Thakur with the Devotees on the Holy Vijaya Dashami Day
Sri Ramakrishna with devotees at the Shyampukur house
It is the holy Vijaya Dashami day, 18 October 1885. Thakur is staying at the Shyampukur house. He is unwell. A physician has come from Calcutta to treat him. The devotees stay there to serve him. None of them has yet renounced the world – they come from their family homes.
Surendra’s love and devotion to God – ‘Divine Mother must reside in the heart’
It is winter, eight o’clock in the morning. Thakur is not feeling well. He is sitting on his bed acting like a five-year-old child who knows nothing but his mother. Surendra arrives and sits down. Navagopal, M. and some other devotees are already present. Surendra has celebrated the Durga Puja at his home. Thakur had not been able to go but had sent his devotees to have the darshan of the image. It is now Vijaya day and Surendra is feeling sad (at the impending separation from the Divine Mother, as on this day Her image will be immersed in the waters of the Ganges.)
Surendra — I ran away from the house.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — Though the image may be immersed in water, let the Divine Mother reside in the heart.
Quietly repeating, “Mother, Mother,” Surendra says a few things about the Supreme Goddess.
Thakur looks at him and sheds tears. Looking at M., he says in a voice choked with emotion, “What bhakti! What love and devotion he feels for God!”
Sri Ramakrishna — Around seven or seven-thirty yesterday evening, I had a vision of the worship hall in your home. The image of the deity was bathed in divine light. This place and your worship hall were joined by a stream of light that illumined both places.
Surendra — At that time I was crying ‘Mother, Mother’ in the worship hall. My elder brothers had gone upstairs, leaving me alone. I felt that the Mother said, ‘I will come again.’
Sri Ramakrishna and the Bhagavad Gita
It is nearly eleven in the morning. Thakur has eaten the food prescribed for him. Mani is pouring water into his palms so that he can rinse his mouth.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mani) — Rakhal fell sick eating gram lentils. It is good to eat only sattvic food. Haven’t you read that in the Gita? Do you read the Gita?
Mani — Yes, sir. The Gita speaks of moderation in diet. It talks of sattvic food, rajasic food and tamasic food. It also talks of sattvic kindness, rajasic kindness and tamasic kindness. And it describes the sattvic ego and so on.
Sri Ramakrishna — Do you have a copy of the Gita?
Mani — Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — It contains the essence of all the scriptures.
Mani — Yes, sir. It speaks of realizing God by following various ways. Just as you say that one can reach Him by a number of paths – of knowledge, of love and devotion, of action and of meditation.
Sri Ramakrishna — Do you understand the meaning of Karma Yoga? It is to surrender the fruit of all actions to God.
Mani — Sir, the Gita does say that. It also says that work can be performed in three different ways.
Sri Ramakrishna — In what three different ways?
Mani — One, to attain knowledge; two, to teach others; and three, according to one’s own nature.
Thakur takes a betel leaf after rinsing his mouth. He offers a piece of it from his mouth to Mani as prasad.
Sri Ramakrishna, Sir Humphrey Davy and the concept of avatar
Thakur is talking to M. about Doctor Sarkar. The previous day M. had gone to the Doctor’s house to report Thakur’s condition.
Sri Ramakrishna — What did he talk about with you?
M. — The Doctor has many books in his house. I was reading one of them while I sat there. Then I started reading it aloud to the Doctor. The book was by Sir Humphrey Davy. It talked of the need of an incarnation of God.
Sri Ramakrishna — Indeed! What did you say to him?
M. — One passage in the book says that the Divine Truth must be made human truth to be appreciated by us. That is why an incarnation of God is necessary.
Sri Ramakrishna — Very good. All this is very nice.
M. — The foreign author gave this illustration: one cannot gaze at the sun, but one can look at its reflected rays.
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, nice idea. Anything else?
M. — In another passage it says that true jnana (knowledge) is nothing but faith.
Sri Ramakrishna — That is a grand idea! One who has faith, surely has everything.
