Sri Ramakrishna Instructs Vijaykrishna Goswami and Other Brahmo Devotees
na jäyate mriyate vä kadäcin näyaà bhütvä bhavitä vä na bhüyaù |
ajo nityaù çäçvato ‘yaà puräëo na hanyate hanyamäne çarére ||
[The Atman is neither born nor does it die. Coming into being and ceasing to be do not take place in it. Unborn, eternal, constant, and ancient, it is not killed when the body is slain.]
– Bhagavad Gita 2:20
Is it suicide if a liberated person ends his life?
It is the month of Agrahayana, the fourth day of the bright fortnight, Thursday, 14 December 1882. Vijaykrishna Goswami has come to see Sri Rama-krishna at the Kali Temple garden at Dakshineswar. He is accompanied by three or four Brahmo devotees. They have come from Calcutta by boat with Balaram, a great devotee of the Paramahamsa Deva.
At midday, Sri Ramakrishna is resting. On Sundays people come in large numbers to see him, but devotees who want to have a personal talk with him usually visit on other days.
Sri Ramakrishna is sitting on his wooden cot. Vijay, Balaram, M., and some of the other devotees sit on a mat facing west, others on the bare floor, in front of Thakur. The Ganges is seen from the western door of the room. Its winter waters are calm and clear. Just beyond the door is the western semicircular verandah. Beyond it are flower gardens and then the embankment. Along the western side of the embankment flows the holy Ganges, the purifier of sins, as if joyfully washing the feet of the temple of the Lord.
It is winter, so all are dressed in warm clothes. Vijay is suffering from colic and has brought medicine in a small glass bottle. He is to take the medicine at prescribed times.
Vijay is a salaried preacher in the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and delivers sermons from the pulpit. He now finds himself involved in different controversies with the Samaj, but is not allowed the freedom to act on or to express his independent views. He feels helpless because he has accepted the assignment. Vijay comes from the very pious family of Advaita Goswami, a jnani who meditated upon the formless Brahman; at the same time he displayed the highest intensity of divine love. He was a foremost and intimate disciple of Lord Chaitanya Deva. Mad with love for God, he used to dance with such fervor that he would lose outer consciousness, often dropping the cloth that he was wearing. Vijay, having joined the Brahmo Samaj, meditates on the formless Parabrahman, but the blood of the great devotee, Advaita Goswami, flows through his veins. The seed of God’s love lies ready to sprout within him; it is only a matter of time. That is why he has been charmed to see the state of Sri Ramakrishna’s divine fervour, stemming from love for God, a state rare even among the gods. Just as a snake charmed by music continues to sit beside the snake charmer, Vijay, charmed by the divine words emanating from the holy lips of Sri Ramakrishna, stays by his side. And when he dances like a child with love for God, Vijay dances with him.
A boy named Vishnu who lived in Ariadaha has recently committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor. Today this topic comes up first.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Vijay, M., and the other devotees): “Look, this boy has ended his life. When I heard about it, I felt very bad. He used to come here. He was a schoolboy, but he’d often say that he had no liking for the world. He had lived for a few days with some relatives in the west (west of Bengal, i.e. Uttar Pradesh or Punjab). He used to meditate in a solitary field or forest or in the hills. He used to tell me that he had strange visions of various forms of God.
“I believe it was his last birth. In his previous birth he must have accomplished a lot. Perhaps only a little was left undone and he finished that in this life.
“One must admit the tendencies of one’s past birth. There is a story about a man practicing spiritual discipline on a corpse in a deep forest. He was worshiping the Divine Mother and he began to have frightful visions. Finally a tiger carried him away. There was another man who had climbed up a nearby tree in fear of the tiger. Seeing the dead body and arrangements for worship, he came down, took some holy water, and sat on the corpse. He had performed only a little japa when the Divine Mother appeared before him and said, ‘I am pleased with you. Ask for a boon.’ Bowing low at the lotus feet of the Mother, he said, ‘Mother, may I just ask You one thing? I am amazed at Your action. After that other man made so many arrangements for worship and practiced spiritual disciplines laboriously for so many days, You did not bless him. But I who know nothing and hear nothing – I never repeat Your name or practice any spiritual discipline, I have neither spiritual knowledge nor love and devotion for You – yet I receive Your grace!’ The Divine Mother laughed and said, ‘Child, you don’t remember your past lives. You practiced austerities for me for so many births! It is because of the strength of those austerities that all these things were arranged for you. It is also for that reason that you are blessed with my vision. Now tell me, what boon do you want?’”
