Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar Temple with Devotees
Conversation about householder life on Dasahara day in Dakshineswar
Rakhal, Adhar, M., Rakhal’s father and father-in-law of his father are there
It is Friday, 15 June, 1883, Dasahara day, the tenth lunar day of the bright fortnight of Jaishtha. Devotees have come to see Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar Kali Temple. On the occasion of Dasahara, Adhar and M. have a holiday.
Rakhal’s father and his father’s father-in-law have arrived. Rakhal’s father is married for a second time. His wife’s father had heard of Thakur a long time ago. He practices sadhana and has now come to see him. Thakur is sitting on the smaller cot after his meal. He glances at the father-in-law of Rakhal’s father again and again. The devotees are sitting on the floor.
The Father-in-law — Sir, can one attain Bhagavan while living in the household?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Why not? Live like a mud fish. It lives in the mud, but the mud does not stain its body. Or live like a woman of easy virtue. She attends to all her household chores, but her mind remains tied to her lover. Fixing your mind on the Lord, attend to all your worldly work. But this is very difficult. I told the Brahmos, ‘You can’t place tamarind pickles and a pitcher of water in the room of a patient suffering from delirium.’ If you do, how will he recover? Just think of tamarind pickles and your mouth begins to water. For a man, woman is like tamarind pickles. Besides, the desire for sensuous enjoyment is ever there; it is like the pitcher of water. One can’t find fault with this desire. It is that the patient wants to drink the whole pitcher of water! Oh, how very hard it is! Worldly life has so many problems. ‘If the householder comes this way, he is hit with a stick and if he goes that way, he is beaten with a broom. If he follows another way, someone throws a shoe at him!’ Besides, meditation on Bhagavan is not possible unless you practice in a solitary place. If you want to make an ornament after melting gold, but you are frequently called away, how will you be able to melt it? If you want to husk rice, you have to do it alone, by yourself. You have to occasionally pick out grains of rice to examine whether or not they are properly husked. If you are called away a number of times while husking, how will you complete the husking job properly?
What is the way? Develop deep dispassion (vairagya) – his earlier story – conversation with Gangaprasad
A Devotee — Sir, is there a way?
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, there is. If you develop deep dispassion, you can succeed. What you know to be unreal should at once be given up forcibly. When I was ill, I was taken to Gangaprasad Sen. Gangaprasad said, ‘You will have to take swarnapatpati (an Ayurvedic medicine preparation of gold). But don’t drink water. Instead, take pomegranate juice.’ Everybody wondered how I could do without water. I firmly resolved not to take it. I said to myself, ‘I am a paramahamsa! I am no ordinary hamsa (swan), I am a rajahamsa (king swan) – so I shall take milk.’
“One should live in solitude for some days. When you have touched the Grand-dame, there is no danger in being out of the game. Once you have been turned into gold, you can stay anywhere. If you gain bhakti by living in solitude, if you attain Bhagavan, you may even live in a family. (To Rakhal’s father) That is why I ask these boys to stay here. They will develop love of Bhagavan by living here a few days. Then they can very well live in the family.”
Vice and virtue – sannyasa is a great panacea for malady of the world
A Devotee — If it is the Lord who does everything, why do we say that such and such act is sinful – or is good or bad? One commits sin also by His will.
The Father-in-law of Rakhal’s Father — How can we understand what His will is? As Pope remarked: Thou Great First Cause, least understood.
Sri Ramakrishna —There is virtue as well as vice, but He is not tainted by them. There are good and bad smells in the air, but the air itself is free of them. It is the same with His creation. There are virtue and vice, real and unreal. In the case of trees, some bear mangoes, others jackfruit, and yet others hog-plums. You know, even wicked people are also needed. They send a ruffian to an estate where the inhabitants are rough. Then alone is the estate properly administered.
Sri Ramakrishna again talks about the life of the household.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the devotees) — Do you know what happens when you live as a householder? A lot of your mental powers are unnecessarily expended. This wastage of mental powers can be made up only by embracing sannyasa. Your father gives you your the first birth. Your second birth is when your sacred thread ceremony is performed. And the third one is when you enter monastic life.
