Master’s own reminiscences — Various forms of his meditation — Master’s meditation on formless Spirit — Three kinds of sadhana — Nature of deep concentration — Single-mindedness in meditation — Occult powers — A false teacher — Master’s visions during sadhana — Experience of mahabhava — Power of “woman and gold” — Efficacy of truthfulness — Narada and Sukadeva — Special traits of a Divine Incarnation — Master urges intense dispassion — Advice to householders — Discussion with Trailokya — Divine bliss is the highest — Holding to both God and the world — Worldly man’s charity — Discussion about Divine Incarnations.
April 12, 1885
SRI RAMAKRISHNA was sitting with the devotees in Balaram’s drawing-room in Calcutta. M. arrived at three o’clock. Girish, Balaram, the younger Naren, Paltu, Dwija, Purna, Mahendra Mukherji, and many other devotees were there. Shortly Trailokya Sannyal, Jaygopal Sen, and other members of the Brahmo Samaj arrived. Many woman devotees were present also, seated behind a screen. Among them was Mohini’s wife, who had almost gone insane on account of her son’s death. There were a few other afflicted souls like her who used to visit the Master to obtain peace of mind.
Sri Ramakrishna was describing to the devotees the various incidents of his sadhana and the phases of his spiritual realisation.
MASTER: “During my sadhana, when I meditated, I would actually see a person sitting near me with a trident in his hand. He would threaten to strike me with the weapon unless I fixed my mind on the Lotus Feet of God, warning me that it would pierce my breast if my mind strayed from God.
“The Divine Mother would put me in such a state that sometimes my mind would come down from the Nitya to the Lila, and sometimes go up from the Lila to the Nitya.
“Sometimes, when the mind descended to the Lila, I would meditate day and night on Sita and Rama. At those times I would constantly behold the forms of Sita and Rama. Ramlala1 was my constant companion. Sometimes I would bathe Him and sometimes feed Him.
“Again, I used to be absorbed in the ideal of Radha and Krishna and would constantly see their forms. Or again, I would be absorbed in Gauranga. He is the harmonization of two ideals: the Purusha and the Prakriti. At such times I would always see the form of Gauranga.
“Then a change came over me. The mind left the plane of the Lila and ascended to the Nitya. I found no distinction between the sacred tulsi and the ordinary sajina plant. I no longer enjoyed seeing the forms of God; I said to myself, ‘They come and go.’ I lifted my mind above them. I removed all the pictures of gods and goddesses from my room and began to meditate on the Primal Purusha, the Indivisible Satchidananda, regarding myself as His handmaid.
“I practised all sorts of sadhana. There are three classes of sadhana: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic. In the sattvic sadhana the devotee calls on the Lord with great longing or simply repeats His name; he doesn’t seek any result in return. The rajasic sadhana prescribes many rituals: purascharana, pilgrimage, panchatapa, worship with sixteen articles, and so forth. The tamasic sadhana is a worship of God with the help of tamas. The attitude of a tamasic devotee is this: ‘Hail, Kali! What? Wilt Thou not reveal Thyself to me? If not, I will cut my throat with a knife!’ In this discipline one does not observe conventional purity; it is like some of the disciplines prescribed by the Tantra.
“During my sadhana period I had all kinds of amazing visions. I distinctly perceived the communion of Atman. A person exactly resembling me entered my body and began to commune with each one of the six lotuses.2 The petals of these lotuses had been closed; but as each of them experienced the communion, the drooping flower bloomed and turned itself upward. Thus blossomed forth the lotuses at the centres of Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Anahata, Visuddha, Ajna, and Sahasrara. The drooping Bowers turned upward. I perceived all these things directly.
“When I meditated during my sadhana, I used to think of the unflickering flame of a lamp set in a windless place.
“In deep meditation a man is not at all conscious of the outer world. A hunter was aiming at a bird. A bridal procession passed along beside him, with the groom’s relatives and friends, music, carriages, and horses. It took a long time for the procession to pass the hunter, but he was not at all conscious of it. He did not know that the bridegroom had gone by.
“A man was angling in a lake all by himself. After a long while the float began to move. Now and then its tip touched the water. The angler was holding the rod tight in his hands, ready to pull it up, when a passer-by stopped and said, ‘Sir, can you tell me where Mr. Bannerji lives?’ There was no reply from the angler, who was just on the point of pulling up the rod. Again and again the stranger said to him in a loud voice, ‘Sir, can you tell me where Mr. Bannerji lives?’ But the angler was unconscious of everything around him. His hands were trembling, his eyes fixed on the float. The stranger was annoyed and went on. When he had gone quite a way, the angler’s float sank under water and with one pull of the rod he landed the fish. He wiped the sweat from his face with his towel and shouted after the stranger. ‘Hey!’ he said. ‘Come here! Listen!’ But the man would not turn his face. After much shouting, however, he came back and” said to the angler, ‘Why are you shouting at me?’ ‘What did you ask me about? said the angler. The stranger said,. ‘I repeated the question so many times, and now you are asking me to repeat it once more!’ The angler replied, ‘At that time my float was about to sink; so I didn’t hear a word of what you said.’
“A person can achieve such single-mindedness in meditation that he will see nothing, hear nothing. He will not be conscious even of touch. A snake may crawl over his body, but he will not know it. Neither of them will be aware of the other.
“In deep meditation the sense-organs stop functioning; the mind does not look outward. It is like closing the gate of the outer court in a house. There are five objects of the senses: form, taste, smell, touch, and sound. They are all left outside.
