Sri Ramakrishna with Narendra and other Intimate Disciples in Dakshineswar
The story of Thakur’s earlier life – Sri Ramakrishna in his first ecstasy of love in 1858
The devotee Krishnakishore, a sadhu from Ariadaha, Jatindra, Jaya Mukherji and Rani Rasmani
Sri Ramakrishna is in a happy state of mind today. Narendra has come to the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar. Other intimate disciples are there as well. Narendra takes his bath and receives prasad.
It is Monday, 16 October, 1882, the fourth day of the bright fortnight of Aswin. The Durga Puja falls on Thursday next, the seventh day of the lunar month.
Narendra has taken his meal with Sri Ramakrishna. After the meal, Sri Ramakrishna asks for bedding to be spread on the floor of his room. The devotees, particularly Narendra, will rest there. A mat of superior quality is spread out with a quilt and a pillow over it. Like a child, Sri Ramakrishna sits near Narendra on the bedspread. Turning toward him joyfully, he talks with the devotees, particularly Narendra. A radiant smile plays on his face. During the conversation, he tells them of incidents in his life and his spiritual state.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra and others) — After this spiritual state of mine, I only longed to hear about the Lord. I used to wander about trying to find out where the Bhagavata, the Adhyatma (Ramayana) or the Mahabharata was being read. I used to go to Krishnakishore of Ariadaha to listen to the recitation of the Adhyatma.
“What faith Krishnakishore had! Once when he was in Vrindavan, he felt thirsty and went to a well. He found a man standing near it. When asked to draw some water for him, the man said, ‘I belong to a low caste and you are a brahmin. How can I draw water for you?’ Krishnakishore said to him, ‘Just say Shiva twice. The moment you say Shiva, you will be purified.’ The man uttered, ‘Shiva, Shiva,’ and drew some water. Such an orthodox brahmin and he took that water! What faith!
“A sadhu came to the bathing ghat at Ariadaha. I thought I would go to see him one day. I told Haladhari in the Kali Temple that I would go to meet the sadhu with Krishnakishore. I asked him if he would like to see him. Haladhari said, ‘What use is it to see a cage of clay?’ You see, Haladhari reads the Gita and the Vedanta philosophy. That is why he called the sadhu a ‘cage of clay’. I told Krishnakishore about it. He was quite angry and said, ‘What! Did Haladhari say that? One who meditates on the Lord, thinks of Rama, and has given up everything for His sake, to call the body of such a man a cage of clay! He doesn’t know that the body of such a devotee is made up of Spirit.’ He was so angry that when he would come to the Kali Temple to pick flowers, he would turn away when he saw Haladhari and did not talk to him.
“He said to me, ‘Why did you cast off your sacred thread?’ When I was in that state, everything blew away from me as if by the cyclone of Aswin. No indication of my previous life remained! I lost external awareness! Even my dhoti fell off, so how could I care for the sacred thread? I said to him, ‘If you once experience that madness for the Lord, you will understand.’
“And this is what happened. He, himself, went into God-intoxication. He just uttered, ‘Om, Om,’ shutting himself in a room without another word. Thinking that it was a disease of the brain, a Kaviraj of Natagore was sent for. Krishnakishore said to him, ‘My good brother! Do please cure me of my disease, but not of my Om!’
“One day when I went to see him, he was in a pensive mood. ‘What is the matter?’ I asked him. He said, ‘The Tax man came and I am thinking about what he said – that if I do not pay with cash immediately, he will sell my utensils.’ I said, ‘What is the use of thinking about it? All he can do is to take away your utensils. Even if he carries them away tied together, he cannot carry you with him. You are kha (ether)!’ (Narendra and others laugh.) Krishnakishore says that he is like ether. You see, he studies the Adhyatma (Ramayana). I used to joke with him, sometimes calling him kha. I laughed and said, ‘You are kha. The Tax man will not be able to carry you away.’
“During ecstasy, I would tell the truth to everybody. I did not care about one’s position and was not afraid of men of power.
