Narendra’s music — True renunciation — Study of scriptures for the beginner — Trailanga Swami and Bhaskarananda — The seer of God transcends good and evil — Seeing God in everything — Characteristics of divine love — Indications of God-realisation — Efficacy of japa and prayer — Parable of the two friends — Zeal for the Lord destroys sin — Traits of bound souls — Two classes of perfect souls — The everperfect — Worldly people lack perseverance — Master consoles a bereaved father — Difficulty of overcoming vanity — Different manifestations of divine power — Free will and God’s will.
Saturday, April 7, 1883
SRI RAMAKRISHNA was visiting Balaram in Calcutta, with Narendra, Bhavanath, Rakhal, M., and others. Balaram, at the Master’s bidding, had invited some of the young devotees to lunch. Sri Ramakrishna often said to him, “Feed them now and then; that will confer on you the merit of feeding holy men.” The Master looked on his young disciples, yet untouched by “woman and gold”, as veritable embodiments of God.
A few days earlier Sri Ramakrishna had been to Keshab’s house with Narendra and Rakhal to see a performance of the play entitled Nava-Vrindavan. Narendra had taken part in the performance, in which Keshab had played the role of Pavhari Baba.
MASTER: “Keshab came on the stage in the role of a holy man and sprinkled the ‘Water of Peace’. But I didn’t like it. The idea of sprinkling such water on a theatrical stage after a performance!
“Another gentleman played the part of Sin. That is not good either. One should not commit sin; one should not even feign it.”
The Master wanted to hear Narendra sing. The young disciple was not feeling well, but at the Master’s earnest request he sang to the accompaniment of the tanpura:
Sing, O bird that nestles deep within my heart!
Sing, O bird that sits on the Kalpa-Tree of Brahman!
Sing God’s everlasting praise. . . .
Then he sang:
Brahman, Joy of the whole universe, Supreme Effulgence;
God beginningless. Lord of the world, the very Life of life! . . .
O King of Kings, reveal Thyself to me!
I crave Thy mercy. Cast on me Thy glance!
At Thy dear feet I dedicate my life,
Seared in the fiery furnace of this world.
My heart, alas, is deeply stained with sin;
Ensnared in maya, I am all but dead.
Compassionate Lord! Revive my fainting soul
With the life-giving nectar of Thy grace.
Upon the tray of the sky blaze bright
The lamps of sun and moon;
Like diamonds shine the glittering stars
To deck Thy wondrous form.
The sweet Malaya breeze blows soft,
For fragrant incense smoke;
The moving air sways to and fro
The fan before Thy holy face;
Like gleaming votive lights
The fresh and flowery groves appear.
How wonderful Thy worship is,
O Slayer of birth and death!
The sacred Om, from space arisen,
Is the resounding drum.
My mind craves nectar day and night
At Hari’s Lotus Feet;
Oh, shower the waters of Thy grace
On thirsty Nanak, blessed Lord;
And may Thy hallowed name
Become his everlasting home!
He sang again:
In Wisdom’s firmament the moon of Love is rising full,
And Love’s flood-tide, in surging waves, is flowing everywhere.
O Lord, how full of bliss Thou art! Victory unto Thee! . . .
Then at the Master’s bidding Bhavanath sang:
Where is a friend like Thee, O Essence of Mercy?
Where is another friend like Thee
To stand by me through pain and pleasure?
Who, among all my friends, forgives my failings,
Bringing me comfort for my grief,
Soothing my spirit in its terror?
Thou art the Helmsman who dost steer life’s craft
Across the world’s perilous sea;
Thy grace it is alone, O Lord,
That silences my raging passions’ storm.
Thou pourest out the waters of peace
Upon my burning, penitent soul;
And Thine is the bosom that will shelter me
When every other friend I own
Deserts me in my dying hour.
Narendra said to the Master with a smile, referring to Bhavanath, “He has given up fish and betel-leaf.” ( Hindu religious aspirants often renounce these, since they are considered luxuries detrimental to spiritual progress.)
MASTER: “Why so? What is the matter with fish and betel-leaf? They aren’t harmful. The renunciation of ‘woman and gold’ is the true renunciation.
“Where is Rakhal?”
A DEVOTEE: “He is asleep, sir.”
MASTER (with a smile): “Once a man went to a certain place to see a theatrical performance, carrying a mat under his arm. Hearing that it would be some time before the performance began, he spread the mat on the floor and fell asleep. When he woke up it was all over. (All laugh.) Then he returned home with the mat under his arm.”
Ramdayal was very ill and lay in bed in another room. The Master went there to inquire about him.
About four o’clock in the afternoon some members of the Brahmo Samaj arrived. The Master began to converse with them.
A BRAHMO: “Sir, have you read the Panchadasi?”
