ADVICE TO HOUSEHOLDERS
August 13, 1882
THE MASTER WAS CONVERSING with Kedār and some other devotees in his room in the temple garden. Kedār was a government official and had spent several years at Dāccā, in East Bengal, where he had become a friend of Vijay Goswami. The two would spend a great part of their time together, talking about Sri Ramakrishna and his spiritual experiences. Kedār had once been a member of the Brahmo Samaj. He followed the path of bhakti. Spiritual talk always brought tears to his eyes.
It was five o'clock in the afternoon. Kedār was very happy that day, having arranged a religious festival for Sri Ramakrishna. A singer had been hired by Ram, and the whole day passed in joy.
Secret of divine communion
The Master explained to the devotees the secret of communion with God.
MASTER: "With the realization of Satchidananda one goes into samādhi. Then duties drop away. Suppose I have been talking about the ostad and he arrives. What need is there of talking about him then? How long does the bee buzz around? So long as it isn't sitting on a flower. But it will not do for the sadhaka to renounce duties. He should perform his duties, such as worship, japa, meditation, prayer, and pilgrimage.
"If you see someone engaged in reasoning even after he has realized God, you may liken him to a bee, which also buzzes a little even while sipping honey from a flower."
The Master was highly pleased with the ostad's music. He said to the musician, "There is a special manifestation of God's power in a man who has any outstanding gift, such as proficiency in music."
MUSICIAN: "Sir, what is the way to realize God?"
MASTER: "Bhakti is the one essential thing. To be sure, God exists in all beings. Who, then, is a devotee? He whose mind dwells on God. But this is not possible as long as one has egotism and vanity. The water of God's grace cannot collect on the high mound of egotism. It runs down. I am a mere machine.
Master's respect for other faiths
(To Kedār and the other devotees) "God can be realized through all paths. All religions are true. The important thing is to reach the roof. You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope. You can also climb up by a bamboo pole.
Many names of one God
"You may say that there are many errors and superstitions in another religion. I should reply: Suppose there are. Every religion has errors. Everyone thinks that his watch alone gives the correct time. It is enough to have yearning for God. It is enough to love Him and feel attracted to Him: Don't you know that God is the Inner Guide? He sees the longing of our heart and the yearning of our soul. Suppose a man has several sons. The older boys address him distinctly as 'Baba' or 'Papa', but the babies can at best call him 'Ba' or 'Pa'. Now, will the father be angry with those who address him in this indistinct way? The father knows that they too are calling him, only they cannot pronounce his name well. All children are the same to the father. Likewise, the devotees call on God alone, though by different names. They call on one Person only. God is one, but His names are many."
Thursday, August 24, 1882.
Sri Ramakrishna was talking to Hazra on the long northeast verandah of his room, when M. arrived. He saluted the Master reverently.
Spiritual disciplines necessary at the beginning
MASTER: "I should like to visit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar a few times more. The painter first draws the general outlines and then puts in the details and colours at his leisure. The moulder first makes the image out of clay, then plasters it, then gives it a coat of whitewash, and last of all paints it with a brush. All these steps must be taken successively. Vidyasagar is fully ready, but his inner stuff is covered with a thin layer. He is now engaged in doing good works; but he doesn't know what is within himself. Gold is hidden within him. God dwells within us. If one knows that, one feels like giving up all activities and praying to God with a yearning soul."
So the Master talked with M. - now standing, now pacing up and down the long verandah.
MASTER: "A little spiritual discipline is necessary in order to know what lies within."
M: "Is it necessary to practise discipline all through life?"
MASTER: "No. But one must be up and doing in the beginning. After that one need not work hard. The helmsman stands up and clutches the rudder firmly as long as the boat is passing through waves, storms, high wind, or around the curves of a river; but he relaxes after steering through them. As soon as the boat passes the curves and the helmsman feels a favourable wind, he sits comfortably and just touches the rudder. Next he prepares to unfurl the sail and gets ready for a smoke. Likewise, the aspirant enjoys peace and calm after passing the waves and storms of 'woman and gold'.
"Woman and gold" is the obstruction to yoga
"Some are born with the characteristics of the yogi; but they too should be careful. It is 'woman and gold' alone that is the obstacle; it makes them deviate from the path of yoga and drags them into worldliness. Perhaps they have some desire for enjoyment. After fulfilling their desire, they again direct their minds to God and thus recover their former state of mind, fit for the practise of yoga.
"Have you ever seen the spring trap for fish, called the 'satka-kal'?"
M: "No, sir, I haven't seen it."
MASTER: "They use it in our part of the country. One end of a bamboo pole is fastened in the ground, and the other is bent over with a catch. From this end a line with a hook hangs over the water, with bait tied to the hook. When the fish swallows the bait, suddenly the bamboo jumps up and regains its upright position.
"Again, take a pair of scales for example. If a weight is placed on one side, the lower needle moves away from the upper one. The lower needle is the mind, and the upper one, God. The meeting of the two is yoga.
"Unless the mind becomes steady there cannot be yoga. It is the wind of worldliness that always disturbs the mind, which may be likened to a candle flame. If that flame doesn't move at all, then one is said to have attained yoga.
" 'Woman and gold' alone is the obstacle to yoga. Always analyse what you see. What is there in the body of a woman? Only such things as blood, flesh, fat, entrails, and the like. Why should one love such a body?
"Sometimes I used to assume a rajasic mood in order to practise renunciation. Once I had the desire to put on a gold-embroidered robe, wear a ring on my finger, and smoke a hubble-bubble with a long pipe. Mathur Babu procured all these things for me. I wore the gold-embroidered robe and said to myself after a while, 'Mind! This is what is called a gold-embroidered robe.' Then I took it off and threw it away. I couldn't stand the robe any more. Again I said to myself, 'Mind! This is called a shawl, and this a ring, and this, smoking a hubble-bubble with a long pipe.' I threw those things away once for all, and the desire to enjoy them never arose in my mind again."