“At the beginning of meditation the objects of the senses appear before the aspirant. But when the meditation becomes deep, they no longer bother him. They are left outside. How many things I saw during meditation! I vividly perceived before me a heap of rupees, a shawl, a plate of sweets, and two women with rings in their noses. ‘What do you want?’ I asked my mind. ‘Do you want to enjoy any of these things?’ ‘No,’ replied the mind, ‘I don’t want any of them. I don’t want anything but the Lotus Feet of God.’ I saw the inside and the outside of the women, as one sees from outside the articles in a glass room. I saw what is in them: entrails, blood, filth, worms, phlegm, and such things.”
Girish Chandra Ghosh used to say now and then that he could cure illness by the strength of the Master’s name.
MASTER (to Girish and the other devotees): “People of small intellect seek occult powers — powers to cure disease, win a lawsuit, walk on water, and such things. But the genuine devotees of God don’t want anything except His Lotus Feet. One day Hriday said to me, ‘Uncle, please ask the Mother for some powers, some occult powers.’ I have the nature of a child. While I was practising japa in the Kali temple, I said to Kali, ‘Mother, Hriday asked me to pray to You for some occult powers.’ The Divine Mother at once showed me a vision. A middle-aged prostitute, about forty’ years old, appeared and sat with her back to me. She had large hips and wore a black-bordered sari. Soon she was covered with filth. The Mother showed me that occult powers are as abominable as the filth of that prostitute. Thereupon I went to Hriday and scolded him, saying: ‘Why did you teach me such a prayer? It is because of you that I had such an experience.’
“People with a little occult power gain such things as name and fame. Many of them want to follow the profession of guru, gain people’s recognition, and make disciples and devotees. Men say of such a guru: ‘Ah! He is having a wonderful time. How many people visit him! He has many disciples and followers. His house is overflowing with furniture and other things. People give him presents. He has such power that he can feed many people if he so desires.’
“The profession of a teacher is like that of a prostitute. It is the selling of oneself for the trifle of money, honour, and creature comforts. For such insignificant things it is not good to prostitute the body, mind, and soul, the means by which one can attain God. A man once said about a certain woman: ‘Ah! She is having a grand time now. She is so well off! She has rented a room and furnished it with a couch, a mat, pillows, and many other things. And how many people she controls! They are always visiting her.’ In other words, the woman has now become a prostitute. Therefore her happiness is unbounded. Formerly she was a maidservant in a gentleman’s house; now she is a prostitute. She has ruined herself for a mere trifle.
“How many other visions I saw while meditating during my sadhana! Once I was meditating under the bel-tree when ‘Sin’ appeared before me and tempted me in various ways. He came to me in the form of an English soldier. He wanted to give me wealth, honour, sex pleasure, various occult powers, and such things. I began to pray to the Divine Mother. Now I am telling you something very secret. The Mother appeared. I said to Her, ‘Kill him. Mother!’ I still remember that form of the Mother, Her world-bewitching beauty. She came to me taking the form of Krishnamayi.3 But it was as if her glance moved the world.”
Sri Ramakrishna became silent. Resuming his reminiscences, he said: “How many other visions I saw! But I am not permitted to tell them. Someone one is shutting my mouth, as it were. I used to find no distinction between the sacred tulsi and the insignificant sajina leaf. The feeling of distinction was entirely destroyed. Once I was meditating under the banyan when I was shown a Mussalman4 with a long beard. He came to me with rice in an earthen plate. He fed some other Mussalmans with the rice and also gave me a few grains to eat. The Mother showed me that there exists only One, and not two. It is Satchidananda alone that has taken all these various forms; He alone has become the world and its living beings. Again, it is He who has become food.
(To Girish, M., and the others) “I have the nature of a child. Hriday said to me, ‘Uncle, ask the Mother for some occult powers.’ At once I went to the temple to ask Her about them. At that time God had put me in such a state that I had to listen to those who lived with me. I felt like a child who sees darkness all around unless someone is with him. I felt as if I should die unless Hriday was near me. You see I am in that state of mind just now. While I am speaking to you my inner spirit is being awakened.”
As Sri Ramakrishna uttered these words, he was on the point of plunging into samadhi and losing consciousness of time and space. But he was trying with the utmost difficulty to control himself. He said to the devotees in an ecstatic mood: “I still see you. But I feel as if you had been sitting here for ever. I don’t recall when you came or where you are.”
Sri Ramakrishna was silent a few minutes. Then, regaining partial consciousness, he said, “I shall have a drink of water.” He often said things like this after samadhi, in order to bring down his mind to the ordinary plane of consciousness. Girish was a new-comer and did not know this; so he started to bring some water. Sri Ramakrishna asked him not to, saying, “No, my dear sir, I cannot drink now.”
The Master and the devotees were silent awhile. Sri Ramakrishna resumed the conversation.
MASTER (to M.): “Well, have I done any wrong in telling these secret experiences?”
M. did not know what to say and kept quiet.
MASTER: “Why should there be any harm in it? I have told these things to create faith in you all.”
After a while he said to M. very humbly, “Will you kindly bring him here?” He referred to Purna.
M. (hesitating): “Yes, sir. I shall send for him this very moment.”
MASTER (eagerly: “In Purna I have reached the ‘post’.”
Was Sri Ramakrishna hinting that Purna was perhaps the last devotee of his inner circle?
Sri Ramakrishna then described to Girish, M., and the other devotees his own experience of mahabhava.
MASTER (to the devotees): “My joy after that experience was equal to the pain I suffered before it. Mahabhava is a divine ecstasy; it shakes the body and mind to their very foundation. It is like a huge elephant entering a small hut. The house shakes to its foundation. Perhaps it falls to pieces.
