Sri Ramakrishna at the Shyampukur House
Sri Ramakrishna at the Shyampukur house in Calcutta with devotees
It is Friday, 30 October 1885, the seventh day of the dark fortnight of Aswin, 15th of Kartik. Sri Ramakrishna has come to Shyampukur for treatment. He is in his room on the upper story. It is 9 o’clock. He is talking with M. privately. M. will soon go to Doctor Sarkar to report Thakur’s pain in the throat and to bring him to the Shyampukur house. Thakur is so very sick, yet his only concern is the welfare of his devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M., smiling) — Purna came to see me this morning. He has such a good nature. Manindra has a feminine attitude. How amazing! After reading the Chaitanya Charitamrita he is inclined toward the attitude of a gopi, or a female lover of the Lord – as though God is male and he female.
M. — Yes, sir
Purna Chandra is a schoolboy, 15 or 16 years old. Thakur is very eager to see him, but Purna’s family does not let him visit. One time he became so eager to see Purna that he went at night from Dakshineswar to M.’s house in Calcutta. M. brought Purna there to meet with Thakur. After a long conversation about how to call on God, Thakur had returned to Dakshineswar.
Manindra is also 15 or 16 years old. He is called Khoka by the devotees – they still call him by this name [referring to the time the book was written]. He dances, absorbed with divine ecstasy, when he hears the chanting of the name and glories of God.
The Doctor and M.
It is between ten and ten-thirty. M. has gone to Doctor Sarkar’s house. There is a verandah, which adjoins the parlour on the first floor and overlooks a path. There they sit on a wooden bench and talk. In front of the Doctor is a glass aquarium in which goldfish are swimming. Now and then the Doctor throws pieces of the green husk of cardamoms in the water. He also throws little balls of refined wheat flour, which he has made, to the open roof for sparrows and other birds to eat. M. watches him.
The Doctor (laughing, to M.) — Look at the goldfish watching me. They don’t see the green cardamom husks I have thrown them. So I say that mere love and devotion will get you nowhere. You need knowledge too. (M. laughs.) Look. The sparrows flew away when I threw the wheat balls at them. They were frightened. They gained no love and devotion because they have no knowledge. They don’t know that wheat balls are food.
The Doctor goes to the drawing room. Books fill shelves all around the room. He takes a little rest while M. browses through the books and even reads a little. At last, he picks up the book Life of Jesus written by Canon Farrar. He reads it for some time.
The Doctor says something now and then. He asks M. to read the correspondence about the homeopathic hospital, which had come into existence after many problems. He says, “You will find this correspondence in the Calcutta Journal of Medicine of 1876.” The Doctor has great love for homeopathy.
M. picks up a book with the title Munger’s New Theology. The Doctor notices it.
The Doctor — Munger has based his principles on very nice reasoning and logic. Your Chaitanya has said one thing, the Buddha and Jesus Christ have stated something else. You put your faith in their words simply because these people have said so.
M. (smiling) — So we should not believe in Chaitanya, or Buddha, but we should believe in Munger.
The Doctor — All right, whatever you say.
M. — People have to quote someone as the authority; that is how Munger became established. (The Doctor smiles.)
The Doctor gets into the carriage with M. The carriage proceeds toward Shyampukur. It is midday. The Doctor and M. continue talking while the carriage moves on. They talk about Doctor Bhaduri who also comes to treat Thakur now and then.
M. (smiling) — Talking about you, Bhaduri said, ‘He has to begin over again as a brick-bat.’
The Doctor — What do you mean?
M. — You don’t believe in great spiritual personalities, subtle bodies and all that. Apparently Doctor Bhaduri is a Theosophist. Besides, you don’t believe in the divine sport of incarnations of God. Therefore, he jokingly says about you, ‘He will not be born as a human being in the next birth, not even as a creature, nor as an animal, tree or plant. He will have to start as a piece of brick. Then, after many, many births, he might some day assume a human body.’
The Doctor — Good gracious!
M. — He further says that the knowledge of science that you have acquired is illusory – it is here now, but it may disappear the next moment. He gives an illustration. There are two wells. One of them receives its water from an underground spring. The other well has no spring; it is filled with rainwater. The water in the latter well cannot last long. Your knowledge of science will also dry up like the rainwater in the well.
The Doctor (smiling) — Really!
The carriage reaches Cornwallis Street. Doctor Sarkar picks up Doctor Pratap, who had visited Thakur the previous day.
