Festival in Surendra’s Garden
Thakur rejoices with the devotees
Today Thakur has come to Surendra’s garden. It is Sunday, 15 June 1884, the sixth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Jaishtha. Thakur has been enjoying the company of the devotees since nine in the morning.
Surendra’s garden is in the Kankurgachi district near Calcutta. Not far away is Ram’s garden, which Thakur visited some six months ago. Today there is a festival in Surendra’s garden.
Group singing of devotional songs began earlier in the morning. The songs are about the life of Sri Krishna in Mathura. They describe the ecstatic love of the gopis and the sorrow of Radha at her separation from Sri Krishna. Every now and then Thakur is overwhelmed with ecstasy.
The devotees stand in rows in the garden house. The singing is going on in the main hall of the garden house. A white sheet has been spread on the floor, with bolsters here and there. The hall is flanked on the east and west by rooms, one on each side, and there is a verandah running north and south. In front of the garden house – that is, to the south – is a beautiful pond with specially built brick steps. Between the hall and the steps, a garden path runs east-west. On both sides of the path are flower bushes, croton trees, and other plants. Another path runs from the eastern edge of the garden house to the north gate. It is surfaced with red brick dust and is bordered on both sides with various flowering bushes and croton trees. Near the gate and to the east of the path is another pond with cement steps. The men of the neighbourhood take their bath here and fetch drinking water. On the west side of the garden house is a path, and southwest of it is the kitchen. There is a great deal of activity here today in preparation for the feast to serve Thakur and the devotees. Suresh and Ram are supervising.
The devotees have assembled on the verandah of the garden house as well. Others stroll on the bank of the pond mentioned earlier, either alone or with friends. Some stop at the cement steps for a rest during the stroll.
The songs continue. A crowd of devotees has assembled in the hall. Bhavanath, Niranjan, Rakhal, Surendra, Ram, M., Mahimacharan, Mani Mallick, and many others are there. Many Brahmo devotees are also present.
The songs of Mathura are being sung. The singer begins with Gaur Chandrika (verses of Chaitanya Deva’s adoration). Gauranga had taken sannyas; he was mad with love for Krishna. The devotees of Navadvip wept in distress to see him. The chorus is singing: “Gaur, please come to Nadia.”
Thereafter, they sing of Radha’s anguish at separation from Krishna. Thakur is overwhelmed with ecstasy. He suddenly stands and adds lines full of pathos to the song: “Friend, either bring me the beloved of my soul or take me to him.” Thakur goes into the mood of Radha. He becomes speechless as he says these words, his body still, his eyes half-closed. He has lost all consciousness. Thakur has gone into samadhi.
After some time he regains normal consciousness. Again, with the same plaintive tone, of the gopis, he says, “Friend, make me your slave and take me to him! I shall become your maidservant forever! It is you who taught me to love Krishna, the beloved of my soul.”
The chorus goes on singing. Radha says, “Friend, I shall not go to the holy Jamuna to fetch water. I saw our beloved friend (Krishna) under the kadamba tree. When I go there, I become overwhelmed.”
Thakur is again overcome with emotion. Taking a long breath, he heaves a sigh: “Ah! Ah!”
The song continues. Radha says:
The desire for Krishna’s presence has refreshed my feverish body.
Now and then the musicians improvise verses: “Perhaps He will become yours. Please let me see Him once, O friend! The Jewel of Jewels is gone. What need have I now of other jewels? My good days are over. I have fallen again on evil times. Haven’t my evil days lasted long enough?”
Thakur adds: “Has that time not yet come?”
The chorus sings: “So much time has passed! Has that time not yet come?”
The singing continues:
O friend! I am surely dying.
To whom shall I leave my Krishna, my priceless treasure?
Friend, do not cremate this, Radha’s body, or cast it into the river, this body that has been enjoyed by the Dark One.
Neither cast it into the water, nor consign to the flames, but bind it, when I die, to the tamal tree,
And keep it there, bound close to the tamal’s blackness – so that it may keep on getting its touch.
My Krishna is black, and the tamal is black. Black is the colour I dearly love and from my earliest days have cherished.
