Visit to the Sinthi Brahmo Samaj
Joyful Conversation with Shivanath and Other Brahmo Devotees
Sri Ramakrishna at a religious festival
The Paramahamsa Deva has come to visit the Brahmo Samaj at Sinthi. It is Saturday, 28 October 1882, the second day of the dark fortnight in the month of Aswin.
It is the semiannual celebration of the Brahmo Samaj, and grand festivities are going on today. Sri Ramakrishna has been invited, together with a number of other devotees. At three or four in the afternoon they arrive at the beautiful garden house of Sri Veni Madhava. They have come by carriage from the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. It is in this garden house that the Brahmo Samaj conducts meetings. Sri Ramakrishna has great love for the Brahmo Samaj, and its devotees love and revere him in return. Only yesterday, Friday evening, he enjoyed a steamer trip on the Ganges, from the Kali Temple to Calcutta, with Keshab Chandra Sen and his disciples.
Sinthi is near Paikpara, about three miles north of Calcutta. Located far from the din of the city, the beautiful garden house is particularly suitable for the worship of God. The owner of the garden house organizes two festivals a year – one in the autumn and the other in the spring – and invites many devotees from Calcutta and the nearby village of Sinthi. Shivanath and other devotees from Calcutta have come. Most of them attended the morning service and are now waiting for the evening service. They are particularly interested because they have heard that a great saint will be there in the afternoon. They want to see his happy figure and imbibe the nectar of his words, and they want to hear his sweet devotional songs and watch him dance full of love for God. Such a dance is rare even among the gods.
By afternoon a large crowd has gathered in the garden. Some are sitting on wooden benches under the shadow of vines. Others are walking with their friends along the bank of a beautiful artificial lake. Many have already taken their seats in the Samaj house, awaiting Sri Ramakrishna’s arrival. There is a betel leaf shop at the entrance to the garden. Entering the garden, one feels that it is a place of worship. In the evening there will be a musical play. In all four directions the blue autumn sky reflects joy. Since early morning, a current of delight has passed through the trees, vines, and shrubs of the garden – as though they, together with the sky and all creatures, are singing one melody. Even the breeze seems divinely propitious, carrying such joy into the hearts of the devotees.
Everyone is thirsty for the appearance of the Paramahamsa Deva when his carriage arrives in front of the house. They all rise to welcome the great saint and form a circle around him.
A platform has been built in the middle of the main hall of the Samaj building. The place is filled with people. In front is the vestibule where the Paramahamsa Deva and others are seated. People also occupy the two rooms on both sides of the vestibule. Others are standing at the doorways, craning their necks to see. Even the steps leading up to the vestibule are crowded with devotees. Two or three trees near the steps support a canopy of vines and a number of benches offer seating for a few devotees, who also strain their necks to see the great saint and try intently to hear him. Nearby a path stretches between many rows of flower beds and fruit trees. The trees gently wave in the whispering breeze, as if bowing in joy to offer Sri Ramakrishna a hearty welcome.
When the smiling Paramahamsa Deva, Sri Ramakrishna, takes his seat, the sight of all those within spontaneously falls upon this happy and most joyful figure. Until the start of the play, the rest of the devotees walk around, some alone and others with friends. Some chew betel leaf or tobacco or smoke cigarettes. Some laugh, others engage in worldly discussions on one thing or another, but as soon as the curtain rises, all talk ends and the full attention of the audience is directed to the play. Like so many bees when the lotus blooms, their attention is drawn from the other flowers of the garden, and they swarm to the nectar of the lotus.
mäà ca yo ‘vyabhicäreëa bhaktiyogena sevate |
sa guëän samatétyaitän brahmabhüyäya kalpate ||
[He who serves Me with unswerving devotion goes beyond the three gunas and is fit to merge in Brahman.]
– Bhagavad Gita 14:26
Conversation with devotees
Smiling, Sri Ramakrishna looks at Shivanath and the other devotees and says, “Look! Here is Shivanath! You see, you are a devotee, so I feel very happy to see you. This is the nature of a man who is addicted to smoking hemp. He feels happy when he meets another hemp smoker. He may even embrace him.” (Shivanath and the others laugh.)