Instructions to Doctor Sarkar – meditation of a jnani
Thakur is seated in the same second story room with some devotees. He is talking with Doctor Sarkar and Doctor Pratap.
Dr. Sarkar (to Sri Ramakrishna) — So you had kashi again? (Smiling) It is, however, good to visit Kashi. (All laugh.)
Pratap is the son-in-law of Dr. Bhaduri. When he sees Pratap, Thakur speaks highly of Bhaduri.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Pratap) — Ah, what a person he has turned into! He contemplates God, observes purity in conduct, and accepts both attitudes of formless God and God with form.
M. is very keen to discuss Dr. Bhaduri’s saying that Dr. Sarkar would be born again as a brickbat. He whispers to the Younger Naren just loud enough that Thakur can hear, “Do you remember what Bhaduri said about bricks and brickbats?”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling, to Dr. Sarkar) — Do you know what he said about you? Since you don’t believe in these things, you will have to start all over again by becoming a brickbat in the next cycle. (All laugh.)
Dr. Sarkar (smiling) — So I will start again as a stone or a brick and assume a human body after many, many births. Even after I have come to this place [referring to Sri Ramakrishna], I will still have to start all over again with bricks and pieces of brick! (The Doctor and others laugh.)
Thakur is so sick. Even so, he goes into divine moods. And he always talks of spiritual things – such is the trend of the conversation.
Pratap — I saw you yesterday in an ecstatic mood.
Sri Ramakrishna — It came by itself. It wasn’t much.
Dr. Sarkar — It is not good for you to talk with others now, and go into divine ecstasy.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Doctor) — I saw you yesterday in my ecstasy. I saw that you are a mine of knowledge, but it is absolutely dry knowledge. I didn’t find the taste of divine bliss in it. (To Pratap) If he (Dr. Sarkar) once tastes the joy of divine bliss, he will see everything, above and below, filled with it. Then he will not say that only what he says is right and what others say is wrong. Then his lips will cease uttering sharp and aggressive words.
Goal of life – his earlier story – instructions of the Naked One
The devotees are all silent. Thakur suddenly becomes absorbed in divine ecstasy and speaks.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Doctor Sarkar) — I say, Mahendra Babu, why do you harp on money? You talk so much of your wife and of name and fame. Give all these up and direct your mind to God with full concentration. Enjoy the bliss of God.
Doctor Sarkar does not utter a word. Everyone else is also silent.
Sri Ramakrishna — The Naked One used to tell how the jnani meditates. There is an expanse of water stretching everywhere – all regions above and below are full of water. The individual soul is like a fish swimming joyfully in this water. One actually sees this when one really meditates.
“There is a boundless expanse of ocean with no limit to its water. Now imagine a pot in the ocean. There is water both inside and outside the pot. The jnani sees that there is the same Paramatman both within and without. Then what is the pot? It is the I-consciousness. Because of the pot, water seems to be divided into two parts – as if one part of the water is inside the pot and the other outside. As long as one’s ‘pot of ego’ persists, one feels this way. But when the ego vanishes, what remains is that which is. It cannot be spoken in words.
“Do you know another way the jnani meditates? There is the boundless sky with a bird flying in it joyfully with extended wings. That is the sky of consciousness, and the Atman is the bird. The bird is not within a cage – it is flying in the sky of consciousness. Its joy is limitless.”
The devotees hear of the yoga of meditation in amazement. After a short time, Pratap resumes the conversation.
Pratap (to Dr. Sarkar) — If you reflect on it, you find it is all only a shadow.
Dr. Sarkar — For a shadow to be there, three objects are necessary: the sun, the object reflected, and the reflection. There can’t be a shadow without an object. You say that God is real and the creation unreal. The creation is real too.
Pratap — Well, just as one sees a shadow in a mirror, similarly one sees this world in the mirror of the mind.
The Doctor — Can there be a shadow without an object?
Naren — Why, God is the object! (The Doctor is silent.)
Universal consciousness and science – God alone is the Doer
“Shivanath says, ‘Too much contemplation of God deranges one’s brain.’ He says, ‘By meditating on the universal consciousness, one loses consciousness.’ God is the very Self of consciousness! That one should lose the power of consciousness by meditating on Him through whose consciousness one is conscious of the world!
“As for your science – by combining this substance with that, it becomes that; and by mixing such and such a substance with that produces this. One can definitely get robbed of one’s consciousness by thinking of those things – it is just the grinding of gross objects together.”
