Sri Ramakrishna in Sadharan Brahmo Samaj – Instructions to Vijay Goswami
Sri Ramakrishna in the temple of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj
M., Hazra, Vijay, Shivanath and Kedar
Today Sri Ramakrishna has come to the city of Calcutta. It is Friday, 26 September, 1884, the saptami puja day. Thakur has a number of engagements to attend. It is the great Shardiya (autumn) festival. Almost every Hindu house in the metropolis is performing the saptami puja of the Divine Mother. Sri Ramakrishna will pay homage to the image in Adhar’s house and take part in the joyous festival of the All-Blissful Mother. He also wishes to see Shivanath.
With umbrella in hand, M. strolls the footpath of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj about midday. One o’clock strikes, and then two, but Thakur does not arrive. Now and then M. sits on the steps of Mahalnavish’s dispensary and watches the joy of the boys on Durga Puja and how young and old alike are engaged in various activities.
Thakur’s carriage arrives around three o’clock. Stepping down from the carriage and seeing the Samaj temple in front of him, Thakur joins his hands in salutation. He is accompanied by Hazra and one or two other devotees. Seeing Thakur, M. salutes him, falling at his feet. Thakur says, “I will go to Shivanath’s house.” Hearing that Thakur has arrived, the Brahmo devotees gather around in no time. Taking Sri Ramakrishna with them, they reach the door of Shivanath’s house in the area where the Brahmos live. Shivanath is not at home. What to do? Soon Vijay Goswami, Mahalnavish and other workers of the Brahmo Samaj arrive. They greet Thakur and take him to the Samaj temple. “Please rest awhile,” they say. “Shivanath should return soon.”
Thakur sits down with a smiling face, full of joy. An asana was prepared for him below the dais where the musical party will sing devotional songs. Vijay and other Brahmo devotees sit in front of him.
Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and signboard – harmony between formless God and God with form
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing to Vijay) — I was told that there was a signboard here saying that people of other faiths cannot come in. Narendra said to me, ‘You shouldn’t go to the Brahmo Samaj. It would be better to go to Shivanath’s house.’
“But I say everybody is calling upon God. One should give up jealously and antagonism. Some people say that God is with form, others say that He is formless. I say that he who has faith in God with form should meditate on Him as such, and he who believes in the formless God should meditate on God without form. Yet dogmatism is not good: to say that my faith is correct and others are wrong. It is good to believe that one’s faith is right – but that one does not know whether the faith of others is right or wrong, true or untrue. The reason is that until you have God’s vision, it is not possible to know His true nature. Kabir said, ‘God with form is my mother, the Formless is my father. With whom can I find fault? Whom can I worship? Both pans of the scale are equally heavy.’
“All of you – Hindus, Mohammedans, Christians, Shaktas, Shaivites, Vaishnavas, the ancient Brahmajnanis of the era of the rishis and the present day Brahmajnanis among you – are asking for the same Substance. A mother provides food that suits each stomach. She cooks fish differently for each of her five children. She doesn’t make pulao and kalia for all of them because their digestions are different. For some she makes fish curry. But the mother loves all her children equally.
“Do you know my attitude? I like to eat fish prepared in all different ways. I have a feminine nature! (All laugh.) I like to eat fried fish, fish smeared with turmeric, sour fish, small dry fish cooked with spiced vegetables and the rest. Furthermore, I like the seasoned head of fish as well as pulao and kalia dishes. (All laugh.)
“Do you know how it is? Different religions are based on different times, places and people. But all the religions are only different paths. The paths are themselves not the Lord, though if you have sincere bhakti and tread any path, you can reach Him. If there is an error in a particular path you choose, He will correct it if you are sincere. Suppose one sets out yearningly to visit Lord Jagannath [at Puri] and instead of going toward the south, he goes north. Somebody will surely tell him the way. He will tell him not to proceed, but to turn south. This fellow is sure to see Lord Jagannath sooner or later.
“At the same time you must not say that paths other than your own are erroneous. It is for the Creator of the universe to take care of that. Our duty is to somehow have the darshan of Lord Jagannath. (To the Brahmos) Your path is very good. You take Him as formless. This is indeed good. Bread sweetened with sugar candy, whether eaten straight or sidewise, will always taste sweet.
“Even so, it is not good to be dogmatic. You have heard the story of the chameleon. A man went out to ease himself. He saw a chameleon on a tree trunk. He came and told his friends that he had seen a red chameleon. He was absolutely sure that it was red. Another person went to the tree and said that he had seen a green chameleon. He was also convinced that it was green and no other colour. But the man who lived under the tree said, ‘What both of you have said is correct, but the creature is sometimes red, sometimes green, sometimes yellow and sometimes it has no colour at all.’
“The Vedas talk of God as both saguna and nirguna. You people just call Him formless. You are staunch believers in that one concept. That’s all right, let it be. When you know one of His aspects truly, you will come to know of His other aspects too. God Himself will make you understand. You people who come here know this gentleman, and that one too (pointing at one or two Brahmo devotees).”
