Sri Ramakrishna’s Arrival at a Devotee’s House
Conversation and Joy with Narendra, Girish, Balaram, Chunilal, Latu, M., Narayan, and Other Devotees
In the company of devotees in a devotee’s house
It is the 10th day of the dark fortnight of Phalgun, Purva Ashadha nakshatra, Wednesday, 11 March 1885, the 29th of Phalgun. Arriving from Dakshineswar today at about ten o’clock, Sri Ramakrishna takes the prasad of Sri Jagannath at the home of a devotee, Balaram Bose. Latu and other devotees are with him.
Blessed you are, Balaram! Today your home has become the main centre of Thakur’s work. He has bound devotee after devotee with the ties of divine love! How he has danced and sung with them, just as Sri Gauranga himself had established a mart of ecstatic love in the house of Srivasa!
Sitting at the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar, Thakur weeps with longing to see his intimate disciples. He suffers sleepless nights. He says to the Divine Mother, “Mother, he has so much devotion! Please attract him to this place. Mother, do please bring him here. If he cannot come here, then Mother, take me to him so that I can see him.” So he comes running to Balaram’s house. To others he says, “Sri Jagannath is worshiped in Balaram’s house. The food there is very pure.” Whenever he comes, he immediately sends Balaram to invite others. He says, “Please invite Narendra, Bhavanath, and Rakhal. Please invite Purna, the Younger Naren, Narayan – all these devotees. Feeding them is like feeding Narayana Himself. They are not ordinary. They are manifestations of divinity. You will be greatly benefited if you feed them.”
It was in Balaram’s house that Thakur first met Girish Ghosh. A joyous singing of hymns was held here at the time of the Car Festival. So many times “a festivity of joy in the court of love” has been held at this very place.
Eagerly awaiting your arrival – the Younger Naren
M. teaches in a nearby school. He has come to know that Sri Ramakrishna will come to Balaram’s house today at ten o’clock. He finds time to go there during school hours and arrives in the afternoon and salutes Sri Ramakrishna. After his meal Sri Ramakrishna rests for a while in the visitor’s room. Every now and then he takes out some powdered spices and cubeb from a small pouch and chews it. Young devotees are sitting around him.
Sri Ramakrishna (affectionately): “So you have come. Don’t you have school?”
M.: “I’m coming from school. There’s not much to do there now.”
A devotee: “No sir, he has played truant.” (All laugh.)
M. (to himself): “Oh, it is as if someone has dragged me here.”
Sri Ramakrishna looks a bit worried. Then he asks M. to sit near him and speaks with him on various subjects. He says, “Can you wring this hand towel of mine and spread my shirt in the sun? My foot is aching a little. Can you massage it gently?” M. doesn’t know how to render service, so Thakur teaches him. Rather confused, M. performs these actions one by one. While Sri Ramakrishna instructs him in different things during the conversation, M. gently strokes his feet.
Sri Ramakrishna and the highest point of renunciation – the true sannyasin
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “Can you tell me why this has been happening to me? For some time now I haven’t been able to touch anything made of metal. Once I put my hand on a metal cup and it felt like I’d been stung by a horned fish. My whole hand began to sting. But you know, you can’t get along without touching a wash pot, so I thought I’d cover it with a piece of cloth and see if I could pick it up. No sooner did my hand touch it than it started to twitch with acute pain. So I prayed to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, I won’t do it again, please pardon me this time.’
“The Younger Naren comes here. Will his family object? He is very pure and absolutely free from lust.”
M.: “He is a ‘receptacle’ of great capacity.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes. He also says that he remembers everything he hears about God, even if he only hears it once. He tells me that when he was a child he used to weep because he couldn’t see God.”
Sri Ramakrishna talks to M. about the Younger Naren for quite some time. One of the devotees present says, “Master Mahashay, aren’t you going back to school?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What time is it?”
A devotee: “Ten to one.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “You had better go. It’s getting late. You have already left your work to come here. (To Latu) Where is Rakhal?”
Latu: “He has gone home.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Without seeing me?”
In the afternoon with devotees – incarnation and Sri Ramakrishna
Returning after school has closed, M. sees Thakur seated with a group of devotees in Balaram’s drawing room. There is a sweet smile on his face, which is reflected on the faces of the devotees. Seeing that M. has come again and, after he has offered his salutations, Thakur beckons him to sit near. Girish Ghosh, Suresh Mitra, Balaram, Latu, Chunilal, and some other devotees are present.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “Talk to Narendra and see what his views are.”
Girish (smiling): “Narendra says that God is infinite. All that we see and hear, whether it is a person or a thing – even what we can’t describe – is part of Him. What can a portion of infinity be? Infinity can’t be split.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “God may be infinite, but if He wills, His essence can manifest in man – and it does. That He incarnates Himself cannot be explained by any analogy. One has to experience it. One has to see it himself. Analogy may give some idea. If you touch the horn of a cow, you have touched the cow. And if you touch its foot or tail, you have still touched the cow. But for us the principal thing is the cow’s milk, and that comes from the udder.