Dr. Sarkar — One can see God in those things.
Mani — One can see God all the more clearly in a man, and even more clearly in a spiritually elevated person. There is a greater manifestation of God in great souls.
Dr. Sarkar — Yes, no doubt in man.
Sri Ramakrishna — Can man get robbed of his consciousness by contemplating God? By God’s consciousness even inert things gain consciousness – it is behind the movement of hands, feet and body. One says the body is moving, but doesn’t know that it is God who is moving it. One says that the hand has been scalded by water. The water does not scald anything. It is the heat in the water, the fire in the water, that scalds the hand.
“Rice is boiling in a pot. Eggplant and potatoes are bobbing up and down in it. A little boy seeing them says, ‘The eggplant and potatoes are dancing.’ He doesn’t know that there is fire underneath. People say that the sense organs do their work of themselves. They don’t know that inside dwells God, whose very nature is consciousness.”
Doctor Sarkar rises to take his leave. Sri Ramakrishna stands up, too.
Dr. Sarkar — One calls upon God in adversity. One willingly says tuhu, tuhu (Thou, Thou – the sound of the carding bow). You speak as you do because you have this disease in your throat. As you yourself say, you have fallen into the hands of a carder. You had better speak to the carder about it. I am just quoting your own words.
Sri Ramakrishna — What can I say?
Dr. Sarkar — We dwell in God’s lap and defecate in His arms. Why not speak about our illness to Him?
Sri Ramakrishna — Quite right. Sometimes I try – but I cannot.
The Doctor — Why should it be necessary to say anything to Him? Doesn’t God know it?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — A Muslim was loudly calling out, ‘O Allah! O Allah!’ during his offering of Namaz. Someone said to him, ‘Why are you shouting so loudly when you are calling upon Allah? He can hear even the sound of little anklets on an ant’s feet!’
Signs of a yogi – yogi is introverted – saint Vilwamangal
Sri Ramakrishna — When the mind is united with God, one sees God very near. One sees God within one’s own heart.
“But then it is true that the more one is established in union with God, the greater one’s mind withdraws itself from external objects. The holy scripture Bhaktamala talks of a devotee (Vilwamangal) who used to visit a prostitute. One day he was going to visit her very late at night. The shraddha ceremony of his parents at home had delayed him. He was carrying the shraddha food for the prostitute. His mind was so focused on her that he was not aware where he was walking. A yogi was seated on the path, meditating on God with his eyes closed. Vilwamangal was about to step on the yogi. The yogi cried out in anger, ‘Can’t you see I am meditating on God and you are about to walk on my body?’ Vilwamangal said, ‘I beg your pardon, but I want to ask you something. I have lost all awareness thinking of a prostitute, whereas you are meditating on God and yet are fully aware of external things. What kind of meditation is that?’ Vilwamangal in time renounced his household and went away to worship God. He said to the prostitute, ‘You are my guru. You have taught me how one must love the Lord.’ He addressed the prostitute as his mother and gave her up.”
Dr. Sarkar — This is the Tantrik form of worship, when one considers the woman with whom one cohabits as one’s mother.
Worldly man has no right to instruct mankind
Sri Ramakrishna — Look here, listen to a story. There was a king who used to listen to the reading of the Bhagavata from a pundit every day. After the reading, the pundit would ask the king, ‘Sir, have you understood it?’ The king would reply, ‘You must understand it yourself first.’ And when he returned home the pundit would ask himself, ‘Why does the king say this every day? I explain everything to him so clearly, yet he repeats, ‘Understand it yourself first.’ What does it mean?’ The pundit used to practice spiritual disciplines. After some days he realized that God alone is real and that everything else – hearth and home, wealth, family, relatives, name and fame – are all unreal. When he realized that all things in the world are illusory, he renounced it. However, when leaving, he asked a man, ‘Please tell the king that I have now understood.’
“And listen to another story. Someone wanted to engage a scholar well versed in the Bhagavata to come daily and read Srimad Bhagavata to him. But he couldn’t find such a scholar. After a great search, a person came to him and said, ‘Sir, I have found an excellent pundit of the Bhagavata.’ The man said, ‘Very good! Please bring him.’ His friend said, ‘But there is a complication. The man has a number of ploughs and bullocks; he is busy with them all day long. He has to look after his farm – he has no leisure at all.’ The man who was seeking the scholar of the Bhagavata said, ‘Oh Brother, I don’t want a pundit of the holy word who has to look after ploughs and bullocks. I am looking for a man who has leisure and can tell me about the Lord.’ (To the Doctor) Do you understand?”
