Sri Ramakrishna with Devotees in Dakshineswar on Dolayatra Day
Dolayatra Day, Sri Ramakrishna and Bhakti Yoga
It is Dolayatra, Holi and the birthday of Mahaprabhu (Sri Chaitanya). Sunday, 1 March, 1885, nineteenth day of Falgun and the full moon day. Sri Ramakrishna is sitting on the smaller cot and is in samadhi. The devotees sit on the floor with their eyes fixed on him. Mahimacharan, Ram Dutta, Manomohan, Nabai Chaitanya, Narendra, M. and other devotees are there.
Thakur’s samadhi ends, yet he is still full of divine fervour. Thakur says to Mahimacharan, “My dear sir, do tell me about the love of Hari.” Mahima recites –
If God is worshipped with devotion, what is the need for asceticism?
If He is not worshipped, what again is the need for asceticism?
If the Lord is worshipped within and without, what is the need of asceticism?
If He is not so realized, asceticism will be of little avail.
Desist, O my child, desist from the practice of further austerities.
Go your way at once to Shiva – the ocean of divine knowledge.
From Him you learn how to love the Lord. Such love has been spoken of by the worshippers of Vishnu – a love that never fails.
A love that, like a dagger, cuts asunder the fetters of the world.
“The Narada Pancharatra speaks of it. A voice from heaven said these words to Narada who wanted to practice austerities.”
Ishvarakoti – Shukadeva’s samadhi breaks – Hanuman and Prahlada
Sri Ramakrishna — There are the jivakoti and the Ishvarakoti. The bhakti of the jivakoti is ritualistic: It consists of worshipping with a prescribed number of articles, or repeating the name of God so many times, or performing so much purashcharana. Ritualistic worship leads one to knowledge of God, when the self merges in the Universal Soul never to return back.
“The case is different with the Ishvarakotis. For them it is like involution and evolution. Saying, ‘Not this, not this,’ they get to the roof top and find that the staircase is made of the same material – bricks, lime and brick dust – as the roof itself. So, they walk up and down the staircase and sometimes rest on the roof.
“Shukadeva was in samadhi – in nirvikalpa samadhi, jada samadhi. Unto him Bhagavan sent Narada to narrate the Bhagavata to Parikshit. Narada observed that Shukadeva was seated like a stone, absolutely dead to the world of sense. Narada began to play upon the vina, singing and praising the form of Lord Hari in four verses. The first verse caused the hair of Shukadeva’s body to stand on end. The second brought tears to his eyes. Then he saw, realized within himself, the spiritual form of the Lord. After jada samadhi, he again had the vision of the form of the Lord. Shukadeva belonged to the class of Ishvarakotis.
“Hanuman realized God without form and God with form, and passed his days in meditating on a particular form of the Lord, viz., the form of Rama. This form was made of spirit and bliss everlasting.
“Prahlada sometimes lived in the attitude of Soham (I am That) and at other times in the attitude of a servant of God. How can such a person live without love of God? One should, therefore, cherish the attitude of the servant and master – ‘Thou art the Master, I am Thy servant’ – to taste the bliss of the Lord. The attitude of the lover is: Thou, O Lord, art the rasa and I the enjoyer of the rasa.
“There is no harm in keeping the ‘ego of devotion,’ or the ‘ego of knowledge,’ or the ‘ego of a child.’ Shankaracharya retained the ‘ego of knowledge’ for the purpose of teaching mankind.
“The self or ego of the child is not attached to things of the world. The child is beyond all gunas – he is not subject to any guna. He gets out of temper, but soon there is not a trace of anger left in him. He builds a playhouse now, and forgets all about it the next moment. His fondness for his playmates knows no bounds, but if he loses sight of them for awhile, he forgets all about his old friends. The child is not subject to any of the three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas.
“The devotee cherishes the attitude: ‘Thou art my Lord, and I Thy devotee.’ Such I-ness is the ‘ego of devotion.’ Why does the devotee retain the ‘ego of devotion’? It has a meaning. Since one cannot get rid of one’s I-ness, let the rascal remain the ‘I of a servant’ or the ‘I of a devotee.’
“You may reason a thousand times, but the ego cannot be shaken off. The ego is like a water jar and Brahman is the shoreless ocean in which the water jar is merged. There is water inside the water jar as well as outside – all water everywhere. The water jar that you cannot shake off is the self or ego of the devotee. As long as there is the water jar [or ego] there are both I and You; one feels ‘Thou art my Bhagavan, I Thy devotee,’ ‘Thou art the Lord, I am the servant of the Lord.’ You may carry your reasoning to the highest point, but the self or ego still remains. But, of course, if there is no water jar, it is a different matter.”
