Sri Ramakrishna with Captain, Narendra and other Devotees, at Dakshineswar
Beginning of Sri Ramakrishna’s throat ailment
Sri Ramakrishna is resting in his room at the Kali Temple in Dakshineswar. Saturday, 13 June 1885, the first day of the bright fortnight of Jaishtha. It is the last day of the month of Jaishtha. The time is three o’clock. After his midday meal, Thakur is having a siesta on the smaller of the two cots.
A pundit is sitting on a mat on the floor. A sorrow-stricken brahmin woman is standing near the northern door of the room. Kishori and a neighbour of Akhil, with a boy from Assam, are also present. M. enters and salutes Thakur. He is accompanied by Dwija and others.
Sri Ramakrishna is not well. He is feeling cold because of a lump in his throat. This is the beginning of his throat disease.
Because of extreme heat, M. has also not been feeling well. He has not been able to come regularly to Dakshineswar to see Thakur.
Sri Ramakrishna — I say, you have arrived. The bel-fruit you sent me is very good. How are you?
M. — I am feeling a little better now.
Sri Ramakrishna — It is very hot. Eat some ice now and then. I am feeling unwell, too, my dear, because of this extreme heat. I have eaten too much ice cream, so I have developed a lump in my throat. I have never experienced such a bad smell in my saliva before.
“I said to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, please cure me. I will not eat ice cream again.’
“Then I said to Her that I wouldn’t eat ice either.”
Sri Ramakrishna and holding on to truth – the state of a jnani and a devotee of God
“When I have promised the Divine Mother, ‘I will not eat it,’ I won’t. But sometimes I forget and make a mistake. I once said that I wouldn’t eat fish on Sundays, but one day I ate it by mistake.
“However, I never break my promise knowingly. The other day I asked a devotee to take my wash pot to the Jhautala (willow grove). As he had to go elsewhere, somebody else brought the pot. After answering the call of nature, I noticed that it was somebody else holding the wash pot. I could not use the water from the pot. What was I to do? I stood there with some clay in my hand [to use as soap] until the first man brought water for me.
“When I renounced everything by offering flowers at the lotus feet of the Divine Mother, I said to Her, ‘Here, Mother. Take your purity and take your impurity, take both your righteousness and unrighteousness. Here, Mother, take your sin and virtuous deeds. Here, take your good and take your evil. But pray grant me pure love and devotion for God.’ I could not say to Her, ‘Here, Mother, take your truthfulness and take your falsehood’ – I couldn’t do that.”
A particular devotee brought some ice. Thakur asks M. again and again, “Well, my dear, should I eat it?”
M. says humbly, “Sir, please don’t eat it until you have consulted the Divine Mother.”
Sri Ramakrishna did not take the ice.
Sri Ramakrishna — Purity and impurity are for a devotee, not for a man of knowledge. Vijay’s mother-in-law said, ‘Well, what have I attained? Even now I cannot eat just anybody’s food.’ I said to her, ‘Does one attain spiritual knowledge by eating everyone’s food? A dog eats anything and everything. Does that mean the dog possesses spiritual wisdom?’
(To M.) “Why do I eat different kinds of food? Lest I become monotonous and be forced to part from them (the devotees).
“I said to Keshab Sen, ‘If I talk to you of higher spiritual ideas, your organization and group of devotees will break up.’
“In the state of divine knowledge, groups and organizations are illusory – like a dream.
“I gave up eating fish. In the beginning I used to suffer, but later on I got used to it. If someone burns a bird’s nest, it flies hither and thither, taking shelter in the sky. If one genuinely realizes that the body and the world are unreal, one’s soul attains samadhi.
“Earlier I experienced a state of mind similar to that of a jnani. I didn’t enjoy people. I would hear that a jnani or a devotee lived in Hathkhola. After a few days, I would learn that he had died. So I didn’t enjoy people any more. After that incident, the Divine Mother brought my mind down and rested it in devotion, in love for God and devotees.”
M. listens with wonder to the change in Thakur’s state of mind. Thakur is now telling the devotees why the Lord incarnates Himself as a human being.
Secret meaning of the avatar and his divine sport as a human being – Dwija and past samskaras
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — Do you know why the Lord incarnates Himself as a person? It is because one can hear God’s words only from the lips of a man. Devotees enjoy His divine bliss and taste His sweetness through a human body.
“But there is some manifestation of God’s power in all devotees. It is like getting a little taste of something you have been sucking for a long time, or like extracting a little honey from a flower after much sucking. (To M.) Did you understand this?”
M. — Yes, sir. I understand it well.
Thakur talks to Dwija. He is fifteen or sixteen years old. His father has married a second time. Dwija occasionally accompanies M. to see Thakur. Thakur is very fond of him. Dwija says that his father did not want him to come to Dakshineswar.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Dwija) — Do your brothers also hold me in low esteem?
Dwija does not reply.
M. — After experiencing a couple of blows from the world, any low esteem they entertain for you will be knocked out.
Sri Ramakrishna — They are already receiving blows, since they have a stepmother.