A devotee: “I feel frightened to hear of the suicide.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Suicide is a great sin. A person who commits suicide will have to return and again suffer the world’s trials and tribulations.
“But if a person ends his life after having the vision of God, it is not suicide. There is no harm in giving up the body that way. Some people end their lives after attaining Knowledge. After a gold image has been cast in a clay mould, the mould may be preserved, or, if it is cracked, it can be thrown away.
“Many years ago a boy named Gopal Sen used to come here from Baranagore. He was about twenty years old. He would experience such deep emotions that Hriday had to hold him. He later did fall and break some bones. One day the boy suddenly touched my feet and said, ‘Sir, I won’t be able to come here any more, so I take your leave.’ A few days later I heard that he had given up his body.”
anityam asukhaà lokam imaà präpya bhajasva mäm ||
[Having come to this impermanent and unhappy world, worship Me.]
– Bhagavad Gita 9:33
Four classes of men – attachment to “lust and greed” is a sign of the worldly
Sri Ramakrishna: “There are four classes of human beings – bound souls, seekers after liberation, the liberated, and the ever-free. The world is like a fishing net. Individual souls are the fish, and God, whose maya is the world, is the fisherman. When fish fall into the net, many of them try to tear it to free themselves. They are like those seeking liberation. However, not all who try to escape are able to do so. Only a few fish slip out with a splash. Then people cry out, ‘There goes a big one!’ Those few are the liberated ones. Some fish are so cautious by nature that they never fall into the net. Narada and other such saints are ever-free; they never fall into the net of the world. But most fish are unaware that they have fallen into the net and will die there. They dart straight ahead, taking the net along with them, and try to hide in the mud. They make no attempt to escape; rather, they dig deeper into the mud. They are like bound souls. They live in the net and think, ‘We are quite happy here.’ Bound souls remain attached to the world, that is, to ‘lust and greed.’ They remain sunk in the sordid sea and think they are very happy. Those who seek liberation and those who are liberated look upon the world as a deep well. They don’t like it. Some of them who attain Knowledge, the vision of God, give up their bodies. But giving up the body in this way is very rare.
“Bound creatures, the worldly, do not wake up. They suffer so much misery, so many trials, so many sorrows. Even then they do not awaken.
“A camel likes thorny bushes, but the more it eats, the more its mouth bleeds. Yet it keeps on eating the same thorny bush; it doesn’t stop. The worldly suffer so much agony, so much sorrow, yet they revert back to the old self quite soon. If a man’s wife has died, or she has proved unfaithful to him, he marries again. Perhaps he has lost a son and suffered much sorrow, but he forgets all this in a few days. The mother of the boy, beside herself with grief, ties up her hair again and bedecks herself with jewelry. In the same way, though people spend all they have on the marriage of their daughters, they continue giving birth to more children year after year. They lose everything in litigation, yet they go again to court. They can’t feed the children they have, neither can they educate them, nor can they look after them properly. Still they have more children every year.
“At times their state can be likened to that of a snake trying to swallow a mole. The snake can neither swallow the mole nor give it up. The bound soul may have realized that there is no substance to the world – that it is like a hog plum containing nothing but stone and skin – yet he cannot give it up, cannot turn his mind to God.
“A fifty-year-old relative of Keshab Sen was playing cards – as if the time was not yet ripe for him to think of God!
“There is yet another sign of a bound soul. If he is lifted from worldly life to a spiritual environment, he will pine away to death. The worm that lives in dung only feels happy there – only there does it thrive. If you put that worm in a pot of rice, it will die.” (All laugh.)
asaàçayaà mahäbäho mano durnigrahaà calam |
abhyäsena tu kaunteya vairägyeëa ca gåhyate ||
[O mighty armed, the mind is undoubtedly restless and hard to control, but by practice and non-attachment, O son of Kunti, it can be controlled.]
