Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna 
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 realized 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 realize 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 realization 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-realization. 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:
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 realize 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 realize 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 realized 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. 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, saying 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 realized 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 realized 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 realize 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 Kite 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.
THE MASTER WITH THE BRAHMO DEVOTEES (II)
Master's visit to Brahmo festival - Love and prayer - How to lead a householder's life - Why there is evil in the world - The need of a guru - Personal God and formless Deity - God's true nature cannot be described - The three gunas - Parable of the three robbers - Why temples are holy - How to spiritualize the passions - Responsibility for sins - Brahmo worship - Religious quarrels condemned - Single-minded devotion - Spiritual inspiration comes from God - Ramchandra Dutta - Story of Harischandra - Story of Uddhava - Characteristics of divine love - Parable of the three friends.
April 22, 1883
SRI RAMAKRISHNA paid a visit to Benimadhav Pal's garden house at Sinthi, near Calcutta, on the occasion of the semi-annual festival of the Brahmo Samaj. Many devotees of the Samaj were present and sat around the Master. Now and then some of them asked him questions.
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: "Sir, what is the way?"
MASTER; "Attachment to God, or, in other words, love for Him. And secondly, prayer."
BRAHMO DEVOTEE: "Which one is the way - love or prayer?"
MASTER: "First love, and then prayer."
The Master sang:
Cry to your Mother Syama with a real cry, O mind! And how can She hold Herself from you? How can Syama stay away? . . .
Continuing, the Master said: "And one must always chant the name and glories of God and pray to Him. An old metal pot must be scrubbed every day. What is the use of cleaning it only once? Further, one must practise discrimination and renunciation; one must be conscious of the unreality of the world."
BRAHMO: "Is it good to renounce the world?"
MASTER: "Not for all. Those who have not yet come to the end of their enjoyments should not renounce the world. Can one get drunk on two annas' worth of wine?"
BRAHMO: "Then should they lead a worldly life?"
MASTER: "Yes, they should try to perform their duties in a detached way. Before you break the jack-fruit open, rub your hands with oil, so that the sticky milk will not smear them. The maidservant in a rich man's house performs all her duties, but her mind dwells on her home in the country. This is an example of doing duty in a detached way. You should renounce the world only in mind. But a sannyasi should renounce the world both inwardly and outwardly."
BRAHMO: "What is the meaning of the 'end of enjoyments'?"
MASTER: "I mean the enjoyment of 'woman and gold'. It is risky to put a typhoid patient in a room where pitchers of water and jugs of pickled tamarind are kept. Most people don't feel any longing for God unless they have once passed through the experience of wealth, name, fame, creature comforts, and the like, that is to say, unless they have seen through these enjoyments."
BRAHMO: "Who is really bad, man or woman?"
MASTER: "As there are women endowed with vidyasakti, so also there are women with avidyasakti. A woman endowed with spiritual attributes leads a man to God, but a woman who is the embodiment of delusion makes him forget God and drowns him in the ocean of worldliness.
"This universe is created by the Mahamaya (The inscrutable Power of Illusion.) of God. Mahamaya contains both vidyamaya, the illusion of knowledge, and avidyamaya, the illusion of ignorance. Through the help of vidyamaya one cultivates such virtues as the caste for holy company, knowledge, devotion, love, and renunciation. Avidyamaya consists of the five elements and the objects of the five senses - form, Havour, smell, touch, and sound. These make one forget God."
BRAHMO: "If the power of avidya is the cause of ignorance, then why has God created it?"
MASTER: "That is His play. The glory ot light cannot be appreciated without darkness. Happiness cannot be understood without misery. Knowledge of good is possible because of knowledge of evil.
"Further, the mango grows and ripens on account of the covering skin, You throw away the skin when the mango is fully ripe and ready to be eaten. It is possible for a man to attain gradually to the Knowledge of Brahman because of the covering skin of maya. Maya in its aspects of vidya and avidya may be likened to the skin of the mango. Both are necessary."
BRAHMO: "Sir, is it good to worship God with form, an image of the Deity made of clay?"
MASTER: "You do not accept God with form. That is all right. The image is not meant for you. For you it is good to deepen your feeling toward your own Ideal. From the worshippers of the Personal God you should learn their yearning - for instance, Sri Krishna's attraction for Radha. You should learn from the worshippers of the Personal God their love for their Chosen Ideal. When the believers in the Personal God worship the images of Kali and Durga, with what feeling they cry from the depths of their souls, 'Mother! O Mother!' How much they love the Deity! You should accept that feeling. You don't have to accept the image."
BRAHMO: "How does one cultivate the spirit of dispassion? Why don't all attain it?"