Everyone is silent.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — You should introduce him (Dwija) to Purna.
M. — All right, I will. (To Dwija) You must go to Panihati.
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes. I ask everybody to go to Panihati. (To M.) Will you go?
Thakur will attend the celebrations at Panihati, so he is asking the devotees to go too.
M. — Sir, I do want to go.
Sri Ramakrishna — We will have to take a big boat, so it won’t rock. Will Girish Ghosh be there?
Everlasting Yea and Everlasting Nay
Thakur looks at Dwija.
Sri Ramakrishna — Well, there are so many young men. How is it that only he comes here? Tell me. He certainly has some good past samskaras.
M. — Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — Samskaras – he has done good deeds in his past life. One is guileless in one’s last life. In that life one experiences the madness of extreme spiritual joy.
“But, do you know what? It is His will. It is by His ‘Yea’ that everything happens in this world. When He says, ‘Nay,’ it all comes to a halt.
“Why should one man not bless another? Because nothing happens by man’s will. It is by God’s will alone that everything happens.
“The other day I went to Captain’s house. I saw some young men walking along the road. They were different. There was one nineteen or twenty years old who had parted his hair on the side and he was whistling as he walked along. As he walked, someone said, ‘Nagendra! Kshirode!’
“I saw another person steeped in deep tamas. He was whistling – that itself made him rather arrogant. (To Dwija) Why should one who has attained spiritual knowledge be afraid of criticism? His firm and steadfast understanding is like a blacksmith’s anvil – any number of hammer blows does not affect it.
“I saw the father of such-and-such person walking up the road.”
M. — He is a very guileless man.
Sri Ramakrishna — But he has red eyes.
Thakur had visited Captain’s home – he is talking of this visit. Captain had criticized all the young men who visit Thakur. Perhaps he had been influenced by Hazra.
Sri Ramakrishna — I had a talk with Captain. I told him that there was nothing [in the universe] but Purusha and Prakriti. Narada said, ‘Rama, all the men you see are all parts of You and all women are parts of Sita.’
“Captain was very happy to hear this. He said, ‘You alone have attained true knowledge. Being parts of Rama, all men are Rama. And being parts of Sita, all women are Sita.’
“No sooner had he said this than he began talking ill of the young men. He said, ‘They study English. They eat anything and everything indiscriminately. And these boys visit you regularly – this is not good. It can be harmful to you. Hazra is a very special person – a good man. Please don’t let these young men visit you so frequently.’ At first I said, ‘What can I do if they come?’
“Then I gave him a good dressing down. His daughter began to laugh. I said, ‘He who has worldly wisdom is very far from the Lord. If a person has no worldliness, the Lord remains in his grip – very close to him indeed.’ Speaking of Rakhal, Captain said, ‘He eats in anyone’s house.’ Perhaps he heard it from Hazra. I said to him, ‘A man can perform any amount of repetition of the Name and austerities, but if he remains possessed of worldly thoughts, he can never attain God. On the other hand, if a person eats pork but his mind remains attached to the Lord, he is blessed indeed. Such a person gradually attains the Lord – there is no doubt about it. Hazra practices so much repetition of the Name and austerities, but he tries to earn money as a broker while he is practicing!’
“Captain then said, ‘True. What you are saying is indeed true.’ So I said to him, ‘Just a few minutes ago you said that all men were parts of Rama and so they are Rama. And that all women, being parts of Sita, are Sita. And now you say this.’
“Captain said, ‘Yes, that is true. But even you do not love everybody.’
“I said, ‘Water is God. There is water all around. But one kind of water is used for drinking, the other for bathing, and yet another for washing dirty things. Your wife and daughter who are sitting in front of me are the very personification of the All-Blissful Mother.’ Captain then said, ‘Yes, yes. This is true!’ And he proceeded to touch my feet again and again.”
Having said this, Thakur begins to laugh. Then he tells how many good qualities Captain has.
Sri Ramakrishna — Captain is a man of many virtues – he regularly performs daily rituals, he himself worships the family deity, he repeats the sacred mantras while taking his bath. How many more devotions Captain observes! He is a great man of ritual – worship, repetition of Name, arati and chanting of sacred hymns – he attends to all these daily devotions.
Captain and learning – Captain and Thakur’s state
“I reprimanded Captain. I said, ‘You are being messed up by your study of books. Don’t read anymore.’
“Captain described my state of being as that of a bird soaring in the firmament. There are these two – the Supreme Soul and the individual soul. The individual soul is like a bird and the Supreme Soul is like the sky, the sky of Consciousness. Captain said, ‘Your individual soul soars in the sky of Consciousness and thus you enter into samadhi.’ (Smiling) Captain spoke ill of Bengalis. He said, ‘Bengalis are blockheads. The gem [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] lives close by but they do not recognize it.’ ”
Householder devotee and Sri Ramakrishna – how long does one have to practice ritualistic worship?
“Captain’s father was a very great devotee. He was a subadar in the British army. He would attend to worship at the proper time. Even on the battlefield, he would worship Shiva with one hand and use a sword and gun with the other.
