Master’s attitude toward the wicked — Paths of knowledge and devotion — God’s name destroys sin — Mystery of God’s ways — God-vision through pure love — Guru and Ishta — Life of worldliness — Master’s love tor Rakhal — Adhar’s first visit — Much reasoning condemned — Master’s birthday celebration — Warning to monks — Incarnation of God — Master’s different spiritual moods — Efficacy of earnest japa — Dogmatism condemned — Parable of the elephant and the blind men — Illustration of the ocean and the ice — Rakhal’s inborn spiritual nature — Parable of the homa bird — Renunciation, false and true — Nature of the ever-perfect — Master’s experiences in samadhi.
Sunday, February 18, 1883
SRI RAMAKRISHNA arrived at Govinda Mukherji’s house at Belgharia, near Calcutta. Besides Narendra, Ram, and other devotees, some of Govinda’s neighbours were present. The Master first sang and danced with the devotees. After the kirtan they sat down. Many saluted the Master. Now and then he would say, “Bow before God.”
“It is God alone”, he said, “who has become all this. But in certain places — for instance, in a holy man — there is a greater manifestation than in others. You may say, there are wicked men also. That is true, even as there are tigers and lions; but one need not hug the ‘tiger God’. One should keep away from him and salute him from a distance. Take water, for instance. Some water may be drunk, some may he used for worship, some for bathing, and some only for washing dishes.”
A NEIGHBOUR: “Revered sir, what are the doctrines of Vedanta?”
MASTER: ‘The Vedantist says, ‘I am He.’ Brahman is real and the world illusory. Even the ‘I’ is illusory. Only the Supreme Brahman exists.
“But the ‘I’ cannot be got rid of. Therefore it is good to have the feeling, ‘I’ am the servant of God, His son, His devotee.’
“For the Kaliyuga the path of bhakti is especially good. One can realise God through bhakti too. As long as one is conscious of the body, one is also conscious of objects. Form, taste, smell, sound, and touch — these are the objects. It is extremely difficult to get rid of the consciousness of objects. And one cannot realise ‘I am He’ as long as one is aware of objects.
“The sannyasi is very little conscious of worldly objects. But the house-holder is always engrossed in them. Therefore it is good for him to feel, ‘I am the servant of God.'”
NEIGHBOUR: “Sir, we are sinners. What will happen to us?”
MASTER: “All the sins of the body fly away if one chants the name of God and sings His glories. The birds of sin dwell in the tree of the body. Singing the name of God is like clapping your hands. As, at a clap of the hands, the birds in the tree fly away, so do our sins disappear at the chanting of God’s name and glories.
“Again, you find that the water of a reservoir dug in a meadow is evaporated by the heat of the sun. Likewise, the water of the reservoir of sin is dried up by the singing of the name and glories of God.
“You must practise it every day. The other day, at the circus, I saw a horse running at top speed, with an Englishwoman standing on one foot on its back. How much she must have practised to acquire that skill!
“Weep at least once to see God.
“These, then, are the two means: practice and passionate attachment to God, that is to say, restlessness of the soul to see Him.”
Sri Ramakrishna began his midday meal with the devotees. It was about one o’clock. A devotee sang in the courtyard below:
Awake, Mother! Awake! How long Thou hast been asleep
In the lotus of the Muladhara!
Fulfil Thy secret function. Mother:
Rise to the thousand-petalled lotus within the head,
Where mighty Siva has His dwelling;
Swiftly pierce the six lotuses
And take away my grief, O Essence of Consciousness!
Hearing the song, Sri Ramakrishna went into samadhi; his whole body became still, and his hand remained touching the plate of food. He could eat no more. After a long time his mind came down partially to the plane of the sense world, and he said, “I want to go downstairs.” A devotee led him down very carefully. Still in an abstracted mood, he sat near the singer. The song had ended. The Master said to him very humbly, “Sir, I want to hear the chanting of the Mother’s name again.”
The musician sang:
Awake, Mother! Awake! How long Thou hast been asleep
In the lotus of the Muladhara! . . .
The Master again went into ecstasy.
February 25, 1883
After his noon meal the Master conversed with the devotees. Ram, Kedar, Nityagopal, M., and others had arrived from Calcutta. Rakhal, Harish, Latu, and Hazra were living with the Master. Mr. Choudhury, who had three or four university degrees and was a government officer, was also present. He had recently lost his wife and had visited the Master several times for peace of mind.
MASTER (to Ram and the other devotees): “Devotees like Rakhal, Narendra, and Bhavanath may be called nityasiddha. Their spiritual consciousness has been awake since their very birth. They assume human bodies only to impart spiritual illumination to others.
“There is another class of devotees, known as kripasiddha, that is to say, those on whom the grace of God descends all of a sudden and who at once attain His vision and Knowledge. Such people may be likened to a room that has been dark a thousand years, which, when a lamp is brought into it, becomes light immediately, not little by little.