“One day Jatindra came to Jadu Mallick’s garden. I was there. I asked him, ‘What is man’s duty? Isn’t it to meditate on God?’ Jatindra said, ‘We are worldly people. Is there salvation for us too? Even King Yudhisthira had to visit hell.’ I felt very angry. I said, ‘What kind of man are you! You only remember Yudhisthira’s visit to hell and you forget his truthfulness, his readiness to pardon, his forbearance, discrimination, dispassion and love for the Lord.’ I was going to say much more when Hriday stopped me. He put his hand on my mouth. A short time later Jatindra left, saying that he had some business to attend to.
“Many days later I went with Captain to Sourindra Tagore’s house. Seeing him, I said, ‘I cannot call you a raja or anything like that because it would be a lie.’ He talked with me for awhile, then Western visitors began to arrive. He is a man of rajasic nature. He keeps himself busy with so many things. Word of my visit was sent to Jatindra, but he sent a message that he had a sore throat.
“One day Rasmani came to the Kali Temple. She used to come for worship and would ask me to sing a song or two. This particular day I was singing, when I noticed that she was sorting flowers but her mind was elsewhere. I at once slapped her twice. Then she sat there anxiously and confused, with her hands folded.
“ ‘Brother, what kind of temperament have you developed?’ Haladhari asked. What was I to do? I prayed and prayed to the Mother and freed myself from the tendency to correct people.”
With Mathur on pilgrimage in 1868 – Sri Ramakrishna weeps on hearing worldly talk in Kashi
“When I was in that state, I liked to hear nothing but talk of the Lord. If I heard worldly talk, I would sit silently and weep. Mathur Babu had taken me with him on pilgrimage. We stayed for many days in Raja Babu’s house in Kashi. One day I was sitting with Mathur Babu in the drawing room. Raja Babu was also there with his men. I noticed that they were talking about worldly things: so much money was lost, and so on. I began to weep, ‘Mother, where have you brought me? I was so well off in Rani Rasmani’s temple. That I should hear of ‘lust and greed’ even in holy places!’ There [in Dakshineswar] I did not have to listen to such worldly talk.’
Sri Ramakrishna asks the devotees, particularly Narendra, to rest awhile. He himself lies down on the smaller cot.
Enjoys the kirtan with Narendra and others – full of love, he embraces Narendra
It is afternoon. Narendra is singing. Rakhal, M., Narendra’s Brahmo friend, Priya, and Hazra are there.
Narendra sings a devotional song to the accompaniment of mridanga (drum).
Meditate upon Hari, O my mind! He is the essence of consciousness. He is free from all impurity!
Without equal is His glory, beautiful is His shape, how very beloved is He in the hearts of His devotees!
Behold, His beauty is enhanced by fresh manifestations of love! It casts into shadow the effulgence of a million moons!
Verily, lightning flashes out of His glorious beauty! His blessed vision causes the hair to stand on end.
Worship His holy feet in the lotus of your heart. Gaze upon the matchless beauty of that beloved form.
Now that the mind enjoys peace and the eyes are filled with love, be immersed in divine love. Inspired with your devotion, remain merged in the joy of love.
Narendra sings again –
Satyam Shivam Sundaram manifests Itself in the temple of the heart.
When shall my mind remain immersed night and day in the sea of this Beauty? (When shall that day come, O Lord, dispenser of the destiny of the lowly?)
When, O Lord, will knowledge divine grow in my heart, and this restless mind become dumbfounded and take shelter at Your feet?
Just as the chakora, on seeing the moon, begins to frolic with joy,
In the same manner, bliss-like embodied nectar will rise in the firmament of my heart and I, too, O Lord, will become intoxicated in Your light.
When, O friend of my soul, will this mind rest at the holy feet of the King of kings?
At Thy matchless feet of peace and Absolute good, the end of my life will be realized!
And when shall I be worthy of the delight of paradise in this very body, in this very life?
O Lord, seeing Your pure and sinless form, seeing Your radiance, the darkness of sin is dispelled like darkness by light.
O the friend of the lowly, pray light in my heart a burning faith like the polestar and fulfill my desire.
When shall that day come when, constantly looking on Him, my mind shall dive deep in the sea of that Divine Beauty?
Having attained You, I will remain merged night and day in the joy of love and forget myself.
But when will such a day dawn?
