Visit of Sri Ramakrishna to Sinduriapatti Brahmo Samaj
Conversation with Vijaykrishna Goswami and others
The eleventh day of the dark fortnight in the month of Kartik, 26 November 1883. The Sinduriapatti Brahmo Samaj holds its sessions at the house of Manilal Mallick on Chitpur Road. It is at the southern corner of Harrison Road, a little north of the shops that sell pomegranates, apples, other fruits, and pistachios. The Samaj holds its session in the first floor hall on the side of the house near the main road. Today is its annual session and Manilal has made suitable arrangements for the occasion.
The worship room is full of joy today, decorated inside and out with green leaves and various flowers and garlands. Devotees sitting in the hall are waiting for the worship to begin. There is not enough space for everybody in the room, so a number of them are pacing the western roof or are sitting on the beautifully made colourful benches placed here and there. At times the master of the house and family come to greet the devotees with sweet words. The devotees have begun to arrive in the late afternoon, inspired with a special zeal today because Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Deva is to come. He is loved by the Brahmo devotees because of his great affection for their leaders – Keshab, Vijay, Shivanath, and others. He is intoxicated with the wine of divine love for God. This love, together with a burning faith, childlike conversations with the Divine Mother, tearful yearning, a worship of women as Mother, avoidance of all worldly talk, and his incessant talk about God like an unbroken flow of oil, his harmony of religions and absence of the least trace of contempt for other religions, his tearful cry for the devotees of God – all these things have attracted the minds of Brahmo devotees. That is why so many people have come from distant places to have his darshan.
Shivanath and speaking truth
Sri Ramakrishna talks happily with Vijaykrishna Goswami and other Brahmo devotees. The assembly room has been lighted. Worship is to begin soon.
Sri Ramakrishna says: “Brother, why isn’t Shivanath coming?”
Brahmo devotee: “Well, he is very busy today. He will not be able to come.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I feel very happy when I see Shivanath. He seems drenched in the bliss of love for God. Besides, when so many respect him, there is certainly some divine power in him. But Shivanath has a serious defect: he does not keep his word. He once told me he would come to the Kali Temple in Dakshineswar, but he didn’t show up. He didn’t even send word. That isn’t right. It is said that truthful speech is the austerity in this Kaliyuga. By sticking to truth, one realizes God. By not sticking to truth, one gradually loses everything. Keeping this in mind, if I say I’m going to answer the call of nature but then feel no need to, I take a wash pot and go to the jhautala anyway. My concern is that I might ultimately lose my regard for truth. In this state of mind, I took flowers in my hand and said to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, here is your knowledge, and here is your ignorance; take them both, and grant me pure love. Here is your purity, and here is your impurity; take them both, and grant me pure love. Here is your good, and here is your evil; take them both, and grant me pure love. Here is your virtue, and here is your vice; take them both, and grant me pure love.’
“When I said these things, I could not say, ‘Mother, take your truth and take your untruth.’ I could give up everything to the Divine Mother – but I could not give up truth.”
The worship starts according to the Brahmo system. The preacher is on the platform; a lantern illumines him. After the initial ceremony, he chants verses from the Vedas on the supreme Brahman. The Brahmo devotees begin to chant together the ancient words of the Aryan rishis. They chant: “Brahman is Truth, Knowledge, and the Infinite. It shines as Bliss and Immortality. It is Peace, All-Good, One without a second. It is pure and untouched by sin.”
The chanting, filled with the sound of ‘Om,’ resounds in the hearts of the devotees. Most of them have almost entirely relinquished worldly desires. Their minds have become quite steady and meditative. They all sit quiet for some time, eyes closed in contemplation of the qualified Brahman of the Vedas.
The Paramahamsa Deva is overwhelmed with divine emotion. His body still as a picture, his eyes fixed, he is speechless. The wings of his soul are flying elsewhere in joy. Only his inert body remains, as if emptied out.
As soon as his samadhi is over, Sri Ramakrishna opens his eyes and looks around. He notices that everyone at the meeting is sitting with closed eyes. With the words “Brahman! Brahman!” he suddenly stands up. Then, as the worship ends, and with the accompaniment of drum and cymbals, the devotees sing. Intoxicated with the joy of ecstatic love, Sri Ramakrishna joins them in dance. Everyone is charmed to watch his graceful dance. Vijaykrishna and other devotees also begin to dance, encircling him. Watching this wonderful scene and enjoying the communal singing, many forget the world for some time. Drunk with the wine of God’s name, they have begun to feel that worldly joy is, indeed, bitter; they forget worldly pleasure for a while.
When the devotional singing ends, they all sit around Thakur to hear what he is going to say.
Advice to householders
Sri Ramakrishna addresses the assembled Brahmo devotees: “It is very difficult to lead a householder’s life without attachment. Pratap used to say, ‘Sir, we follow King Janaka. He lived a householder’s life, but without attachment. We shall do the same.’ I said, ‘Can you become King Janaka just by wishing to? King Janaka gained spiritual knowledge after much austerity! He returned to his family only after undergoing extremely hard austerities – like standing on his head for years.’