Instructions to Vijay Goswami
Vijay is still a member of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj – he is a paid preacher of this Samaj. However, he does not agree with the rules and regulations of the present Brahmo Samaj. He also associates with believers in God with form. This has caused estrangement with the authorities of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. Many of the Brahmo devotees of the Samaj are displeased with him. Thakur suddenly addresses Vijay –
Sri Ramakrishna (to Vijay, smiling) — They condemn you because you meet people who believe in God with form. The devotees of God must have a firm and steadfast understanding – like the blacksmith’s anvil. It receives hammer blows unceasingly, but it remains unchanged. Unfriendly people may find fault with you and speak ill of you, but if you sincerely love Bhagavan, you will bear all this. Is it not possible to meditate on the Lord while living with the wicked? Remember the rishis who used to meditate on the Lord in forests with tigers, bears and other wild animals around them. Unfriendly people have the nature of tigers and bears – they chase offensively and can harm you.
“You must be careful of many types. First, an important, wealthy man. Rich people can harm you if they wish. You have to talk to them very cautiously. You might even have to agree to something they say. Then there is the dog which you may chase away but it continues to follow you and bark. You have to stand up to it and pacify it with gentle sounds. Then there is the bull, which would attack you with its horns. You have to pacify it also with gentle words. Next there is the lunatic. When you arouse his anger, he will abuse you right and left, even your fourteen ancestors. You should say to him, ‘How do you do, uncle?’ This will please him. He may even sit and smoke with you.
“When I see a wicked person I am on my guard. If one of them comes and asks if I have a hubble-bubble for him, I say, ‘Yes, yes, I have.’
“Some people have the nature of a serpent. You don’t know when they will strike. You have to decide on a strategy to face their attack. If you don’t consider carefully what to do and you become angry, you may feel like harming him in return to a greater extent. So it is essential that you associate with the holy from time to time. It is only by keeping the company of holy men that you can discriminate between the real and the unreal.”
Vijay — I have no time. I remain so busy with work.
Sri Ramakrishna — You are a religious teacher (acharya). While others may have leisure, the preacher never has. When the administrator of an estate brings order in one part of it, the landlord sends him to govern another. Likewise, you also never get leisure. (All laugh.)
Vijay (folding his hands) — Please bless me.
Sri Ramakrishna — These are words of an ignorant person. It is the Lord alone who blesses.
Instruction to Brahmo householders – family life and sannyasa
Vijay — Kindly give us instructions.
Sri Ramakrishna (glancing around the Samaj hall with a smile) — This is good in a way – both spiritual and worldly pursuit here. There is the Reality and also absorption in worldly pursuits here. (All laugh.) By ‘scoring’ many points, I have been ‘burnt’ [out of the game]. (All laugh.) Do you know the game called ‘nax’? If you score more than 17 points, you are ‘burnt’. It is a game of cards. He who scores less than 17 points, maybe 5, 7 or 10, is an expert player. By scoring many points, I am out of the game.
“Once I heard Keshab Sen deliver a lecture at his house. The ladies were seated behind a screen. Keshab Sen said, ‘O Lord! Bless us that we may dive deep and disappear altogether in the river of bhakti.’ I smiled and said to Keshab, ‘If we go deep into the river of bhakti, what will be the fate of those who are seated behind the screen? Therefore, do this: dive, but then come up to the shore from time to time. Don’t remain in deep waters after you dive.’ Hearing this, Keshab and the others burst into laughter.
“Never mind! If you are sincere, you can attain the Lord even while living a family life. ‘I’ and ‘mine’ are ignorance. Jnana is knowing, ‘O, Lord! It’s all You and Yours.’
‘Live in the household like a maidservant in a rich man’s house. She attends to all her chores, she brings up the master’s children and calls his son her Hari. But she knows quite well that it is not her house, nor is the boy her son. She attends to all her duties, but inwardly her mind dwells on her native village. Similarly, perform all your household duties, but keep your mind fixed on the Lord. And know that the home, the wife, the son, none are yours. They are all His. You are merely His servant.
“I ask you to have mental renunciation. I don’t ask you to leave home. You can attain God if you live unattached with your family and seek Him sincerely.”
Brahmo Samaj and yoga of meditation – subjective and objective yoga
(To Vijay) “I used to meditate with my eyes shut. Later on, I asked myself whether the Lord is present when I shut my eyes and not present when I open them. I open my eyes and see that the Lord dwells in everything – He pervades man, birds, beasts, plants and trees; He manifests in the sun and the moon, in water, on dry land, in everything.”
Shivanath and Kedar Chatterji
“Why do I like Shivanath? Because he has meditated on the Lord for so long. He who meditates on the Lord has substance and God’s power in him. And He who sings well, or plays musical instruments well – anybody who is expert in any branch of knowledge – has divine power within. The Gita says this too. And the Chandi says that one who is endowed with exquisite beauty has substance too, has God’s power in him. (To Vijay) Ah, what a mood Kedar has developed! As soon as he comes to see me, he begins to weep. His eyes are always full of tears, like the chanabara soaked in syrup.”
Vijay — There [in Dacca] we only talk of you. He is now very eager to see you.
 The autumnal worship of Goddess Durga on the seventh day of the lunar fortnight
 A highly spiced fish dish of rice and meat cooked in clarified butter
 A rich curry of fish
 With attributes
 Without attributes
 Kutastha intellect
 Whatever being is glorious, prosperous, or powerful, know that to have sprung but from a spark of My splendour. (Gita 10:41)
 Bengali sweetmeat made of fried cheese
 Kedar Nath Chatterji, a great devotee, was in Dacca on government duty. Vijay Goswami also used to go to Dacca off and on. He met him there. Both being devotees, they enjoy each other’s company.
 To see and pay homage