It was almost dusk. The Master and M. stood talking alone near the door on the southeast verandah.
MASTER (to M.): "The mind of the yogi is always fixed on God, always absorbed in the Self. You can recognize such a man by merely looking at him. His eyes are wide open, with an aimless look, like the eyes of the mother bird hatching her eggs. Her entire mind is fixed on the eggs, and there is a vacant look in her eyes. Can you show me such a picture?"
M: "I shall try to get one."
As evening came on, the temples were lighted up. Sri Ramakrishna was seated on his small couch, meditating on the Divine Mother. Then he chanted the names of God. Incense was burnt in the room, where an oil lamp had been lighted. Sounds of conch-shells and gongs came floating on the air as the evening worship began in the temple of Kāli. The light of the moon flooded all the quarters. The Master again spoke to M.
God and worldly duties
MASTER: "Perform your duties in an unselfish spirit. The work that Vidyasagar is engaged in is very good. Always try to perform your duties without desiring any result."
M: "Yes, sir. But may I know if one can realize God while performing one's duties? Can 'Rama' and 'desire' coexist? The other day I read in a Hindi couplet: 'Where Rama is, there desire cannot be; where desire is, there Rama cannot be.' "
MASTER: "All, without exception, perform work. Even to chant the name and glories of God is work, as is the meditation of the non-dualist on 'I am He'. Breathing is also an activity. There is no way of renouncing work altogether. So do your work, but surrender the result to God."
God and worldly duties
M: "Sir, may I make an effort to earn more money?"
MASTER: "It is permissible to do so to maintain a religious family. You may try to increase your income, but in an honest way. The goal of life is not the earning of money, but the service of God. Money is not harmful if it is devoted to the service of God."
M: "How long should a man feel obliged to do his duty toward his wife and children?"
MASTER: "As long as they feel pinched for food and clothing. But one need not take the responsibility of a son when he is able to support himself. When the young fledgling learns to pick its own food, its mother pecks it if it comes to her for food."
M: "How long must one do one's duty?"
MASTER: "The blossom
drops off when the fruit appears. One doesn't have to do one's
duty after the attainment of God, nor does one feel like doing it then.
"Finish the few duties you have at hand, and then you will have peace. When the mistress of the house goes to bathe after finishing her cooking and other household duties, she won't come back, however you may shout after her."
Different groups of devotees
M: "Sir, what is the meaning of the realization of God? What do you mean by God-vision? How does one attain it?"
MASTER: "According to the Vaishnavas the aspirants and the seers of God may be divided into different groups. These are the pravartaka, the sadhaka, the siddha, and the siddha of the siddha. He who has just set foot on the path may be called a pravartaka. He may be called a sadhaka who has for some time been practising spiritual disciplines, such as worship, japa, meditation, and the chanting of God's name and glories. He may be called a siddha who has known from his inner experience that God exists. An analogy is given in the Vedanta to explain this. The master of the house is asleep in a dark room. Someone is groping in the darkness to find him. He touches the couch and says, 'No, it is not he.' He touches the window and says, 'No, it is not he.' He touches the door and says, 'No, it is not he.' This is known in the Vedanta as the process of 'Neti, neti', 'Not this, not this'. At last his hand touches the master's body and he exclaims, 'Here he is!' In other words, he is now conscious of the 'existence' of the master. He has found him, but he doesn't yet know him intimately.
"There is another type, known as the siddha of the siddha, the 'supremely perfect'. It is quite a different thing when one talks to the master intimately, when one knows God very intimately through love and devotion. A siddha has undoubtedly attained God, but the 'supremely perfect' has known God very intimately.
Different moods of aspirants
"But in order to
realize God, one must assume one of these attitudes: Śānta, Dāsya,
sakhya, Vātsalya, or Madhur.
"Dāsya, the attitude of a servant toward his master. Hanuman had this attitude toward Rama. He felt the strength of a lion when he worked for Rama. A wife feels this mood also. She serves her husband with all her heart and soul. A mother also has a little of this attitude, as Yaśoda had toward Krishna.
"Sakhya, the attitude of friendship. Friends say to one another, 'Come here and sit near me.' Sridāmā and other friends sometimes fed Krishna with fruit, part of which they had already eaten, and sometimes climbed on His shoulders.
"Vātsalya, the attitude of a mother toward her child. This was Yaśoda's attitude toward Krishna. The wife, too, has a little of this. She feeds her husband with her very life-blood, as it were. The mother feels happy only when the child has eaten to his heart's content. Yaśoda would roam about with butter in her hand, in order to feed Krishna.
"Madhur, the attitude of a woman toward her paramour. Radha had this attitude toward Krishna. The wife also feels it for her husband. This attitude includes all the other four."
M: "When one sees God does one see Him with these eyes?"
MASTER: "God cannot be seen with these physical eyes. In the course of spiritual discipline one gets a 'love body', endowed with 'love eyes', 'love ears', and so on. One sees God with those 'love eyes'. One hears the voice of God with those 'love ears'. One even gets a sexual organ made of love."
At these words M. burst out laughing. The Master continued, unannoyed, "With this 'love body' the soul communes with God."
M. again became serious.
Seeing God everywhere
MASTER: "But this is not possible without intense love of God. One sees nothing but God everywhere when one loves Him with great intensity. It is like a person with jaundice, who sees everything yellow. Then one feels, 'I am verily He'.
"A drunkard, deeply intoxicated, says, 'Verily I am Kāli!' The gopis, intoxicated with love, exclaimed, 'Verily I am Krishna!'
"One who thinks of God, day and night, beholds Him everywhere. It is like a man's seeing flames on all sides after he has gazed fixedly at one flame for some time."