– Bhagavad Gita 6:35
Deep dispassion and bound souls
Vijay: “What must be the state of mind for a bound soul to attain liberation?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “When one develops deep dispassion by the grace of God, one can be freed from the attachment to ‘lust and greed.’ What is deep dispassion? Mild dispassion is to let whatever is continue as it is, just to go on repeating the name of God. But in one who has deep dispassion, the prana (life breath) becomes restless for God, like a mother restless for the child in her womb. A person who has deep dispassion does not want anything but God. That person sees the world as a deep well and feels that he is drowning in it. He looks upon his relatives as venomous snakes and wants to run away from them. And he does run away. He doesn’t think, ‘Let me first make arrangements for my family and then I will think of God.’ He has great resolve.
“What is deep dispassion like? Listen to a story. Once there was a drought in a certain part of the country. All the farmers were busy digging canals to bring water from a distance. One farmer had great determination. He resolved that he would go on digging until water from the river flowed along his whole canal. When the time came for his bath, his wife sent their daughter with some oil. The daughter said to him, ‘Father, it’s time for your bath. Massage your body with the oil and take your bath.’ He replied, ‘Please go away, I have some work to do.’ It was past midday, and the farmer was still at work in his field. He had forgotten all about his bath. Now his wife came to the field and said, ‘Why haven’t you taken your bath yet? Your rice is getting cold. You always overdo things. If the work is not finished yet, do it tomorrow, or do it after your meal.’ Taking his spade in hand, the farmer drove her off, scolding and shouting, ‘You have no sense! There’s been no rain. There is no crop. What will the children eat? Without food, we will all starve to death! I have vowed that I will bring water to the field today. After that, I will think about bathing and eating.’ Seeing his determination, the woman left. The farmer worked very hard throughout the day and joined the canal to the river in the evening. Then he sat on the bank and enjoyed watching the water gurgle into his field. He was now at peace and full of happiness. He went home and called to his wife, ‘Now bring some oil and prepare a smoke.’ In a carefree mood he took his bath, ate his meal, and retired to bed where he snored happily. This kind of determination illustrates deep dispassion.
“There was another farmer who was also trying to bring water to his field. His wife said to him, ‘It’s already late. Come on now. There’s no need to work so hard.’ Without much protest, this fellow put down his spade and said, ‘Since you say so. I’m coming.’ (All laugh.) This farmer could never bring water to his field. This is an example of mild dispassion.
“Just as a farmer can’t bring water to his field without great determination, in the same way, only with great effort does a man realize God.”
äpüryamäëam acalapratiñöhaà samudram äpaù praviçanti yadvat |
tadvat kämä yaà praviçanti sarve sa çäntim äpnoti na kämakämé ||
[He into whom all desires enter as waters enter the full, unmoving sea, he attains peace; not so the desirer of desires.]
– Bhagavad Gita 2:70
Slaving for ‘lust and greed’
Sri Ramakrishna (to Vijay): “You used to come here so often. Why not recently?”
Vijay: “Sir, I want to come very much, but I’m not free. I have accepted work in the Brahmo Samaj.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Vijay): “‘Lust and greed’ bind a man. One loses one’s freedom. When there is a woman, you need ‘gold,’ and for that, you have to be a slave to another person. A man loses his freedom and cannot act as he wishes.
“The priests of the Govindaji temple in Jaipur didn’t used to marry. They had great spiritual and mental powers then. The king once sent for them, but they refused to go to him. Instead, they sent a message, ‘Let the king come here.’ After consulting his counselors, the king arranged for their marriage. Now the king no longer needed to send for them. They would come to him of their own accord, saying, ‘Sir, I have come to shower my blessings. Here are some sacred flowers; please accept them.’ They had to go to the king for everything – building a house, celebrating the rice-taking ceremony of their sons, putting their children through school, and so on.
