Sri Ramakrishna at Balaram Basu’s House in Calcutta
Narendra and Hazra
Sri Ramakrishna is seated with the devotees in Balaram’s parlour on the second floor of the house. He is smiling. A number of devotees, including Narendra, M., Bhavanath, Purna, Paltu, the Younger Naren, Girish, Ram Babu, Dwija, and Binode are sitting around him.
It is Saturday, 9 May 1885, three o’clock in the afternoon; the tenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Vaishakh.
Balaram is not at home. Being unwell, he has gone to Monghyr for a change of climate. His eldest daughter (who is now deceased) has invited Thakur and the devotees and has celebrated their coming with a feast. Thakur rests awhile after the meal.
Thakur repeatedly asks M., “Please tell me whether I am large-hearted.” Bhavanath laughs and says, “What will he say? He will keep quiet.”
A beggar from north India has arrived to sing. The devotees listen to one or two of his songs. Narendra likes them. He says to the singer, “Do sing more.”
Sri Ramakrishna — Enough! Stop! We don’t want any more songs. Where is the money? (To Narendra) You asked him to sing, but who will pay!
A Devotee (smiling) — Sir, he takes you to be a rich man, the way you are leaning against that bolster. (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — He may also think I am ill.
The topic of conversation now drifts to Hazra’s egotism. Hazra had been compelled to leave the Kali Temple at Dakshineswar.
Narendra — Hazra now admits he was egotistic.
Sri Ramakrishna — Don’t believe him. He says that so he can return to Dakshineswar. (To the devotees) Only Narendra says that Hazra is ‘a grand person’.
Narendra — I still say so.
Sri Ramakrishna — But why, even when you have heard so many bad things about him?
Narendra — He has a few faults, but he has many more good qualities.
Sri Ramakrishna — He does have single-minded devotion to his ideal.
“He says to me, ‘You don’t like me now, but later you will want my company.’ A goswami of Srerampore came the other day. He is a descendent of Advaita Goswami. I wanted him to stay on for a day or two. I asked him respectfully to stay at Dakshineswar. Hazra said, ‘Send him to stay with the treasurer of the temple.’ What he meant was that the goswami might ask for some milk or food and that he would have to share with him. I said, ‘You rascal! I myself prostrate before him because he is a goswami. You, on the other hand, live a worldly life, holding on to ‘lust and greed,’ and do all sorts of pranks. You perform a little japa and become egotistical. Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself?’
“Sattva guna leads one to the Lord. Rajo guna and tamo guna take one away from Him. Sattva is described as white, rajas as red, and tamas as black. One day I asked Hazra to tell me how much sattva each one of us possessed. He said, ‘It is sixteen annas in the case of Narendra, and eighteen annas in my case.’ I asked him, ‘How about me?’ He said, ‘You still have tinges of red – sattva guna is only twelve annas in your case.’ (All laugh.)
“Hazra used to sit and perform japa at Dakshineswar. While telling his beads, he would also try to make money from the visitors. He had incurred a debt of several thousand rupees in his native village. Talking of the brahmin cook, he remarked, ‘Do I care to talk to people like that?’ ”
Desire is an obstacle to God-realization – God has nature of a child
“You know what the truth is? Even if you have the least desire, you cannot attain God. The progress of actions can be very subtle. Say you have to thread a needle. It will not enter the eye of the needle if there is the least fibre sticking out.
“Why does one not attain God even after telling the beads for thirty years? If one has a festering wound, powerful measures have to be applied to cure it. Ordinary medicine alone does not cure the wound.
“Howsoever much religious discipline you may practice, you will not achieve spiritual perfection if you have desires. However, this fact is also true: You can attain perfection at once by the Lord’s grace and compassion. 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.
“Say a poor man’s son has attracted the attention of a big man. The latter gives his daughter in marriage to him. Immediately he has everything: a house, furniture, a horse-drawn carriage, maids and attendants, clothes and other comforts.”
A Devotee — Sir, how does one receive God’s grace?
Sri Ramakrishna — God has the nature of a child. Think of a boy holding jewels in the end piece of his cloth. A number of people are passing by. Many of them ask him to give them the jewels. Placing his hand on the cloth and turning his face away, the boy says, ‘No, I will not give you any.’ But he may run after someone else who has not asked him for the jewels and give all of them away.
