Sunday, December 14, 1884
SRI RAMAKRISHNA arrived at the Star Theatre on Beadon Street in Calcutta to see a play about the life of Prahlada. M., Baburam, Narayan, and other devotees were with him. The hall was brightly lighted. The play had not yet begun. The Master was seated in a box, talking with Girish.
MASTER (smiling): “Ah! You have written nice plays.”
Assimilation of spiritual ideas
GIRISH: “But, sir, how little I assimilate! I just write.”
MASTER: “No, you assimilate a great deal. The other day I said to you that no one could sketch a divine character unless he had love of God in his heart.
“Yes, one needs to assimilate spiritual ideas. I went to Keshab’s house to see the play, Nava-Vrindāvan. I saw a deputy magistrate there who earned eight hundred rupees a month. Everyone said that he was a very learned man; but I found him restless because of a boy, his son. He was very anxious to find a good seat for the boy; he paid no attention to the spiritual conversation of the players. The boy was pestering him with questions: ‘Father! What is this? What is that?’ He was extremely busy with the boy. You see, he merely read books; but he didn’t assimilate their ideas.”
GIRISH: “I often ask myself, ‘Why bother about the theatre any more?'”
MASTER: “No, no! Let things be as they are. People will learn much from your plays.”
Master sees a performance
The performance began. Prahlada was seen entering the schoolroom as a student. At the sight of him Sri Ramakrishna uttered once or twice the word “Prahlada” and went into samādhi.
During another scene Sri Ramakrishna wept to see Prahlada under an elephant’s feet. He cried when the boy was thrown into the fire.
The scene changed. Lakshmi and Narayana were seen seated in Goloka. Narayana was worried about Prahlada. This scene, too, threw Sri Ramakrishna into an ecstatic mood.
After the performance Girish conducted Sri Ramakrishna to his private room in the theatre. He said to the Master, “Would you care to see the farce, Vivaha Vibhrata [The Confusion of Marriage’]?”
MASTER: “Oh, no! Why something like that after the life of Prahlada? I once said to the leader of a theatrical troupe, ‘End your performance with some religious talk.’ We have been listening to such wonderful spiritual conversation; and now to see ‘The Confusion of Marriage’! A worldly topic! We should become our old selves again. We should return to our old mood.”
GIRISH: “How did you like the performance?”
MASTER: “I found that it was God Himself who was acting the different parts. Those who played the female parts seemed to me the direct embodiments of the Blissful Mother, and the cowherd boys of Goloka the embodiments of Narayana Himself. It was God alone who had become all these.
Signs of God-vision & Different moods of liberated souls
“There are signs by which you can know whether a man has truly seen God. One of these is joy; there is no hesitancy in him. He is like the ocean: the waves and sounds are on the surface; below are profound depths. The man who has seen God behaves sometimes like a madman; sometimes like a ghoul, without any feeling of purity or impurity; sometimes like an inert thing, remaining speechless because he sees God within and without; sometimes like a child, without any attachment, wandering about unconcernedly with his cloth under his arm. Again, in the mood of a child, he acts in different ways: sometimes like a boy, indulging in frivolity; sometimes like a young man, working and teaching with the strength of a lion.
“Man cannot see God on account of his ego. You cannot see the sun when a cloud rises in the sky. But that doesn’t mean there is no sun; the sun is there just the same.
“But there is no harm in the ‘ego of a child’. On the contrary, this ego is helpful. Greens are bad for the stomach; but hinche is good. So hinche cannot properly be called greens. Sugar candy, likewise, cannot be classed with other sweets. Other sweets are injurious to the health, but not sugar candy.
“So I said to Keshab, ‘If I tell you more than I have already said, you won’t be able to keep your organization together.’ That frightened him. Then I said to him, ‘There is no harm in the “ego of a child” or the “ego of a servant”.’
“He who has seen God finds that God alone has become the world and all its living beings; it is He who has become all. Such a person is called a superior devotee.”
The ego of the devotee & Three classes of devotees
GIRISH (smiling); “Yes, God is everything. But the devotee keeps a trace of ego; that is not harmful.”
MASTER (smiling): “Yes, there is no harm in that. That trace of ego is kept in order to enjoy God. You can enjoy divine bliss only when you make a distinction between yourself
and God-the distinction between the servant and the Master. “There is also the devotee of the mediocre class: he sees that God dwells in all beings as their Inner Guide. But the inferior devotee says, ‘God exists; He is up there’, that is to say, beyond the sky. (All laugh.)