“ ‘Lust and greed.’ These indeed are the two obstacles. The attachment to a woman leads one away from the path to the Lord. A man is unable to realize what has brought his downfall. When I went to the Fort, I hardly knew that I was going down a slope. When the carriage reached the Fort, I observed how far down I had come. Ah, She doesn’t let man know! Captain said, ‘My wife is spiritually wise.’ When an evil spirit possesses a person, he does not know that he is possessed. He just says, ‘I am all right.’ (Everybody sits perfectly still.)
“It is not only lust which is a danger in family life. There is anger, too. When you are thwarted in your desire, you get angry.”
M. — When a cat reaches out to snatch fish from my plate, I can’t do anything about it.
Sri Ramakrishna — Why not? You must beat it once, there is no harm in that. The householder must hiss [threaten], but never pour venom! Reason? One must not harm anybody. However, you have to make a show of anger to save yourself from the enemy or he will hurt you. But one who has renounced need not even hiss.
A Devotee — Sir, it seems extremely difficult to attain Him while living a householder’s life. How many householders can do it? We don’t see such men!
Sri Ramakrishna — Why not? In the countryside [Kamarpukur], there is a Deputy [Magistrate] who is a great gentleman, Pratap Singh by name. He possesses many great qualities! He gives in charity, meditates and has developed love for the Lord. He asked to see me. There are people like him.
Need of sadhana – faith in words of Guru – Vyasa’s faith
Sri Ramakrishna — Sadhana (practice of spiritual disciplines) is essential. Why will you not succeed if you practice sadhana? If you have genuine faith, you don’t have to work too hard. You must trust the Guru’s words!
“Vyasadeva had to cross the Jamuna. The gopis (milkmaids) had to cross at the same time, but there was no ferry. The milkmaids said, ‘Maharaj, what do we do?’ Vyasadeva said, ‘Well, I will take you across, but I am feeling very hungry. Do you have something for me to eat?’ The milkmaids had milk and khira (sweetmeat of milk and rice) and also a lot of butter. Vyasadeva ate everything they had. ‘Maharaj, what about our crossing?’ the gopis asked. Vyasadeva then stood on the bank and said, ‘Oh, Jamuna, if I have eaten nothing, let your waters part so that we may all cross.’ As he said this, the waters parted. The gopis were amazed. They said to themselves, ‘He has eaten so much just now, yet he says that he has eaten nothing!’
“This is firm faith: It is not I, but Narayana within the heart who has eaten.
“Shankaracharya was a knower of Brahman, but initially he had ideas of differentiation. He did not have absolute faith in the oneness of God. One particular day he was coming up the steps after a bath in the Ganges when he chanced to touch the body of a chandala (pariah) carrying a load of meat. He exclaimed, ‘Oh, I have touched you!’ The chandala said, ‘Master, you have not touched me, nor have I touched you. The pure Atman is neither the body, nor is it the five elements, or the twenty-four cosmic principles.’ Shankara then realized the oneness of God.
“When Jadabharata, carrying the palanquin of King Rahugana, began to talk about knowledge of the Atman, the king came down from the palanquin and asked him who he was. Jadabharata said, ‘I am not this, not that. I am pure Atman. I have full conviction that I am pure Atman.’ ”
Sri Ramakrishna and elements of yoga: yoga of jnana and yoga of bhakti
“ ‘I am That, I am the pure Atman’ – this is the conviction of jnanis (men of spiritual wisdom). On the other hand, devotees say, ‘It is all the manifestation of the glorious wealth of Bhagavan.’ Were there no riches, how could you know a wealthy man? Yet it is a different matter if God, because of the devotion of an aspirant, says, ‘You are indeed the same as I.’ Suppose, on returning from the bazaar, a king’s valet takes the king’s seat and says, ‘Sir, I am the same as you,’ people would think that the valet is crazy. But suppose the king is so happy with his valet that he says one day, ‘I say, come and sit beside me. It will not be wrong. You are indeed the same as I.’ If the valet then goes and sits beside the king, there is nothing wrong with it. It is not right for an ordinary man to say that he is the same as the Lord. The wave comes from water, not water from the wave.
“The fact is that unless your mind is steady, there can be no yoga, whatever path you may take. The mind of a yogi is under his control. The yogi is not controlled by the mind.
