Sri Ramakrishna in the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar
Distinction between a learned man and a sadhu – bhakti according to Narada enjoined for the age of Kali
Today is Wednesday, 26 September, 1883. It is the 10th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Bhadra. Fewer devotees visit Sri Ramakrishna on Wednesdays since it is a working day. Usually the devotees come on Sundays when they are at leisure. Free at half past one in the afternoon, M. reaches the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar to see Thakur at three o’clock. These days Rakhal and Latu are staying with Thakur most of the time. Kishori had arrived two hours earlier. Thakur is seated on the smaller cot in his room. On arriving, M. prostrates himself before him. After making polite enquiries, Thakur talks of Narendra.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — Well, did you meet Narendra? (Laughing) He commented that I still visit the Kali Temple, but when I am cured of my madness, I will no longer go there.
“He comes here off and on. He tells me that the members of his family are very cross with him. The other day he came in a carriage. Surendra had paid the carriage fare, so Narendra’s aunt (his father’s sister) went to Surendra’s house to protest. She created a row.
While talking of Narendra, Thakur stands up. He goes to the northeastern verandah and stands there. Hazra, Kishori, Rakhal and others devotees are there. It is afternoon.
Sri Ramakrishna — How is it that you are here today? Don’t you have school?
M. — Today the school closed at half past one.
Sri Ramakrishna — Why so early?
M. — Vidyasagar owns the school, so whenever he visits, the boys are given a holiday to celebrate.
Vidyasagar and holding on to truth – life of Thakur spoken with his own holy lips
Sri Ramakrishna — Why doesn’t Vidyasagar keep his word?
Holding on to truth and viewing other women as Mother,
Tulsi is a liar, if you do not realize Hari by this means.
“If you stick to truth, you can attain Bhagavan. The other day Vidyasagar said that he would come here, but he didn’t show up.
“There is a great difference between a learned man and a sadhu. The mind of one who is a mere scholar remains attached to ‘lust and gold,’ while the mind of a sadhu remains tied to the lotus feet of Hari. The learned man says one thing and does another. Leaving sadhus aside, even those whose minds are fixed on the lotus feet of Hari are very different in their actions and words. I saw a young sadhu belonging to the sect of Nanak in Kashi. He was the same age as you. He would call me a premi (loving) sadhu. His monastery is in Kashi. One day he invited me there. The head monk of the monastery was no different from a housewife. I asked him, ‘What is the way?’ He replied, ‘Bhakti according to Narada is enjoined for the age of Kali.’ He was reading a holy text. When he finished it, he said, ‘Vishnu in water, Vishnu on land, Vishnu on the hill top; Vishnu pervades the whole world.’ He ended with: peace, peace and perfect peace.”
Observance of Vedic rites not for the age of Kali – the path of jnana
“One day he was reading the Gita. He was so strict in his orthodoxy that he would not read it looking at a worldly man. Mathur Babu was present. The sadhu turned his back on him while reading. It was the same sadhu of the sect of Nanak who said, ‘There is a way: it is the path of devotion as enjoined by Narada.’
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, these people are Vedantists, but they also believe in the path of bhakti. The fact is, in the age of Kali it is difficult to observe Vedic rites and rituals. A person said that he would observe the purashcharana of the Gayatri mantra. I asked, ‘Why? For the age of Kali you have the Tantric path. Can you not perform purashcharana according to the Tantra?’
“Vedic observances are very difficult to perform. These days one slaves for others [like the British masters]. It is said that if you slave like this for twelve years or so, you acquire the traits of the master. You imbibe the qualities of those for whom you have been slaving for so long. You take on their rajas and tamas, and other qualities like violence, indulgence in sensory pleasures while you serve them. Not only are you their slave, but you also receive a pension from them.
“A Vedantist sadhu visited here. He danced to see the clouds and thoroughly enjoyed himself when there was a rainstorm. If anybody approached him while he was meditating, he would get very angry. One day I went to him. Oh, how upset he was! He always discriminated: ‘Only Brahman is the reality and the world an illusion.’ The appearance of so many different forms is because of maya, so he carried a prism from a chandelier with him. Through a prism you see many different colors. In fact, there is no colour at all. In the same way, there is really nothing but Brahman. But because of maya and egotism one sees a diversity of things. Lest he should become infatuated and become attached to it, this sadhu would not look at anything more than once. While taking his bath, he would discriminate at the sight of birds flying overhead. Together we would go to ease ourselves. When he heard that it was the pond of a Muslim, he did not use its water. Haladhari tested him in grammar – he knew grammar. They talked of consonants. He was here for three days. One day, hearing the sound of the sanai while he was on the river embankment, he said, ‘He who has realized Brahman goes into samadhi hearing such music.’ ”
Sri Ramakrishna, the Guru, in Dakshineswar – he exhibits the state of a paramahamsa
While talking about the sadhus, Sri Ramakrishna exhibits the state of a paramahamsa. His conduct is childlike, his face beams with laughter and there is no cloth around his waist, he is quite naked; his eyes swim with joy. He again sits on the smaller cot and speaks in his charming voice.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mani) — I heard Vedanta from the Naked One (Totapuri): ‘Brahman is the reality and the world an illusion.’ The magician performs so many magic feats: he produces a mango plant, even bearing mangoes. But all his magic is just sleight of hand. Only the magician is real.
Mani — Our life is like a long sleep. I understand it, but I do not see it correctly. The mind can’t even understand the sky. How can that very mind understand the world rightly just by seeing it?