Renunciation brings God-Realization – his earlier story – attitude of Mathur Babu
Sri Ramakrishna — One cannot realize God unless one renounces.
“But who will accept my words? I am looking for a companion – a companion with the same attitude as mine. When I see a devout devotee, I say to myself, ‘Perhaps he will accept my ideal.’ But later I see that he has become quite a different man.
“A ghost was looking for a companion. One becomes a ghost if one dies an unnatural death either on Tuesdays or Saturdays. Whenever this ghost found that somebody was dying an unnatural death on a Saturday or a Tuesday, he would run to him. He thought to himself that he was perhaps now going to have a companion. But no sooner did he come near the ghost than he saw the man getting up. Perhaps he had fallen from a roof and had lost consciousness, but didn’t die.
“Once Mathur Babu was in an ecstatic mood. He remained intoxicated, unable to do any work. Everybody said, ‘Who will manage his estate if he remains like this?’ They thought that the younger Bhattacharya (Sri Ramakrishna) had cast a spell on him.”
Narendra loses outer consciousness – two stories of the guru and the disciple
“On one of Narendra’s first visits to Dakshineswar, he lost outer consciousness when I touched his chest with my hand. Regaining consciousness, he began to weep and said, ‘I say, why did you do this to me? Sir, I have my father, I have my mother.’ This ‘me’ and ‘mine’ comes from ignorance.
“A guru said to his disciple, ‘The world is illusory, so leave it and come away with me.’ The disciple replied, ‘But Master, all these people love me a great deal – my father, my mother, my wife. How can I leave them to accompany you?’ The guru said to him, ‘Although you repeat ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ and you say that they all love you, you are very much mistaken. I am going to teach you a trick of deception. Try it and you will know whether they genuinely love you or not.’ Saying this, the guru put a pill in the disciple’s hand and said, ‘Take this and you will look like you are dead, but you will not lose consciousness and you will be able to hear and see everything. When I visit you, you will gradually regain normal consciousness.’
“The disciple did exactly as he was told. There was weeping and wailing in the house. The mother, the wife, everyone began to weep, having fallen on the ground. Just then a brahmin came and asked them what had happened. They all replied that the man had died. The brahmin felt his pulse and said, ‘What? He is not dead. I will give him some medicine. As soon as he takes it, he will be cured.’ Every member of the family felt as if they had been granted something very precious. ‘But,’ the brahmin continued, ‘there is a condition. Somebody has to take the medicine before it is given to him. And that person will die. I see that he has so many loving relatives; someone will surely take it. His mother and wife are wailing so bitterly. One of them will certainly take it.’
“At once the wailing stopped and there was silence. The mother said, ‘It is such a big family. If I die, who will look after them all?’ She was very worried. The wife who was weeping and wailing just a few moments ago, saying, ‘Oh my elder sister, I have fallen into big trouble,’ now said, ‘What had to happen to him has already come to pass. I have small children. Who will look after them if I die?’
“The disciple saw and heard everything. He stood up at once and said, ‘Master, let us go. I will follow you.’ (All laugh.)
“Another disciple said to his guru, ‘My wife serves me so well, Master. I can’t leave her behind to follow you.’ This disciple practiced hatha yoga. The guru taught him a ruse, too. One day there was a lot of weeping and wailing in the house. The neighbours came and saw the practitioner of hatha yoga seated on a small carpet in the house, his body stiff and twisted. Everybody thought that he had breathed his last. His wife was crying and had fallen on the ground, saying: ‘Oh mother, what catastrophe has befallen me! How have you provided for our future? Oh my friends, I never imagined I would meet with such a fate.’ In the meantime her relatives brought a cot to take him out of the room.