See that my body be not parted from my Krishna, my Dark One, to whom it belongs.
In her tenth stage, Radha falls into a faint.
Radha, lying fallen on the ground, has lost all outer consciousness while repeating Krishna’s name.
How, then, has this joyful play come to such an end?
At this moment her eyes are closed; how has this happened to Radha, who only a moment ago was speaking to us?
Someone anoints her body with sandal paste, while the others lament: “Our beloved soul departs!”
They sprinkle water on Radha’s face, hoping to revive her, but can mere water save one who is dying from love for Krishna?
Seeing Radha in a swoon, her friends chant the name of Krishna. Hearing the name, Shyam, she regains consciousness. Then seeing the tamal tree, she thinks that perhaps Krishna himself has come to her.
By Krishna’s name restored to life, Radha looks round and round, searching, searching.
Failing to find her beloved’s face, she weeps the bitterest of tears,
Crying “Where is Sri Dam, whose name you chant? Bring him here that I may see Him once, just once.”
Then catching sight of the black tamal tree, Radha exclaims, “Behold! There is my Krishna’s crest!”
Spying a peacock in the tree, she sighs, ‘There you see His feathered crest!”
Her friends decide to send a messenger to Mathura. The messenger makes friends with a resident woman of the city, a woman of her age, who asks for her credentials.
Radha’s messenger friend says, “I will not have to call him. He will come on his own.” She then goes with the Mathura woman to where Krishna is and calls out, weeping, with a longing heart. “Where are you, O Hari, the life of the gopis, the beloved of my soul, Radha’s sweetheart, the allayer of shame? Come show yourself. I have said with great pride that you will come of your own accord.”
The song continues:
A woman of Mathura laughs in scorn, saying,
“O lowly milkmaid, how can you, dressed in beggar’s rags, hope to see Him,
“The king, who dwells beyond the seventh gate? How, oh how, will you ever reach Him?
I am ashamed at your boldness. Tell me, how will you ever enter there?”
“Alas! Alas!,” the milkmaid cries, “O Krishna, the gopis’ very life, you philanderer! Where are you? Show Yourself and save now the maid who yearns for You!
“O life of the gopis, where are You? Master of Mathura, show Yourself and save her heart and soul!
“Where are you, Hari, the beloved of Radha! O Hari, allayer of my shame, reveal Yourself and save my honour!”
The messenger woman then calls out, “You, life and soul of the gopis, you philanderer! Where are you, the milkmaids’ beloved?”
Hearing this, “Where are you, the life and soul of the gopis,” Thakur goes into samadhi. When the songs end, the chorus sings the name of the Lord. Sri Ramakrishna stands up again in samadhi. Regaining consciousness a little, he says, indistinctly, “Kittan, Kittan (Krishna, Krishna).” He is absorbed in divine emotion, so he cannot pronounce the name (of Krishna) properly.
The chorus sings about Radha being united with Krishna.
Look, Radha is standing,
Turning round and swaying,
Standing now to the left of Shyam,
Like a creeper embracing the tamal tree.
Now they sing the names of the Lord, accompanying themselves with drums and cymbals: “Victory to Radha Govinda! Victory to Radha Govinda!” All are seized with the madness of love for God.
Thakur dances. The devotees also dance, forming a ring around him and chanting, “Victory to Radha Govinda! Victory to Radha Govinda!”
Guilelessness and God-realization – service of God and duties of the world
When the music ends, Thakur sits for a while with the devotees. Niranjan arrives and prostrates before him in salutation. Seeing him, Thakur stands up and, with a joyful expression, says, “So you have come!
(To M.) “Look, this boy is remarkably simple. Such openness and simplicity doesn’t come without a great deal of austerity in previous births. A cunning and calculating person can’t realize God.
“Don’t you see that wherever God has incarnated Himself, there has been guilelessness?
“How simple was Dasharatha! Nanda Ghosh, Sri Krishna’s father, was free from guile. The saying goes, ‘What a nature he has! Exactly like that of Nanda Ghosh!’”
