With Devotees at Dakshineswar
In Dakshineswar with Manomohan, Mahima, and other devotees
Come, brother. Let’s go again for his darshan. You will see the great man, the child who knows nothing but the Divine Mother and who has come in a human body for our sake. He will tell us how to solve the difficult problems of life. He will instruct the sannyasins, he will instruct householders. His door is open. He is waiting for us at the Kali Temple of Dakshineswar. Come, let us go see him.
He is a man of infinite qualities, of joyful countenance, whose sweet words bring tears to the eyes. Let us go, brother. Let us realize the aim of human life by meeting Sri Ramakrishna, who is intoxicated day and night with love for God, and who is the ocean of motiveless grace.
It is Sunday, 26 October 1884, the autumn season. It is midday on the 7th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartik. Devotees have gathered in Thakur’s room. There is a semi-circular verandah to its west and then a garden path running north-south further to the west of it. A flower garden for Mother Kali is just beyond this path. And then there is the embankment and the holy river Ganges flowing south.
It is a mart of joy here today. Sri Ramakrishna‘s bliss and love for God are reflected in the faces of the devotees. How wonderful it is! Such joy is not only mirrored in the devotees’ faces, but is also reflected in the garden outside, in the leaves of the trees, in the various kinds of flowers, on the vast bosom of the Ganges, in the blue sky lit up by the sun, in the cool breeze carrying drops of Ganges water flowing from the feet of Sri Krishna. How amazing! Truly, even the particles of dust in the garden are filled with sweetness! I wish I could roll in the dust, secretly or with the devotees. I wish I could stand in this garden the whole day, gazing at the sweetly flowing waters of the Ganges. I wish I could embrace and talk with the creepers, bushes, shrubs, and the bright and beautiful trees adorned with leaves and flowers, feeling them my own. Doesn’t Sri Ramakrishna stroll this path? Doesn’t he walk among these trees, creepers, and shrubs? I wish my gaze could always be on this luminous vault of the sky! I see here the earth and the heavens all swimming in the joy of love.
How is it that the priest, the doorkeeper, and the attendants of the shrine all seem to be my very own? Why does this place appear as sweet as the motherland after a long absence? The sky, the Ganges, the temple of the deity, the garden path, the trees, the creepers, the bushes and shrubs, the attendants, the devotees seated there – they all seem to be made of the same material, the material of which Sri Ramakrishna is made. It is like a garden of wax in which everything – the trees, the plants, the fruits and the leaves – is made of the same material. The garden path, the gardener, the residents of the garden, the houses in the garden – all are made of wax. Everything in this place has been molded of joy!
Manomohan, Mahimacharan, and M. arrive first. Then one by one Ishan, Hriday, and Hazra arrive. There are many other devotees besides them. Balaram and Rakhal are in holy Vrindavan, but some new devotees visit these days. Narayan, Paltu, the Younger Narendra, Tejchandra, Binode, Haripada, and Baburam come and stay sometimes. Rama, Suresh, Kedar, Devendra, and other devotees also come frequently – some every week, some every two weeks. Latu lives here permanently. Yogen’s house is nearby; he comes almost every day. Whenever Narendra comes, it turns into a mart of joy. He sings the glories and names of God in his sweet and rare voice, rare even for the gods, sending Thakur immediately into various spiritual moods and into samadhi. It becomes a special festival. Thakur wishes that some of the boys would stay with him day and night, for they are pure souls not bound by the ties of marriage and worldly work. He had asked Baburam (later Swami Premananda) to stay on, and sometimes he does stay. Adhar Sen also comes frequently.
The devotees are seated in the room. Sri Ramakrishna stands there, like a child, in a reflective mood. The devotees are watching him.
The Undifferentiated and the differentiated
Sri Ramakrishna (to Manomohan): “I see Rama in everyone. You who are sitting here – I see Rama in all of you in different forms.”
Manomohan: “Rama has become all forms. But, as you say, ‘Apo Narayana’ – water is Narayana – but some water is fit for drinking, some only for washing the face, and some only for washing utensils.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, but I see that He alone is everything. He has become the world and its creatures.”
Saying this, Thakur sits down on his smaller cot.
Sri Ramakrishna’s insistence on truth and aversion to accumulating things
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahimacharan): “I ask you now, is it excessive of me to think that I have to speak only the truth? If I suddenly say I won’t eat, I can’t eat even if I’m hungry. If I say that so-and-so has to take my wash pot to the jhautala and if someone else does it instead, I have to send that person back. What has happened to me, brother? Is there anything to do about it?
“And then I can’t carry anything with me – betel-leaf, food, or anything else – because that would mean keeping things for the future. I can’t even carry a lump of clay in my hand!’’
Just then somebody comes in and says, “Sir, Hriday has come to Jadu Mallick’s garden. He is standing at the gate and wishes to see you.” Sri Ramakrishna says to the devotees, “Please stay here. Let me talk to Hriday for a while.” He puts on black varnished slippers and walks toward the eastern gate. Only M. accompanies him. They walk eastward along the garden path, which is surfaced with red brick dust. They pass the treasurer, standing on the path, who bows to Thakur. A bearded gatekeeper sits at the gate of the southern courtyard. To the left is the kuthi, the house of the owners of the temple garden. A nilkuthi used to grow here so it is called the kuthi. Beyond it flowering trees line both sides of the path and not far to the south of the path is a gazitala tree and the beautiful steps of Mother Kali’s reservoir. Then comes the eastern gate, the gatekeepers’ quarters to the left and the planter of tulasi bushes to the south. Coming out of the garden, Sri Ramakrishna finds Hriday standing near the gate of Jadu Mallick’s garden.
The attendant stands there
Hriday stands there with folded hands. As soon as he sees Sri Ramakrishna, he falls down prostrate on the road. Thakur asks him to stand up. Hriday folds his hands again and starts weeping like a child.
How strange! Sri Ramakrishna also begins to weep. There are tears in his eyes. He wipes them with his hands; yet his eyes look dry, as though he had not shed tears. How is this possible? This fellow Hriday has caused him so much trouble, but he has come so hurriedly to see him and is crying!