“But then a problem arose. He could not be taken through the door since his body was stiff and twisted. A neigbour ran and brought an axe and began to chop the door frame. The wife was weeping bitterly. Hearing the sound of wood being chopped, she came running and, still weeping, asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘The body can’t be taken out, so we are chopping away the door frame.’ ‘Please,’ the wife said, ‘don’t do this. I am a widow now. There is nobody to look after me and I have to bring up these children. If the door is chopped, I will not be able to replace it. I say, he is already dead. You must chop off his hands and feet.’ Hearing this, the hatha yogi stood up. The effect of the medicine had worn off. He stood up and said, ‘You mean woman! You are going to chop off my hands and feet?’ Saying this, he renounced home and went away with his guru. (All laugh.)
“In most cases mourning is a pretense. When a woman has to wail, she first removes her nose ring and other ornaments. She locks them safely in a box. Then she comes out, falls on the ground and wails, beating her breast, ‘Oh my friends! What misfortune has befallen me!’ ”
Narendra and others discuss incarnation of God in the presence of Sri Ramakrishna
Narendra — How can I believe, without proof, that the Lord incarnates Himself as a human being?
Girish — Faith in itself is sufficient proof. This article is lying here. What is the proof? Your faith alone is the proof.
A Certain Devotee — Have philosophers been able to prove that the external world exists outside us? They only say we have an irresistible belief in it.
Girish (to Narendra) — Even if the Lord came before you, you wouldn’t believe it. You might say, ‘This man says that God Himself has incarnated in him – but he is surely an impostor.’
The topic of discussion is now whether the heavenly gods are immortal.
Narendra — Where is the proof?
Girish — Even if you saw them in front of you, you wouldn’t believe them.
Narendra — I want proof that they existed in past ages.
Mani whispers something to Paltu.
Paltu (smiling, to Narendra) — What is the need for immortals to be without a beginning? For one to be immortal, one has only to be without end.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Narendra is the son of a lawyer, and Paltu of a deputy magistrate. (All laugh.)
All are silent for awhile.
Jogin (smiling, to Girish and other devotees) — He (Thakur) does not accept Narendra’s opinions any more.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Once I said to Narendra that the chatak bird drinks no water except rainwater. Narendra said that the chatak drinks ordinary water too. Then I said to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, are my words not true?’ I was terribly worried. Narendra came on another day. He saw some birds fluttering in the room. Seeing them he said, ‘There they are! There they are!’ I asked, ‘What?’ He replied, ‘The same chatak birds.’ I saw that they were only bats. Since then I don’t accept what he says. (All laugh.)
Is vision of the form a delusion of the mind?
Sri Ramakrishna — Narendra said to me in Jadu Mallick’s garden, ‘The visions of God that you see are all hallucinations.’ Amazed, I said to him, ‘But they speak to me!’ Narendra said, ‘Such delusions happen.’ Then I went to the Divine Mother and implored Her with tears, ‘Mother, what is this? Is it all false? Narendra said so.’ The Divine Mother then showed me Consciousness, Indivisible Consciousness, and said, ‘If your visions are illusions, why do they tally with facts?’ Then I said to Narendra, ‘Rascal, you are robbing me of my faith! Don’t come here again.’
Sri Ramakrishna – scriptures and word of God – revelation
The discussion continues. Narendra is arguing. He is twenty-two years and four months old.
Narendra (to Girish, M. and others) — How can I put my faith in religious texts? The Mahanirvana Tantra says at one place that a person goes to hell if he doesn’t attain the knowledge of Brahman. Then at another place it says, ‘There is no salvation without worshipping Parvati, the Divine Mother.’ In the Manusamhita, Manu writes about himself, while Moses describes his own death in the Pentateuch.
“The Samkhya philosophy says God does not exist for the reason that His existence cannot be proved. It also says, ‘One must believe in the injunctions of the Vedas, that the Vedas are eternal scriptures.’
“I don’t deny what the scriptures say. I just don’t understand them, so please explain them to me. People have explained the scriptures based on their own interpretation. Which opinion shall I accept? A white light looks red when it goes through a red medium, and green when it passes through green glass.”
A Certain Devotee — The Lord has said so in the Gita.
Sri Ramakrishna — The Gita is the essence of all scriptures. A sannyasin may or may not have any other book, but he must have a pocket Gita with him.
A Certain Devotee — The Gita contains the words of Sri Krishna.
Narendra — The Gita contain the words of Sri Krishna – or any other fellow!