“Those who lead a householder’s life should practise spiritual discipline; they should pray eagerly to God in solitude. (To Mr. Choudhury) God cannot be realised through scholarship. Who, indeed, can understand the things of the Spirit through reason? No, all should strive for devotion to the Lotus Feet of God.
“Infinite are the glories of God! How little can you fathom them! Can you ever find out the meaning of God’s ways?
“Bhishma was none other than one of the eight Vasus, but even he shed tears on his bed of arrows. He said: ‘How astonishing! God Himself is the companion of the Pandava brothers, and still there is no end to their troubles and sorrows!’ Who can ever understand the ways of God?
“A man thinks, ‘I have practised a little prayer and austerity; so I have gained a victory over others.’ But victory and defeat lie with God. I have seen a prostitute dying in the Ganges and retaining consciousness1 to the end.”
MR. CHOUDHURY: “How can one see God?”
MASTER: “Not with these eyes. God gives one divine eyes; and only then can one behold Him. God gave Arjuna divine eves so that he might see His Universal Form. (An allusion to the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita).
“Your philosophy is mere speculation. It only reasons. God cannot be realised that way.
“God cannot remain unmoved if you have raga-bhakti, that is, love of God with passionate attachment to Him. Do you know how fond God is of His devotees’ love? It is like the cow’s fondness for fodder mixed with oil-cake. The cow gobbles it down greedily.
“Raga-bhakti is pure love of God, a love that seeks God alone and not any worldly end. Prahlada had it. Suppose you go to a wealthy man every day, but you seek no favour of him; you simply love to see him. If he wants to show you favour, you say: ‘No, sir. I don’t need anything. I came just to see you.’ Such is love of God for its own sake. You simply love God and don’t want anything from Him in return.”
Saying this, the Master sang:
Though I2 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. . . .
He continued, “The gist o£ the whole thing is that one must develop passionate yearning for God and practise discrimination and renunciation.”
MR. CHOUDHURY: “Sir, is it not possible to have the vision of God without the help of a guru?”
MASTER: “Satchidananda Himself is the Guru. At the end of the sava-sadhana, just when the vision of the Ishta is about to take place, the guru appears before the aspirant and says to him, ‘Behold! There is your Ishta.’ Saying this, the guru merges in the Ishta. He who is the guru is also the Ishta. The guru is the thread that leads to God. Women perform a ritualistic worship known as the ‘Ananta-vrata’, the object of worship being the Infinite. But actually the Deity worshipped is Vishnu. In Him are the ‘infinite’ forms of God.
(To Ram and the other devotees) “If you asked me which form of God you should meditate upon, I should say: Fix your attention on that form which appeals to you most; but know for certain that all forms are the forms of one God alone.
“Never harbour malice toward anyone. Siva, Kali, and Hari are but different forms of that One. He is blessed indeed who has known all as one.
Outwardly he appears as Siva’s devotee,
But in his heart he worships Kali, the Blissful Mother,
And with his tongue he chants aloud Lord Hari’s name.
“The body does not endure without a trace of lust, anger, and the like. You should try to reduce them to a minimum.”
Looking at Kedar, the Master said: “He is very nice. He accepts both the Absolute and the Relative. He believes in Brahman, but he also accepts the gods and Divine Incarnations in human form.”
In Kedar’s opinion Sri Ramakrishna was such an Incarnation.
Looking at Nityagopal, the Master said to the devotees, “He is in a lofty mood.
(To Nityagopal) “Don’t go there too often. You may go once in a while. She may be a devotee, but she is a woman too. Therefore I warn you.
“The sannyasi must observe very strict discipline. He must not look even at the picture of a woman. But this rule doesn’t apply to householders. An aspirant should not associate with a woman, even though she is very much devoted to God. A sannyasi, even though he may have subdued his passions, should follow this discipline to set an example to householders.
“Worldly people learn renunciation by seeing the complete renunciation of a monk; otherwise they sink more and more. A sannyasi is a world teacher.”
Friday, March 9, 1883
About nine o’clock in the morning the Master was seated in his room with Rakhal, M., and a few other devotees. It was the day of the new moon. As usual with him on such days, Sri Ramakrishna entered again and again into communion with the Divine Mother. He said to the devotees: “God alone exists, and all else is unreal. The Divine Mother has kept all deluded by Her maya. Look at men. Most of them are entangled in worldliness. They suffer so much, but still they have the same attachment to ‘woman and gold’. The camel eats thorny shrubs, and blood gushes from its mouth; still it will eat thorns. While suffering pain at the time of delivery, a woman says, ‘Ah’ I shall never go to my husband again.’ But afterwards she forgets.
“The truth is that no one seeks God. There are people who eat the prickly leaves of the pineapple and not the fruit.”
DEVOTEE: “Sir, why has God put us in the world?”
MASTER: “The world is the field of action. Through action one acquires knowledge. The guru instructs the disciple to perform certain works and refrain from others. Again, he advises the pupil to perform action without desiring the result. The impurity of the mind is destroyed through the performance of duty. It is like getting rid of a disease by means of medicine, under the instruction of a competent physician.