MASTER: "Dispassion is not possible unless there is satiety through enjoyment. You can easily cajole a small child with candies or toys. But after eating the candies and finishing its play, it cries, "I want to go to my mother.' Unless you take the child to its mother, it will throw away the toy and scream at the top of its voice."
The members of the Brahmo Samaj are opposed to the traditional guru system of orthodox Hinduism. Therefore the Brahmo devotee asked the Master about it.
BRAHMO: "Is spiritual knowledge impossible without a guru?"
MASTER: "Satchidananda alone is the Guru. If a man in the form of a guru awakens spiritual consciousness in you, then know for certain that it is God the Absolute who has assumed that human form for your sake. The guru is like a companion who leads you by the hand. After the realization of God, one loses the distinction between the guru and the disciple. 'That creates a very difficult situation; there the guru and the disciple do not see each other.' It was for this reason that Janaka said to Sukadeva, 'Give me first my teacher's fee if you want me to initiate you into the Knowledge of Brahman.' For the distinction between the teacher and the disciple ceases to exist after the disciple attains to Brahman. The relationship between them remains as long as the disciple does not see God."
It was dusk. Some of the Brahmo devotees said to the Master, "Perhaps it is time for your evening devotions."
MASTER: "No, it isn't exactly that. One should pass through these disciplines in the beginning. Later one doesn't need the rituals of formal worship or to follow the injunctions."
After dusk the preacher of the Brahmo Samaj conducted the service from the pulpit. The service was interspersed with recitations from the Upanishads and the singing of Brahmo songs.
After the service the Master and the preacher conversed.
MASTER: "Well, it seems to me that both the formless Deity and God with form are real. What do you say?"
PREACHER: "Sir, I compare the formless God to the electric current, which is not seen with the eyes but can be felt."
MASTER: "Yes, both are true. God with form is as real as God without form. Do you know what describing God as being formless only is like? It is like a man's playing only a monotone on his flute, though it has seven holes. But on the same instrument another man plays different melodies. Likewise, in how many ways the believers in a Personal God enjoy Him! They enjoy Him through many different attitudes: the serene attitude, the attitude of a servant, a friend, a mother, a husband, or a lover.
"You see, the thing is somehow or other to get into the Lake of the Nectar of Immortality. Suppose one person gets into It by propitiating the Deity with hymns and worship, and you are pushed into It. The result will be the same. Both of you will certainly become immortal.
"I give the Brahmos the illustration of water and ice. Satchidananda is like an endless expanse of water. The water of the great ocean in cold regions freezes into blocks of ice. Similarly, through the cooling influence of divine love, Satchidananda assumes forms for the sake of the bhaktas. The rishis had the vision of the supersensuous Spirit-form and talked with It. But devotees acquire a 'love body', and with its help they see the Spirit-form of the Absolute.
"It is also said in the Vedas that Brahman is beyond mind and words. The heat of the sun of Knowledge melts the ice-like form of the Personal God. On attaining the Knowledge of Brahman and communing with It in nirvikalpa samadhi, one realizes Brahman, the Infinite, without form or shape and beyond mind and words.
"The nature of Brahman cannot be described. About It one remains silent. Who can explain the Infinite in words? However high a bird may soar, there are regions higher still. What do you say?"
PREACHER: "Yes, sir, it is so stated in the Vedanta philosophy."
MASTER: "Once a salt doll went to the ocean to measure its depth. But it could not come back to give a report. According to one school of thought, sages like Sukadeva saw and touched the Ocean of Brahman, but did not plunge into It.
"Once I said to Vidyasagar, 'Everything else but Brahman has been polluted, as it were, like food touched by the tongue.' In other words, no one has been able to describe what Brahman is. A thing once uttered by the tongue becomes polluted. Vidyasagar, great pundit though he was, was highly pleased with my remarks.
"It is said that there are places near Kedar (A high peak in the Himalayas, which is a place of pilgrimage for the Hindus.) that are covered with eternal snow; he who climbs too high cannot come back. Those who have tried to find out what there is in the higher regions, or what one feels there, have not come back to tell us about it.
"After having the vision of God man is overpowered with bliss. He becomes silent. Who will speak? Who will explain?
"The king lives beyond seven gates. At each gate sits a man endowed with great power and glory. At each gate the visitor asks, 'Is this the king?' The gate-keeper answers, 'No. Not this, not this.' The visitor passes through the seventh gate and becomes overpowered with joy. He is speechless. This time he doesn't have to ask, 'Is this the king?' The mere sight of him removes all doubts."
PREACHER: "Yes, sir, it is so described in Vedanta."