“The burning pain that one feels when one is separated from God is not an ordinary feeling. It is said that the fire of this anguish in Rupa and Sanatana (Two great disciples of Sri Chaitanya.) scorched the leaves of the tree under which they sat. I was unconscious three days in that state. I couldn’t move. I lay in one place. When I regained consciousness, the Brahmani5 took me out for a bath. But my skin couldn’t bear the touch of her hand; so my body had to be covered with a heavy sheet. Only then could she hold me with her hand and lead me to the bathing-place. The earth that had stuck to my body while I was lying on the ground had become baked.
“In that state I felt as if a ploughshare were passing through my backbone. I cried out: ‘Oh, I am dying! I am dying!’ But afterwards I was filled with great joy.”
The devotees listened breathlessly to these experiences of the Master.
MASTER (to Girish): “But it isn’t necessary for you to go so far. My experiences are for others to refer to. You busy yourself with five different things, but I have one ideal only. I do not enjoy anything but God. This is what God has ordained for me. (Smiling) There are different trees in the forest, some shooting up with one trunk and others spreading out with five branches. (All smile.)
“Yes, my experiences are for others to refer to. But you should live in the world in a spirit of detachment. You will no doubt have dirt on your body, but you must shake it off as the mudfish shakes off the mud. You may swim in the black ocean of the world, but your body should not be stained.”
GIRISH (smiling): “But you too had to marry.” (Laughter.)
MASTER (smiling): “Marriage is necessary for the sake of samskara.6 But how could I lead a worldly life? So uncontrollable was my divine fervour that every time the sacred thread was put around my neck it dropped off. Some believe that Sukadeva also had to marry — for the sake of samskara. They say he even had a daughter. (All laugh.)
“‘Woman and gold’ alone is the world. It makes one forget God.”
GIRISH: “But how can we get rid of ‘woman and gold’?”
MASTER: “Pray to God with a yearning heart. Pray to Him for discrimination. ‘God alone is real and all else illusory’ — this is discrimination. One strains water through a fine sieve in order to separate the dirt from it. The clear water goes through the sieve leaving the dirt behind. Apply the sieve of discrimination to the world. Live in the world after knowing God. Then it will be the world of vidya.
“Just see the bewitching power of women! I mean the women who are the embodiment of avidya, the power of delusion. They fool men, as it were. They take away their inner substance. When I see a man and woman sitting together, I say to myself, ‘Alas, they are done for!’ (Looking at M.) Haru, such a nice boy, is possessed by a witch. People ask: ‘Where is Haru? Where is he?’ But where do you expect him to be? They all go to the banyan and find him sitting quietly under it. He no longer has his beauty, power, or joy. Ah! He is possessed by the witch that lives in the banyan.
“If a woman says to her husband, ‘Go there’, he at once stands up, ready to go. If she says, ‘Sit down here’, immediately he sits down.
“A job-seeker got tired of visiting the manager in an office. He couldn’t get the job. The manager said to him, ‘There is no vacancy now; but come and see me now and then.’ This went on for a long time, and the candidate lost all hope. One day he told his tale of woe to a friend. The friend said: ‘How stupid you are! Why are you wearing away the soles of your feet going to that fellow? You had better go to Golap. You will get the job tomorrow.’ ‘Is that so?’ said the candidate. ‘I am going right away.’ Golap was the manager’s mistress. The candidate called on her and said: ‘Mother, I am in great distress. You must help me out of it. I am the son of a poor brahmin. Where else shall I go for help? Mother, I have been out of work many days. My children are about to starve to death. I can get a job if you but say the word.’ Golap said to him, ‘Child, whom should I speak to?’ She said to herself; ‘Ah, the poor brahmin! He has been suffering too much.’ The candidate said to her, ‘I am sure to get the job if you just put in a word about it to the manager.’ Golap said, ‘I shall speak to him today and settle the matter.’ The very next morning a man called on the candidate and said, ‘You are to work in the manager’s office, beginning today.’ The manager said to his English boss: ‘This man is very competent. I have appointed him. He will do credit to the firm.’
“All are deluded by ‘woman and gold’. But I do not care for it at all. And I swear to you that I do not know anything but God.”
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, a new sect, named ‘Nava Hullol’, has been started. Lalit Chatterji is one of the members.”
MASTER: “There are different views. All these views are but so many paths to reach the same goal. But everyone believes that his view alone is right, that his watch alone keeps correct time.”
GIRISH (to M): “Do you remember what Pope says about it?
‘Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.”
MASTER (to M.): “What does it mean?”
M: “Everyone thinks that his own watch keeps the correct time. But different watches do not give the same time.”
MASTER: “But however wrong the watches may be, the sun never makes a mistake. One should check one’s watch with the sun.”
A DEVOTEE: “Mr. X— tells lies.”
MASTER: “Truthfulness in speech is the tapasya of the Kaliyuga. It is difficult to practise other austerities in this cycle. By adhering to truth one attains God. Tulsidas said: ‘Truthfulness, obedience to God, and the regarding of others’ wives as one’s mother, are the greatest virtues. If one does not realise God by practising them, then Tulsi is a liar.’
“Keshab Sen assumed his father’s debts. Others would have repudiated them. I visited Devendra’s Samaj at Jorashanko and found Keshab meditating on the dais. He was then a young man. I said to Mathur Babu, ‘Of all who are meditating here, this young man’s “float” alone has sunk under water. The “fish” is biting at the hook.’
“There was a man — whom I shall not name — who for ten thousand rupees told a lie in court. In order to win the lawsuit he made me give an offering to the Divine Mother. He said to me, ‘Father, please give this offering to the Mother.’ Trusting him like a child, I gave the offering.”