Nature of a worldly man – the great importance of name
“When I see a person whose mind is not on God, I tell him, ‘Please go sit over there.’ Or I say, ‘Go see the beautiful buildings! Go see them.’ (All laugh.)
“And I see that some people who come with the devotees are not of a serious nature. They are worldly-minded; they don’t like spiritual talk. Devotees like to talk about God for a long time, but these men can’t sit long. They become restless and whisper into their friend’s ear, ‘When are you leaving?’ The devotee sometimes says, ‘Wait a while. We’ll be leaving shortly.’ But they are impatient and say, ‘All right, carry on. We’ll wait in the boat.’ (All laugh.)
“If you ask worldly people to renounce everything and devote themselves to God, they don’t listen to you. That’s why, to attract worldly people, Gaur and Nitai, the two brothers, thought up a stratagem that involved soup of magur fish, the embrace of a young woman, and repeating the name of God. In the beginning, many people came to chant the name of God, tempted by the first two. Then, having tasted a bit of the nectar of the Lord’s name, they realized that the fish soup was nothing compared to the tears that fall for the love of God. And that ‘a young woman’ meant the earth – the ‘embrace of a young woman’ meant to roll around in the dust for love of God.
“Nitai, in one way or another, found a way to make people repeat the name of God. Chaitanya Deva said that there is great importance in the name of the Lord. It may not show immediate results, but sooner or later it does yield fruit. For example, suppose there is a seed on the cornice of a house. After a long time, the house falls down. The seed will then fall to the ground, develop into a tree and, in time, bear fruit.”
Man’s nature and the three gunas – sattva, rajas, and tamas of devotion
“Just as there are the three gunas of sattva, rajas, and tamas in worldly people, in the same way there are the three qualities of sattva, rajas, and tamas of devotion, too.
“You know what kind of sattva a worldly man has? His house is somewhat in shambles, but he doesn’t get it repaired. There are pigeon droppings in the vestibule of the shrine, and moss grows in the courtyard, but he is unaware of it. Household furniture may have grown old, but he doesn’t polish or replace it. He dresses in simple clothes. Such a man is very calm, polite, compassionate, and peaceful. He does no harm to anyone.
“There are also signs of rajas in a worldly man. A watch with a chain, and two or three rings on his fingers. The furnishings of his house are in tip-top shape. On the walls hang a picture of the queen and a picture of the prince – or of some great personage. His house is well plastered and so forth; there is no stain anywhere. He has a large closet of fine clothes, and uniforms for his servants.
“The tamas of a worldly man also has its signs: sleep, lust, anger, pride, and so on.
“Devotion also has its sattva. The devotee who possesses the quality of sattva meditates secretly. Perhaps he meditates inside his mosquito net. Everybody thinks he is either sleeping or that he did not sleep well during the night and is late getting up. His attachment to his body is only to the extent of filling his stomach – a simple dish of rice with spinach suffices for him. There is no fuss and bother about his meals, nor in his dress or household furnishings. And a sattvic devotee never flatters anybody for money.
“When a person has devotion of the rajasic type, he may wear a holy mark on his forehead and a rosary of rudraksha interspersed with gold beads. (Everybody laughs.) When he worships, he dresses himself in a silk cloth.”
klaibyaà mä sma gamaù pärtha naitat tvayyupa-padyate|
kñudraà hådayadaurbalyaà tyaktvottiñöha paraà-tapa||
[O Partha (Arjuna), do not yield to cowardice. It does not befit you. Give up your despicable faint-heartedness and arise, O vanquisher of foes!]
– Bhagavad Gita 2:3
The great importance of name, and sin –three kinds of teachers
Sri Ramakrishna: “A man with the devotion of tamas has burning faith. Such a devotee forces the Lord like a dacoit forces a man to part with his wealth. ‘Tie him up! Beat him! Kill him!’ Such is the disposition of a dacoit.”
Sri Ramakrishna looks upward and sings in a voice infused with love:
Why go to Gaya, Ganga, Prabhas, Kashi, or Kanchi, if I can breathe my last chanting Kali’s name?
Of what use are rituals for one who utters Kali’s name at dawn and noon and dusk? Worship itself will follow in his footsteps, never catching up.