“Why doesn’t God free us from the world? Ah, He will free us when the disease is cured. He will liberate us from the world when we are through with the enjoyment of ‘woman and gold’. Once a man registers his name in the hospital, he cannot run away. The doctor will not let him go away unless his illness is completely cured.”
During these days Sri Ramakrishna’s heart overflowed with motherly love like the love Yasoda felt for Krishna. So he kept Rakhal with him. Rakhal felt toward the Master as a child feels toward its mother. He would sit leaning on the Master’s lap as a young child leans on its mother while sucking her breast.
Rakhal was thus seated by the Master when a man entered the room and said that a high tide was coming in the Ganges. The Master and the devotees ran to the Panchavati to see it. At the sight of a boat being tossed by the tide, Sri Ramakrishna exclaimed: “Look! Look! I hope nothing happens to it.”
They all sat in the Panchavati. The Master asked M. to explain the cause of the tide. M. drew on the ground the figures of the sun, moon, and earth and tried to explain gravitation, ebb-tide, flood-tide, new moon, full moon, eclipse, and so forth.
MASTER (to M.): “Stop it! I can’t follow you. It makes me dizzy. My head is aching. Well, how can they know of things so far off?
“You see, during my childhood I could paint well; but arithmetic would make my head spin. I couldn’t learn simple arithmetic.”
Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room with the devotees. Looking at a picture of Yasoda, on the wall, he said: “It is not well done. She looks like a garland-seller.”
The Master enjoyed a nap after his noon meal. Adhar and other devotees gradually gathered. This was Adhar’s first visit. He was a deputy magistrate and about thirty years old.
ADHAR (to the Master): “Sir, I have a question to ask. Is it good to sacrifice animals before the Deity? It certainly involves killing.”
MASTER: “The sastra prescribes sacrifice on special occasions. Such sacrifice is not harmful. Take, for instance, the sacrifice of a goat on the eighth day of the full or new moon.
“I am now in such a state of mind that I cannot watch a sacrifice. Also I cannot eat meat offered to the Divine Mother. Therefore I first touch my finger to it, then to my head, lest She should be angry with me.
“Again, in a certain state of mind I see God in all beings, even in an ant. At that time, if I see a living being die, I find consolation in the thought that it is the death of the body, the soul being beyond life and death.
“One should not reason too much; it is enough if one loves the Lotus Feet of the Mother. Too much reasoning throws the mind into confusion. You get clear water if you drink from the surface of a pool. Put your hand deeper and stir the water, and it becomes muddy. Therefore pray to God for devotion.
“Behind Dhruva’s devotion there was desire. He practised austerities to gain his father’s kingdom. But Prahlada’s love for God was motiveless — a love that sought no return.”
A DEVOTEE: “How can one realise God?”
MASTER : “Through that kind of love. But one must force one’s demand on God. One should be able to say: ‘O God, wilt Thou not reveal Thyself to me? I will cut my throat with a knife.’ This is the tamas of bhakti.”
DEVOTEE: “Can one see God?”
MASTER: “Yes, surely. One can see both aspects of God — God with form and without form. One can see God with form, the Embodiment of Spirit. Again, God can be directly perceived in a man with a tangible form. Seeing an Incarnation of God is the same as seeing God Himself. God is born on earth as man in every age.”
March 11, 1883
It was Sri Ramakrishna’s birthday. Many of his disciples and devotees wanted to celebrate the happy occasion at the Dakshineswar temple garden.
From early morning the devotees streamed in, alone or in parties. After the morning worship in the temples sweet music was played in the nahabat. It was springtime. The trees, creepers, and plants were covered with new leaves and blossoms. The very air seemed laden with joy. And the hearts of the devotees were glad on this auspicious day.
M. arrived early in the morning and found the Master talking smilingly to Bhavanath, Rakhal, and Kalikrishna. M. prostrated himself before him.
MASTER (to M.): “I am glad you have come.
(To the devotees) “One cannot be spiritual as long as one has shame, hatred, or fear. Great will be the joy today. But those fools who will not sing or dance, mad with God’s name, will never attain God. How can one feel any shame or fear when the names of God are sung? Now sing, all of you.”
Bhavanath and his friend Kalikrishna sang;
Thrice blessed is this day of joy!
May all of us unite, O Lord,
To preach Thy true religion here
In India’s holy land!
Thou dwellest in each human heart;
Thy name, resounding everywhere,
Fills the four corners of the sky.
Today Thy devotees proclaim
Thy boundless majesty.
We seek not wealth or friends or fame,
O Lord! No other hope is ours.
For Thee alone Thy devotees
Long with unflagging love.
Safe at Thy feet, what fear have we
Of death or danger? We have found
The Fount of Immortality.
To Thee the victory, O Lord!
To Thee the victory!
As Sri Ramakrishna listened to the song with folded hands, his mind soared to a far-off realm. He remained absorbed in meditation a long time. After a while Kalikrishna whispered something to Bhavanath. Then he bowed before the Master and rose. Sri Ramakrishna was surprised. He asked, “Where are you going?”