MASTER: "When the Godhead is thought of as creating, preserving, and destroying. It is known as the Personal God, Saguna Brahman, or the Primal Energy, Adyasakti. Again, when It is thought of as beyond the three gunas, then It is called the Attributeless Reality, Nirguna Brahman, beyond speech and thought; this is the Supreme Brahman, Parabrahman.
"Under the spell of God's maya man forgets his true nature. He forgets that he is heir to the infinite glories of his Father. This divine maya is made up of three gunas. And all three are robbers; for they rob man of all his treasures and make him forget his true nature. The three gunas are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Of these, sattva alone points the way to God. But even sattva cannot take a man to God.
"Let me tell you a story. Once, a rich man was passing through a forest, when three robbers surrounded him and robbed him of all his wealth. After snatching all his possessions from him, one of the robbers said: 'What's the good of keeping the man alive? Kill him.' Saying this, he was about to strike their victim with his sword, when the second robber interrupted and said: 'There's no use in killing him. Let us bind him fast and leave him here. Then he won't be able to tell the police.' Accordingly the robbers tied him with a rope, left him, and went away.
"After a while the third robber returned to the rich man and said: 'Ah! You're badly hurt, aren't you? Come, I'm going to release you.' The third robber set the man free and led him out of the forest. When they came near the highway, the robber said, 'Follow this road and you will reach home easily.' 'But you must come with me too', said the man. 'You have done so much for me. We shall all be happy to see you at our home.' 'No,' said the robber, 'it is not possible for me to go there. The police will arrest me.' So saying, he left the rich man after pointing out his way.
"Now, the first robber, who said: 'What's the good of keeping the man alive? Kill him', is tamas. It destroys. The second robber is rajas, which binds a man to the world and entangles him in a variety of activities. Rajas makes him forget God. Sattva alone shows the way to God. It produces virtues like compassion, righteousness, and devotion. Again, sattva is like the last step of the stairs. Next to it is the roof. The Supreme Brahman is man's own abode. One cannot attain the Knowledge of Brahman unless one transcends the three gunas."
PREACHER: "You have given us a fine talk, sir."
MASTER (with a smile): "Do you know the nature of devotees? When one devotee meets another, he says, 'Let me speak and you listen; and when you speak I shall listen.' You are a preacher and teach so many people! You are a steamship, and I am a mere fishing-boat." (All laugh.)
Wednesday, May 2, 1883
About five o'clock in the afternoon Sri Ramakrishna arrived at the temple of the Brahmo Samaj in Nandanbagan, accompanied by M., Rakhal, and a few other devotees. At first the Master sat in the drawing-room on the ground floor, where the Brahmo devotees gradually assembled. Rabindranath Tagore and a few other members of the Tagore family were present on this occasion.
Sri Ramakrishna was asked to go to the worship hall on the second floor. A dais had been built on the eastern side of the room. There were a few chairs and a piano in the hall. The Brahmo worship was to begin at dusk.
As soon as the Master entered the worship hall he bowed low before the dais. Having taken his seat, he said to M. and the other devotees, "Narendra once asked me, 'What good is there in bowing before the Brahmo Samaj temple?' The sight of the temple recalls to my mind God alone; then God-Consciousness is kindled in my mind. God is present where people talk about Him. One feels there the presence of all the holy places. Places of worship recall God alone to my mind.
"Once, a devotee was overwhelmed with ecstasy at the sight of a babla-tree. The idea flashed in his mind that the handle of the axe used in the garden of the temple of Radhakanta was made from the wood of the babla. Another devotee had such devotion for his guru that he would be overwhelmed with divine feeling at the sight of his guru's neighbours. Krishna-consciousness would be kindled in Radha's mind at the sight of a cloud, a blue dress, (Krishna had a dark-blue complexion.) or a painting of Krishna. She would become restless and cry like a mad person, 'Krishna, where art Thou?'"
GHOSAL: "But madness is not desirable."
MASTER: "What do you mean? Was Radha's madness the madness that comes from brooding over worldly objects and makes one unconscious? One attains that madness by meditating on God. Haven't you heard of love-madness and knowledge madness?"
A BRAHMO DEVOTEE: "How can one realize God?"
MASTER: "By directing your love to Him and constantly reasoning that God alone is real and the world illusory. The aswattha tree alone is permanent; its fruit is transitory."
BRAHMO: "We have passions like anger and lust. What shall we do with these?"
MASTER: "Direct the six passions to God. The impulse of lust should be turned into the desire to have intercourse with Atman. Feel angry at those who stand in your way to God. Feel greedy for Him. If you must have the feeling of I and mine, then associate it with God. Say, for instance, 'My Rama, my Krishna.' If you must have pride, then feel like Bibhishana, who said, 'I have touched the feet of Rama with my head; I will not bow this head before anyone else.'"