Charity, vows, and almsgiving no longer appeal to Madan’s mind. His worship alone is surrender at the Mother’s blessed feet.
Lord Shiva Himself, the God of Gods, with all His powers, sings Her praises. Who, then, can conceive of the power of Her holy name?
Thakur sings, intoxicated in ecstasy as if he is initiated in agnimantra:
Mother, can I but die with Durga’s name upon my lips,
I shall see, O Shankari, how in the end you cannot refuse to rescue me.
“Why, I have chanted Her name! How can there be any sin in me? I am Her son! I am the inheritor of Her power and glory! Such must be the spirit.
“If you can give a turn to your tamoguna, you can use it to realize God. Force your demands on Him! He’s no stranger. Indeed, He is our own. And then see how the quality of tamas can be used for the welfare of others.
“There are three types of physicians – superior, mediocre, and inferior. The physician who comes, feels the patient’s pulse, and then says to him, ‘Brother, please take this medicine,’ and leaves – he is an inferior physician. He doesn’t bother to find out if the patient has taken the medicine. The physician who persuades the patient in many ways to take the medicine, who says in a sweet voice, ‘Oh brother, how can you be cured unless you take the medicine? Dear brother, please take it. See, I myself am mixing it for you. Now take it,’ – he is a mediocre physician. And the physician who sees that a patient stubbornly refuses to take the medicine, puts his knee on the patient’s chest, and forces the medicine down his throat – he is a superior physician. This is the tamoguna of the physician. It helps the patient; it does not harm him.
“Like physicians, religious teachers are also of three types. Those who instruct their disciples on spiritual matters and then make no inquiries about their progress are of the inferior type. Those who repeat their teachings again and again for the good of their disciples so that they may internalize the instructions, who make requests in various ways, and show love – these are the mediocre type of teacher. And those who use force when they find that the disciples do not listen, I call superior.”
yato väco nivartante | apräpya manasä saha |
[Where mind and speech cannot reach.]
– Taittiriya Upanishad 2:4
What Brahman is cannot be expressed by speech
A Brahmo devotee asked, “Is God with form or formless?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “One cannot limit God. He is formless and then with form, too. For a devotee, He is with form. For a jnani, that is to say, one who considers the world a dream, God is formless. The devotee thinks that God is one and the world is another. That is why the Lord manifests to him as a person. Jnanis such as Vedantists reason, ‘Not this, not this.’ By so reasoning, the jnani has the inner feeling and experience that his individuality is an illusion, so the world also is like a dream. The jnani feels the consciousness of Brahman within. But what God is, he cannot express in words.
“Do you know what it’s like? It’s like a shoreless ocean of Sat-chit-ananda. Water in the ocean turns into ice at places with the cooling influence of love. This ice takes a form. In other words, at times God manifests and takes a physical form for the devotee. When the sun of knowledge rises, the ice melts. Then God does not appear as a person. Also His form is not visible. What God is cannot be expressed in words. Who is there to express Him? He who would describe Him has disappeared. You cannot find his ‘I,’ even if you search for it.
“When one continues to reason, one’s ‘I-ness’ vanishes completely. First you peel off the outer red skin of an onion, then the soft white one. One continues to peel in this way until nothing of the onion remains.
“When ‘I-ness’ vanishes, who remains to look for it? Who is there to tell what the inner feeling and experience of the real nature of Brahman is?
“A salt doll went to measure the depth of the ocean. As soon as it went into the water, it melted and became one with it. Then who was there to tell about it?
“A sign of the highest spiritual knowledge is that a person becomes silent. The salt doll of ‘I-ness’ gets dissolved in the sea of Sat-chit-ananda – not a trace of differentiation remains.
“As long as reasoning is not complete, man continues to indulge in endless discussions. But no sooner does one stop reasoning than one becomes silent. The gurgling sound of water stops when the pitcher is filled with water – that is to say, when the water in the pitcher becomes one with the water of the pond the pitcher is dipped in. There is a gurgling sound only so long as the pitcher is not filled with water.
“In the olden days people used to say that a ship does not return if it reaches ‘black waters.’”