“Does that mean there is no way for householders? Certainly there is. A householder should practice religious disciplines in solitude for some days. By doing so, a person develops love and devotion for God and gains spiritual knowledge. After this, there is nothing wrong in going back and leading a family life. When a man practices spiritual disciplines in solitude, he must separate himself completely, by all means, from the household – from wife, son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, near relatives. No one should stay with him. During solitary spiritual practice, he should say to himself, ‘I have no one in the world to call my own. God is my all in all.’ He should weep persistently and pray for spiritual knowledge and love and devotion for Him.
“If you ask how many days you should live away from the family, even one day is good, but three days are still better. You can live for twelve days, a month, three months, a year – as long as possible. After gaining knowledge and loving devotion to God, there is not much danger in living a householder’s life.
“If you rub your hands with oil before you cut a jackfruit open, its sticky juice won’t stick to your hands. When playing the game of hide and seek, you are safe if you touch the granny. Touch the philosopher’s stone once and you become gold. After turning into gold, something may be buried underground for a thousand years and will still be gold when you take it out.
“The mind is like milk. If you keep it in the water of the world, the milk will get mixed with water. You must transform the milk into curds in a lonely corner to take the butter from it. When, by practicing spiritual disciplines in solitude, you’ve taken out the butter of spiritual knowledge and love for God from the milk of the mind, then that butter can easily be kept in the water of the world. It will never get mixed with the water. It will float on the surface, free from any attachment.”
Solitary spiritual disciplines of Vijaykrishna Goswami
Vijay Goswami has recently returned from Gaya. He spent quite a few days in solitude and lived in the company of sadhus. He has now taken to wearing the ochre cloth. He is in a very good state of mind – as if always drawn within. He keeps his head bent before the Paramahamsa Deva, as if absorbed in contemplation of God.
Looking at Vijay, Sri Ramakrishna asks him: “Vijay, have you found a place to stay?
“Listen to this. Two sadhus came to a city during their wanderings. One of them was looking with curiosity at the bazaar, shops, and residential quarters of the town when he came across the other sadhu. The latter said, ‘You’re going around the city agape. Where is your luggage?’ The first sadhu replied, ‘I found a place to stay. I’ve locked my belongings there. Now I’ve come out to wander around the city without having to worry about them.’ That’s why I’m asking whether you’ve found a place to stay. (To M. and the others) Look, the fountain within Vijay has been covered for so long. Now it’s open.”
Vijay and Shivanath – selfless work – sannyasin’s renunciation of desire
(To Vijay) “Look, Shivanath has so many problems. He has to write for the newspaper, among many other things. Worldly work causes restlessness and brings anxiety and worry to the mind.
“The Srimad Bhagavata talks about the twenty-four gurus of the Avadhuta (Rishi Dattatreya), one of which was a kite. Some fishermen were catching fish at a certain place when a kite came swooping down, grabbed one of the fish, and carried it away. Seeing it, some thousand crows flying in formation followed the kite, cawing and creating a great nuisance. Whatever direction the kite flew with the fish, the crows followed. The kite flew south and the crows went south. When it flew north, the crows did the same. When the kite flew to the east or to the west, they followed. At last when the kite became confused and began flying around in circles, it dropped the fish. The crows left the kite and flew after the fish. The kite then sat on the branch of a tree and thought to itself, That fish created all this trouble. Now that I have no fish, I am at peace.
“The Avadhuta learned from the kite that as long as one has the fish of desire, there is work to do. And because of work, there is worry, anxiety, and restlessness. As soon as one gives up desires, work no longer binds and one is at peace.
“That is why working without expectation of any reward is good. It does not bring restlessness. But it is very difficult to do. I may think that I’m doing selfless work, but somehow selfish motivation creeps in, from where I don’t know. Only with the power that comes from a great deal of spiritual disciplines are a few able to work selflessly. After God-realization, selfless work comes automatically. With God-realization, a person can almost give up work. Only one or two (like Narada) keep working to teach others.”
Sannyasin will not hoard – renunciation of work only after developing intense love for God
“The Avadhuta had another guru, a bee. The bee collects honey by labouring hard for days on end, but the honey is not its own. Someone comes and breaks the honeycomb and takes away the honey. The Avadhuta learned from the bee that one should not hoard. Sadhus should depend one hundred percent on God. They should not accumulate things.
“However, this is not true for householders. A householder must take care of his family, so he has to save. Birds and sadhus don’t lay things away – but a bird does accumulate when it has a chick; it collects food in its beak for its chick.
“Look here, Vijay. If you see a sadhu with baggage or a bundle of things tied with fifteen knots, don’t trust him. I saw such sadhus under the banyan tree. Two or three of them were sitting there. One was separating good lentils from bad, the other was repairing his dhoti, and they were talking of feasts given by rich men. They were saying, ‘I say, that gentleman has spent hundreds of thousands of rupees. He fed the sadhus so well! He prepared puris, jilibis, peras, barfis, malapuas, and all sorts of things.’” (All laugh.)