(To M.) “But you know what? Day and night Captain is engaged in worldly work. Whenever I go to his home, I find him surrounded by his wife and children. Besides, he also has his ledger of accounts open from time to time. Truly, his mind goes to the Lord, but only for a short time. He is like a man suffering from delirium. He remains diseased, though he regains consciousness for awhile. Then he shouts out, ‘I want water, I want water to drink!’ As soon as he is given water, he goes into delirium again and has no awareness of the outside world. I said to Captain, ‘You are a ritualistic worshipper.’ Captain said, ‘Sir, I feel so much joy in worship and things like that. There is no other way for worldly people but ritualistic worship.’
“I said, ‘But does one have to perform ritualistic worship forever? How long does a bee buzz around a flower? As long as it has not alighted on it. It stops buzzing when it sips the honey.’ Captain said, ‘Can we people, like you, renounce worship and ritualistic devotions?’ But he does not say the same thing all the time. Sometimes he says that everything is inert, at other times that all is Consciousness. I say, ‘Is there anything inert? Everything indeed is Consciousness.’ ”
Purna and M. – forced marriage and Sri Ramakrishna’s opinion
Thakur asks M. about Purna.
Sri Ramakrishna — If I see Purna once more, my yearning to see him will decrease. How intelligent he is! He is greatly attracted to me. He says, ‘How my heart, too, longs to see you.’ (To M.) His parents have removed him from your school. Will that harm you?
M. — If he (Vidyasagar) says that Purna has been taken away from the school because of me, I have an explanation to give him.
Sri Ramakrishna — What will you say?
M. — I will just say this: Association with the holy enables one to contemplate the Lord. This is not a wrong thing to do, in any respect. In fact, the textbooks the school has prescribed say, ‘One must love the Lord with heart and soul.’
Sri Ramakrishna — I sent for the Younger Naren when I was at Captain’s house. I asked him, ‘Where is your house? Let’s go there.’ He said, ‘Do come, please.’ But he was nervous when he walked with me, lest his father should know about it. (All laugh.)
(To Akhil’s neighbour) “Well, you haven’t been here for many days – it may be seven or eight months.”
The Neighbour — Yes, sir. It must be a year.
Sri Ramakrishna — A gentleman used to visit with you.
The Neighbour — Yes, sir. Nilmani Babu.
Sri Ramakrishna — Why doesn’t he come any more? Ask him to visit me. Please arrange it. (Seeing a child with him) Who is this boy?
The Neighbour — His home is in Assam.
Sri Ramakrishna — Where is Assam? In what direction?
Dwija is talking about Ashu. Ashu’s father is going to arrange his marriage, but Ashu doesn’t want to marry.
Sri Ramakrishna — Just see, he doesn’t want to marry. He is being forced.
Thakur instructs a devotee to show regard for his elder brother, “An elder brother is like one’s father. You must give him due consideration and respect.”
Sri Ramakrishna and essence of Radhika – the essence of birth and death
A pundit is sitting with the devotees. He is from the northwestern region of India.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling, to M.) — He is a great scholar of the Bhagavata.
M. and the devotees look at the pundit.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the pundit) — Well, what is Yogamaya?
The pundit gives an explanation.
Sri Ramakrishna — Why isn’t Radhika called Yogamaya?
The pundit gives a reply to this question. Thakur then explains it himself –
“Radhika is the very embodiment of pure sattvic love, while Yogamaya contains all three qualities – sattva, rajas and tamas. Radhika has nothing but very pure sattva within. (To M.) Narendra now accepts Radha to a great extent. He says, ‘If one wants to learn how to love Sat-chit-ananda, he must learn it from Radha.’
“Sat-chit-ananda has Himself created Radha to taste divine bliss. Radha was created from Sat-chit-ananda Krishna. Sat-chit-ananda Krishna Himself is the ‘container’ and He Himself is the ‘contained’ in the form of Radha – in order to taste His own Bliss, or to enjoy Bliss by loving Sat-chit-ananda.
“The scriptures of the Vaishnavas say: Radha did not open her eyes after taking birth. In other words, she did not want to see any person other than Krishna. When Yashoda went to see Radhika with Krishna in her arms, Radha opened her eyes to behold Krishna. Being playful, Krishna had placed his hand on Radha’s eyes. (To the boy from Assam) Have you seen infants touching others’ eyes with their hands?”
Difference between worldly men and pure-souled young men
The pundit takes his leave.
The Pundit — I must go home now.
Sri Ramakrishna (affectionately) — Have you saved any money?
The Pundit — The market is very depressed these days. Employment is not available.
In a few minutes the pundit offers his obeisance to Thakur and leaves.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — Just see what a great difference there is between worldly men and these young men [who visit me]! This pundit talks day and night about money. He has come to Calcutta to earn a living. Otherwise, the members of his family will have nothing to live on. That is why he has to knock on so many doors. When will he get time to meditate on God with a concentrated mind? On the other hand, these young men have no ‘lust and greed’ in their minds. They can give their minds to God whenever they like.