But ‘I-ness’ does not vanish
“When the ego vanishes, all troubles cease. You may reason a thousand times, but the ego does not disappear. For you and me, it is good to cherish the ‘I’ of a devotee of God.
“For a devotee, Brahman is with qualities. In other words, God is visible as a person with a form. And it is He who listens to prayers. All your prayers are addressed to Him alone. You are not Vedantists, nor are you jnanis; you are devotees. Whether you accept God with form or not does not matter. It is enough to feel that God is a person who listens to your prayers, who creates, preserves, and dissolves – a person who is infinitely powerful.
“It is easier to reach God by the path of love and devotion.’’
bhaktyä tv ananyayä çakya aham evaàvidho ‘rjuna|
jïätuà drañöuà ca tattvena praveñöuà ca paraà-tapa||
[But by unswerving devotion that form of Mine can be known and seen in reality and also entered, O scorcher of foes.]
– Bhagavad Gita 11:54
Vision of God – with form or without form
A Brahmo devotee asked, “Sir, can we see God? If so, why don’t we see Him?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, surely He can be seen. He is seen with form and He is seen without form, too. How can I explain this to you?”
The Brahmo devotee: “By what method can one see Him?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Can you weep for Him with great longing?
“People shed pitchers full of tears for son, wife, and money. But who weeps for God? As long as a baby remains distracted with his pap, his mother attends to cooking and all her household chores. But when the child tires of the pap and throws it away, screaming for its mother, she takes the rice pan off the fire, comes running, and picks the baby up in her arms.”
The Brahmo devotee: “Sir, why are there so many ideas about God’s form? Some say that God is with form, some say that He is formless. And even among believers in God with form, we hear of so many different forms. Why such confusion?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Whichever form of God a devotee sees, he believes in that alone. In reality, there is no confusion. If God is attained by any means, He will Himself explain everything. If you have never been to a particular neighbourhood, how can you know everything about it?
“Listen to a story. A man went out to relieve himself. He saw a creature in a tree. On his return he said to another man, ‘I saw a beautiful red animal on that tree.’ The other man replied, ‘When I went there, I also saw it. But it’s not red, it’s green.’ Yet another man said, ‘No, no, I also saw it. It’s yellow.’ In the same way others said, ‘No, it is the colour of tobacco, or eggplant, or blue, and so on.’ All this led to a quarrel. Then they went to the foot of the tree and saw a man sitting there. When asked about it, he said, ‘I live under this tree. I know it very well. Whatever you say is true. It is sometimes red, sometimes green, sometimes yellow, sometimes blue, and also of many more hues. It has many colours, and sometimes it has no colour at all. Now it has qualities, now it has none.’
“This means that only the man who is always thinking of God can know His real nature. That person alone knows that God is seen in different forms and in different aspects. He is with qualities, and He is also without qualities. Only he who lives under the tree knows that the variegated chameleon has different colours, and that sometimes it has no colour at all. Other people just argue, quarrel, and trouble themselves.
“Kabir used to say, ‘The One without form is my Father and with form, my Mother.’
“God reveals Himself in the form the devotee loves most – gracious loving Lord of the devotee that He is. The Purana says that God assumed the form of Rama for the sake of his heroic devotee, Hanuman.”
Explanation of the forms of Kali and Shyama – the Infinite is incomprehensible
“In Vedanta philosophy there are no forms. Its ultimate principle is that Brahman is the only Reality, and the phenomenal universe made of names and forms is illusory. As long as one cherishes the idea, ‘I am a devotee,’ it is possible to have a vision of the form of God and to see Him as a person. From the standpoint of reasoning, the feeling ‘I am a devotee’ keeps him somewhat away from God.
“Why are the forms of Kali and Shyama three and a half cubits high? Because of distance. On account of distance, the sun seems small. If you go near, it will look big beyond your imagination. So why are Kali and Shyama black? Because of distance. Again, water in a lake appears green, blue, or black from a distance, but if you go near and take some water in your palm, you will find that it has no colour. The sky from a distance appears blue, but if you go near it, it has no colour.