MASTER: “At first one should hear books like that and indulge in reasoning. But later on —
Cherish my precious Mother Syama
Tenderly within, O mind;
May you and I alone behold Her,
Letting no one else intrude.
“One should hear the scriptures during the early stages of spiritual discipline. After attaining God there is no lack of knowledge. Then the Divine Mother supplies it without fail.
“A child spells out every word as he writes, but later on he writes fluently.
“The goldsmith is up and doing while melting gold. As long as the gold hasn’t melted, he works the bellows with one hand, moves the fan with the other, and blows through a pipe with his mouth. But the moment the gold melts and is poured into the mould, he is relieved of all anxiety.
“Mere reading of the scriptures is not enough. A person cannot understand the true significance of the scriptures if he is attached to the world.
Though with intense delight I learnt many poems and dramas,
I have forgotten them all, entrapped in Krishna’s love.
“Keshab enjoys the world and practises yoga as well. Living in the world, he directs his mind to God.”
A devotee described the Convocation of Calcutta University, saying that the meeting looked like a forest of human heads.
MASTER: “The feeling of the Divine is awakened in me when I see a great crowd of people. Had I seen that meeting, I should have been over- whelmed with spiritual fervour.”
Sunday, April 8, 1883
It was Sunday morning. The Master, looking like a boy, was seated in his room, and near him was another boy, his beloved disciple Rakhal. M. entered and saluted the Master. Ramlal also was in the room, and Kishori, Manilal Mallick, and several other devotees gathered by and by.
Manilal Mallick, a business man, had recently been to Benares, where he owned a bungalow.
MASTER: “So you have been to Benares. Did you see any holy men there?”
MANILAL: “Yes, sir. I paid my respects to Trailanga Swami, Bhaskarananda, and others.”
MASTER: “Tell us something about them.”
MANILAL: “Trailanga Swami is living in the same temple where he lived before — on the Manikarnika Ghat, near the Benimadhav Minaret. People say he was formerly in a more exalted spiritual state. He could perform many miracles. Now he has lost much of that power.”
MASTER: “That is the criticism of worldly people.”
MANILAL: “Trailanga Swami keeps a strict vow of silence. Unlike him, Bhaskarananda is friendly with all.”
MASTER: “Did you have any conversation with Bhaskarananda?”
MANILAL: “Yes, sir. We had a long talk. Among other things we discussed the problem of good and evil. He said to me: ‘Don’t follow the path of evil. Give up sinful thoughts. That is how God wants us to act. Perform only those duties that are virtuous.'”
MASTER: “Yes, that is also a path, meant for worldly-minded people. But those whose spiritual consciousness has been awakened, who have realised that God alone is real and all else illusory, cherish a different ideal. They are aware that God alone is the Doer and others are His instruments.
“Those whose spiritual consciousness has been awakened never make a false step. They do not have to reason in order to shun evil. They are so full of love of God that whatever action they undertake is a good action. They are fully conscious that they are not the doers of their actions, but mere servants of God. They always feel: ‘I am the machine and He is the Operator. I do as He does through me. I speak as He speaks through me. I move as He moves me.’
“Fully awakened souls are beyond virtue and vice. They realise that it is God who does everything.
“There was a monastery in a certain place. The monks residing there went out daily to beg their food. One day a monk, while out for his alms, saw a landlord beating a man mercilessly. The compassionate monk stepped in and asked the landlord to stop. But the landlord was filled with anger and turned his wrath against the innocent monk. He beat the monk till he fell unconscious on the ground. Someone reported the matter to the monastery. The monks ran to the spot and found their brother lying there. Four or five of them carried him back and laid him on a bed. He was still unconscious. The other monks sat around him sad at heart; some were fanning him. Finally someone suggested that he should be given a little milk to drink. When it was poured into his mouth he regained consciousness. He opened his eyes and looked around. One of the monks said, ‘Let us see whether he is fully conscious and can recognize us.’ Shouting into his ear, he said, ‘Revered sir, who is giving you milk?’ ‘Brother,’ replied the holy man in a low voice, ‘He who beat me is now giving me milk.’
“But one does not attain such a state of mind without the realisation of God.”
MANILAL: “Sir, what you have just said applies to a man of a very lofty spiritual state. I talked on such topics in a general way with Bhaskarananda.”
MASTER: “Does he live in a house?”
MANILAL: “Yes, sir. He lives with a devotee.”
MASTER: “How old is he now?”
MANILAL: “About fifty-five.”
MASTER: “Did you talk about anything else?”
MANILAL: “I asked him how to cultivate bhakti. He said: ‘Chant the name of God. Repeat the name of Rama.'”
MASTER: “That is very good.”
The worship was over in the temples and the bells rang for the food offerings in the shrines. As it was a summer noon the sun was very hot. The flood-tide began in the Ganges and a breeze came up from the south. Sri Ramakrishna was resting in his room after his meal.