Repeat the sweet name of the Lord with joy and gladness!
Waves will rise on the sea of the nectar of His name. Drink it ceaselessly and give it to others.
When your mind goes dry, falling into illusory things of the world, sing His name and glory and fill it with the nectar of love.
Take care lest you forget that great mantra. Call upon the all-compassionate Father in adversity.
Come, shouting, ‘Victory to Brahman, victory to Brahman,’ and break the bonds of sin.
Becoming a practitioner of the yoga of love, become intoxicated with the joy of Brahman and attain your goal.
The kirtan continues with the accompaniment of the mridanga and cymbals. Narendra and other devotees sing the kirtan, forming a circle around Sri Ramakrishna. Now they sing – ‘Get absorbed in the nectar of divine love.’ Occasionally they sing – ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram manifests Itself in the temple of the heart.’
At last, Narendra himself takes the khol (drum) and, full of emotion, sings along with Thakur: ‘Repeat the sweet name of the Lord with joy and gladness.’
When the song ends, Sri Ramakrishna embraces Narendra a long time, saying, “Oh, what joy you have given me today!”
Today a fountain of love is welling up in Thakur’s heart. It is about eight in the evening. He is pacing the verandah alone, intoxicated with divine love. Coming to the long northern verandah, he paces it from one end to the other. At times, he talks with the Divine Mother. Then he exclaims like one mad, “What [harm] can you do to me?”
Maya can do no harm to him who has the Divine Mother to protect him. Is this what he is saying?
Narendra, M. and Priya are going to spend the night. Sri Ramakrishna is beside himself with joy that Narendra will stay with him. Supper is ready. The Holy Mother is in the Nahabat. Having prepared the supper with chapattis (Indian bread), gram lentils etc., she has sent for the disciples to come and eat their supper. The disciples stay here off and on. Surendra bears the expenses every month. The verandah to the southeast of Sri Ramakrishna’s room is being made ready for eating.
Narendra and others are forbidden to talk of the school or any such matter
Narendra and others talk as they stand at the eastern door of the room.
Narendra — Don’t you see what the boys of today have become?
M. — They are not bad, but no religious instruction is given to them.
Narendra — My observation is that their behavior is going downhill. They are flippant and vulgar, they show off and play truant. I have even seen them visiting places of ill repute.
M. – When I was a student, I never heard or saw such things.
Narendra — You apparently didn’t keep company with such boys. I have seen them call other people vulgar names. Who knows what people they might be meeting!
M. — It is strange!
Narendra — I know many whose character has been lost. I wish the school authorities and their guardians had kept an eye on them.
Talk on God is the real talk – atmanam va vijantha anya vachan vimumchatha
As they converse, Sri Ramakrishna comes from the room and says laughingly, “I say, what are you people talking about?” Narendra replies, “We are talking about the school. Boys today are losing their character.” Sri Ramakrishna listens for awhile and then says to M. gravely, “It is not good to talk about these things. No talk is right except talk about the Lord. You are older than he, and you are intelligent. You should not have allowed him to raise such topics.” (Narendra is around 19 or 20, M. is about 27 or 28.)
M. is embarrassed. Narendra and the other devotees keep quiet.
Sri Ramakrishna smiles as he stands and feeds Narendra and the others. He is very happy today.
Having taken their meal, Narendra and the other devotees go to Thakur’s room. Sitting on the floor, they rest and talk with him. It is a mart of joy. During the conversation, Thakur says to Narendra, “Do please sing that song: ‘The full moon of divine love rises on the firmament of divine wisdom.’ ”
Narendra begins to sing. Soon the other devotees begin to play on the drum and cymbals in accompaniment.
The full moon of divine love rises on the firmament of divine wisdom.
The ocean of love overflows: O how full of joy is the Lord!
(Victory unto Thee, merciful Lord! Victory! Victory!)
In all the four directions the planets of devotees twinkle.
The Lord, the friend of the devotees, is joyfully enacting His lila with them.
(Victory unto Thee, merciful Lord! Victory! Victory!)
Behold, the gate of heaven is wide open and the vernal, joyful breeze of new dispensation arises,
Carrying the fragrance of divine love all around. It makes yogis drunk with the joy of communion.