Sri Ramakrishna teaches Narendra about sannyasa
Narendra comes in, falls at the feet of Thakur and sits down. Sri Ramakrishna talks with him. During the course of conversation, he comes down from the smaller cot and sits on a mat spread on the floor. The room is by this time filled with devotees and visitors.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra) — Are you doing well? Is it true that you are a constant visitor at Girish Ghosh’s house?
Narendra —Yes Sir. I do go to see him, off and on.
Girish is a new disciple, who met Sri Ramakrishna a few months ago. Thakur often speaks of the greatness of his faith, a faith which, he often says, cannot be girt about with both arms; and his longing for the Lord is as intense as his faith. At home he always thinks about Thakur and is, as it were, drunk with divine joy. Narendra often visits him, as do many other devotees, especially Haripada and Devendra. Girish only talks to them about Thakur. He is a man of the world, a householder. On the other hand, Thakur sees that Narendra will forsake worldly life. He will renounce ‘lust and greed’. Thakur talks to Narendra.
Sri Ramakrishna — Is it really true that you often go to see Girish Ghosh at his house?
Eligibility for sannyasa – dispassion at a young age – class to which Girish belongs – Ravana and demons have yoga and bhoga
“One may wash a cup that contains garlic many times, but the smell of garlic will not leave the cup. The boys who have not touched ‘lust and gold’ are pure vessels. When a person is rubbed with the garlic of ‘lust and gold’ for a considerable time, the smell of garlic persists in him.
“They are like mangoes pecked at and defiled by crows. Such a mango cannot be offered to Bhagavan. It is suspect even for personal use. It is different as new earthen pots and the pots in which milk was once turned into curds! It is not safe to keep pure milk in vessels that once contained curds. The chances are that the milk will turn sour.
“They form a class by themselves. They have both yoga and bhoga. It is like the attitude of Ravana who married the charming daughters of the Nagas and the Devas. Nevertheless, he attained Rama in the end.
“The asuras (demons) enjoyed worldly pleasures, but they attained Narayana in the end.”
Narendra — Girish Ghosh has given up his old associates.
Sri Ramakrishna — He is a bull castrated in old age. I saw it in Burdwan. When I saw a bullock going toward a cow, I asked, ‘What is this? It is a bullock!’ The cart driver then said to me, ‘Sir, it was castrated in old age. So, it still has the old samskaras (inherent tendencies).’
“Some sannyasins were seated at a certain place when a woman chanced to pass by. They continued to meditate on God as before, but one of them looked at her out of the corner of his eye. This man was the father of three boys when he became a sannyasin.
“If you make a solution of garlic in a cup, will it not be hard to remove the garlic smell from the cup? Is it possible to make the babui plant bring forth mangoes? Of course, it is possible for a person who possesses occult powers to do this miracle. But it is not everybody who can attain miraculous powers.
“Does a man of the world, a householder, have enough time to spare for God? A certain man wanted to engage a Bhagavata pundit to explain the Bhagavata to him. His friend said, ‘Well, I know a good Bhagavata pundit, but there is one problem with him. He has some lands under cultivation which he has to look after every day. There are four ploughs and eight bullocks always at work. He has to look after them everyday and has no time to spare.’ The man who wanted the pundit said, ‘I am not looking for a Bhagavata Pundit with ploughs and bullocks to look after, who has no time to spare. I am in quest of a learned pundit who can recite and explain the Bhagavata to me.’
“A certain king used to hear a pundit recite the Bhagavata everyday. At the end of the lesson for the day, the pundit would say to the king, ‘Sir, do you understand?’ The king would only reply, ‘It is for you, first of all, to understand its meaning.’ Every day when he got home the pundit would think about what the king had said, if he understood the meaning himself. This fellow used to practice sadhana and bhajan. He felt an awakening of spirit within himself in the course of a few days. Then he saw that the only real thing was the worship of the lotus feet of God, that all else is illusion. Being sick of the world and its pleasures, he gave it up. He sent a message to the king, saying, ‘O, king, I have indeed understood at last the true meaning (of the Bhagavata).’
“But do not, therefore, think that I look down upon them [men of the world]. Oh, no. I bring the knowledge of Brahman to use: that everything is but a manifestation of God. That all are Narayana. That all female generative organs are those of the Mother. Then I see no difference between a prostitute and an ideal wife who sets an example to others of conjugal love and devotion.”
