Sri Ramakrishna Attends a Play about Prahlada’s Life
Sri Ramakrishna in samadhi
Today Sri Ramakrishna has come to the Star Theatre to see a play about Prahlada’s life. He is accompanied by M., Baburam, Narayan and others. The Star Theatre is on Beadon Street. (Later, the Emerald Theatre and Classic Theatre were performed on this stage.)
It is Sunday, 14 December 1884, the 30th of Agrahayana, the 12th day of the dark fortnight. Sri Ramakrishna is seated in a box facing north. The theatre is brightly lit. M., Baburam and Narayan are sitting close to Sri Ramakrishna. Girish has just come to the box. The play has not yet begun. Thakur speaks to Girish.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Ah! You write very good plays!
Girish — But sir, I have not internalized them. I have just written them.
Sri Ramakrishna — No, you have internalized them. The other day I told you that no one can sketch a divine character without love and devotion for God in his heart.
“Assimilation of spiritual truths is a must. I went to see the play ‘Nava Vrindavan’ at Keshab’s house. A Deputy Magistrate who earned eight hundred rupees a month was present. Everybody said, ‘He is well versed in the scriptures.’ But he was extremely busy with his son – he was very anxious that the boy have a good seat and a nice view of the stage. He did not pay any attention to the spiritual talk that was going on. The son kept asking him questions: ‘Father, What is this? What is that?’ He was very restless because of the boy. He had only read books; he had not internalized their ideas.”
Girish — At times I ask myself, ‘Why should I engage myself with the theatre and its activities any more?’
Sri Ramakrishna — No, you must continue. Mankind will learn from your plays.
The play starts. Prahlada has come to school to learn to read and write. At the sight of Prahlada, Thakur affectionately says, “Prahlada, oh, Prahlada!” And he immediately goes into samadhi.
Thakur begins to weep when he sees Prahlada under the feet of an elephant. He again weeps when he sees Prahlada thrown into a furnace.
Lakshmi and Narayana are seated in Goloka. Narayana is worried about Prahlada. Watching this scene, Thakur again goes into samadhi.
Talk on spiritual matters with the devotees
Signs of God-realization and the way to know God – three classes of devotees
After the play is over, Thakur is taken to Girish’s private room in the theatre. Girish asks him, “Would you care to see the play ‘Confusion in Marriage’?” Thakur says, “No, why see that after Prahlada’s life? I once said to a troupe of actors from Orissa, ‘End a performance with religious talk.’ It was so nice to hear about God. That it should be followed by ‘Confusion in Marriage!’ Such a worldly topic! It would take us back to where we started – we would return to our original attitude in the end.”
Thakur is talking of God with Girish and other devotees. Girish asks him, “Sir, how did you like the play?”
Sri Ramakrishna — I saw that He Himself had become all of it. I saw the actors in the play as the very presence of the All-Blissful Mother. I saw the actors playing the parts of the cowherds in Goloka as the manifestation of Narayana Himself. He Himself had become all. But whether or not one has genuinely seen God is indicated by certain signs. One such sign is that one is in bliss – he shows no hesitancy. Such a person is like an ocean that has waves on its surface, but deep, still waters below. He who has attained the vision of God acts sometimes like a mad man and sometimes like an unclean spirit. He doesn’t distinguish between purity and impurity. Sometimes he acts like an inert object, for he becomes speechless when he sees God both within and without. Sometimes he is like a child wandering around freely with no attachment, [naked] with his cloth under his arm. He sometimes frolics like a boy, at other times he conducts himself as a young man, working or teaching mankind with the strength of a lion.
“An embodied being cannot see the Lord because of his ego. When the sky is overcast, one cannot see the sun. But because one cannot see the sun does not mean that there is no sun. The sun certainly exists.
“But there is no harm in the ego of a child; on the contrary, it is beneficial. If you eat spinach greens you may fall ill, but hinche leaves are good for the health. So hinche should not be considered in the same category as spinach greens. Sugar candy, similarly, should not to be thought of as an ordinary sweet. Sweets bring indigestion, but sugar candy does not produce phlegm.
“That is why I said to Keshab Sen, ‘If I tell you more than I have already said, you will not be able to hold your organization together.’ Keshab was frightened. Then I said to him, ‘There is no harm in the ‘ego of a child,’ or the ‘ego of a servant’.’
“Those who have realized God see that it is God who has become the universe and its living beings. He has become all. They are superior devotees.”
Girish (smiling) — God has become all – but a little ego persists that is not harmful.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Right, there is no harm in it. This little bit of ego exists to enjoy God. It is only when there is the distinction between me and you that one can enjoy – like in the attitude of the Master and the servant.