Sri Ramakrishna listens to these words of Narendra in amazement.
Sri Ramakrishna — This is a very good discussion.
“There are two interpretations of religious texts: the literal and the real. One should only take the real – that which tallies with the words of God. There is a great difference between what you read in a letter and what you hear from the lips of the letter writer. A religious text is like the words of a letter, and the Lord’s word is like the words of the letter writer. I accept nothing till I have seen that it agrees with the Divine Mother’s words.”
The discussion again turns to God-incarnate.
Narendra — It is enough if one has faith in God. There is no need for me to know where God is strolling, or what He is doing. Infinite is the universe and infinite are God’s incarnations.
Hearing the words “Infinite is the universe and infinite are God’s incarnations,” Sri Ramakrishna bows with folded hands and says, “Ah.”
Mani whispers something to Bhavanath.
Bhavanath — He says, ‘If one has not seen an elephant, how can he know whether or not it can pass through the eye of a needle? Similarly, if one has not known God, how can one know by reasoning whether God can incarnate Himself as a human being?’
Sri Ramakrishna — Everything is possible for God. It is He who casts the spell. The magician can thrust a dagger into his throat and take it out again. He can even swallow pieces of brick!
Sri Ramakrishna and work – his state of knowledge of Brahman
A Devotee — The members of the Brahmo Samaj say that the duties of family life should be performed. One should not renounce them.
Girish — Yes, I read that in their paper, the Sulabha Samachar. It says that. But one is not able to perform all the actions required to know God. How, then, can he think of performing other worldly duties?
Sri Ramakrishna smiles a little and, looking at M. beckons with a sign of his eye, as if to say, “What he says is right.”
M. has understood that performing duties is very difficult.
Purna has arrived.
Sri Ramakrishna — Who told you about my being here?
Purna — Sarada.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the women devotees present) — Please give him (Purna) some refreshments.
Now Narendra would like to sing to Sri Ramakrishna and the devotees.
Narendra sings –
The mountain, the ocean and the firmament thunder. O Rudra, wake up!
You are the God of gods, the Supreme God, you are the Kala (death) of kala (time), You are the Supreme Kala.
O Shankara Shiva, the lord of justice, take away my sins.
O refuge of the lowly, Your holy name is beautiful indeed!
A current of nectar flows within it. One who hears it becomes at peace.
O mind, why don’t you call upon Him who removes the fear of danger?
What an irony that you remain ever intoxicated with the world, which is nothing but an illusion!
Your wealth, your kith and kin will not last. Why forget Him?
Give up the insignificant and worship the substantial. Your trials of the world will end.
Listen attentively to these words of good, and retain them in your heart.
Repeat the name of Hari on your lips and proclaim Him ever and anon.
If you wish to cross over the ocean of the world, give up your sense attachments.
And surrendering your body, mind and soul to Him, worship Him.
Paltu — Will you sing that song?
Narendra — Which one?
When I have seen Your peerless face beaming with intense love,
What fear of earthly woes and frowns of catastrophe!
Narendra sings the song –
When I have seen Your peerless face beaming with intense love,
What fear of earthly woes and frowns of catastrophe!
Just as the first ray of the dawning sun dispels darkness,
So too, O Lord, when Your blessed radiance brightens the heart,
Its sweet consolation acts as a balm to the grief-stricken heart of the devotee.
When I ponder in my heart Your ecstatic love and Your grace,
I cannot restrain my tears of joy; they overflow my heart.
Victory to You, Gracious One, victory to You!
Singing about Your intense love for the devotee,
Let my life-breath ebb away while I perform Your work.
He sings another song at M.’s request. M. and many other devotees sit with folded hands listening to this song.
O my mind, drink the wine of Hari’s nectar and be intoxicated.
Roll on the ground, weeping and chanting, ‘Hari, Hari.’
Let the name of Hari thunder deep in the firmament.
Raise both of your arms and dance, crying, ‘Hari, Hari.’
Go to people’s doors and dole out the name of Hari.
Swim day and night in the nectar of the joy of God’s love, and sing Hari’s name.
Let your supreme desire be fulfilled and lowly desires be destroyed.