“In the same way, God assumes a human body from time to time and appears on earth to teach us ecstatic love and devotion.”
Girish: “Narendra says, ‘Is it possible to comprehend Him completely? He is Infinite.’”
Perception of the Infinite
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “Who can comprehend God fully? One can not know any aspect of God, either the whole or a part. And what need is there to know Him fully? It is enough to have a vision of God. Seeing His incarnation is seeing Him. If somebody goes to the Ganges and touches its water and says, ‘I have seen and touched the Ganges,’ it doesn’t mean that he had to touch the whole of the Ganges from Hardwar to Gangasagar with his hand. (All laugh.)
“If I touch your feet, I have touched you. (Laughter.)
“If you go to the sea and just touch its water, you have touched the sea itself. The element of fire is present in everything, but it is more present in wood.”
Girish (laughing): “I want the place where I can get fire.”
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “The element of fire is more in wood. If you are looking for the essence of God, you have to find it in man. God is more manifest in man. If you see deep and burning devotion and ecstatic love pouring forth from a man, if you see him mad for God, crazy in His love, know for certain that God has manifested in him.
(Looking at M.) “God is indeed present, but then His power manifests more in some than in others. His power manifests more in an incarnation. Sometimes this power exists in its fullness. It is Shakti that becomes the incarnation of God.”
Girish: “Narendra says, ‘He is beyond word and intellect.’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, He may be beyond this mind, but He is known by the pure mind. He may be beyond this intellect, but He is seen with the pure intellect. As soon as one is freed from the attachment to ‘lust and greed,’ the mind and intellect become pure. Then pure mind and pure intellect are one. He is known by the pure mind. Haven’t the sages seen Him? They saw Consciousness with the help of consciousness.”
Girish (smiling): “I defeated Narendra in the argument.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No. He said to me, ‘Girish Ghosh has so much faith in God’s incarnation, what could I say? One shouldn’t contradict such faith.’”
Girish (smiling): “We are all so free with our words, but M. is sitting tongue-tied. What is he thinking? Sir, what do you say?”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Mukhahalsa bhetarbunde, kantulse, dighal ghomta nari, pana pukerer sheetal jala manda kari.” (All laugh.)
(Smiling) “But he is not like that. He is a very deep soul.” (All laugh.)
Girish: “Sir, what does this saying mean?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Beware of these kinds of people. The mukhahalsa, whose words flow like water. And then the bhetarbunde, who keeps the door of his heart closed to you. Then the kantulse, who shows off his devotion by sticking a sacred tulasi leaf in his ear. Beware also of a dighal ghomta woman, a woman who wears a long veil. People think she is very chaste, when in fact she is not. And of panapukur water – water from a scum-covered tank. When you bathe in it, you get typhoid fever.” (Laughter.)
Chunilal: “People have been talking about M. The Younger Naren and Baburam are his pupils, and so are Narayan, Paltu, Purna, and Tejchandra. It is being said that he has brought them here, and thus their studies are being neglected. He is being blamed.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Who will believe them?”
Such is the trend of conversation. Now Narayan comes in and salutes Thakur. Narayan is a student, of fair complexion, seventeen or eighteen years old. Sri Ramakrishna is very fond of him and is always eager to see and feed him. He often cries for him in Dakshineswar. He sees in Narayan the very presence of Narayana Himself
Girish (to Narayan): “Who told you?
I see that it is M. himself who has shot this arrow.” (Everybody laughs.)
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “Stop, keep quiet! M. is already getting a bad name!”
Amazing is the worry over food – result of a brahmin’s acceptance of gifts
The conversation again turns to Narendra.
A devotee: “Why doesn’t he come as often as he used to?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Worry over food is amazing! It made even Kalidasa lose his wits.”
Balaram: “He often visits Annada Guha, Shiva Guha’s son.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes. Narendra, Annada Guha, all these boys hold meetings of the Brahmo Samaj at the house of an office clerk.”
A devotee: “His name is Tarapada.”
Balaram (laughing): “The brahmins say that Annada Guha is very conceited.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Don’t listen to the brahmins in such matters. You know them well. If you don’t give them gifts, you are bad; and if you do, you are good. I know Annada. He’s a good man.”
Enjoying hymns in the company of devotees
Sri Ramakrishna expresses a desire to hear some songs. The drawing room in Balaram’s house is full of people. They are all looking at him (Sri Ramakrishna) to see what he says and what he does.
O Keshava, who roam in Vrindavan’s groves, to Your humble servant grant Your grace.
O Madhava, who enchant the mind and steal the heart, playing sweetly on the flute.
(Utter, my mind, the name of Hari! Hari! Hari!)
O youth of Vrindavan, who tamed the serpent-king Kaliya and removed the fear of the distressed,
O You of flashing eyes, a peacock’s feather on Your brow, the delight of Radha’s heart,
Upholder of the mount Govardhan, with wildflowers adorned!