“So I say that according to the Vedanta philosophy, Brahman is without attributes. What its real nature is cannot be expressed in words. But as long as you as a person are real, the world is also real. Then the names and forms of God are also real. And feeling Him to be a person is real, too.
“Yours is the path of love and devotion for God. It is a very good and easy path. Can the Infinite be known? Besides, what is the need to know It? Having the rare privilege of being born as human beings, we should develop devotion to His lotus feet by any means possible.
“If I can quench my thirst with one glass of water, what need is there for me to measure the quantity of water in the lake? I get intoxicated with half a bottle of wine. What is the need to know the quantity of wine in the wine shop? In the same way, what is the need to know the Infinite?”
yastvätmaratireva syäd ätmatåptaç ca mänavaù |
ätmanyeva ca saàtuñöas tasya käryaà na vidyate||
[For the one who rejoices in the Self, is satisfied with the Self, and is centred in the Self, for that person there remains no duty to act.]
– Bhagavad Gita 3:17
Signs of God-realization – seven planes and the knowledge of Brahman
Sri Ramakrishna: “The Vedas describe the different states of a knower of Brahman. However, this path, the path of knowledge, is a very difficult path. If the least trace of worldliness – attachment to ‘lust and greed’ – persists, one cannot attain knowledge. This path is not for the Kaliyuga.
“Regarding this, the Vedas talk of the seven planes, or states of mind. When the mind is attached to the world, it dwells in the sex organ or the organ of evacuation or the navel. It does not look upward in this state. Its only concern is ‘lust and greed.’ The fourth plane of the mind is the heart. It is here that the mind gains initial spiritual awareness. One sees light all around. Seeing the divine light, one is amazed and exclaims, ‘What is this? What is this!’ The mind then does not go downward [toward the world].
“The fifth plane of the mind is at the throat.
When the mind of a person rises to the throat, he is freed from all ignorance and illusion. He does not like to talk or hear about anything but God. If someone talks of other things, he leaves the place. The sixth plane of the mind is at the forehead. When the mind reaches there, one sees a divine form all twenty-four hours of the day. However, a bit of ‘I-ness’ exists even then. Such a person feels intoxicated at the vision of that supreme and unique form. He tries to touch and embrace the form, but cannot. It is like the light in a lantern. One feels that one can touch the light, but because of the glass in between, one cannot touch it. At the top of the head is the seventh plane. When the mind rises to it, one goes into samadhi and the follower of the path of knowledge has the direct vision of Brahman. But in this state, the body does not last for many days. The person remains unconscious and can eat nothing. If milk is poured into the mouth, it runs out. On this plane of consciousness, death comes in twenty-one days. This is the state of the Brahmajnani. Yours is the path of love and devotion to God. It is a very good and easy path.”
Actions drop off after samadhi – an earlier story of his life – how Thakur gave up karmas such as offering drinking water to the deities
“Once a person asked me, ‘Sir, can you teach me samadhi?’ (Everybody laughs.)
“All actions drop off after samadhi. Actions like worship, japa, and all worldly activities drop off. In the beginning one is very active, but as a man advances towards God, the outer display of actions becomes less – so much so that even singing His names and glories ceases. (To Shivanath) Before you arrived at the meeting, people talked a great deal about your good name, qualities, and so on. But as soon as you arrived, all that stopped. Now everybody takes joy at the sight of you and says, ‘Here is Shivanath Babu!’ All other talk about you stops.
“After this state of mine I noticed that at the time of offering Ganges water to the deities, it trickled through my fingers. I began to cry and asked Haladhari, ‘Brother, what has happened?’ Haladhari told me that it is called the fingers of the hand remaining apart. After the vision of God, actions such as offering water to the deities drop off.
“In the group singing of hymns, one first sings, ‘Nitai is my mad elephant.’ As this mood deepens, one simply utters, ‘Elephant, elephant.’ Next it is only, ‘Elephant.’ And lastly, while saying, ‘Ele,’ one goes into bhava samadhi. Then the person who was singing says not a word.