“When the mind becomes steady, breathing stops and one experiences kumbhaka. The same kumbhaka is experienced in Bhakti Yoga (path of devotion). The breath becomes suspended by following the path of devotion, too. As one repeats, ‘My Nitai is like a mad elephant,’ one is filled with a deep spiritual mood. Then one cannot complete the whole line. One says, ‘Elephant, elephant!’ and after that one is only able to say, ‘Ele!’
“In the state of bhava, breathing is suspended and one experiences kumbhaka.
“Suppose someone is sweeping the floor with a broom and another person comes and tells him, ‘Brother, so-and-so is no more. He is dead.’ If the dead person is not related to him, the man with the broom goes on sweeping and says casually, ‘Alas, is it so? The poor fellow is dead. He was such a good man.’ And he goes on sweeping. If the deceased had been a near and dear one, the broom would have fallen from his hand and he would have sat down, exclaiming, ‘Ain.’ His breathing would have stopped and he wouldn’t be able to think of the work he was doing. Don’t you see this with women? If one of them stands still, amazed at seeing something or hearing some news, the other women say to her, ‘I say, you have gone into bhava!’ Here, too, the breathing has stopped. That is why she has become speechless, only able to exclaim ‘Ain!’ ”
“It doesn’t help just to repeat Soham (I am That). There are marks of a jnani. Naren’s eyes protrude. His eyes and forehead have good marks.
“Besides, everybody is not at the same level. There are four classes of human beings: the baddha jivas (bound ones), the mumukshu (seekers after liberation), the mukta (liberated) and the nitya jivas (ever-free). It is not that all these people have to take to sadhana (spiritual practice) – there are nityasiddhas (ever perfect) and sadhanasiddhas (perfected by sadhana). Some people attain the Lord after practicing a great deal of sadhana, while others are perfect from their birth, for example Prahlada. The Homa bird lives high up in the sky. When it lays its egg, it falls toward the earth. During the fall, the egg breaks and a chick emerges. Even then it goes on falling. It is still so high up that it develops its wings during its fall. When it is close to the earth, the chick realizes that if it hits the earth, it will be crushed. At once it shoots upward toward its mother, uttering, ‘Mother, Mother, where are you?’
“The nityasiddhas, like Prahlada, practice sadhana later in life. They have already attained the Lord before the practice of sadhana. It is like the bottle gourd or the pumpkin which fruits before it flowers. (Looking at Rakhal’s father) A nityasiddha, even if he is born in a lower family, does not become less spiritual than he was. The gram, even if it falls on a dung heap, still sprouts into a gram plant.”
Vidyasagar and special manifestation of power in some – mere learning
“God has granted more power to some than to others. In one there is the light of a single earthen lamp, while in another it is a blazing torch. I recognized Vidyasagar’s limit of intelligence from one of his remarks. I could see how far his intelligence went. When I told him that there was a special manifestation of God’s power in some, Vidyasagar said, ‘Sir, do you mean that He has granted more power to one and less to another?’ I immediately replied, ‘Indeed, it is so! Had there not been more power in one and less in another, why would you have become famous? It is when I heard of your learning, your charitable disposition and so forth that I came to see you. Of course, you have not grown two horns!’ So learned, so famous is Vidyasagar to have said something so childish as: ‘Has He granted more power to one and less to another?’ You know how it is? The bigger fish like trout and carp are first to get caught in the net. Then the fisherman stirs the mud with his feet and minnows, mud fish and other small fish emerge and get caught in no time. If one has not realized the Lord, ‘minnow and mud fish’ come out of him. What does mere learning avail one?”
 Hamsa has two meanings, one a swan and the other a desireless ascetic
 Alexander Pope, 2nd verse of “The Universal Prayer”
 Except ye be born again ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven – Christ (John 3)
 Earth, water, fire, air and space
 The twenty four cosmic principles are the following, viz. – the five gross elements (earth, water, fire, air, space); the five pranas (vital airs) (prana, udana, samana, vyana, apana); the five organs of sense; the five organs of work; the mind; the determinative faculty (buddhi); the ego; chitta (consciousness)
 Suspension of breath
 One perfected by devotional practices
 One perfected from birth; ever-perfect