O Damodara, crusher of Kamsa’s pride!
O dark-hued playmate of Vrindavan’s gopis!
(Utter, my mind, the name of Hari! Hari! Hari!)
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “Oh, what a beautiful song! Did you compose all these songs?”
A devotee: “Yes, he composed all the songs in Chaitanya Lila (‘Lord Chaitanya’s Divine Play’).”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “This song describes it so well!”
(To the singer) “Can you sing a song about Nitai?”
Tarapada sings a song by Nitai:
If you wish for young Radha’s love, come here: the tide of love flows in.
A hundred waves of love are rising.
Take as much as you desire
Of this love the maiden pours out freely.
Drawn by her love, chant “Hari, Hari, Hari!”
This love sets the heart dancing, maddened with longing.
Come, let us all chant Hari’s name, drawn by Radha’s love.
Next he sings the song about Sri Gauranga:
Who are you, O golden-hued one, who set my heart at peace?
A storm is raging on the sea of love, sweeping away all fetters of family, birth, and pride.
(Drown, O mind, in the thought of Gaur.)
Becoming a cowherd boy, you tended the cows in Vraja,
Stealing the hearts of the gopis with the sweet flute in your hand.
Lifting Mount Govardhan, you saved Vrindavan,
And your serene face was flooded with tears
As you humbled yourself, holding the wounded gopis’ feet.
(Drown, O mind, in the thought of Gaur.)
Everyone tries to persuade M. to sing, but he is shy. In a whisper he asks to be excused.
Girish (smiling, to Thakur): “Sir, there is no way to make M. sing.”
Sri Ramakrishna (irritated): “He can bare his teeth at school, but feels shy to sing a song here!”
M. is ashamed and sits silently.
Suresh Mitra is seated at some distance. Glancing lovingly at him and pointing at Girish Ghosh, Sri Ramakrishna says happily: “What are you compared to him (Girish)!”
Suresh: “Yes, sir. He is my elder brother.” (All laugh.)
Girish (to Thakur): “Well, sir, I didn’t study anything in my childhood. Still people call me learned.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Mahima Chakravarty has read and heard so many scriptures! He is a good ‘receptacle’. (To M.) What do you think?”
M.: “Yes, sir.”
Girish: “What? Studying! I have seen enough of it. I’m not going to be misled by it anymore.”
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “Do you know the attitude ‘here’? Books, scriptures, and the like only show the way to realize God. When you know the way, the means, what need is there for books and scriptures? One only has to act.
“A person received a letter asking him to send a few things to his relatives. It listed what articles were to be sent. When he went to buy them, he couldn’t find the letter. He was very confused and began to look for it. For a long time people helped him search, and at last the letter was found. There was no end to his happiness. He carefully held the letter and began to read it, eagerly, to see what was written in it. It said, ‘Send five seers of sandesh, a dhoti, and what-not.’ Now the letter was of no use to him. He put it away and began to gather the sandesh, dhoti, and other articles. For how long was the letter needed? As long as he didn’t know about the sandesh, dhoti, and so forth. When he knew what it contained, he followed its instructions.
“In the scriptures you will find ways to realize God, but after knowing them, you have to get to work. Then only will you attain the goal.
“What use is mere learning? A pundit may know a number of couplets, a number of scriptures. But he who is attached to the world, who has love for ‘lust and greed’ in his mind, has not internalized the contents of the holy books. His study has been in vain. The almanac says that it will rain twenty adas, but squeeze the almanac and not a drop will come out. Not a single drop!” (All laugh.)
Girish (smiling): “Sir, will not a drop fall when the almanac is pressed?” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “The pundits talk grandly, but where is their attention? On ‘lust and greed,’ on sensual pleasures and money.
“Vultures soar high, but their eyes remain fixed on the charnel pits. (All laugh.) Their looks are only on charnel pits, dead animals, and corpses.
(To Girish) “Narendra is a very good boy. He is good at singing, at playing musical instruments, at reading and writing, and at studies. Besides, he has conquered his senses: he has discrimination and dispassion. He is truthful. He has a number of good qualities.
(To M.) “What do you think? Is he very good?”
M.: “Yes sir, he is very good.”
Sri Ramakrishna (aside to M.): “See how much love and faith Girish has!”
M. looks at Girish wonderingly. Girish has been coming to Thakur for some time. M. feels as though they have known each other for a long time, that they are very close, like gems strung together on the same thread.
Narayan: “Sir, won’t you sing?”
Sri Ramakrishna sings the name and glory of the Divine Mother in his sweet voice:
Cherish the beloved Mother Shyama in your heart.
O mind, may you and I alone behold Her, and let no one else intrude. …
Thakur sings to the Divine Mother, assuming the state of worldly people burned by the three fires complaining like a fretful child.
O Mother, ever blissful as You are,
Deprive me not of bliss.
My mind knows nothing but Your lotus feet.
The king of Death berates me.
Tell me, Mother, what I should say to him.