The people of Basirhat, Rakhal’s birth-place, had been suffering from a severe drought during the summer months.
MASTER (to Manilal): “Rakhal says that the people in his native village have been suffering seriously from a scarcity of water. Why don’t you build a reservoir there? That will do the people good. (Smiling) You have so much money; what will you do with all your wealth? But they say that telis (The oil-man caste to which Manilal belonged. It is a comparatively low caste in Hindu society in Bengal.) are very calculating.” (All laugh.)
Manilal was truly a calculating man, though he suffered no lack of money. In later years he set up an endowment of twenty-five thousand rupees for the maintenance of poor students.
Manilal made no answer to these words of the Master about his caste characteristics. Later on, in the course of the conversation, he remarked casually: “Sir, you referred to a reservoir. You might as well have confined yourself to that suggestion. Why allude to the ‘oil-man caste’ and all that?”
Some of the devotees smiled to themselves. The Master laughed.
Presently a few elderly members of the Brahmo Samaj arrived. The room was full of devotees. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on his bed, facing the north. He kept smiling, and talked to the Brahmo devotees in a joyous mood.
MASTER: “You talk glibly about prema. But is it such a commonplace thing? There are two characteristics of prema. First, it makes one forget the world. So intense is one’s love of God that one becomes unconscious of outer things. Chaitanya had this ecstatic love; he ‘took a wood for the sacred grove of Vrindavan and the ocean for the dark waters of the Jamuna’. Second, one has no feeling of ‘my-ness’ toward the body, which is so dear to man. One wholly gets rid of the feeling that the body is the soul.
“There are certain signs of God-realisation. The man in whom longing for God manifests its glories is not far from attaining Him. What are the glories of that longing? They are discrimination, dispassion, compassion for living beings, serving holy men, loving their company, chanting the name and glories of God, telling the truth, and the like. When you see those signs of longing in an aspirant, you can rightly say that for him the vision of God is not far to seek.
“The state of a servant’s house will tell you unmistakably whether his master has decided to visit it. First, the rubbish and jungle around the house are cleared up. Second, the soot and dirt are removed from the rooms. Third, the courtyard, floors, and other places are swept clean. Finally the master himself sends various things to the house, such as a carpet, a hubble-bubble for smoking, and the like. When you see these things arriving, you conclude that the master will very soon come.”
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, should one first practise discrimination to attain self-control?”
MASTER: “That is also a path. It is called the path of vichara, reasoning. But the inner organs (Mind (manas), intelligence (buddhi), mind-stuff (chitta), and ego (ahamkara).) are brought under control naturally through the path of devotion as well. It is rather easily accomplished that way. Sense pleasures appear more and more tasteless as love for God grows. Can carnal pleasure attract a grief-stricken man and woman the day their child has died?”
DEVOTEE: “How can I develop love for God?”
MASTER: “Repeat His name, and sins will disappear. Thus you will destroy lust, anger, the desire for creature comforts, and so on.”
DEVOTEE: “How can I take delight in God’s name?”
MASTER: “Pray to God with a yearning heart that you may take delight in His name. He will certainly fulfil your heart’s desire.”
So saying, the Master sang a song in his sweet voice, pleading with the Divine Mother to show Her grace to suffering men:
O Mother, I have no one else to blame:
Alas! I sink in the well these very hands have dug.
With the six passions tor my spade,
I dug a pit in the sacred land of earth;
And now the dark water of death gushes forth!
How can I save myself, O my Redeemer?
Surely I have been my own enemy;
How can I now ward off this dark water of death?
Behold, the waters rise to my chest!
How can I save myself? O Mother, save me!
Thou art my only Refuge; with Thy protecting glance
Take me across to the other shore of the world.
The Master sang again:
What a delirious fever is this that I suffer from!
O Mother, Thy grace is my only cure.
False pride is the fever that racks my wasted form;
“I” and “mine” are my cry. Oh, what a wicked delusion!
My quenchless thirst for wealth and friends is never-ceasing;
How, then, shall I sustain my life?
Talk about things unreal, this is my wretched delirium,
And I indulge in it always, O Giver of all good fortune!
My eyes in seeming sleep are closed, my stomach is filled
With the vile worms of cruelty.
Alas! I wander about absorbed in unmeaning deeds;
Even for Thy holy name I have no taste, O Mother!
I doubt that I shall ever be cured of this malady.
Then the Master said: “‘Even for Thy holy name I have no taste.’ A typhoid patient has very little chance of recovery if he loses all taste for food; but his life need not be despaired of if he enjoys food even a little. That is why one should cultivate a taste for God’s name. Any name will do — Durga, Krishna, or Siva. Then if, through the chanting of the name, one’s attachment to God grows day by day, and joy fills the soul, one has nothing to fear. The delirium will certainly disappear; the grace of God will certainly descend.
