Sri Ramakrishna in the Company of Devotees at Shyampukur
The Doctor and M. – what is the essence?
Thursday, 29 October, 1885, the sixth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Aswin. It is 10 a.m. Thakur is ill, so he is living in the Shyampukur neighbourhood of Calcutta. He is under the treatment of a doctor (Dr. Sarkar) who lives in Sankharitola. An attendant of Thakur is talking with the doctor at the latter’s house. His duty is to visit the doctor daily to apprise him of Thakur’s condition.
The Doctor — You see, Dr. Behari Bhaduri said that Goethe’s spirit left the body, but he could still see it! That is very strange.
M. — The Paramahamsa Deva says that we need not bother ourselves with such matters. We come to earth to develop love of God for His lotus feet. He says: Somebody went to an orchard to eat mangoes. He took a piece of paper and pencil and began to count and record how many trees, branches and leaves were in the orchard. An employee of the orchard saw him. He asked him what he was doing. The man said, ‘I am counting how many trees, branches and leaves there are. And I have come here to eat mangoes.’ The employee of the orchard said to him, ‘If you have come to eat mangoes, eat them. Why do you need to count how many leaves and branches there are?’
The Doctor — The Paramahamsa has gone to the essence of it, it appears.
The Doctor talks of various matters concerning his homeopathic hospital, such as how many patients visit it daily. He also shows M. a list of the patients. He tells him that Dr. Salzar and many other doctors discouraged him in the beginning and wrote against him in monthly magazines.
The Doctor and M. are now sitting in a carriage on the way to visit a number of the Doctor’s patients. His first visit is in Chorbagan, then Mathaghasha lane and Pathuriaghata. After seeing all these patients, he will visit Sri Ramakrishna. The Doctor visits the Tagore’s of Pathuriaghata. He is delayed for some time there. On returning to the carriage, he again begins to talk.
The Doctor — I was talking with that gentleman about the Paramahamsa. It was about Theosophy and Colonel Olcott. The Paramahamsa is cross with this gentleman. Do you know why? This man thinks he knows everything.
M. — No, why should he be cross with him? But I did hear that they met once. The Paramahamsa Deva talked about spiritual matters with him. Maybe he did say, ‘Yes, I know all this.’
The Doctor — This gentleman has donated thirty-two thousand five hundred rupees to the Science Association.
The carriage rolls on. It goes via Burrabazar. The Doctor talks about the service being rendered to Sri Ramakrishna.
The Doctor — Are you thinking of sending him back to Dakshineswar?
M — No, that would be very inconvenient for the devotees. If he is in Calcutta, they can regularly visit him and look after him.
The Doctor — But it is very expensive here.
M. — That is no problem for the devotees. They want to serve him as best they can. One would have to bear the expenses there as well as here. The worry is that they wouldn’t be able to nurse him if he goes back.
Sri Ramakrishna in the company of Dr. Sarkar, Bhaduri and others
Dr. Sarkar, Bhaduri, Dukari, the Younger Naren, M. and Shyam Basu
The Doctor and M. reach a two-story building in Shyampukur. The building has two big rooms upstairs with verandahs facing the front – one running east-west and other north-south. The Doctor finds Sri Ramakrishna sitting with a smile on his face in the first room. Doctor Bhaduri and many devotees are with him.
The Doctor feels his pulse and enquires about his painful condition. Gradually, they begin to talk about spiritual matters.
Bhaduri — You know what it’s like? It’s all like a dream!
The Doctor — Is it all a delusion? The question is, whose delusion is it, and why? Besides, if you know that it’s all delusion, why do you talk about it? I can’t believe that God is real and creation is unreal.
Soham and attitude of a servant – jnana and bhakti
Sri Ramakrishna — ‘You are the Lord and I am Thy servant.’ This is a very nice attitude. As long as you take your body to be real, you have the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘You’. Then the attitude of a servant to the Lord is the right attitude. The perception that I am He is not right.
“And what’s more? Whether you look at a room from one side or from the middle, it is all the same.”
Bhaduri (to the Doctor) — All the things I have said are in the Vedanta. One can know them only when one studies the scriptures.
The Doctor — But has he [Sri Ramakrishna] become so learned after studying the scriptures? He says the same thing that’s written in the scriptures. Can’t one be wise without reading the scriptures?
Sri Ramakrishna — But brother, I have heard so much!
Doctor — Mere hearing can bring about many misunderstandings. It is not that you have only heard.
Now the topic of conversation changes.
‘He is mad’ – Thakur allows others to take dust of his feet
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Doctor) — Perhaps you said, ‘He [Thakur] is mad.’ That is why these people (pointing at M. and others) don’t want to go to you.
Doctor (looking at M.) — What! I only talked about your [Thakur’s] egotism. Why do you allow people to take the dust of your feet?
M. — People weep if they’re not allowed to.
The Doctor — They should be made to understand that it is their mistake.