Everybody is customer of kalai pulse (lentils), that is influenced by female beauty and wealth
“Alas, I look in vain for customers who want anything higher than kalai pulse. Everybody runs after ‘lust and gold.’ They are attracted by female beauty and power of wealth. But even the seat of Brahma (Lord the Creator) appears not worth striving for after the vision of the Lord.
“A certain person said to Ravana, ‘You have been going to Sita in so many different disguises, why don’t you approach her assuming the form of Rama?’ Ravana replied, ‘If I once behold Rama in the recess of my heart, Rambha and Tilottama (heavenly damsels) appear to me like ashes of the dead burnt at the crematorium. Then I can spurn even the high position of Brahma, not to speak of the beauty of another man’s wife.’
“Verily these customers, every one of them, seeks for kalai pulse. It is given to pure souls alone to attain pure love for the Lord, to have one aim and to have the mind fixed on the Lord.”
The Nepalese lady, handmaiden of the Lord – servitude of worldly man
(To Manomohan) “I must tell you, though you may take offense. I said to Rakhal, ‘I would be more pleased to hear that you have plunged yourself into the Ganges and have been drowned than to have heard that you have been anybody’s servant for the sake of money or worldly goods!’
“A young Nepalese lady once came here. She played on the esraj beautifully and chanted the name of Lord Hari. When someone asked if she had married, she replied, ‘Why should I take another master? I am already the handmaiden of Bhagavan.’
“With ‘lust and greed’ always around you, how is it possible to realize God? It is very hard indeed to live unattached in their midst. In the first place, one is a slave of one’s wife. In the second place, one is a slave to money. And in the third place, one is a slave to him whom he serves for the sake of his living.
“A fakir lived in a cottage in a certain forest. It was during the time when Akbar was the emperor of Delhi. Many resorted to this holy man. It occurred to him that he should treat his visitors with hospitality. But he thought, ‘How can I do it without money? Let me go to Emperor Akbar. He is known for his kindness to holy men.’ When he arrived, Akbar was saying his Namaz and the fakir took his seat in the prayer room. He heard Emperor Akbar saying at the end of the Namaz, ‘O Allah! Grant me wealth, make me rich! And grant me this and that.’ At once the fakir arose and was about to steal out of the room when the emperor beckoned to him to be seated again. At the end of the Namaz, Akbar asked the fakir, ‘You came and sat there. Why did you want to leave?’ The fakir said, ‘It is not something I should say to you. May I take your leave now?’ When the emperor repeatedly pressed him, the fakir said, ‘Many people visit my cottage, so I came to ask you for some money.’ Akbar asked, ‘Why were you leaving then?’ The fakir said, ‘When I saw that you yourself were a beggar, begging for wealth and riches, I thought to myself, why shall I go begging of a person who is himself a beggar? I had better beg of Allah.’ ”
His earlier story: Hriday Mukherji’s abusive language – Thakur’s state of sattva
Narendra — These days Girish Ghosh only thinks about these things.
Sri Ramakrishna — That is very nice. But why does he pollute himself with such abusive language? My present state of mind can’t stand such rudeness. When there is a thunderclap, grosser objects are not so affected by it, but glass shutters move to and fro and rattle. My present nature is sattvic; it can’t stand noise and clamour. That is why my Divine Mother sent Hriday away. He had recently grown too rough for me. He would shout abusive language at me.
Does Narendra believe in avatar? Narendra belongs to the class of the renouncers – he has lost his father
“Did you agree with what Girish Ghosh says [as to God being incarnate in man]?”
Narendra — I didn’t say anything. He said that he believes in avatars (divine incarnations). I thought it as well not to say anything.
Sri Ramakrishna — How great is his faith! Don’t you think so?
The devotees’ eyes are fixed on Thakur. He is sitting on a mat spread on the floor. M. is close to him. In front of him is Narendra and the other devotees are seated around them.
Thakur looks lovingly at Narendra without saying a word.
After awhile he says to Narendra, “My child, you cannot attain the end of life without renunciation of ‘lust and greed’.” Saying this he becomes filled with divine emotion. He continues to look at Narendra with unspeakable love and sings, intoxicated with bhava –
Afraid am I to speak the word to you; equally afraid am I not to speak it.
The fear that arises in my mind is that I may lose you, yes, be robbed of you, my wealth, my treasure!
Knowing well your mind, we shall teach you the mantra (holy name) that is to bring you to the Beloved.