M. — The author had dreamt of Roman gods and goddesses.
Sri Ramakrishna — Have such books really been published? It is God Himself at work there. Did you talk of anything else?
Sri Ramakrishna and ‘doing welfare work,’ or Karma Yoga
M. — He says that he works for the welfare of the world. That is why I told him what you said.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — What did I say?
M. — You talked of Sambhu Mallick. He had said to you: ‘I want to build hospitals, dispensaries, and schools with my money. That will benefit many.’ I told the Doctor what you had said to him: Suppose God appears before you. Will you ask Him to build hospitals, dispensaries and schools for you? And I said another thing to the Doctor.
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, it is a different class of people who are born for work. What else did you say?
M. — I said: If your aim is to have the darshan of Mother Kali in the temple, what will you gain by giving in charity to a mendicant? Rather, try the best you can to have the darshan of Kali. After that, you can give in charity as much as you like.
Sri Ramakrishna — Did you talk about anything else?
The devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and victory over lust
M. — We agreed that many of those who visit you have conquered lust. The Doctor said, ‘In my case, too, lust has vanished – did you know?’ I said, ‘You are indeed a great man. That you have conquered lust is not surprising. But it is amazing that even insignificant and ordinary people influenced by him [Sri Ramakrishna] have conquered their passions.’ Then I told him what you said to Girish Ghosh.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — What did I say to him?
M. — You said to Girish: ‘The Doctor hasn’t been able to change your mind.’ You said that with reference to his calling you an incarnation of God.
Sri Ramakrishna — Please talk to the Doctor about divine incarnation – that he who liberates is God-incarnate. The scriptures talk of ten avatars, or twenty-four avatars, and also of innumerable incarnations of God.
Gradually giving up drinking altogether
M. — The Doctor asks a lot about Girish Ghosh. He keeps asking, ‘Has Girish Ghosh given up drinking altogether?’ He keeps a sharp eye on him.
Sri Ramakrishna — Did you tell Girish about it?
M. — Yes, sir, I did. And I talked to him about his giving up drinking.
Sri Ramakrishna — What did he say to you?
M. — He said, ‘I take your words as those of Thakur, so I accept them. I cannot, however, promise anything.’
Sri Ramakrishna (happily) — Kalipada told me that he has given up drinking altogether.
Identity of the Absolute or Universal Ego and the phenomenal world
It is afternoon. Doctor Sarkar has arrived. Amrita (the Doctor’s son) and Hem have come with him. Narendra and other devotees are present. Thakur is talking privately with Amrita. He asks him, “Are you able to meditate?” He adds, “Do you know what one experiences in meditation? The mind becomes like a continuous flow of oil – one has just one thought, that of God. No other thought intrudes.” Now Thakur talks to everyone else.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Doctor) — Your son doesn’t believe in the incarnation of God. That’s all right. It doesn’t matter if he believes it or not.
“Your son is a nice boy. Why shouldn’t he be? Can an ordinary mango be borne by a [fine] ‘Bombay’ mango tree? How great is his faith in God! He whose mind dwells in God is truly a man – that is, mana-hosha (of awakened mind). He whose spiritual consciousness has been awakened knows clearly that God is eternal and everything else is ephemeral. He is a man with an awakened mind. Your son does not believe in divine incarnation. There is no harm in that.
“It is enough if one believes that God exists and the universe and its living beings are the manifestations of His power. It is like a rich man and his garden.
“Some say there are ten avatars, some say twenty-four avatars, others that there are innumerable incarnations of God. Wherever you see a special manifestation of His power, God has incarnated Himself. This is my belief.
“And there is another view, according to which God has become everything – whatever you see. Take, for example, the bel-fruit – it consists of three parts: seeds, rind and kernel. The Absolute belongs to the same Being to whom the phenomenal world belongs. And the phenomenal world belongs to the same Being to whom the Absolute belongs. Disavowing the Absolute, you simply cannot understand the phenomenal world – because the phenomenal world does exist. Only by transcending it step by step can one reach the Absolute.