O my mind, meditate on Lord Hari, the rarefied spirit, the spotless one…
Wondrous and supreme is Your creation…
The sun and the moon blaze like lamps and the stars dazzle like diamonds in the dish of the sky.
The soft Malaya breeze is the incense and the wind moves to and fro as a fan before your holy face.
The whole forest has burst into brightness. All the vegetation in the forest is glowing with light.
What a unique worship of Yours is this! You, the breaker of world bonds, Your worship!
The Anahata Shabda, the uncaused sound, constitutes the drum beat.
Fix your mind, O man, on the Primal Purusha, the Stainless One…
At the request of Narayan, Narendra sings again –
O my Mother! Come, do come. You are my sweetheart, You, the marionette of my life breath.
Mother! Please take your seat in my heart and let me gaze at You.
I have been looking at Your face since my birth.
You, of course, know, my Mother, what sorrows I have passed through.
Pray, open the lotus of my heart and reveal Yourself in it, O Goddess of joy and bliss.
Sri Ramakrishna in samadhi – in the state of knowledge of Brahman
Narendra sings a song of his own choice.
O my Mother! Your effulgent form shines in pitch darkness.
Therefore the yogi meditates in the mountain cave.
Sri Ramakrishna is going into samadhi as he listens to this song of samadhi. Narendra sings the song time and again –
O my mind, drink the wine of Hari’s nectar and be intoxicated.
Sri Ramakrishna is absorbed in divine ecstasy. He is sitting on a pillow, leaning against the wall and facing north, his feet hanging down. The devotees surround him on all sides.
Thakur is talking alone with the Divine Mother, absorbed in ecstasy. He says, “I shall go after taking my meal. You have come? Have you found your lodging, left Your baggage there, and then come out?”
Is Thakur saying that the Divine Mother has arrived? Are Thakur and the Divine Mother separate from each other?
Sri Ramakrishna says, “I don’t like anybody’s company now. Mother, why should I hear devotional songs? They will draw part of my mind to the outside world.”
Thakur is gradually regaining outer consciousness. He looks at the devotees and says, “I used to wonder why people kept fish alive in a pot. I would say to myself, ‘How cruel they are,’ as they would kill it later. When the state of my mind began to change, I noticed that the body was nothing but a pillowcase. It doesn’t matter if it survives or not. There is no difference if it goes.”
Bhavanath — So, can one kill a human being, murder him?
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, one can do it in that state of mind. But not everybody attains this state, the state of the knowledge of Brahman.
“One enjoys God’s love and the devotee only when one comes down a step or two (from samadhi).
“In God there is both knowledge and ignorance3. Vidya maya takes one toward the Lord, avidya maya takes one away from Him. Spiritual knowledge, love and devotion for God, compassion and dispassion belong to the realm of vidya. By resorting to them, one draws near to God.
“And if one takes a step up, one reaches Him – attains the knowledge of Brahman. In this state one clearly perceives that God Himself has become everything. He sees no difference between acceptance and denial. He cannot be angry with anyone.
“I was going by carriage when I saw two prostitutes standing on a verandah. I took them as the embodiment of the Mother of the Universe Herself. So I bowed to them.
“When I first attained this state, I could neither worship Mother Kali nor offer Her food to eat. Haladhari and Hriday said, ‘The manager of the temple says that if the priest [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] does not offer food to the deity, what else might he do?’ When I heard these malicious words, I simply laughed – I didn’t feel the least irritated.
“After attaining the knowledge of Brahman, one should move about enjoying the divine sport. A sadhu was walking through a city enjoying its sights. He met another sadhu, an acquaintance of his. The latter said, ‘You are walking around enjoying yourself, but where is your baggage? I hope nobody has stolen it from you.’ The former said, ‘No, my luggage is not stolen. I first arranged for lodging, and then placed it safely in the room and locked it. Now I am going around enjoying the sights in the city.’ ” (All laugh.)
Bhavanath — This is a very lofty idea.
Mani (to himself) — To enjoy the divine sport after attaining the knowledge of Brahman! To come down to the plane of the phenomenal world after attaining samadhi!