Now ready yourself to receive that mantra which enabled us on many occasions to steer the ship safely to land.
Thakur seems to be afraid that Narendra will leave him, that someone might pluck him out of his hand. Narendra is in tears as he looks at Thakur.
A visitor who has come to see Thakur for the first time is seated near him and watches everything.
The (visitor) Devotee — Sir, if ‘lust and gold’ are to be given up, how should the householder, who has a family to bring up, solve this problem?
Sri Ramakrishna — You are at liberty to live that way [with your wife and children]! What has passed between us does not concern you.
Thakur grants fearlessness and encouragement to the householder devotee
Mahimacharan sits speechless, holding his peace.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahimacharan) — Go on! Go deeper! You will get sandalwood. Go deeper still and you will come upon a silver mine! Yes, deeper still and you shall come upon a gold mine! Move on still further and you shall be placed in the midst of diamonds, rubies and sapphires! Yes, go forward!
Mahimacharan — Sir, something holds us back and keeps us from moving on.
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing) — Why? Let the reins be cut asunder by the sword of His holy name! His name is capable of cutting in twain the bonds of Death.
After the death of his father, Narendra has been put to great trouble. He has passed through many trials and great suffering. Thakur looks on him from time to time, and says to him, “Have you already turned out to be a chikitsaka?”
A vaidya is a physician who has succeeded in killing a hundred patients.
A chikitsaka is a physician who has dispatched a thousand at least into eternity. (All laugh.)
What is Thakur referring to? That, at this age, Narendra has experienced a lot in life? That he has had a lot of contact with joy and sorrow?
Narendra smiles and keeps silent.
Dolayatra festival – Thakur offers coloured powder on Radhakanta, Mother Kali and devotees
Nabai Chaitanya is singing, the devotees are all seated. Thakur, who has been sitting on the smaller cot, suddenly rises and goes out of the room. The devotees remain sitting and the music continues.
M. accompanies Thakur toward Kali’s shrine through the brick courtyard. At first he enters the Radhakanta temple and pays his obeisance by lying prostrate on the ground. Seeing him do so, M. also pays his obeisance. There is coloured powder in a big tray in front of the deity. Sri Ramakrishna has not forgotten that it is the day of the Dolayatra festival (Holi). Taking a little powder from the tray, he applies it on the images of Radha and Shyam, and offers his obeisance once again.
Now he proceeds toward Kali’s shrine. He first climbs up the seven steps and stands on the platform. Having had the Mother’s darshan, he enters the shrine. He offers some coloured powder to the Mother. After offering his obeisance, he returns from the shrine. Standing on the platform of the shrine, he says to M., “Why haven’t you brought Baburam with you?”
Thakur walks back across the brick courtyard. With him are M. and another person carrying the tray of coloured powder. Entering his room he applies some coloured powder on all the pictures except two – his own photograph and the picture of Jesus. Now he comes to the verandah where he finds Narendra seated at the entrance to the room. He is talking with some devotees. Thakur applies some coloured powder on Narendra’s body and enters the room. M. accompanies him. He also receives the holy coloured powder.
Sri Ramakrishna enters and applies coloured powder on the bodies of all the devotees. They all salute him.
It is already afternoon. The devotees stroll around. Thakur talks with M. in a whisper. There is no one near. He talks to him about the boy disciples, ‘Well, everybody says, ‘I am getting on well with my meditation.’ How is it that Paltu can’t fix his mind on God?”
“What do you think of Narendra? Isn’t it true that there is no guile in him? But he has received several blows from the world lately. The light within him is a little hidden under the shadows of the world. But this state of things won’t last long.”
Thakur now and then steps into the corridor where Narendra is talking with a Vedantist.
Gradually the devotees come back to Thakur’s room. Thakur asks Mahimacharan to recite a hymn of praise to God. He recites from the Mahanirvana Tantra, third ullas (chapter), saying –
In the lotus of my heart do I worship God the Absolute who Hari (God, the preserver), Hara (God, the destroyer) and Vidhi (God, the creator) all desire to know and upon whom yogis meditate with a view to realization. He who is attributeless, undifferentiated, destroyer of the fear of birth and death, of the nature of Existence and Knowledge and the primal seed of the entire universe.
Be not afraid of the household
After reciting one or two more hymns, Mahimacharan recites the hymn to Shankaracharya which describes the world as a deep well and a wilderness. Mahimacharan is a householder devotee –
O consort of Uma, the Lord of all creatures! You who destroy the fear of the distressed! O Lord of the universe, protect me from the sea of misery of the world.