“Twelve hundred nedas and thirteen hundred nedis – you know this story. Nityananda Goswami’s son, Virabhadra, had thirteen hundred nedas as his disciples. When they became spiritually perfect, Virabhadra was alarmed. He thought, They have all become spiritually perfect, so anything they say will come true. There was reason to fear: wherever they went, people might come to grief by offending them unwittingly. Thinking this, Virabhadra called them to him and said, ‘Go to the Ganges, perform sandhya and worship, and then come to see me.’ The nedas had attained such spiritual perfection that they would go into samadhi when they meditated. When the flood tide came, they would not be aware of it. They would remain absorbed in meditation even when the ebb tide had receded. Now one hundred of the thirteen hundred nedas anticipated what Virabhadra would ask them to do. Thinking that they should not disobey their preceptor, they disappeared, never to see Virabhadra again. The remaining twelve hundred went to Virabhadra, who said to them, ‘These thirteen hundred nedis will serve you. Please marry them.’ ‘As you please,’ they said, ‘but one hundred of us have disappeared.’ So each of the twelve hundred nedas, had one nedi to serve him. After this, regardless of the strength of their austerities, their spiritual powers lessened. Living with women, they lost their powers because in their company they lost their independence.
(To Vijay) “You yourself have seen what happens when you accept employment under others. Many scholars who have studied English and passed many examinations are trampled every morning and evening under the feet of their [English] masters. The reason for this is lust. Having married and enjoyed the happy household fair, they now can’t escape. That’s why they put up with so much suffering – from slavery and humiliation.”
After God-realization women are worshiped as Mother
“Once you develop deep dispassion and realize God, you will no longer have attachment to women. Even if you live in the household, you won’t feel that attraction – there is no danger then. Say there’s a big magnet and a small one. Which will attract the iron with greater force? Surely the big one will exert a stronger pull. God is the big magnet. Compared to Him, woman is a small magnet. What can she do?”
A devotee: “Sir, should we hate women?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Those who have realized God do not look upon women with lustful eyes, so they have nothing to fear. They actually see that women are but manifestations of the Mother of the Universe, so they worship them all as the Mother.
(To Vijay) “Do come here now and then. I like to see you very much.”
The real religious teacher is one who has received the command of God
Vijay: “I have to do the work of the Brahmo Samaj, so I can’t come often. I’ll visit whenever possible.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Vijay): “Look here, the task of a religious teacher is very difficult. You can’t teach people without having a direct command from God.
“If you preach without receiving a direct command, people won’t listen. Such teaching carries no force. First of all one must attain God by practicing religious disciplines, or by any other means. Only after receiving His command can one teach. In Kamarpukur there is a pond called Haldarpukur. Every day people used to defecate on its banks. Those who came to the pond in the morning would shout at the offenders with foul language and in general create a great fuss. This did not stop the nuisance. The following day the banks would be covered with filth again. At last a government worker put up a notice: ‘Stop defiling the banks. Offenders will be prosecuted.’ After the sign was posted, nobody defecated there again.
“After receiving a command from God, one can be a religious teacher and give lectures anywhere. He who receives God’s authority also receives power from Him. Only then can he perform the difficult task of a religious preceptor.
“When a simple tenant went to court against a big landlord, people knew there had to be a powerful man behind him. Perhaps another big landlord was fighting the case through this man. Man is insignificant. He cannot perform the difficult duty of a religious teacher without receiving direct power from God.”
Vijay: “Sir, don’t the teachings of the Brahmo Samaj liberate people?”
Sat-chit-ananda Himself is the Guru – It is He who liberates
Sri Ramakrishna: “How is it possible for one man to liberate another from the bondage of the world? Only He who is the creator of this world-bewitching maya can liberate man from maya. Except for Sat-chit-ananda Guru, there is no refuge. How is it possible for those who have neither realized God nor received His command, who have not become powerful with His power, to liberate an embodied soul from the bondage of the world?
“One day I was going from the panchavati to the jhautala [pine grove] to answer the call of nature. I heard a bullfrog croaking loudly. I thought it must have been seized by a snake. After quite some time, when I was returning, I heard the frog still croaking, so I looked to see what was the matter. I saw that a nonpoisonous snake had seized it. It could neither release the frog nor swallow it. There was no end to the frog’s agony. I said to myself, ‘Had it been a cobra, the frog would have been silent after three croaks.’ But it had been seized by a nonpoisonous snake, so the snake and frog were both suffering.
“The ego of an embodied soul ends with just three cries if one has a real teacher. But if the guru is unripe, both the guru and the disciple undergo suffering. The disciple doesn’t get rid of his ego or his bondage to the world. Falling into the hands of an unripe guru, the disciple does not attain liberation.”
ahaìkäravimüòhätmä kartäham iti manyate||
[Deluded by egotism one thinks, ‘I am the doer.’]