“‘As is a man’s feeling of love, so is his gain.’ Once two friends were going along the street, when they saw some people listening to a reading of the Bhagavata. ‘Come, friend’, said the one to the other. ‘Let us hear the sacred book.’ So saying he went in and sat down. The second man peeped in and went away. He entered a house of ill fame. But very soon he felt disgusted with the place. ‘Shame on me!’ he said to himself. ‘My friend has been listening to the sacred word of Hari; and see where I am!’ But the friend who had been listening to the Bhagavata also became disgusted. ‘What a fool I am!’ he said. ‘I have been listening to this fellow’s blah-blah, and my friend is having a grand time.’ In course of time they both died. The messenger of Death came for the soul of the one who had listened to the Bhagavata and dragged it off to hell. The messenger of God came for the soul of the one who had been to the house of prostitution and led it up to heaven.
Verily, the Lord looks into a man’s heart and does not judge him by what he does or where he lives. ‘Krishna accepts a devotee’s inner feeling of love.’
In the Kartabhaja sect, the teacher, while giving initiation, says to the disciple, ‘Now everything depends on your mind.’ According to this sect, ‘He who has the right mind finds the right way and also achieves the right end,’ It was through the power of his mind that Hanuman leapt over the sea. ‘I am the servant of Rama; I have repeated the holy name of Rama. Is there anything impossible for me?’ — that was Hanuman’s faith.
“Ignorance lasts as long as one has ego. There can be no liberation so long as the ego remains. ‘O God, Thou art the Doer and not I’ — that is knowledge.
“By being lowly one can rise high. The chatak bird makes its nest on low ground, but it soars very high in the sky. Cultivation is not possible on high land; in low land water accumulates and makes cultivation possible.
One must take the trouble to seek the company of holy persons. In his own home a man hears only worldly talk; the disease of worldliness has become chronic with him. The caged parrot sitting on its perch repeats, “Rama! Rama!’ But let it fly to the forest and it will squawk in its usual way.
“Mere possession of money doesn’t make a nobleman. One sign of the mansion of a nobleman is that all the rooms are lighted. The poor cannot afford much oil, and consequently cannot have so many lights. This shrine of the body should not be left dark; one should illumine it with the lamp of Wisdom.
Lighting the lamp of Knowledge in the chamber of your heart,
Behold the face of the Mother, Brahman’s Embodiment.
“Everyone can attain Knowledge. There are two entities: jivatma, the individual soul, and Paramatma, the Supreme Soul. Through prayer all individual souls can be united to the Supreme Soul. Every house has a connection for gas, and gas can be obtained from the main storage-tank of the Gas Company. Apply to the Company, and it will arrange for your supply of gas. Then your house will be lighted.
“In some people spiritual consciousness has already been awakened; but they have special marks. They do not enjoy hearing or talking about anything but God. They are like the chatak, which prays for rain-water though the seven oceans, the Ganges, the Jamuna, and the rivers near it are all filled with water. It won’t drink anything but rain-water, even though its throat is burning with thirst.”
The Master wanted to hear a few songs. Ramlal and a brahmin official of the temple garden sang:
Dwell, O Lord, O Lover of bhakti,
In the Vrindavan of my heart,
And my devotion unto Thee
Will be Thy Radha, dearly loved. . . .
The dark cloud of the summer storm fades into nothingness,
When, flute in hand and a smile on His lips,
Lighting the world with His loveliness,
Krishna, the Dark One, appears.
His dazzling yellow robe outgleams even the lightning’s glare;
A wreath of wild-flowers interwoven
Gently swings from His youthful breast
And softly kisses His feet.
See, there He stands, the Lord of life, the Moon of Nanda’s line,
Outshining all the moons in heaven
And with the splendour of His rays
Flooding the Jamuna’s bank!
He stands there, stealing the maidens’ hearts; He lures them from hearth and home.
Krishna enters my own heart’s shrine,
And with His flute-note steals away
My wisdom, life, and soul,
To whom shall Ganga Narayana pour out his tale of woe?
Ah, friend, you might have understood
Had you but gone to the Jamuna’s bank
To fill your water-jar!
Again they sang:
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. . . .
MASTER (to the devotees): “As the tiger devours other animals, so does the ‘tiger of zeal for the Lord’ eat up lust, anger, and the other passions. Once this zeal grows in the heart, lust and the other passions disappear. The gopis of Vrindavan had that state of mind because of their zeal for Krishna.
“Again, this zeal for God is compared to collyrium. Radha said to her friends, ‘I see Krishna everywhere.’ They replied, ‘Friend, you have painted your eyes with the collyrium of love; that is why you see Krishna everywhere.’
“They say that when your eyes are painted with collyrium made from the ashes of a frog’s head you see snakes everywhere.