My one desire is to cross the sea of this world
With Your name, Bhavani, on my lips.
I did not even dream, O Mother,
That you would drown me in this shoreless sea!
I swim night and day taking Durga’s name,
Yet to my sorrow there is no end.
If I die this time, O Beloved of Shiva, O Durga,
Nobody will ever repeat Your name!
Then he sings of the Divine Mother ever joyful in the bliss of Brahman:
In Shiva’s company the Mother is ever lost in ecstasy;
Though drunk with the wine of bliss, She reels but does not fall.
She stands erect on Shiva’s breast, the world trembling at Her tread.
More than mad, both He and She are indifferent to fear and shame.
The devotees listen to the songs in deep silence. They gaze at Thakur, who, in an amazing self-forgetful mood, is intoxicated with love for God.
The song ends. After a while Sri Ramakrishna says, “I could not sing well today. I have a slight cold.”
At the approach of evening
Evening has slowly set in, as if the blue shadows of infinity have fallen on the ocean’s breast. Whether in a deep forest or on the peak of a mountain reaching into the sky, at the bank of a river with its water trembling at the touch of wind, or in a vast plain meeting the ends of the earth, the insignificant human being easily feels a change of mood. The sun was illuminating the universe. Where has it gone? wonders a child – and, as well, the childlike saint. It is evening. How amazing! Who has done this? Birds sheltered in the branches of the trees are chirping, men who are spiritually awake are repeating the name of the Supreme Poet, the Primal Being, the Cause of all causes.
Evening has come as they talk. The devotees remain seated while Sri Ramakrishna chants the sweet names of God. Everybody listens to him attentively. They have never heard such sweet chanting, as though a shower of nectar. They have never heard or seen a child calling his mother so lovingly, “Mother, Mother!” What need is there now to gaze at the sky or the hills, the ocean, open spaces, or the forest? What use is there now of seeing the horns or feet or limbs of a cow? Am I seeing with my eyes, here in this very room, “the udders of the cow,” which the compassionate guru has spoken of? How peaceful has every restless mind become! How has this joyless earth become so filled with joy? Why do I see the devotees so at peace, so joyful? Is this loving saint the infinite God in a beautiful form? Is this the place where one’s thirst for milk is quenched? Whether or not he is God-incarnate, my heart is sold at the feet of this man and it cannot be withdrawn. I have made him the pole-star of my life. Let me see how the Primeval Supreme Soul reflects Himself in the lake of the heart!
Some of the devotees reflect in this way and feel blessed to hear the names of the Mother and the Lord being chanted from the holy lips of Sri Ramakrishna. After singing the names and glories of God, Thakur prays. It is as if the Lord Himself has assumed a body of love and is instructing the individual soul how to pray. He says:
Mother, I surrender at Your lotus feet, I give myself to You.
I do not seek creature comforts, nor name and fame do I ask,
Nor do I demand the eight occult powers. O Mother,
Only grant that I may have pure love and devotion at Your lotus feet,
That for You I may have pure love, both selfless and without motive.
And grant, O Mother, that by Your world-bewitching maya I be not enchanted.
Never may I have love for ‘lust and greed.’
In Your world of maya, there is none else for me but You.
I know not how to chant Your name, O Mother,
I am poor in love, devotion, and knowledge.
Be compassionate and grant me love for Your lotus feet.
Mani thinks: What is worship for him who repeats the name of God at morning, midday, and evening; from whose holy lips issue forth the Ganges of names ceaselessly, like a flow of oil? Mani later understands that Thakur has assumed a human body to impart instructions to mankind: The Lord Himself came in the guise of a yogi and sang the glory of the name.
Girish has invited Thakur to his home this very evening.
Sri Ramakrishna: “Don’t you think it will be too late?”
Girish: “No, you may go whenever you like. I have to go to the theatre tonight. I have to settle a dispute.”
Sri Ramakrishna in a wonderful mood on the road
At Girish’s invitation, Thakur is to go tonight. It is 9:00 p.m., and he still has to eat the dinner that Balaram has prepared for him. So that Balaram won’t feel hurt later, Thakur tells him on the way to Girish’s house, “Balaram, you may send the food you prepared.”
As he comes down from the second floor, he becomes filled with divine emotion. He looks drunk. Narayan and M. are with him. Rama, Chuni, and many others follow. A devotee asks, “Who will go with him?” Sri Ramakrishna says, “One person will do.” As he descends the stairs, he is overwhelmed with ecstasy. Narayan tries to hold his hand to keep him from falling, but Thakur expresses displeasure. Shortly, he says to Narayan with great tenderness, “If you hold my hand, people will think I’m intoxicated. I will walk by myself.”
They cross a three-way juncture of Bosepara Lane. Girish’s house is only a little distance from here. Why is Sri Ramakrishna walking so fast? The devotees are falling behind. Who knows what divine emotion has taken possession of him? Is he walking like a madman thinking of that Being whom the Vedas say is “beyond mind and speech?” Only a short time ago he said at Balaram’s house that the Supreme Being is not beyond mind and speech, that He is realized by the pure mind, the pure intellect, and the pure soul. Perhaps at this moment he is beholding that Supreme Being. Is he seeing “whatever is, it is You?”