– Bhagavad Gita 3:27
Liberation or God-realization comes as soon as maya, the veil of ego, goes
Vijay: “Sir, why are we bound like this? Why can’t we see God?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The very ego of man is maya. This egotism has veiled everything. ‘All troubles cease when “I-ness” dies.’ If by the grace of God a man realizes, ‘I am not the doer,’ he becomes a jivanmukta. Then he has nothing to fear.
“Maya, or ‘I-ness,’ is like a cloud. The sun is not visible if there is even a patch of cloud. As soon as the cloud passes, one can see the sun. If, by the grace of the guru, the feeling of ‘I-ness’ vanishes, one sees God.
“Sri Ramachandra, the Lord Himself, was only two-and-a-half cubits away from Lakshmana, but maya in the form of Sita stood between them. The individual soul, Lakshmana, could not see the Lord. Just see, I’m creating a barrier in front of my face with this hand towel. You cannot see me, though I am so near. Similarly, God is so near to us all! Even then, we can’t see Him because of the veil of maya.
“An embodied being is of the essence of Sat-chit-ananda, but because of maya or ego, it is covered with various unreal qualities and has forgotten its own real Self.
“Every unreal quality changes a person’s nature. A man who wears a black-bordered dhoti is at once found to hum the love songs of Nidhu, or he begins to play cards, or automatically he picks up a stick to go for a walk! Even a sickly person begins to whistle as soon as he puts on English boots. And when he climbs stairs, he jumps from one step to the other like an Englishman. If a man is holding a pen in his hand, he begins to scribble the moment he finds a piece of paper.
“Money is also a great upadhi. As soon as money comes to a man, he becomes so different – he is no longer the same man.
“A brahmin who was outwardly very humble used to come here. After a few days I went to Konnagar. Hriday was with me. When I got off the boat, I saw the same brahmin sitting on the bank of the Ganges, probably enjoying the breeze. Seeing us, he said, ‘I say, how are you, Thakur?’ Hearing his tone, I said to Hriday, ‘Oh Hriday, this man has acquired some money. That’s why he is talking this way.’ Hriday laughed.
“A frog had a rupee which he kept in a hole. One day an elephant walked over the hole. Rushing out angrily, the frog raised its foot at the elephant and cried, ‘How dare you walk over me!’ Such is the pride money breeds!”
The seven planes – when does “I-ness” vanish – the state of brahmajnana
“You can get rid of I-consciousness when you attain spiritual knowledge. Attaining it, you go into samadhi, and only in samadhi does ‘I-ness’ disappear. But it is very difficult to attain spiritual knowledge.
“The Vedas say that ‘I-ness’ vanishes only when the mind ascends to the seventh plane. ‘I-ness’ only disappears upon attaining samadhi. Where does the mind generally dwell? In the first three planes – at the organs of sex, and of evacuation, and at the navel. At these planes the mind remains only attached to the world, to ‘lust and greed.’ When the mind dwells in the heart, one sees a divine light. Seeing it, one exclaims, ‘Oh, what is this? What is this!’ The next plane is at the throat. At this plane one likes to hear and speak only of God. When the mind goes to the forehead, between the eyebrows, one sees the form of Sat-chit-ananda. One has the desire to embrace and touch this very form, but cannot. Though the flame in a lantern can be seen, it cannot be touched. You feel as if you are just touching it – but you cannot. When the mind ascends to the seventh plane, ‘I-ness’ vanishes, and one goes into samadhi.”
Vijay: “When the mind reaches there, one attains brahmajnana. What does one see then?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What happens when the mind ascends to the seventh plane cannot be described in words. Once a ship enters dark waters, it doesn’t return. No one knows what happens to the ship – and it cannot give us any information about the sea.
“Once a salt doll went to measure the depth of the sea. No sooner did it enter the water than it dissolved. Now who could tell how deep the sea was? The one who was to tell had itself dissolved. The mind vanishes at the seventh plane and one attains samadhi. What one feels then cannot be described in words.”
‘I-ness’ does not vanish – ‘rascal I’ and ‘servant I’
“The ‘I’ that makes one worldly and attaches one to ‘lust and greed’ is the ‘rascal I.’ Because of it, the individual soul and the Atman appear apart. If a stick is put on water, the water appears to be divided into two. In reality the water is one, but it appears to be two because of the stick.