“They are indeed bound souls who constantly dwell with ‘woman and gold’ and do not think of God even for a moment. How can you expect noble deeds of them? They are like mangoes pecked by a crow, which may not be offered to the Deity in the temple, and which even men hesitate to eat.
“Bound souls, worldly people, are like silk-worms. The worms can cut through their cocoons if they want, but having woven the cocoons themselves, they are too much attached to them to leave them. And so they die there.
“Free souls are not under the control of ‘woman and gold’. There are some silk-worms that cut through the cocoon they have made with such great care. But they are few and far between.
“It is maya that deludes. Only a few become spiritually awakened and are not deluded by the spell of maya. They do not come under the control of ‘woman and gold’.
“There are two classes of perfect souls: those who attain perfection through spiritual practice, and those who attain it through the grace of God. Some farmers irrigate their fields with great labour. Only then can they grow crops. But there are some who do not have to irrigate at all; their fields are flooded by rain. They don’t have to go to the trouble of drawing water. One must practise spiritual discipline laboriously, in order to avoid the clutches of maya. Those who attain liberation through the grace of God do not have to labour. But they are few indeed.
“Then there is the class of the ever-perfect. They are born in each life with their spiritual consciousness already awakened. Think of a spring whose outlet is obstructed. While looking after various things in the garden, the plumber accidentally clears it and the water gushes out. Yet people are amazed to see the first manifestations of an ever-perfect soul’s zeal for God. They say, ‘Where was all this devotion and renunciation and love?'”
The conversation turned to the spiritual zeal of devotees, as illustrated in the earnestness of the gopis of Vrindavan. Ramlal sang:
Thou art my All in All, O Lord! — the Life of my life, the Essence of essence;
In the three worlds I have none else but Thee to call my own.
Thou art my peace, my joy, my hope; Thou my support, my • wealth, my glory;
Thou my wisdom and my strength.
Thou art my home, my place of rest; my dearest friend, my next of kin;
My present and my future, Thou; my heaven and my salvation.
Thou art my scriptures, my commandments; Thou art my ever gracious Guru;
Thou the Spring of my boundless bliss.
Thou art the Way, and Thou the Goal; Thou the Adorable One, O Lord!
Thou art the Mother tender-hearted; Thou the chastising Father;
Thou the Creator and Protector; Thou the Helmsman who dost steer
My craft across the sea of life.
MASTER (to the devotees): “Ah! What a beautiful song! — ‘Thou art my All in All.'”
Ramlal sang again, this time describing the pangs of the gopis on being separated from their beloved Krishna:1
Hold not, hold not the chariot’s wheels!
Is it the wheels that make it move?
The Mover of its wheels is Krishna,
By whose will the worlds are moved. . . .
The Master went into deep samadhi. His body was motionless; he sat with folded hands as in his photograph. Tears of joy flowed from the corners of his eyes. After a long time his mind came down to the ordinary plane of consciousness. He mumbled something, of which only a word now and then could be heard by the devotees in the room. He was saying: “Thou art I, and I am Thou — Thou eatest — Thou — I eat! . . . What is this confusion Thou hast created?”
Continuing, the Master said: “I see everything like a man with jaundiced eyes! I see Thee alone everywhere. O Krishna, Friend of the lowly! O Eternal Consort of my soul! O Govinda!”
As he uttered the words “Eternal Consort of my soul” and “Govinda”, the Master again went into samadhi. There was complete silence in the room. The eager and unsatiated eyes of the devotees were fixed on the Master, a God-man of infinite moods.
Adhar Sen arrived with several of his friends. He was a deputy magistrate, about thirty years old. This was his second visit to the Master. He was accompanied by his friend Saradacharan, who was extremely unhappy because of the death of his eldest son. A retired deputy inspector of schools, Saradacharan devoted himself to meditation and prayer. Adhar had brought his friend to the Master for consolation in his afflicted state of mind.
Coming down from samadhi, the Master found the eyes of the devotees fixed on him. He muttered to himself, still in an abstracted mood.
Then, addressing the devotees, Sri Ramakrishna said: “The spiritual wisdom of worldly people is seen only on rare occasions. It is like the flame of a candle. No, it is rather like a single ray of the sun passing through a chink in a wall. Worldly people chant the name of God, but there is no zeal behind it. It is like children’s swearing by God, having learnt the word from the quarrels of their aunts.
“Worldly people have no grit. If they succeed in an undertaking, it is all right, but if they don’t succeed, it scarcely bothers them at all. When they need water they begin to dig a well. But as soon as they strike a stone they give up digging there and begin at another place. Perhaps they come to a bed of sand. Finding nothing but sand, they give that place up too. How can they succeed in getting water unless they continue to dig persistently where they started?
“Man reaps the harvest of his own past actions. Hence you read in the song:
O Mother, I have no one else to blame:
Alas! I sink in the well these very hands have dug.