Sri Ramakrishna — There is another way of looking at it. Not being able to see the sky properly, it looks as though it were touching the earth. How can a man understand rightly when he is delirious with fever?
Sri Ramakrishna sings in a sweet voice about the delirious fever of mankind and Dhanavantri.
O Mother Shankari, O great physician, what delirious fever I suffer, in spite of the grace of Thy feet.
This perishable transitory pride of mine is consuming me in its flames. What depraved attachment I have developed for ‘me and mine’!
How can I sustain my life? My desire for wealth and friends is ceaseless!
O the bestower of all goodness, I continue to indulge in things illusory, wrong doing, sinful acts and so on.
Says Dasharathi: My eyes are full of the deep sleep of maya,
And my stomach filled with the worm of violence. I am going round and round as in a whirlpool of illusory action.
Day and night I am feeling distaste for Your name. Alas! will I be cured of this malady?
Mani — I said to Kishori, ‘There is nothing in a box – but two people are trying to snatch it from each other, thinking there’s money in it!’
Trouble in taking up a body – to be or not to be! The world is a mansion of joy
“Well, the body is the sole cause of all troubles. Thinking this, the jnani says to himself, ‘I would rather give up this pillow case. Only that will save me.’ ”
Thakur is going toward the Kali Temple.
Sri Ramakrishna — Why? This world is a deceptive veil. But it is also called the mansion of joy.
Mani — There is no uninterrupted joy here.
Sri Ramakrishna — Indeed true.
Thakur is now standing in front of the Kali Temple. He prostrates before the Divine Mother. Mani does the same. Thakur sits on the floor before the Mother on the lower platform in front of the shrine. He is clad in a red-bordered dhoti with part of it wrapped around his back and one end over his shoulder. Behind him is a pillar of the natmandir. Mani is seated close to him.
Mani — If that is so, why should one take up a body at all? I think the body is only for practicing some Karma Yoga (action). Who knows what one is doing! It only brings suffering and tribulation.
Sri Ramakrishna — When a gram falls on a heap of filth, it still sprouts into a gram plant.
Mani — So be it. Even then, aren’t there the eight bonds?
Sachchidananda is the Guru – liberation by the grace of the Guru
Sri Ramakrishna — Not the eight bonds, but eight fetters. But let them be there! By His grace, these eight fetters fall off all at once. You know what it is like? Just as all darkness is dispelled in a moment when a light is brought into a room that has been dark for a thousand years. The darkness doesn’t go bit by bit. Haven’t you seen the magician performing his feats? Making knots in a cord, he ties one of its ends to something and holds the other end in his hand. Then he shakes the cord once or twice. When he gives a jerk, all the knots in the cord untie. But others can’t untie a single knot, howsoever much they try. All the knots open in a moment by the grace of the Guru.
Sri Ramakrishna the agent of change in Keshab Sen
“Well, how has Keshab Sen changed so much lately? Tell me. He used to come here very often. He learned how to bow down here. One day I said to him, ‘Sadhus are not saluted the way you do it.’ One day I was going to Calcutta with Ishan in a carriage. He had heard many things about Keshab Sen. How beautifully Harish has expressed it: ‘All the cheques have to be cleared here. Only then will the bank cash them.’ ”(Thakur laughs.)
Mani listens to all this conversation in wonder. He has understood that Sachchidananda Himself clears the cheques in the form of the Guru.
His earlier story – instructions of the Naked One – one cannot know God
Sri Ramakrishna — Don’t reason. Who can know Him? The Naked One (Totapuri) said, ‘I have heard that this universe is created out of only a portion of God.’
“Hazra is inclined to reason a lot. He calculates that the world is created with so much, and so much is the remainder. When I hear his arithmetic, my head begins to ache. I know that I know nothing. Sometimes I think of God as good, and at other times bad. How can I know Him?”
Mani — True Sir, who can know Him? One knows Him only as far as one’s intellect can go, but he thinks he has understood it all. It is just as you say: An ant went to a mound of sugar. Just a grain of it filled the ant’s stomach. And yet it said, ‘Next time I am going to carry the whole mound to my home.’
Can one know the Lord? Self-surrender the only way
Sri Ramakrishna — Who can know Him? I don’t even try. I simply call, ‘Mother! Mother!’ Let Her do Her will. If it is Her will, She will let me know Her, otherwise not. I have the attitude of a kitten. A kitten only calls out, ‘Mew, mew.’ Its mother may place it anywhere – maybe in the kitchen or on the master’s bed. A little child only wants its mother. It doesn’t know of her riches. It doesn’t even want to know. All it knows is that it has a mother. So it doesn’t worry. The son of the housemaid also knows that he has a mother. When he quarrels with the son of the master of the house, he says, ‘I am going to tell my mother. I have a mother.’ I also have the attitude of a son.
Placing his hand on his chest and pointing to himself, Sri Ramakrishna says to Mani, “Well, is there anything here? What do you say?”
Mani is speechless as he looks at Thakur. Perhaps he is saying to himself, “Is the Divine Mother living in Thakur’s heart? Is it the Mother who has taken up his body for the good of mankind?”
 A saying of Tulsidas, a great sage and poet of India
 Believers in the non-dual Brahman
 The performance of japa a certain number of times each day, methodically increasing and decreasing the amount
 A wooden flute
 A saint who has attained supreme knowledge and sanctity
 An excellent physician; the name of the physician of heaven (according to Hindu mythology)
 An appellation of Goddess Durga
 Meaning the outer sheath, the body