“When I saw the cowherd, boys of Goloka in your performance I felt that God has become all. He who has seen God knows truly that God alone is the Doer, that it is He who does everything.”
GIRISH: “Sir, I know truly that it is God who does everything.”
MASTER: “I say, ‘O Mother, I am the machine and You are the Operator; I am inert and You make me conscious; I do as You make me do; I speak as You make me speak.’ But the ignorant say, ‘I am partly responsible, and God is partly responsible.’ ” GIRISH: “Sir, I am not really doing anything. Why should I bother about work at all?”
MASTER: “No, work is good. When the ground is well cultivated and cleared of stones and pebbles, whatever you plant will grow. But one should work without any personal motive.
“There are two types of paramahamsas: the Jnāni and the premi. The Jnāni is self-centred; he feels that it is enough to have Knowledge for his own self. The premi, like Sukadeva, after attaining his own realization, teaches men. Some eat mangoes and wipe off the traces from their mouths; but some share their mangoes with others. Spades and baskets are needed to dig a well. After the digging is over, some throw the spades and baskets into the well. But others put them away; for a neighbour may use them. Sukadeva and a few others kept the spades and baskets for the benefit of others. (To Girish) You should do the same.”
GIRISH: “Please bless me, sir.”
MASTER: “Have faith in the Divine Mother and you will attain everything.”
GIRISH: “But I am a sinner.”
MASTER: “The wretch who constantly harps on sin becomes a sinner.”
GIRISH: “Sir, the very ground where I used to sit would become unholy.”
MASTER: “How can you say that? Suppose a light is brought into a room that has been dark a thousand years; does it illumine the room little by little, or all in a flash?”
GIRISH: “Then you have blessed me.”
MASTER: “If you sincerely believe it. What more shall I say? I eat and drink and chant the name of God.”
GIRISH: “I have no sincerity. Please give it to me.”
MASTER: “I? Sages like Nārada and Sukadeva could have done that.” GIRISH: “I don’t see Nārada and Sukadeva. ‘But you are here before me.” MASTER (smiling): “All right. You have faith.”
All remained silent. The conversation began again. GIRISH: “I have one desire: love of God for its own sake.”
MASTER: “Only the Isvarakotis have such love. It is not for ordinary men.”
All sat in silence. The Master began to sing in an absent-minded mood, his gaze turned upward:
Can everyone have the vision of Syama? Is Kāli’s treasure for everyone?
Oh, what a pity my foolish mind will not see what is true! Even with all His penances, rarely does Śiva Himself behold The mind-bewitching sight of Mother Syama’s crimson feet.
To him who meditates on Her the riches of heaven are poor indeed;
If Syama casts Her glance on him, he swims in Eternal Bliss.
The Prince of yogis, the King of the gods, meditate on Her feet in vain;
Yet worthless Kamalakanta yearns for the Mother’s blessed feet!
Yet worthless Kamalakanta yearns for the Mother’s blessed feet!
Restlessness for God-vision
MASTER (to Girish): “One can realize God through intense renunciation. But the soul must be restless for Him, as restless as one feels for a breath of air when one’s head is pressed under water.
“A man can see God if he unites in himself the force of these three attractions: the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the husband’s attraction for the chaste wife, and the child’s attraction for its mother. If you can unite these three forms of love and give it all to God, then you can see Him at once.
Cry to your Mother Syama with a real cry, O mind!
And how can She hold Herself from you?
“If a devotee prays to God with real longing, God cannot help revealing Himself to him.
“The other day I told you the meaning of bhakti. It is to adore God with body, mind, and words. ‘With body’ means to serve and worship God with one’s hands, go to holy places with one’s feet, hear the chanting of the name and glories of God with one’s ears, and behold the divine image with one’s eyes. ‘With mind’ means to contemplate and meditate on God constantly and to remember and think of His lila. ‘With words’ means to sing hymns to Him and chant His name and glories.
“Devotion as described by Nārada is suited to the Kaliyuga. It means to chant constantly the name and glories of God. Let those who have no leisure worship God at least morning and evening by whole-heartedly chanting His name and clapping their hands.