“‘I’ and ‘mine’ — that is ignorance. By discriminating you will realise that what you call ‘I’ is really nothing but Atman. Reason it out. Are you the body or the flesh or something else? At the end you will know that you are none of these. You are free from attributes. Then you will realise that you have never been the doer of any action, that you have been free from virtue and faults alike, that you are beyond righteousness and unrighteousness.
“From ignorance a man says, ‘This is gold and this is brass.’ But a man of Knowledge says, ‘It is all gold.’
“Reasoning stops when one sees God. But there are instances of people who have realised God and who still continue to reason. Again, there are people who, even after having seen God, chant His name with devotion and sing His glories.
“How long does a child cry? So long as it is not sucking at its mother’s breast. As soon as it is nursed it stops crying. Then the child feels only joy. Joyously it drinks the milk from its mother’s breast. But it is also true that, while drinking, the child sometimes plays and laughs.
“It is God alone who has become everything. But in man He manifests Himself the most. God is directly present in the man who has the pure heart of a child and who laughs and cries and dances and sings in divine ecstasy.”
By this time Sri Ramakrishna had become better acquainted with Adhar, who related the cause of his friend’s grief. The Master sang, as if to himself:
To arms! To arms, O man! Death storms your house in battle array!
Bearing the quiver of knowledge, mount the chariot of devotion;
Bend the bow of your tongue with the bow-string of love.
And aim at him the shaft of Mother Kali’s holy name.
Here is a ruse for the fray: You need no chariot or charioteer;
Fight your toe from the Ganges’ bank, and he is easily slain.
Then he said: “What can you do? Be ready for Death. Death has entered the house. You must fight him with the weapon of God’s holy name; God alone is the Doer. I say: ‘O Lord, I do as Thou doest through me. I speak as Thou speakest through me. I am the machine and Thou art the Operator. I am the house and Thou art the Indweller. I am the engine and Thou art the Engineer.’ Give your power of attorney to God. One doesn’t come to grief through letting a good man assume one’s responsibilities. Let His will be done.
“But isn’t your grief for your son only natural? The son is one’s own self reborn. Lakshmana ran to Ravana when the latter fell dead on the battle-field. Looking at Ravana’s body, he found that every one of his bones was full of holes. Thereupon he said to Rama: ‘O Rama, glory be to Your arrows! There is no spot in Ravana’s body that they have not pierced.’ ‘Brother,’ replied Rama, ‘the holes you see in his bones are not from My arrows. Grief for his sons has pierced them through and through. These holes are the marks of his grief. It has penetrated his very bones.’
“But house, wife, and children are all transitory; they have only a momentary existence. The palm-tree alone is-real. One or two fruits have dropped off. Why lament?
“God is engaged in three kinds of activity: creation, preservation, and destruction. Death is inevitable. All will be destroyed at the time of dissolution. Nothing will remain. At that time the Divine Mother will gather up the seeds for the future creation, even as the elderly mistress of the house keeps in her hotchpotch-pot little bags of cucumber seeds, ‘sea-foam’, blue pills, and other miscellaneous things. The Divine Mother will take Her seeds out again at the time of the new creation.”
Sri Ramakrishna began to talk with Adhar on the verandah north of his room.
MASTER (to Adhar): “You are a deputy magistrate. Remember that you have obtained your position through the grace of God. Do not forget Him, but remember that all men must one day walk down the same path.2 We stay in the world only a couple of days.
“This world is our field of activity. We are born here to perform certain duties. People have their homes in the country but come to Calcutta to work, “It is necessary to do a certain amount of work. This is a kind of discipline. But one must finish it speedily. While melting gold, the goldsmith uses everything — the bellows, the fan, and the pipe — so that he may have the hot fire he needs to melt the metal. After the melting is over, he relaxes and asks his attendant to prepare a smoke for him. All this time his face has been hot and perspiring; but now he can smoke.
“One must have stern determination; then alone is spiritual practice possible. One must make a firm resolve.
“There is great power in the seed of God’s name. It destroys ignorance. A seed is tender, and the sprout soft; still it pierces the hard ground. The ground breaks and makes way for the sprout.
“The mind becomes very much distracted if one lives long in the midst of ‘woman and gold’. Therefore one must be very careful. But monks do not have much to fear. The real sannyasi lives away from ‘woman and gold’. Therefore through the practice of spiritual discipline he can always fix his mind on God.
“True sannyasis, those who are able to devote their minds constantly to God, are like bees, which light only on flowers and sip their honey. Those who live in the world, in the midst of ‘woman and gold’, may direct their attention to God; but sometimes their minds dwell also on ‘woman and gold’. They are like common flies, which light on a piece of candy, then on a sore or filth.
“Always keep your mind fixed on God. In the beginning you must struggle a little; later on you will enjoy your pension.”