"But that isn't the real flame", flashed through M.'s mind.
Sri Ramakrishna, who could read a man's inmost thought, said: "One doesn't lose consciousness by thinking of Him who is all Spirit, all Consciousness. Shivanath once remarked that too much thinking about God confounds the brain. Thereupon I said to him, 'How can one become unconscious by thinking of Consciousness?' "
M: "Yes, sir, I realize that. It isn't like thinking of an unreal object. How can a man lose his intelligence if he always fixes his mind on Him whose very nature is eternal Intelligence?"
MASTER (with pleasure): "It is through God's grace that you understand that. The doubts of the mind will not disappear without His grace. Doubts do not disappear without Self-realization.
"But one need not fear anything if one has received the grace of God. It is rather easy for a child to stumble if he holds his father's hand; but there can be no such fear if the father holds the child's hand. A man does not have to suffer any more if God, in His grace, removes his doubts and reveals Himself to him. But this grace descends upon him only after he has prayed to God with intense yearning of heart and practised spiritual discipline. The mother feels compassion for her child when she sees him running about breathlessly. She has been hiding herself; now she appears before the child."
"But why should God make us run about?" thought M
Immediately Sri Ramakrishna said: "It is His will that we should run about a little. Then it is great fun. God has created the world in play, as it were. This is called Mahamaya, the Great Illusion. Therefore one must take refuge in the Divine Mother, the Cosmic Power Itself. It is She who has bound us with the shackles of illusion. The realization of God is possible only when those shackles are severed."
Worship of the Divine Mother
The Master continued: "One must propitiate the Divine Mother, the Primal Energy, in order to obtain God's grace. God Himself is Mahamaya, who deludes the world with Her illusion and conjures up the magic of creation, preservation, and destruction. She has spread this veil of ignorance before our eyes. We can go into the inner chamber only when She lets us pass through the door. Living outside, we see only outer objects, but not that Eternal Being, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Therefore it is stated in the purna that deities like Brahma praised Mahamaya for the destruction of the demons Madhu and Kaitabha.
"Śakti alone is the root of the universe. That Primal Energy has two aspects: vidyā and avidyā. Avidyā deludes. Avidyā conjures up 'woman and gold', which casts the spell. Vidyā begets devotion, kindness, wisdom, and love, which lead one to God. This avidyā must be propitiated, and that is the purpose of the rites of Śakti worship.
"The devotee assumes various attitudes toward Śakti in order to propitiate Her: the attitude of a handmaid, a 'hero', or a child. A hero's attitude is to please Her even as a man pleases a woman through intercourse.
"The worship of Śakti is extremely difficult. It is no joke. I passed two years as the handmaid and companion of the Divine Mother. But my natural attitude has always been that of a child toward its mother. I regard the breasts of any woman as those of my own mother.
Master's attitude toward women
"Women are, all of them, the veritable images of Śakti. In northwest India the bride holds a knife in her hand at the time of marriage; in Bengal, a nut-cutter. The meaning is that the bridegroom, with the help of the bride, who is the embodiment of the Divine Power, will sever the bondage of illusion. This is the 'heroic' attitude. I never worshipped the Divine Mother that way. My attitude toward Her is that of a child toward its mother.
"The bride is the very embodiment of Śakti. Haven't you noticed, at the marriage ceremony, how the groom sits behind like an idiot? But the bride - she is so bold!
His love for Narendra
"After attaining God one forgets His external splendour; the glories of His creation. One doesn't think of God's glories after one has seen Him. The devotee, once immersed in God's Bliss, doesn't calculate any more about outer things. When I see Narendra, I don't need to ask him: 'What's your name? Where do you live?' Where is the time for such questions? Once a man asked Hanuman which day of the fortnight it was. 'Brother,' said Hanuman, 'I don't know anything of the day of the week, or the fortnight, or the position of the stars. I think of Rama alone.' "
October 16, 1882
It was Monday, a few days before the Durga Puja, the festival of the Divine Mother. Sri Ramakrishna was in a very happy state of mind, for Narendra was with him. Narendra had brought two or three young members of the Brahmo Samaj to the temple garden. Besides these, Rakhal, Ramlal, Hazra, and M. were with the Master.
Narendra had his midday meal with Sri Ramakrishna. Afterwards a temporary bed was made on the floor of the Master's room so that the disciples might rest awhile. A mat was spread, over which was placed a quilt covered with a white sheet. A few cushions and pillows completed the simple bed. Like a child, the Master sat near Narendranath on the bed. He talked with the devotees in great delight. With a radiant smile lighting his face, and his eyes fixed on Narendra, he was giving them various spiritual teachings, interspersing these with incidents from his own life.
MASTER: "After I had experienced samādhi, my mind craved intensely to hear only about God. I would always search for places where they were reciting or explaining the sacred books, such as the Bhagavata, the Mahabharata, and the Adhyātma Rāmāyana. I used to go to Krishnakishore to hear him read the Adhyātma Rāmāyana.
"What tremendous faith Krishnakishore had! Once, while at Vrindāvan, he felt thirsty and went to a well. Near it he saw a man standing. On being asked to draw a little water for him, the man said: 'I belong to a low caste, sir. You are a brahmin. How can I draw water for you?' Krishnakishore said: 'Take the name of Śiva. By repeating His holy name you will make yourself pure.' The low-caste man did as he was told, and Krishnakishore, orthodox brahmin that he was, drank that water. What tremendous faith!