Just then Narendra is seen coming. Thakur is usually excited, almost to madness, at the sight of Narendra. But now as Narendra appears before him, Thakur is silent. People say, “This is God-consciousness.” Did Chaitanya Deva experience this same state?
Who can understand such divine fervour? Thakur has now arrived at the street from which one enters Girish’s house. The devotees are with him. He talks to Narendra.
“Are you keeping well, my child? I couldn’t speak to you then.” His every word is marked with tenderness. He has not yet reached the front door. He suddenly stops.
He looks at Narendra and says, “One word – ‘this’ (individual soul) is one and ‘that’ (the world) is another.”
The individual soul and the world! Was he seeing all this in ecstasy? Only he knows what he saw in that speechless state. He spoke a word or two – a phrase from the Vedas – as if a word from God, or as if he has gone to the infinite seashore and, standing there speechless, hears a few echoes of the anahata rising from never-ending waves.
Thakur in the shrine of a devotee – newspapers – Nityagopal
Girish stands at the door to greet Sri Ramakrishna. As soon as Thakur and his devotees approach, Girish lies prostrate before him. He rises at Sri Ramakrishna’s bidding, takes the dust of his feet, and leads him to the sitting room on the second floor. He asks him to sit there, and the devotees quickly sit down. Everyone is eager to be near him and to drink his sweet words.
As he sits down, Thakur notices a newspaper lying there. Newspapers have to do with worldly-minded men, worldly matters, gossip, and running down others, so a newspaper is unholy to Sri Ramakrishna. He makes a sign that it should be removed.
When the newspaper is taken away, he sits. Nityagopal salutes him.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Nityagopal): “Why have you not been to Dakshineswar?”
Nitya: “Sir, I haven’t gone to Dakshineswar, because I haven’t been well. I had pain.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “How are you now?”
Nitya: “I am still not well.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You’d better bring your mind down one or two notes.”
Nitya: “I don’t like people’s company. They say so many things that frighten me. But at other times I feel strong.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It’s only natural. Who lives with you?”
Nitya: “Tarak. He’s always with me. But at times even he bothers me.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Nangta (Totapuri) used to say that there was a person at his monastery who had acquired some miraculous powers. He used to walk around gazing at the sky. But when his companion, Ganesh Garji, left him, he became disconsolate.”
While speaking, Sri Ramakrishna goes into ecstasy. In that mood he remains speechless. After a while he says, “You have come? I’m here too.”
Who understands these words? Is this the language of the gods?
With an intimate disciple – discussion on God-incarnation
Many devotees are sitting near Sri Ramakrishna, among them Narendra, Girish, Rama, Haripada, Chuni, Balaram, and M.
Narendra does not believe that God incarnates in a human body. On the other hand, Girish has burning faith that God incarnates in every age, that He assumes a human body and comes down to this mortal world. Thakur wants the two to argue this matter. He says to Girish, “Discuss this for a while in English. I want to listen.”
The discussion starts. But not in English – in Bengali with a few words of English interspersed. Narendra says, “God is infinite. It is not possible for us to comprehend Him. He is present within everybody, it is not that He appears in only one human body.”
Sri Ramakrishna (affectionately): “I agree with him. He is everywhere. But this is also true, that there is a difference in manifestation of the divine power. He manifests Himself in some as ignorance and in some as knowledge. In some ‘receptacles’ there is greater power, and in others less. So all men are not equal.”
Ram: “What is the use of such idle discussion?”
Sri Ramakrishna (sharply): “No, no. It has a special significance.”
Girish (to Narendra): “How do you know that He doesn’t assume a human body?”
Narendra: “He is beyond speech and mind.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, He can be known by the pure intellect. The pure intellect and pure Atman are indeed the same. The rishis realized the pure Atman with their pure intellect.”
Girish (to Narendra): “If God does not incarnate in a human body, who will teach mankind? He assumes a human body to teach knowledge and love for God. If he doesn’t, who will?”
Narendra: “Why, He will teach from within the heart!”
Sri Ramakrishna (affectionately): “Yes, yes. He will teach as our Inner Controller.”
Now a heated discussion begins: Can the Infinite have parts? What does Hamilton say? What does Herbert Spencer say? What have Tyndall and Huxley said? This is the discussion.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “I don’t like such conversation. I see everything as God. What is there to reason about? I see that He is all, that He has become everything. He is this as well as that. In one state the mind and the intellect are lost in the Absolute. When I see Narendra, my mind is absorbed in the Absolute.
(To Girish) “What do you say to this? Say something.”
Girish (laughing): “I have understood nearly everything but this.” (Everybody laughs.)