“And then there are mediocre devotees. They see that God exists in everyone as the Inner Controller. The devotee of the lowest class says, ‘God exists. He dwells there, beyond, in the sky.’ (All laugh.)
“When I saw the cowherd boys in Goloka, I felt that God had become everything. He who has seen Him knows truly that God Himself is the doer, that He indeed does everything.”
Girish — Sir, I have understood that well, that it is indeed God who does everything.
Sri Ramakrishna — I say, ‘Mother, I am an instrument and You are the Being who uses the instrument. I am inert and You make me conscious. I act as You make me act. I speak as You make me speak.’ The ignorant man says, ‘I am responsible for doing some actions and God is responsible for others.’ ”
Girish — Sir, since I am not really doing anything (it is God who works), why should I work at all?
Sri Ramakrishna — No, my dear, work is good. If you have prepared the soil, it will grow whatever you sow in it. But work must be performed without any expectation of reward.
“There are two kinds of paramahamsas: one follows the path of jnana, the other follows the path of intense love for God. Jnanis are self–seeking – their goal is their own realization. The paramahamsa who follows the path of love, like Shukadeva, first attains God and then teaches mankind. There are some who wipe their mouths after eating a mango, and then there are those who share it with others. There are people who bring baskets and spades to dig a shallow well, and when they have dug it, they throw the spades and baskets in the well. There are others who save their baskets and spades so that others of the community may use them. Shukadeva and others like him preserve their ‘baskets and spades’ for the use of others. (To Girish) You must keep them for the use of others.”
Girish — Please bless me, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — Have faith in the name of the Divine Mother and you will attain everything.
Girish — But I am a sinner.
Sri Ramakrishna — The rascal who repeats, ‘Sin, sin,’ becomes a sinner.
Girish — Sir, the spot where I sit becomes impure.
Sri Ramakrishna — What do you mean? If a light is brought into a room that has been dark for a thousand years, does it take long to light the room? Is it not illuminated immediately?
Girish — You have blessed me.
Sri Ramakrishna — If you believe it sincerely. What more can I say? As for me, I merely eat, drink and repeat the Divine Mother’s name.
Girish — I am not so sincere. Please give me sincerity.
Sri Ramakrishna — Who am I? Had there been Narada or Shukadeva…
Girish — I cannot see Narada before me. What I receive comes directly from you.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Well, you have faith!
Everyone remains silent for awhile. Now they begin to talk again.
Girish — I have only one special desire: spontaneous love for God.
Sri Ramakrishna — Only Ishvarakotis have such love. It is not for ordinary men.
Everyone sits silently. Thakur begins to sing absent-mindedly. His gaze is turned upward.
Does everyone attain the treasure of Shyama? Does everyone get the treasure of Kali?
The ignorant mind does not know what She is.
Even Shiva with all his austerities cannot fix his mind on Her crimson feet.
The riches and wealth of Indra and the other gods is a trifle compared to Her love.
If Mother Shyama turns to one and casts Her glance, one lives in eternal Bliss.
The kings of yogis, the best of munis, and Indra are unable to meditate on Her feet.
But the worthless Kamalakanta still yearns for Her feet.
Girish — But the worthless Kamalakanta still yearns for Her feet.
The way to realize God – yearn for Him
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish) — One attains God when one has developed intense dispassion. One’s heart and soul must yearn for Him. A disciple asked his guru how he could attain God. The guru told him to come with him. He took him to a pond and held him under water. After awhile he released him and asked, ‘How did you feel under water?’ The disciple answered, ‘I was panting for breath – as though I were going to die!’ The guru said, ‘Now listen, you will attain God when your heart and soul are just as restless for Him.’
“So I say that God can be attained when one combines the force of these three attractions: the worldly man’s attraction for his possessions, the chaste wife’s attraction for her husband, and the attraction of a mother for her child. One immediately attains the vision of God when one loves Him with the combined force of these three attractions.
Call on Mother Shyama, O my mind, with a real cry!
I shall see then that She will not hold Herself from me.
“God will certainly grant His vision if you call on Him with real longing.”
Harmony of Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga – bhakti according to Narada enjoined for the age of Kali
“The other day I told you the meaning of bhakti – to worship God with your body, mind and speech. ‘With the body’ means to worship and serve Him with your hands, to go to His shrine with your feet, to hear the chanting of His name and glories with your ears, and to see His image with your eyes. ‘With the mind’ means to contemplate and meditate on Him constantly, and to remember and think about His divine sport. ‘With speech’ means to sing hymns and chant His name and glories.
“Bhakti, according to Narada, is suited for the age of Kali: One must constantly chant His name and glories. Those who have no time should single-mindedly chant His name morning and evening, repeating, ‘Haribol, Haribol,’ while clapping their hands.