"Once a holy man came to the bank of the Ganges and lived near the bathing-ghat at Ariadaha, not far from Dakshineswar. We thought of paying him a visit. I said to Haladhāri: 'Krishnakishore and I are going to see a holy man. Will you come with us?' Haladhāri replied, 'What is the use of seeing a mere human body, which is no better than a cage of clay?' Haladhāri was a student of the Gita and Vedanta philosophy, and therefore referred to the holy man as a mere 'cage of clay'. I repeated this to Krishnakishore. With great anger he said: 'How impudent of Haladhāri to make such a remark! How can he ridicule as a "cage of clay" the body of a man who constantly thinks of God, who meditates on Rama, and has renounced all for the sake of the Lord? Doesn't he know that such a man is the embodiment of Spirit?' He was so upset by Haladhāri's remarks that he would turn his face away from him whenever he met him in the temple garden, and stopped speaking to him.
"Once Krishnakishore asked me, 'Why have you cast off the sacred thread?' In those days of God-vision I felt as if I were passing through the great storm of Āświn, and everything had blown away from me. No trace of my old self was left. I lost all consciousness of the world. I could hardly keep my cloth on my body, not to speak of the sacred thread! I said to Krishnakishore, 'Ah, you will understand if you ever happen to be as intoxicated with God as I was.'
"And it actually came to pass. He too passed through a God-intoxicated state, when he would repeat only the word 'Om' and shut himself up alone in his room. His relatives thought he was actually mad, and called in a physician. Ram Kaviraj of Natagore came to see him. Krishnakishore said to the physician, 'Cure me, sir, of my malady, if you please, but not of my Om.' (All laugh.)
"One day I went to see him and found him in a pensive mood. When I asked him about it, he said: 'The tax-collector was here. He threatened to dispose of my brass pots, my cups, and my few utensils, if I didn't pay the tax; so I am worried.' I said: 'But why should you worry about it? Let him take away your pots and pans. Let him arrest your body even. How will that affect you? For your nature is that of Kha!' (Narendra and the others laugh.) He used to say to me that he was the Spirit, all-pervading as the sky. He had got that idea from the Adhyātma Rāmāyana. I used to tease him now and then, addressing him as 'Kha'. Therefore I said to him that day, with a smile: 'You are Kha. Taxes cannot move you!'
"In that state of God-intoxication I used to speak out my mind to all. I was no respecter of persons. Even to men of position I was not afraid to speak the truth.
"One day Jatindra came to the garden of Jadu Mallick. I was there too. I asked him: 'What is the duty of man? Isn't it our duty to think of God?' Jatindra replied: 'We are worldly people. How is it possible for us to achieve liberation? Even King Yudhisthira had to have a vision of hell.' This made me very angry. I said to him: 'What sort of man are you? Of all the incidents of Yudhisthira's life, you remember only his seeing hell. You don't remember his truthfulness, his forbearance, his patience, his discrimination, his dispassion, his devotion to God.' I was about to say many more things, when Hriday stopped my mouth. After a little while Jatindra left the place, saying he had some other business to attend to.
"Many days later I went with Captain to see Rājā Sourindra Tagore. As soon as I met him, I said, 'I can't address you as "Rājā", or by any such title, for I should be telling a lie.' He talked to me a few minutes, but even so our conversation was interrupted by the frequent visits of Europeans and others. A man of rajasic temperament, Sourindra was naturally busy with many things. Jatindra his eldest brother, had been told of my coming, but he sent word that he had a pain in his throat and couldn't go out.
"One day, in that state of divine intoxication, I went to the bathing-ghat on the Ganges at Baranagore. There I saw Jaya Mukherji repeating the name of God; but his mind was on something else. I went up and slapped him twice on the cheeks.
"At one time Rani Rasmani was staying in the temple garden. She came to the shrine of the Divine Mother, as she frequently did when I worshipped Kāli, and asked me to sing a song or two. On this occasion, while I was singing, I noticed she was sorting the flowers for worship absent-mindedly. At once I slapped her on the cheeks. She became quite embarrassed and sat there with folded hands.
"Alarmed at this state of mind myself, I said to my cousin Haladhāri: 'Just see my nature! How can I get rid of it?' After praying to the Divine Mother for some time with great yearning, I was able to shake off this habit.
His anguish at worldly talk
"When one gets into such a state of mind, one doesn't enjoy any conversation but that about God. I used to weep when I heard people talk about worldly matters. When I accompanied Mathur Babu on a pilgrimage, we spent a few days in Benares at Raja Babu's house. One day I was seated in the drawing-room with Mathur Babu, Raja Babu, and others. Hearing them talk about various worldly things, such as their business losses and so forth, I wept bitterly and said to the Divine Mother: 'Mother, where have You brought me? I was much better off in the temple garden at Dakshineswar. Here I am in a place where I must bear about "woman and gold". But at Dakshineswar I could avoid it.' "
The Master asked the devotees, especially Narendra, to rest awhile, and he himself lay down on the smaller couch.
His ecstasy in Kirtan
Late in the afternoon Narendra sang. Rakhal, Lātu, M., Hazra, and Priya, Narendra's Brahmo friend, were present. The singing was accompanied by the drum:
Meditate, O my mind, on the Lord Hari,
After this song Narendra sang:
Oh, when will dawn for me that day of blessedness
Thou One without a Second, all Peace, the King of Kings!
Narendra sang again:
With beaming face chant the sweet name of God
Be sure, O mind, you never forget to chant
Now Narendra and the devotees began to sing kirtan, accompanied by the drum and cymbals. They moved round and round the Master as they sang:
Immerse yourself for evermore, O mind,
Next they sang:
Oh, when will dawn for me that day of blessedness
At last Narendra himself was playing on the drums, and he sang with the Master, full of joy:
With beaming face chant the sweet name of God
When the music was over, Sri Ramakrishna held Narendra in his arms a long time and said, "You have made us so happy today!" The flood-gate of the Master's heart was open so wide, that night, that he could hardly contain himself for joy. It was eight o'clock in the evening. Intoxicated with divine love, he paced the long verandah north of his room. Now and then he could be heard talking to the Divine Mother. Suddenly he said in an excited voice, "What can you do to me?" Was the Master hinting that maya was helpless before him, since he had the Divine Mother for his support?