“As long as one entertains the feeling of I-consciousness, one cannot go beyond the phenomenal world. By negating the Relative while meditating, saying, ‘Not this, not this,’ one reaches the Absolute. But nothing can really be denied, as I gave you the illustration of the bel-fruit.”
The Doctor — That is certainly true.
Sri Ramakrishna — Kacha passed into Nirvikalpa samadhi. When his samadhi ended, someone asked him, ‘What do you see now?’ Kacha said, ‘I see that the world is one with Him. Everything is filled with God. It is God who has become all that I see. I do not know what to reject and what to accept.’
“Do you know what I think? Having attained the vision of the Absolute, together with the phenomenal world, one should live with the attitude of being a servant of God. Hanuman saw both God with form and without form. Thereafter, he lived with the attitude of a servant of God, as His devotee.”
Mani (to himself) — One must accept both the Absolute and the phenomenal world. Since the Vedanta philosophy has reached Germany, some of the European philosophers have accepted this line of thought. Thakur, however, says, ‘One does not attain the vision of the Absolute and the phenomenal world without renouncing everything, without renouncing ‘lust and greed’. One has to totally renounce; one must have absolute non-attachment to the world.’ This is the crucial difference between him and such [European] philosophers as Hegel.
Sri Ramakrishna and doctrine of avatar – reconciliation of free will and predestination
The Doctor says that God has created us, and the soul of all of us will make infinite progress. He does not accept that one person is greater than another. That is why he doesn’t believe in an incarnation of God.
The Doctor — One makes infinite progress! If that is not so, why live five or seven years more? I would rather hang myself with a rope.
“What is an incarnation of God? Why should I prostrate at the feet of a person who has to ease himself and urinate? But yes, I accept that God’s light reflects in man.”
Girish (laughing) — Have you seen God’s light?
Before the Doctor answers, he hesitates for a moment. A friend sitting close to him whispers something to him.
The Doctor — You have only seen the reflection, nothing else.
Girish — I see it! I see the light! I shall prove that Sri Krishna is an avatar. If I fail, I will cut out my tongue!
Only a person suffering from mental aberration or delirium reasons – reasoning stops in the state of perfect knowledge
Sri Ramakrishna — The conversation you have just had carries no weight.
“It is just like the raving of a person suffering from delirium. Such a diseased person says, ‘I wish to drink a pitcher of water and eat a pot of boiled rice.’ The physician says to him, ‘Yes, all right. We will give you whatever you want after you have taken the prescribed medicine.’
“When butter is heated, it makes a crackling sound. But when it is thoroughly boiled, the crackling sound ceases. As a man’s mind is, so is his conception of God. I have seen portraits of rich people – the queen and so forth – hanging on the walls of rich people’s homes. But devotees have images of deities hung in their houses.
“Lakshmana said, ‘Rama, Vaishishtha is a great sage but even he grieved at the death of his son.’ Rama replied, ‘Brother, he who has knowledge also has ignorance; he who is aware of light is also aware of darkness. Go beyond both knowledge and ignorance. One attains such a state only when one knows God intimately – this is what is known as vijnana.
“When a thorn digs into one’s foot, one must take another thorn to take it out. Afterwards, you throw them both away. By removing the thorn of ignorance with the thorn of knowledge, one should throw away both the thorns of knowledge and ignorance.
“There is a sign of perfect knowledge. One stops reasoning. Just as I said that butter, when heated, crackles until it is thoroughly boiled.”
The Doctor — But can one retain perfect knowledge permanently? If God has become everything, why are you behaving like a paramahamsa? And why do these people come here to serve you? Why don’t you sit quietly and not say a word?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Water is water, whether it is still or moving. It remains water when it is in waves.