O heartthrob of Parvati! You wear the moon on your forehead, Lord of every being! Lord of goblins! O you, the Lord of Parvati!
O Vamadeva, the self existent one! Rudra, who carries a bow in his hand, protect me from the deep forest of worldly misery.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahima) — Why do you say that the world is a well or a deep dense forest? These epithets are all very good for a beginner. Away with all fear when you have fastened to God! Then you may say:
Verily is this world a mansion of joy.
Let me pass my days eating, drinking and rejoicing.
Janaka, the royal sage, how great was his power! Was there anything in which he was found wanting – spiritual, or temporal?
Ah, no! He was loyal to both matter and spirit and drank his cup of milk at the same time!
“Fear of what? Hold him fast! Never mind that it is ‘a deep, dense forest overgrown with weeds and thorns’! Put on a pair of shoes and walk on in the thorny forest. Away with fear! He who touches the Grand Dame (the Divine Mother) in the game of hide and seek is spared from the necessity of taking any further part in this play.
“King Janaka wielded two swords: one of jnana (true knowledge), the other of karma (work). He who is an expert in handling these swords has nothing to fear.”
Such conversation on spiritual matters continues. Thakur is sitting on the smaller cot. M is seated close to it.
Thakur (to M.) — What he has said has drawn my mind away from lighter matters.
Thakur talks of Mahimacharan and of the verses recited by him on Brahmajnana. Nabai Chaitanya and other devotees sing again. Thakur joins them this time and, surcharged with deep devotional feelings, begins to dance during the kirtan.
At the end of the kirtan, Thakur says, “Chanting of the Lord’s name with love is the one thing needed. All the rest is of little value. Prema and bhakti is the reality, all else is unreal.”
Sri Ramakrishna on the day of Holi festival – secret talk
It is already evening. Thakur has gone to the Panchavati. He talks to M. about Binode, a student at M.’s school. At times Binode goes into bhava while meditating on the Lord. That’s why Sri Ramakrishna has great love for him.
Now Thakur returns to his room, talking to M. As they approach the Bakultala ghat he says, “Well, some of them talk of me as an avatar. What do you think?”
Talking thus, they reach the room. Taking off his slippers, Thakur sits on the smaller cot. Close to the smaller cot, to the east, is a foot mat. M. sits on it and talks with Thakur. Thakur repeats his question. The other devotees are sitting at some distance. They don’t understand what the two are talking about.
Sri Ramakrishna — What do you say about it?
M. — Sir, I too feel the same way. You are just like Chaitanya Deva.
Sri Ramakrishna — Is it full, or a part, or kala of it? Give me your ‘weight.’
M. — I don’t understand ‘the weight.’ Yet, God’s power has incarnated itself in you. He surely dwells in you.
Sri Ramakrishna — True. Chaitanya Deva asked for divine power.
Thakur is silent for awhile. Then he says, “But what about the six-armed one?”
M. reflects, “Chaitanya Deva assumed the form of the six-armed one. The devotees saw him like this. Why has Thakur mentioned this subject?”
His earlier story: Thakur becomes surcharged with madness for the Lord – he weeps before the Divine Mother – he doesn’t like reasoning and argumentation
The devotees are seated in the room at some distance. Narendra is engaged in a discussion. Ram Dutta has recovered from a recent illness. He is engaged in a hot discussion with Narendra. Thakur watches them talking.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — I don’t like such discussions. (To Ram) Please stop! You are not perfectly restored to health! Well, go on softly. (To M.) All this is not at all to my liking. I used to cry to the Divine Mother, ‘O, Mother, one man says, ‘It is thus, it is thus,’ another man says, ‘It is something else.’ Reveal to me, Mother, what the truth is!’
 Festival of colours
 God the preserver
 The ordinary human being
 Eternally free and perfect souls, born on earth for the good of mankind
 A stringed musical instrument
 Bliss, sweet like nectar
 “Surely by grasping the flavour (rasa), the individual soul becomes blessed. Who indeed, would breathe, who would remain alive, if this Bliss were not in the ether.” Taittiriya Upanishad 2.7
 Enjoyment of the world
 A scholar well-versed in scriptures
 Manomohan is a householder disciple. Rakhal has married his sister
 A kind of violin
 A physician of many years’ standing
 Festival of colours
 An appellation of Lord Shiva
 The god of love
 One sixteenth of divine energy
 Shadbhuja; a form of Lord Vishnu