M. — But why? There is Narayana (God) in all created beings.
Doctor — I have no objection to this. You should take the dust of everybody’s feet.
M. — There is greater manifestation of His power in some than in others. There is water everywhere, but there is more of it in ponds, streams and the sea. Can you show the same respect to a new graduate in science as you do to Faraday?
Doctor — I like that. But why do you call him God?
M. — Why do we greet each other with namaskar? Because there is Narayana in the hearts of all. You haven’t experienced these things, and you haven’t thought much about them.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Doctor) — Certain objects have more light. I have already told you that the rays of the sun fall one way on the ground, another way on trees, and quite another way on glass. On a mirror there is more light. And then think about this: are there devotees here at the same level as Prahlada? The heart and soul of Prahlada were dedicated to God.
The Doctor remains silent, as do the others.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Doctor) — See, you are attracted to this [me]. You said to me that you loved me.
Sri Ramakrishna and the worldly being – ‘You are greedy, fond of sense pleasures and proud’
Doctor — I say this to you because you are a child of nature. People salute you by touching your feet. I feel hurt by it. I say to myself: he is such a good man and they are spoiling him. Keshab Sen’s followers used to do the same to him. Listen to what I say.
Sri Ramakrishna — Why should I listen to you? You are greedy, fond of sense pleasures, and proud.
Bhaduri (to the Doctor) — In other words, you are a jiva. The nature of an embodied being is all this: to earn money, to desire name and fame, to be fond of sense enjoyments, and to be proud. All embodied beings behave this way.
The Doctor — If you say so, I’ll just examine your throat and leave. What concern do I have with anything else? But when there is a discussion, I must argue properly.
They are all silent.
Involution and evolution – three kinds of devotees
After awhile, Thakur again talks with Bhaduri.
Sri Ramakrishna — You know, he [Dr. Sarkar] is following the path of involution by saying, ‘Not this, not this.’ He is discriminating in this way: the Lord is neither the embodied soul, nor the world. God is there even without His creation. When he [Dr. Sarkar] follows the path of evolution, he will accept everything.
“If you peel off the sheaths of a banana tree, one after the other, you reach its pith.
“The layers of sheath are different from the pith. Neither is the pith the sheath, nor the sheath the pith. At the end, the man sees that the sheath cannot exist without the pith and the pith cannot exist without the sheath. God has Himself become the twenty-four cosmic principles, He Himself has become man. (To the Doctor) There are three kinds of devotees: inferior, mediocre and the superior. The inferior class of devotee says, ‘God is out there.’ He sees the Lord separate from His creation. The devotee of the mediocre class says, ‘The Lord is antaryami.’ He sees the Lord in the heart of all beings. The superior devotee sees that God Himself has become everything. That He alone has become the twenty-four cosmic principles. He sees that everything is filled with God, above and below.
“Please study the Gita, the Bhagavata and the Vedanta. Then you will understand all this.
“Doesn’t God exist within His creation?”
The Doctor — No, he doesn’t exist in a particular object. He exists everywhere. So he can’t be sought after.
The topic of conversation turns to something else. Sri Ramakrishna remains in an ecstatic mood. This can lead to the aggravation of his disease.
The Doctor (to Sri Ramakrishna) — You must control your bhava. I also experience deep bhava. I can dance longer than you.
The Younger Naren (laughing) — What will you do if your bhava increases a little more?
Doctor — My controlling power will also increase with it.
Sri Ramakrishna and M. — You say so.
M. — Can you tell what one experiences in bhava?
After awhile, the topic revolves around money.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Doctor) — I have no desire for it [money], you already know that. Am I pretending? No, that is not the case.
The Doctor — Even I don’t want it! I keep money in an unlocked box. As for you, of course, there is no question.
Sri Ramakrishna — Jadu Mallick is absent-minded. When he sits for a meal, he absent-mindedly eats anything that is placed before him, whether the food is cooked deliciously or is bad. Even when somebody tells him not to take some article of food because it doesn’t taste good, he says, ‘Does it taste really bad? Yes, you are right!’
Thakur is perhaps hinting that it is one thing to be absent-minded after contemplation on the Lord and quite another thing to be absent-minded after thinking of worldly things.
Glancing at the devotees and pointing at the Doctor, Sri Ramakrishna laughs and says, “You see that when an article is siddha (boiled), it becomes soft. He [the Doctor] was so hard. Now he is softening a little inside.”
The Doctor — When an article is siddha (boiled), its exterior also softens. But in my case, that hasn’t happened so far in this birth. (All laugh.)
The Doctor is ready to leave but he talks again to Thakur.
The Doctor — People take the dust of your feet. Can’t you stop them?
Sri Ramakrishna — Can everybody realize Akhanda Sachchidananda (Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute)?
The Doctor — So you will not say what is right.
Sri Ramakrishna — Inclinations are different from man to man. And all men are not equally fit.
The Doctor — Then what are they?
