Vijay, Narendra, M., Doctor Sarkar, and Other Devotees in Joyful Conversation with Sri Ramakrishna
M. on his way to Doctor Sarkar to inform him of Thakur’s condition
Today is Sunday, 25 October 1885, 10th of Kartik, the second day of the dark fortnight. Sri Ramakrishna is staying in a house in the Shyampukur area of Calcutta while being treated for cancer of the throat. Doctor Sarkar is his doctor now.
M. is sent daily to the doctor to inform him of Sri Ramakrishna’s condition. This morning at half past six M. saluted Sri Ramakrishna and asked him, ‘‘How are you feeling?’’
Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘‘Tell the doctor that in the early hours of the morning my mouth is full of fluid and I have to cough. Ask him if I can take a bath.’’
M. sees the doctor after seven o’clock and tells him all about Thakur. One or two of his friends and an old teacher are with the doctor. The doctor says to the teacher, ‘‘Sir, I woke up at three o’clock this morning concerned about the Paramahamsa. I couldn’t sleep after that. He’s still on my mind.’’ (All smile.)
A friend of the doctor says to him, “Sir, I hear that some people call the Paramahamsa an incarnation of God. You see him daily. What do you think?’’
Doctor: “As a man, I have the greatest regard for him.”
M. (to the doctor’s friend): “The doctor is very kind to treat him.”
M.: “Not to him, but to us.”
Doctor: “No brother, no! You don’t know what I actually lose. I miss two or three calls a day. The next day I go to the patients’ houses on my own and don’t charge them. How can I charge them when I go to them without being called?”
The talk turns to Mahima Chakravarty. On Saturday when the doctor visited Sri Ramakrishna, Chakravarty was present. Seeing the doctor, he said to Sri Ramakrishna, “Sir, it is to feed the doctor’s vanity that you have gotten this disease.”
M. (to the doctor): “Mahima Chakravarty used to visit you. He used to come to your house to hear you lecture on medical science.”
Doctor: “Oh, is that so? How much tamas this fellow has! Didn’t you notice that I saluted him as ‘God’s Lower Third?’ God has within him all three qualities (sattva, rajas, and tamas). Did you catch his words, ‘You have taken up the disease to feed the vanity of the doctor’?”
M.: “Mahima Chakravarty believes that if the Paramahamsa wants, he can cure himself.”
Doctor: “Oh, how is that possible? How can he cure himself? We are medical men and know what cancer is, yet we can’t cure it! He knows nothing about it! How will he cure it? (To his friends) You see, the disease is incurable, but they are all serving him with great devotion.”
Sri Ramakrishna with his attendant
M. requested the doctor to visit Sri Ramakrishna and then returned home. At three o’clock, after lunch, he went to Sri Ramakrishna again and humbly told him everything. He said, ‘‘The doctor embarrassed me today.’’
Sri Ramakrishna: “What happened?”
M.: “He heard yesterday when he came here that you had come down with this disease to add to the vanity of doctors.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Who said that?”
M.: “Mahima Chakravarty.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Then?”
M.: “He called Mahima Chakravarty ‘God’s Lower Third.’ Now the doctor says that God contains all three qualities (sattva, rajas, and tamas). (Sri Ramakrishna smiles.) He also told me that he woke up at three in the morning and has been worrying about you ever since. At eight o’clock he said, ‘Even now the Paramahamsa is on my mind.’”
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “He has an English education. I can’t tell him to meditate on me. But he is doing it by himself!”
M.: “And then he said, ‘As a man I have the greatest regard for him.’ It means that he doesn’t regard you as an incarnation of God, but he has the greatest reverence for you as a man.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Did you talk about anything else?”
M.: “I asked him what the schedule for treatment was today. The doctor said, ‘Schedule, my foot! I’ll have to go again today. What else is there to schedule?’ (Sri Ramakrishna laughs.) And he added, ‘You don’t know how much money I’m losing every day. Every day I miss two or three visits.’”
Sri Ramakrishna with Vijay and other devotees
A short while later Vijaykrishna Goswami comes to see the Paramahamsa Deva. A number of Brahmo devotees arrive with him. Vijaykrishna was in Dhaka for a long while and has now returned to Calcutta after a pilgrimage to many places in the west (Punjab and Uttar Pradesh). He prostrates before Sri Ramakrishna. A number of people are there – Narendra, Mahima Chakravarty, Navagopal, Bhupati, Latu, M., the Younger Naren, and others.
Mahima Chakravarty (to Vijay): “Sir, you have been on pilgrimage and visited a number of places. Please tell us what you saw.”
Vijay: “What can I say? I see that everything is here where I am sitting. It’s no use just wandering around. At some places there are one or two annas of him (meaning Sri Ramakrishna), four annas at other places, that’s all. Only here do I find the full sixteen annas.”
Mahima Chakravarty: “Quite right! And again, it is he who sends us roaming about or makes us stay in one place.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra): “See what a state of mind Vijay has developed! All his characteristics have changed, as if he has been boiled. I can recognize a paramahamsa by his neck and forehead. I can tell whether someone is a paramahamsa or not.”
Mahima Chakravarty: “Sir, are you eating less?”
Vijay: “Yes, it seems so. (To Sri Ramakrishna) I heard of your illness, so I came to see you. And in Dhaka…”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What?”
Vijay does not answer. He remains silent for a while.
Vijay: “It is very difficult to understand him [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] without his help. Only here are sixteen annas.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Kedar says that at other places he doesn’t get enough to eat, but here he is given his fill.”
Mahima Chakravarty: “His fill! It overflows!”
Vijay (to Sri Ramakrishna, with folded hands): “I have now recognized who you are! You don’t need to tell me.”
Sri Ramakrishna (in ecstasy): “If so, so be it.”
Vijay: “I have understood.”
Saying this, he falls at the feet of Sri Ramakrishna and holds his feet to his chest. Sri Ramakrishna sits like a statue, unaware of the outer world.
Seeing this wonderful scene and the flood of divine love, some devotees begin to weep. Others sing hymns of praise. They all gaze at Sri Ramakrishna, each according to his own understanding. Some see him as a great devotee, others as a holy man, and yet some others as God-incarnate, each according to his own feeling.
Mahimacharan begins to sing, his eyes filled with tears: ‘Behold, behold the image of Love.’ Now and then, as if having a glimpse of Brahman, he chants: “The Transcendental, Beyond the distinction of one and many, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.”
Navagopal is weeping. Bhupati, another devotee, sings:
Victory, victory to Parabrahman! Infinite, incomprehensible are You, higher than the highest, the Essence of all essences.
You are the light of truth, the fount of love, the wellspring of all blessedness.
This creation of Yours, a many-flavored elixir, is filled with splendour.
You are the poet, great and primeval, of whose verses the sun and the moon are born, from which they rise, in which they set.
With the golden sprinkling of stars and letters traced from clouds, You have written songs across the blue expanse.
The six seasons of the year, in tune with the rejoicing earth, proclaim Your glory.
The flowers reveal Your beauty, and the waters Your serenity. In thunder resound your terror and majesty.
So deep is Your mystery – what can a foolish mind know of it, even meditating age after age?
Millions of suns, moons and stars joyfully bow at Your feet.
Men and women, seeing Your creation, shed tears of joy, overwhelmed.
Gods, men, and heavenly beings worship Your all-pervading divinity; You, the wellspring of all blessedness.
Bestow knowledge and love, give us devotion and peace. Grant, do grant, us shelter at Your blessed feet.
Bhupati sings again:
In the musical mode of Jhijhit – community singing
Ecstatic waves rise high on the sea of consciousness and bliss. How enthralling, how sweet is the play of great ecstasy!
So many waves of new feeling rise in the sports of love. So many waves – rising, falling, ever repeating. Repeat, O mind, the name of Hari!
The whole of creation becomes one in the great communion. All difference melts away. Time and place, the very thought of distinction – all those and all else are no more.
All my wishes, now fulfilled – they too have melted away.
Now, my mind, be lifted up in joy and repeat Lord Hari’s name!
In the rhythmic pattern of Jhamp Tal
Gone are delusion, fear, and piety, ritual actions and good works. Pride of race and caste has vanished.
Where am I? And where is Hari? Having stolen my heart, he has run away.
Why did I come to this shore of love’s ocean?
Filled full with feeling is my heart, not yet with dullness overcome.
Says Premdas, Hear all sadhus and all citizens of the earth! Such is the new way of God!
After a long time Sri Ramakrishna regains outer-consciousness.
Brahmajnana and ‘strange arithmetic’ – purpose of God-incarnate
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “I don’t know what happens to me when I’m in ecstasy. Now I feel ashamed, as though I had been possessed by a ghost. ‘Me’ and ‘mine’ vanish in that state.
“I can’t count when I come down from this state. I count one, seven, eight – something like that.’’
Narendra: “It’s because everything is one, isn’t it?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, beyond one and two.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “There counting is meaningless. He can’t be realized through learning. He is beyond the scriptures – Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras. When I see a person even holding a book in his hands, I call him a rajarshi though he is a jnani. No outer sign can be found in a brahmarishi. Do you know the use of scriptures? Somebody wrote a letter asking for five seers of sandesh and a piece of cloth. The recipient read the letter, remembered ‘five seers of sandesh and a piece of cloth,’ and threw the letter away. Of what use was the letter then?”
Vijay: “‘Sandesh’ has been sent, I understand.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “God incarnates, assuming a human body. He is certainly present in all places, in all things, but man’s desire for God is not fulfilled unless God incarnates in a human form. His needs are not met. Do you know how that is? If you touch a cow anywhere on its body, you have touched the cow. Even if you touch its horn, you have touched the cow. But you can take milk only from its udder.” (All laugh.)
Mahima: “If you want milk, how will it help to suck the horn of the cow? You have to suck the udder.” (All laugh.)
Vijay: “But a calf first licks around here and there.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “And maybe, seeing the calf do this, someone directs its mouth to the udder.” (All laugh.)
Rejoicing with the devotees
The conversation is going on this way when the doctor comes to see Thakur. Sitting down, he says, ‘‘I woke up suddenly last night at three in the morning. I could only think of you. I thought you might catch cold. And I thought of many other possibilities.’’
Sri Ramakrishna: “I had a cough and a sore throat. Very early in the morning my mouth was full of fluid. I feel like a thorn has been pricking it.”
Doctor: “I heard that this morning.”
Mahimacharan continues to talk about his visit to different places in India. He says, “On the island of Lanka no one laughs.”
Doctor Sarkar says, “There must be one who laughs. I will have to ask about it.”
Medical profession and Sri Ramakrishna
Now the topic of conversation turns to the medical profession.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “Many people think very highly of the physician’s calling. But the profession would be the highest of the high only if a doctor were to treat his patients without charge, only out of compassion for their suffering. A doctor becomes hard-hearted if he charges fees. It’s base to examine faeces and urine just to make money.”
Doctor: “If one only does that, it is certainly wrong. But talking about myself to you would be egotistical.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes. It’s very good if you can practice medicine in a selfless manner to help others – if you can do it.
“Even so, whatever work a man does, he must keep the company of the holy from time to time. If a man is devoted to God, he will seek holy company himself. I usually give this illustration: a hemp smoker keeps the company of other hemp smokers. If he sees someone who doesn’t smoke, he leaves, downcast, or hides. But when he sees another hemp smoker, he is filled with joy. (All laugh.) Again, a vulture keeps the company of vultures.’’
Sadhu has compassion for all living beings
Doctor: “And a vulture flies away in fear of a crow. I say, ‘Why serve only man? You should serve all living beings.’ I often throw little pellets of wheat flour to sparrows, and flocks of them come to the roof.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Good! That’s very good. People who feed other living creatures are holy. Holy people feed sugar to ants.”
Doctor: “Will there be no singing today?”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra): “Please sing a little.”
Narendra sings to the accompaniment of the tanpura and other musical instruments.
Sweet is Your name, O refuge of the lowly,
raining like nectar on our ears and comforting us,
O beloved of our souls!
The treasure of Your name is the abode of immortality.
He who chants Your name becomes immortal.
When the nectar of Your name touches our ears, it erases in that instant the deep anguish of our hearts.
The sweet music of Your name fills the heart with sweetness. O Master of our hearts, and Soul of our souls!
Narendra sings another song:
O Mother, make me mad with Your love.
What need have I for knowledge or reason?
With the wine of Your love make me drunk,
You who steal the hearts of Your devotees!