Voice of God or conscience – mahout as Narayana
“There is something else. Why should I not listen to what the mahout Narayana says? The guru said to his disciple that everyone was God. A mad elephant was approaching. Putting his faith in the words of his guru, that the elephant was Narayana too, the disciple did not move away. The mahout shouted, ‘Everyone, please get away! Do get away!’ But the disciple did not move. The elephant picked him up and threw him to the ground and then went its way. The disciple did not die. He regained consciousness when water was poured into his mouth. Asked why he didn’t move away, he said, ‘My revered guru said that everything is Narayana.’ The guru then said, ‘Son, why didn’t you listen to the mahout Narayana?’ God resides within as pure mind and pure intellect. I am the machine, God is the operator. I am the house and He is the indweller. It is God who is the mahout Narayana.”
The Doctor — I ask you this, ‘Why, then, do you ask me to cure your illness?’
Sri Ramakrishna — I talk that way as long as I am conscious of the ‘jar’ of the ‘ego’. Imagine an immense ocean of water. A jar is immersed in the ocean. The jar then has water inside and outside it. The water in the jar does not become one with the water outside until the jar is broken. God Himself has kept this jar of I-consciousness in me.
Who am I?
The Doctor — What is this ‘I’ that you are talking about? You must explain it. Is God playing tricks on us?
Girish — Sir, how do you know that He is not playing tricks?
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing) — It is certainly God who has kept this ‘I’ in us – it is His play, His lila. A king has four sons (who are all princes) but, playing with each other, one takes the role of a minister, another a police officer, and so forth. Though a son of a king, he plays the role of a police officer.
(To the Doctor) “Listen. When one has a direct vision of the Atman, one accepts all this. All doubts vanish when one has vision of God.”
Son-ship and the Father – Sri Ramakrishna and Jnana Yoga
The Doctor — Does one ever get rid of all doubts?
Sri Ramakrishna — Just learn this much from me. If you wish to learn more, pray to God about it in a solitary corner. Ask Him why He has created all this.
“A boy can only give a beggar a cup of rice as alms. If the beggar asks for train fare, the master of the house must be called. (The Doctor is silent.)
“Well, you like to reason and discuss things. I will reason with you, but please listen to me. A jnani does not believe in the incarnation of God. Krishna said to Arjuna, ‘You call me an avatar time and again. Let me show you something. Come with me.’ Arjuna accompanied him for some distance, then Krishna asked, ‘What do you see?’ Arjuna said,’ A big tree with black berries hanging in clusters.’ Sri Krishna said, ‘They are not black berries. Go a few steps nearer and look at them.’ Arjuna then saw that they were clusters of Krishnas hanging on the tree. Krishna said, ‘Do you see how many Krishnas like me exist there?’
“Kavirdas said of Sri Krishna, ‘The gopis clapped their hands and he danced like a monkey.’
“The nearer you approach God, the fewer of His attributes you notice. A devotee first had the vision of God with ten arms. Going nearer, he saw that God had six arms. When he advanced still closer, he only saw Gopala with two arms. The closer he went to God, the less he saw His splendour and glories. At last he saw only divine light – there was no visible attribute.
“Listen a little to Vedantic reasoning. A magician came to a king to show him his magic feats. When he moved a little to one side, the king saw that a rider on horseback was coming. He was well-dressed and held weapons in his hands. The king and the audience in the court began to wonder what, in fact, was real. Evidently the horse was not real, nor the robes or weapons. Finally they saw that the only reality was a rider standing there alone. The significance of this is that Brahman alone is Real and the world is illusory. When you reason, nothing whatsoever remains.”
The Doctor — I have no objection to this.
The world and the scarecrow
Sri Ramakrishna — However, it is not easy to dispel the illusion that the world is real. It persists even after one attains divine knowledge. A person sees a tiger in a dream. He wakes up and the dream ends. But his heart continues to pound.
“Some thieves went to a farm to steal. A man’s figure made of straw had been put there to frighten intruders. The thieves could not persuade themselves to enter. One of them went closer and found that it was only a scarecrow. He came back to the other thieves and told them there was nothing to fear, but they still refused to go – they told him that their hearts were beating violently. The thief then laid the scarecrow down on the ground and said, ‘It is nothing, it is nothing.’ This is the process of ‘Neti, neti’.”