Sri Ramakrishna (to M. and others) — Is it easy to attain the knowledge of Brahman? It is not possible until the mind is completely annihilated. A guru said to his disciple, ‘Give me your mind and I will give you divine knowledge.’ The Naked One (Totapuri) used to say, ‘Don’t let your mind scatter.’
Biology – ‘Natural Law’ in the spiritual world
“In this state, one likes nothing but talk about God and the company of devotees.
(To Ram) “You are a doctor. You know that medicine works only when it mixes with the blood. Similarly, in the state of the knowledge of Brahman, one sees God both within and without. One sees that He has become the body, the mind, the vital breath and the soul.”
Mani (to himself) — Assimilation!
Sri Ramakrishna — One attains the state of Brahmajnana when the mind is annihilated. When the mind vanishes, one’s ego is wiped out – that which goes on repeating ‘I,’ ‘I’. One reaches this state through the path of love and devotion for God as well as through the path of divine knowledge, that is to say the path of discrimination. The jnani reasons saying, ‘Not this, not this,’ – that is to say, ‘it is all maya, like a dream.’ This world is ‘not this, not this,’ – it is just maya. When the world disappears, only the individual remains – that is, the pot of ‘I-consciousness’ remains.
“Imagine that there are ten pots full of water. They all reflect the sun. How many suns do you see?”
A Devotee — Ten reflected suns and one true sun.
Sri Ramakrishna — Imagine now that one of these pots breaks. How many suns do you see?
The Devotee — Nine reflected suns. And, of course, the real sun.
Sri Ramakrishna — Well, suppose nine pots are broken. How many suns will you see?
The Devotee — One reflected image of the sun and the true sun.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish) — What remains after the last pot is broken?
Girish — That real sun, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — No. There are no words to describe what remains. It is what really is. When there is no reflected sun, how can you say that there is the real sun? In the state of samadhi the ‘I’ vanishes. What a man sees then, cannot be expressed in words when he comes down to a lower plane.
Sri Ramakrishna heartens the devotees with hope and promises
It is twilight. Lamps are lit in Balaram’s parlour. Sri Ramakrishna is still in an ecstatic mood. Devotees surround him. He says in his state of ecstasy:
“I am saying this to you as no outsider is present here. He who sincerely tries to know God will realize Him. He will assuredly know Him. He who yearns for God and seeks nothing but Him will succeed.
“All the devotees of the inner circle have already come. The devotees who will come later will belong to the outer circle. They will also go there [to Dakshineswar] every now and then. The Divine Mother will instruct them, ‘Do this. Call on God in this way.’
God alone is the guru – the only way for the embodied being to attain liberation
“Why doesn’t the mind of embodied being turn toward God? The attraction (of Mahamaya) is much stronger than that of God. The orderly of a judge is more powerful than the judge. (All laugh.)
“Rama said to Narada, ‘Narada, I am very happy to hear your hymn of praise. Please ask for a boon from me.’ Narada said, ‘Rama, grant that I may have devotion to your lotus feet and faith. And grant that I may never be enchanted by your world-bewitching maya.’ Rama said, ‘So be it. Please ask for another boon.’ Narada said, ‘Rama, I don’t want anything else.’
“Everyone is enchanted by His world-bewitching maya. Even when God takes up a human body, He too is enchanted by maya. Rama wandered about weeping in search of Sita. Bound by the five elements, even Brahman laments.
“Even so, remember, if God wills He can liberate Himself at once.”
Bhavanath — A railway guard, of his own will, shuts himself in a coach, but he can come out whenever he wants to.
Sri Ramakrishna — Ishvarakotis, such as divine incarnations, can be liberated whenever they want. But ordinary human beings cannot. Embodied beings are bound by ‘lust and greed’. They have shut the doors and windows of their houses and fastened them tightly with screws. How can they come out?
Bhavanath (smiling) — They are like third class railway passengers. They are locked in their compartments; they can’t get out.
Girish — If a man is bound in this way from all sides, then what is the way for him?
Sri Ramakrishna — He has nothing to fear if God, having come down as the guru, cuts asunder the bonds of maya.
Is Thakur hinting that he himself has taken up a human body in the form of the Guru and is breaking the bonds of maya?
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