Sri Ramakrishna — Do you know what the difference in inclinations means? Some like to eat fish gravy, others fried fish, others pickled fish, yet others take fish cooked with rice. Then there is also the difference of competency. I say first learn to aim at the banana plant, then at the wick of a lamp, and then at a flying bird.
Vision of the Indivisible – vision of Dr. Sarkar and Hariballab
It is evening. Thakur is absorbed in the contemplation of the Lord. He is so very ill, but it seems his illness has been put aside. Three or four of his intimate disciples seated close by look at him intently. Thakur remains in this state for quite some time.
Now Thakur returns to the normal plane. Mani is seated close to him. Thakur says to him privately, “See, the mind merged into the Indivisible Brahman – and I saw so many things! I saw the Doctor. He will succeed spiritually, but after some time. He will not need much more instruction. And I saw another person. It came to my mind that I should attract him, too. I shall tell you about him later.”
Various instructions to householders
Shyam Basu, Dr. Dukari, and one or two other devotees have arrived. Thakur is now talking to them.
Shyam Basu — Oh, what a wonderful thing you told us the other day!
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — What was that?
Shyam Basu — About what remains when one goes beyond jnana (knowledge) and ajnana (ignorance).
Sri Ramakrishna (smilingly) — Vijnana! The knowledge of many things is ignorance. Jnana consists of knowing that the Lord dwells in all beings. Knowing the Lord intimately is vijnana. Talking with the Lord, knowing Him as your near and dear one, is called vijnana.
‘There is the element of fire in wood, and fire is the essence. Knowing this is jnana. Burning this fire-wood, cooking rice over it, eating it, and then becoming strong is vijnana.”
Shyam Basu (smiling) — And you said something about the thorn.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Yes, just as when a thorn pricks your foot, you look for another thorn to take it out. With the latter thorn you take out the former one and then throw both of them away. In the same way, to take out the thorn of ajnana, you have to acquire the thorn of jnana. When ignorance is dispelled, you throw away both knowledge and ignorance.
“Then comes vijnana.”
Thakur is pleased with Shyam Basu. Shyam Basu is quite an elderly person and is now keen to meditate on the Lord for some days. Hearing of the Paramahamsa Deva [meaning Sri Ramakrishna], he has come to see him. He had seen him once before.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Shyam Basu) — Give up worldly matters completely. Talk of nothing else but God. When you come across worldly people, leave quietly. You have lived a worldly life for so long. You have seen that it is all hollow within, that the Lord is the only substance. All else is non-substance. The Lord alone is Reality, all else is ephemeral. What is this worldly life? It is like the fruit of the hog-plum tree. You feel like eating it, but what substance has it within? If you eat kernel and rind, it gives you indigestion.
Shyam Basu — True, sir. What you say is indeed true.
Sri Ramakrishna — You have engaged in worldly matters for so long. If you give your mind to this confusion any more, you will not be able to contemplate the Lord. Passing some days in solitude is essential. The mind will not settle down unless you live in solitude. You should arrange for a place of meditation a little away from your home.
Shyam Basu remains silent for awhile. Perhaps he is reflecting on something.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — And see, you have lost all your teeth, so why celebrate Durga Puja now? (All laugh.) Someone asked, ‘Why don’t you celebrate the Durga Puja now?’ The other fellow replied, ‘Because now I have no teeth. I have lost the strength to chew goat meat.’
Shyam Basu — What sweet words!
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — In worldly life sugar and sand are mixed together. Like an ant, you must leave the sand and sift out the sugar. Only the adept can sift the sugar out. Arrange for a solitary place to contemplate Him – a place for meditation. Do please arrange it. I shall visit you there once.
Everybody remains silent for awhile.
Shyam Basu — Sir, is there birth after death? What will happen at the end of this life?
Sri Ramakrishna — Ask the Lord about it and call on Him sincerely. He will tell you. He will certainly make you understand. If you talk to Jadu Mallick, he himself will tell you how many houses, how much money, and how many company shares he possesses. It’s not right to try to know all this beforehand. First attain the Lord. He will make you understand what you want to know.
Shyam Babu — Sir, how many misdeeds a man does while leading a worldly life! How many sins he commits! Can this man attain the Lord?
Sri Ramakrishna — If a man practices spiritual disciplines before quitting his body, if he casts off his body while calling upon the Lord, while practicing spiritual disciplines, sins can never touch him. The elephant’s nature is to smear itself again with dust after being bathed, but if the mahut pushes it inside its stable just after washing it, the elephant cannot soil itself.
Thakur is suffering enormous pain! The devotees are amazed how he, the compassionate one, the sea of motiveless grace, grieved at the sufferings of mankind, night and day thinks of the welfare of humanity. He is encouraging the devotee, he grants him fearlessness, by telling him, “If one quits one’s body while calling upon the Lord, one is never touched by sins.”
 An embodied soul
 Inner Controller
 Siddha also means to become perfect