“The ‘ego of a devotee’ begets no pride; it does not create ignorance. On the contrary it helps one realize God. This ego is no more like the ordinary ego than hinche is like ordinary greens. One generally becomes indisposed by eating greens; but hinche removes excessive bile; it does one good. Sugar candy is not like ordinary sweets. Sweets are generally harmful, but sugar candy removes acidity. “Nishtha leads to bhakti; bhakti, when mature, becomes bhava; bhava, when concentrated, becomes mahabhava; and last of all is prema. Prema is like a cord: by prema God is bound to the devotee; He can no longer run away. An ordinary man can at best achieve bhava. None but an Isvarakoti attains mahabhava and prema. Chaitanyadeva attained them.
“What is the meaning of jnanayoga? It is the path by which a man can realize the true nature of his own Self; it is the awareness that Brahman alone is his true nature. Prahlada sometimes was aware of his identity with Brahman. And sometimes he would see that God was one and he another; at such times he would remain in the mood of bhakti.
“Hanuman said, ‘O Rāma, sometimes I find that You are the whole and I a part, sometimes that You are the Master and I Your servant; but, O Rāma, when I have the Knowledge of Reality, I see that You are I and I am You.'”
Worldly man’s spiritual discipline
MASTER: “Why shouldn’t a man be able to realize God in the world? But he must have discrimination and dispassion; he must have the unshakable awareness that God alone is real and all else is unreal and has but a two days’ existence. It will not do to float on the surface. You must dive deep.”
With these words, 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. . . .
MASTER: “You must remember another thing: in the ocean there is danger of alligators, that is to say, of lust and the like.”
GIRISH: “I am not afraid of the King of Death.”
MASTER: “But I am speaking of the danger of the alligators of lust and the like. Because of them one should smear one’s body with turmeric before diving in-the turmeric of discrimination and dispassion.
“Some attain knowledge of God in the world. Mention is made of two classes of yogis: the hidden and the known. Those who have renounced the world are ‘known’ yogis: all recognize them. But the ‘hidden’ yogis live in the world. They are not known. They are like the maidservant who performs her duties in the house but whose mind is fixed on her children in the country. They are also, as I have told you, like the loose woman who performs her household duties zealously but whose mind constantly dwells on her lover. It is very hard to cultivate discrimination and dispassion. It is not easy to get rid of the idea, ‘I am the master and all these are mine.’ I saw a deputy magistrate, who earns a salary of eight hundred rupees, paying no attention to a religious discourse. He had brought one of his children with him and was busy finding a good place for him to sit. I know another man, whom I shall not name, who used to devote a great deal of time to japa; but he bore false witness in court for the sake of ten thousand rupees. Therefore I say that a man can realize God in the world, too, but only if he has discrimination and dispassion.”
Master and Girish
GIRISH: “What will happen to this sinner?”
Sri Ramakrishna sang in a tender voice, turning his eyes upward:
Meditate on the Lord, the Slayer of hell’s dire woes,
He who removes the fear of death;
Thinking of Him, the soul is freed from worldly grief
And sails across the sea of life in the twinkling of an eye.
Consider, O my mind, why you have come to earth;
What gain is there in evil thoughts and deeds?
Your way lies not through these: perform your penance here
By meditating long and deep on the everlasting Lord.
MASTER: “‘Sails across the sea of life in the twinkling of an eye.’ One attains the vision of God if Mahamaya steps aside from the door. Mahamaya’s grace is necessary: hence the worship of Śakti. You see, God is near us, but it is not possible to know Him because Mahamaya stands between. Rāma, Lakshmana, and Sita were walking along. Rāma walked ahead, Sita in the middle, and Lakshmana last. Lakshmana was only two and a half cubits away from Rāma, but he couldn’t see Rāma because Sita-Mahamaya-was in the way.
“While worshipping God, one should assume a definite attitude. I have three attitudes: the attitude of a child, the attitude of a maidservant, and the attitude of a friend. For a long time I regarded myself as a maidservant and a woman companion of God; at that time I used to wear skirts and ornaments, like a woman. The attitude of a child is very good.
“The attitude of a ‘hero’ is not good. Some people cherish it. They regard themselves as Purusha and woman as Prakriti; they want to propitiate woman through intercourse with her. But this method often causes disaster.”
GIRISH: “At one time I too cherished that idea.”
Sri Ramakrishna looked at Girish pensively.
GIRISH: “I still have that twist in my mind. Tell me what I should do.”
Sri Ramakrishna reflected a minute and said, “Give God your power of attorney. Let Him do whatever He likes.”