The Doctor remains silent.
Mere learning and the Doctor
Sri Ramakrishna — Do you want to know the truth? Mere learning and scholarship benefit one not at all. Pundits know so much and hear a lot of things – the Vedas, the Puranas and the Tantras. But of what avail is mere learning? Discrimination and non-attachment are necessary. One must listen to him alone who has attained discrimination and non-attachment. Of what use are the words of those who have made the world their main goal in life?
“What happens when you read the Gita? If you repeat the word Gita ten times, it becomes tagi. Only he who has renounced his attachment to ‘lust and greed’ and who can direct a hundred percent of his love to God can understand the essence of the Gita. One doesn’t have to read the whole of the Gita. Just say, ‘Tagi, tagi,’ and it is done.”
Dr. Sarkar — Tagi needs the extra letter ‘y’ to become tyagi [the correct Sanskrit word for a renouncer].
Mani — Goswami Navadvip said to Thakur that one can do without adding the letter ‘y’. When Thakur attended the festival at Panihati, Goswami Navadvip talked to him about this context of the Gita. The Goswami said, ‘By the root ‘tag’ it becomes ‘taga’. Add the ‘i’ suffix to tag and it becomes ‘tagi’. Both ‘tagi’ and ‘tyagi’ convey the same meaning.’
Dr. Sarkar — Someone told me what Radha means. He asked me whether I knew the meaning of the word Radha. He said, ‘It is what it becomes when you reverse the word; in other words, it means ‘dhara,’ ‘dhara’. (All laugh.) (Smiling) Let us stop here today at ‘dhara’.
Worldly knowledge and science
The Doctor has gone. M. comes and sits close to Sri Ramakrishna. They talk quietly together. M. had been to the Doctor’s house. He speaks of what they talked about there.
M. (to Sri Ramakrishna) — The Doctor was feeding his goldfish with the husk of green cardamom and sparrows with balls of refined wheat flour. He said, ‘See, they didn’t see the cardamom husk, so they left. First of all, one needs to have knowledge; love and devotion will follow. As soon as the flour balls were thrown at the birds, one or two flew away. They didn’t have the knowledge that the balls were food, therefore they gained no devotion.’
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — This kind of knowledge is called worldly knowledge – the knowledge of science.
M. — He then said, ‘I will not put faith in words just because a Chaitanya, or a Buddha, or a Jesus Christ said them.’
“A grandson has been born to him. He praised his daughter-in-law. He said, ‘I don’t notice her in the house at all, she is so quiet and bashful.’ ”
Sri Ramakrishna — He has been thinking of this place [meaning himself], so slowly he is gaining faith and respect. Is it possible to get rid of one’s ego altogether? He is so learned, enjoys such name and fame – and he has a lot of money! Yet he does not show disrespect for what he hears here.
Descent of divine power, or ever-blissful state
It is five o’clock. Sri Ramakrishna is sitting in the same upper story room. The devotees are sitting quietly around him. Many of them are outsiders. No words are spoken.
M. is seated close to Sri Ramakrishna. He talks with him quietly on one or two topics. Thakur wants to wear his long shirt – M. helps him to put it on.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — You see, now I don’t have to practice meditation or other spiritual disciplines as much. I become aware of the Indivisible Being all at once. Now I see Him alone.
M. is silent and so is everybody else in the room. After awhile Thakur says something else to him.
Sri Ramakrishna — Well, you are seeing all these people sitting quietly and looking at me. They don’t talk, nor do they sing. What do they see in me?
Is Thakur hinting that the Divine Power of the Lord has incarnated in him? Is that why so many people are attracted to him, why the devotees are gazing at him speechless with wonder?
In reply, M says, “Sir, all these people have already heard a lot about you. Now they are seeing what they have never seen before – an ever-blissful childlike nature, with no ego, and intoxicated with ecstatic love for God. The other day you went to Ishan Mukherji’s house and paced the outer room. I was there with you. Someone said about you, ‘I have never seen such a blissful person before.’ ”
M. stops talking. It is again completely quiet in the room. After some time Thakur speaks to M. in his sweet voice.
Sri Ramakrishna — Well, how is the Doctor doing? Is he now accepting more ideas from here?
M. — How can an imperishable seed be lost? It must sprout somewhere some time. I still laugh at what happened the other day.
Sri Ramakrishna — What was that?