Sri Ramakrishna: “Why have you come now?”
Hriday (weeping): “I have come to see you. To whom else can I tell my sorrows?”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling to console him): “In the world there are problems. Happiness and sorrow are a part of worldly life. (Pointing at M.) These people come now and then just for this reason. They come here to hear a word or two about God and find some peace. What is your problem?”
Hriday (still weeping): “I’ve lost your company. That is my grief.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “But you said yourself, ‘You live the way you want and let me do the same.’”
Hriday: “Yes, I did say that. But what did I know?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Go on home now. We’ll sit and talk about it some other day. It is Sunday and many people have come. They’re waiting. Did you have a good crop this year in the country?”
Hriday: “It wasn’t bad.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Let me say goodbye now. Come again some other day.”
Hriday again lies prostrate on the ground in salutation. Thakur returns to his room with M. by the same path.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “He tormented me as much as he served me. When I was reduced to a skeleton with stomach trouble and couldn’t eat, he’d say, ‘Just see how I eat. You can’t eat because of the state of your mind.’ And then he’d add, ‘Fool, if I weren’t here, what would have happened to your self-styled holiness?’ One day he troubled me so much that I went to the embankment to drown myself in the flood tide.”
M. is speechless to hear this. He wonders how Thakur could be shedding tears for such a man.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “Well, he did me so much service. How has he come to such a pass? He looked after me just like one looks after a child. I used to lie unconscious day and night. Besides, I was ill for so long. What happened to me was totally in his hands.”
What can M. say? He remains silent, saying to himself: Perhaps Hriday didn’t serve Thakur selflessly.
Thakur reaches his room while they talk. The devotees are waiting. Thakur goes in and sits on the smaller cot.
With devotees – talks on various subjects – the profound meaning of ecstasy and the highest manifestation of divine love
Besides Mahimacharan and the other usual visitors, a number of devotees from Konnagar have arrived. One of them talks with Sri Ramakrishna for a long time.
Devotee from Konnagar: “Sir, I heard that you go into ecstasy, that you experience samadhi. Why and how does it happen? Please tell me.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Radha used to experience the highest manifestation of divine love. When a gopi friend wanted to touch her, another said, ‘Her body is enjoying Krishna. Don’t touch her. Krishna is sporting in her.’ One doesn’t attain ecstasy or this highest state of divine love without realizing God. When a fish comes up from deep water, the water splashes up behind it. The bigger the fish, the greater the splash. In ecstasy a man laughs, weeps, dances, and sings.
“One can’t remain in ecstasy long. If a person just keeps looking at himself in a mirror, people think he’s crazy.”
The devotee from Konnagar: “Sir, we hear that you often see God. Please show Him to us.”
Vision of God not possible without spiritual practices
Sri Ramakrishna: “Everything happens by the will of God. What can a man do? While repeating His name, sometimes tears flow from his eyes, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes when meditating on Him, one feels inspiration; at other times nothing happens.
“You have to work for it. Only then can God be seen. One day I had a vision of the Haldarpukur. I saw that a person of low caste was taking water from it after removing the scum from its surface. Each time he took water in his palm, he examined it. It was as if he was telling me that you can’t see the water unless you remove the scum. You can’t gain devotion or see God without making an effort. Meditation and repetition of name are all work; singing His name and glories is also work. And then, charity and worship are work.
“If you want butter, you have to make curd from milk and then keep it in a quiet place. When the milk is curdled, you have to make the effort to churn it and take out the butter.”
Mahimacharan: “Yes sir, no doubt one has to work for it. What can be gained without work? A lot of effort is needed. Only then can one achieve something. How much study is needed! There are so many holy books!”
What comes first: study (knowledge and reasoning) or God-realization?
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahimacharan): “How many holy books can you read? What will you gain by only reasoning? First try to attain Him. Putting your faith in the words of the guru, make some effort. If you have no guru, pray to God with a longing heart. He Himself will tell you what He is.
“What will you learn of God by reading books? Until you have reached the marketplace, you only hear noises in the distance. It is quite different when you reach the market. Then you see clearly, you hear clearly: ‘Take these potatoes. Pay for them.’
‘‘From a distance you hear only an indistinct sound from the sea. When you go near it, you see many ships sailing, birds flying, and waves rising and falling.
“You cannot experience God by reading books. It is quite different. After realizing God, books, scriptures, science, all seem insignificant, like dry straw.
“You have to introduce yourself to the master of the house. Before that, why are you so eager to know how many houses, gardens, and certificates of company stock he owns? If you go to his servants, they won’t help you. What information can they give you of the company shares? On the other hand, try somehow to meet the master, even if you are pushed aside or you have to jump over the fence. He himself will tell you how many houses and gardens and shares he has. When you know the master, the servants, the doorkeeper, and everyone else will salute you.” (Everybody laughs.)
The devotee: “So, how do we meet the master of the house?” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna: “That’s why work for God is necessary. It does no good to say, ‘God is,’ and just sit there. Somehow you have to approach Him. Call upon Him secretly, pray to Him, ‘Please grant me Thy vision. Grant! Please!’ Say this and cry with a longing heart. Just as you roam about madly for ‘lust and gold,’ be a little mad for Him. Let people say that so-and-so person has gone mad for God. Give up everything for some days and only call upon Him secretly.
“What will it help just to say, ‘He exists,’ and do nothing about it? There are big fish in the Haldarpukur. Can you catch them by simply sitting on the bank? To attract them, you have to prepare some food and throw it into the pond. The fish will come up slowly from deep water and ruffle the surface. You will then feel happy. Perhaps you see a little bit of the fish once – and then one suddenly jumps and splashes. You are even happier when you see that.
‘‘Turn milk into curds and churn it. Only then will you get butter.
(To Mahima) “What a bother this is! For somebody to show him God while he continues just to sit at ease! To extract the butter and take it to his mouth! (All laugh.) What trouble! Someone else must catch the fish and hand it over to him!
“Somebody wants to meet the king. The king is beyond the seven gates. Even before passing through the first gate, he asks, ‘Where is the king?’ The way is to pass through all the gates one by one.’’