BRAHMO: "If it is God that makes me do everything, then I am not responsible for my sins."
MASTER (with a smile): "Yes, Duryodhana also said that 'O Krishna, I do what Thou, seated in my heart, makest me do.' If a man has the firm conviction that God alone is the Doer and he is His instrument, then he cannot do anything sinful. He who has learnt to dance correctly never makes a false step. One cannot even believe in the existence of God until one's heart becomes pure."
Sri Ramakrishna looked at the devotees assembled in the worship hall and said: "It is very good to gather in this way, now and then, and think of God and sing His name and glories. But the worldly man's yearning for God is momentary. It lasts as long as a drop of water on a red-hot frying-pan."
The worship was about to begin, and the big hall was filled with Brahmo devotees. Some of the Brahmo ladies sat on chairs, with music books in their hands. The songs of the Brahmo Samaj were sung to the accompaniment of harmonium and piano. Sri Ramakrishna's joy was unbounded. The invocation was followed by a prayer, and then the worship began. The acharyas, seated on the platform, recited from the Vedas:
Om. Thou art our Father. Give us right knowledge; do not destroy us! We bow to Thee.
The Brahmo devotees chanted in chorus with the acharyas:
Om. Brahman is Truth, Knowledge, Infinity. It shines as Bliss and Immortality. Brahman is Peace, Blessedness, and the One without a Second; It is pure and unstained by sin.
The acharyas chanted in praise of God:
Om. O Reality, Cause of the Universe, we bow to Thee!
Then the acharyas chanted their prayer together:
From the unreal lead us to the Real; from darkness lead us to Light; from death lead us to Immortality. Reach us through and through, O Rudra, and protect us evermore with Thy Compassionate Face.
As Sri Ramakrishna heard these hymns, he went into a spiritual mood.
After this an acharya read a paper.
The worship was over. Most of the devotees went downstairs or to the courtyard for fresh air while the refreshments were being made ready. It was about nine o'clock in the evening. The hosts were so engrossed with the other invited guests that they forgot to pay any attention to Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER (to Rakhal and the other devotees): "What's the matter? Nobody is paying any attention to us!"
RAKHAL (angrily): "Sir, let us leave here and go to Dakshineswar."
MASTER (with a smile): "Keep quiet! The carriage hire is three rupees and two annas. Who will pay that? Stubbornness won't get us anywhere. You haven't a penny, and you are making these empty threats! Besides, where shall we find food at this late hour of the night?"
After a long time, dinner was announced. The devotees were asked to take their seats. The Master, with Rakhal and the others, followed the crowd to the second floor. No room could be found for him inside the hall. Finally, with great difficulty, a place was found tor him in a dusty corner. A brahmin woman served some curry, but Sri Ramakrishna could not eat it. He ate luchi with salt and took some sweets.
There was no limit to the Master's kindness. The hosts were mere youngsters; how could he be displeased with them, even though they did not show him proper respect? Further, it would have been inauspicious for the household if a holy man had left the place without taking food. Finally, the feast had been prepared in the name of God.
Sri Ramakrishna got into a carriage: but who was to pay the hire? The hosts could not be found. Referring to this incident afterwards, the Master said to the devotees, jokingly: "The boys went to our hosts for the carriage hire. First they were put out, but at last they managed to get together three rupees. Our hosts refused to pay the extra two annas and said, 'No, that will do.'"
Sunday, May 13, 1883
The Master paid a visit to the Hari-Bhakti-Pradavini Sabha of Kansharipara, in Calcutta, on the anniversary day of that religious society.
Kirtan and other forms of devotional music had been arranged for the occasion. The songs centred round the Vrindavan episode of Sri Krishna's life. The theme was Radha's pique because of Sri Krishna's having visited Chandravali, another of the gopis of Vrindavan. Radha's friends tried to console her and said to her: "Why are you piqued? It seems you are not thinking of Krishna's happiness, but only of your own." Radha said to them: "I am not angry at His going to Chandravali's grove. But why should He go there? She doesn't know how to take care of Him."