Sunday, April 15, 1883
Surendra, a beloved lay disciple of the Master, had invited him to his house on the auspicious occasion of the Annapurna Puja. It was about six o’clock when Sri Ramakrishna arrived there with some of his devotees. The image of the Divine Mother had been installed in the worship hall. At Her feet lay hibiscus flowers and vilwa-leaves; from Her neck hung a garland of flowers. Sri Ramakrishna entered the hall and bowed down before the image. Then he went to the open courtyard, where he sat on a carpet, surrounded by his devotees and disciples. A few bolsters lay on the carpet, which was covered with a white linen sheet. He was asked to lean against one of these, but he pushed it aside.
MASTER (to the devotees): “To lean against a bolster!” (Rich and aristocratic persons seeking comfort generally sit in this fashion.) You see, it is very difficult to give up vanity. You may discriminate, saving that the ego is nothing at all; but still it comes, nobody knows from where. A goat’s legs jerk for a few moments even after its head has been cut off. Or perhaps you are frightened in a dream; you shake off sleep and are wide awake, but still you feel your heart palpitating. Egotism is exactly like that. You may drive it away, but still it appears from somewhere. Then you look sullen and say: ‘What! I have not been shown proper respect!'”
KEDAR: “‘One should be lowlier than a straw and patient as a tree.'”
MASTER: “As for me, I consider myself as a speck of the dust of the devotee’s feet.”
Vaidyanath arrived. He was a well-educated man, a lawyer of the High Court of Calcutta. With folded hands he saluted the Master and took his seat at one side.
SURENDRA (to the Master): “He is one of my relatives.”
MASTER: “Yes, I see he has a nice nature.”
SURENDRA: “He has come here because he wants to ask you a question or two.”
MASTER (to Vaidyanath): “All that you see is the manifestation of God’s Power. No one can do anything without this Power. But you must remember that there is not an equal manifestation of God’s Power in all things. Vidyasagar once asked me whether God endowed some with greater power than others. I said to him; ‘If there are no greater and lesser manifestations of His Power, then why have we taken the trouble to visit you? Have you grown two horns?’ So it stands to reason that God exists in all beings as the All-pervasive Power; but the manifestations of His Power are different in different beings.”
VAIDYANATH: “Sir, I have a doubt. People speak of free will. They say that a man can do either good or evil according to his will. Is it true? Are we really free to do whatever we like?”
MASTER: “Everything depends on the will of God. The world is His play. He has created all these different things — great and small, strong and weak, good and bad, virtuous and vicious. This is all His maya, His sport. You must have observed that all the trees in a garden are not of the same kind.
“As long as a man has not realised God, he thinks he is free. It is God Himself who keeps this error in man. Otherwise sin would have multiplied. Man would not have been afraid of sin, and there would have been no punishment for it.
“But do you know the attitude of one who has realised God? He feels: ‘I am the machine, and Thou, O Lord, art the Operator. I am the house and Thou art the Indweller. I am the chariot and Thou art the Driver. I move as Thou movest me; I speak as Thou makest me speak.’
(To Vaidyanath): “It is not good to argue. Isn’t that so?”
VAIDYANATH: “Yes, sir. The desire to argue disappears when a man attains wisdom.”
The Master, out of his stock of a dozen English words, said, “Thank you!” in the most charming way, and all laughed.
MASTER (to Vaidyanath): “You will make spiritual progress. People don’t trust a man when he. speaks about God. Even if a great soul affirms that he has seen God, still the average person will not accept his words. He says to himself, ‘If this man has really seen God, then let him show Him to me.’ But can a man learn to feel a person’s pulse in one day? He must go about with a physician for many days; only then can he distinguish the different pulses. He must be in the company of those with whom the examination of the pulse has become a regular profession.
“Can anyone and everyone pick out a yarn of a particular count? If you are in that trade, you can distinguish in a moment a forty-count thread from a forty-one.”
The kirtan was about to begin. Some Vaishnavas were seated on one side with their mridangas and cymbals. A drummer began to play on his instrument preparatory to the singing. The sweet and melodious sound of the mridanga filled the courtyard, calling to mind the ecstatic kirtan of Sri Gauranga. The Master passed into a deep spiritual state. Now and then he looked at the drummer and said, “Ah! Ah! My hair is all standing on end.”
The singers asked what kind of song they should sing. The Master said humbly, “Something about Gauranga, if you please.”
The kirtan began. They sang about the celestial beauty of Sri Gauranga:
The beauty of Gauranga’s face
Glows brighter than the brightest gold;
His smile illumines all the world.
Who cares for even a million moons
Shining in the blue autumn sky?
The chief musician added improvised lines as they sang: “O friend, his face shines like the full moon!” “But it does not wane nor has it any stain.” “It illumines the devotee’s heart.” Again he improvised: “His face is bathed with the essence of a million moons.”