“These young men do not have attachment for the worldly people. Rakhal used to say at times, ‘I feel frightened at the sight of a worldly person approaching me.’
“When I first had spiritual experiences, I used to close the door of my room when I saw a worldly person.”
Sorrow at the bereavement of a son or a daughter, and Sri Ramakrishna – his earlier story
“I had such great affection for Ram Mallick in my native village. But when he came here, I couldn’t even touch him.
“I was so very fond of him in my childhood. We were together day and night. We used to sleep together. I was sixteen or seventeen years old then. People would say, ‘If one of them were a woman, they would marry each other.’ We used to play together at his house. I remember all those days. His relatives used to arrive by palanquin. The palanquin men would repeat, ‘Hinjoda! Hinjoda!”
“I sent word to him through many people to come see me. He is now running a shop in Chanak. He came here the other day and stayed for two days.
“Ram told me, ‘I had no child of my own. I brought up my brother’s son, but he died.’ He heaved a big sigh when he said this. Tears flowed down his cheeks. He has suffered a great loss at the death of his nephew.
“And then he said that because she had no child of her own, his wife gave all her love and affection to the nephew. She was now overwhelmed by grief. I have been telling her, ‘You are crazy! What can you gain by grieving? Would you like to go to Kashi?’
“When he called his wife crazy, I found him absolutely ‘diluted’. I could not touch him. I could see that there was nothing [no substance] in him.”
While Thakur is saying all this in connection with bereavement, the sorrow-stricken brahmin woman stands near the northern door of the room. She is a widow. She had given her only daughter in marriage to a man from an important family. Her daughter’s husband, Upadhikari, with the title of Raja, was a resident of Calcutta and a landlord. Whenever the girl visited her paternal home, security men accompanied her. Seeing this, the mother felt very elated. Some days ago that daughter died.
Standing there, the brahmin woman hears the account of the bereavement of Ram Mallick at the death of his nephew. Mad with grief, seeking some relief, she has been running to see Sri Ramakrishna from her home in Baghbazar for many days. She has hoped that Thakur would be able to prescribe some means for overcoming such inconsolable sorrow. Thakur continues –
Sri Ramakrishna (to the brahmin woman and the other devotees) — A fellow came here the other day. He sat for only a short time before he said, ‘Let me go now and see my moon-faced son.’
“I couldn’t control myself anymore. I said: You fool! Leave this place! Is the face of your son more moon-like than that of the Lord?”
Truth about birth and death – magic of magician
(To M.) “The fact is, God is the Reality and all else is ephemeral. Living beings, the universe, house and home, children and family – they are all the magic of the magician. The magician beats his drum with a stick and cries out, ‘See my magic! See this trick!’ As soon as he takes the lid off his pot, a number of birds fly out into the sky. Only the magician is real; all his tricks are ephemeral – they are here now, but there is no trace of them in a little while.
“Shiva sits on Mount Kailas with Nandi, his bull, close to him. Suddenly there is a great sound. Nandi, the bull, asks, ‘Maharaj, where is the sound coming from?’ Shiva says, ‘Ravana is born. That is how this sound is produced.’ After awhile there is another frightening sound. Nandi asks, ‘Now what is this sound?’ Shiva laughs and says, ‘Ravana has now been slain.’ Birth and death are both like the magic of the magician. They are here now and then gone in a little while. Only God is real, all else is ephemeral. Only the water is real, its bubbles are only momentary. The bubbles merge in the water, from where they arose.
“God is like a mighty ocean and living beings like bubbles in the ocean – they are born out of it and are dissolved back into it.
“Sons and daughters – they are like five or six small bubbles round a big bubble.
“Indeed, God is the Reality. Now you must endeavour to develop love and devotion for Him and find how to attain Him. What use is your grieving?”
They are all silent. The brahmin woman says, “I must leave now.”
Sri Ramakrishna (affectionately) — Are you leaving? The sun is very hot. Why don’t you go with them later in the carriage?
It is the last day of the month of Jaishtha, about three or four o’clock. It is very hot. A devotee has brought a new sandalwood fan for Thakur. He is very happy to receive it and exclaims, “Oh, how very nice! Om Tat Sat! Kali!” Saying this, he first fans the deities with it. Then he says to M., “Just see what a fine breeze it generates!” M. thoroughly enjoys it.
The ripe ‘I,’ or the servant ‘I’
Captain has arrived with his sons.
Thakur says to Kishori, “Show them around the temple.”
M. speaks to Captain.
M., Dwija and other devotees are sitting on the floor. The teacher from Damdama is there. Sri Ramakrishna is sitting on the smaller cot facing north. He asks Captain to sit in front of him on one side of the same cot.
Sri Ramakrishna — I told them about you, about your great devotion – so much worship, and about your various kinds of arati.
Captain (shyly) — What worship and arati can I perform? Who am I?
