Sri Ramakrishna at the Cossipore Garden House with His Intimate Companions
Sri Ramakrishna has taken up a body for the sake of his devotees
Sri Ramakrishna is staying at the Cossipore Garden House. It is evening. Thakur is not well. He is sitting in the second story hall facing north. Both Narendra and Rakhal are gently stroking his feet. Mani is seated close by. Thakur beckons him to also gently massage his feet. Mani does so.
It is Sunday, 14 March 1886, 2nd of Chaitra and the 9th day of the bright fortnight in the month of Falgun. On the previous Sunday, worship was performed in the garden in commemoration of Thakur’s birthday. Last year, his birthday was celebrated at the Dakshineswar Kali Temple with grandeur. This time he is ill and the devotees are drowned in a sea of grief. They performed worship, but with little celebration.
The devotees are always present at the garden house to serve Thakur. The Holy Mother is engaged around the clock attending him. Many of the young devotees stay with him: Narendra, Rakhal, Niranjan, Sarat, Sashi, Baburam, Jogin, Kali, Latu and others.
The older devotees stay here occasionally, but they come almost daily to have his darshan and to enquire about his health. Tarak and Gopal of Sinthi are here all the time, as well as the Younger Gopal.
Thakur is particularly unwell today. It is midnight on the 9th day of the bright fortnight. The whole garden appears lit up with joy by the moon’s light. Thakur is suffering intense pain, so the sight of the pure rays of the moon does not bring joy to the hearts of the devotees. They feel as though they were in a very beautiful town that is being besieged by enemy troops. Except for the rustling of leaves by the touch of a spring breeze, it is completely silent. Thakur lies on his bed in the hall upstairs. His suffering is great. He cannot sleep. One or two devotees sit silently, close to him to attend to his needs. He is feeling sleepy at times and seems to doze off.
M. is seated nearby. Thakur beckons him to come closer. Even stones would melt to see Thakur’s suffering. With great difficulty he whispers to M., “I am undergoing all this suffering because you people will weep otherwise. This mortal frame will go if you all say, ‘He is suffering so much; let his body go.’ ”
These words rend the hearts of the devotees. That he who is their father and mother, he who protects and provides for them, should say this! They are all silent. Some of them think to themselves, “This is crucifixion – sacrificing the body for the sake of the devotees.”
It is dead of night and Thakur’s disease is getting worse. What can be done? A messenger is sent to Calcutta. Girish brings Doctor Upendra and Navagopal Kaviraj that very night.
The devotees are seated close to Thakur. Feeling slightly better, he says, “The body certainly has to undergo suffering. But I clearly see that it is made up of the five elements.”
Looking at Girish, he says, “I am seeing so many forms of God. This (his own) is among them.”
The morning of the next day, Monday, 15 March 1886, 3rd day of Chaitra, time about seven or eight. Thakur’s health is a bit more stable. He talks to the devotees in whispers and signs. Narendra, Rakhal, M., Latu, Gopal of Sinthi and others are sitting with him.
The devotees have no words. They sit silently in deep grief, remembering the state of Thakur’s health the previous night.
Thakur has visions – the Lord, creatures and the universe
Sri Ramakrishna (gazing at M., to the devotees) — Do you know what I see? God has become everything – human beings and all the other creatures that I see. They appear to be made of leather, while He Himself, from inside, moves the hands, the feet and the heads. It is the same as I once saw before – houses, gardens, garden paths all made of wax. Also cows, everything – all made up of the same wax material.
“I see that God Himself is the executioner, the sacrificial victim and also the sacrificial block.”
What is Thakur saying? That, after being deeply aggrieved for humanity, he is sacrificing his body for them?
“The Lord Himself has become the executioner, the sacrificial victim and the sacrificial block.” While saying this, Thakur is overcome with divine emotion and exclaims, “Ah! Ah!”
Again he enters samadhi, losing all outer-consciousness. The devotees sit silent, not knowing what to do.
Returning to partial consciousness, Thakur says, “Now I am not suffering at all. I am my former self.”