The way to attain God – yearn for Him
Mahimacharan: “What must we do to attain Him?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It’s not that you can attain Him by doing this and not by doing that. It depends on His grace. Yet you have to take to some action with a yearning heart. Longing for Him brings His grace.
“One needs the opportunity – the company of holy people, discrimination, finding a true preceptor. Perhaps one’s elder brother takes up the responsibility of the household, or the wife is spiritual and very virtuous; or maybe one is not married and has not become entangled in household life. It comes about when there are situations such as these.
“A person was very ill in a man’s house, in critical condition. Someone said, ‘When it begins to rain when the Svati star is in the ascendant and the rainwater falls into a skull, and if a poisonous snake, while chasing a frog, pounces upon it and, in the process, the frog jumps away and the snake’s poison falls into the skull, then if a medicine prepared with this poison is given to the patient, the patient can be cured.’ Now, after astrological consultation on the right day, time, and conjunction of the stars, a member of the family of the patient set out with a yearning heart to look for the above conditions. He prayed to God in his heart: ‘Lord, only if You let me procure all these will my objective be fulfilled.’ Roaming around in this way, he actually saw a human skull, and then, in no time, a rain shower came. The man then said, ‘Oh Lord, I have found the skull of a dead person, and it has also rained during the ascendancy of Svati, and the rainwater has also fallen into the skull. Now, Oh Lord, bestow Your grace and procure the rest of the articles.’ He was reflecting with a longing heart when he saw a poisonous snake approach. The man was extremely happy. He was so excited that his heart began to thump. He said, ‘Oh Lord, now the snake has come and so many articles have been procured. Please get me the remaining articles too!’ While he was praying thus, lo! there came a frog. And the snake began to chase it. As soon as it approached the skull to pounce on the frog, the frog jumped over the skull and and the snake’s poison fell into the skull. The man then began to clap his hands and dance in joy.
“So, I say that anything can happen if one has the longing for it.”
Sannyas and the household – God-realization and renunciation – who is a real sannyasin?
Sri Ramakrishna: “Until you have completely renounced in the mind, you cannot attain God. A sadhu cannot accumulate things. ‘The bird and the sadhu do not hoard.’ Birds and wandering monks do not store things for tomorrow. As for me, I can’t even carry a clod of earth to clean my hands. I can’t carry a betel-leaf in a bag. When Hriday was troubling me so much, I wanted to go to Kashi. I said to myself that I would be able to take a dhoti with me, but how could I carry money? So I didn’t go to Kashi. (Everybody laughs.)
(To Mahima) “You householders have to have ‘this’ as well as ‘that’ – to live in the world and also to stick to the spiritual path.”
Mahima: “Is it possible to have ‘this’ as well as ‘that?’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I threw money into the water on the bank of the Ganges near the panchavati, saying, ‘Money and earth – earth is money, money is earth.’ But then I became frightened. I said to myself, ‘Have I offended Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth)? If Mother Lakshmi stops giving me food, what will happen to me?’ Then I bargained like Hazra. I said, ‘Mother, please dwell in my heart!’ Once Mother Bhagavati, happy with a person’s austerity, said to him, ‘Ask for a boon.’ He said, ‘Mother, if you would grant me a boon, grant that I may eat rice on a gold plate with my grandson.’ Thus in one boon he asked for everything – grandson, prosperity, and a gold plate! (Everybody laughs.)
“When you have renounced ‘lust and greed’ in the mind, it goes to God and becomes absorbed in Him. One who is now bound can also attain liberation. One is bound by turning away from God. When does the lower needle not point to the upper needle of the goldsmith’s scale? The moment there is a load of ‘lust and greed’ in one of its pans.
“Why does an infant cry when it comes out of the womb? ‘I was in the womb, in union with God.’ After taking birth, it cries and asks, ‘Where am I? Where have I come? I was meditating on God’s lotus feet; now where am I?’
“For you [referring to householder devotees], mental renunciation is necessary. Live in your family without attachment.’’
Is it necessary to renounce the world?
Mahima: “When the mind has gone to Him, do you stay with the family any more?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What are you saying? Where will you go if you don’t stay in the family? I clearly see that I am in Rama’s Ayodhya wherever I am. Family life, this world, is Rama’s Ayodhya. Having received spiritual instruction from his guru, Ramachandra said, ‘I will renounce the world.’ Dasharatha called Vasishtha to make Rama change his mind. Vasishtha saw that Rama had acquired deep dispassion. So he said, ‘Rama, first reason this out with me; later you may renounce the world. Tell me, is this world without God? If that be so, you may renounce it.’ Rama understood that God Himself has become the world, its creatures, everything. It is because of His power that one perceives everything as real. Ramachandra became silent then.
“You have to fight against lust, anger, and so on in worldly life; you have to fight against various desires. You have to fight against attachment. If the fight is from inside the fort, it is convenient. It is better to fight from home. There you get food, and your wife helps you in so many ways. In the Kaliyuga life depends on food. It is better to be at one place than to roam around for food from one place to another. Living at home is fighting from inside the fort.
“And you should live in the world like a torn-off leaf in a storm. The storm sometimes takes it inside a house, sometimes to a garbage heap. The leaf is carried away wherever the wind takes it, sometimes to a clean place and sometimes to a dirty one. He has put you in the world; it is good that you stay there. Again, He may lift you from there and carry you to a better place. Let it happen as it will.”
Resignation in family life – Rama’s will
“What can you do if you are kept in the world? Resign, surrender everything to Him. Then there will be no trouble. You will then realize that it is He who does everything. All depends on Rama’s will.”