The devotees are free from guile. Is Thakur hinting that God has incarnated Himself again?
Sri Ramakrishna (to Niranjan): “It looks like a shadowy film has spread over your face. This is because you work in an office. You have to keep accounts and perform so many other duties there that you are always worried.
“You have a job, like other men of the world. But there is a little difference. You have accepted the job for the sake of your mother.
“A mother is venerable. She is the very embodiment of the all-blissful Mother of the Universe. If you had taken up a job for your wife or son, I would have said, ‘Fie on you! You are accursed! A hundred times shame on you!’
(To Mani Mallick) “Just see, this boy is free from guile. He has only one fault: sometimes he tells a fib. One day he said he’d come, but he didn’t show up. (To Niranjan) That’s why Rakhal asked you why you didn’t come to see me, even though you came to Ariadaha.”
Niranjan: “I only went to Ariadaha a couple of days ago.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Niranjan): “He’s a headmaster. He went to see you. I sent him. (To M.) Did you send Baburam to me the other day?”
Radha and Krishna – the ecstatic love of the gopis
Thakur is talking with three or four devotees in the western room. A number of chairs and tables have been placed together.
Thakur is leaning on a table, half standing and half sitting.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “Oh, what love and devotion the gopis had! They would be seized with the madness of love just to see the tamal tree! Such was the fire of separation burning in Radha’s heart that tears from her eyes would dry up from its heat – the tears would just evaporate. Sometimes people didn’t know of her divine emotion. When an elephant enters a big lake, no one notices.”
M.: “Yes sir, it was the same with Gauranga (Chaitanya Deva). When he saw a forest, he thought he was in Vrindavan; when he saw the ocean, he thought it was the Jamuna.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Oh, if a person could receive just a drop of this ecstatic love! What devotion! What love! Not only sixteen annas of love, but five sikas and five annas! This is called the madness of love. The important thing is to love Him, to have longing for Him. Then you may take whatever path you like, whether you believe in God with form or God without form, whether you believe that God incarnates as a man or not. It is enough to have devotion for Him. He Himself will then tell you what He is.
“If you must be mad, be not mad for the things of this world. Be mad for God!”
Conversation about God with Bhavanath, Mahima, and other devotees
Thakur returns to the hall. They have placed a bolster near his seat. While sitting down, he touches the bolster and murmurs, “Om Tat Sat.”
Worldly people often visit this garden; they all use this very bolster. Perhaps Thakur recites the sacred words to purify it from the contamination of their worldliness.
Bhavanath, M., and some others sit beside him. Though it is already dark, they have not yet laid out the feast.
Thakur has the nature of a child. He says: “Why haven’t you fed us? Where is Narendra?”
A devotee (laughing, to Thakur): “Sir, Ram Babu is in charge. He is supervising everything.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “Ram in charge! That is the reason!”
A devotee: “Sir, it’s always like this when Ram Babu is in charge.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to the devotees): “Where is Surendra?
“Oh, what a fine temperament he has developed. He is very frank – not afraid to speak up. And how generous he is! He never turns anyone away who asks for his help. (To M.) Did you go see Bhagavan Das? How did you find him?”
M.: “Yes sir, I went to Kalna. Bhagavan Das is very old now. I saw him in the evening. He was lying on a cotton bed sheet and someone fed him prasad. He is only able to hear when you speak loudly. Hearing your name, he said, ‘What is there for you to worry about now?’
“There is worship of the name of Brahman in that house.”
Bhavanath (to M.): “You haven’t been to Dakshineswar for a long time. He was asking me about you. He said, ‘Perhaps M. has developed a distaste.’”
Saying this, Bhavanath begins to laugh. Thakur has been listening to the conversation between them. With eyes full of affection, he says to M.: “Yes, yes. Why haven’t you been to Dakshineswar for such a long time? Tell me.”
M. stammers a lame excuse.
Just then Mahimacharan arrives. Mahimacharan, a resident of Cossipore, has great reverence for Thakur. He often visits Dakshineswar. He belongs to a brahmin family and has inherited some ancestral property. He lives independently and has not taken a job under anyone. He spends most of his time studying the scriptures and meditating on God. He is a man of some learning. He has studied a number of books in English and Sanskrit.