(Victory unto Thee, merciful Lord! Victory! Victory!)
On the sea of the universe is the lotus of the new dispensation, upon which is seated in Her majesty the Divine Mother, the embodiment of all joy!
The devotees, like a swarm of bees, drink its nectar with great fervour!
Behold the gracious countenance of the Mother! Behold, it delights the heart, it fascinates the universe!
Falling at Her feet are bands of holy men, singing and dancing, drunk with joy.
What beauty unparalleled! The blessed vision restores life to the dying soul.
Premdas, holding the feet of all devotees, says, “Sing, O brothers. Sing, ‘Victory to the Mother.’ ”
Thakur dances as he sings, surrounded by devotees who also begin to dance.
After the kirtan Sri Ramakrishna begins to pace up and down the northeastern verandah. Hazra Mahashay is sitting on the northern part of the verandah talking to M. Thakur goes there and sits down. He asks a particular devotee, “Do you sometimes dream?”
The Devotee — I did have a very strange dream: of water, water everywhere in the universe. What an immense, limitless sheet of water it was! A number of boats were sailing on it. Suddenly, they sank into the rising waves. I, and a number of other people, got into a ship. And lo! I saw a brahmin walking over that shoreless sea. I asked him, ‘How can you walk on deep water?’ The brahmin smiled and said, ‘It is not difficult. There is an unbroken bridge underneath me.’ ‘Where are you going?’ I asked. ‘To Bhawanipur,’ he answered. I said, ‘Stop for awhile. Let me accompany you.’
Sri Ramakrishna — My hair stands on end to hear this.
The Devotee — The brahmin said, ‘I am in a hurry. It is not yet time for you to disembark! Let me go. Mark this path. You may tread it later on and follow me.’
Sri Ramakrishna — My hair stands on end hearing it. You should get initiated soon.
It is 11:00 p.m. Narendra and other devotees will sleep in Thakur’s room on bedding spread over the floor.
On waking up in the morning, the devotees see Sri Ramakrishna, naked like a child, pacing up and down, chanting the names of the various gods. Sometimes he gazes at the Ganges, sometimes he goes to the pictures of the gods hanging on the wall and offers his obeisance, and sometimes he sings hymns in a very sweet voice. At times he says, “Thou art the Veda, the Purana, the Tantra, the Gita, the Gayatri, the Bhagavata, the bhakta and Bhagavan.” Referring to the Gita, he says again and again, “Tagi, tagi, tagi, tagi.” And sometimes he says, “Thou art Brahman, Thou art Shakti (Divine Power); Thou art Purusha; Thou art Prakriti; Thou art virat; Thou art svarata; Thou art Nitya (the Absolute); Thine is the whole lila; Thou art the twenty-four cosmic principles.”
In the meanwhile, early morning arati has started in the temples of Kali and Radhakanta. Conch shells sound and bells are ringing. The disciples wake up to see that flowers are being collected from the Kali Temple flower garden for worship of the gods. The morning sacred music from the Nahabat floats over the area.
Narendra and the other devotees finish their morning ablutions and meet Sri Ramakrishna. He stands next to his room on the western corner of the northeastern verandah, his face beaming with a smile.
Narendra — I have noticed a number of sadhus belonging to the sect of Nanak seated in the Panchavati.
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, they arrived yesterday. (To Narendra) I would like to see you all seated together on the mat.
All the devotees sit down on the mat. Sri Ramakrishna looks at them with delight and talks to them. Narendra raises the topic of sadhana (spiritual disciplines).
Practicing spiritual disciplines in the company of women prohibited for Narendra and others – sadhana done in the attitude of a son is extremely pure
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra and others) — Bhakti, or love of God, is the essence. When you develop love for Him, discrimination and dispassion come by themselves.
Narendra — Well, the Tantra talks of sadhana in the company of women.
Sri Ramakrishna — It is not a good path. It is very difficult and often brings about the downfall of the aspirant. Spiritual disciplines can be practiced with the attitude of a hero, a maidservant, or even the attitude of a mother to a child. I have the attitude of a child to his mother. The attitude of a maidservant is also good. The path of sadhana with the attitude of a hero is very difficult. The attitude of a child is very pure.