“‘I-ness’ is the stick. Remove the stick and the water will become one as before.
“What is the ‘rascal I?’ That which says, ‘Don’t you know me? I have so much money. Who’s greater than I?’ If a thief steals ten rupees, the victim first snatches the money back and then gives the thief a good beating. He doesn’t leave him even then. He hands him over to the police and gets him punished. The ‘rascal I’ says, ‘Don’t you know who you robbed of ten rupees? Such impertinence!’”
Vijay: “If you can’t experience samadhi and be freed from attachment to the world without getting rid of I-consciousness, it seems better to follow the path of brahmajnana to attain samadhi. If ‘I-ness’ persists in the path of devotion, it would seem better to take to the path of knowledge.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “One or two can get rid of I-consciousness by experiencing samadhi, but usually ‘I-ness’ does not go. You may reason a thousand ways, but this ‘I-ness’ still finds its way back to you. Cut the ashwattha tree today, tomorrow morning you will see it sprouting again. So if ‘I’ does not go, let the rascal remain as the ‘servant-I’: ‘O Lord, You are my Master, I am Your servant.’ Live with this attitude. ‘I am the servant,’ ‘I am the devotee’ – there is no harm in this kind of ‘I-ness.’ Sweetmeats cause acidity in the stomach. But sugar candy is not counted among sweetmeats.
“The path of knowledge is very difficult. Knowledge can’t be attained without ridding yourself of the conviction that you are the body. In the Kaliyuga life depends on food. With the conviction that I am the body, ‘I-ness,’ does not disappear. So the path of devotion is enjoined for the Kaliyuga. It is an easy path. If you sing His names and glories and pray to Him longingly from the core of your heart, you will attain God. There is no doubt about it.
“It’s like drawing a line on the surface of water without placing a bamboo stick on it. You find that the water has been divided into two parts – but this line does not last. The feeling of the ‘servant-I’ or the ‘I of a devotee’ or the ‘I of a child’ is only like a line drawn on water.”
kleço ‘dhikataras teñäm avyaktäsaktacetasäm |
avyaktä hi gatir duùkhaà dehavadbhir aväpyate ||
[It is more difficult for those whose minds are attached to the Unmanifest, because it is very hard for the embodied soul to reach the Unmanifest.]
– Bhagavad Gita 12:5
The path of loving devotion to God is the law of this age – the path of knowledge is very difficult – ‘servant I,’ ‘I of a devotee,’ ‘I of a child’
Vijay (to Sri Ramakrishna): “Sir, you ask us to renounce the ‘rascal I.’ Is there any harm in the ‘servant I’?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “One should have this ego – the ‘servant I.’ That is to say, ‘I am the servant of the Lord, I am His devotee.’ There’s no harm in that. Rather, it leads to God-realization.”
Vijay: “Well, sir, what is the nature of the feelings of lust and anger of a man who has the ‘servant I?’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It is only the semblance of lust and anger in the man if he has the right feeling. If he retains the feeling of the ‘servant I’ or the ‘I of a devotee’ after having God-realization, he can do no harm to others. After a sword has touched the philosopher’s stone, it becomes gold; it has the semblance of a sword, but it can’t kill anybody.
“The fronds of a coconut tree dry up and drop off, leaving only a mark [on the trunk]. One can make out from these marks that there were once palm fronds there. Similarly, the ego of one who has realized God only leaves a mark, only a semblance of lust and anger. He is then like a child. A child is not subject to the three gunas [qualities] of sattva, rajas, and tamas. It takes the same amount of time for a child to give up something as it does for him to be attracted to it.
“You can take a child’s piece of cloth worth five rupees by tempting him with a half-a-pice doll. He may first say firmly: ‘No, I won’t give it to you! My father bought it for me!’ But everything is the same to a child; there is nothing big or small to him. He has no feeling of caste. His mother says, ‘He is your elder brother.’ Then even if he is a carpenter [low caste], the child will sit with him and eat from the same plate. A child hates no one; he has no feeling of purity and impurity. He doesn’t bother to clean his hands with mud after relieving himself.