Sri Ramakrishna — The harmful ego is the one that is attached to ‘lust and greed’. There is no harm in having the ‘I’ of a servant of the Lord. Nor is there any harm in a child’s ‘I’ – the child is not subject to any guna (qualities of nature). One moment he fights, and the next he loves. He builds a dollhouse with great care, and then suddenly tears it down. There is no harm in the servant’s ‘I’ or the child’s ‘I’. This ‘I’ is not to be counted as ego. Like sugar candy which, though sweet, is not like other sweets. While other sweets bring indigestion, sugar candy brings relief. Or like ‘Omkar’ – it is not like other sounds.
“It is with this ‘ego’ that one loves Sat-chit-ananda. The ego cannot be gotten rid of – so one must cling to the ‘I of a servant,’ or ‘I of a devotee.’ Otherwise, how can a man live? What love the gopis had! (To Captain) Tell us something about the gopis. You read the Bhagavata a lot.”
Captain — Even when Sri Krishna was in Vrindavan and had no riches or splendour, the gopis loved him more than their own hearts and souls. That is why Krishna said, ‘How can I repay the debt I owe them – the gopis who have surrendered their all to me – body, mind and soul.’
Sri Ramakrishna is becoming absorbed in ecstasy. Saying, “Govinda, Govinda,” he is becoming completely absorbed! He has almost lost outer-consciousness. In wonder, Captain mutters, “How blessed!”
Captain and all the other devotees gather to watch Sri Ramakrishna in this wondrous state of ecstatic love. They sit perfectly still, gazing at him, until he regains normal consciousness.
Sri Ramakrishna — And what after that?
Captain — He [Krishna] is not reached by yogis. It is difficult for even yogis to reach Him – but He is attained by such love as the gopis had. He who was not attained by years of communion by the yogis, the gopis reached effortlessly.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — He ate with the gopis, played with them, cried and demanded much of them – all this He did.
Bankim and biography of Sri Krishna – avatarhood
A devotee says, “Bankim has written a biography of Krishna.”
Sri Ramakrishna — Bankim accepts Sri Krishna, but not Radha.
Captain — It seems that he doesn’t accept the divine sport of God.
Sri Ramakrishna — And he also says that lust and other passions are necessary.
Teacher from Damdama — Bankim has written in the Navajivan (magazine) that the purpose of religion is to energize the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of man.
Captain — He says that lust and other passions are necessary but he doesn’t accept the divine sport of God. God incarnated Himself as a human being in Vrindavan to enact the sport of Radha and Krishna. Why doesn’t he accept it?
Avatar is full manifestation of Brahman – difference between mere book-learning and realization
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — The newspaper does not talk of these things. How, then, could he accept such ideas?
“Someone said to his friend, ‘Yesterday I was passing though a certain neighbourhood when I saw a house crash to the ground.’ The friend said, ‘Wait a minute. Let me check the newspaper.’ There was no mention in the paper of a building having crashed to the ground. So the fellow said, ‘Well, the paper doesn’t mention it, so it’s of no significance.’ The first man said, ‘But I saw it myself!’ His friend said, ‘That might be true, but since it’s not in the paper, how can I believe it?’ How could Bankim believe that God incarnates as a human being to enact His divine sport? Such ideas aren’t in the English education. It is very difficult to comprehend how God fully and perfectly manifests himself in human form. Isn’t that true? It is the manifestation of the Infinite in three and a half cubits!”
Captain — One says, ‘kåñëastu bhagavän svayam,’ – Krishna is God Himself – but you have to use the terms ‘whole’ and ‘partial’ manifestation to describe Him.
Sri Ramakrishna — Whole and partial manifestation are like fire and its sparks. An Incarnation of God is for the sake of the devotee and not for the man of knowledge. The Adhyatma Ramayana says: Oh, Rama, You are the all-pervading Spirit and You, Yourself, are everything pervaded. ‘väcyaväcakabhedena tvameva parameçavara’ – Oh Supreme Lord, You are distinguished as the vachaka, the signifying symbol, and vachya, the object signified.
Captain — The signifying symbol means the pervading Spirit, and the object signified means what is pervaded.
Sri Ramakrishna — The pervaded being, in other words, means a finite form, God incarnating Himself as a human being.
Egoism is the cause of one’s destruction and obstacle in God-realization
Everybody is seated while Sri Ramakrishna talks to Captain and the devotees. Jaygopal Sen and Trailokya of the Brahmo Samaj arrive. They salute Thakur and sit down. Thakur glances at Trailokya and smiles.
Sri Ramakrishna — One does not see God because of one’s pride. This stump of a tree of egotism is barring the door of the Lord’s room. Unless one jumps over the stump, one cannot enter His room.
“A man had acquired the power to tame ghosts. No sooner did he summon a ghost than it appeared. It said, ‘Tell me what work you want me to do. The moment you can’t give me any work, I will break your neck.’ Whatever work the man had to do, he asked the ghost to do. At last there was no more work to be done. Then the ghost said to the man, ‘I will now break your neck.’ The man said, ‘Wait a minute. I will be right back.’ Saying this, he went to his revered guru. ‘Sir, I am in great trouble,’ he said, ‘what should I do?’ The guru said, ‘Ask him to straighten this curly hair.’ The ghost worked at it day and night. But can tightly curled hair ever be straightened? It remains curly. Egoism also seems to go away for awhile, but it soon returns.