DEVOTEE: “A nice man indeed!”
MASTER: “But he had such faith in me that he believed the Mother would grant his prayer if I but made the offering.”
Referring to Lalit Babu, Sri Ramakrishna said: “Is it an easy matter to get rid of pride? There are very few who are without pride. Balaram is one of them. (Pointing to a devotee) And here is another. Other people in their position would have swelled with pride. They would have parted their hair and showed other traits of tamas. They would have been proud of their learning. The ‘fat brahmin’ [referring to Prankrishna] still has a little of it. (To M.) Mahima Chakravarty has read many books, hasn’t he?”
M: “Yes, sir, he has read a great deal.”
MASTER (smiling): “I wish he and’Girish could meet. Then we could enjoy a little discussion.”
GIRISH (smiling): “Doesn’t he say that by means of sadhana all people can be like Sri Krishna?”
MASTER: “Not exactly that, but something like it.”
DEVOTEE: “Sir, can all be like Sri Krishna?”
MASTER: “An Incarnation of God or one born with some of the characteristics of an Incarnation is called an Isvarakoti. An ordinary man is called a jiva or jivakoti. By dint of sadhana a jivakoti can realise God; but after samadhi he cannot come back to the plane of relative consciousness.
The Isvarakoti is like the king’s son. He has the keys to all the rooms of ne seven-storey palace; he can climb to all the seven floors and come down at will. A jivakoti is like a petty officer. He can enter some of the rooms of the palace; that is his limit.
“Janaka was a jnani. He attained Knowledge by means of his sadhana. But Sukadeva was Knowledge itself.”
MASTER: “Sukadeva did not attain Knowledge through sadhana. Like Sukadeva, Narada also had the Knowledge of Brahman. But he retained bhakti in order to teach people. Prahlada sometimes assumed the attitude of ‘I am He’, sometimes that of a servant of God, and sometimes that of His child. Hanuman also was like that.
“All may wish for such a lofty state, but all cannot attain it. Some bamboos are hollower than others; some are more solid inside.”
A DEVOTEE: “You say that your spiritual experiences are for others to refer to. Tell us what we should do.”
MASTER: “If you want to realise God, then you must cultivate intense dispassion. You must renounce immediately what you feel to be standing in your way. You should not put it off till the future. ‘Woman and gold’ is the obstruction. The mind must be withdrawn from it.
“One must not be slow and lazy. A man was going to bathe; he had his towel on his shoulder. His wife said to him: ‘You are worthless. You are getting old and still you cannot give up some of your habits. You cannot live a single day without me. But look at that man! What a renouncer he is!’
“HUSBAND: ‘Why? What has he done?’
“WIFE: ‘He has sixteen wives and he is renouncing them one by one. You will never be able to renounce.’
“HUSBAND: ‘Renouncing his wives one by one! You are crazy. He won’t be able to renounce. If a man wants to renounce, does he do it little by little?’
“WIFE (smiling): ‘Still he is better than you.’
“HUSBAND: ‘You are silly; you don’t understand. He cannot renounce. But I can. See! Here I go!'”
The Master continued: “That is called intense renunciation. No sooner did the man discriminate than he renounced. He went away with the towel on his shoulder. He didn’t turn back to settle his worldly affairs. He didn’t even look back at his home.
“He who wants to renounce needs great strength of mind. He must have a dare-devil attitude like a dacoit’s. Before looting a house, the dacoits shout: ‘Kill! Murder! Loot!’
“Cultivate devotion and love of God and so pass your days. What else can you do? When Krishna went away, Yasoda became insane with grief and visited Radha. Radha was moved by her sorrow and appeared before her as Adyasakti. She said, ‘My child, ask a boon of Me.’ Yasoda replied: ‘Mother, what else shall I ask of You? Bless me that I may serve Krishna alone with my body, mind, and speech; that I may behold His devotee? with these eyes; that I may go with these feet to the place where His divine sport is manifested; that I may serve Him and His devotees with these hands; and that I may devote all my sense-organs to His service alone.'”
As Sri Ramakrishna uttered these words, he was about to go into ecstasy. Suddenly he exclaimed: “Kali, the Embodiment of Destruction! No, Nitya-Kali, my eternal Divine Mother!” With great difficulty he restrained himself. He was starting to say more about Yasoda, when Mahendra Mukherji arrived. Mahendra and his younger brother, Priya, had been visiting the Master for some time. Mahendra owned a flour-mill and other businesses. His brother was an engineer. Both the brothers engaged people to manage their affairs and therefore had considerable leisure. Mahendra was thirty-six or thirty-seven and his brother two years younger. Besides their country home at Kedeti, they had a house at Baghbazar, Calcutta. A young devotee named Hari accompanied them on their visits to Sri Ramakrishna. Hari was married but greatly devoted to the Master. Mahendra and Hari had not visited Dakshineswar for a long time. They saluted Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER: “Hello! Why haven’t you visited Dakshineswar for so long?”
MAHENDRA: “Sir, I have been away from Calcutta. I was at Kedeti.”
MASTER: “You have no children. You don’t serve anybody. And still you have no leisure! Goodness gracious!’
The devotees remained silent. Mahendra was a little embarrassed.
MASTER (to Mahendra): “Why am I saving all this to you? You are sincere and generous. You have love for God.”
MAHENDRA: ‘You are saying these words for my good.”
MASTER (smiling): ‘You see, we don’t take any collection during the performance at our place. Jadu’s mother says to me, ‘Other sadhus always ask for money, but you do not.’ Worldly people feel annoyed if they have to spend money.