“Even after attaining samadhi some people live with the ‘I of a devotee’ or the ‘I of a servant.’ The devotee retains the feeling of ‘I-ness’: ‘I am Your servant, You are my Master,’ ‘I am Your devotee, You are my Lord.’ Even after God-realization one retains this ‘I-ness.’ One’s ‘I-ness’ does not vanish completely. The practice of this feeling of ‘I-ness’ leads to God-realization. This is what is known as the path of devotion.
“By following the path of devotion, one can attain the knowledge of Brahman, too. God is omnipotent. He can also impart the knowledge of Brahman to a follower of the path of devotion. But generally speaking, a devotee does not seek the knowledge of Brahman. He wishes to retain the ‘I-ness’ of ‘I am Your servant, You are my Master,’ ‘I am Your child, You are my Mother.’”
Vijay: “Will the people who reason according to Vedanta also attain Him?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, He can also be attained by the path of reasoning and discrimination. This is known as Jnana Yoga. The path of reason is very difficult. I told you about the seven planes. When the mind reaches the seventh plane, one attains samadhi. On genuine realization that Brahman is real and the world illusory, the mind merges, and it experiences samadhi. But in the Kaliyuga, the life of a man depends on food. Then how can he understand that Brahman is real and the world illusory? Such awareness does not come without getting rid of body consciousness: ‘I am neither the body, nor the mind, nor the twenty-four cosmic principles. I am beyond pleasure and pain. How then can I have disease and sorrow, old age and death?’ Such a realization is difficult in this Kaliyuga. However much you may reason, the conviction that I am the body creeps in somehow and shows itself. You may cut down an ashwattha tree and think its roots are dead, but the very next morning you will see that a new sprout has appeared. The feeling of the body does not go away. Thus the path of devotion is a good and easy path in this age.
“I don’t want to become sugar, I want to taste it. I never feel like saying, ‘I am Brahman.’ I say, ‘You are my Lord and I am Your servant.’ It is good to play between the fifth and sixth planes. After crossing the sixth plane, I have no desire to stay on the seventh plane for long. My desire is to sing His name and glories. The attitude of the Master and the servant is very good. Look, everybody says that the wave belongs to the Ganges, not the Ganges to the wave. The feeling ‘I am He’ is not good. If a person entertains such a feeling of ’I-ness’ but retains identification with his body, it will bring great harm to him – he won’t advance further. And because he cannot understand his own predicament, he deceives others as well as himself. He gradually goes down spiritually.”
Two kinds of devotion – most eligible aspirant – means to God-realization
“Devotion alone does not enable you to realize God. Unless you have intense love for God, you cannot attain Him. Passionate devotion is another name for intense love. Without intense love, you cannot realize God. Without loving God, you cannot attain Him.
“There is another kind of devotion known as ritualistic devotion. You have to repeat the name of God a fixed number of times. Along with this, you must fast, go on pilgrimage, worship in a prescribed manner, make so many sacrifices, and so on. These are all part of ritualistic devotion. By practicing it you gradually gain raga, intense devotion. But God cannot be realized as long as you don’t have this intense love for Him. You must have love for Him. When your worldly way of thinking disappears completely and your mind goes to Him one hundred percent, only then do you attain God.
“But some people acquire loving devotion naturally. They are born that way. Being perfect from childhood, they weep for God at an early age, as Prahlada wept for Vishnu. Ritualistic devotion is like moving a fan to make a breeze. You need a fan to create a breeze. You will eventually attain love for God by repetition of the name, austerity, fasting, and such practices. But when the southern breeze blows of itself, you can put the fan aside. When intense love for God comes of itself, rituals like repetition of the name, and so on drop off. When you are mad with love for God, how can you perform rituals?
“As long as you haven’t acquired love for God, your devotion is unripe. When you have love for Him, your devotion is called ripe.
“A person who has unripe devotion cannot internalize spiritual instructions or talk about God. It is only when the photographer’s glass is coated black with love for God, so to speak, that it catches an image and is retained. You may throw a thousand images on ordinary glass and not one of them will stay. As soon as the object is removed, the glass becomes the same as it was. You cannot internalize spiritual instruction unless you have developed love for God.”
