Visit to the House of Jaygopal Sen
Family life and Sri Ramakrishna
It is 28 November 1883. At about four or five in the afternoon, Sri Ramakrishna went to the Lily Cottage of Keshab Chandra Sen. Keshab has been ill and will soon leave this world. After visiting him, Thakur comes with some devotees to the house of Jaygopal Sen on Mathaghasha Street. It is after seven in the evening.
The devotees are thinking about many things: We see Thakur day and night overwhelmed with the love of God. He is married but has not established a conjugal relationship with his wife. He has love and devotion for her and worships her, but he only talks about God with her. He sings of God, worships God, meditates on Him; he has no worldly connection. He sees that God is the only Reality and all else is unreal. He cannot touch money or any metal object – jug or bowl. He cannot touch a woman; if he does, his body shivers at the spot as if stung by a singi fish. His hand twists when money or gold is placed in his palm, like a cripple, and his breathing stops. When he throws them away, he begins to breath normally, as before.
The devotees think of many questions, such as: Will we have to renounce the world? What is the need for studying anymore? If we don’t marry, we won’t have to get a job. Will we have to leave our parents? Or: I have married, I have children, I have to take care of my wife – what about me? I also want to remain absorbed in the love of God day and night. When I see Sri Ramakrishna, I say to myself, What I am doing? Day and night he meditates on God, like an unceasing flow of oil. But I am running around all the time thinking about worldly things. Just his presence is like a small spot of light in a sky overcast with clouds. Oh, how can I solve the problem of my life?
He has given the example of his own personal practice. Why do I still have doubts?
Shall I break this dam of sand and fulfill my desire? Is this (world) really a sand dam? If so, why can’t I give it up? I see that I’m not strong enough. When I have developed that sort of love for Him, I won’t calculate. If a tide flows in the Ganges, who can stop it? If one has just a drop of the ecstatic love which made Sri Chaitanya put on the loin cloth, or the intense love for God that moved Christ to go into exile without consideration of anything else and made him give up his body after having a vision of the face of his loving Father, or the ecstatic love that made the Buddha give up his princely luxury and become a renunciate, then the transitory world can be cast away.
So what is the way for those who are weak, who have not developed ecstatic love, who are worldly beings tied by the fetters of maya? I won’t leave the company of this great soul intoxicated with love for God, who looks for nothing but God. Let me see what he says.
All these thoughts occupy the minds of the devotees. Thakur is sitting in Jaygopal’s drawing room. Seated in front of him are Jaygopal, his family, and some of his neighbours. One neighbour, ready for discussion, starts the conversation. Vaikuntha, Jaygopal’s brother, is also there.
Family life and Sri Ramakrishna
Vaikuntha: “We are worldly people, please tell us something.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “After knowing God, keep one hand on His lotus feet and attend to your worldly duties with the other.”
Vaikuntha: “Sir, is this world unreal?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It is unreal until you know God. Man forgets Him and thinks, ‘Mine, mine.’ Bound by maya, deluded by ‘lust and greed,’ he goes down and down. Entangled so in maya, he has lost his senses. He can’t find a way out, even when there is a way. There is a song that says:
With her magic what a spell Mahamaya casts! Even Brahma and Vishnu have lost their senses. What, then, can mere mortals hope to know?
When a trap for fish is set, they enter, and though the way out is clear, they fail to emerge.
The silkworm spins its own cocoon and surely can escape; yet by Mahamaya’s delusion bound, it emerges not but remains within to die.
“You yourselves are able to see that the world is transitory. Why don’t you see this very family as transitory? So many people have come and then departed, so many born and then died. The world now is and then is not – it is ephemeral. They whom you call ‘my’ and ‘mine’ are not there as soon as you shut your eyes at death. A person might not have close relations – but still does not go to Kashi because of a grandson: ‘What will happen to my Haru?’ There is a way out, yet the fish do not escape. The silkworm dies in its own secretions. This world is unreal, it is impermanent.”
Neighbour: “Sir, how can I hold to God with one hand and the world with the other? If the world is transitory, why should I hold onto it with even one hand?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “If you live in the world after knowing Him, the world is no longer ephemeral. Listen to this song:
O mind, you do not know how to farm.
The field of your life lies fallow; were you to cultivate it, you would reap a golden harvest.
Fence it around with Kali’s name, and your crop will not be harmed.
That fence of the Mother with long flowing hair is strong indeed: not even Death himself dares come near.
