(Translated from Bengali )
[Place: Belur Math. Year: 1901.]
Swamiji is much better under the Ayurvedic treatment. The disciple is at the Math. While attending on Swamiji, he asked, “The Atman is all-pervading, the very life of the life of all beings, and so very near. Still why is It not perceived?”
Swamiji: Do you see yourself that you have eyes? When others speak of the eyes, then you are reminded that you have got eyes. Again when dust or sand enters into them and sets up an irritation, then you feel quite well that you have got eyes. Similarly the realisation of this universal Atman which is inner than the innermost is not easily attained. Reading from scriptures or hearing from the lips of the preceptor, one has some idea of It, but when the hard lashes of the bitter sorrow and pain of the world make the heart sore, when on the death of one’s near and dear relatives, man thinks himself helpless, when the impenetrable and insurmountable darkness about the future life agitates his mind, then does the Jiva pant for a realisation of the Atman. Therefore is sorrow helpful to the knowledge of the Atman. But one should remember the bitter lesson of experience. Those who die, merely suffering the woes of life like cats and dogs, are they men? He is a man who even when agitated by the sharp interaction of pleasure and pain is discriminating, and knowing them to be of an evanescent nature, becomes passionately devoted to the Atman. This is all the difference between men and animals. That which is nearest is least observed. The Atman is the nearest of the near, therefore the careless and unsteady mind of man gets no clue to It. But the man who is alert, calm, self-restrained, and discriminating, ignores the external world and diving more and more into the inner world, realises the glory of the Atman and becomes great. Then only he attains to the knowledge of the Atman and realises the truth of such scriptural texts as, “I am the Atman”, “Thou art That, O Shvetaketu,” and so on. Do you understand?
Disciple: Yes, sir. But why this method of attaining Self-knowledge through the path of pain and suffering? Instead of all this, it would have been well if there had been no creation at all. We were all at one time identified with Brahman. Why then this desire for creation on the path of Brahman? Why again this going forth of the Jiva (who is no other than Brahman) along the path of birth and death, amidst the interaction of the dualities of life?
Swamiji: When a man is intoxicated, he sees many hallucinations; but when the intoxication goes off, he understands them as the imaginations of a heated brain. Whatever you see of this creation which is without a beginning, but has an end, is only an effect of your state of intoxication; when that passes off, such questions will not arise at all.
Disciple: Then is there no reality in the creation, and preservation, etc. of the Universe?
Swamiji: Why should not there be? So long as you identify yourself with the body and have the ego-consciousness, all these will remain. But when you are bereft of the body-consciousness and devoted to the Atman and live in the Atman, then with respect to you none of these will remain, and such questions as whether there is any creation or birth or death will have no room. Then you will have to say —
क्व गतं केन वा नीतं कुत्र लीनमिदं जगत्।
अधुनैव मया दृष्टं नास्ति किं महदद्भुतम्॥
— “Where is it gone, by whom is it taken, wherein is the world merged? It was just observed by me and is it non-existent now? What a wonder!” (Vivekachudâmani 483).
Disciple: If there is no knowledge of the existence of the universe, how can it be said, “Wherein is the world merged?”
Swamiji: Because one has to express the idea in language, therefore that mode of expression has been used. The author has tried to express in thought and language about the state where thought or language cannot reach, and therefore he has stated the fact that the world is wholly unreal, in a relative mode like the above. The world has no absolute reality which only belongs to Brahman, which is beyond the reach of mind and speech. Say what more you have to ask. Today I will put an end to all your arguments.
The bell of the evening service in the worship-room rang at the time, and everybody made for it. But the disciple stayed in Swamiji’s room, noticing which Swamiji said, “Won’t you go to the worship-room?”
Disciple: I should like to stay here.
Swamiji: All right.
After some time the disciple looking outside of the room said, “It is the new-moon night and all the quarters are overspread with darkness. It is the night for the worship of Mother Kali.”
Swamiji without saying anything gazed at the eastern sky for some time and said, “Do you see what a mysterious and solemn beauty there is in this darkness!” Saying this and continuing to look at the dense mass of darkness, he stood enwrapt. After some minutes had passed, Swamiji slowly began to sing a Bengali song, “O Mother, in deep darkness flashes Thy formless beauty”, etc. After the song Swamiji entered his room and sat down with an occasional word like “Mother, Mother”, or “Kali, Kali”, on his lips.
Uneasy at Swamiji’s profoundly abstracted mood, the disciple said, “Now, sir, please speak with me.”
Swamiji smilingly said, “Can you fathom the beauty and profundity of the Atman whose external manifestation is so sweet and beautiful?” The disciple wished for a change of topic, noticing which, Swamiji began another song of Kali: “O Mother, Thou flowing stream of nectar, in how many forms and aspects dost Thou play in manifestation!” After the song he said, “This Kali is Brahman in manifestation. Haven’t you heard Shri Ramakrishna’s illustration of the ‘snake moving and the snake at rest’ (representing the dynamic and static aspects of the same thing)?”
Disciple: Yes, sir.
Swamiji: This time, when I get well, I shall worship the Mother with my heart’s blood, then only will She be pleased. Your Raghunandan also says like that. The Mother’s child shall be a hero, a Mahâvira. In unhappiness, sorrow, death, and desolation, the Mother’s child shall always remain fearless.