BHAVANATH: “He is going away on a little business.”
MASTER: “What is it about?”
BHAVANATH: “He is going to the Baranagore Workingmen’s Institute.”
MASTER: “It’s his bad luck. A stream of bliss will flow here today. He could have enjoyed it. But how unlucky!”
Sri Ramakrishna did not feel well; so he decided not to bathe in the Ganges. About nine o’clock a few jars of water were taken from the river, and with the help of the devotees he finished his bath on the verandah east of his room.
After bathing, the Master put on a new wearing-cloth, all the while chanting the name of God. Accompanied by one or two disciples he walked across the courtyard to the temple of Kali, still chanting Her hallowed name. His eyes had an indrawn look, like that of a bird hatching her eggs.
On entering the temple, he prostrated himself before the image and worshipped the Divine Mother. But he did not observe any ritual of worship. Now he would offer flowers and sandal-paste at the feet of the image, and now he would put them on his own head. After finishing the worship in his own way, he asked Bhavanath to carry the green coconut that had been offered to the Mother, He also visited the images of Radha and Krishna in the Vishnu temple.
When the Master returned to his room, he found that other devotees had arrived, among them Ram, Nityagopal, and Kedar. They all saluted the Master, who greeted them cordially.
He asked Nityagopal, “Will you eat something now?” “Yes”, the devotee answered. Nityagopal, who was twenty-three or twenty-four years old and unmarried, was like a child. His mind was always, soaring in the spiritual realm. He visited the Master sometimes alone and sometimes in Ram’s company. The Master had observed the spiritual state of his mind and had become very fond of him. He remarked now and then that Nityagopal was in the state of a paramahamsa.
After Nityagopal had finished eating, the Master took him aside and gave him various instructions.
A certain woman, about thirty-one years old and a great devotee, often visited Sri Ramakrishna and held him in high respect. She had been much impressed by Nityagopal’s spiritual state and, looking upon him as her own son, often invited him to her house.
MASTER (to Nityagopal): “Do you go there?”
NITYAGOPAL (like a child>: “Yes, I do. She takes me.”
MASTER: “Beware, holy man! Go there once in a great while, but not frequently; otherwise you will slip from the ideal. Maya is nothing but ‘woman and gold’. A holy man must live away from woman. All sink there. ‘Even Brahma and Vishnu struggle for life in that whirlpool.’
” Nityagopal listened to these words attentively.
M.(to himself): “How strange! This young man has developed the state of a paramahamsa. That is what the Master says now and then. Is there still a possibility of his falling into danger in spite of his high spiritual state? What an austere rule is laid down for a sadhu! He may slip from his ideal by associating intimately with women. How can an ordinary man expect to attain liberation unless such a high ideal is set by holy men? The woman in question is very devout; but still there is danger. Now I understand why Chaitanya punished his disciple, the younger Haridas, so severely. In spite of his teacher’s prohibition, Haridas conversed with a widow devotee. But he was a sannyasi. Therefore Chaitanya banished him. What a severe punishment! How hard is the rule for one who has accepted the life of renunciation! Again, what love the Master cherishes for this devotee! He is warning him even now, lest he should run into danger in the future.”
“Beware, holy man!” These words of the Master echoed in the hearts of the devotees, like the distant rumbling of thunder.
The Master went with the devotees to the northeast verandah of his room. Among them was a householder from the village of Dakshineswar, who studied Vedanta philosophy at home. He had been discussing Om with Kedar before the Master. He said, “This Eternal Word, the Anahata Sabda, is ever present both within and without.”
MASTER: “But the Word is not enough. There must be something indicated by the Word. Can your name alone make me happy? Complete happiness is not possible for me unless I see you.”
DEVOTEE: “That Eternal Word itself is Brahman.”
MASTER (to Kedar): “Oh, don’t you understand? He upholds the doctrine of the rishis of olden times. They once said to Rama: ‘O Rama, we know You only as the son of Dasaratha. Let sages like Bharadvaja worship You as God Incarnate. We want to realise Brahman, the Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.’ At these words Rama smiled and went away.”
KEDAR: “Those rishis could not recognize Rama as an Incarnation of God. They must have been fools.”
MASTER (seriously): “Please don’t say such a thing. People worship God according to their tastes and temperaments. The mother cooks the same fish differently for her children, that each one may have what suits his stomach. For some she cooks the rich dish of pilau. But not all the children can digest it. For those with weak stomachs she prepares soup. Some, again, like fried fish or pickled fish. It depends on one’s taste.
“The rishis followed the path of jnana. Therefore they sought to realise Brahman, the Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. But those who follow the path of devotion seek an Incarnation of God, to enjoy the sweetness of bhakti. The darkness of the mind disappears when God is realised. In the Purana it is said that it was as if a hundred suns were shining when Rama entered the court. Why, then, weren’t the courtiers burnt up? It was because the brilliance of Rama was not like that of a material object. As the lotus blooms when the sun rises, so the lotus of the heart of the people assembled in the court burst into blossom.”