May 20, 1883
The following Sunday a kirtan was arranged at the house of Ram, one of the Master's householder devotees. Sri Ramakrishna graced the occasion with his presence. The musicians sang about Radha's pangs at her separation from Krishna:
Radha said to her friends: "I have loved to see Krishna from my childhood. My finger-nails are worn off from counting the days on them till I shall see Him. Once He gave me a garland. Look, it has withered, but I have not yet thrown it away. Alas! Where has the Moon of Krishna risen now? Has that Moon gone away from my firmament, afraid of the Rahu of my pique? Alas! Shall I ever see Krishna again? O my beloved Krishna, I have never been able to look at You to my heart's complete satisfaction. I have only one pair of eyes; they blink and so hinder my vision. And further, on account of streams of tears I could not see enough of my Beloved. The peacock feather on the crown of His head shines like arrested lightning. The peacocks, seeing Krishna's dark-cloud complexion, would dance in joy, spreading their tails. O friends, I shall not be able to keep my life-breath. After my death, place my body on a branch of the dark tamala tree and inscribe on my body Krishna's sweet name."
The Master said: "God and His name are identical; that is the reason Radha said that. There is no difference between Rama and His holy name."
May 27, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna was in his room at Dakshineswar, conversing with the devotees. It was about nine o'clock in the morning.
MASTER (to M. and the other devotees): "It is not good to harbour malice. The Saktas, the Vaishnavas, and the Vedantists quarrel among themselves. That is not wise. Padmalochan was court pundit of the Maharaja of Burdwan. Once at a meeting the pundits were discussing whether Siva was superior to Brahma, or Brahma to Siva. Padmalochan gave an appropriate reply. 'I don't know anything about it', said he. 'I haven't talked either to Siva or to Brahma.'
"If people feel sincere longing, they will find that all paths lead to God. But one should have nishtha, single-minded devotion. It is also described as chaste and unswerving devotion to God. It is like a tree with only one trunk shooting straight up. Promiscuous devotion is like a tree with five branches. Such was the single-minded devotion of the gopis to Krishna that they didn't care to look at anyone but the Krishna they had seen at Vrindavan - the Shepherd Krishna, bedecked with a garland of yellow wild-flowers and wering a peacock feather on His crest. At the sight of Krishna at Mathura with a turban on His head and dressed in royal robes, the gopis pulled down their veils. They would not look at His face. 'Who is this man?' they said. 'Should we violate our chaste love for Krishna by talking to him?'
"The devotion of the wife to her husband is also an instance of unswerving love. She feeds her brothers-in-law as well, and looks after their comforts, but she has a special relationship with her husband. Likewise, one may have that single-minded devotion to one's own religion; but one should not on that account hate other faiths. On the contrary, one should have a friendly attitude toward them."
The Master bathed in the Ganges and then went to the Kali temple with M. He sat before the image and offered flowers at the feet of the Divine Mother. Now and then he put flowers on his own head and meditated.
After a long time he stood up. He was in a spiritual mood and danced before the image, chanting the name of Kali. Now and again he said: "O Mother! O Destroyer of suffering! O Remover of grief and agony!" Was he teaching people thus to pray to the Mother of the Universe with a yearning heart, in order to get rid of the suffering inevitable in physical life?
Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room and sat on the west porch. Rakhal, M., Nakur Vaishnav, and other devotees were with him. Nakur had been known to the Master for about twenty-five years. He was a devotee of Gauranga and had a small shop which Sri Ramakrishna had often visited when he first came to Calcutta from Kamarpukur.
Still overpowered with drvine ecstasy, the Master sang:
O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss! Enchantress of the almighty Siva!
In Thy delirious joy Thou dancest, clapping Thy hands together!
Eternal One! Thou great First Cause, clothed in the form of the Void!
Thou wearest the moon upon Thy brow.
Where didst Thou find Thy garland of heads before the universe was made?
Thou art the Mover of all tliat move, and we are but Thy helpless toys;
We move alone as Thou movest us and speak as through us Thou speakest.
But worthless Kamalakanta says, fondly berating Thee:
Confoundress! With Thy flashing sword
Thoughtlessly Thou hast put to death my virtue and my sin alike!
He sang again:
Mother, Thou art our sole Redeemer,
Thou the Support or the three gunas,
Higher than the most high.
Thou art compassionate, I know,
Who takest away our bitter grief.
Sandhya art Thou, and Gayatri;
Thou dost sustain this universe.
Mother, the Help art Thou
Of those that have no help but Thee,
O Eternal Beloved of Siva!
Thou art in earth, in water Thou;
Thou liest at the root of all.
In me, in every creature,
Thou hast Thy home; though clothed with form,
Yet art Thou formless Reality.
The Master sang a few more songs in praise of the Divine Mother. Then he said to the devotees: "It is not always best to tell householders about the sorrows of life. They want bliss. Those who suffer from chronic poverty can go without food for a day or two. But it is not wise to talk about the sorrows and miseries of life to those who suffer if their food is delayed a few minutes. Vaishnavcharan used to say: 'Why should one constantly dwell on sin? Be merry!'"
