishna said to Rukmini, His queen, ‘You had better assume the form of Sita; otherwise there will be no escape from the hands of Hanuman.’
“Once the Pandava brothers performed the Rajasuya sacrifice. All the kings placed Yudhisthira on the royal throne and bowed low before him in homage. But Bibhishana, the King of Ceylon, said, ‘I bow down to Narayana and to none else.’ At these words the
Lord Krishna bowed down to Yudhisthira. Only then did Bibhishana prostrate himself, crown and all, before him.
“Do you know what devotion to one ideal is like? It is like the attitude of a daughter-in-law in the family. She serves all the members of the family-her brothers-in-law, father-in-law, husband, and so forth-, bringing them water to wash their feet, fetching their towels, arranging their seats, and the like; but with her husband she has a special relationship.
Characteristics of divine love
“There are two elements in this ecstatic love: ‘I-ness’ and ‘my-ness’. Yaśoda used to think: ‘Who would look after Gopala if I did not? He will fall ill if I do not serve Him.’ She did not look on Krishna as God. The other element is ‘my-ness’. It means to look on God as one’s own-‘my Gopala’. Uddhava said to Yaśoda: ‘Mother, your Krishna is God Himself. He is the Lord of the Universe and not a common human being.’ ‘Oh!’ exclaimed Yaśoda. ‘I am not asking you about your Lord of the Universe. I want to know how my Gopala fares. Not the Lord of the Universe, but my Gopala.’
“How faithful to Krishna the gopis were! After many entreaties to the door-keeper, the gopis entered the royal court in Mathura, where Krishna was seated as king. The door-keeper took them to Him; but at the sight of King Krishna wearing the royal turban, the gopis bent down their heads and said among themselves: ‘Who is this man with a turban on his head? Should we violate our chaste love for Krishna by talking to him? Where is our beloved Krishna with the yellow robe and the bewitching crest with the peacock feather?’
“Did you observe the single-minded love of the gopis for Krishna? The ideal of Vrindāvan is unique. I am told that the people of Dwaraka worship Krishna, the companion of Arjuna, but reject Radha.”
A DEVOTEE: “Which is the better, ecstatic love or love mixed with knowledge?”
Parable of the three friends
MASTER: “It is not possible to develop ecstatic love of God unless you love Him very deeply and regard Him as your very own.
“Listen to a story. Once three friends were going through a forest, when a tiger suddenly appeared before them. ‘Brothers,’ one of them exclaimed, ‘we are lost!’ ‘Why should you say that?’ said the second friend. ‘Why should we be lost? Come, let us pray to God.’ The third friend said: ‘No. Why should we trouble God about it? Come, let us climb this tree.’
“The friend who said, ‘We are lost!’ did not know that there is a God who is our Protector. The friend who asked the others to pray to God was a jnani. He was aware that God is the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the world. The third friend, who didn’t want to trouble God with prayers and suggested climbing the tree, had ecstatic love of God. It is the very nature of such love that it makes a man think himself
stronger than his Beloved. He is always alert lest his Beloved should suffer. The one desire of his life is to keep his Beloved from even being pricked in the foot by a thorn.”
Ram served the Master and the devotees with delicious sweets.