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing, to Mahima): “What is this? A big ship has arrived! (All laugh.) Only canoes come here, but look! This is a ship! (All laugh.) But then it is the month of Ashadha (month of rains).”
Thakur talks for a long time to Mahimacharan.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahima): “Feeding others is also a kind of service to God. What do you say? God is in all beings in the form of the fire of hunger. Feeding someone means making an offering to Him.
“Even so, at [religious] feasts one shouldn’t feed a wicked person, such as those who have committed adultery, fornication, and other vile sins, those who are drowned in sensuality. The earth on which they stand is polluted more than seven cubits deep.
“Once Hriday fed people in Sihore, many of them wicked. I said to him, ‘Look here Hriday, if you feed these people, I shall leave your house immediately.’ (To Mahima) Well, I heard that you used to feed many people. Perhaps the expenses have now gone up.” (All laugh.)
With Brahmo devotees
Leaf plates are now being placed on the southern verandah. Thakur says to Mahimacharan, “Please go there and see what they’re doing. I can’t ask you, but maybe you could help a little in serving the food.”
Mahimacharan says, “Let them bring the food first. Then I’ll see if I can do anything.” Hemming and hawing, he goes to the verandah but soon returns.
Thakur sits down to eat with the devotees. He is filled with great joy. After the meal he rests a while. The devotees go to the southern pond, wash, and again assemble near Thakur, who is chewing betel leaves. They all sit down. Pratap, a Brahmo devotee, arrives a little after two o’clock and salutes Thakur. Thakur salutes him as well, bowing down to him. He talks about a number of things with Pratap.
Pratap: “Sir, I went to the hills (Darjeeling).”
Sri Ramakrishna: “But you don’t look healthy. Are you suffering from some illness?”
Pratap: “Sir, I’m suffering from the same disease as Keshab.”
They begin to talk about Keshab. Pratap says, “Keshab’s dispassion was evident even in childhood. He was seldom seen having fun and playing with other boys. He was a student in the Hindu College, where he became a great friend of Satyendra. Through him, he came in contact with Devendranath Tagore. Keshab had yoga as well as love and devotion. At times, due to excessive love, he would become semiconscious. The main goal of his life was to bring religion to family life.”
Ego and fame – ‘I the doer,’ ‘I the guru’ – signs of God-realization
The conversation turns to a lady from Maharashtra.
Pratap: “Some women of this province have gone to the West. One such lady from Maharashtra was very learned. She went there, but she has embraced Christianity. Sir, have you heard about her?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, but from what you say, she seems to have had a desire for name and fame. Egotism of this kind is not good. The idea ‘I am the doer,’ comes from ignorance. ‘Oh Lord, You are the doer’ – this is knowledge. The Lord alone is the doer and all others are non-doers. You bring upon yourself such trouble if you say, ‘I, I.’ You can understand if you consider the state of a calf. The calf bellows, ‘Hamma, hamma,’ that is, ‘I, I.’ See what troubles befall it! Perhaps it is yoked to a plough from morning till evening, in sun or rain alike. Or perhaps a butcher kills it for people to eat. And then its skin might be tanned into hide. This hide will be used to make shoes and other things. People will put their feet into them to walk. Even then its troubles don’t end. From its skin a drum is made and then beaten constantly with a stick. In the end, its intestines are used to make strings for the bow of a cotton carder. Then it makes the sound, ‘Tuhum, tuhum,’ (Thou, Thou). Then it no longer says, ‘Hamma, hamma.’ Only saying ‘Tuhum, tuhum’ releases, brings liberation. Then it doesn’t have to return to the field of activity.
“Similarly, when an embodied soul says, ‘O Lord, I am not the doer, You are the Doer; I am an instrument, You are the Being who uses the instrument,’ his trials and tribulations in the world cease. Only then is the embodied soul liberated; it doesn’t have to return to this field of activity.”