Ramanuja and the doctrine of Qualified Non-dualism
Sri Ramakrishna: “And then I can’t talk unless I come down two steps. What Shankara understood and taught as Vedanta is true, but then the Qualified Non-dualism of Ramanuja is also true.”
Narendra: “What is meant by Qualified Non-dualism?”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra): “Qualified Non-dualism is Ramanuja’s view that the finite soul and the phenomenal world are parts of the Absolute and not separate from it. The three are one.
“Take a bel fruit. Somebody separates its shell, seeds, and kernel, but now you want to know its weight. Will you be able to weigh it by weighing the kernel alone? The shell, the seeds, and the kernel will have to be weighed together. At first it seems that neither the shell nor the seeds are of any importance – that the kernel is all-important. But when you think about it, you realize that the kernel belongs to the same substance (fruit) as the shell and the seeds. In the beginning you have to reason ‘not this, not this’; the finite soul is not permanent, nor is the world: only Brahman is real, all else is unreal. Later, you realize that the kernel belongs to the same substance as the shell and seed. The Absolute is the identical substance from which you derive the concept of the individual soul and the world. The phenomenal must be traced to that very Being, the Absolute must be traced. So Ramanuja says that the individual soul, the world, and Brahman are one. This is called Vishishtadvaita.”
God-vision – God reveals Himself through the Incarnation
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “I see Him before my eyes; what more should I reason about? I’m seeing that God Himself has become everything, that He Himself has become the living beings and the world.
“But without awakening the consciousness within you, you can’t realize the Universal Consciousness. How long do you reason? As long as you do not realize Him. Mere talking will not do. I see that He indeed has become everything. One can only gain awakening by His grace. When you awaken, you go into samadhi. Sometimes you forget your body; your attachment to ‘lust and greed’ vanishes; you don’t like anything except talk about God; you feel pained to hear worldly talk.”
Revelation – instruction to Narendra – Kali truly is Brahman
“When the consciousness within is awakened, the Universal Consciousness is realized.”
At the end of the discussion Sri Ramakrishna says to M., “I have seen that you can know Him in one way through reasoning and in another way through meditation. Again, when God reveals Himself by showing how He plays as man, it is yet a different experience. When He reveals what God-incarnation is, you don’t have to reason any more, and nobody has to try to make you understand. Do you know what it’s like? It’s like striking a match and the place is suddenly illumined. Similarly, if God suddenly gives you light, all doubts vanish. Can He be known by reasoning?”
Thakur calls Narendra and makes him sit near him. He enquires about him and shows great affection to him.
Narendra (to Sri Ramakrishna): “Alas, I have meditated on Kali for three or four days, but nothing at all has happened.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It will happen gradually. Kali is none other than Brahman. The One who is Brahman is Kali. Kali is the Primal Power. When It is inactive, I call it Brahman. When It creates, preserves, and dissolves, I call It Shakti, I call It Kali. Whom you call Brahman, I call Kali.
“Brahman and Kali are one and the same. They are like fire and its burning power. If one thinks of fire, its burning power immediately comes to mind. When one accepts Kali, one has to accept Brahman. Similarly, by accepting Brahman, one has to accept Kali.
“Brahman and Shakti are one and the same. I call Brahman Shakti, and the same Being I call Kali.”
It is dark, and Girish must leave. He says to Haripada, “Brother, please call a cab. I have to go to the theatre.’’
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “Look here, see that you bring one!”
Haripada (laughing): “I’m going to bring it. Why shouldn’t I?”
God-realization and work – Rama and work
Girish (to Sri Ramakrishna): “I have to leave you to go to the theatre.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, you have to serve both parties. King Janaka was loyal to both matter and spirit and drank his milk from a full cup.” (All laugh.)
Girish: “I am thinking of leaving the theatre and everything to the younger fellows.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, no. This is all very good. It’s helping many.”
Narendra (in a low voice): “Just a moment ago he was harping on God, on incarnation of God, and now the theatre is drawing him!”
In samadhi – Sri Ramakrishna intoxicated with God
Seating Narendra by his side, Sri Ramakrishna looks at him. Suddenly he moves still nearer. Narendra does not believe in incarnations of God. What does that matter? Thakur’s love for him knows no bounds. Touching Narendra, he quotes from a song, “‘Do you feel that your dignity has been wounded? So be it. We are of the same mind as you, and we feel for you.’
One reasons till one realizes God
(To Narendra) “As long as there is reasoning, one cannot attain God. You were reasoning. I didn’t like it.
“How long is there noise at a feast? As long as people don’t sit down to eat. As soon as luchis and vegetables are served, seventy-five percent of the noise disappears. (All laugh.) When other dishes are served, it decreases further. When curds are served on leaf plates, one can only hear the sound of sipping. And when the feast is over, they all sleep.
“The nearer you come to God, the less you reason. When He is attained, no words, no reasoning, remains. Then it is sleep – samadhi.”
Saying this, Thakur gently strokes Narendra’s body and touches his chin. He says, “Hari Om, Hari Om, Hari Om.”