Not today or in a hundred years will your crops be snatched away.
Work now, O mind, to reap your harvest to the full. Sow the seed, your guru’s gift, and shower it with the water of love.
If you cannot do so by yourself, take Ramprasad along.
How to realize God in family life
Sri Ramakrishna: “Did you hear the song, ‘Fence it around with Kali’s name, and your crop will not be harmed’? Take refuge in God and you’ll get everything. This fence of the Divine Mother with long flowing hair is very strong. Not even Yama, the God of Death, dares to approach it. It is a very strong fence. If you can realize God, the world will appear unimportant. Whoever knows God sees that He Himself has become the world, its creatures, and all that. You will feed your boy as though you were feeding Gopal. You will see your father and mother as God and the Divine Mother, and you will serve them as though they were. If you live in the family after knowing God, you won’t maintain a worldly relationship with your wife. Both of you, being devotees, will talk only of God, only of divine matters. You will serve the devotees of God, knowing Him to be present in all existence. Both of you will serve God.”
Neighbour: “Sir, such a husband and wife can be found nowhere.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, there are such people, but they are rare. Worldly people cannot recognize them. But both of them have to be good to reach that state. This is possible only when both derive divine joy from it. For this, God’s special grace is necessary. Without it, there is always misunderstanding between them, and one of them has to leave. There is great discord if they don’t agree. The wife may possibly complain day and night, ‘Why did father give me away in marriage to this family? Neither have I myself eaten well, nor have I been able to feed my children. Neither have I good clothes to wear, nor do my children. You have given me not a single piece of jewelry. What joy of life have you given me in this house? You keep on repeating ‘Lord, Lord’ with your eyes closed. Give up this type of madness!’”
Devotee: “There are such obstacles, of course. Then the sons may be disobedient! How troublesome that is! So what is the way, sir?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It is very difficult to practice spiritual disciplines while living in the family. There are so many hindrances. I don’t have to tell you about these – disease, sorrow, poverty, discord with wife, and sons who are disobedient, ignorant, and foolish.
“Even so, there is a way. Occasionally you must go into solitude and pray to God. You should make an effort to attain Him.”
Neighbour: “Should one leave the family?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That’s not necessary. But whenever you are free, go to a solitary place and live there for a day or two so that you are detached from family affairs and don’t have to talk of worldly things to any worldly person. Either live in solitude or keep the company of the holy.”
Neighbour: “How do we recognize a holy person?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “A holy person is one whose mind, heart, and soul are merged in God. He who has renounced ‘lust and greed’ is a holy person. A man who is holy doesn’t see a woman with a carnal eye. His mind is always drawn within. If he happens to be near a woman, he looks upon her as Mother and worships her. A holy person is always thinking inwardly of God. He talks of nothing but Him. And knowing that God is present in all existence, he serves Him. Broadly speaking, these are the characteristics of a holy person.”
Neighbour: “Does one always have to live in solitude?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Think of a tree on a footpath. As long as it’s small, it has to be fenced on all sides; otherwise, a goat or a cow might eat it. But when the plant develops a thick trunk, no fence is needed. Then, even if an elephant is tied to it, the tree doesn’t break. If you can develop the trunk, there’s no worry, no fear. First try to gain discrimination. If you rub your hands with oil before you cut open a jackfruit, its milky sap will not stick to your hands.”
Neighbour: “What is discrimination?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That only God is real, all else is unreal. Thinking this way is discrimination. ‘Real’ means eternal, and ‘unreal’ means transient. Whoever has attained discrimination knows that God is the only reality, that all else is unreal. When you’ve developed discrimination, you want to know God. If you are inclined to the unreal, you like physical comforts, name and fame, money, and all these things. You don’t feel the need to know God, who is Reality Himself. When you know the difference between the real and the unreal, only then will you want to seek God. Listen to this song:
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,11 for the truth about Reality.
When will you lie down happily between your wives, Purity and Defilement? When you see no difference between these two, then shall you see the Divine Mother Kali.
Drive out your parents, Ego and Ignorance, and should Delusion attempt to drag you into its pit, hold fast to the post of Patience.
Tie the goats of Virtue and Vice to the post of unconcern, and should they become unruly, kill them both with the Sword of Knowledge.
Admonish, O mind, the children of your first wife, Worldliness, and tell them to keep their distance. Should they not obey you, then drown them in the Sea of Knowledge.