As the Master uttered these words, standing before the devotees, he suddenly fell into an ecstatic mood. His mind was withdrawn from external objects. No sooner did he say, “the lotus of the heart burst into blossom”, than he went into deep samadhi. He stood motionless, his countenance beaming and his lips parted in a smile.
After a long time he returned to the normal consciousness of the world. He drew a long breath and repeatedly chanted the name of Rama, every word showering nectar into the hearts of the devotees. The Master sat down, the others seating themselves around him.
MASTER (to the devotees): “Ordinary people do not recognize the advent of an Incarnation of God. He comes in secret. Only a few of His intimate disciples can recognize Him. That Rama was both Brahman Absolute and a perfect Incarnation of God in human form was known only to twelve rishis. The other sages said to Him, ‘Rama, we know You only as Dasaratha’s son.’
“Can everyone comprehend Brahman, the Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute? He alone has attained perfect love of God who, having reached the Absolute, keeps himself in the realm of the Relative in order to enjoy the divine lila. A man can describe the ways and activities of the Queen (Queen Victoria.) if he has previously visited her in England. Only then will his description of the Queen be correct. Sages like Bharadvaja adored Rama and said: ‘O Rama, You are nothing but the Indivisible Satchidananda. You have appeared before us as a human being, but You look like a man because You have shrouded Yourself with Your own maya.’ These rishis were great devotees of Rama and had supreme love for God.”
Presently some devotees from Konnagar arrived, singing kirtan to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals. As they reached the northeast verandah of Sri Ramakrishna’s room, the Master joined in the music, dancing with them intoxicated with divine joy. Now and then he went into samadhi, standing still as a statue. While he was in one of these states of divine unconsciousness, the devotees put thick garlands of jasmine around his neck. The enchanting form of the Master reminded the devotees of Chaitanya, another Incarnation of God. The Master passed alternately through three moods of divine consciousness: the inmost, when he completely lost all knowledge of the outer world; the semi-conscious, when he danced with the devotees in an ecstasy of love; and the conscious, when he joined them in loud singing. It was indeed a sight for the gods, to see the Master standing motionless in samadhi, with fragrant garlands hanging from his neck, his countenance beaming with love, and the devotees singing and dancing around him.
When it was time for his noon meal, Sri Ramakrishna put on a new yellow cloth and sat on the small couch. His golden complexion, blending with his yellow cloth, enchanted the eyes of the devotees.
After his meal Sri Ramakrishna rested a little on the small couch. Inside and outside his room crowded the devotees, among them Kedar, Suresh, Ram, Manomohan, Girindra, Rakhal, Bhavanath, and M. Rakhal’s father was also present.
A Vaishnava goswami was seated in the room. The Master said to him:
“Well, what do you say? What is the way?”
GOSWAMI: “Sir, the chanting of God’s name is enough. The scriptures emphasize the sanctity of God’s name for the Kaliyuga.”
MASTER: “Yes, there is no doubt about the sanctity of God’s name. But can a mere name achieve anything, without the yearning love of the devotee behind it? One should feel great restlessness of soul for the vision of God. Suppose a man repeats the name of God mechanically, while his mind is absorbed in ‘woman and gold’. Can he achieve anything? Mere muttering of magic words doesn’t cure one of the pain of a spider or scorpion sting. One must also apply the smoke of burning cow-dung.” (A primitive medicine used by the villagers for scorpion bites.)
GOSWAMI: “But what about Ajamila then? He was a great sinner; there was no sin he had not indulged in. But he uttered the name of Narayana on his death-bed, calling his son, who also had that name. And thus he was liberated.”
MASTER: “Perhaps Ajamila had done many spiritual things in his past births. It is also said that he once practised austerity; besides, those were the last moments of his life. What is the use of giving an elephant a bath? It will cover itself with dirt and dust again and become its former self. But if someone removes the dust from its body and gives it a bath just before it enters the stable, then the elephant remains clean.
“Suppose a man becomes pure by chanting the holy name of God, but immediately afterwards commits many sins. He has no strength of mind. He doesn’t take a vow not to repeat his sins. A bath in the Ganges undoubtedly absolves one of all sins; but what does that avail? They say that the sins perch on the trees along the bank of the Ganges. No sooner does the man come back from the holy waters than the old sins jump on his shoulders from the trees. (All laugh.) The same old sins take possession of him again. He is hardly out of the water before they fall upon him.
“Therefore I say, chant the name of God, and with it pray to Him that you may have love for Him. Pray to God that your attachment to such transitory things as wealth, name, and creature comforts may become less and less every day.
(To the Goswami) With sincerity and earnestness one can realise God through all religions. The Vaishnavas will realise God, and so will the Saktas the Vedantists, and the Brahmos. The Mussalmans and Christians will realise Him too. All will certainly realise God if they are earnest and sincere.