“The Lord’s grace does not dawn until one gets rid of egoism.
“When there is a festival in a house, the master of the house appoints a person to be in charge of the store-room. He does not enter it when the person in charge is present. But when the latter leaves the store-room, the master locks it and takes charge of it himself.
“Only a minor is given a guardian. When a child cannot safeguard his wealth and property, the king assumes the responsibility for it on his behalf. Unless one rids oneself of ego, the Lord does not take up one’s burdens and responsibilities.
“Once Lord Narayana (Vishnu) and Lakshmi (his consort) were sitting in Vaikuntha. Lakshmi was gently stroking his feet. The Lord suddenly jumped up. Lakshmi asked him, ‘Where are you going, Lord?’ Narayana said, ‘One of my devotees is in great danger. I am going to save him.’ Saying this, Narayana went out. But he immediately returned. Lakshmi exclaimed, ‘Lord, you have returned so soon!’ Narayana laughed and said, ‘A devotee overwhelmed with ecstatic love for Me was walking down the road. Washermen were putting out clothes to dry. The devotee trampled the clothes. Seeing it, the washermen came with a stick to beat him. That is why I went to protect him.’ Lakshmi asked, ‘But then why have you returned?’ Narayana laughed and said, ‘I saw the devotee himself picking up a brick to throw at the washermen. (All laugh.) So I didn’t have to go save him.’ ”
His earlier story – Keshab and Gauri – let there be the attitude of a servant after attaining the state of Soham
“I said to Keshab Sen, ‘You must get rid of your ego.’ Keshab answered, ‘But sir, then how would I keep my group together?’
“I said, ‘What lack of understanding you have! Please give up the ‘unripe I’ which attaches you to ‘lust and greed’. I am not asking you to give up your ‘ripe I,’ the ‘I of a servant,’ or the ‘I of a devotee’. ‘I am the servant of the Lord,’ ‘I am the Lord’s son’ – is the ‘ripe I’. There is no harm in it.”
Trailokya — It is very difficult to get rid of the ego. A man thinks he has known the highest truth.
Sri Ramakrishna — So that he would not later develop egoism, Gauri would never say, ‘I’. Instead he would say, ‘this.’ I, too, began saying, ‘this,’ following his example. Instead of saying that I had eaten, I would say, ‘This has eaten.’ Noticing it, Mathur Babu one day said, ‘What is this, my dear sir? Why do you speak like this? Let those people who have egotism do it, but you don’t have I-consciousness. There is no need for you to speak in this way.’
“I said to Keshab, ‘The ego will not vanish, so one must live with the attitude of a servant, a servant of God. Prahlada had both attitudes. At times he would feel, ‘You are I and I am You’ – that is, the attitude of ‘Soham.’ When his sense of I-consciousness would return, he would cherish the idea, ‘I am Your servant and You are my Master.’ When one has been firmly established in the attitude of ‘Soham,’ one should later live with the attitude of a servant – as, ‘I am the servant of God’.”
Signs of having attained the knowledge of Brahman – ‘I of a devotee’ – renunciation of work
(To Captain) “There are some signs by which one recognizes a person who has attained the knowledge of Brahman. The Srimad Bhagavata talks of four states of a man of spiritual knowledge: He appears like (1) a child, (2) an inert object, (3) a crazy man, and (4) a ghoul. Sometimes he acts like a five-year-old child. And sometimes he acts like a mad man.
“At times he lives like an inert object. In this state he cannot attend to work – all work drops off. If you say that Janaka and others did not renounce work, the fact is that in that period of time people used to give their responsibilities to subordinate officers and thus freed themselves of worry. Moreover, people then had intense faith.”
Sri Ramakrishna is talking of renunciation of work. Yet he is also saying to those who are attached to duties to attend to them in a detached spirit.
Sri Ramakrishna — After attaining Knowledge one cannot do much work.
Trailokya — Why? Pavhari Baba is such a great yogi, but he settles people’s quarrels and disputes. He even decides their lawsuits.
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, yes, that’s true. Dr. Durgacharan was a great drunkard – he used to drink twenty-four hours a day. But he was precise when he worked. He made no mistakes when treating his patients. There is no harm in attending to work after attaining love and devotion for God. But it is exceedingly difficult – it needs intense practice of spiritual disciplines.
“It is God who does everything. We are only His instruments. The Sikhs said in front of the Kali Temple, ‘The Lord is compassionate.’ I asked them, ‘Compassionate to whom?’ The Sikhs said, ‘Why, to us, Master.’ I said, ‘We are all His children. What does compassion to one’s own children mean? He looks after His children. If He didn’t, are people from the neighbourhood supposed to?’ Well, those who call Him compassionate don’t understand that we are God’s own.”
Captain — True, sir. They forget that they are God’s own.