“A theatrical performance was being given at a certain place. A man felt a great desire to take a seat and see it. He peeped in and saw that a collection was being taken from the audience. Quietly he slipped away. Another performance was being given at some other place. He went there and, inquiring, found that no collection would he taken. There was a great rush of people. He elbowed his way through the crowd and reached the centre of the hall. There he picked out a nice scat for himself, twirled his moustaches, and sat through the performance. (All laugh.)
“You have no children to divert your mind. I know a deputy magistrate who draws a salary of eight hundred rupees a month. He went to Keshab’s house to see a performance. I was there too. Rakhal and a few other devotees were with me and sat beside me. After a while Rakhal went out for a few minutes. The deputy magistrate came over and made his young son take Rakhal’s seat. I said, ‘He can’t sit there.’ At that time I was in such a state of mind that I had to do whatever the person next to me would ask me to do; so I had seated Rakhal beside me. As long as the performance lasted the deputy did nothing hut gibber with his son. The rascal didn’t look at the performance even once. I heard, too, that he is a slave to his wife; he gets up and sits down us she tells him to. And he didn’t see the performance for that snub-nosed monkey of a boy. . . .
(To Mahendra) “Do you practise meditation?”
MAHENDRA: ‘Yes, sir. A little.”
MASTER: “Come to Dakshineswar now and then.”
MAHENDRA (smiling): “Yes, sir. I will. You know where my knots and twists are. You will straighten them out.”
MASTER (smiling): “First come to Dakshineswar; then I shall press your limbs to see where your twists are. Why don’t you come?”
MAHENDRA: “Because of the pressure of my duties. Besides, I have to go to my country home now and then.”
MASTER (to Mahendra, pointing his finger at the devotees): “Have they no homes or dwelling-places? Have they no duties? How is it that they come?
(To Hari) “Why haven’t you come to Dakshineswar? Is your wife living with you?”
HARI: “No, sir.”
MASTER: “Then why did you forget me?”
HARI: “I haven’t been well, sir.”
MASTER (to the devotees): “He looks thin. He has no small measure of bhakti. He is overflowing with it, but it is of a rather troublesome nature.” (Laughter.)
Sri Ramakrishna used to address a certain devotee’s wife by the name of “Habi’s mother”. Her brother, a college student aged about twenty, was there. He stood up, ready to go and play cricket. His younger brother, named Dwija, was also a devotee of the Master. Both brothers left the room. A few minutes later Dwija returned. The Master said, “Why didn’t you go?” A devotee answered: “He wants to hear the music. Perhaps that is why he has come back.”
Trailokya, the Brahmo devotee, was to sing for the Master. Paltu arrived. The Master said: “Who is this? Ah! It is Paltu.”
Purna, another young devotee, also arrived. It was with great difficulty that Sri Ramakrishna had managed to have him come. His relatives strongly objected to his visiting the Master. Purna was a student in the fifth grade of the school where M. taught. The boy prostrated himself before Sri Ramakrishna. The Master seated him by his side and was talking to him in a low voice. M. alone was sitting near them. The other devotees were talking about various things. Girish, sitting on the other side of the room, was reading a life of Keshab.
MASTER (to Purna): “Come nearer.”
GIRISH (to M.): “Who is this boy?”
M. was afraid that others might notice the boy. This would make trouble for him at home and M. would be responsible for it.
M. (sharply): “Don’t you see he is a boy?”
GIRISH (smiling): “I need no ghost to tell me that.”
The Master and the boy were talking in low tones.
MASTER: “Do you practise what I asked you to?”
PURNA: “Yes, sir.”
MASTER: “Do you dream? Do you dream of a flame? A lighted torch? A married woman? A cremation ground? It is good to dream of these things.”
PURNA: “I dreamt of you. You were seated and were telling me something.
MASTER: “What? Some instructions? Tell me some of it.”
PURNA: “I don’t remember now.”
MASTER: “Never mind. But it is very good. You will make progress. You feel attracted to me, don’t you?”
A few minutes later Sri Ramakrishna said to the boy, “Won’t you come there?” He meant Dakshineswar. “I can’t promise”, answered the boy.
MASTER: “Why? Doesn’t one of your relatives live there?”
PURNA: “Yes, sir. But it won’t be very convenient for me to go.”
Girish was reading a life of Keshab written by Trailokya of the Brahmo Samaj. In it Trailokya said that at first Sri Ramakrishna had been very much opposed to the world but that after meeting Keshab he had changed his mind and had come to believe that one could lead a spiritual life in the world as well. Several devotees had told the Master about this. They wanted to discuss it with Trailokya. Those passages in the book had been read to the Master.
Noticing the book in Girish’s hand, Sri Ramakrishna said to Girish, M., Ram, and the other devotees: “Those people are busy with the world. That is why they set such a high value on worldly life. They are drowned in ‘woman and gold’. One doesn’t talk that way after realizing God. After enjoying divine bliss, one looks on the world as crow-droppings. At the very outset I utterly renounced everything. Not only did I renounce the company of worldly people, but now and then the company of devotees as well. I noticed that the devotees were dropping dead one by one, and that made my heart writhe with pain. But now I keep one or two of them with me.”
Girish left for home, saying he would come back.
Trailokya arrived with Jaygopal Sen. They bowed before the Master and sat down. He inquired about their health. The younger Naren entered the room and saluted Sri Ramakrishna. The Master said to him, “Why didn’t you see me last Saturday?”
Trailokya was ready to sing.
MASTER: “Ah! You sang that day about the Blissful Mother. How sweetly you sang! Others’ songs seem insipid to me. That day I didn’t enjoy even Narendra’s singing. Why don’t you sing those same songs again?”