A devotee: “‘Rama’s will’ – what is that story?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “There was a weaver in a village who was very religious. Everybody trusted him and loved him. The weaver would go to the market to sell his cloth. When a customer asked the price, he would say, ‘By Rama’s will, cotton thread costs one rupee; by Rama’s will labour charges are four annas; by Rama’s will, profit is two annas. So the price of the cloth by Rama’s will is one rupee, six annas.’ People had so much faith in him that they would immediately pay the price and take the cloth. This fellow was a great devotee. After dinner he would sit in the worship hall till late at night, meditating on God and singing His glories. One night – it was very late but this fellow did not feel sleepy – he was sitting there smoking when a group of robbers passed by to commit a robbery. They needed a porter. They came to the weaver and said, ‘Come along with us.’ They took him by the hand. Then they robbed a house and placed many articles on the weaver’s head to carry. Just then the police arrived. The thieves ran away, but the weaver was caught with all those articles on his head. He was kept in the police lock-up that night. The next day he was tried by a magistrate. When the villagers came to know of it, they all came to the jail. They said, ‘Sir, this fellow could never commit a robbery.’ The magistrate said to the weaver, ‘Tell me what happened.’ The weaver replied, ‘Sir, by Rama’s will, I took rice at night. By Rama’s will, I sat in the worship hall. By Rama’s will, it was very late at night. By Rama’s will, I was meditating on Him and was singing His glories when, by Rama’s will, a group of thieves passed by. By Rama’s will, they pulled me up and took me along with them. By Rama’s will, they committed robbery in a house. By Rama’s will, they placed a load on my head. Then by His will I was caught. By Rama’s will, the police put me in jail. And now this morning, by Rama’s will, I have been brought before you.’
“Seeing that the fellow was so religious, the magistrate discharged him. On the way home the weaver said to his friends, ‘By Rama’s will, I have been discharged.’
‘‘Whether one is living in the world or has taken sannyas, all is Rama’s will. So, resign yourself to His will and do your duties in the world.
“What else can you do?
“A clerk was sent to jail. When the period of his sentence ended, he was released from jail. Now, will he dance joyfully to the beat of the drum, or will he return to his job as a clerk?
‘‘A person liberated in this very life, may live as a householder if he so wills. For a man who has attained spiritual knowledge, there is nothing like ‘here’ and ‘there.’ It is all the same for him. Everything ‘here’ as well as ‘there’ belongs to Him.”
The earlier story of his life – conversation with Keshab Sen – liberated in this very life in the world
“When I first met Keshab Sen at a garden house, I said, ‘He has cast off his tail.’ Everybody in the assembly laughed. Keshab said, ‘Please don’t laugh. His words have meaning. Let me ask him.’ I said, ‘As long as a frog doesn’t shed its tail, it has to live in water. It can’t climb onto dry land and move around. As soon as it loses its tail, it hops out onto the bank. Then it can live both in the water and on the land. Similarly, until a man sheds the tail of his ignorance, he lives in the water of worldliness. When he casts off the tail of ignorance and attains knowledge, he is liberated and can move about anywhere. If he likes, he can live as a householder.’’’
Context of household life – the unattached householder
Mahimacharan and other devotees are sitting and drinking the nectar of Sri Ramakrishna’s words, which are like variously-coloured jewels. The devotees pick up as many as they can, but their laps are already full, so heavy that they cannot be lifted. Their capacity is limited; they can contain no more. Sri Ramakrishna is solving all the problems that have arisen in the human heart since the creation of the world. Padmalochan, Narayan Shastri, Gauri Pundit, Dayananda Saraswati, and other scholars of the scriptures sit in silent awe. When Dayananda saw Sri Ramakrishna in the state of samadhi, he lamented, “We have studied so much of the Vedas and the Vedanta, but in this great man we see its manifestation. He proves that the learned only drink buttermilk when they churn the scriptures. Only such great men as he eat the butter.” Learned men like Keshab Chandra Sen, educated in English, are also amazed by Sri Ramakrishna. They think how wonderful it is that this illiterate person can explain such matters in rustic language, similar to the words of Jesus Christ. Thakur explains in the same way, by parables, so that all people – men, women, and children – can understand easily. Jesus repeated, ‘Father, Father’ like a madman. Sri Ramakrishna is mad, crying, ‘Mother, Mother!’ He has not merely an inexhaustible treasure of spiritual wisdom, but he also pours out endless pots of divine love. And he is a man of renunciation like Jesus. He has the same burning faith. That is why his words are so powerful. When worldly people talk, there is no power because they have no renunciation – no burning conviction in them. Learned men like Keshab Sen also wonder how this illiterate person has developed such broad-mindedness. How wonderful! There is no ill will in him at all. He respects followers of all religions and quarrels with no one.
Today, hearing Thakur’s conversation with Mahimacharan, some of the devotees say to themselves, “Thakur hasn’t asked anyone to renounce the world. On the contrary, he said that the household is like a fort; you can fight against lust, anger, and the like while staying in this fort.” He also said, “Where else will you go if you don’t live there? The clerk resumes clerkship when he is freed from jail.” In a way he is saying that a person liberated in this life can live as a householder. Keshab Sen was his example. To Keshab he said, “You have shed your tail; no one else has.” But Thakur has said something very special, “You have to live from time to time in solitude. You have to build a fence around a young plant or it will be eaten by goats or cows. When the plant has grown a big trunk, you may remove the fence. Then even if an elephant is tied to it, the tree will not come to any harm. There is no danger if you live as a householder after having lived in solitude and after having attained spiritual knowledge and love for God.” That is why he talked so much of living in solitude.
The devotees are reflecting thus. After talking about Keshab, Sri Ramakrishna speaks about one or two other devotees.
Devendranath Tagore – yoga and bhoga (commmunion with God and sense enjoyments)
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahimacharan and the others): “I once went with Mathur Babu to meet Devendra Tagore. I said to Mathur Babu, ‘I have heard that Devendra Tagore meditates on God. I would like to see him.’ Mathur Babu said, ‘All right, sir, I will take you to see him. We were class fellows at the Hindu College. He has special affection for me.’ After many days I had the opportunity of meeting him with Mathur Babu. Seeing Mathur Babu, Devendra said, ‘You have changed a little. You have developed a paunch.’ Mathur Babu introduced me, saying, ‘He has come to meet you. He is mad for God.’ To find out Devendra’s traits, I said to him, ‘Let me examine your body.’ Devendra took off his shirt. He was fair, and his body was rough, as if sprinkled with vermilion.