The devotee and performing worship and other rituals – God, the gracious loving Lord of the devotees – a perfect jnani
Sri Ramakrishna — Should we not, then, say that God is kind and compassionate? As long as we practice spiritual disciplines, we should call Him compassionate. But when one has realized God, one rightly feels that He is one’s own Father or Mother. As long as one has not realized God, one feels distant from Him – like somebody else’s child.
“During the stage of practicing spiritual disciplines, one should describe God by all of His attributes. One day Hazra said to Narendra, ‘God is infinite, so is His splendour. Does He care to eat your sandesh or banana? Does He want to listen to your songs? These are all illusions of the mind.’
“Narendra immediately fell down ten cubits [spiritually]. I said to Hazra, ‘What a scoundrel you are! If you talk to youngsters like this, what will they do?’ Once a man loses love and devotion for God, what remains for him to live by? God has infinite splendour, yet He is under the control of His devotee. The gate-keeper of a rich man comes to a meeting of the master and his friends; he stands on one side of the room. He has something in his hand covered with a piece of cloth. He is very hesitant. The master asks him, ‘What is the matter, gate-keeper? What do you have in your hand?’ The gate-keeper places a custard apple before the master hesitantly and says to him, ‘I wish for you to eat it.’ The master, touched by the devotion and feelings of the gate-keeper, takes the custard apple with great reverence and says, ‘Ah! It is a custard apple of such good quality! Where did you get it? You must have taken a great deal of trouble to find it!’
“God is under the control of His devotee. Duryodhana showed great love and respect for Sri Krishna and said, ‘Please stay here and have your meal.’ The Lord, however, went to Vidur’s cottage. He is the gracious, loving Lord of the devotees. He ate Vidur’s simple rice and vegetables as if they were ambrosia.
“A perfect jnani has this sign – he sometimes behaves like a ghoul. He doesn’t care what he eats or drinks, he doesn’t discriminate between purity and impurity. In fact, the perfect jnani and the absolutely crazy person may look alike externally. The perfect jnani might not recite the holy mantras while taking a dip in the Ganges. He may have placed all the flowers indiscriminately at the feet of the deity while performing worship and left without uttering any sacred mantras.”
Man of karma and Sri Ramakrishna – how long does one have to perform work?
“As long as one craves worldly enjoyment, one cannot renounce work. One has to perform work as long as one desires pleasure.
“A bird sat absent-mindedly on the mast of a ship. The ship was sailing on the Ganges until it finally reached the mighty ocean. The bird then came to its senses. It looked all around and could see no landmark or shore. It flew toward the north, hoping to reach land. Having flown a long distance, it grew tired, but could still see no landmark. What could it do? It returned to the ship and sat on the mast again.
“After some time the bird flew away again – this time toward the east. It couldn’t see anything in the east either – there was only a vast sheet of water. It became extremely tired and again returned to the mast of the ship and perched there. After resting for a long time, it went to the south and then to the west. When it found no sign of land anywhere, it sat on the mast again and flew no more. It sat there peacefully. Now it had no feeling of urgency, restlessness, or anxiety in its mind. Being at peace, it made no more effort to fly.”
Captain — Ah, what a nice illustration!
One develops deep longing for God when desire for worldly pleasures has ceased – it leads to God-realization
Sri Ramakrishna — Worldly people become exhausted after wandering around in all directions seeking happiness. When attached to ‘lust and greed’ they only suffer pain and grief. Then they develop dispassion and renunciation. Most people cannot renounce unless they have enjoyed the pleasures of the world. There are two kinds of spiritual aspirants: kutichaka and vahudaka. Religious aspirants of the latter class visit numerous places of pilgrimage – they cannot settle at one place for any length of time. They drink the water from many different holy places. When their restlessness ceases by constant roaming about, they build themselves a hut and settle down. Then they meditate on God free from worry and effort.
“What is there in the world to enjoy? ‘Lust and greed’ only bring momentary pleasures. One moment there is pleasure, the next it is no more.
“The world is like a cloudy sky pouring rain; generally one cannot see the sun. There is sorrow the greater part of life. The clouds of ‘lust and greed’ do not let one see the sun.
“Some people ask me, ‘Sir, why has the Lord created such a world? Is there no way out for us?’ ”
The way – yearning and renunciation
“I say, why shouldn’t there be a way? Take refuge in God and pray to Him with a yearning heart for a favourable breeze to give you an auspicious opportunity. God definitely listens to the prayers of one who calls on Him with a longing heart.
“The son of a man was critically ill. His father went to various people asking with great yearning for a remedy. Somebody said, ‘He will be cured if you can arrange this: That the water of the svati nakshatra fall into a skull; that a frog drink that water; that a snake chase and pounce upon the frog; that the venom of the snake falls into the skull as the frog escapes its bite. If you give a little of that poison water to the patient, he should get well.’
“With great longing this fellow set out in search of the medicine during the svati constellation of stars. It was raining. He implored the Lord longingly, ‘Lord, please let me locate a skull. It is raining during the svati constellation of stars.’ Then he added to his prayer, ‘I appeal to you, Oh Savior. Grant that I may also find a frog and a snake.’ He had such great yearning that he found them all immediately. In no time the snake chased the frog. As it was going to bite the frog, its poison fell into the skull.