The sadhus belonging to the sect of Nanak salute Thakur saying, “Namo Narayana!” Thakur asks them to take their seats.
Everything is possible with God – miracles
Sri Ramakrishna says, “Nothing is impossible for God. Nobody can describe His real nature. All is possible for Him. There were two yogis practicing sadhana. The sage Narada passed by. Knowing him to be Narada, one of them asked, ‘Are you coming from Narayana? What is He doing?’ Narada said, ‘I saw that He was passing camels and elephants back and forth through the eye of a needle.’ One of the yogis said, ‘What is there to marvel at? Everything is possible for Him.’ The other yogi replied, ‘Oh, no. That is impossible. You have never been there.’ ”
It is about nine in the morning. Thakur is seated in his room when Manomohan from Konnagar arrives with his family. He bows to Sri Ramakrishna. “I am taking my family to Calcutta,” he says. Thakur makes kind enquiries and then says, “Today is the first Agastaya and you are going to Calcutta. What can I say, brother?” Saying this, he smiles a little and resumes the conversation.
Sri Ramakrishna instructs Narendra to become absorbed in meditation
Narendra and his friends return after bathing in the Ganges. Sri Ramakrishna says to Narendra with great eagerness, “Go to the banyan tree and meditate on the Lord. Shall I give you an asana (mat)?”
Narendra and his Brahmo friends sit at the foot of the banyan tree in the Panchavati. It is around half past ten in the morning. Soon Sri Ramakrishna and M. arrive. Thakur begins to talk to the devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Brahmo devotees) — At the time of meditation, you must become absorbed in Him. Can you reach the precious stones at the bottom of the sea by floating on the surface?
Saying so, Thakur begins to sing in his sweet voice.
O my mind, dive deep, taking the name of Kali on your lips – dive into the deep waters of the heart, where the precious stones lie.
If you do not reach the treasure by diving three or four times, it does not mean that the sea of the heart has no treasures within.
Dive with all your might but once, O mind. In the sea of jnana, of Kulkundalini, lie pearls of peace.
By your bhakti and wishing for Shivayukti (union with Shiva), you will reach them.
In this sea, there are six alligators – of lust and the rest – always moving about looking for food.
Smear your body with the turmeric of discrimination. The smell of turmeric will keep them away from you.
Many are the precious gems that lie scattered at the bottom of the sea.
Says Ramprasad, “Jump into the sea and you shall get them.”
The Brahmo Samaj – lectures and social reforms – first attain the Lord and then preach
Narendra and his friends come down from the terraced platform and stand close to Thakur, who talks to them as they proceed south to his room.
“Alligators can catch you when you dive,” Sri Ramakrishna says. “But when your body is smeared with turmeric, they won’t touch you. In the sea of the heart there are six alligators, those of lust and the other passions. But when you rub your body with the turmeric of discrimination and dispassion, they cannot touch you.”
“What will learning and lecturing avail one if he does not have discrimination (viveka) and dispassion (vairagya)? The Lord is the only Reality and all else is transitory; only He is real, all else is unreal – this is called discrimination.
“First install Him in the temple of your heart. Speeches and lectures can be delivered later if you like. What use is it to cry ‘Brahman, Brahman,’ unless you have discrimination and dispassion? It is just like blowing a conch shell.
“There was once a young man named Padmalochan. His fellow villagers called him by the pet name of Podo. In the village was a dilapidated temple, which contained no image of the deity. All around it, plants of Ashwattha and other bushes had grown up. Inside, bats made their nests. The floor was littered with their droppings and covered with dust. Nobody visited this temple.
“One day after dusk the villagers heard the sound of a conch shell. It came from the side of the temple. The villagers thought that somebody had perhaps installed the image of God in it and that evening worship with lamps was being performed. Boys, old men, men and women ran to the temple to worship God and witness His arati. But they saw that Padmalochan was standing there blowing a conch. There was no image of God, the dirt of the temple had not been removed, and the bat droppings were still there. They exclaimed, ‘Madhava (God) has not been installed in the temple of your heart!’ ”
O Podo, Lord Madhava has not been installed in the temple of your heart.