The conversation then turned to Sri Ramakrishna’s young devotees. MASTER (to Girish and the others): “In meditation I see the inner traits of these youngsters. They have no thought of acquiring house and property. They do not crave sex pleasure. Those of the youngsters who are married do not sleep with their wives. The truth is that unless a man has got rid of rajas and has acquired sattva, he cannot steadily dwell in God; he cannot love God and realize Him.”
GIRISH: “You have blessed me.”
MASTER: “How is that? I said that you would succeed if you were sincere.”
Saying this, the Master exclaimed, “Ānandamayi!” and went into samādhi. He remained in that state a long time. Regaining partial consciousness, he said, “Where are those rascals?” M. brought Baburam to him. Sri Ramakrishna looked at Baburam and the other devotees and said, still in ecstasy.
“The bliss of Satchidananda is indeed good; but what about the bliss of divine inebriation?”
He began to sing:
Once for all, this time, I have thoroughly understood; From One who knows it well, I have learnt the secret of bhava…
Again he sang:
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?
The Master continued, saying, “While praying to the Divine Mother, I said, ‘O Mother, I don’t seek anything else: give me only pure love for Thee.’ “
Sri Ramakrishna was pleased with Girish’s calm mood. He said to him, “This mood of yours is good; the calm mood is the best.”
The Master was seated in the manager’s room. A man entered and said, “Will you see the farce. ‘The Confusion of Marriage’? It is being played now.”
Sri Ramakrishna said to Girish: “What have you done? This farce after the life of Prahlada! First sweets and rice pudding and then a dish of bitter herbs!” After the theatre, the actresses, following Girish’s instructions, came to the room to salute Sri Ramakrishna. They bowed before him, touching the ground with their foreheads. The devotees noticed that some of the actresses, in saluting the Master, touched his feet. He said to them very tenderly, “Please don’t do that, mother!”
After the actresses had left the room, Sri Ramakrishna said to the devotees, “It is all He, only in different forms.”
The carriage was ready at the door. Girish and the others came to the street to see the Master off. As soon as Sri Ramakrishna stepped into the carriage, he went into deep samādhi. Narayan and several other devotees were with him. The carriage started for Dakshineswar.
Saturday, December 27, 1884
It was the Christmas season. Taking advantage of the holiday, many devotees came to the temple garden to visit the Master, some of them arriving in the morning. Among these were Kedār, Ram, Nityagopal, Tārak, Surendra, M., Sarada Prasanna, and a number of young devotees. This was Sarada Prasanna’s first visit.
MASTER (to M.): “Where is Bankim? Haven’t you brought him with you?” Bankim was a school boy whom Sri Ramakrishna had met in Bagh bazar. Noticing him even from a distance, the Master had said that he was a fine boy.
After a while Sri Ramakrishna went to the Panchavati with the devotees. They surrounded him, some sitting and some standing. He was seated on the cement platform around the tree, facing the southwest. He asked M. with a smile, “Have you brought the book?”
M: “Yes, sir.”
MASTER: “Read a little to me.”
The devotees were eager to know the name of the book. It was called Devi Choudhurani. The Master had heard that the book dealt with motiveless action. He had also heard of the great renown of its author, Bankim Chandra Chatterji, whom he had met some days before, and he wanted to gauge the author’s mind from the book.
M. said: “A young girl-the heroine-fell into the hands of a robber named Bhavani Pathak. Her name had been Prafulla, but the robber changed it to ‘Devi Choudhurani’. At heart Bhavani was a good man. He made Prafulla go through many spiritual disciplines; he also taught her how to perform selfless action. He robbed wicked people and with that money fed the poor and helpless. He said to Prafulla, ‘I chastise the wicked and protect the virtuous.'”
MASTER: “But that is a king’s duty.”
M: “In one place the author writes of bhakti. Bhavani Pathak sent a girl named Nishi to keep Prafulla company. Nishi was full of piety and looked on Krishna as her husband. Prafulla was already married; she had lost her father and lived with her mother. The neighbours had created a scandal about her character and avoided her, and so her father-in-law had not allowed her to live with his son. Later her husband had married again; but Prafulla was extremely devoted to her husband.
(To Sri Ramakrishna) “Now, sir, you can follow the story.”
NISHI: “I am a daughter of Bhavani Pathak. He is my father. He has also, in a way, given me in marriage.”
PRAFULLA: “What do you mean?”
NISHI: “I have surrendered my all to Krishna.”