“At first I noticed that there was some pride in him. And why not? He had so much wealth, so much learning, such name and fame. Noticing his pride, I asked Mathur Babu, ‘Does pride come from knowledge or ignorance? Does a person who has attained the knowledge of Brahman have pride of learning, or of spiritual knowledge, or of wealth?’
‘‘While talking to Devendra, I suddenly went into a state of mind when I can see what kind of person a man really is. A hearty laugh arose within me. When I am in this state of mind, I feel that the learned are just like pieces of straw. When I see that there is no discrimination and dispassion in a pundit, he appears to me just like a dry piece of straw. I then see him as a vulture flying high but with its eyes on charnel pits below.
“I saw that he had both yoga and bhoga. He had many small children. The family doctor was there. This showed that, though he was man of knowledge, he was occupied with worldly affairs. I said, ‘You are the “Janaka” of the Kaliyuga. Janaka held to both the world and spirit while he drank his cup of milk. You live with your family, keeping your mind on God. Hearing that, I have come to see you. Please talk to me about God.’
“He recited some portions from the Vedas. Then he said, ‘This world is like a chandelier and every being is a lamp in it.’ Once when I was meditating in the panchavati, I had a vision like that. It agreed with Devendra’s words, so I thought he was really a great man. I asked him to explain further. He said, ‘Who knows this world? God made men to proclaim His glory. If there is no light in the chandelier, it is dark everywhere. You can’t even see the chandelier.’”
Incivility and the Brahmo Samaj – Captain, a householder devotee
‘‘After a long conversation Devendra said to me in a happy mood, ‘You have to come to our celebrations.’ I said, ‘It is all God’s will. You can see what the state of my mind is. I never know what state the Divine Mother will put me in.’ Devendra said, ‘No, no, you have to come. But please clothe yourself in a dhoti and upper cloth. I would be unhappy if somebody made a remark about how casually you dress.’ I replied, ‘I won’t be able to do that. I can’t become a gentleman.’ Devendra and Mathur Babu both laughed.
“The very next day Mathur Babu received a note from Devendra asking me not to attend the festival. The reason? It would seem rude if I were not able to retain the upper cloth on my body. (All laugh.)
(To Mahima) “And then there is an another person, Captain. Though a householder, he is a great devotee. You must talk to him.
‘‘Captain knows the Vedas, the Vedanta, Srimad Bhagavata, the Gita, the Adhyatma Ramayana – all these by heart. Just talk to him and see for yourself.
“He has great devotion! He held his umbrella over my head when I was walking along the road from Baranagore. And how hospitable he is when he takes me to his house. He fans me, massages my feet, and serves me various kinds of vegetables. One day I lost consciousness in the toilet of his home. Even though he is so orthodox, he went into the room and helped me to sit. He is so orthodox, but he didn’t feel any repulsion.
“Captain has to spend a lot. His brothers live in Kashi, and he sends money to them. His wife used to be miserly; now she is so hard-pressed with family expenses, she can’t spend much on anything.
“Captain’s wife told me that he doesn’t like household life. She said once that he told her he would leave the world. Several times he said, ‘I will leave, I will leave.’
“He comes from a family of devotees. His father was a soldier. It is said that with one hand he would worship Shiva and with the other, he would fight with a bare sword.
“Captain is very orthodox. He didn’t come here for a month because I used to go see Keshab Sen. Why? Keshab Sen is not orthodox – he eats with the English, he has married his daughter into another caste, so he has lost his own caste. I said, ‘What does all this matter to me? Keshab repeats the name of Lord Hari. I go for that reason. I go to him to hear talk about God. I eat plums, I am not concerned with thorns.’ Even then Captain didn’t leave me alone. He would say to me, ‘Why do you go to Keshab Sen?’ Feeling a little irritated, I said, ‘I don’t go to him for money! I go to him to hear of God! Why do you go to the Governor’s house? He is a mlechchha (non-Hindu). Why do you associate with him?’ When I said this, he stopped for a while.
“But he has great love and devotion for God. During worship, he performs arati with camphor, and while he sits on the asana, he sings hymns. At that time he is quite a different man, as if he is completely absorbed.’’
The doctrine of maya in Vedanta and Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahimacharan): “According to the Vedanta philosophy the world is all maya, all illusory like a dream. The Supreme Self is the witness – the witness of the three states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. These conform to your way of thinking. The waking and dreaming states are equally true. Listen to a story. It agrees with your thinking.
“There was a peasant who lived in the countryside. He was a farmer, but spiritually he was very wise. After a long period, his wife bore him a son whom they named Haru. Both parents loved this boy. And why not? He was the precious, bright jewel of the family. The farmer was of a religious nature, and everybody in the village liked him very much. One day he was working on his farm when somebody came and told him that Haru had an attack of cholera. The farmer returned home and arranged for good medical treatment, but the boy died. Everybody in the family was grief-stricken, but the farmer acted as though nothing had happened. He even consoled others, saying that it was no use to grieve. And then he went back to his field to farm. When he returned home, he found that his wife was weeping even more bitterly. She said to him, ‘How hard-hearted you are! You have not shed a tear for your son!’ The farmer replied gently, ‘I’ll tell you why I’m not weeping. Yesterday I had a great dream. In it I was a king and the father of eight sons. I was in complete happiness when I woke up. Now I am in great confusion – whether I should grieve for those eight sons or for this one son of yours.’
“The farmer was a man of spiritual knowledge. He could see that the state of waking is as illusory as the state of dreaming. The Atman alone is eternal.
“I accept everything – the fourth state of turiya as well as the states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. I accept all the three states. I accept Brahman as well as maya, living beings, and the world – all. If I did not accept all, I would not get the full weight.’’
A devotee: “How does it lose weight?” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna: “Brahman is qualified by living beings and the world. In the beginning, when discriminating ‘not this, not this,’ one has to determine what the individual soul is and what the world is. As long as one has the feeling of ‘I-ness,’ one feels that God Himself has become everything. He indeed has become the twenty-four cosmic principles.
“When a man talks of the essence of a bel fruit, he means the pulp only – not its seeds and shell. But to be able to tell the weight of the bel fruit by simply weighing the pulp alone will not do. One has to take the pulp, the seeds, and the shell together to weigh it. The pulp, the seeds, and the shell all belong to it.”