At these words the Master went into deep samadhi. After a short while he regained consciousness of the sense world. Then he suddenly stood up, overpowered by his spiritual mood, and sang improvised lines with the professionals, thinking himself to be a milkmaid of Vrindavan gone mad with the beauty of Sri Krishna’s form: “Whose fault is it — my mind’s or His beauty’s?” “In the three worlds I see nothing but my beloved Krishna.”
The Master danced and sang. All remained spellbound as they watched. The chief musician sang the words of a gopi: “O flute, pray stop. Can you not go to sleep?” One of the musicians added a new line: “How can it sleep? It rests on Krishna’s lips.”
The Master sat down. The music went on. They sang, assuming the mood of Radha: “My eyes are blinded. My ears are deaf. I have lost the power of smell. All my senses are paralysed. But, alas, why am I left alone?”
Finally the musicians sang of the union of Radha and Krishna:
Radha and Krishna are joined at last in the Nidhu Grove of Vrindavan;
Incomparable their beauty, and limitless their love!
The one half shines like yellow gold, the other like bluest sapphire;
Round the neck, on one side, a wild-flower garland hangs,
And, on the other, there swings a necklace of precious gems.
A ring of gold adorns one ear, a ring of shell the other;
Half of the brow is bright as the blazing midday sun,
The other softly gleams with the glow of the rising moon.
Upon one half of the head a graceful peacock feather stands,
And, from the other half, there hangs a braid of hair.
As the music came to a close the Master said, “Bhagavata — Bhakta — Bhagavan”, and bowed low to the devotees seated on all sides. He touched with his forehead the ground made holy by the singing of the sacred music.
It was now about half past nine in the evening. Surendra entertained the Master and the devotees with a sumptuous feast. When it was time to take leave of their host, the Master, the devotees, and Surendra entered the worship hall and stood before the image.
SURENDRA (to the Master): “No one has sung anything about the Divine Mother today.”
MASTER (pointing to the image): “Ah! Look at the beauty of the hall. The light of the Divine Mother seems to have lighted the whole place. Such a sight fills the heart with joy. Grief and desire for pleasure disappear.
“But can one not see God as formless Reality? Of course one can. But not if one has the slightest trace of worldliness. The rishis of olden times renounced everything and then contemplated Satchidananda, the Indivisible Brahman.
“The Brahmajnanis of modern times (A reference to the members of the Brahmo Samaj.) sing of God as ‘immutable, homogeneous’. It sounds very dry to me. It seems as if the singers themselves don’t enjoy the sweetness of God’s Bliss, One doesn’t want a refreshing drink made with sugar candy if one is satisfied with mere coarse treacle.
“Just see how happy you are, looking at this image of the Deity. But those who always cry after the formless Reality do not get anything. They realise nothing either inside or outside.”
The Master sang a song to the Divine Mother:
O Mother, ever blissful as Thou art,
Do not deprive Thy worthless child of bliss!
My mind knows nothing but Thy Lotus Feet.
The King of Death scowls at me terribly;
Tell me, Mother, what shall I say to him?
It was my heart’s desire to sail my boat
Across the ocean of this mortal life,
O Durga, with Thy name upon my lips.
I never dreamt that Thou wouldst drown me here
In the dark waters of this shoreless sea.
Both day and night I swim among its waves,
Chanting Thy saving name; yet even so
There is no end, O Mother, to my grief.
It I am drowned this time, in such a plight,
No one will ever chant Thy name again.
Again he sang:
Repeat, O mind, my Mother Durga’s hallowed name.
Whoever treads the path, repeating “Durga! Durga!”,
Siva Himself protects with His almighty trident.
Thou art the day, O Mother! Thou art the dusk and the night.
Sometimes Thou are man, and sometimes woman art Thou.
Thou mayest even say to me: “Step aside! Go away!”
Yet I shall cling to Thee, O Durga! Unto Thy feet
As Thine anklets I shall cling, making their tinkling sound.
Mother, when as the Kite3 Thou soarest in the sky,
There, in the water beneath, as a minnow I shall be swimming;
Upon me Thou wilt pounce, and pierce me through with Thy claws.
Thus, when the breath of life forsakes me in Thy grip,
Do not deny me the shelter of Thy Lotus Feet!
The Master saluted the divine image. As he came down the steps, he called softly to Rakhal: “Where are my shoes? Are they missing?”
As the Master got into the carriage, Surendra and the other devotees bowed down before him. Then the carriage started for Dakshineswar. The moon still lighted the streets.
- ^When Krishna mounted His chariot to go away to Mathura, the gopis clung to the wheels and would not let the chariot move.
- ^Adhar Sen passed away eighteen months after this conversation. At the news of his death the Master wept before the Mother a long time. Adhar was a great devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, who referred to him as his own relative.
- ^According to Hindu mythology the Divine Mother at one time took the form of a bird similar to the kite.