M. — You said, ‘Jadu Mallick becomes so absent-minded that he can’t tell whether there is salt in his food or not. If anybody tells him there is no salt in such and such item, he exclaims, ‘Why, what? No salt?’ ’ You told the Doctor about it. He also used to say, ‘I become so absent-minded.’ You made him understand that his absent-mindedness comes from thinking of worldly things; it is not because of meditation on God.
Sri Ramakrishna — Will he not reflect on these words?
M. — How can he help but think about them? But he remains busy in numerous activities, so he forgets many things. Today, too, you replied to him nicely when he said, ‘In Tantric discipline one looks on the ramani as mother.’
Sri Ramakrishna — What did I say?
M. — You talked about the Bhagavata pundit who owned a number of ploughs and bullocks. (Sri Ramakrishna laughs.) And you told the story of the king who said to the pundit, ‘First understand it yourself.’ (Sri Ramakrishna laughs.)
“And you also talked about the Gita, that the main message of the Gita is renunciation of ‘lust and greed’ – giving up attachment to ‘lust and greed’. You said to the Doctor that being a householder (without renouncing them), one could teach nothing. It seems he didn’t understand. He changed the subject by saying, ‘Dhara dhara’ in the end and left.”
Thakur is worried about the welfare of the devotees. He is worried about Purna and Manindra, two of his young devotees. He has sent Manindra to talk to Purna.
Sri Ramakrishna talks about the basic truth of Radha and Krishna – everything is possible – the Absolute and the phenomenal
It is evening. A lamp is burning in Sri Ramakrishna’s room. Many devotees and visitors who have come to see Thakur are seated in the same room some distance away from him. Thakur is introspective and not talking to anyone. Those who are sitting in the room are also silent and meditating on God.
After awhile, Narendra arrives with a friend. Narendra introduces him, “He is a friend of mine. He has written several books. He wrote Kiranmayi.” The author of Kiranmayi salutes Sri Ramakrishna and takes a seat. He would like to talk with Thakur.
Narendra — He has written about Radha and Krishna.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the author) — What have you written, my dear? Tell me a little, let me hear.
The Author — Radha and Krishna are the supreme Brahman – they are a dot of Om. From this very Supreme Brahman, Radha and Krishna, has emerged Vishnu. From Vishnu have sprung Purusha and Prakriti – Shiva and Durga.
“The Seductress and the Love Radha. Advance further and there is the Eternal Radha. When you peel an onion, you find the outermost skin red. Then comes pink. Then white. There is nothing more to peel off. This is the real nature of the Eternal Radha – where reasoning ‘not this, not this’ ends.
“Radha and Krishna have two aspects: the Absolute and the Phenomenal – like the sun and its rays. The sun represents the Absolute and its rays signify the phenomenal world.
“A pure-hearted devotee sometimes dwells on the Absolute and at times on the phenomenal world. The Absolute and the phenomenal belong to the same Reality. It is all one – neither two nor many.”
The Author — Sir, why do they say ‘the Krishna of Vrindavan’ and ‘the Krishna of Mathura’?
Sri Ramakrishna — That is according to the goswamis. The scholars of upper India [west Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab] don’t think this way. To them, there is only Krishna, and no Radha. The Krishna of Dwaraka is not associated with Radha.
The Author — Sir, Radha and Krishna are themselves the Supreme Brahman.
“There is no end to God – no limit. Everything is possible for God. However high kites and vultures fly, they cannot touch the top of the sky. If you ask what Brahman is like, well, it is not possible to describe in words. Even if one has realized Brahman, one cannot explain. If someone were to ask what clarified butter is like, the only answer to is, ‘Clarified butter is like clarified butter.’ The only analogy of Brahman is Brahman; nothing else.”
 Prakriti bhava
 Milkmaid at Vraja
 Man of Knowledge
 Pun upon the word that means both coughing and Benares, another name of Kashi
 Manvantar, the period of millions of years of Manu
 Compare P.B. Shelley’s ‘To a Skylark’
 Dhyana yoga
 Bhava-avashtha, the highest spiritual state of absorption just before the mind merges in the Absolute Oneness
 A man of renunciation
 A word which has no particular meaning. The doctor was making fun of a play on words.
 Woman with whom one cohabits
 Sri Krishna of Vrindavan where he exhibited rasa lila is always associated with Radha and the gopis, whereas Sri Krishna of Mathura and Dwaraka, where he was the king, is not associated with Radha
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