“It is the same as at a feast given to brahmins. In the beginning there is so much activity. When they sit down with leaf plates in front of them, much of the noise ceases. One hears only, ‘Bring some luchis, bring some here.’ And again, when they begin eating the luchis and vegetables, seventy-five percent of the noise subsides. When they have curds, you can hear only one sound, ‘sup, sup’ (from smacking their lips). (All laugh.) One can say that nobody utters a word. The feast over, the next step is to go to sleep. Then there is absolute silence.
“Therefore, I say that in the beginning there is a lot of activity, but the more you advance on the path towards God, the less your activities will be. At the end, all work drops away and samadhi follows.
“When a housewife is pregnant, her mother‑in-law reduces her duties. In the last month, she is almost free from work. When the child is born, there is complete renunciation of work. The mother only has to look after the baby. All chores in the household are attended to by the mother-in-law, the husband’s sister, or his elder sister-in-law.”
Avatars and the like live after samadhi for instruction of mankind
“After samadhi, a person usually dies. But some, like Narada, and avatars like Chaitanya Deva, live to instruct mankind. After digging a well, most people throw away the spade and basket. But there are some who keep them, thinking that they may, perhaps, be needed by their neighbours. In the same way, highly spiritual personalities feel greatly concerned for the suffering of others. They are not so selfish as to be satisfied with their own illumination. You know well how selfish people behave. If you ask them to urinate here, they won’t, lest it should later do you good. (All laugh.) If you ask them to bring sandesh for a pice from a shop, they’ll lick it on their way back. (All laugh.)
“There is a special manifestation of divine power in some. An ordinary man is afraid to give instruction to others. Old and worn out wood may float on water, but it sinks the moment a bird sits on it. Sages like Narada are like huge logs that will not only float on water, but also carry men, bullocks, and even elephants.”
adåñöapürvaà håñito ‘smi dåñövä bhayena ca pravya-thitaà mano me |
tad eva me darçaya deva rüpaà praséda deveça jaganniväsa ||
[I rejoice that I have seen what was never seen before, but my mind is shaken with fear. Show me that form I once saw, O God; have mercy, O God of gods and Abode of the Universe.]
– Bhagavad Gita 11:45
Prayer system of the Brahmo Samaj and talk on God’s powers and glory
An earlier story of his life – theft of an ornament from the Radhakanta Temple at Dakshineswar
Sri Ramakrishna (to Shivanath): “Yes, my dear sir, why do you dwell so much on the glories and powers of God? I said the same to Keshab Sen. One day they all came to the Kali Temple. I said, ‘I would like to hear how you lecture.’ A meeting was then arranged in the chandni (portal) on the Ganges ghat and Keshab began to lecture. He spoke so well, I went into samadhi. Later I said to him, ‘Why do you talk so much about all this: “Oh Lord, what beautiful flowers You have made! You have created the sky, the stars, the sea, and so on!” Those who love splendour, love to talk about God’s splendour.’ When Radhakanta’s ornament was stolen, Mathur Babu went to the Radhakanta Temple and said to the deity, ‘Fie on you, Lord! You couldn’t guard your own ornaments!’ I said to Mathur Babu, ‘What [low] intelligence you have! He who has Lakshmi herself for his handmaid, he whose feet she massages, how can he lack splendour? Jewelry is very precious to you, but for the Lord it is just a few clods of earth. Fie on you! You should not talk so stupidly. What riches can you give to God?’ That is why I say that a man seeks a person in whom he finds joy. What use is it to find out from him where he lives, how many buildings and gardens he owns, how much wealth, how many relatives, how many male and female servants he has? When I see Narendra, I forget everything. I’ve never asked him, even by mistake, where he lives, what his father does, how many brothers he has, and so on. Dive deep into the sweetness of God’s love. What need is there for us to find out about God’s infinite creation, His limitless splendours?”
Sri Ramakrishna again sings a song full of sweetness with a voice that surpasses the voices of the celestial musicians who sing there the glories of the Most High:
Dive deep, dive deep, O my mind, into the ocean of beauty, and to the deepest depths descend: there you will find the gem of Love.
Go seek, go seek, O mind, the blessed Vrindavan within your heart, the abode of the Lord of Love. Then in your heart the unceasing light of knowledge will ever shine.
Who is it that steers your boat over solid ground? It is your guru, says Kabir. Listen, and meditate on his holy feet.