Vijay: “Sir, is love for God enough to attain Him, to have His vision?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, you can see God through love alone – but it must be ripe, prema bhakti, or raga bhakti. Only after gaining that kind of love can you love God as the son loves his mother, or the mother loves her child, or the wife loves her husband.
“When you have such love for God, you don’t feel the attraction of maya – for wife, children, or dear relatives. You only retain compassion for them. The world then appears to be a foreign land, a land of duty alone. It’s like having your home in a village and your place of work in Calcutta. You may have to live in a rented house in Calcutta for work. When you’ve gained love for God, you are completely rid of attachment to the world and of so-called worldly wisdom.
“If there is just a trace of worldliness, you can’t see God. If a match-stick is wet, you may strike it a thousand times and it won’t ignite; you will only waste a pile of matches. The mind attached to the world is like a wet match stick.
“When Srimati (Radha) said, ‘I see Krishna everywhere,’ her gopi friends said, ‘How? We can’t see him. Are you delirious?’ Srimati said, ‘Friend, apply the collyrium of love to your eyes and you will be able to see him.’ (To Vijay) A song of your Brahmo Samaj says: ‘O Lord, is it possible to know You without love, however much one may perform sacrifices, worship, and the rest?’
“If you but once acquire this love, this longing, this ripe devotion, you will see Him both with form and without form.”
God-vision not possible without His grace
Vijay: “How can one see God?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Not until the mind is purified. Attached to ‘lust and greed,’ the mind remains soiled, it remains covered with dirt. If a needle is covered with mud, a magnet can’t attract it. But when the mud and dirt are washed off, the magnet attracts. You can wash the dirt of the mind with the tears from your eyes. If you weep with tears of repentance, crying, ‘O Lord, I shall never do such a thing again!’ then this dirt is washed away and the magnet of God can attract the needle of the mind. You then go into samadhi and have the vision of God.
“But though you try a thousand times, nothing is achieved without God’s grace. Without His grace, you cannot see Him. Is it easy to gain His grace? You have to get rid of your ego completely. When you have the feeling that you are the doer, you cannot see God. Suppose a man is in charge of the storeroom and somebody comes and says to the master of the house, ‘Sir, please give me some provisions from your storeroom.’ The master says, ‘There’s a man in the storeroom. I don’t have to go there.’ God doesn’t appear easily in the heart of the person who feels himself to be the doer.
“Only after gaining God’s grace can you have His vision. He is the sun of knowledge. With just one of His rays, this whole world is illumined. That’s how we’re able to know one another and acquire different kinds of knowledge in the world. If God only once brings His light to His own face, we can see Him. A police sergeant goes around at night with a lantern in his hand. Nobody can see his face. But in this light he can see everybody else’s face, and others can see each other.
“If you want to see the sergeant, you must ask, ‘Sir, be kind enough to turn the light on your own face so that I may see you.’
“You must pray to God, ‘Lord, be kind enough to turn the light of knowledge on Your own face so that I may see You.’
“If there is no light in a house, it means poverty. You must light the lamp of knowledge in the heart: ‘Lighting the lamp of knowledge in the house, behold the face of the all-blissful Mother.’”
Vijay has brought medicine with him and wishes to take it now. The medicine has to be taken with water, so Thakur asks that some be brought.
Thakur is a sea of motiveless grace. Vijay cannot afford a carriage or the boat fare to go to see Sri Ramakrishna, so now and then Thakur sends someone to bring him. This time he sent Balaram, who paid for the carriage in which Vijay accompanied him. In the evening Vijay, Nava Kumar, and others of Vijay’s companions go to Balaram’s boat. Balaram will take them to the Baghbazar ghat. M. takes the same boat.
The boat reaches the Annapurna ghat in Bagbhazar. When they are close to Balaram’s residence in Baghbazar, the moon begins to cast a mellow light.
Today is the fourth day of the bright fortnight. It is winter and a bit chilly. Pondering the nectar-like teachings of Sri Ramakrishna and carrying his blissful image in their hearts, Vijay, Balaram, M. and the others return home.
. Shava sadhana.
. Vairagya: non-attachment.
. Shaven-headed Vaishnava monks.
. Liberated in this very life.
. Upadhis: limiting adjuncts.
. Twenty-four cosmic principles: see Section II, Chapter III.
. Prema bhakti.
. Raga bhakti.
. Vaidhi bhakti.