While the Master was resting after his midday meal, Manohor Goswami, a singer of kirtan, arrived. He sang about the ecstatic love of Gauranga and the divine episode of Vrindavan. The Master was absorbed in a deep spiritual mood. He tore off his shirt and said, to the melody of the kirtan, assuming the attitude of Radha: "O Krishna, my Beloved! O friends, bring Krishna to me. Then you will be real friends. Or take me to Him, and I will be your slave for ever."
The musician sat spellbound at Sri Ramakrishna's ecstasy; then he said with folded hands, "Won't you please rid me of my worldliness?"
MASTER: "You are like the holy man who went about the city after first finding lodging. You are a sweet person and express many sweet ideas."
MUSICIAN: "Sir, I am like the bullock that only carries the bag of sugar but cannot taste it. Alas, I myself do not enjoy the sweetness of divine bliss."
The melodious music went on, and all were filled with joy.
Saturday, June 2, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna had been invited to visit the homes of his devotees Balaram, Adhar, and Ram in Calcutta. Devotional music had been arranged by Adhar and Ram. The Master was accompanied in the carriage by Rakhal, M., and others.
As they drove along, Sri Ramakrishna said to the devotees: "You see, sin flies away when love of God grows in a man's heart, even as the water of the reservoir dug in a meadow dries up under the heat of the sun. But one cannot love God if one feels attracted to worldly things, to 'woman and gold'. Merely taking the vow of monastic life will not help a man if he is attached to the world. It is like swallowing your own spittle after spitting it out on the ground."
After a few minutes the Master continued: "The members of the Brahmo Samaj do not accept God with form. Narendra says that God with form is a mere idol. He says further: 'What? He (Referring to the Master.) still goes to the Kali temple!'"
Sri Ramakrishna and his party arrived at Balaram's house. Yajnanath of Nandanbagan came to invite the Master to his house at four o'clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna agreed to go if he felt well. After Yajnanath's departure the Master went into an ecstatic mood. He said to the Divine Mother: "Mother, what is all this? Stop! What are these things Thou art showing to me? What is it that Thou dost reveal to me through Rakhal and others? The form is disappearing. But, Mother, what people call 'man' is only a pillow-case, nothing but a pillow-case. Consciousness is Thine alone.
"The modern Brahmajnanis have not tasted Thy sweet bliss. Their eyes look dry and so do their faces. They won't achieve anything without ecstatic love of God.
"Mother, once I asked Thee to give me a companion just like myself. Is that why Thou hast given me Rakhal?"
The Master went to Adhar's house, where arrangements were being made for the kirtan. Many devotees and neighbours had gathered in Adhar's drawing-room, anxious to listen to the Master's words.
MASTER (to the devotees): "Both worldliness and liberation depend on God's will. It is God alone who has kept man in the world in a state of ignorance; and man will be free when God, of His own sweet will, calls him to Himself. It is like the mother calling the child at meal-time, when he is out playing. When the time comes for setting a man free, God makes him seek the company of holy men. Further, it is God who makes him restless for spiritual life."
A NEIGHBOUR: "What kind of restlessness, sir?"
MASTER: "Like the restlessness of a clerk who has lost his job. He makes the round of the offices daily and asks whether there is any vacancy. When that restlessness comes, man longs for God. A fop, seated comfortably with one leg over the other, chewing betel-leaf and twirling bis moustaches - a carefree dandy -, cannot attain God."
NEIGHBOUR: "Can one get this longing for God through frequenting the company of holy men?"
MASTER: "Yes, it is possible; but not for a confirmed scoundrel. A sannyasi's kamandalu, made of bitter gourd, travels with him to the four great places of pilgrimage but still does not lose its bitterness."
The kirtan began. The musician sang of Sri Krishna's life in Vrindavan:
RADHA: "Friend, I am about to die. Give me back my Krishna."
FRIEND: "But, Radha, the cloud of Krishna was ready to burst into rain. It was yourself who blew it away with the strong wind of your pique. You are certainly not happy to see Krishna happy; or why were you piqued?"
RADHA: "But this pride was not mine. My pride has gone away with Him who made me proud."
After the music Sri Ramakrishna conversed with the devotees.
MASTER: "The gopis worshipped Katyayani in order to be united with Sri Krishna. Everyone is under the authority of the Divine Mother, Mahamaya, the Primal Energy. Even the Incarnations of God accept the help of maya to fulfil their mission on earth. Therefore they worship the Primal Energy. Don't you see how bitterly Rama wept tor Sita? 'Brahman weeps ensnared in the meshes of maya.'