Why is he acting like this? Is Sri Ramakrishna seeing in Narendra the very presence of God? Is this what is known as seeing God in man? Soon Thakur begins to lose outer consciousness, all awareness of the outside world. Perhaps this is what is called the “half-consciousness” that Chaitanya experienced. He has his hand on Narendra’s feet, as if he is massaging the feet of Narayan. Again he moves his hand. Why so much caressing of the body and massaging of the feet? Is he serving the Lord, or is he transmitting power to Narendra?
Suddenly his mood changes. What is he saying to Narendra with folded hands? He says, ‘‘Sing a song and I will be restored. Then I’ll be able to stand on my own legs. ‘Oh, he (my Nityananda) is intoxicated with the love of Gauranga.’’’
He is silent for a while and sits speechless, like a figure in a painting. Then overwhelmed with divine emotion, he says, ‘‘Beware Radha, lest you fall into the Jamuna, you who are mad with love for Krishna!’’
Still overwhelmed with divine emotion, he quotes a song:
Friend, how far is that wood
Where my Shyama Sundara is?
I sense Krishna here!
I can walk no farther.
Now Thakur has lost all consciousness of the world and remembers nothing. Narendra is seated before him, but he is not conscious of Narendra. He has no awareness of the outside world. It is as if his mind and soul have merged in God. Madgat antaratma.
“Deeply drunk with the love of Gaur!” Saying this, he stands up with a cry. He sits down again and says: “Yonder a light approaches. I see it but do not know from where it comes.’’
Now Narendra sings:
By giving Your vision, you have rid me of all sorrows and charmed my soul.
Beholding You, all the seven worlds forget their grief,
What to speak of my poor self so mean and unworthy.
Sri Ramakrishna is losing all consciousness of the external world as he listens to the song. With eyes closed and body still, he goes into samadhi.
Just as a child who has lost his companion is confused; in the same way, after coming out of samadhi, he says, “Who will take me back?”
It is late at night, the tenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalgun. It is very dark when Thakur prepares to return to the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar. As he is about to get into a carriage, devotees stand nearby. Sri Ramakrishna gets in, helped gently by the devotees. He still remains in a God-intoxicated state.
The carriage leaves and the devotees go, each to his own home.
In the heart of the disciple
Overhead shines the starry night sky; upon the canvas of the heart is the wonderful image of Sri Ramakrishna, and in the memory the assembly of devotees. Like a happy dream, the mind’s eye is filled with that love. The devotees are going home along the main road in Calcutta. Some of them, enjoying the pleasant spring breeze, sing the same song as they go: “By giving Your vision, You have rid me of all sorrows and have charmed my soul.”
Mani walks along, wondering to himself: Does God actually assume a human form and come to earth? Is divine incarnation really true? How does the infinite God become a man three and a half cubits tall? Can the Infinite become finite? I have reasoned enough, but what have I understood? I have known nothing by reasoning.
Sri Ramakrishna has said beautifully, “As long as one argues and reasons, one does not attain the goal, one does not attain God.” This is also true: I have only an ounce of intellect. How can I know God with it? Can a one-seer pot contain four seers of milk? But then again, how can one have faith in incarnation? Thakur said, “If God in His mercy shows Himself to you, it is understood in a moment.” Goethe, lying on his deathbed, said, “Light! More light!” If God in His compassion strikes a light and shows it to you, then all doubts vanish, the way the illiterate fishermen of Palestine recognized Jesus, or devotees like Srivasa recognized Gauranga as the perfect God-incarnate.
And if God does not reveal Himself by His grace, what can be done? Sri Ramakrishna has said it;
I shall put my faith in the incarnation of God. He himself has taught, “Faith, faith, faith! Faith in the words of the guru.”
I have made You the pole-star of my life, never shall I lose my way in this sea of the world.
By God’s grace I have developed faith in his words. I shall continue to believe what he says. Let others do what they like. Why should I give up such faith, faith that is rare even among gods? I now set aside all reason. Have I to become another Faust with intellectual discussions?
In the deep darkness of the night, a ray of the moon enters the window and Faust is lying alone in the room. “Alas, I have not been able to understand anything. The study of philosophy and science have served me in vain. Shame on me!” Saying this, will I then, like him, take up a vial of poison to commit suicide? Or else, like another person, Alastor, not being able to bare the burden of ignorance, shall I place my head upon a rock and wait for death? No, I need not try to fathom this mystery with an ounce of intelligence like all these tragic savants. There is no need to commit suicide because a vessel of one seer is not able to contain four seers of milk. A wonderful counsel – “Faith in the words of the guru.” Oh God, give me that faith, and let me not wander from here to there for nothing. That which is not bound to happen, don’t send me out to find. And what Thakur has instructed, “May I gain pure love and devotion at Your lotus feet – love without alloy and love for God that wells up unbidden out of the depths of the immortal soul. And may I not be enchanted by Your world-bewitching maya.” Bless me with this, I pray.