“There is no pride in the ego of devotion. It does not create ignorance; on the contrary, it helps one to realize God. This ego is not to be counted as an ordinary ego – just as hinche greens are not ordinary greens, which make you ill. By eating hinche leaves, one is cured of an excess of bile – it does one good. Sugar candy is not like ordinary sweets. Sweets are generally harmful, but sugar candy removes acidity.
“Prema is a cord which ties one to the Lord – He cannot escape when one develops prema. An ordinary man can only attain bhava. Only an Ishvarakoti can have Mahabhava and prema. Chaitanyadeva attained it.
“What is Jnana Yoga? It is the path by which one realizes the nature of one’s own real Self – the awareness that Brahman is one’s own real Self.
“Prahlada would sometimes be aware of his identity with Brahman; at other times, he would see God as one Being and himself as another – in the latter state he would remain in a mood of love and devotion for God.
“Hanuman said, ‘O Rama, sometimes I see that You are the whole and I a part of You. At other times I see that You are the Lord and I am Your servant. But Rama, when I attain the knowledge of Reality, I perceive that You are indeed I and I am You.’ ”
Girish — Ah!
Can one attain God even in family life?
Sri Ramakrishna — Why can’t one attain God in family life! But one must develop discrimination and non-attachment. The Lord is the Reality and all else is ephemeral – for two days only. This idea must become firmly established in the mind. Swimming on the surface will not do. One must dive deep.
Saying this, Thakur sings –
Dive deep, dive deep, dive deep, O my mind, into the sea of Beauty.
Search the deepest regions in the sea;
There you will find the jewel, the wealth of prema (intense love of God).
Within your heart is Vrindavan, the abode of God who is love.
Search and look; search and look; search and look. You will find it.
Then shall burn without ceasing the lamp of divine wisdom.
Who is that Being who steers the boat on land – on land, on solid ground?
Kabir says, ‘Listen, listen, listen! Meditate on the hallowed feet of the Guru (Divine preceptor).’
“And then one must remember this – there is the danger of the crocodiles of lust and the other passions.”
Girish — But I am not afraid of Yama, the god of death.
Sri Ramakrishna — No, but there is the danger of crocodiles – of lust and the rest. That is why one must first rub one’s body with turmeric and then dive – that turmeric is discrimination and non-attachment.
“Only a few attain the knowledge of God in family life. Two kinds of yogis are mentioned: the hidden yogi and the visible yogi. Those who have renounced the world are visible yogis; everyone can recognize them. The hidden yogi cannot be recognized. For example, a maidservant attends to all the work at her master’s house, but her mind remains on her children at home. And then as I told you, a woman of easy virtue attends to all her household chores with great enthusiasm – but her mind remains attached to her paramour. It is very difficult to cultivate discrimination and non-attachment. One cannot easily get rid of the feeling ‘I am the doer and all these belong to me’. I saw a Deputy Magistrate who earned a salary of eight hundred rupees a month. A religious discourse was being conducted, but he did not pay the least attention to it. He had brought his son with him and was busy the entire time arranging a good seat for him. And I know another man, I shall not name him, who used to repeat the name of God diligently, but gave false evidence for ten thousand rupees. That is why I say that it is possible to attain God even in the world – but only if you cultivate discrimination and non-attachment.”
Sinners and afflicted, and Sri Ramakrishna
Girish — What will happen to this sinner [meaning himself]?
Thakur fixes his gaze upward and begins to sing this tune in a touching manner –
O my mind! Contemplate Krishna, who gives beauty to man.
You will completely get rid of the fear of Yama.
By contemplating Him, all anxieties and worries of the world vanish.
They who meditate on Tribhanga (the thrice-bent one, Krishna) cross the waves of the world in the twinkling of an eye.
Why have you come to this earth, O my mind?
What will you gain by infusing bad inclinations and defiling your heart?
Says Dasharathi, it is not right that He will drown you.
He who unites his heart with His attains the eternal feet of the Lord.
(To Girish) — ‘Cross the waves of the world in the twinkling of an eye.’
Worship of Mahamaya, the Primordial Power, and the power of attorney
“One attains the vision of God only when Mahamaya steps aside from the door. What you need is the grace of Mahamaya. That is why God’s Power is worshipped. You see, God is so very near, and yet one does not know Him because Mahamaya stands between. Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were walking along [in the forest during their exile]. Rama was leading, Sita was in the middle and Lakshmana was behind her. Rama was only two and a half cubits away, yet Lakshmana could not see him.
“One must cherish a particular attitude toward God while worshipping Him. I have three attitudes: the attitude of a child, the attitude of a maidservant, and the attitude of a female lover of the Lord. I had the attitude of a maidservant and of a female companion for a long time. I used to dress myself like a woman in a sari and scarf, and I used to put on jewelry. The attitude of a child is very good.