Seeing this state beyond happiness and sorrow, the devotees are wonderstruck. Gazing at Latu, Thakur says –
“This Loto is sitting with his head resting on his hand. I see the Lord Himself sitting there with His head resting on His hand.”
Thakur looks at the devotees and his heart seems to melt with love and affection for them. He caresses Rakhal and Narendra as one does little children, by touching and stroking their faces with his hand.
Why there is an end to Sri Ramakrishna’s divine sport
After awhile Thakur says to M., “Had this body lasted a few days more, many people would have been illumined.” He is silent again.
He resumes, “God is not going to preserve it.”
The devotees wonder what Thakur is going to say next. Then he repeats, “God will not preserve this body lest – everyone knows me to be guileless and foolish person – I might give away spiritual wealth to all, simple person that I am. The fact is that in the age of Kali, people don’t practice meditation and repetition of God’s Name.”
Rakhal (lovingly) — Please speak to God, that He may preserve your body.
Sri Ramakrishna — That would only be if the Lord wills.
Narendra — Your will and the Lord’s will have become one.
Thakur is silent for awhile, as if reflecting on something.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra, Rakhal and the others) — But then, nothing will happen, even if I say so.
“I see that it has all become one. In fear of her sister-in-law, Radha said to Krishna, ‘Please dwell in my heart.’ But later on, when she yearned for a glimpse of Krishna, a yearning like that of a kitten which continues scratching its paws, He did not come out of her heart.”
Rakhal (to the devotees, in a sweet voice) — He is talking about the incarnation of God as Gauranga.
Secret talk – Sri Ramakrishna and his intimate companions
The devotees sit motionless and silent. Thakur looks at them lovingly and places his hand on his heart. What is he going to say?
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra and the others) — They are both inside this [meaning Sri Ramakrishna]: One, He Himself…
The devotees wait to hear what he is going to say next.
Sri Ramakrishna — One, He Himself – and the other, the devotee. The devotee broke his arm and it is he who is suffering from illness. Do you understand?
The devotees sit silently.
Sri Ramakrishna — Whom shall I tell? Who will understand what I say?
After awhile, Thakur speaks again.
“He incarnates as a human being, as God-incarnate, and is accompanied by devotees [intimate companions]. The devotees depart with him.”
Rakhal — ‘But please don’t leave us now!’
Thakur smiles sweetly and says, “A troupe of bauls came out of the blue – they danced, they sang, and then they suddenly left. They came and then left. No one recognized them.” (Thakur and the devotees smile momentarily.)
After remaining silent for few moments, Thakur speaks again –
“When one takes up a body, there is bound to be suffering.
“I say time and again, ‘May I not have to return [to the mortal world]!’
“Even so, the fact remains that one does not enjoy a meal of urada lentils and rice at home after having enjoyed a feast.
“Besides, this assuming of a human body is for the sake of the devotees.”
Is Sri Ramakrishna saying that he enjoys the offerings and the invitations of the devotees? That he enjoys himself in their company?
Narendra’s knowledge, and love and devotion for God – Narendra’s renunciation of the world
Thakur looks lovingly at Narendra.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra) — A pariah was carrying a load of meat. Shankaracharya passed that way after a dip in the Ganges. The pariah suddenly touched him. Shankara became upset and said, ‘You have touched me!’ The pariah replied, ‘Lord, neither have I touched you, nor you me. Please reflect: Are you the body, or the mind, or the intellect?’ Reason out what you are. The pure Atman remains unattached to everything. It is not stained by any of the three gunas, sattva, rajas, or tamas.
“Do you know what Brahman is like? He is like the air. There are smells, both good and bad, in the air. The air, however, is not affected by them.”
Narendra — Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — Brahman is beyond the three gunas and beyond maya – He is beyond the power of nescience and also beyond the power leading toward God. ‘Lust and greed’ are nescience. Knowledge, dispassion and love and devotion for God – all these are the splendours of power leading Godward. Shankaracharya kept the ‘maya of knowledge’. The feeling of concern that you and these people entertain for me is indeed the ