Sri Ramakrishna with Narendra, Doctor Sarkar, Girish Ghosh, and Other Devotees
The joy of devotional music – in samadhi
The next day at half past five, Tuesday, 27 October 1885. Narendra, Doctor Sarkar, Shyam Bose, Girish, Doctor Dukari, the Younger Naren, Rakhal, M., and others have come. The doctor feels Sri Ramakrishna’s pulse and prescribes medicine.
Thakur talks about his pain and takes the medicine. After that the doctor says, “Now talk with Shyam Babu and I will leave.”
Sri Ramakrishna and a devotee ask him, “Would you like to hear a song?”
Doctor: “You become so emotional. You have to keep your feelings under control.”
The doctor sits down again. Narendra begins to sing in a sweet voice to the accompaniment of the tanpura (a stringed drone) and mridanga (drum). He sings:
Wonderful and infinite is this world of Yours, This universe, a treasury of beauty.
The stars shine like a necklace of thousands of gems; Innumerable are the moons and suns.
The earth luxuriates with a wealth of grain, And full indeed is Your storehouse.
O great Lord, countless are the people who ceaselessly sing Your praise!
Then he sings a second song:
In dense darkness, O Mother, Your formless beauty sparkles. And so the yogi meditates in a dark mountain cave.
In the lap of infinite darkness, on the waves of the great silence, eternal peace and joy float without end.
Putting on the form of the Formless One, in darkness draped, O Mother, who are You seated alone in boundless bliss?
At the lotus of Your fear-dispelling feet flashes the lightning of love, while loud and earth-shaking laughter issues from Your dazzling face.
The doctor says to M., “This is dangerous for him, this singing. If he goes into ecstasy, it could be dangerous.”
Sri Ramakrishna asks M. what the doctor said. M. replies, “The doctor is afraid a song will excite your feelings and bring on samadhi.” Even while he speaks, Sri Ramakrishna goes into an ecstatic mood. Looking at the doctor with folded hands, he says, “No, no. Why should I go into samadhi?” However, even while saying this, he goes into deep samadhi, his body still, his eyes fixed. Speechless and unaware of the outside world, he resembles a wooden statue. His mind, intellect, and ego are all turned inward. He is no longer the same person.
Narendra continues singing the sweet song with his melodious voice:
What wondrous beauty, what an enchanting face I see!
The Lord of my soul has entered my humble hut, and the spring of love wells forth.
O Lord, beloved of my heart, what treasure shall I offer You?
Accept my soul, accept my life; whatever I have, accept all that from me.
O gracious Lord, what happiness can there be in life if the bee of my soul is not lost forever in the lotus of Your feet?
What can I gain from limitless wealth if I do not seek the gem supreme?
I do not wish to behold a child’s tender face if there I cannot catch a glimpse of Your loving countenance.
Moonlight has no meaning for me: I see darkness everywhere, unless in that moonlight I behold Your loving face.
Even the untainted gold of the chaste wife’s love is stained, unless it holds the gem of Your love.
O Lord, doubt bites me endlessly, a deadly serpent whose venom dilutes my love for You.
What more can I say, my Lord? You are the precious jewel of my heart, the abode of my joy.
When the doctor hears the line, “Even the untainted gold of the chaste wife’s love,” his eyes fill with tears and he exclaims, “Ah! Ah!”
Narendra sings another song:
Oh, when will ecstatic love dawn in my heart? When shall I, wishing for nothing else, chant Hari’s name while tears stream from my eyes?
When will my life breath and mind be pure, when shall I, a pilgrim to the Vrindavan of love, shed my worldly bonds?
When will the collyrium of knowledge drive away the darkness from my eyes?
When, by the touch of the philosopher’s stone, will this body of iron turn to gold?
When shall I see the universe pervaded by God and be immersed in love divine?
Oh, when shall I be free from rites and work and the pride of family and caste?
When will fear and shame loosen their hold, and I be freed from convention’s pride?
My body besmeared with the dust of devotees’ feet, the sweet burden of perpetual dispassion on my shoulders, I shall scoop up the Yamuna’s water of love divine and drink it from my hands.
Then drunk with love, I shall weep and laugh and swim in the sea of Sachchidananda.
Mad myself, I shall make others mad and dwell always at the feet of the Lord.
Jnana and vijnana – perception of Brahman
In the meantime Sri Ramakrishna regains outer consciousness. The songs have ended. Now a very interesting talk begins, intriguing to every type of person – scholar and fool, young and old, man and woman – to all without distinction. All are spellbound, gazing at Thakur’s beautiful face. Where is his terrible pain now? His face looks like a lotus in full bloom, shining with divine light. Addressing the doctor, Thakur says, “Give up false modesty. Why be ashamed of repeating the name of God? As the proverb goes, ‘Shame, hatred, and fear keep one from attaining God.’ You think, I am a great man, so I can’t dance and utter the name of the Lord; if other big people hear of it, what will they think of me? It would be a shame for them to say, ‘The doctor was dancing and chanting the name of the Lord!’ Give up such ideas.”
Doctor: “I don’t think that way. I don’t care what others say.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You are too much that way! (All laugh.)
“Listen, go beyond knowledge and ignorance. Only then will you be able to know God. Knowledge of many things is ignorance. Pride of learning is also ignorance. ‘God pervades all’ – this conviction is knowledge. Knowing Him intimately is called vijnana. Say a thorn has stuck into your foot. You need another thorn to take it out. When you have taken out the thorn that pricked you, you throw them both away. To remove the thorn of ignorance, you first have to acquire the thorn of knowledge. Then both the thorns of knowledge and ignorance have to be thrown away. He is beyond knowledge and ignorance. Lakshmana said to Rama, ‘How strange! Vasishtha Deva is such a wise man, but even he wept inconsolably at the death of his son.’ Rama said, ‘Brother, he who has knowledge also has ignorance. He who has knowledge of one kind also has knowledge of other kinds. He who is aware of light is also aware of darkness. Brahman is beyond knowledge and ignorance, beyond virtue and vice, beyond righteousness and unrighteousness, beyond purity and impurity.’”
Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna recites a song of Ramprasad:
Come, O mind, let us go for a walk to Kali, the wish-fulfilling tree and gather there the four fruits of life.
Of your two wives, Worldliness and Dispassion, take only Dispassion along, and ask her eldest son, Discrimination, for the truth about Reality.
Beyond speech and mind – the real nature of Brahman cannot be described
Shyam Bose: “What will remain when both thorns are thrown away?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The eternal, ever-pure Consciousness – the Essence. How can I make it clear to you? If somebody asks you how ghee tastes, how can you explain it? At the most you can say, ‘What is ghee like? It’s just like ghee.’ A girl said to her friend, ‘Your husband has arrived. Tell me, what is the joy you feel?’ The friend said, ‘Sister, you will only know when you have a husband. How can I tell you?’ The Purana says that when Bhagavati, the divine Mother, took birth in the house of Himalaya, She showed Herself to Him in various forms. When Giriraj (the Lord of the mountains, Himalaya) had seen Her in many forms, He said to Her, ‘Mother, may I now have the vision of Brahman mentioned in the Vedas?’ Bhagavati replied, ‘Father, if you want to see Brahman, you must have the company of holy people.’
“What Brahman is cannot be explained in words. Someone said, ‘Everything has been made impure by the tongue, but Brahman has never been defiled.’ It means that the Vedas, the Puranas, the Tantras, and other scriptures may be said to have been defiled because they are recited by the tongues of men. But what Brahman is, nobody has yet been able to express in speech. So Brahman has not yet been defiled. One cannot describe in words the play and communion with Sat-chit-ananda. Only he knows who has experienced it.”
The pride of a pundit – vice and virtue
Addressing the doctor again, Sri Ramakrishna says, “Look, you cannot attain knowledge until you are rid of the ego. There is a saying: ‘When shall I be free? When “I” ceases to be.’ ‘My’ and ‘mine’ are ignorance; ‘You’ and ‘Yours’ are knowledge. A devotee says, ‘O God, You alone are the doer. You alone do everything. I am only an instrument. I do what You make me do. And all this splendour, this universe, is Yours. This house, this family, is Yours – nothing is mine. I am Your servant. I have only the right to serve You as You command.’
“Anybody who has read even a little begins at once to put on airs. I had a talk about God with Kalikrishna Tagore. He said, ‘I know all that.’ I said, ‘Does a person who visits Delhi brag about it? Does a babu go around saying he’s a gentleman?’”
Shyam Bose: “But Kalikrishna Tagore has great respect for you.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What can I say, brother? There was a scavenger woman at the temple garden in Dakshineswar. So puffed up because she had some jewelry! One day when she was walking on the path, a few people passed by her. Angrily she shouted at them, ‘Hey, get out of my way!’ If she could be so arrogant, what can I say about the pride of others?”
Shyam Bose: “Sir, there is punishment for sins. How can you say that God is doing everything?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You have the intellect of a goldsmith.”
Narendra: “A ‘goldsmith’s intellect’ means a calculating mind.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I tell you, eat the mangoes! What’s the use of calculating how many hundreds of trees there are in the orchard, how many thousands of branches, how many millions of leaves? Why calculate all this? You’ve come to eat mangoes. Eat them!
(To Shyam Bose) “You’ve been born in this world to worship God. Try to gain love and devotion for His lotus feet! Why bother with other things? What will you gain by philosophizing? Look, you can get drunk with only a little wine. Why do you have to know how many measures of wine there are in the wine shop?”
Doctor: “Besides, God’s wine is infinite. It has no measure.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Shyam Bose): “Give your general power of attorney to God. Lay the whole burden on Him. If you give responsibility to an honest fellow, will he deceive you? It’s for God alone to know whether or not He will punish you.”
Doctor: “Only He knows what is in His mind. How can anyone figure it out? God is above and beyond all human calculation!”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Shyam Bose): “You Calcutta people have only this to say: God is partial because He makes one person happy and another miserable. Whatever these rascals see in themselves, they see in God.”
Is earning name and fame the aim of life?
“Hem used to visit Dakshineswar. Whenever he saw me, he would say, ‘Well, revered priest, isn’t earning a name in the world the main thing?’ You see, very few people say that the aim of human life is God-realization.’’
The gross, the subtle, the causal, and the Great Cause
Shyam Bose: “Can anyone show us the subtle body? Can anyone demonstrate that this very subtle body leaves the gross body?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “A true devotee doesn’t care a whit to show you all this. What does he care if some fool believes him or not? He doesn’t care whether he influences some big fellow or not.”
Shyam Bose: “Well, what is the difference between the gross body and the subtle body?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The body that is made of five elements is the gross body. The subtle body is the mind, the intellect, the ego, and the mind-stuff. That by which one enjoys the bliss of God and communion with Him is the causal body. It is called ‘Bhagavati tanu’ in the Tantra – the Divine Body. Last of all is the Great Cause which cannot be expressed in words.”
Need for spiritual disciplines – devotion to God alone matters
“What is the use of just listening to all this? You have to do something.
“What is the use of shouting, ‘Hemp, hemp?’ Will that make you high?
“You can’t get high even if you rub hemp-paste on your body. You have to eat some. Which is number 41 grade yarn and which is number 40? You can’t tell unless you work in the yarn trade. A person in the trade has no difficulty at all picking out yarn of a particular grade. So I say, practice some spiritual disciplines. Then you will know it all – the gross, the subtle, the causal and the Great Cause. When you pray to God, just pray for love at His lotus feet.
“After Ahalya was freed from the curse, Ramachandra said to her, ‘Ask for a boon from me.’ Ahalya said, ‘Rama, if you wish to grant me a boon, grant that even if I am born a pig, my mind will always dwell at your lotus feet.’
“I asked the Divine Mother only for love and devotion. Offering flowers at Her feet and folding my hands, I said: ‘O Mother, here is Your knowledge, here is Your ignorance; please grant me pure love and devotion. Here is Your purity, here is Your impurity, just grant me pure devotion. Here are Your virtuous acts, here is vice, just grant me pure love. Here is Your righteousness, here is Your unrighteousness, just grant me pure devotion.
“Righteousness – charitable work and so on. If you accept righteousness, you will also have to accept unrighteousness. If you accept virtue, you will also have to accept vice. If you believe in knowledge, you will have to accept ignorance too. If you accept ritual purity, you will also have to accept ritual impurity. If you are aware of light, you are also aware of darkness. If you have the knowledge of one, you also have the knowledge of many. The person who has knowledge of good also has knowledge of what is evil.
“If a person has love and devotion for the lotus feet of God, even though he may eat pork, he is blessed. On the other hand, if a person’s mind is attached to the world, even if he lives on boiled rice with clarified butter…”
Doctor: “That’s not right. Let me tell you something. Buddha ate pork and he suffered from colic. Because of the pain, he took opium. Do you know what nirvana and all that is? Taking opium and remaining sedated. He’d lose all external consciousness. This was his nirvana.”
Everybody laughs to hear such an interpretation of Buddha’s nirvana. The conversation continues.
Household and selfless work – Theosophy
Sri Ramakrishna (to Shyam Bose): “There is no harm in leading a householder life. But you must do your work selflessly, fixing your mind at the lotus feet of God. You see, if a person has a boil on his back, he talks to everybody and attends to his work too, but his mind is always on the boil. It is the same.
“Or live in the world like an unchaste woman. Her mind is drawn to her lover even while she’s performing her household duties. (To the doctor) Do you understand?”
Doctor: “If I don’t have such an attitude, how can I understand?”
Shyam Bose: “You do understand it a little. Don’t you?” (Everybody laughs.)
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “He has been in this trade for quite some time. Isn’t that true?” (All laugh.)
Shyam Bose: “Sir, what do you think of Theosophy?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The thing is that people who go around making disciples are of inferior calibre. And those who want occult powers are also of a lower class. For example, the power to walk across the Ganges on foot, or to be able to tell what a person is saying at some distant place – that is an occult power. It is very difficult for such a person to have pure love for God.”
Shyam Bose: “But the Theosophists are trying to re-establish Hinduism.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I don’t know much about them.”
Shyam Bose: “Where the embodied soul goes after death – whether to the region of the moon or some planet and so on – is all explained in Theosophy.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That may be so. But do you know how I feel? Somebody asked Hanuman, ‘What day and date is today?’ Hanuman said, ‘I don’t know the day, nor the date, nor the position of the planets – nothing. I only think about Rama.’ My attitude is exactly like that.”
Shyam Bose: “They believe in Great Souls. Do you?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “If you believe in my words, I say yes. Now leave these matters alone. Come when I feel a little better. If you have faith in me, you will find some way to peace. Don’t you notice that I don’t accept money or gifts of clothes? No offering has to be made here. That is why so many people visit me. (All laugh.)
(To the doctor) “I want to say this. Please don’t take offense. You have done all these things – earned money and name, lectured. Now fix your mind on God for a while. And come here now and then. Talking about God is inspiring.”
After some time the doctor rises to leave. At the same time Girish Ghosh arrives and, taking the dust of Sri Ramakrishna’s feet, takes a seat. The doctor is happy to see him and sits down again.
Doctor: “The whole time I was here, he didn’t come. Just as I rise to leave, he arrives!” (All laugh.)
The doctor and Girish begin to talk about the Science Association.
Sri Ramakrishna: “Will you take me there some time?”
Doctor: “If you go there, you will lose consciousness seeing all the wonderful works of God.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Really?”
Adoration of the guru
Doctor (to Girish): “Do whatever you like, but please do not worship him as God. By doing so, you are bringing ruin to such a good man.”
Girish: “Sir, how can I help it? How else can I feel about him who has taken me across the ocean of the world and the ocean of doubt? Tell me, can I even look on his excrement as excrement?”