“The ‘heroic’ attitude (of a lover) is not good. The shaven–headed Vaishnava monks and nuns, and couples in Tantrik worship practice the ‘heroic’ attitude – in other words, the male aspirant looks upon the female as Prakriti, and tries to please her through intercourse with her. This kind of attitude often brings a downfall.”
Girish — I had the same attitude once.
Thakur is worried and looks seriously at Girish.
Girish — This is my little obstacle. Please tell me what to do.
Sri Ramakrishna (after thinking for awhile) — Give God your general power of attorney. Let Him do what He wills.
God-realization comes after developing sattva guna – Sat-chit-ananda or bliss of divine inebriation
Sri Ramakrishna is talking about the young boy devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish and others) — In meditation I saw the traits of the young devotees. They have no thought of owning a house; they have no desire to enjoy female companionship. Even those who are married don’t sleep with their wives. Do you know what that means? Unless one is rid of rajas and attains pure sattva, the mind does not become fixed on God. And one does not feel love for Him. Nor can one realize Him.
Girish — You have blessed me.
Sri Ramakrishna — How is that? I only said that you would succeed if you were sincere.
While talking, Thakur exclaims, “Anandamayi! Anandamayi!” and passes into samadhi. He remains in that state for a long time. Returning to a somewhat normal state of consciousness, he says, “Where are those rascals?” M. calls Baburam to him.
Glancing at Baburam and the other devotees, Thakur becomes intoxicated with ecstatic love and says, “The bliss of Sat-chit-ananda is indeed good, but what about the bliss of divine inebriation?” Saying this, he begins to sing –
This time I have given my full attention.
I have learned divine fervour from one well-versed in it.
O Mother, I have found a man from the country which has no night.
And now I can no longer distinguish day and night.
I have rendered barren all ritualistic devotions.
My sleep is broken. Why should I sleep anymore?
I am awake in the sacrifice of yoga.
Having received the sleep of yoga from You, I have put sleep to sleep.
I have given myself permanent colour with the help of borax and sulphur.
Both eyes brush the floor of the temple of my mind.
Says Ramprasad: Knowing the truth that Kali is the Supreme Brahman,
Thakur sings another song –
What need is there of going to the Ganges, Prabhas, Kashi and Kanchi if the lips can utter ‘Kali, Kali’ when my life ebbs away?
He who utters Kali in all the three sandhyas needs no daily ritualistic worship.
Worship itself follows his footsteps but can never overtake him.
Charity, kindness and vows no longer appeal to him.
For Madan, the poet, all worship means the red feet of the Blissful Mother.
Who can know the qualities of the holy name of Kali,
The praises of which are sung by the God of gods, Mahadeva Himself?
“While praying to the Divine Mother, I used to say to Her, ‘Mother, I want nothing else. Pray grant me pure love and devotion.’ ”
Thakur is happy to see Girish in a calm mood. He says to him, “This mood of yours is very good. Such a simple and natural mood is best.”
Thakur is seated in the room of the manager of the theatre. Somebody enters and asks him, “Would you like to see the play ‘Confusion in Marriage’? The play is beginning now.”
Thakur says to Girish, “What have you done? Why did you stage a play ‘Confusion in Marriage’ after ‘Life of Prahlada’? It is like serving a bitter vegetable dish after serving cheese pudding.”
Sri Ramakrishna, the ocean of motiveless grace, and women of easy virtue
At the end of the play, Girish instructs the actresses to come and salute Thakur. They all prostrate before him. Some devotees stand nearby, others are sitting as they watch. They are amazed that some of the actresses touch Thakur’s feet. When they do, Thakur says, full of tenderness, “Mother, please stop. Please don’t do that, Mother.”
When they have saluted him and left, Thakur says to the devotees, “All indeed are God in different forms.”
Now Thakur gets into the carriage. Girish and other devotees accompany him and help him sit down.
While getting in, Thakur becomes absorbed in deep samadhi.
Narayan and some other devotees also get into the carriage. It leaves for Dakshineswar.
 The heavenly abode of Vishnu
 A kind of aquatic plant eaten as leaves
 Love for God that wells up unbidden out of the depths of the immortal soul
 Nishkama karma
 Ahetuki bhakti
 A Vaishnava expression meaning “Chant the Lord’s name”
 One of the humours of the body, namely pitta
 Nishtha bhakti
 Highest manifestation of divine love
 A state in which the devotee forgets the world and his own body
 The Great Power of illusion, or nescience
 Sakhi bhava
 Nedas and nedis
 Bhairavas and Bhairavis
 Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute
 All-Blissful Divine Mother
 Borax and sulphur render paint permanent
 At dawn, noon and twilight hour
 Prepared with bitter gourd and other vegetables without adding spices and served in Bengal prior to meals