Vijay: “Yes, I saw sadhus like that in Gaya, too. In Gaya, sadhus swindle.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (to Vijay): “When you develop ecstatic love for God, work falls off automatically. Let those act whom the Lord makes act. Your time has come now. Giving up everything, you should say: ‘O my mind, may you and I behold Her and no one else!’
Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna sings in his exquisitely sweet voice, showering the sweetness of God:
Cherish the beloved Mother Shyama in your heart.
O mind, may you and I alone behold Her, and let no one else intrude. Leaving behind all passions, anger and such vices, come, O mind, and let us behold her in solitude,
Taking with us only the tongue, that it may call on Her now and then, repeating, “Mother, Mother!”
O mind, allow neither baseness nor enticement to draw near, but let the eyes of knowledge, ever alert, keep watch.
(To Vijay) “You have taken refuge in God. Now shun the feelings of shame, fear, and the like. Give up the feeling that if you dance and sing the name of God, people will say things about you.”
Feeling of shame, contempt, and fear
“When you have the feelings of shame, hatred, and fear, you cannot succeed. Feelings of shame, hatred, fear, pride of caste, secretiveness, – these are all bonds. The embodied soul is liberated only when he is free of them.
“He who is bound is embodied (jiva), and he who is free from bonds is divine (Shiva). Love for God is very rare. If you have single-minded devotion to God, like a wife has for her husband in the beginning, only then do you develop love for God. Pure selfless love is very difficult to attain. In it, the soul and mind lose themselves in Him.
“Then comes the state of bhava. In bhava man becomes speechless. His breathing stops – he automatically experiences suspension of breath, as happens when a man fires a gun. A marksman firing a bullet becomes speechless, and his breathing stops.
“Attaining intense love for God is very rare. Chaitanya Deva attained it. When you have ecstatic love for God, you forget external objects, you forget the world. You forget even your own body which is so dear to you.”
Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna begins to sing again:
When will dawn that day when tears stream from my eyes as I repeat Lord Hari’s name?
When will dawn that day when worldly desires disappear from my heart?
When will dawn that day when my body thrills and my hair stands on end?
When will dawn that day?
Bhava and suspension of breath – vision of God when spiritual current rises
While the conversation continues, many other invited Brahmo devotees arrive. Several are learned, some occupying high positions in the government. One of them is Rajni Nath Ray.
Sri Ramakrishna says, “In a high spiritual state, breathing stops.” He further says, “When Arjuna aimed at his target, his sight was fixed solely on the eye of the fish. He didn’t see anything else. He didn’t see any other part of the fish but the eye. In such a state, breathing stops and a person experiences retention of breath.
“There is another sign of God-vision: The spiritual currentfrom within rushes up toward the brain. At that time, if you attain samadhi, you realize God.”
Mere learning itself is deceptive – riches, power, honour, and rank all illusory
(Looking at the Brahmo devotees who have just arrived) “Those who are merely learned and have no love for God say conflicting things. There was a pundit, Samadhyayi by name, who said, ‘The Lord is totally devoid of love, joy, sweetness, and bliss. Make Him sweet by your intense love and devotion for Him.’ He who is called the Essence of Bliss in the Vedas was termed devoid of sweetness by this fellow. This only shows that the man didn’t know at all what God really is. That is why he talked so absurdly.
“Somebody said, ‘There is a cowshed full of horses in my maternal uncle’s house.’ From this you understand that there was not a single horse – horses are not kept in cowsheds. (All laugh.)
“People are proud of wealth, possessions, property, honour, rank, and so on. But these last for only a few days; nothing will accompany you at death. A song goes like this:
Consider this, O mind: no one is your own. In this world there is mere illusion.
Do not forget the beneficent Mother by getting ensnared in Her maya’s net.
Think of those over whom you fret almost unto death: in death would they accompany you?
Even your beloved wife would deny you and shun your corpse as something impure.
Just for a day or two do people call you lord and master; they will cease to call you so when the master called Death arrives for you.
The great remedy for pride – there are others greater than you
“You shouldn’t be proud of your money. If you think you’re wealthy, another is wealthier than you, and still others wealthier than he. After dusk a firefly comes out and thinks it lights the world. But as soon as the stars appear, its pride takes a fall. The stars then begin to think that they are lighting the world. After some time, when the moon appears, the stars are dimmed in shame. The moon then begins to think that the whole world is smiling because of its light, that it is lighting the world. But not much later comes the dawn. And then the sun rises and now the moon is dim. In a short time it is invisible.
“If wealthy people were to think this way, they wouldn’t take pride in their wealth.”
Manilal has arranged for a big feast in connection with the festival. He serves food to Sri Ramakrishna and the assembled devotees with great love and attention, and to their heart’s content. It is quite dark when they begin to leave for home, but no one feels inconvenienced.
. A wearing cloth.
. Nishtha bhakti.