You have brought confusion unnecessarily by blowing the conch.
Eleven bats are camping there night and day.
“What will the blowing of a conch shell avail you, if you want to install Madhava (God) in the temple of your heart and wish to attain Him? Purify your mind first. When your mind is purified, God will take His seat on that pure asana. When there are bat droppings, Madhava cannot be installed. There are eleven bats, the eleven organs: Five organs of perception, five of karma [of work like hands, feet, etc.], and the mind. First install Madhava; then if you like, deliver sermons and lectures. Take a plunge first. Dive and pull out the gems. Then take to any other work.
“It is the most difficult task to teach humanity. Only he who receives Bhagavan’s commandment after realizing Him may teach mankind.”
The [worldly] wife – all come under the control of one who has sincere bhakti
Thakur comes to the western part of the northern verandah of his room while talking and stands there. Mani is beside him. Thakur says again and again, “You can not reach Bhagavan without developing discrimination and dispassion.” Mani is married. He says to himself earnestly, “What will happen to me!” He is twenty-eight years old and has received an English college education. He asks himself, “Do discrimination and dispassion mean renunciation of ‘lust and greed?’ ”
Mani (to Sri Ramakrishna) — What should one do if one’s wife says, ‘You are neglecting me. I shall commit suicide.’
Sri Ramakrishna (in a grave tone) — She who is an obstacle in the way to the Lord, let her commit suicide or anything she likes! Such a wife should be shunned.
“She who is a hurdle in the way of the Lord is an avidya (worldly) wife.”
Absorbed in deep thought, Mani leans back against the wall worried. Narendra and the other devotees stand there without speaking a word.
Thakur continues talking for some time. He suddenly comes and stands near Mani. Alone with him, he softly says to Mani, “But if one has sincere love of God, all come under his control – whether it is the king, wicked people, or a wife. If you have sincere bhakti for the Lord, the wife also comes gradually to this path. If you are good, God willing, she can also become good.”
These words extinguish the fire in Mani’s heart. He had been thinking that if his wife committed suicide, it could not be helped.
Mani (to Sri Ramakrishna) — How dangerous it is to be a householder!
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mani and Narendra) — That is why Chaitanya Deva said, ‘Listen, brother Nityananda. There is no salvation for a man of the world.’
(Alone to Mani) “There is no salvation for him who doesn’t have pure love for the Lord. He who lives a family life after God-realization need have no fear. If one practices spiritual disciplines at times in a solitary place and thus develops pure love for God, there is no danger in family life for him. Chaitanya Deva also had family men as his devotees. But they lived as householders only in name – for they lived without attachment.”
The worship of gods with food offerings and waving of lights is over. Now music begins to sound in the Nahabat. It is time for the deities to rest. Sri Ramakrishna sits down to take his meal. Narendra and other devotees are also going to have their meal with him.
 Sacramental food which has been offered to the deity
 Long cloth for covering the body
 An Ayurvedic physician
 Omkar, the Vedic symbol for the Supreme Being
 Colonel Viswanath Upadhyaya, a resident of Nepal. The advocate and emissary of the king of Nepal and his representative in Calcutta. A very orthodox brahmin and a great devotee.
 A brick landing stair on the bank of a river, a pond, or a reservoir
 Repetition of the Name
 Absolute Truth, Absolute Good and Absolute Beauty are one
 A red-legged partridge which enjoys moonbeams
 Music tower
 Know that Self alone and discard all other talks. Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.5
 Divine sport
 Tagi means a renouncer. It is formed by reversing the word “Gita”.
 The Self, the Absolute, Spirit. Pure Consciousness, the witness of the changes of Prakriti
 Primordial Nature, composed of the gunas, the material of the universe of mind and matter
 Personified vastness
 One who is self-illumined and illumines others
 Singing of devotional songs along with waving of lights before the sacred images
 Salutations to the Lord
 The first day of the month of Bhadra. It is considered an inauspicious day for making a journey because Agastaya Muni set out for his journey to the south from Vindyachal on this day of Bhadra never to return.
 Kundalini; the serpent power
 Practice of spiritual disciplines
 Singing of devotional hymns