Victory to Gora, Sachi’s son!
Hail, Abode of every virtue,
Touchstone of Love, Ocean of Bliss,
Man’s bewitcher, beauteous of form,
Enchanting the eye like shining gold!
His tender arms that reach to the knee,
Graceful and long as lotus stalks,
Are lovingly stretched to all mankind;
His lotus face of matchless beauty
Overflows with the nectar of Love;
His cheeks are covered with curling hair!
Alight with heavenly love, his beauty
Charms the eye! Beaming with fervour,
Radiant with Bliss, his body trembling
With Hari’s joy, Gauranga the golden
Dances like a mad elephant, shaking
In all his limbs with the frenzy of love!
Gauranga, singer of Hari’s glories,
Prize of every sadhu’s heart,
Rarest of men, the Ocean of Love,
Embraces the outcaste, calls him brother,
Takes him in his arms in fervent love!
He dances with both his arms upraised,
And sings Hari’s name; the tears are streaming
Down his cheeks; he weeps, he cries,
He trembles, roars, and rages, saying,
“Where is Hari, the Jewel of my heart?”
The hair on his limbs is standing on end;
Like a kadamba flower is his body;
Covered with dust he rolls on the ground.
O Thou, the Abode of Hari’s lila,
Fountain-head of Love’s elixir,
Friend of the helpless, Glory of Banga,
Hail Chaitanya, Thou who shinest
Bright as the moon, in the bhakta’s heart!
Sri Ramakrishna left the room for a minute. The women devotees were seated near the screen. They were eager to see Sri Ramakrishna. Trailokya went on with his music.
Sri Ramakrishna entered the room again and said to Trailokya, “Please sing a little about the Blissful Mother.”
O Mother, how deep is Thy love for men!
Mindful of it, I weep for joy. . . .
Listening to the song, the younger Naren went into deep meditation. He remained as still as a log. Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: “Look at him. He is totally unaware of the outer world.”
The song was over. At Sri Ramakrishna’s request, Trailokya sang:
O Mother, make me mad with Thy love!
What need have I of knowledge or reason? . . .
Ram asked him to sing about Hari.
Chant, O mind, the name of Hari,
Sing aloud the name of Hari,
Praise Lord Hari’s name!
And praising Hari’s name, O mind,
Cross the ocean of this world.
Hari dwells in earth, in water,
Hari dwells in fire and air;
In sun and moon He dwells.
Hari’s ever living presence
Fills the. boundless universe.
M. said in a low voice to Trailokya, “Please — ‘Gaur and Nitai, ye blessed brothers’.”
Sri Ramakrishna, too, asked him to sing the song. Trailokya and the devotees sang it in chorus, the Master joining them. When it was over, the Master sang:
Behold, the two brothers (Gauranga and Nityananda.) have come, who weep while chanting Hari’s name,
The brothers who, in return for blows, offer to sinners Hari’s love,
Embracing everyone as brother, even the outcaste shunned by men.
Behold, the two brothers have come, who once were Kanai and Balai of Braja. . . .
Sri Ramakrishna sang again:
See how all Nadia is shaking
Under the waves of Gauranga’s love! . . .
Who are they that walk along, chanting Hari’s name?
O Madhai, go out and see!
They seem to be Gaur and Nitai,
With golden anklets on their lovely feet;
Shaven of head and clad in rags,
They reel like madmen as they go. . . .
The younger Naren was about to leave.
MASTER: “Show great devotion to your parents; but don’t obey them if they stand in your way to God. You must gird your loins with great determination and say, ‘This rogue of a father!'”
NAREN: “Truly, I have no fear.”
Girish arrived. Sri Ramakrishna introduced him to Trailokya. He asked them to talk to each other. A few minutes later the Master said, “That song again, please.”
Victory to Gora, Sachi’s son!
Hail, Abode of every virtue,
Touchstone of Love, Ocean of Bliss,
Man’s bewitcher, beauteous of form,
Enchanting the eye like shining gold! . . .
Sri Ramakrishna went into samadhi. He stood up, totally unconscious of the world.
Regaining partial consciousness, he begged Trailokya to sing “Oh, what a vision I have beheld”.
Oh, what a vision I have beheld in Keshab Bharati’s7 hut!
Gora, in all his matchless grace
Shedding tears in a thousand streams!
Like a mad elephant
He dances in ecstasy and sings,
Drunk with an overwhelming love.
Rolling flat upon the ground and swimming in his tears,
He weeps and shouts Lord Hari’s name,
Piercing the very heavens with his cries,
Loud as a lion’s roar;
Then most humbly he begs men’s love,
To feel himself the servant of God.
Shorn of his locks, he has put on the yogi’s ochre robe;
Even the hardest heart must melt
To see his pure and heavenly love.
Smitten with man’s deep woe,
He has abandoned everything
And pours out love unstintingly.
Oh, would that Premdas were his slave and, passing from door to door,
Might sing Gauranga’s endless praise!
The music was over. It was about dusk. Sri Ramakrishna was surrounded by the devotees.
MASTER (to Ram): “There were no instruments to accompany the songs. The singing creates an atmosphere when there is proper accompaniment. (Smiling) Do you know how Balaram manages a festival? He is like a miserly brahmin raising a cow. The cow must eat very little but give milk in torrents. (All laugh.) Sing your own songs and beat your own drums: that’s Balaram’s idea!” (All laugh.)
As evening came on, lamps were lighted in the drawing-room and on the verandah. Sri Ramakrishna bowed to the Divine Mother and began to chant the name of God. The devotees sat around and listened to his sweet chanting. They wanted to discuss with Trailokya his remarks about the Master’s change of opinion on worldly life. Girish started the discussion.