“Some people indulge in quarrels, saying, ‘One cannot attain anything unless one Worships our Krishna’, or, ‘Nothing can be gained without the worship of Kali, our Divine Mother’, or, ‘One cannot be saved without accepting the Christian religion.’ This is pure dogmatism. The dogmatist says ‘My religion alone is true, and the religions of others are false.’ This is-a bad attitude. God can be reached by different paths.
“Further, some say that God has form and is not formless. Thus they start quarrelling. A Vaishnava quarrels with a Vedantist.
“One can rightly speak of God only after one has seen Him. He who has seen God knows really and truly that God has form and that He is formless as well. He has many other aspects that cannot be described.
“Once some blind men chanced to come near an animal that someone told them was an elephant. They were asked what the elephant was like. The blind men began to feel its body. One of them said the elephant was like a pillar; he had touched only its leg. Another said it was like a winnowing-fan; he had touched only its ear. In this way the others, having touched its tail or belly, gave their different versions of the elephant. Just so, a man who has seen only one aspect of God limits God to that alone. It is his conviction that God cannot be anything else.
(To the goswami) “How can you say that the only truth about God is that He has form? It is undoubtedly true that God comes down to earth in a human form, as in the case of Krishna. And it is true as well that God reveals Himself to His devotees in various forms. But it, is also true that God is formless; He is the Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. He has been described in the Vedas both as formless and as endowed with form. He is also described there both as attributeless and as endowed with attributes.
Do you know what I mean? Satchidananda is like an infinite ocean. Intense cold freezes the water into ice, which floats on the ocean in blocks or various forms. Likewise, through the cooling influence of bhakti, one sees forms of God in the Ocean of the Absolute. These forms are meant for the bhaktas, the lovers of God. But when the Sun of Knowledge rises, the ice melts; it becomes the same water it was before. Water above and water below, everywhere nothing but water. Therefore a prayer in the Bhagavata says: ‘O Lord, Thou hast form, and Thou art also formless. Thou walkest before us, O Lord, in the shape of a man; again, Thou hast been described in the Vedas as beyond words and thought.’
But you may say that for certain devotees God assumes eternal forms. There are places in the ocean where the ice doesn’t melt at all. It assumes the form of quartz.”
KEDAR: “It is said in the Bhagavata that Vyasa asked God’s forgiveness for his three transgressions. He said: ‘O Lord, Thou art formless, but I have thought of Thee in my meditation as endowed with form; Thou art beyond speech, but I have sung Thee hymns; Thou art the All-pervading Spirit, but I have made pilgrimages to sacred places. Be gracious, O Lord, and forgive these three transgressions of mine.'”
MASTER: “Yes, God has form and He is formless too. Further, He is beyond both form and formlessness. No one can limit Him.”
Rakhal’s father was sitting in the room. At that time Rakhal was staying with the Master. After his mother’s death his father had married a second time. Now and then he came to Dakshineswar because of Rakhal’s being there. He did not raise much objection to his son’s living with the Master. Being a wealthy man of the world, he was always involved in litigation. There were lawyers and deputy magistrates among Sri Ramakrishna’s visitors. Rakhal’s father found it profitable to cultivate their acquaintance, since he expected to be benefited by their counsels in worldly matters.
Now and then the Master cast a glance at Rakhal’s father. It was his cherished desire that Rakhal should live with him permanently at Dakshineswar.
MASTER (to Rakhal’s father and the devotees): “Ah, what a nice character Rakhal has developed! Look at his face and every now and then you will notice his lips moving. Inwardly he repeats the name of God, and so his lips move.
“Youngsters like him belong to the class of the ever-perfect. They are born with God-Consciousness. No sooner do they grow a little older than they realise the danger of coming in contact with the world. There is the parable of the homa bird in the Vedas. The bird lives high up in the sky and never descends to earth. It lays its egg in the sky, and the egg begins to fall. But the bird lives in such a high region that the egg hatches while falling. The fledgling comes out and continues to fall. But it is still so high that while falling it grows wings and its eyes open. Then the young bird perceives that it is dashing down toward the earth and will be instantly killed. The moment it sees the ground, it turns and shoots up toward its mother in the sky. Then its one goal is to reach its mother.
“Youngsters like Rakhal are like that bird. From their very childhood they are afraid of the world, and their one thought is how to reach the Mother, how to realise God.
“You may ask, ‘How is it possible for these boys, born of worldly parents and living among the worldly-minded, to develop such knowledge and devotion?’ It can be explained. If a pea falls into a heap of dung, it germinates into a pea-plant none the less. The peas that grow on that plant serve many useful purposes. Because it was sown in dung, will it produce another kind of plant?
“Ah, what a sweet nature Rakhal has nowadays! And why shouldn’t it be so? If the yam is a good one, its shoots also become good. (All laugh.) Like father like son.”
M. (aside to Girindra): “How well he has explained God with and without form! Do the Vaishnavas believe only in God with form?”
GIRINDRA: “Perhaps so. They are one-sided.”
M: “Did you understand what he meant by the ‘eternal form’ of God? That ‘quartz’? I couldn’t grasp it well.”