Narendra, M., and Priya were going to spend the night at the temple garden. This pleased the Master highly, especially since Narendra would be with him. The Holy Mother, who was living in the nahabat, had prepared the supper. Surendra bore the greater part of the Master's expenses. The meal was ready, and the plates were set out on the southeast verandah of the Masters room.
Near the east door of his room Narendra and the other devotees were gossiping.
NARENDRA: "How do you find the young men nowadays?"
M: "They are not bad; but they don't receive any religious instructions".
NARENDRA: "But from my experience I feel they are going to the dogs. They smoke cigarettes, indulge in frivolous talk, enjoy foppishness, play truant, and do everything of that sort. I have even seen them visiting questionable places."
M: "I didn't notice such things during our student days."
NARENDRA: "Perhaps you didn't mix with the students intimately. I have even seen them talking with people of immoral character. Perhaps they are on terms of intimacy with them."
M: "It is strange indeed."
NARENDRA: "I know that many of them form bad habits. It would be proper if the guardians of the boys, and the authorities, kept their eyes on these matters."
They Were talking thus when Sri Ramakrishna came to them and asked with a smile, "Well, what are you talking about?"
NARENDRA: "I have been asking M. about the boys in the schools. The conduct of students nowadays isn't all that it should be."
The Master became grave and said to M. rather seriously: "This kind of conversation is not good. It isn't desirable to indulge in any talk but talk of God. You are their senior, and you are intelligent. You should not have encouraged them to talk about such matters."
Narendra was then about nineteen years old, and M. about twenty-eight. Thus admonished, M. felt embarrassed, and the others also fell silent.
While the devotees were enjoying their meal, Sri Ramakrishna stood by and watched them with intense delight. That night the Master's joy was very great.
After supper the devotees rested on the mat spread on the floor of the Master's room. They began to talk with him. It was indeed a mart of joy. The Master asked Narendra to sing the song beginning with the line: "In Wisdom's firmament the moon of Love is rising full."
Narendra sang, and other devotees played the drums and cymbals:
In Wisdom's firmament the moon of Love is rising full,
On every side shine devotees, like stars around the moon;
Upon the sea of the world unfolds the lotus of the New Day,
Behold the Mother's radiant face, which so enchants the heart
A devotee's dream
When the song was over, the Master walked up and down the northeast verandah, where Hazra was seated with M. The Master sat down there. He asked a devotee, "Do you ever have dreams?"
DEVOTEE: "Yes, sir. The other day I dreamt a strange dream. I saw the whole world enveloped in water. There was water on all sides. A few boats were visible, but suddenly huge waves appeared and sank them. I was about to board a ship with a few others, when we saw a brahmin walking over that expanse of water. I asked him, 'How can you walk over the deep?' The brahmin said with a smile: 'Oh, there is no difficulty about that. There is a bridge under the water.' I said to him, 'Where are you going?' 'To Bhawanipur, the city of the Divine Mother', he replied. 'Wait a little', I cried. 'I shall accompany you.' "
MASTER: "Oh. I am thrilled to hear the story!"
DEVOTEE: "The brahmin said: 'I am in a hurry. It will take you some time to get out of the boat. Good-bye. Remember this path and come after me.
MASTER: "Oh, my hair is standing on end! Please be initiated by a guru as soon as possible."
Shortly before midnight Narendra and the other devotees lay down on a bed made on the floor of the Master's room.
At dawn some of the devotees were up. They saw the Master, naked as a child, pacing up and down the room, repeating the names of the various gods and goddesses. His voice was sweet as nectar. Now he would look at the Ganges, now stop in front of the pictures hanging on the wall and bow down before them, chanting all the while the holy names in his sweet voice. He chanted: "Veda, Purana, Tantra; Gita, Gayatri; Bhagavata, Bhakta, Bhagavan." Referring to the Gita, he repeated many times, "Tagi, tagi, tagi." Now and then he would say: "O Mother, Thou art verily Brahman, and Thou art verily Śakti. Thou art Purusha and Thou art Prakriti. Thou art Virat. Thou art the Absolute, and Thou dost manifest Thyself as the Relative. Thou art verily the twenty-four cosmic principles."
In the mean time the morning service had begun in the temples of Kāli and Radhakanta. Sounds of conch-shells and cymbals were carried on the air. The devotees came outside the room and saw the priests and servants gathering flowers in the garden for the divine service in the temples. From the nahabat floated the sweet melody of musical instruments, befitting the morning hours.
Narendra and the other devotees finished their morning duties and came to the Master. With a sweet smile on his lips Sri Ramakrishna was standing on the northeast verandah, close to his own room.
NARENDRA: "We noticed several sannyasis belonging to the sect of Nanak in the Panchavati."
MASTER: "Yes, they arrived here yesterday. (To Narendra) I'd like to see you all sitting together on the mat."
As they sat there the Master looked at them with evident delight. He then began to talk with them. Narendra asked about spiritual discipline.
MASTER: "Bhakti, love of God, is the essence of all spiritual discipline. Through love one acquires renunciation and discrimination naturally."
Disciplines of Tantra
NARENDRA: "Isn't it true that the Tantra prescribes spiritual discipline in the company of woman?"
MASTER: "That is not desirable. It is a very difficult path and often causes the aspirant's downfall. There are three such kinds of discipline. One may regard woman as one's mistress or look on oneself as her handmaid or as her child. I look on woman as my mother. To look on oneself as her handmaid is also good; but it is extremely difficult to practise spiritual discipline looking on woman as one's mistress. To regard oneself as her child is a very pure attitude."
The sannyasis belonging to the sect of Nanak entered the room and greeted the Master, saying, "Namo Narayanaya." Sri Ramakrishna asked them to sit down.
All is possible with God
MASTFR: "Nothing is impossible for God. Nobody can describe His nature in words. Everything is possible for Him. There lived at a certain place two yogis who were practising spiritual discipline. The sage Narada was passing that way one day. Realizing who he was, one of the yogis said: 'You have just come from God Himself. What is He doing now?' Narada replied, 'Why, I saw Him making camels and elephants pass and repass through the eye of a needle.' At this the yogi said: 'Is that anything to wonder at? Everything is possible for God.' But the other yogi said: 'What? Making elephants pass through the eye of a needle - is that ever possible? You have never been to the Lord's dwelling-place.' "
At nine o'clock in the morning, while the Master was still sitting in his room, Manomohan arrived from Konnagar with some members of his family. In answer to Sri Ramakrishna's kind inquiries, Manomohan explained that he was taking them to Calcutta. The Master said: "Today is the first day of the Bengali month, an inauspicious day for undertaking a journey. I hope everything will be well with you." With a smile he began to talk of other matters.
When Narendra and his friends had finished bathing in the Ganges, the Master said to them earnestly: "Go to the Panchavati and meditate there under the banyan-tree. Shall I give you something to sit on?"
Discrimination and dispassion
About half past ten Narendra and his Brahmo friends were meditating in the Panchavati. After a while Sri Ramakrishna came to them. M., too, was present.
The Master said to the Brahmo devotees: "In meditation one must be absorbed in God. By merely floating on the surface of the water, can you reach the gems lying at the bottom of the sea?"
Then he sang:
Taking the name of Kāli, dive deep down,
Down in the ocean depths of heavenly Wisdom lie
Narendra and his friends came down from their seats on the raised platform of the Panchavati and stood near the Master. He returned to his room with them. The Master continued: "When you plunge in the water of the ocean, you may be attacked by alligators. But they won't touch you if your body is smeared with turmeric. There are no doubt six alligators - lust, anger, avarice, and so on - within you, in the 'heart's fathomless depths'. But protect yourself with the turmeric of discrimination and renunciation, and they won't touch you.
Futility of mere lecturing
"What can you achieve by mere lecturing and scholarship without discrimination and dispassion? God alone is real, and all else is unreal. God alone is substance, and all else is nonentity. That is discrimination.
"First of all set up God in the shrine of your heart, and then deliver lectures as much as you like. How will the mere repetition of 'Brahma' profit you if you are not imbued with discrimination and dispassion? It is the empty sound of a conch-shell.
"There lived in a village a young man named Padmalochan. People used to call him 'Podo', for short. In this village there was a temple in a very dilapidated condition. It contained no image of God. Aśwattha and other plants sprang up on the ruins of its walls. Bats lived inside, and the floor was covered with dust and the droppings of the bats. The people of the village had stopped visiting the temple. One day after dusk the villagers heard the sound of a conch-shell from the direction of the temple. They thought perhaps someone had installed an image in the shrine and was performing the evening worship. One of them softly opened the door and saw Padmalochan standing in a corner, blowing the conch. No image had been set up. The temple hadn't been swept or washed. And filth and dirt lay everywhere. Then he shouted to Podo:
You have set up no image here,
Purification of mind
"There is no use in merely making a noise if you want to establish the Deity in the shrine of your heart, if you want to realize God. First of all purify the mind. In the pure heart God takes His seat. One cannot bring the holy image into the temple if the droppings of bats are all around. The eleven bats are our eleven organs: five of action, five of perception, and the mind.
"First of all invoke the Deity, and then give lectures to your heart's content. First of all dive deep. Plunge to the bottom and gather up the gems. Then you may do other things. But nobody wants to plunge. People are without spiritual discipline and prayer, without renunciation and dispassion. They learn a few words and immediately start to deliver lectures. It is difficult to teach others. Only if a man gets a command from God, after realizing Him, is he entitled to teach."
Thus conversing, the Master came to the west end of the verandah. M stood by his side. Sri Ramakrishna had repeated again and again that God cannot be realized without discrimination and renunciation. This made M. extremely worried. He had married and was then a young man of twenty-eight, educated in college in the Western way. Having a sense of duty, he asked himself, "Do discrimination and dispassion mean giving up 'woman and gold'?" He was really at a loss to know what to do.
M. (to the Master): "What should one do if one's wife says: 'You are neglecting me. I shall commit suicide?' "
MASTER (in a serious tone): "Give up such a wife if she proves an obstacle in the way of spiritual life. Let her commit suicide or anything else she likes. The wife that hampers her husband's spiritual life is an ungodly wife."
Immersed in deep thought, M. stood leaning against the wall. Narendra and the other devotees remained silent a few minutes. The Master exchanged several words with them; then, suddenly going to M., he whispered in his ear: "But if a man has sincere love for God, then all come under his control - the king, wicked persons, and his wife. Sincere love of God on the husband's part may eventually help the wife to lead a spiritual life. If the husband is good, then through the grace of God the wife may also follow his example."
This had a most soothing effect on M.'s worried mind. All the while he had been thinking: "Let her commit suicide. What can I do?"
M. (to the Master): "This world is a terrible place indeed."
MASTER (to the devotees): "That is the reason Chaitanya said to his companion Nityananda, 'Listen, brother, there is no hope of salvation for the worldly-minded.' "
On another occasion
the Master had said to M. privately: "Yes, there is no hope for a
worldly man if he is not sincerely devoted to God. But he has
nothing to fear if he remains in the world after realizing God.
Nor need a man have any fear whatever of the world if he attains sincere
devotion by practising spiritual discipline now and then in solitude.
Chaitanya had several householders among his devotees, but they were
householders in name only, for they lived unattached to the world."