Devotee: “How can an embodied soul get rid of his ego?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It disappears only when one has realized God. When a person is rid of his ego, he surely has had a vision of God.”
Devotee: “Sir, how can you know if a person has seen God?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “There are signs of God-vision. According to the Srimad Bhagavata, there are four signs of God-vision. One becomes like a child, like an unclean spirit, like an insentient being, or like a madman.
“A person who has seen God develops the temperament of a child. He goes beyond the three gunas. He does not become bound by any of them. He seems to make no distinction between purity and impurity – thus he is like an unclean spirit. And then like a madman he sometimes laughs, sometimes weeps. At one time he may dress himself like a gentleman, but soon after he may strip himself naked and begin to wander around with his dhoti under his arm. He seems to act like a mad man. Than again he may sit quietly at one place like an insentient being – an inert, lifeless, material body.”
Devotee: “Does one get rid of the ego totally after the vision of God?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Sometimes God completely erases one’s ego, as in the state of samadhi. But generally the person retains a trace of ego. There is no harm in this ego. It’s like the ego of a child. A five-year-old child says, ‘I, I,’ but that ego doesn’t harm anybody.
“Iron becomes gold by touching the philosopher’s stone. An iron sword becomes a sword of gold. It keeps the shape of a sword, but can’t hurt anybody. You can’t cut or kill with a sword made of gold.”
Worship of ‘gold’ in the West — is work or God-realization the aim of life?
Sri Ramakrishna (to Pratap): “You went to England. What did you see there? Do tell me about it.”
Pratap: “In the West people are worshipers of what you call ‘gold.’ Generally speaking, from one end to the other, activity reigns supreme there – it is the same in America. Still, there are some good people, some who are unattached to worldly life.”
The West and Karma Yoga – Karma Yoga or Bhakti Yoga, which one for the Kaliyuga?
Sri Ramakrishna (to Pratap): “It is not true that attachment to worldly work is only found in the West. It’s all over the world. And do you know why? Work is a sign of the first stage of life. God cannot be realized without devotion, discrimination, dispassion, kindness, and the like. The very nature of work involves a person in worldly activities, so it brings a darkness with it. Too much work makes one forget God and leads to greater attachment to ‘lust and greed.’
“However, it is not possible to give up work all of a sudden. Your nature will lead you to do it, whether you want to or not. So the instruction is: work without attachment. Work done without attachment means work done without any expectation of reward. For example, you may take to worship, repeating the name of God, and religious austerities, but not for recognition or for earning merit.
“Working unattached in this way is called Karma Yoga. But it is very difficult. In the Kaliyuga attachment creeps in so easily. You may resolve to work without attachment, but attachment enters from somewhere, you don’t know from where. Say you have celebrated a big holy feast or served a number of paupers. You may have thought, I am doing all this without any attachment; yet the desire for name and fame enters from somewhere unseen. Thus, it is only possible for those who have seen God to be completely unattached.”
Devotee: “What is the way for those who have not seen God? Should they renounce all worldly work?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “For the Kaliyuga, Bhakti Yoga is best suited – the path of love and devotion enjoined by Narada: chanting the name and glories of God and praying with a longing heart, ‘O Lord, grant me knowledge and devotion, reveal Yourself to me.’ Karma Yoga is very difficult. That’s why you must pray to God, ‘O Lord, lessen my work. And whatever the work you have for me, may I, by Your grace, be able to perform it without attachment. Besides that, grant that I may have no desire to engage myself in more work.’
“It is not possible to give up work. To meditate – that, too, is work. When you have gained love for God, your worldly work decreases by itself. And then you don’t like it anymore. Who likes water sweetened with molasses after having tasted water sweetened with sugar candy?”
A devotee: “Westerners urge us to work more and more. Is work the aim of life?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The aim of life is to realize God. Work is only the first chapter of human life. It can’t be the aim of life. Even selfless work is only a means, not the end.