"Vishnu incarnated himself as a sow in order to kill the demon Hiranyaksha. After killing the demon, the sow remained quite happy with her young ones. Forgetting her real nature, she was suckling them very contentedly. The gods in heaven could not persuade Vishnu to relinquish His sow's body and return to the celestial regions. He was absorbed in the happiness of His beast form. After consulting among themselves, the gods sent Siva to the sow. Siva asked the sow, 'Why have you forgotten yourself?' Vishnu replied through the sow's body, 'Why, I am quite happy here.' Thereupon with a stroke of his trident Siva destroyed the sow's body and Vishnu went back to heaven."
From Adhar's house Sri Ramakrishna went to Ram's house. Ramchandra Dutta, one of the chief householder disciples of the Master, lived in Calcutta. He had been one of the first to announce the Master as an Incarnation of God. The Master had visited his house a number of times and unstintingly praised the devotion and generosity of this beloved disciple. A few of the Master's disciples made Ram's house virtually their own dwelling-place.
Ram had arranged a special festival to celebrate the Master's visit. The small courtyard was nicely decorated. A kathak, seated on a raised platform, was reciting from the Bhagavata when the Master arrived. Ram greeted him respectfully and seated him near the reader. The disciple was extremely happy. The kathak was in the midst of the story of King Harischandra.
The great King Harischandra of the Purana was the embodiment of generosity. No one ever went away from him empty-handed. Now, the sage Viswamitra, wanting to test the extent of the king's charity, extracted from him a promise to grant any boon that he might ask, Then the sage asked for the gift of the sea-girt world, of which Harischandra was king. Without the slightest hesitation the king gave away his kingdom. Then Viswamitra demanded the auxiliary fee, which alone makes charity valid and meritorious.
The kathak continued his recitation:
Viswamitra said to the king; "O King, you have given away the entire world, which was your kingdom. It now belongs to me; you cannot claim any place here. But you may live in Benares, which belongs to Siva, I shall lead you there with your wife Saibya, and Rohitasva, your son. There you can procure the auxiliary fee that you owe me." The royal family, accompanied by the sage, reached Benares and visited the temple of Siva.
At the very mention of Siva, the Master went into spiritual mood and repeated the holy name several times indistinctly.
The kathak continued:
The king could not procure the fee and was compelled to sell Saibya, his royal consort, to a brahmin. With her went Prince Rohitasva. But since even that was not enough to redeem his pledge to the sage, Harischandra sold himself to an untouchable who kept a cremation ground. He was ordered to supervise the cremations.
One day, while plucking flowers for his brahmin master. Prince Rohitasva was bitten by a venomous snake and that very night died. The cruel brahmin would not leave his bed to help the poor mother cremate the body. The night was dark and stormy. Lightning rent the black clouds. Saibya started for the cremation ground alone, carrying the body of her son in her arms. Smitten with fear and overpowered with grief, the queen filled heaven and earth with her wailing. Arriving at the cremation ground, she did not recognize her husband, who demanded the usual fee for the cremation. Saibya was penniless and wept bitterly at her unending misfortunes. The impenetrable darkness was illumined only by the terrible flames of the cremation pyres. Above her the thunder roared, and before her the uncouth guardian of the cremation ground demanded his fee. She who had once been queen of the world sat there with her only child dead and cold on her lap.
The devotees burst into tears and loudly lamented this tragic episode of a royal life. And what was the Master doing? He was listening to the recital with rapt attention. Tear-drops appeared in his eyes and he wiped them away.
The kathak continued:
When the queen, wailing bitterly, uttered the name of her husband, Harischandra at once recognized his wife and son. Then the two wept for the dead prince. Yet in all these misfortunes the king never once uttered a word of regret for his charity.
Finally the sage Viswamitra appeared and told them that he had only wanted to put the king's charitable impulses to a crucial test. Then, through his spiritual power, the sage brought the prince back to life and returned to the king his lost kingdom.
Sri Ramakrishna asked the kathak to recite the episode of Uddhava, the friend and devotee of Krishna.
At the request of Krishna, Uddhava had gone to Vrindavan to console the cowherds and the gopis, who were sore at heart because of their separation from their beloved Krishna.