The Absolute belongs to Him and so does the phenomenal world
“So, I accept the Absolute as well as the phenomenal world. I don’t do away with the world by calling it maya. If I did, it would lose weight.”
The doctrine of maya and Vishishtadvaitavada – Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
Mahimacharan: “Beautifully harmonized! From the Absolute to the phenomenal world, and again from the phenomenal world to the Absolute.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Men of knowledge see everything as an illusion. Devotees accept all the states. The man of knowledge yields milk in droplets. (All laugh.) Some cows are very choosy when they graze, so they yield milk in dribbles. But the cows who don’t discriminate so much and eat everything give streams of milk. The highest class of devotee accepts both the Absolute and the phenomenal world, so he can enjoy the divine even when his mind comes down from the Absolute. The highest class of devotee yields milk in streams.” (All laugh.)
Mahima: “But that milk has a particular smell.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Yes, it has. It has to be boiled a bit. You must heat it a little on the fire of spiritual knowledge. Then it won’t smell anymore.”
Om and the union of the Absolute and phenomenal
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahima): “You explain Om with reference only to a, u, m.”
Mahimacharan: “A for creation, u for preservation, and m for dissolution.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I explain it with the sound ‘t-a-a-m’ of a brass bell – t…a…m. The merging of the relative into the Absolute; the merging of the gross, the subtle, and the causal into the Great Cause; it is the merging into the state of turiya from the states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. The bell rings as if something heavy has fallen into the ocean, giving rise to waves. The relative thus arises from the Absolute. The gross, the subtle, and the causal forms start appearing out of the Great Cause. The states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep emerge from turiya. And again, these waves of the Great Ocean lose themselves again in the Great Ocean. From the relative to the Absolute, and from the Absolute to the relative. I have been shown this. I use the simile of the sound ‘t-a-a-m.’ I have seen all this clearly. I was shown the Ocean of Consciousness – it is limitless. Everything on the relative plane arises from it and then merges back into it. Millions of universes come into existence in the Ocean of Consciousness, and then they merge back into it. I don’t know what your books say.”
Mahima: “Those who saw all this have not written the scriptures. They remained absorbed in their realization. Where was the time for them to write? To be able to write, one needs an analytical mind. Others who heard it from them wrote.”
How long does attachment to the world remain?
Till the attainment of the bliss of Brahman
Sri Ramakrishna: “Worldly people ask why they don’t get rid of the attachment to ‘lust and greed.’ The attachment goes when God is attained. If you once taste the bliss of Brahman, your mind will not run after sense pleasures, wealth, and honour.
“If a moth sees light once, it doesn’t go into darkness again.
“Someone said to Ravana, ‘You conjure up so many different forms for Sita. Why don’t you once assume the form of Rama and go to her?’ Ravana replied, ‘When I think of Rama, even the seat of Brahma appears unimportant, what to speak of another man’s wife. How then could I assume the form of Rama?’”
The more one develops love for God, the less becomes the attachment to the world – Chaitanya’s devotees are unattached
“All spiritual practices are done for the sake of attaining Him. The more you meditate on Him, the less will be your attachment for the ordinary things of the world. The more devotion you have for His lotus feet, the less desire you will have for sense objects, and the less your mind will concern itself with physical comfort. Someone else’s wife will appear to you as your mother, and you will think of your own wife as your helper in spiritual life. She will be a friend in spiritual life. You will be freed from lower desires, and divine qualities will develop in you. You will be completely detached from the world. Then even if you live in the world, you will move about as one already liberated in life. The devotees of Chaitanya Deva lived in the world without attachment.”
Deep secret of the man of knowledge and the devotee
(To Mahima) “You may discuss Vedanta a thousand times with a genuine devotee and call the world a dream, but his love for God will not disappear – though he may appear to shed it a little for a while. A pestle was lying in a field of willows. It resulted in the pestle destroying the dynasty. 
“One becomes a man of knowledge who is born with an element of Shiva. His mind always goes to that knowledge ‘only Brahman is real, the world is an illusion.’ If one is born of Vishnu, one possesses loving devotion. This intense love will never leave you. Even if it is diluted a little with reasoning, it returns to gush forth again, just as the pestle destroyed the dynasty of the Yadus.”
Service to mother and Sri Ramakrishna – Hazra Mahashay
Hazra is sitting on the verandah to the east of Sri Ramakrishna’s room, performing japa. He is forty-six or forty-seven years old and comes from the same region as Thakur. For quite a long time he has felt renunciation for the world. He remains away from his home and visits it only occasionally, although he has property in the village, which supplies the needs of his wife, son, daughter, and other family members. But he has incurred a debt of about a thousand rupees, and it continually worries him how to pay it back He often visits Calcutta. Ishan Chandra Mukherji, who resides in Thanthania has great respect for Hazra and serves him like a holy man. Sri Ramakrishna keeps Hazra with him out of compassion. When his dhoti wears out, he gets Hazra a new one. He often enquires after him and talks about God with him. Hazra is very argumentative and is often carried away by his argument. He spends a lot of time on his asana on the verandah, performing japa on his rosary.
News has come of the illness of Hazra’s mother. When Ramlal left their village, she held his hand and begged him, “Carry this humble request of mine to your uncle (Thakur), somehow to persuade Pratap (Hazra) to come home just this one time. May he come to see me just this once.” Thakur has told Hazra, “Go home and see your mother, and then come back. She spoke about it repeatedly to Ramlal. How can one call upon God after hurting one’s mother? Go, and then you may come back.”
When the meeting of the devotees is over, Mahimacharan brings Hazra to Thakur. M. is also present.
Mahimacharan (smiling, to Sri Ramakrishna): “Sir, I have to ask you something. Why have you asked Hazra to go home when he doesn’t want to go back to his family?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “His mother expressed great grief to Ramlal, so I told him, ‘Go for three days. Come back after seeing her once.’ Can one practice spiritual disciplines after hurting one’s mother? I was going to stay in Vrindavan when all of a sudden I remembered my mother. I said to myself, ‘Mother would weep.’ So I returned here with Mathur Babu.