“Sambhu said, ‘Please bless me that the money I have may be spent on good causes – in building hospitals, dispensaries, roads, wells, and so on.’ I said, ‘It’s good to do all this work unattached, but it is very difficult. You must always remember, in whatever you do, that the aim of human life is to attain God, not to build hospitals and dispensaries. Suppose God appears before you and tells you to ask for a boon. Will you ask Him to build some hospitals and dispensaries for you? Or will you say to Him, “O Lord, grant me pure love at your lotus feet. May I see You always.” Hospitals, dispensaries, and so on are all transient things. God is the only Reality; all else is unreal. When He is attained, one realizes that He alone is the doer and that we do nothing. Why should we forget Him and destroy ourselves with so much work? When He is attained, hospitals and dispensaries may be built if He so wills. I say that work is only the first chapter of human life; it is not the end of life. Take to spiritual practice and go forward. As you practice and advance further, you will come to know in the end that God is the only Reality and all else is unreal – and that the aim of life, truly, is to realize God.
“A woodcutter went to the forest to cut wood. There he happened to meet a brahmachari. The brahmachari said to him, ‘My good man, go forward.’ On returning home, the woodcutter began to wonder why the brahmachari had asked him to go forward.
“Some days passed. One day he was reminded of the words of the brahmachari. He said to himself, ‘Today I will go forward.’ As he went deep into the forest, he found numberless sandalwood trees. Full of joy, he brought some sandalwood back. Selling it in the market, he became very rich.
“In this way some days passed, when he was again reminded of the words of the brahmachari, ‘Go forward.’ Now, as he went farther into the forest, he found a mine of silver near the bank of a river. This he could never have dreamt. He mined the silver and sold it. He made so much money that he became a very wealthy man.
“Some more days passed. One day he again said to himself, ‘The brahmachari didn’t ask me to go only up to the silver mine. He asked me to go forward.’ This time he crossed the river and saw a gold mine. He then said to himself, ‘Nice indeed! That is why the brahmachari asked me to go forward.’
“After a few days, he again went farther and lo! he found heaps of diamonds and jewels lying on the ground. Now he became as rich as the god of wealth himself.
“So I say, whatever you may be doing, if you go forward, you will find something better. If you receive inspiration after reaching a particular stage, don’t think that you have come to the end. Work is not the goal of life. Go forward and you will be able to work selflessly. But selfless work is very difficult. So pray to God with a longing heart, ‘Oh Lord, grant me love and devotion at Your lotus feet and reduce my work. Whatever work you give me to do, grant that I may be able to do it selflessly.’
“If you go further, you will find God. You will have His vision. And gradually you will talk intimately with Him.”
The conversation now turns to the dispute about preaching in the temple of the Brahmo Samaj after the demise of Keshab.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Pratap): “I hear that there has been some controversy with you over the pulpit. The ones who started this dispute are insignificant people. (All laugh.)
(To the devotees) “You see, people like Pratap, Amrita, and some others “blow the conch shell” (make a loud noise). And others produce no sound at all.”
Pratap: “Sir, so far as musical sound is concerned, even a mango stone gives sound!”
Brahmo Samaj and Sri Ramakrishna – instruction to Pratap
Sri Ramakrishna (to Pratap): “Listen, hearing the lectures of your Brahmo Samaj preachers, one can very well understand the inner feeling of the people there. Once they took me to a meeting at the Hari Sabha. The preacher was a pundit named Samadhyayi. He said, ‘The Lord has no sweetness. We have to make Him juicy with our loving devotion.’ I was flabbergasted to hear this and was reminded of a story. Once a boy said that his maternal uncle had a cowshed full of horses at his home. No horse is kept in a cowshed! Only cows are kept there! Hearing such absurdity, what can one conclude? Just this: that there are no horses or anything else there!” (All laugh.)
A devotee: “Not just that there are no horses there; there is not even a cow! (All laugh.)
‘I am the doer,’ ‘this is my house’ – all this is ignorance – ‘diving deep’ is the aim of life
Sri Ramakrishna (to Pratap): “Listen, I tell you, you are well read, intelligent, and serious-minded. You and Keshab were two brothers, like Gaur and Nitai. You have had enough lecturing, discussions, quarrels, and disputes. Are you interested in these things anymore? Gather your whole mind and concentrate it on God. Just jump into God.”