Reflecting over Sri Ramakrishna’s incomparable love, Mani returns home by the main road on that dark night. He says to himself, “What love he has for Girish! Even when Girish has to go to the theatre, he visits his house. Not only that, he doesn’t even ask him to renounce – to forsake home, relatives, worldly activities, all, for him – and embrace sannyas. I understand; it has a meaning. Unless the time is ripe, unless one has developed deep dispassion, renunciation will be painful. Thakur himself says that if you remove the scab from a wound before the wound is healed, it will bleed and be painful. But when the wound has healed, the scab will fall off by itself. Ordinary men who have no insight ask you to renounce the world immediately. This sadguru (real preceptor), this sea of motiveless grace, is the ocean of love. Day and night he cares only to do good to mankind.
And also what faith Girish has! It was just two days after he had seen Thakur that he said, “Lord, you are God indeed. You have come in a human body for my salvation.” Girish is right in saying, “How can God instruct like a member of the family without taking up a human body?” Who can make us realize that only God is real and all else unreal? Who can lift the weak child, having fallen on the ground, by holding his hand? Who can make a man attached to “lust and greed” and of the nature of an animal eligible for eternal life? And if He does not live with them as a human being, how will they, whose inmost Self is one with Him who does not want anything but God, spend their lives? That is why:
pariträëäya sädhünäà vinäçäya ca duñkåtäm |
dharmasaàsthäpanärthäya sambhavämi yuge yuge ||
[For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of dharma, I take birth in age after age.]
Bhagavad Gita 4:8
What love! He is mad for Narendra, weeps for Narayan. He says, “These and the other young men – Rakhal, Bhavanath, Purna, Baburam, and the rest – are Narayana (God) Himself. They have come to earth in a human body for my sake.” I say, this love is not born of human intellect. I see it as divine love. These boys are pure souls who have not touched women with carnal intentions. They have not developed greed, pride, envy, and the like by engaging in worldly activities. So there is greater manifestation of God in them. But who has such vision! Thakur has the insight. He sees everything: who is attached to the world, who is simple, who is magnanimous, who is a devotee of God. He serves such devotees as the Lord Himself. He helps them wash, puts them to bed, weeps to see them, and rushes to Calcutta for them. He beseeches others to bring them by cab from Calcutta. He often asks householder devotees, “Invite them to a meal. This will do you good.” Is it worldly love, or pure, divine love? One worships God in an earthen image, serving Him with the sixteen articles. Can’t He, then, be worshipped in a pure human body? Besides, they are helpers of the Lord in His every divine sport! They are His intimate companions in every incarnation.
As he gazes at Narendra, he forgets the external world; then gradually he forgets the embodied Narendra. He forgets the apparent man and sees only the real man. His mind merges into Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, seeing which he sometimes becomes mute and motionless and sometimes mutters, “Om, Om,” or repeats, “Mother, Mother” like a child. He sees more of His manifestation in Narendra. He is mad repeating, “Narendra, Narendra.”
Narendra does not believe in God incarnating as man. But what does that matter? Thakur has divine sight. He has seen that it is the pride of personality in him. God is very much our own. He is our own Mother, not an adopted one. Why does He not make us understand? Why does He not strike a light in compassion and show the Reality? Perhaps that is why Thakur said: “Do you feel that your dignity has been wounded? Be it so. We are of the same mind as you, and we feel for you.”
If one cannot be difficult with one’s dearest of the dear, with whom can one be so? Blessed are you, Narendranath. This supreme person has so much love for you! Seeing you, he becomes inspired by God so easily.’
Reflecting thus, with Sri Ramakrishna in their minds, the devotees return home in the deep of night.
. An intimate devotee of Sri Chaitanya.
. A small, spicy berry from a plant in the pepper family.
. Prema and bhakti.
. Compare discussion about the order of perception of the Infinite and of the Finite in Max Muller’s Hibbert Lectures and Gifford Lectures.
. Urjita bhakti.
. Prema bhakti.
. The power of God.
. Sri Ramakrishna explains this verse below.
. An epithet of Krishna, meaning “one with beautiful, long hair.”
. An epithet of Krishna, the descendant of Madhu.
. An epithet given to Krishna because his foster-mother tried to tie him up with a rope (dama) around his belly (udara).
. Sri Ramakrishna used the pronoun ‘I’ very rarely. He referred to himself saying ‘here,’ ‘this place,’ and similar words.
. The Anahata sound is produced on its own without two material objects being struck together; hence, it is called “the unstruck sound.”
. Taraknath Ghoshal, later Swami Shivananda.
. Avidya shakti.
. Vidya shakti.
. The Unconditioned, the Absolute.
. God in relation to the conditioned.
. These words were addressed by the gopis of Vrindavan to Radha.
. madgatenäntarätmanä, “His inmost self merged in Me.” – Bhagavad Gita 6:47.
. Amla and ahetuki bhakti.
. These were the words addressed by her companions, the gopis of Vrindavan, to Radha, the greatest lover of God-incarnate Sri Krishna.