Doctor: “It’s not a matter of excrement. That doesn’t disgust me either. One day a shopkeeper’s son came to see me and he defecated. Everybody covered their noses with cloths. I sat beside him for half an hour and didn’t bring my handkerchief to my nose. I don’t even cover my nose when a scavenger passes by with a bucket on his head. I know that I am the same as he. How can I feel revulsion? Can’t I take the dust of his (Sri Ramakrishna’s) feet? See, I take it.” (He takes the dust of Sri Ramakrishna’s feet.)
Girish: “The angels are ringing bells at this moment.”
Doctor: “What is strange about taking the dust of a man’s feet? I can take dust of anybody’s feet. See? Watch me take it! (He takes the dust of everybody’s feet.)
Narendra (to the doctor): “We consider him to be like God. Do you know what it is like? There is a point somewhere between the vegetable and the animal kingdoms where it is very difficult to distinguish whether something is animate or inanimate. In the same way, there is a point between the man-world and the God-world where it is difficult to tell whether a person is human or God.”
Doctor: “Well, dear brother, analogies do not apply to God.”
Narendra: “I’m not saying that he is God. I am only saying that he is a godlike man.”
Doctor: “One should not give vent to such feelings. It’s not good to express them. Nobody understands my own feelings. Even my best friends think of me as hard and cruel. Maybe even you people will turn me out after beating me with your shoes.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “How can you say that? These people have great affection for you. They await your arrival as eagerly as the ladies in a bridal chamber await the coming bride-groom.”
Girish: “Everyone has the greatest respect for you.”
Doctor: “My son and even my wife think of me as hard-hearted. It is because I don’t express my feelings to anybody.”
Girish: “In that case, sir, you’d better open the doors of your heart out of pity for your friends so they can understand you.”
Doctor: “What can I say? My feelings get worked up even more than yours. (To Narendra) I shed tears in solitude.”
Godlike men assume mankind’s karma – Narendra’s attitude
Doctor (to Sri Ramakrishna): “Well, sometimes in ecstasy you place your feet on people. That’s not good.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “But do you think I know that I’m putting my foot on anybody?”
Doctor: “You don’t think it’s right, do you?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “How can I tell you what happens to me in the state of samadhi? After I come down from it, I think that maybe I have this disease because of it. The thought of God makes me mad. All this happens in a state of divine madness. How can I help it?”
Doctor: “He agrees with me. He expresses regret for what he does. He knows that such an act is sinful.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra): “You are very clever. Why don’t you answer? Explain it to him.”
Girish (to the doctor): “Sir, you are mistaken. He is not sorry for that. His body is pure, untouched by sin. He touches people for their good. There is a great possibility of his getting a disease by taking their sins on himself. That is what he thinks sometimes. When you had colic pain, didn’t you regret having stayed up late at night and reading? Does that mean it’s bad to stay awake and read at night? He may regret that he’s ill, but he doesn’t think that it’s wrong to touch others for their good.”
Doctor (embarrassed, to Girish): “I stand defeated. Give me the dust of your feet. (He takes the dust of Girish’s feet.)
(To Narendra) “I have to acknowledge his intellectual power.”
Narendra (to the doctor): “And think of it this way too. You can devote your life to the discovery of scientific truth and not care about physical hardship and comfort. Can he not risk his health for God, the greatest of all sciences?”
Doctor: “All religious reformers – Jesus, Chaitanya, Buddha and Mohammed – were filled with conceit in the end, saying, ‘Only what I say is true.’ What’s this all about!”
Girish (to the doctor): “Sir, you are now guilty of the same fault. You have the arrogance of all of them combined. When you point out their egotism, you are guilty of it yourself.”
The doctor is silent.
Narendra (to the doctor): “We offer him worship bordering on divine worship.”
Sri Ramakrishna laughs with delight, like a child.
. An intimate knowledge of God by which the universe and all living beings are seen as manifestations of the divine.
. Jnana and ajnana.
. Rama’s preceptor and a holy sage.
. For complete song see: Section II, Chapter VI.
. Clarified butter.
. A man of a highly respectable family or social position.
. The Causal body, derived from the Mother of Universe (Bhagavati).
. Mahakarana, the unconditioned turiya.
. A play on words: siddhi means both “attainment” and “hemp.”