The kathak said:
When Uddhava arrived at Vrindavan, the gopis and cowherd boys ran to him eagerly and asked him; "How is our Krishna? Has He forgotten us altogether? Doesn't He even speak our names?" So saying, some of them wept. Others accompanied him to various places in Vrindavan still filled with Krishna's sweet memory. They said; "Here it was that Krishna lifted up Mount Govardhan, and here He killed the demons sent by the evil-minded Kamsa. In this meadow He tended His cows; here on the bank of the Jamuna He sported with the gopis. Here He played with the cowherd boys, and here in these groves He met the gopis secretly." Uddhava said to them: "Why are you so grief-stricken at Krishna's absence? He resides in all beings as their indwelling Spirit. He is God Himself, and nothing can exist without God." "But", said the gopis, "we do not understand all that. We can neither read nor write. We know only our Krishna of Vrindavan, who played with us here in so many ways." Uddhava said: "Krishna is God Himself. By meditating on Him, man escapes from birth and death in the world and attains liberation." The gopis said: "We do not understand big words like 'liberation'. We want to see the Krishna of our hearts."
The Master listened to the story from the Bhagavata with great attention and said at last, "Yes, the gopis were right."
Then he sang:
Though I 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.
Listen, Chandravali! I shall tell you of love:
Mukti a man may gain, but rare is bhakti.
Solely for pure love's sake did I become
King Vali's door-keeper
Down in his realm in the nether world.
Alone in Vrindavan can pure love be found;
Its secret none but the gopas and gopis know.
For pure love's sake I dwelt in Nanda's house;
Taking him as My father,
I carried his burdens on My head.
The Master said to the kathak: "The gopis had ecstatic love, unswerving and single-minded devotion to one ideal. Do you know the meaning of devotion that is not loyal to one ideal? It is devotion tinged with intellectual knowledge. It makes one feel: 'Krishna has become all these. He alone is the Supreme Brahman. He is Rama, Siva, and Sakti.' But this element of knowledge is not present in ecstatic love of God. Once Hanuman came to Dwaraka and wanted to see Sita and Rama. Krishna said to Rukmini, His queen, 'You had better assume the form of Sita; otherwise there will be no escape from the hands of Hanuman.'(Because Rama and Sita were Hanuman's Chosen Ideals.) "Once, the Pandava brothers performed the Rajasuya sacrifice. All the kings placed Yudhisthira on the royal throne and bowed low before him in homage. But Bibhishana, the King of Ceylon, said, 'I bow down to Narayana and to none else.' At these words the Lord Krishna bowed down to Yudhisthira. Only then did Bibhishana prostrate himself, crown and all, before him.
"Do you know what devotion to one ideal is like? It is like the attitude of a daughter-in-law in the family. She serves all the members of the family - her brothers-in-law, father-in-law, husband, and so forth -, bringing them water to wash their feet, fetching their towels, arranging their seats, and the like; but with her husband she has a special relationship.
"There are two elements in this ecstatic love: 'I-ness' and 'my-ness'. Yasoda used to think: 'Who would look after Gopala if I did not? He will fall ill if I do not serve Him.' She did not look on Krishna as God. The other element is 'my-ness'. It means to look on God as one's own -'my Gopala'. Uddhava said to Yasoda: 'Mother, your Krishna is God Himself. He is the Lord of the Universe and not a common human being.' 'Oh!' exclaimed Yasoda. 'I am not asking you about your Lord of the Universe. I want to know how my Gopala fares. Not the Lord of the Universe, but my Gopala.'
"How faithful to Krishna the gopis were! After many entreaties to the door-keeper, the gopis entered the royal court in Mathura, where Krishna was seated as king. The door-keeper took them to Him; but at the sight of King Krishna wearing the royal turban, the gopis bent down their heads and said among themselves: 'Who is this man with a turban on his head? Should we violate our chaste love for Krishna by talking to him? Where is our beloved Krishna with the yellow robe and the bewitching crest with the peacock feather?'
"Did you observe the single-minded love of the gopis for Krishna? The ideal of Vrindavan is unique. I am told that the people of Dwaraka worship Krishna, the companion of Arjuna, but reject Radha."
A DEVOTEE: "Which is the better, ecstatic love or love mixed with knowledge?"
MASTER: "It is not possible to develop ecstatic love of God unless you love Him very deeply and regard Him as your very own.
"Listen to a story. Once, three friends were going through a forest, when a tiger suddenly appeared before them. 'Brothers,' one of them exclaimed, 'we are lost!' 'Why should you say that?' said the second friend. 'Why should we be lost? Come, let us pray to God.' The third friend said: 'No. Why should we trouble God about it? Come, let us climb this tree.'
"The friend who said, 'We are lost!' did not know that there is a God who is our Protector. The friend who asked the others to pray to God was a jnani. He was aware that God is the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the world. The third friend, who didn't want to trouble God with prayers and suggested climbing the tree, had ecstatic love of God. It is the very nature of such love that it makes a man think himself stronger than his Beloved. He is always alert lest his Beloved should suffer. The one desire of his life is to keep his Beloved from even being pricked in the foot by a thorn."
Ram served the Master and the devotees with delicious sweets.