“Even so, after the vision of God, the devotee wants to witness His lila. After slaying Ravana, Ramachandra entered Lanka. Nikasha, Ravana’s old mother, tried to run away. Lakshmana said, ‘Brother Rama, how strange this is! This Nikasha is such an old woman, she’s suffered so much at the loss of her sons, yet she’s terrified of losing her own life and is taking to her heels.’ Ramachandra, giving assurance of safety to Nikasha, called her to him and asked her about it. She replied, ‘Rama, I have been able to watch all this lila of yours because I’m alive. I want to live longer so that I may see more of it.’ (All laugh.)
(To Shivanath) “I like to see you. What shall I live for if I don’t see pure-souled ones? The reason? I feel that pure-souled ones are my friends from a previous incarnation.”
A Brahmo devotee asks, “Sir, do you believe in rebirth?”
Rebirth – O Arjuna, you and I have passed through many births
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, they say there is rebirth. How can we of tiny intellect understand the actions of God? Many people have said it is so, so I don’t disbelieve. Bhishma Deva lay dying on his bed of arrows. All the Pandavas were standing by with Sri Krishna. They saw tears flowing from Bhishma Deva’s eyes. Arjuna said to Sri Krishna, ‘Brother, how strange it is! Pitamah, who is Bhishma Deva himself, who has truly conquered his senses – a jnani and one of the eight Vasus – even he weeps at the time of his death because of maya. When Sri Krishna asked Bhishma about it, Bhishma replied, ‘Sri Krishna, you know very well that I’m not weeping because of that. When I see that there is no end to suffering, even of the Pandavas who have the Lord Himself as their charioteer, I weep, thinking that I have not been able to understand anything of the ways of God.’”
In the joy of devotional singing with the devotees
Now the evening worship begins in the Samaj building. It is about half past eight. After four or five dandas, the moon lights up the night. The trees and leaves of the creepers in the garden seem to float in the clear autumnal moonbeams. In the meantime devotional singing has begun in the prayer hall. Sri Ramakrishna is dancing, intoxicated with love for God. Brahmo devotees holding drums and cymbals dance around him. Everyone is intoxicated, in bhava, as if having the vision of God. The sound of God’s name rises to a crescendo. Villagers all around listen, their minds full of gratitude to Veni Madhava, the devotee owner of the garden.
At the end of the kirtan, Sri Ramakrishna prostrates on the ground to salute the Mother of the Universe. While doing so, he says, “Bhagavata, Bhakta, Bhagavan! Salutations at the feet of jnanis, salutations at the feet of devotees, salutations at the feet of the devotees of God with form, salutations at the feet of the devotees of God without form, salutations at the feet of the knowers of Brahman of old, salutations at the feet of the knowers of Brahman of today’s Brahmo Samaj.”
Veni Madhava has provided various kinds of delicious dishes for the enjoyment of the assembled devotees. Full of joy in their company, Sri Ramakrishna also partakes of the prasad.
. Familiar name of Nityananda, disciple and companion of Chaitanya.
. The kernel of a berry used for beads in rosaries.
. A mantra that makes one determined to achieve an extremely difficult and daunting task.
. Bodhebodha: An intellectual, literal, imaginative, inner feeling of the real nature of Brahman (Atman). The Vedanta illustrates it in this way (taken from Vol. III of Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, 24 August, 1882): A person is lying in a room in the dark. Somebody gropes in the dark to reach him. His hand touches a couch and he says, “No, this is not he.” Then he touches the window. “This too is not he.” Then he touches the door and again says to himself, “No, not he. Not this, not this, not this.” At last his hand touches the person. Then he says, “That’s it. That is the person.” This means that he has reached the person, but he hasn’t known him intimately.
. Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.
. Purna jnana.
. Bhakta vatsala.
. Knower of Brahman.
. Habate wood.
. Bahaduri wood.
. Son-in-law of Rani Rasmani.
. bahüni me vyatétäni janmäni tava cärjuna| Bhagavad Gita 4:5.
. A group of eight devas (gods).
. According to Vedic astrological calculations, the twenty-four hours of a day and night are divided into sixty dandas.
. Sacramental food offered to the deity.