Drown me in the ocean of Your love.
In this world, Your madhouse, some laugh, some weep, some dance for joy.
Jesus, Buddha, Gauranga – all are drunk with the wine of Your love.
When, O Mother, shall I join their blessed company?
In the heavens too is Your fair of madness: like guru, like disciple.
Who can understand this play of love?
O Mother, who are mad with love, who are indeed the glory of the mad,
Make this, your beggar Premdas, rich with the treasure of love.
After the singing, an amazing sight follows. They all appear mad, overcome with divine ecstasy. Shaking off his pride of scholarship, a pundit stands up and quotes: “Mother, make me mad with Your love. What need have I of knowledge or reason?” Vijay is the first to rise to his feet; he stands there, intoxicated with divine emotion. Then Sri Ramakrishna stands up, having forgotten for the moment the serious and incurable pain of his body. The doctor stands in front of him. He is not conscious even of his patient. The Younger Naren is in a state of bhava Samadhi, and so is Latu. Doctor Sarkar, a student of science, stands wonderstruck at this amazing scene. He sees that those who are in ecstasy have no awareness of the outside world. They are all still, motionless. As their intoxication subsides, some cry and some laugh. They seem like a group of drunkards.
With the devotees – Sri Ramakrishna and controlling anger
After this everyone sits down. It is 8:00 p.m. The conversation resumes.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “The divine ecstasy you saw just now – what do they call it in your science? Do you think it’s all pretence?”
Doctor (to Sri Ramakrishna): “When so many people are in this state, it seems to be natural, not a pretence. (To Narendra) When you were singing, ‘O Mother, make me mad with Your love. What need have I of knowledge or reason?’ I too could not control myself. I also stood up. How could I help it? It was very difficult to control my emotion. I thought I shouldn’t make a display of it.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “You are unshakable and immovable like Mount Sumeru. (Everybody laughs.) You are a deep soul. No one recognized the depth of Rupa and Sanatana’s emotion. If an elephant goes into a small pond, everything goes topsy-turvy. But if it plunges into a deep lake, there is no disturbance; no one even notices. Radha said to her gopi friend, ‘Friend, you are weeping so bitterly because of your separation from Krishna. But see how hard my heart is! There’s not a tear in my eye.’ Then Vrinda said, ‘You have no tears in your eyes, but that has meaning. A fire of separation is always burning in your heart. As soon as there is a tear in your eye, it dries up with the heat of that fire.’”
Doctor: “I can’t beat you in argument!” (Laughter.)
Gradually they talk of other things. Sri Ramakrishna begins to describe his first ecstasy and how to control lust, anger, and other passions.
Doctor: “I heard that you were once in ecstasy and a wicked fellow came and kicked you.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You must have heard it from M. The man was Chandra Haldar of Kalighat. He often visited Mathur Babu. I was lying on the ground, overcome with God-consciousness. It was dark. Chandra Haldar thought I was pretending in order to win Mathur’s favour. He came into the room and kicked me black and blue. Everybody said that Mathur Babu should be told, but I forbade it.”
Doctor: “This too is due to the will of God. People will learn from it how to overcome anger and be forgiving.”
Vijay and Narendra have a glimpse of God’s form
In the meantime the devotees have a long talk with Vijay in Thakur’s presence.
Vijay: “I feel that somebody is always with me. Even when I’m far away, he tells me what is happening.”
Narendra: “Like a guardian angel.”
Vijay: “I saw him (the Paramahamsa Deva) in Dhaka. I even touched his body.”
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “It must have been someone else.”
Narendra: “I have also seen him a number of times. (To Vijay) So how can I say I don’t believe you?”
. The Doctor had told M. that since he has to go to examine Sri Ramakrishna, he misses two or three calls a day. The next day he goes to the patients’ houses on his own and doesn’t charge them.
. Sri Ramakrishna means: all impurities have been boiled away.
. Kedarnath Chatterji was in Dhaka for many days. His eyes would wet with tears on reading the story of the Lord. He was a great devotee. His house was in the city of Hali.
. Beyond one and two: beyond distinction of the Absolute from the relative.
. A person filled with rajas.
. One who has attained Brahman.
. Now the nation of Sri Lanka; known by the British in Sri Ramakrishna’s time as Ceylon.