Sunday, October 22, 1882
It was the day of Vijaya, the last day of the celebration of the worship of Durga, when the clay image is immersed in the water of a lake or river.
About nine o'clock in the morning M. was seated on the floor of the Master's room at Dakshineswar, near Sri Ramakrishna, who was reclining on the small couch. Rakhal was then living with the Master, and Narendra and Bhavanath visited him frequently. Baburam had seen him only once or twice.
MASTER: "Did you have any holiday during the Durga Puja?"
M: "Yes, sir. I went to Keshab's house every day for the first three days of the worship."
MASTER: "Is that so?"
M: "I heard there a very interesting interpretation of the Durga Puja."
MASTER: "Please tell me all about it."
M: "Keshab Sen held daily morning prayers in his house, lasting till ten or eleven. During these prayers he gave the inner meaning of the Durga Puja. He said that if anyone could realize the Divine Mother, that is to say, could install Mother Durga in the shrine of his heart, then Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Kartika, and Ganesa would come there of themselves. Lakshmi means wealth, Sarasvati knowledge, Kartika strength, and Ganesa success. By realizing the Divine Mother within one's heart, one gets all these without any effort whatever."
Sri Ramakrishna listened to the description, questioning M. now and then about the prayers conducted by Keshab. At last he said to M.: "Don't go hither and thither. Come here alone. Those who belong to the inner circle of my devotees will come only here. Boys like Narendra, Bhavanath, and Rakhal are my very intimate disciples. They are not to be thought lightly of. Feed13 them one day. What do you think of Narendra?"
M: "I think very highly of him, sir."
Narendra's many virtues
MASTER: "Haven't you observed his many virtues? He is not only well versed in music, vocal and instrumental, but he is also very learned. Besides, he has controlled his passions and declares he will lead a celibate life. He has been devoted to God since his very boyhood.
Meditation on God with form
"How are you getting along with your meditation nowadays? What aspect of God appeals to your mind - with form or without form?"
M: "Sir, now I can't fix my mind on God with form. On the other hand, I can't concentrate steadily on God without form."
MASTER: "Now you see that the mind cannot be fixed, all of a sudden, on the formless aspect of God. It is wise to think of God with form during the primary stages."
M: "Do you mean to suggest that one should meditate on clay images?"
MASTER: "Why clay? These images are the embodiments of Consciousness."
M: "Even so, one must think of hands, feet, and the other parts of body. But again, I realize that the mind cannot be concentrated unless one meditates, in the beginning, on God with form. You have told me so. Well, God can easily assume different forms. May one meditate on the form of one's own mother?"
MASTER: "Yes, the mother should be adored. She is indeed an embodiment of Brahman."
M. sat in silence. After a few minutes he asked the Master: "What does one feel while thinking of God without form? Isn't it possible to describe it?" After some reflection, the Master said, "Do you know what it is like?" He remained silent a moment and then said a few words to M. about one's experiences at the time of the vision of God with and without form.
MASTER: "You see, one must practise spiritual discipline to understand this correctly. Suppose, there are treasures in a room. If you want to see them and lay hold of them, you must take the trouble to get the key and unlock the door. After that you must take the treasures out. But suppose the room is locked, and standing outside the door you say to yourself: 'Here I have opened the door. Now I have broken the lock of the chest. Now I have taken out the treasure.' Such brooding near the door will not enable you to achieve anything. You must practise discipline.
Brahman and Divine Incarnations
"The jnanis think of God without form. They don't accept the Divine Incarnation. Praising Sri Krishna, Arjuna said, 'Thou art Brahman Absolute.' Sri Krishna replied, 'Follow Me, and you will know whether or not I am Brahman Absolute.' So saying, Sri Krishna led Arjuna to a certain place and asked him what he saw there. 'I see a huge tree,' said Arjuna, 'and on it I notice fruits hanging like clusters of blackberries.' Then Krishna said to Arjuna, 'Come nearer and you will find that these are not clusters of blackberries, but clusters of innumerable Krishnas like Me, hanging from the tree.' In other words, Divine Incarnations without number appear and disappear on the tree of the Absolute Brahman.
"Kavirdas was strongly inclined to the formless God. At the mention of Krishna's name he would say: 'Why should I worship Him? The gopis would clap their hands while He performed a monkey dance.' (With a smile) But I accept God with form when I am in the company of people who believe in that ideal, and I also agree with those who believe in the formless God."
M. (smiling): "You are as infinite as He of whom we have been talking. Truly, no one can fathom your depth."
MASTER (smiling): "Ah! I see you have found it out. Let me tell you one thing. One should follow various paths. One should practise each creed for a time. In a game of satrancha a piece can't reach the centre square until it completes the circle; but once in the square it can't be overtaken by any other piece."
M: "That is true, sir."
MASTER: "There are two classes of. yogis: the bahudakas and the kutichakas. The bahudakas roam about visiting various holy places and have not yet found peace of mind. But the kutichakas, having visited all the sacred places, have quieted their minds. Feeling serene and peaceful, they settle down in one place and no longer move about. In that one place they are happy; they don't feel the need of going to any sacred place. If one of them ever visits a place of pilgrimage, it is only for the purpose of new inspiration.
"I had to practise each religion for a time - Hinduism, Islam, Christianity. Furthermore, I followed the paths of the Saktas, Vaishnavas, and Vedantists. I realized that there is only one God toward whom all are travelling; but the paths are different.
"While visiting the holy places, I would sometimes suffer great agony. Once I went with Mathur to Raja Babu's drawing-room in Benares. I found that they talked there only of worldly matters - money, real estate, and the like. At this I burst into tears. I said to the Divine Mother, weeping: 'Mother! Where hast Thou brought me? I was much better off at Dakshineswar.' In Allahabad I noticed the same things that I saw elsewhere - the same ponds, the same grass, the same trees, the same tamarind-leaves.