“Anyway, what fear can a man of knowledge have to go see his family?”
Mahimacharan (smiling): “But sir, only provided one has attained knowledge.”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Hazra has attained everything. Only a little of his mind is in the world. He has sons and has incurred some debt. ‘The aunt has completely recovered, only a bit of sickness remains.’ (Everybody laughs.)
Mahima: “But sir, where is his knowledge?”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “O brother, you don’t know? Everybody knows that Hazra is the only devotee who lives in Rasmani’s temple. They talk of Hazra only. They never talk of this (pointing to himself).” (All laugh.)
Hazra: “You are unmatched. You can’t be compared with anyone. No one understands you.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Ah, so that is why – the matchless one cannot help anybody. Why, then, talk of this (meaning himself)?”
Mahimacharan: “Sir, what does he know? He’ll just do what you tell him to.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Oh? You’d better ask him. He tells me, ‘I have nothing to do with you.’”
Mahima: “He is very argumentative.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “And then he also lectures me from time to time. (All laugh.) In a discussion I scolded him. Later, lying inside the mosquito net remembering the language I used, I thought I might have offended him. So I went to salute him. Only then was my mind at peace.”
Vedanta and the pure Atman
(To Hazra) “Why do you call the pure Atman Ishvara (God)? The pure Atman is beyond all action. It is only a witness to the three states. When I think of creation, preservation, and dissolution I call Him Ishvara. What is pure Self like? It is like a magnet lying at a distance, but the needle still moves toward it. The magnet itself remains unmoved – actionless.’’
Evening music and conversation with Ishan
It is almost evening. Thakur is taking a stroll. Seeing Mani sitting all alone and meditating, he suddenly addresses him lovingly, “Please bring me one or two coarse shirts. I can’t accept shirts brought by everybody. I was thinking of asking Captain, but you may give them to me.” Getting up, Mani says, “At your service.”
It is twilight. Incense is burnt in Sri Ramakrishna’s room. He bows to the pictures of gods and goddesses and, having repeated his bija mantra, chants the names of God. There is a unique splendour outside the room. It is the seventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartik and the pure rays of the moon falling on the temple seem to make it smile. As well, ripples play on the surface of the Ganges, which is rising and falling sweetly like a sleeping baby’s chest. The flood tide is over. The sound of arati mixed with a melodious murmuring of the bright and refreshing current of the Ganges loses itself in the distance. Three aratis are being performed at the same time in the temples – the Kali temple, the Vishnu temple, and each of the Shiva temples. The priest of the Shiva temples goes from one temple to the other. He holds a bell in his left hand and the lamp with five wicks in the right. An attendant carries cymbals.
The sweet sound of the symphony of sanai and other instruments from the southwest corner of the compound is heard. Evening music is being played in the music pavilion. A perpetual festival of the All-Blissful Mother reminds the devotees never to be unhappy. There are joys and sorrows in the world – let them be. The Mother of the Universe, our Mother, is here. Rejoice. The son of the maid of the house hasn’t enough to eat, hasn’t enough to wear, no house, no hearth. Even then, there is courage within: he has his mother. He is fearless in the lap of his mother. She is not a step-mother, She is the real mother. Who am I, from where have I come, what will happen to me, where will I go – all this the Mother knows. Why bother the mind about it? My Mother knows – my Mother who has made me a body, mind, life, and self. I don’t even want to know. If it is necessary, She will tell me. Why worry about it so much? All children of Mother, rejoice!
Bathed in moonlight, the world outside is smiling. Inside his room, Sri Ramakrishna is seated, filled with the bliss of God’s love. Ishan has come from Calcutta. More conversation about God takes place. Ishan has great faith. He says, “With a trident in his hand, Shiva accompanies one who goes on a journey with the name of Durga on his lips. What is there to fear from misfortune when Shiva Himself is the guardian?”
Attainment of God through faith – instructions on Karma Yoga to Ishan
Sri Ramakrishna (to Ishan): “You have firm faith. I don’t have that much. (All laugh.) One can realize Him by that faith alone.”
Ishan: “Yes sir.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You perform repetition of the name and daily puja, observe fasts, and perform purascharanaand other rites and rituals. This is very good. God makes one who has sincere attraction for Him do all these things. If one is able to perform them all without desire for their fruits, one surely attains Him.”
Ritualistic devotion and loving devotion – when do rituals fall off?
‘‘The scriptures instruct us to perform numerous rites, so I perform them. This is called ritualistic devotion. The other is loving devotion. It comes out of an especially deep love for God, such as Prahlada had. When one develops this love, there is no longer the need for rituals.”
In the heart of the disciple
Before evening, Mani is strolling in the temple garden as he recalls the story of Rama’s will. This is very beautiful, he thought. It solves the confusion between predestination and free will, between liberty and necessity. “I was captured by the robbers because of Rama’s will; I was smoking, that too by Rama’s will; I committed a theft by Rama’s will; I was held by the police also by Rama’s will. I have become a sadhu by Rama’s will. I pray, ‘O Lord, may my mind be not impure. May you not goad me to commit robbery.’” This too is Rama’s will. The right desire and the wrong desire are both given by Him. Even so, there is a special point: Why should He give us the wrong understanding? Why should He give the desire to commit robbery? In answer to this, Thakur said, “Just as He has made the lion, the tiger, and the snake among animals, just as He has made poisonous trees among others, similarly He has also made thieves among men.” Why has He made them, who can tell? Who can understand God’s ways?
But then, if God has made everything, our responsibility ends. But why would it end? Unless you have realized God, unless you have had His vision, you cannot have one hundred percent faith. As long as you don’t have full faith, you will certainly have the feeling of vice and virtue, and the feeling of responsibility. Thakur has explained what “Rama’s will” is. Repeating “Rama’s will” like a parrot won’t do. As long as you don’t know God, as long as “my” will and His will don’t become one, as long as you don’t have the full understanding that I am an instrument, so long does He retain the knowledge of vice and virtue, joy and sorrow, purity and impurity, good and bad, and the sense of responsibility. Otherwise, how can His world of maya go on?