“If you surrender to the Lord and call on Him with a heart full of yearning, He is bound to listen and take care of everything for you.”
Captain — What an illustration!
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, God does make everything favourable. It may be possible that one is not married and so is able to devote his entire mind to the Lord. Or perhaps his brother begins to earn (money), or his son grows up, so that he is relieved of household responsibilities. In that case he can effortlessly give one hundred percent of his mind to God. But without renouncing ‘lust and greed,’ one does not succeed. It is only by renunciation that ignorance is dispelled. When the rays of the sun fall on a lens, many objects burn. On the other hand, if you take the lens inside a room where there is no sunlight, nothing is burned – you have to come out of the room to use the lens.
One can enter household life after realizing God, like Janaka and others
“Some people lead householder lives after attaining spiritual knowledge. They are able to see both the inside and outside of the room. The light of spiritual knowledge illumines the household, by virtue of which they can discriminate between what is good and what is bad, what is eternal and what is ephemeral.
“The ignorant who live in the world without having faith in God are like people living in a house made of mud walls. They can see only a little of the inside of the house in its dim light. But those who live a householder’s life after attaining spiritual knowledge, having realized God, are like people living in a house made of glass. They can see both inside and outside the house. The light of the sun of Knowledge lights up the inside of the house well. Such a man sees everything inside the house very clearly – what is good and what is bad, what is permanent and what is transitory.
“God is the only doer, we are just His instruments.
“That is why the jnani should also be free from ego. The author of Mahimastava was proud to have written this hymn. But his pride was crushed when Shiva’s bull bared his teeth. He saw that each one of its teeth was one of the sacred verses written by him. Do you know what this means? All sacred verses have existed since eternity – he had only brought them to light.
“It is not good to be a professional guru. One cannot become a religious teacher without receiving a command from God. He who says that he is a guru is a man of low intelligence. Haven’t you noticed the pans of a weighing scale? The pan that is lighter goes higher. The person who considers himself higher is, in fact, lighter [of lesser substance]. Everyone wants to be a guru – a disciple is hard to find.”
Trailokya is sitting on the floor toward the northern side of the smaller cot. He is going to sing a devotional song. Sri Ramakrishna says, “Ah, how nicely you sing!” Trailokya sings to the accompaniment of a tanpura –
We have given our hearts to You; You indeed are everything that exists.
You are my everything, O Lord! The support of my life and its quintessence.
But for You there is none in the three worlds whom I can call my own.
Listening to the song, Thakur is becoming overwhelmed with divine ecstasy. He says, “Ah! Ah! You indeed are everything that exists.”
The song ends. It is six o’clock. Thakur goes toward the Jhautala for a wash. M. accompanies him.
Thakur laughs and talks while he is walking along. Suddenly he says to M., “Oh, you people have not eaten anything! None of you have!”
Sri Ramakrishna is eager to serve prasad to the devotees.
Narendra and Sri Ramakrishna
Thakur is going to Calcutta in the evening. Returning from the Jhautala, he says to M., “In whose carriage will I go to Calcutta?”
It is evening. A lamp is lighted in Thakur’s room and incense is burned. Lamps have also been lit everywhere in the temples and buildings. A symphony of sanai and other instruments is being played. Arati will now be performed in the twelve Shiva temples, in the Vishnu temple, and in Mother Kali’s temple.
Sitting on the smaller cot, Sri Ramakrishna chants the name of the deities and then meditates on the Divine Mother. The evening worship is over. Thakur begins pacing up and down the room, occasionally talking with the devotees. He consults M. about his visit to Calcutta.
Narendra arrives, accompanied by Sarat and one or two other young devotees. Lying prostrate on the ground, they salute Thakur.
Seeing Narendra, Thakur’s heart overflows with love and affection. Touching Narendra’s face as one would a child’s, he caresses him and says affectionately, “Ah, you have come!”
Thakur stands in the middle of the room facing west. Narendra and the other young men salute him and sit facing east in front of him. They talk. Turning to M. Thakur says, “Should we go to Calcutta, now that Narendra has come? I sent someone to fetch him. Should we go then? What do you think?”
M. — Whatever you wish. Let’s not go today.
Sri Ramakrishna — All right. I’ll go tomorrow – if not by boat, then by carriage. (To the other devotees) It is already dark. You may leave now.
The devotees salute Thakur one by one and leave.
 Golap-ma (Golap Sundari Devi), a companion and friend of Holy Mother
 Tendencies from past lives
 Kutastha intellect
 The Self, the Absolute, Spirit. Pure Consciousness, the witness of the changes of Prakriti
 Primordial Nature, composed of the gunas, the material of the universe of mind and matter
 Apo Narayana
 The founder of the school
 Meaning pull the palanquin with force
 It is a term of endearment that means lovely and sweet face
 Thakur mentions Vamanpara
 A particular conjunction of stars
 A hymn to Lord Shiva