The Doctor — These are all very nice words.
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing) — What kind of words?
The Doctor — Fine.
Sri Ramakrishna — Say, ‘thank you’ at least once.
The Doctor — But don’t you understand what feelings there are in my heart? And I take such trouble to come here to see you!
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — No, my dear, it is not that. Say something for the benefit of the ignorant. Bibhishana did not want to become the king of Lanka [after Ravana was killed by Rama]. He said, ‘What would I get by being a king after I have obtained you?’ Rama said, ‘Bibhishana, become king for the benefit of the ignorant. Become a king to instruct those who ask what riches you have gained by serving Rama so much.’
The Doctor — Are there ignorant people here?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) —Yes, yes, you have oysters and snails here as well as conch shells. (All laugh.)
Purusha and Prakriti – eligibility of taking spiritual instructions
The Doctor gives two globules of medicine to Thakur, saying, “I give you both globules: one is Purusha and the other Prakriti.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Yes, they live side by side. Haven’t you seen pigeons? They can’t live apart from one another. Where there is Prakriti, there is Purusha; and where there is Purusha, there is Prakriti.
It is the Vijaya Dashami day today. Thakur asks the Doctor to have some sweets on the occasion. The devotees serve him sweets.
The Doctor (while eating) — I ‘thank you’ for the sweets. It is not for the instructions you have given today. Why should I give that ‘thank you’ in words?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Fix your mind on God. What more can I say? Meditate a little. (Pointing to the Younger Naren) Just see, his mind becomes absolutely merged in God. Those things I told you …
The Doctor — Tell these people too.
Sri Ramakrishna — It all depends on one’s capacity to digest. Can everyone understand all I have told you? I can’t talk to everyone as I talked to you. A mother has brought home some fish to cook. Her children do not have the same digestion, so for one she prepares pulao and for the others fish curry – the latter have poor digestion. (All laugh.)
The Doctor leaves. It is Vijaya Dashami today. All the devotees pay obeisance to Thakur by prostrating on the ground and taking the dust of his feet. Then they embrace one another. They are beyond themselves with joy. In this happiness, they forget that Thakur is seriously ill. Their embracing and enjoying of sweets continues for a long time. The Younger Naren, M. and few other devotees sit with Thakur. He talks happily with them. The topic of conversation is the change in Dr. Sarkar.
Sri Ramakrishna — I shall not have to instruct the Doctor much more.
“When a tree is almost axed in two, the person who is felling it stands some distance away after his last blow. In a little while the tree falls by itself.”
The Younger Naren (smiling) — All these are principles!
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — Hasn’t the Doctor changed a great deal?
M. — Yes, sir. When he comes here, he becomes stupefied. He doesn’t even talk about the medicine he will give you. When we remind him of it, he says, ‘Yes, yes, he has to be given medicine.’
Some of the devotees are singing in the parlour.
When they return to the room where Thakur is sitting, he says to them, “You were singing. Why was the song not in rhythm? I once heard of a man who was perfect at losing the beat – you sang like him.” (They all laugh.)
A boy, the Younger Naren’s relative, has arrived. He is dressed as a dandy and is wearing glasses. Thakur is talking to the Younger Naren.
Sri Ramakrishna — Look here. A boy with a pleated robe was going by here. The way he was walking! He would remove his scarf to show the pleats on the front of his dress. Then he would look around to see if anybody had noticed him. When he walked, his hips seemed to be out of joint. (All laugh.) Just look at him.
“A peacock makes a show of its feathers – but it has hideous feet. (All laugh.) The camel is so ugly. Everything about it is ugly!”
Naren’s Relative — But it conduct’s itself well.
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, it does. But it eats thorny bushes. Though its mouth bleeds, it continues to eat them. A worldly person loses his son and soon after pines for another.
 The fourth day of the worship
 Jnana, bhakti, karma and dhyana
 Sacramental food
 That is manushya
 Neti, neti
 Jnana and ajnana
 Baby Krishna
 Not this, not this