MASTER (to M.): “Well, what are you talking about?”
M. and Girindra smiled and remained silent.
Later in the afternoon the devotees were singing in the Panchavati, where the Master joined them. They sang together in praise of the Divine Mother:
High in the heaven of the Mother’s feet, my mind was soaring like a kite,
When came a blast of sin’s rough wind that drove it swiftly toward the earth.
Maya disturbed its even flight by bearing down upon one side,
And I could make it rise no more.
Entangled in the twisting string of love for children and for wife,
Alas! my kite was rent in twain.
It lost its crest of wisdom soon and downward plunged as I let it go;
How could it hope to fly again, when all its top was torn away?
Though fastened with devotion’s cord, it came to grief in playing here;
Its six opponents (The six passions.) worsted it.
Now Nareschandra rues this game of smiles and tears, and thinks it better
Never to have played at all.
The singing continued. Sri Ramakrishna danced with the devotees. They sang:
The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Syama’s feet,
The blue flower of the feet of Kali, Siva’s Consort;
Tasteless, to the bee, are the blossoms of desire.
My Mother’s feet are black, and black, too, is the bee;
Black is made one with black! This much of the mystery
My mortal eyes behold, then hastily retreat.
But Kamalakanta’s hopes are answered in the end;
He swims in the Sea of Bliss, unmoved by joy or pain.
The kirtan went on:
O Mother, what a machine (The human body.) is this that Thou hast made!
What pranks Thou playest with this toy
Three and a half cubits high!
Hiding Thyself within, Thou boldest the guiding string;
But the machine, not knowing it,
Still believes it moves by itself.
Whoever finds the Mother remains a machine no more;
Yet some machines have even bound
The Mother Herself with the string of Love.
It was a very happy day for all.
The Master, accompanied by M., was coming back to his room, when he met Trailokya, a Brahmo devotee, on the way. Trailokya bowed before the Master.
MASTER: “They are singing in the Panchavati. Won’t you go there?”
TRAILOKYA: “What shall I do there?”
MASTER: “Why, you will enjoy the music.”
TRAILOKYA: “I have been there already.”
MASTER: “Well, well! That’s good.”
It was about six o’clock in the evening. The Master was sitting with the devotees on the southeast verandah of his room.
MASTER: “A holy man who has renounced the world will of course chant the name of God. That is only natural. He has no other duties to perform. If he meditates on God it shouldn’t surprise anybody. On the other hand, if he fails to think of God or chant His holy name, then people will think ill of him.
“But it is a great deal to his credit if a householder utters the name of the Lord. Think of King Janaka. What courage he had, indeed! He fenced with two swords, the one of Knowledge and the other of work. He possessed the perfect Knowledge of Brahman and also was devoted to the duties of the world. An unchaste woman attends to the minutest duties of the world, but her mind always dwells on her paramour.
“The constant company of holy men is necessary. The holy man introduces one to God.”
KEDAR: “Yes, sir. The great soul is born in the world for the redemption of humanity. He leads others to God, just as a locomotive engine takes along with it a long train of carriages. Or again, he is like a river or lake that quenches the thirst of many people.”
The devotees were ready to return home. One by one they saluted the Master. At the sight of Bhavanath Sri Ramakrishna said: “Don’t go away today. The very sight of you inspires me.” Bhavanath had not yet entered into worldly life. A youth of twenty, he had a fair complexion and handsome features. He shed tears of joy on hearing the name of God. The Master looked on him as the embodiment of Narayana.
Thursday, March 29, 1883
The Master had taken a little rest after his noon meal, when a few devotees arrived from Calcutta, among them Amrita and the well-known singer of the Brahmo Samaj, Trailokya.
Rakhal was not feeling well. The Master was greatly worried about him and said to the devotees: “You see, Rakhal is not well. Will soda-water help him? What am I to do now? Rakhal, please take the prasad from the Jagannath temple.”
Even as he spoke these words the Master underwent a strange transformation. He looked at Rakhal with the infinite tenderness of a mother and affectionately uttered the name of Govinda.3 Did he see in Rakhal the manifestation of God Himself? The disciple was a young boy of pure heart who had renounced all attraction to lust and greed. And Sri Ramakrishna was intoxicated day and night with love of God. At the sight of Rakhal his eyes expressed the tender feelings of a mother, a love like that which had filled the heart of Mother Yasoda at the sight of the Baby Krishna. The devotees gazed at the Master in wonder as he went into deep samadhi. As his soul soared into the realm of Divine Consciousness, his body became motionless, his eyes were fixed on the tip of his nose, and his breathing almost ceased.
An unknown Bengali, dressed in the ochre cloth of a monk, entered the room and sat on the floor. The Master’s mind was coming down to the ordinary plane of consciousness. Presently he began to talk, though the spell of samadhi still lingered.