Pratap: “Yes sir, there is no doubt about that. This clearly is my duty now. But I am doing all this to preserve Keshab’s name.”
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “You say you’re doing all this to keep his name alive. But after some time this spirit will not last. Listen to a story.
“A person had his house on the top of a hill. It was a small, thatched house. He had laboured hard to build it. After a few days there was a terrible storm. The house began to shake. The man became very worried as to how to save it. He said, ‘O, Pavana Deva (the god of wind), please don’t destroy my house!’ But the god of wind turned a deaf ear to his words. The house began to shake violently. Then he remembered that Hanuman was the son of Pavana Deva. As soon as this thought entered his mind, he cried out, ‘O Father, don’t destroy this house. It is Hanuman’s house! I beseech you!’ But the house still shook. Who would listen to him? When he repeated ‘Hanuman’s house, Hanuman’s house’ so many times and nothing happened, he began to say, ‘Father, it is Lakshmana’s house, it is the house of Lakshmana!’ This too carried no weight. Then he began to call out, ‘Father, it is Rama’s house, it is Rama’s! I say Father, don’t wreck it! I beseech you!’ Even now nothing happened. The house began to collapse. The question now was how to save his own life. Running out of the house, the man cried, ‘It is the devil’s own house!’
(To Pratap) “You don’t have to save Keshab’s name. Know that everything happens by the will of God. It was there by God’s will and it is coming to an end by His will. What can you do? Now your duty is simply to give your whole mind to God, to dive deep into His ocean of love.”
Saying this, Thakur begins to sing a song in his uniquely sweet voice:
Dive deep, dive deep, O my mind, into the ocean of beauty, and to the deepest depths descend: there you will find the gem of Love.
Go seek, go seek, O mind, the blessed Vrindavan within your heart, the abode of the Lord of Love.
Then in your heart the unceasing light of knowledge will ever shine.
Who is it that steers your boat over solid ground? It is your guru, says Kabir. Listen, and meditate on his holy feet.
(To Pratap) “Did you listen to the song? Enough of lectures and quarrels. Now dive deep. Diving into this sea, there is no fear of death. It is the sea of immortality. Don’t think that it will make you lose your head. Don’t think that a person becomes mad by calling longingly on God. I said this to Narendra.”
Pratap: “Who is Narendra?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Oh, he’s a young man. I said to him, ‘Look here, God is the sea of nectar. Don’t you want to dive into that sea? Just imagine a bowl of nectar, and you are a fly. Where will you sit to drink the nectar?’ Narendra said, ‘I will sit on the edge of the bowl and sip by leaning over it.’ I asked, ‘Why? Why sit on the edge?’ He said, ‘If I go farther, I’ll be drowned and lose my life.’ Then I said, ‘My boy, there is no such danger in the sea of Sat-chit-ananda. It is the sea of immortality. By diving into this sea, nobody dies, but instead becomes immortal. One does not lose one’s head by being mad for God.’
(To the devotees) “‘I and mine’: this is ignorance. Rasmani built the Kali Temple – everybody says this. Nobody says that God built it. So-and-so founded the Brahmo Samaj – everybody says so. Nobody says that it came into being only by the will of God. ‘I am the doer’: this is ignorance. ‘O Lord, You are the doer, I do nothing; You are the operator, I am the machine’: this is knowledge. ‘O Lord, nothing is mine. This temple is not mine, the Kali Temple is not mine, the Samaj is not mine – these are all Yours. Wife, son, family – none of these is mine – they are all Yours’: this is knowledge.
“People say, ‘This is mine, it belongs to me.’ Loving all such objects as your own is maya. But loving all things is compassion. ‘I love only the members of the Brahmo Samaj,’ or ‘I love only my family’: this is maya. To love only your compatriots is maya. To love people of all countries, to love followers of all religions, comes from love of God, from compassion.
“Maya binds man. It takes one away from God. Compassion leads one towards Him. Sukadeva and Narada both had compassion.”