The more I think of Sri Ramakrishna’s love of God, the more I am struck with wonder. Keshab Sen repeats the name of Hari and meditates on God, so he (Thakur) immediately runs to meet him. Keshab at once became his own. Then he did not listen to Captain’s objection that Keshab went to a foreign land, ate with white men, gave his daughter in marriage into a different caste – all these things. “I take only cherries. I have nothing to do with thorns.” In the bond of love for God, believers in God with form and believers in God without form are united. Hindus, Muslims, and Christians – all are united, and also the four castes. Love of God, be victorious! Blessed you are, Sri Ramakrishna! Victory to you! You have embodied the universal spirit of eternal religion. It is perhaps for this reason that you hold such attraction. You embrace the followers of all religions as your own, without any difference. You have but one test – love for God. You only see if a person has that within, if he has devotion. If that is there, he immediately becomes your very own. If you see love of God in a Hindu, he is at once your own. And if a Muslim has the same love for Allah, he is also your own. If a Christian has love for Jesus, he is also your near and dear one. You say that all rivers coming from different directions flow into one and the same ocean.
Thakur does not consider this world a dream. If that were so, it would lose weight. It is not the doctrine of illusion, it is the doctrine of qualified non-dualism. He does not consider the individual soul and the world imaginary; he doesn’t think they are illusions. God is real, and so are men and the world real. Brahman is qualified by living beings and the world. You cannot get the whole of a bel fruit if you take away its seeds and shell.
It is said that the universe manifests itself in the Great Ocean of Consciousness and then merges back into it in time. A wave rises in the Great Ocean and then merges back into it. On the waters of this ocean of joy are an infinite number of waves. Where is the beginning of this sport and where is its end! It cannot be expressed in words. It cannot be thought by the mind. How little is man, how small his intelligence. It is said that great saints have seen this Eternal Supreme Person in the state of samadhi – they have witnessed the Absolute sporting as the ever-playful Lord. This they have surely done because Sri Ramakrishna also says so – but not with these physical eyes. They did it perhaps with what is called the divine eye. Getting this divine eye, Arjuna saw the Universal Form of the Lord. With this divine eye, the rishis realized the Atman, and with this divine eye, Jesus saw his heavenly Father constantly. How can we gain that divine eye? We have heard Thakur say that one can get it by the yearning of the heart. But how to have such yearning? Does one have to renounce the world? No, he did not say that today.
. Seeing, experiencing; paying respect to a holy place or person by a ceremonial visit; also the blessing or purification felt in the presence of holiness.
. Murari; M. is alluding here to a Vaishnava belief that explains the origination of the Ganges as Brahma washing the feet of the Incarnation of God, Vamana; in Vaishnava tradition the Incarnation of God is Krishna.
. Hriday Mukherji is the son of Ramakrishna’s cousin. His home is in Seor village near Kamarpukur. For almost twenty-four years Hriday stayed with Thakur, served him, and carried out the worship of Mother Kali at the Dakshineswar Temple. Later, he lost the confidence of the proprietor of the temple garden and therefore was not allowed to remain.
. Indigo plant.
. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
. Vidya shakti.
. Chandi mandap; a roofed place, usually with the four sides open.
. Sejo Babu – Mathur Nath Biswas, Rani Rasmani’s son-in-law. From the very beginning he served Sri Ramakrishna with extreme devotion, like a disciple.
. Desire for enjoyment of sense objects.
. Vishwanath Upadhyaya, a resident of Nepal, was the emissary of the king of Nepal and his representative in Calcutta. He was a very orthodox brahmin and a great devotee.
. Seat of worship and meditation.
. The transcendental state.
. The highest class devotee:
yo mäà paçyati sarvatra sarvaà ca mayi paçyati |
tasyähaà na praëaçyämi sa ca me na praëaçyati ||
Bhagavad Gita 6:30. [He who sees Me everywhere and sees all in Me; I am not lost to him, nor is he lost to Me.]
. rasavarjaà raso’pyasya paraà dåñövä nivartate| Bhagavad Gita 2:59. [The longing for sense objects also turns away when he has seen the Supreme.]
. Tuchham Brahmapadam paravadhusangah kutah.
. Musalam kulanashnam, the story of the pestle: The childhood friends of Samba, one of Krishna’s sons, playfully disguised him as a pregnant woman by dressing him in female clothes and hanging an iron pestle below his waist. They presented him before a group of ascetics and asked them what sort of child the woman would give birth to. Enraged that a joke had been played on them, the munis proclaimed a curse that the iron pestle would be the ruin of the entire clan of Yadus. Fearfully, the boys took the pestle to the ocean and rubbed it for a very long time. The particles that fell from it, on striking the ground, became strong willow reeds. The boys threw the last piece of pestle into the sea.
In the meantime Krishna’s clan, the Yadus, had become overbearingly vain and arrogant and they began to fight among themselves. At last they took the powerful willow reeds sprung from the pestle dust and, with them as weapons, fought each other to the death. Krishna, having decided that it was time that he also pass on, bade his father and his wives farewell and seated himself under a tree for meditation. Only one of his legs was not obscured by the leafy and outreaching branches of the tree. A hunter mistook him for a deer and killed him with an arrow, the point of which was the last piece from the pestle that had been thrown into the sea. Thus did the munis’ curse find fulfillment.
. Prema bhakti.
. Hazra (Pratap Chandra Hazra) left his wife and children in Madagod, near Kamarpukur, in order to lead a spiritual life, when he was approximately thirty-eight years old. Argumentative and critical of others, he nevertheless had extraordinary faith and devotion to Ramakrishna, who joked that he was there to “thicken the plot.” He returned to his home and died there in the month of Chaitra, 1306 B.Y. (A.D. 1900) when he was sixty-four years old.
. The letter or syllable of a mantra in which the essence of God is concentrated.
. Roshan chowki.
. Raga ragini.
. Nahabat khana.
. Performance of japa a certain number of times each day, methodically increasing and decreasing the number.
. Vaidhi bhakti.
. Raga bhakti.
. Sanatana Dharma.