MASTER (at the sight of the ochre cloth): “Why this gerrua? Should one put on such a thing for a mere fancy? A man once said, ‘I have exchanged the Chandi for a drum.’ At first he used to sing the holy songs of the Chandi; now he beats the drum. (All laugh.)
“There are three or four varieties of renunciation. Afflicted with miseries at home, one may put on the ochre cloth of a monk; but that renunciation doesn’t last long. Again, a man out of work puts on an ochre wearing-cloth and goes off to Benares. After three months he writes home: ‘I have a job here. I shall come home in a few days. Don’t worry about me.’ Again, a man may have everything he wants. He lacks nothing, yet he. does not enjoy his possessions. He weeps for God alone. That is real renunciation.
“No lie of any sort is good. A false garb, even though a holy one, is not good. If the outer garb does not correspond to the inner thought, it gradually brings ruin. Littering false words or doing false deeds, one gradually loses all fear. Far better is the white cloth of a householder. Attachment to worldliness, occasional lapses from the ideal, and an outer garb of gerrua — how dreadful!
“It is not proper for a righteous person to tell a lie or do something false even in a dramatic performance. Once I went to Keshab’s house to see the performance of a play called Nava-Vrindavan. They brought something on the stage which they called the ‘Cross’. Another actor sprinkled water, which they said was the ‘Water of Peace’. I saw a third actor staggering and reeling in the role of a drunkard.”
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: “It was K—.”
MASTER: “It is not good for a devotee to play such parts. It is bad for the mind to dwell on such subjects for a long while. The mind is like white linen fresh from the laundry; it takes the colour in which you dip it. If it is associated with falsehood for a long time, it will be stained with falsehood.
“Another day I went to Keshab’s house to see the play called Nimai-Sannyas. (A play describing Sri Chaitanya’s embracing of the monastic life.) Some flattering disciples of Keshab spoiled the whole performance. One of them said to Keshab, ‘You are the Chaitanya of the Kaliyuga.’ Keshab pointed to me and asked with a smile, Then who is he?’ I replied: ‘Why, I am the servant of your servant. I am a speck of the dust of your feet.’ Keshab had a desire for name and fame.
(To Amrita and Trailokya) “Youngsters like Narendra and Rakhal are ever-perfect. Every time they are born they are devoted to God. An ordinary man acquires a little devotion after austerities and a hard struggle. But these boys have love of God from the very moment of their birth. They are like the natural image of Siva, which springs forth from the earth and is not set up by human hands.
“The ever-perfect form a class by themselves. Not all birds have crooked beaks. The ever-perfect are never attached to the world. There is the instance of Prahlada.
“Ordinary people practise spiritual discipline and cultivate devotion to God; but they also become attached to the world and are caught in the clamour of ‘woman and gold’. They are like flies, which sit on a flower or a sweetmeat and light on filth as well.
“But the ever-perfect are like bees, which light only on flowers and sip the honey. The ever-perfect drink only the Nectar of Divine Bliss. They are never inclined to worldly pleasures.
“The devotion of the ever-perfect is not like the ordinary devotion that one acquires as a result of strenuous spiritual discipline. Ritualistic devotion consists in repeating the name of God and performing worship in a prescribed manner. It is like crossing a rice-field in a roundabout way along the balk. Again, it is like reaching a near-by village by boat in a roundabout way along a winding river.
“One does not follow the injunctions of ceremonial worship when one develops raga-bhakti, when one loves God as one’s own. Then it is like crossing a rice-field after the harvest. You don’t have to walk along the balk. You can go straight across the field in any direction.
“When the country is flooded deep with water, one doesn’t have to follow the winding river. Then the fields are deep under water. You can row your boat straight to the village.
“Without this intense attachment, this passionate love, one cannot realise God.”
AMRITA: “Sir, how do you feel in samadhi?”
MASTER: “You may have heard that the cockroach, by intently meditating on the brahmara, is transformed into a brahmara. Do you know how I feel then? I feel like a fish released from a pot into the water of the Ganges.”
AMRITA: “Don’t you feel at that time even a trace of ego?”
MASTER: “Yes, generally a little of it remains. However hard you may rub a grain of gold against a grindstone, still a bit of it always remains. Or again, take the case of a big fire; the ego is like one of its sparks. In samadhi I lose outer consciousness completely; but God generally keeps a little trace of ego in me for the enjoyment of divine communion. Enjoyment is possible only when ‘I’ and ‘you’ remain.
“Again, sometimes God effaces even that trace of ‘I’. Then one experiences jada samadhi or nirvikalpa samadhi. That experience cannot be described. A salt doll went to measure the depth of the ocean, but before it had gone far into the water it melted away. It became entirely one with the water of the ocean. Then who was to come back and tell the ocean’s depth?”❮ Previous Next ❯
- ^Dying in the Ganges while retaining full consciousness is considered by the Hindus an act of great spiritual merit and the result of pious living.
- ^The song represents Sri Krishna’s words.
- ^A name of Krishna. According to the Master, Rakhal, in one of his previous incarnations, had been a cowherd of Vrindavan and an intimate companion of Sri Krishna.