PRAFULLA: “How is that?”
NISHI: “My beauty, youth, and soul.”
PRAFULLA: “Then He is your husband.”
NISHI: “Yes, because he alone is my husband who completely possesses me.”
PRAFULLA (with a sigh): “I do not know. You talk that way because you do not know what a husband is. If you had a real husband, you could never have liked Sri Krishna.
The foolish Brajeswar-Prafulla’s husband-was unaware that his wife loved him so much.
NISHI: “All can love Sri Krishna, because He has infinite beauty, infinite youth, and infinite splendour.”
This young lady was a disciple of Bhavani and well-versed in logic. But Prafulla was illiterate; she could not answer Nishi’s arguments.But the writers of the Hindu social laws knew the reply. God is infinite, no doubt; but one cannot keep the infinite in the small cage of the heart. One can do so only with the finite. Therefore the infinite Creator of the universe is worshipped by the Hindu in the cage of his heart as Sri Krishna, the finite Personal God. The husband of a woman has a still more definite form. Therefore if the wife cherishes pure conjugal love, the husband becomes the first step toward God. Hence the husband is the only Deity to the Hindu woman. Other societies are inferior to Hindu society in this respect.
Prafulla was an ignorant girl; she could not understand Nishi’s arguments. She said, “Friend, I do not understand all these arguments; but you haven’t yet told me your name.”
NISHI: “Bhavani Pathak has given me the name of Nishi, Night. I am the sister of Diva, Day. One day I shall introduce my sister to you. Let me continue what I was saying. God alone is the real Husband; and to a woman the husband is her only God. Sri Krishna is the God of all. Why should we cherish two Deities, two Gods? If you divide to little bhakti of this small heart, how little there will be!”
PRAFULLA: “Don’t be silly. Is there any limit to a woman’s bhakti?”
NISHI: “There is no end to a woman’s love. But bhakti is one thing, and love another”
Summarizing part of the book, M. said that Bhavani initiated Prafulla into spiritual life.
He continued reading:
During the first year Bhavani did not allow any man to enter Prafulla’s house nor did he allow her to speak to any man outside the house. During the second year the rule about speaking was withdrawn, but no man was allowed inside her house. In the third year Prafulla shaved her head. Now Bhavani allowed his select disciples to see her. The shaven-headed disciple would converse with them on scriptural topics, keeping her eyes cast on the ground.
M. then read that Prafulla began the study of the scriptures; that she finished grammar and read Raghuvamsa, Kumara Sambhava, Sakuntala, and Naishadha; and that she studied a little of the Samkhya, Vedānta, and Nyaya philosophies.
Master and book-learning
MASTER: “Do you know what that means? People like the author of this book believe that knowledge is impossible without the study of books. They think that first comes the knowledge of books and then comes the knowledge of God. In order to know God one must read books! But if I want to know Jadu Mallick, must I first know the number of his houses and the amount of money he has in government securities? Do I really need all this information? Rather I should somehow enter his house, be it by flattering his gate-keepers or by disregarding their rough treatment, and talk to Jadu Mallick himself. Then, if I want to know about his wealth or possessions, I shall only have to ask him about them. Then it will be a very easy matter for me.
First God and then the world
First comes Rāma, then His riches, that is, the universe, This is why Valmiki repeated the mantra, ‘mara’. ‘Ma’ means God, and ‘ra’ the world, that is to say, His riches.”
The devotees listened to the Master’s words with rapt attention.
M. continued with the story of Prafulla:
Prafulla finished her studies and then practised spiritual austerity for many days. Then one day Bhavani visited her; he wanted to instruct her about selfless work. He quoted to her from the Gitā: “Therefore do thou always perform obligatory actions without attachment; by performing action without attachment one attains to the highest.”
He told her the three characteristics of disinterested action: first, control of the sense-organs; second, absence of egotism; and third, surrendering the fruit of action to Sri Krishna. He further told her that no dharma is possible for the egotistic person. Quoting from the Gitā, he said: “The Gunās of Prakriti perform all action. With the understanding deluded by egotism, man thinks, I am the doer.”
Bhavani next spoke to her about surrendering the fruit of action to Sri Krishna. Again he quoted from the Gitā : “Whatever thou doest, whatever thou eatest, whatever thou givest away, whatever austerity thou practisest, O son of Kunti, do that as an offering unto Me.”