GIRISH (to Trailokya): “You have written that, after coming in contact with Keshab, Sri Ramakrishna changed his views about worldly life; but it isn’t true.”
MASTER (to Trailokya and the other devotees): “If a man enjoys the Bliss of God, he doesn’t enjoy the world. Having tasted divine bliss, he finds the world insipid. If a man gets a shawl, he doesn’t care for broadcloth.”
TRAILOKYA: “I referred to those who wanted to lead a worldly life. I didn’t mean renouncers.”
MASTER: “What are you talking about? People talk about leading a religious life in the world. But if they once taste the bliss of God they will not enjoy anything else. Their attachment to worldly duties declines. As their spiritual joy becomes deeper, they simply cannot perform their worldly duties. More and more they seek that joy. Can worldly pleasures and sex pleasures be compared to the bliss of God? If a man once tastes that bliss, he runs after it ever afterwards. It matters very little to him then whether the world remains or disappears.
“Though the chatak bird is about to die of a parched throat, and around it there are seven oceans, rivers, and lakes overflowing with water, still it will not touch that water. Its throat is cracking with thirst, and still it will not drink that water. It looks up, mouth agape, for the rain to fall when the star Svati is in the ascendant. To the chatak bird all waters are mere dryness beside Svati water.’
“People say they will hold to both God and the world. After drinking an ounce of wine, a man may be pleasantly intoxicated and also conscious of the world; but can he be both when he has drunk a great deal more?
“After the bliss of God nothing else tastes good. Then talk about ‘woman and gold’ stabs the heart, as it were. (Intoning) ‘I cannot enjoy the talk of worldly people.’ When a man becomes mad for God, he doesn’t enjoy money or such things.”
TRAILOKYA: “But, sir, if a man is to remain in the world, he needs money and he must also save. He has to give in charity and —”
MASTER: “What? Do you mean that one must first save money and then seek God? And you talk about charity and kindness! A worldly man spends thousands of rupees for his daughter’s marriage. Yet, all the while, his neighbours are dying of starvation; and he finds it hard to give them two morsels of rice; he calculates a thousand times before giving them even that much. The people around him have nothing to eat; but what does he care about that? He says to himself: ‘What can I do? Let the rascals live or die. All I care about is that the members of my family should live well.’ And they talk about doing good to others!”
TRAILOKYA: “But, sir, there are good people in the world as well. Take the case of Pundarika Vidyanidhi, the devotee of Chaitanya. He lived in the world.”
MASTER: “He had drunk wine up to his neck. If he had drunk a little more, he couldn’t have led a worldly life.”
Trailokya remained silent. M. said aside to Girish, “Then what he has written is not true.”
GIRISH (to Trailokya): “Then what you have written is not true.”
TRAILOKYA: “Why so? Doesn’t he [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] admit that a man can lead a spiritual life in the world?”
MASTER: “Yes, he can. But such a man should first of all attain Knowledge and then live in the world. First he should realise God. Then ‘he can swim in a sea of slander and not be stained.’ After realizing God, a man can live in the world like a mudfish. The world he lives in after attaining God is the world of vidya. In it he sees neither woman nor gold. He finds there only devotion, devotee, and God. You see, I too have a wife, and a few pots and pans in my room; I too feed a few vagabonds; I too worry about the devotees — Habi’s mother for instance — when they come here.”
A DEVOTEE (to Trailokya): “I have read in your book that you do not believe in the Incarnation or God. You said so in connection with Chaitanya.”
TRAILOKYA: “Why, Chaitanya himself protested against the idea of Divine Incarnation. Once, in Puri, Advaita and the other devotees sang a song to the effect that Chaitanya was God. At this Chaitanya shut the door of his room. Infinite are the glories of God. As he [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] says, the devotee is the parlour of God. Suppose a parlour is very well furnished; does that mean that the master of the house has exhausted all his power and splendour in that one parlour?”
GIRISH: “He [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] says that prema alone is the essence of God; we need the man through whom this ecstatic love of God flows. He says that the milk of the cow Hows through the udder; we need the udder; we do not care for the other parts of the cow — the legs, tail, or horns.”
TRAILOKYA: “The milk of God’s prema flows through an infinite number of channels. God has infinite powers.”
GIRISH: “But what other power can stand before prema?”
TRAILOKYA: “It is possible if He who has the power wants it. Everything is in God’s power.”
GIRISH: “Yes, I admit that. But there is also a thing called the power of avidya.”
TRAILOKYA: “Is avidya a thing? Does there exist a substance called avidya? It is only a negation, as darkness is the negation of light. There is no doubt that we prize prema most: what is a drop to God is an ocean to us. But if you say that prema is the last word about God, then you limit God Himself.”
MASTER (to Trailokya and the other devotees): “Yes, yes, that is true. But an ounce of wine makes me drunk. What need have I to count the gallons of wine in the tavern? What need have we to know about the infinite powers of God?”
GIRISH (to Trailokya): “Do you believe in the Incarnation of God?”
TRAILOKYA : “God incarnates Himself through. His devotees alone. There cannot be a manifestation of infinite powers. It simply isn’t possible. It is impossible for any man to manifest infinite powers.”
GIRISH: “You can serve your children as ‘Brahma Gopala’. (A name of God.) Then why isn’t it possible to worship a great soul as God?”
MASTER (to Trailokya): “Why all this bother about infinity? If I want to touch you, must I touch your entire body? If you want to bathe in the Ganges, must you touch the whole river from Hardwar down to the ocean?