Master's ecstasy at Vrindāvan
"But one undoubtedly finds inspiration in a holy place. I accompanied Mathur Babu to Vrindāvan. Hriday and the ladies of Mathur's family were in our party. No sooner did I see the Kaliyadaman Ghat than a divine emotion surged up within me. I was completely overwhelmed. Hriday used to bathe me there as if I were a small child.
"In the dusk I would walk on the bank of the Jamuna when the cattle returned along the sandy banks from their pastures. At the very sight of those cows the thought of Krishna would flash in my mind. I would run along like a madman, crying: 'Oh, where is Krishna? Where is my Krishna?'
"I went to Syamakunda and Radhakunda in a palanquin and got out to visit the holy Mount Govardhan. At the very sight of the mount I was overpowered with divine emotion and ran to the top. I lost all consciousness of the world around me. The residents of the place helped me to come down. On my way to the sacred pools of Syamakunda and Radhakunda, when I saw the meadows, the trees, the shrubs, the birds, and the deer, I was overcome with ecstasy. My clothes became wet with tears. I said: 'O Krishna! Everything here is as it was in the olden days. You alone are absent.' Seated inside the palanquin I lost all power of speech. Hriday followed the palanquin. He had warned the bearers to be careful about me.
"Gangamayi became very fond of me in Vrindāvan. She was an old woman who lived all alone in a hut near the Nidhuvan. Referring to my spiritual condition and ecstasy, she said, 'He is the very embodiment of Radha.' She addressed me as 'Dulali'. When with her, I used to forget my food and drink, my bath, and all thought of going home. On some days Hriday used to bring food from home and feed me. Gangamayi also would serve me with food prepared by her own hands.
"Gangamayi used to experience trances. At such times a great crowd would come to see her. One day, in a state of ecstasy, she climbed on Hriday's shoulders.
"I didn't want to leave her and return to Calcutta. Everything was arranged for me to stay with her. I was to eat double-boiled rice, and we were to have our beds on either side of the cottage. All the arrangements had been made, when Hriday said: 'You have such a weak stomach. Who will look after you?' 'Why,' said Gangamayi, 'I shall look after him. I'll nurse him.' As Hriday dragged me by one hand and she by the other, I remembered my mother, who was then living alone here in the nahabat of temple garden. I found it impossible to stay away from her, and said to Gangamayi, 'No, I must go.' I loved the atmosphere of Vrindāvan."
About eleven o'clock the Master took his meal, the offerings from temple of Kāli. After taking his noonday rest he resumed his conversation with the devotees. Every now and then he uttered the holy word "Om" or repeated the sacred names of the deities.
After sunset the evening worship was performed in the temples. Since it was the day of Vijaya, the devotees first saluted the Divine Mother and then took the dust of the Master's feet.
Tuesday, October 24,1882
It was three or four o'clock in the afternoon. The Master was standing near the shelf where the food was kept, when Balaram and M. arrived from Calcutta and saluted him. Sri Ramakrishna said to them with a smile: "I was going to take some sweets from the shelf, but no sooner did I put my hand on them than a lizard dropped on my body. At once I removed my hand. (All laugh.)
"Oh, yes! One should observe all these things. You see, Rakhal is ill, and my limbs ache too. Do you know what's the matter? This morning as I was leaving my bed I saw a certain person, whom I took for Rakhal. (All laugh.) Oh, yes! Physical features should be studied. The other day Narendra brought one of his friends, a man with only one good eye, though the other eye was not totally blind. I said to myself, 'What is this trouble that Narendra has brought with him?'
"A certain person comes here, but I can't eat any food that he brings. He works in an office at a salary of twenty rupees and earns another twenty by writing false bills. I can't utter a word in his presence, because he tells lies. Sometimes he stays here two or three days without going to his office. Can you guess his purpose? It is that I should recommend him to someone for a job somewhere else.
"Balaram comes from a family of devout Vaishnavas. His father, now an old man, is a pious devotee. He has a tuft of hair on his head, a rosary of tulsi beads round his neck, and a string of beads in his hand. He devotes his time to the repetition of God's name. He owns much property in Orissa and has built temples to Radha-Krishna in Kothar, Vrindāvan, and other places, establishing free guest-houses as well.
(To Balaram) "A certain person came here the other day. I understand he is the slave of that black hag of a wife. Why is it that people do not see God? It is because of the barrier of 'woman and gold'. How impudent he was to say to you the other day, 'A paramahamsa came to my father, who fed him with chicken curry!'
"In my present of my mind I can eat a little fish soup if it has been offered to the Divine Mother beforehand. I can't eat any meat, even if it is offered to the Divine Mother; but I taste it with the end of my finger lest She should be angry. (Laughter.)
"Well, can you explain this state of my mind? Once I was going from Burdwan to Kamarpukur in a bullock-cart, when a great storm arose. Some people gathered near the cart. My companions said they were robbers. So I began to repeat the names of God, calling sometimes on Kāli, sometimes on Rama, sometimes on Hanuman. What do you think of that?"
Was the Master hinting that God is one but is addressed differently by different sects?
MASTER (to Balaram): "Maya is nothing but 'woman and gold'. A man living in its midst gradually loses his spiritual alertness. He thinks all is well with him. The scavenger carries a tub of night-soil on his head, and in course of time loses his repulsion to it. One gradually acquires love of God through the practice of chanting God's name and glories. (To M.) One should not be ashamed of chanting God's holy name. As the saying goes, 'One does not succeed so long as one has these three: shame, hatred, and fear.'
"At Kamarpukur they sing kirtan very well. The devotional music is sung to the accompaniment of drums.
(To Balaram) "Have you installed any image at Vrindāvan?"
BALARAM: "Yes, sir. We have a grove where Krishna is worshipped."