MASTER: “This is fine. These are the words of the Gitā; one cannot refute them. But something else must be noted. The author speaks about surrendering the fruit of action to Sri Krishna, but not about cultivating bhakti for Him.”
M: “No, that is not especially mentioned here.
“Next Prafulla and Bhavani talked about the use of money. Prafulla said that she offered all her wealth to Krishna.”
M. read from the book again.
PRAFULLA: “Like my actions, I offer all my wealth to Sri Krishna.”
PRAFULLA: “Yes, all.”
BHAVANI: “In that case you won’t he able to perform action in a detached spirit. If you have to work to earn your food, you will be attached to that work. Hence there are two alternatives before you: either you will have to get your food by begging, or you will have to live on your money. Even a beggar becomes attached to the alms he receives; therefore you must use your own money to maintain your body.”
M. (to the Master, smiling): “That is the nature of the calculating mind.”
MASTER: “Yes, that is the nature of the calculating mind; that is the way the worldly man thinks. But he who seeks God plunges headlong; he doesn’t calculate about how much or how little he needs for the protection of his body.”
M: “Next Bhavani asked Prafulla, ‘How will you offer all this money to Sri Krishna?’ Prafulla said: ‘Why, Sri Krishna dwells in all beings. I shall distribute the money among them.’ Bhavani answered, ‘Good! Good!’
“Quoting from the Gitā , Bhavani said: ‘He who sees Me in all things and all things in Me, never becomes separated from Me, nor do I become separated from him. That yogi who, established in unity, worships Me dwelling in all beings, abides in Me, whatever his mode of life. O Arjuna, that yogi is regarded as the highest who judges the pleasure and pain of all beings by the same standard that he applies to himself.”
MASTER: “These are the characteristics of the highest bhakta.”
M. again read from the book:
A man must work hard if he wants to help all beings with charity. Hence it is necessary for him to make a little display of clothes, of pomp and luxury. Therefore Bhavani said, “A little shop-keeping is necessary.”
MASTER (sharply): “‘A little shopkeeping is necessary!’ One speaks as one thinks. If a man thinks of worldly things day and night, and deals with people hypocritically, then his words are coloured by his thoughts. If one eats radish, one belches radish. Instead of talking about ‘shopkeeping’, he should rather have said, ‘A man should act as if he were the doer, knowing very well that he is really not the doer.’ The other day a man was
singing here. The song contained words like ‘profit’ and ‘loss’. I stopped him. If one contemplates a particular subject day and night, one cannot talk of anything else.”
The reading continued. The author was describing the realization of God. Prafulla had become Devi Choudhurani. It was the month of Vaiśākh. Devi was seated on the roof of her house-boat talking with Diva and another woman companion. The moon was up. The boat had cast anchor in the Ganges. The conversation turned to the question of whether one could see God. Devi said, “As the aroma of a flower is directly perceived by the nose, so God is directly perceived by the mind.”
At this point the Master interrupted and said: “Yes, God is directly perceived by the mind, but not by this ordinary mind. It is the pure mind that perceives God, and at that time this ordinary mind does not function. A mind that has the slightest trace of attachment to the world cannot be called pure. When all the impurities of the mind are removed, you may call that mind Pure Mind or Pure Ātman.”
M: “The author says a little later that God cannot easily be perceived by the mind.
He says that one needs a telescope to have that direct vision. Yoga is the telescope. Yoga, as it is described in the Gitā, is of three kinds: jnāna, bhakti, and karma. One is able to see God through this telescope of yoga.”
MASTER: “That is very good. These are the words of the Gitā.”
M: “At last Devi Choudhurani met her husband. She showed him great devotion and said to him: ‘You are my God. I wanted to learn the worship of another God but I did not succeed. You have taken the place of all gods.’ “
MASTER (smiling): “‘I did not succeed.’ This is the dharma of a woman totally devoted to her husband. This also is a path.”
The reading was over. The Master was smiling. The devotees looked at him, eagerly waiting to hear what he would say.
MASTER (to the devotees, smiling): “This is not so bad; it is called the dharma of chastity, the single-minded devotion of a wife to her husband. If God can be worshipped through an image, why shouldn’t it be possible to worship Him through a living person? It is God Himself who sports in the world as men.
Master’s spiritual experiences
“Oh, what a state I passed through! I passed some days absorbed in Śiva and Durga; some days absorbed in Radha and Krishna, and some days absorbed in Sita and Rāma. Assuming Radha’s attitude, I would cry for Krishna, and assuming Sita’s attitude, I would cry for Rāma.