Instructions to Pratap – Brahmo Samaj and ‘lust and greed’
Pratap: “Sir, those who come to you, are they making progress gradually?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You know, there’s no harm in leading a family life. But you have to live in the family like a maidservant.”
Spiritual practice in the family
“A maidservant refers to her master’s house as ‘our house,’ though she has her own home in another village. Seeing her master’s house, she says, ‘our house,’ but in her mind she knows that this house is not hers and that her own home is in the village. Again she rears her master’s son and says, ‘My Hari has become very naughty. My Hari doesn’t like sweets.’ Though she says, ‘my Hari,’ she knows that Hari is not hers, that he is her master’s son.
“Therefore, I say to those who come here, ‘Why not live a family life? There is no harm in it. But fix your mind in God while living a householder’s life. Know that the house and family are not yours. They are all God’s. ‘My real home is with God.’ And I also say to them, ‘Pray earnestly for love and devotion at His lotus feet.’”
The conversation again turns to foreign countries. A devotee says, “Sir, these days learned men of the West don’t accept even the existence of God.”
Pratap: “They may be saying that but I don’t think any of them is an atheist at heart. Many have admitted that there is some Supreme Power behind the affairs of the world.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It’s enough if they believe in Power. How are they atheists then?”
Pratap: “Besides, Western scholars also believe in a moral government (which rewards good actions and punishes evil ones).”
After a long conversation, Pratap rises to leave.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Pratap): “What more can I tell you? I only ask that you not involve yourself in quarrels and controversies.
“And one thing more – it is ‘lust and greed’ that take a man away from God. They are obstacles to God-realization. Everybody praises his own wife, whether or not she is good. (All laugh.) Whether one’s wife is good or not, if you ask what kind of a wife he has, a man will immediately say, ‘Sir, she is good indeed.’”
Pratap: “May I leave now?”
Pratap leaves. Thakur’s sweet words about renunciation of ‘lust and gold’ have not ended. The leaves of the trees in Surendra’s garden are fluttering and murmuring in the southern breeze. All these words mix in their sound, but as they float into the infinite sky, they have struck the hearts of the devotees.
But have these words resounded in Pratap’s heart?
After some time Manilal Mallick says to Thakur, “Sir, you must now depart for Dakshineswar. Keshab Sen’s mother and other ladies of the house are going there to have your darshan. Not finding you there, they may be disappointed and leave.”
Keshab had departed from this mortal world many months ago. His venerable mother, wife, and other ladies of his household are going to visit Thakur.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mani Mallick): “Wait a little, brother. I haven’t had my nap. Besides, I can’t do anything in a hurry. If they have gone there, what can I do about it? They will have a nice stroll in the garden and enjoy it.”
After a little rest Thakur is ready to leave for Dakshineswar, but before leaving he prays for the welfare of Surendra. He visits all the rooms, one by one, softly repeating the name of God. He doesn’t want to leave anything unfinished. Standing there, he says, “I didn’t eat luchis before. Bring me a little now.”
He takes a small piece of luchi, eats it and then says, “This means something. If I remembered that I had not eaten the luchi, I would want to come back for it.”
Mani Mallick: “That would have been nice! We, too, could have come with you!”
All the devotees laugh.
- Sri Ramakrishna had mentioned the garden as an ideal place for meditation, so Ram named it “Yogadyan” (a place for practicing yoga).
- 1. Kanai.
- A name of Krishna.
. A name for Krishna.
. Prabhu, Master.
. Father of Lord Rama.
. Full complement.
. One sika equals four annas; sixteen annas make one rupee.
. The Lord is the only Reality.
. Vairagya: nonattachment to the world.
. The three qualities of sattva, rajas, and tamas.
. Nishkama karma.
. A brahmachari is a spiritual aspirant practising control over the mind and preparing for the next step of life – that of the householder, or the ascetic.
. Sri Ramakrishna said “Hare, Pela, and Pancha,” which means people of ordinary calibre. The English equivalent would be “Tom, Dick, and Harry.”
. A meeting hall for religious talks and study of the scriptures.
. Rasa: liquid sweet.
. Fried bread.