“‘All troubles come to an end when the ego dies.’ As long as a trace of ‘I-consciousness’ remains, one is conscious of difference. Nobody knows what remains after the ‘I’ disappears. Nobody can express it in words. That which is remains. After the ‘I’ disappears one cannot say that a part manifests through this man and the rest through another. Satchidananda is the ocean. The pot of ‘I’ is immersed in it. As long as the pot exists, the water seems to be divided into two parts: one part inside the pot and the other part outside it. But when the pot is broken there is only one stretch of water. One cannot even say that. Who would say that?”
After the discussion Sri Ramakrishna became engaged in pleasant conversation with Trailokya.
MASTER: “You are happy. Isn’t that so?”
TRAILOKYA: “But I shall become my old self again as soon as I leave this place. Here I feel very much the awakening of spiritual consciousness.”
MASTER: “You don’t have to be afraid of walking on thorns if you are wearing shoes. You needn’t be afraid of ‘woman and gold’ if you know that God alone is real and all else illusory.”
It was about nine o’clock in the evening. Balaram took Trailokya to another room and gave him refreshments. Sri Ramakrishna began to tell the devotees about Trailokya and people of his views.
MASTER (to Girish, M., and the other devotees): “Do you know what these people are like? They are like a frog living in a well, who has never seen the outside world. He knows only his well; so he will not believe that there is such a thing as the world. Likewise, people talk so much about the world because they have not known the joy of God.
(To Girish) “Why do you argue with them so much? They busy themselves with both — the world and God. One cannot understand the joy of God unless one has tasted it. Can anybody explain sex pleasure to a five-year-old boy? Worldly people talk about God only from hearsay. Children, hearing their old aunts quarrelling among themselves, learn to say, ‘There is my God’, ‘I swear by God.’
“But that doesn’t matter. I don’t blame such people. Can all comprehend the Indivisible Satchidananda? Only twelve rishis could recognize Ramachandra. All cannot recognize an Incarnation of God. Some take him for an ordinary man, some for a holy person, and only a few recognize him as an Incarnation.
“One offers a price for an article according to one’s capital. A rich man said to his servant: ‘Take this diamond to the market and let me know how different people price it. Take it, first of all, to the egg-plant seller.’ The servant took the diamond to the egg-plant seller. He examined it, turning it over in the palm of his hand, and said, ‘Brother, I can give nine seers of egg-plants for it.’ ‘Friend,’ said the servant, ‘a little more — say, ten seers.’ The egg-plant seller replied: ‘No, I have already quoted above the market price. You may give it to me if that price suits you. The servant laughed. He went back to his master and said: ‘Sir, he would give me only nine seers of egg-plants and not one more. He said he had offered more than the market price.’ The master smiled and said: ‘Now take it to the cloth-dealer. The other man deals only in egg-plants. What does he know about a diamond? The cloth-dealer has a little more capital. Let us see how much he offers for it.’ The servant went to the cloth-dealer and said: ‘Will you buy this? How much will you pay for it?’ The merchant said: ‘Yes, it is a good thing. I can make a nice ornament out of it. I will give you nine hundred rupees tor it.’ ‘Brother, said the servant, ‘offer a little more and I will sell it to you. Give me at least a thousand rupees.’ The cloth-dealer said: ‘Friend, don’t press me for more. I have offered more than the market price. I cannot give a rupee more. Suit yourself.’ Laughing the servant returned to his master and said: ‘He won’t give a rupee more than nine hundred. He too said he had quoted above the market price.’ The master said with a laugh: ‘Now take it to a jeweller. Let us see what he has to say.’ The servant went to a jeweller. The jeweller glanced at the diamond and said at once, ‘I will give you one hundred thousand rupees for it.’
“They talk of practising religion in the world. Suppose a man is shut up in a room. All the doors and windows are closed. Only a little light comes. through a hole in the ceiling. Can he see the sun with that roof over his head? And what will he do with only one ray of light? ‘Woman and gold’ is the roof. Can he see the sun unless he removes the roof? Worldly people are shut up in a room, as it were.
‘The Incarnations of God belong to the class of the Isvarakotis. They roam about in the open spaces. They are never imprisoned in the world, never entangled by it. Their ego is not the ‘thick ego’ of worldly people. The ego, the ‘I-consciousness’, of worldly people is like four walls and a roof: the man inside them cannot see anything outside. The ego of the Incarnations and other Isvarakotis is a ‘thin ego’: through it they have an uninterrupted vision of God. Take the case of a man who stands by a wall on both sides of which there are meadows stretching to infinity. If there is a hole in the wall, through it he can see everything on the other side. If the hole is a big one, he can even pass through it. The ego of the Incarnations and other Isvarakotis is like the wall with a hole. Though they remain on this side of the wall, still they can see the endless meadow on the other side. That is to say, though they have a human body, they are always united with God. Again, if they will, they can pass through the big hole to the other side and remain in samadhi. And if the hole is big enough, they can go through it and come back again. That is to say, though established in samadhi, they can again descend to the worldly plane.”
The devotees listened breathlessly to these words about the mystery of Divine Incarnation.
- ^A metal image of the Boy Rama given to Sri Ramakrishna during his sadhana period by a Vaishnava saint.
- ^A reference to the lotuses at the six centres, through which the Kundalini rises. See Glossary under Kundalini.
- ^The young daughter of Balaram Bose.
- ^It was perhaps a vision of Mohammed, the founder of Islam.
- ^A brahmin woman who was one of Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual teachers.
- ^According to Hindu religious law, marriage is one of the ten samskaras, or purificatory rites, prescribed for the three higher castes, namely, the brahmin, kshatriya, and vaisya.
- ^The monastic teacher of Sri Chaitanya.