“But lila is by no means the last word. Passing through all these states, I said to the Divine Mother: ‘Mother, in these states there is separation. Give me a state where there is no separation.’ Then I remained for some time absorbed in the Indivisible Satchidananda. I removed the pictures of the gods and goddesses from my room. I began to perceive God in all beings. Formal worship dropped away. You see that bel-tree. I used to go there to pluck its leaves. One day, as I plucked a leaf, a bit of the bark came off. I found the tree full of Consciousness. I felt grieved because I had hurt the tree. One day I tried to pluck some Durva grass, but I found I couldn’t do it very well. Then I forced myself to pluck it.
“I cannot cut a lemon. The other day I managed to cut one only with great difficulty; I chanted the name of Kāli and cut the fruit as they slaughter an animal before the Goddess. One day I was about to gather some flowers.
They were everywhere on the trees. At once I had a vision of Virat; it appeared that His worship was just over. The flowers looked like a bouquet placed on the head of the Deity. I could not pluck them.
“God sports through man as well. I see man as the embodiment of Narayana. As fire is kindled when you rub two pieces of wood together, so God can be seen in man if you have intense devotion. If there is suitable bait, big fish like carp gulp it down at once. When one is intoxicated with prema, one sees God in all beings. The gopis saw Krishna in everything; to them the whole world was filled with Krishna. They said that they themselves were Krishna. They were then in a God-intoxicated state. Looking at the trees, they said, ‘These are hermits absorbed in meditation on Krishna.’ Looking at the grass they said, ‘The hair of the earth is standing on end at the touch of Krishna.’
“Devotion to the husband is also a dharma. The husband is God. Why shouldn’t it be so? If God can be worshipped through an image, why not also through a living man? But three things are necessary in order to feel the presence of God in an image: first, the devotion of the priest; second, a beautiful image; and third, the devotion of the householder. Vaishnavcharan once said that in the end the mind of the devotee is absorbed in the human manifestation of God.
“But you must remember one thing. One cannot see God sporting as man unless one has had the vision of Him. Do you know the sign of one who has God-vision? Such a man acquires the nature of a child. Why a child? Because God is like a child. So he who sees God becomes like a child.
“God-vision is necessary. Now the question is, how can one get it? Intense renunciation is the means. A man should have such intense yearning for God that he can say, ‘O Father of the universe, am I outside Your universe? Won’t You be kind to me, You wretch?’.
“You partake of the nature of him on whom you meditate. By worshipping Śiva you acquire the nature of Śiva. A devotee of Rāma meditated on Hanuman day and night. He used to think he had become Hanuman. In the end he was firmly convinced that he had
even grown a little tail. Jnāna is the characteristic of Śiva, and bhakti of Vishnu. One who partakes of Śiva’s nature becomes a Jnāni, and one who partakes of Vishnu’s nature becomes a bhakta.”
Chaitanya & The Divine Incarnation and the ordinary man
M: “But what about Chaitanyadeva? You said he had both knowledge and devotion.”
MASTER (sharply): “His case was different. He was an Incarnation of God. There is a great difference between him and an ordinary man. The fire of Chaitanya’s renunciation was so great that when Sarvabhauma poured sugar on his tongue, instead of melting, it evaporated into air. He was always absorbed in samādhi. How great was his conquest of lust! To compare him with a man! A lion eats meat and yet it mates only once in twelve years; but a sparrow eats grain and it indulges in sex-life day and night. Such is the difference between a Divine Incarnation and an ordinary human being. An ordinary man renounces lust; but once in a while he forgets his vow. He cannot control himself.
(To M):”He who has realized God looks on man as a mere worm. ‘One cannot succeed in religious life if one has shame, hatred, or fear.’ These are fetters. Haven’t you heard of the eight fetters?
“How can one who is eternally perfect be afraid of the world? He knows how to play his game. An eternally perfect soul can even lead a worldly life if he desires. There are people who can fence with two swords at the same time; they are such expert fencers that, if stones are thrown at them, the stones hit the swords and come back.”
Yoga and God-vision
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, how can one see God?”
MASTER: “Can you ever see God if you do not direct your whole mind toward Him? The Bhagavata speaks about Sukadeva. When he walked about he looked like a soldier with fixed bayonet. His gaze did not wander; it had only one goal and that was God. This is the meaning of yoga.