Ramprasad says: If you can do this, you will render a proper account to the Lord of Death, and I shall be pleased to call you “my dear one,” a mind after my own heart.
“You attain discrimination only when dispassion comes to the mind. When you have attained discrimination, you begin to think of the truth. Then the mind has the desire to stroll under the kalpataru (wish-fulfilling tree) of Kali. When you are under this tree, when you are near God, the four fruits come to you effortlessly. You have only to pick them up – the fruits of dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (fulfillment of legitimate desires) and moksha (liberation). When a householder attains Him, whatever he needs – dharma, artha, or kama – he gets.”
Neighbour: “Why is the world called maya?”
Vishishtadvaitavada (Qualified Non-dualism) and Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna: “As long as you have not realized God, you must renounce, saying, ‘Not this, not this.’ Those who have realized Him know that He has become all – God, maya, individual souls, and the universe. Then they perceive that the world and its beings are nothing but God. If you were asked to weigh a bel fruit, having its shell, kernel, and seeds separated out, would you remove its shell and seeds and weigh only the kernel? No, you would also have to take into account the shell and the seeds – all these – while weighing. You can tell the weight of a bel fruit only when you weigh all of it. This world is the shell, creatures are the seeds. While reasoning, the world and its creatures are called anatman (not the Atman); they are considered unreal. While discriminating, you feel that only the kernel is important, not the shell and the seeds. But then we consider that the shell and the seeds belong to the same substance to which the kernel belongs. Understand the illustration of the bel fruit and you will understand.
“It is the process of evolution and involution. Butter goes with buttermilk and buttermilk goes with butter. If there is buttermilk, there is butter; if there is butter, there is also buttermilk. If there is Atman, there is anatman (non-Atman) too.
“The Absolute belongs to the same Being as the phenomenal world, and the phenomenal belongs to the same as the Absolute. He who is called Ishvara has Himself become the individual being and the world. He who has understood this knows that God Himself has become all – father, mother, son, neighbour, man and beast, good and bad, purity and impurity.”
Sense of sin and responsibility
Neighbour: “So, there is no sin and no virtue?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “They are, and yet are not. If God keeps the ego in you, He also keeps your sense of differentiation and the knowledge of virtuous and sinful acts. However, in a few, God completely erases the sense of I-consciousness. Such people go beyond virtue and vice, good and bad. As long as a person doesn’t realize God, the sense of differentiation and the knowledge of good and bad are bound to persist. You may say that vice and virtue have become one for you, that you do only what He makes you do, but in your heart you know that these are mere words. When you do evil deeds, your heart palpitates.
“However, even after God-realization, if He so wills, He lets you retain the ‘servantI.’ In that state the devotee says: ‘I am Your servant, You are my Master.’ Such a devotee likes to hear talk about God, likes to work for God. He doesn’t like people who are opposed to God; he doesn’t like work, except work for God. When this comes about, God lets such a devotee retain a sense of differentiation.”
Neighbour: “Sir, you say that we should live in the world after knowing God. Can we know Him?”
The Unknown and the Unknowable
Sri Ramakrishna: “He cannot be known by the senses or the mind. He can only be known by the pure mind, the mind that has no worldly desires.”
Neighbour: “Who can know God?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Who can really know Him? It is enough to know as much as one needs. What is the need for a whole well? A jug of water is enough. An ant went to a mound of sugar. What need had it for the whole mound? A grain or two made it happy.”
Neighbour: “What can a single jug of water do for the delusions we have? I want to know God fully.”
The world – aberration and its remedy – take shelter in Me
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, that may be true. But there is a remedy for the delusion of the world.”
Neighbour: “What is the remedy, sir?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The company of the holy, chanting His name and glories, and constant prayer to Him. I said to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, I don’t want knowledge. Take Your knowledge and take Your ignorance. Mother, kindly grant me only pure love at Your lotus feet. I want nothing else.’
“As is the disease, so is the remedy. The Lord says in the Gita, ‘O Arjuna, take refuge in me, I shall free you from all your sins.’ Take refuge in God. He will grant you right understanding. He will take up your whole burden. Then all your defects and aberrations will be wiped away. Can you understand Him with this intellect of yours? Can a one-seer jug contain four seers of milk? Besides, can anybody understand God unless He makes him understand? So I say, take refuge in God. Let Him do what He wills. He has His own way in everything. What power does man have?”
. Baby Krishna.
. Ishvara, maya, jiva, and jagat.
. Vikara; A bodily or mental condition which obstructs God-realization.