“The chatak bird drinks only rain-water. Though the Ganges, the Jamuna, the Godavari, and all other rivers are full of water, and though the seven oceans are full to the brim, still the chatak will not touch them. It will drink only the water that falls from the clouds.
“He who has developed such yoga can see God. In the theatre the audience remains engaged in all kinds of conversation, about home, office, and school, till the curtain goes up; but no sooner does it go up than all conversation comes to a stop, and the people watch the play with fixed attention. If after a long while someone utters a word or two, it is about the play.
“After a drunkard has drunk his liquer, he talks only about the joy of drunkenness.”
Nityagopal was seated in front of Sri Ramakrishna. He was always in ecstasy. He sat there in silence.
MASTER (to Nityagopal, smiling): “Gopal! Why are you always silent?” Nityagopal answered like a child, “I-do-not-know.”
MASTER: “I understand why you don’t say anything; perhaps you are afraid of committing a transgression. You are right. Jaya and Vijaya were gate-keepers for Narayana. They refused Sanaka, Sanātana, and other rishis’ admission into His palace. For this transgression, Jaya and Vijaya had to be born three times on earth.
“Again, there is the instance of Sridāmā; he was Viraja’s gate-keeper in Goloka. Sri Krishna was in Virajā’s house. Rādhika went there to surprise Krishna and wanted to enter the house. Sridāmā would not admit her, and so Radhika cursed him to be born as a demon on earth. But Sridāmā, too, cursed her.
“But there is one thing you should remember. When a boy walks holding his father’s hand, he may fall into the gutter; but what has he to fear if the father holds him by the hand?”
The story of Sridāmā is narrated in the Brahma-vaivarta Purana.
Kedār, who was a government official, had been living at Dāccā for sometime. He had been transferred there from Calcutta. He was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and had gathered together at Dāccā many devotees, who came to him regularly for spiritual instruction. As one should not come empty handed to a religious man, the devotees would bring Kedār sweets and other offerings.
KEDĀR (to the Master, humbly): “Should I eat those offerings?”
MASTER: “It won’t injure you if the offerings are given out of love for God. But they are harmful if they are given with any selfish motive.”
KEDĀR: “I have explained everything to the devotees and now I feel relieved. I have told them that he who has given me his blessing knows all.”
MASTER (smiling): “That is true. You see, people of all sorts come here. So they find here different things.”
KEDĀR: “I do not need to know different things.”
MASTER (smiling): “Why not? One should know a little of everything. If a man starts a grocery-shop, he keeps all kinds of articles there, including a little lentil and tamarind. An expert musician knows how to play a little on all instruments.”
Sri Ramakrishna left the room and went toward the pine-grove. The devotees began to walk about in the garden. Several went to the Panchavati. Sri Ramakrishna met them there and said: “I have indigestion. I took a meal at the Mallicks’. They are very worldly people.”
A few of the Master’s personal things lay scattered on the cement platform of the Panchavati, and he asked M. to bring them. He proceeded to his room and the devotees followed.
In the afternoon the Master rested awhile. Afterwards a few devotees arrived. The Master sat on the small couch reclining against a pillow.
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, can one know God’s attributes through the intellect?”
MASTER: “Certainly not by this ordinary intellect. Can one know God so easily? One must practise sādhanā. One must also adopt a particular attitude toward God, for instance, the attitude of a servant toward his master. The rishis of old had the attitude of Śānta. Do you know the attitude of the jnanis? It is to meditate on one’s own Self. (To a devotee, with a smile) What is your attitude?”
The devotee gave no answer.
MASTER (smiling): “You have two attitudes: you meditate on your own Self and also cherish toward God the attitude of a servant. Am I not right?”
DEVOTEE (hesitating and smiling): “Yes, sir.”
MASTER (smiling): “You see, as Hazra says, I can read people’s thoughts.
“One can maintain those two attitudes only at a very advanced stage. Prahlada maintained them. But one must work hard in order to practise this ideal.
“Let me give an illustration. Suppose a man is grasping the thorny branch of a plum-tree. His hand bleeds profusely; but he says, ‘There is nothing the matter with me; I am not hurt.’ If you ask him about his wound, he will say, ‘It’s all right; I am quite well.’ Now is there any meaning in the mere utterance of these words? One must practise discipline in keeping with this ideal.”
The devotees were giving their whole attention to what the Master was saying.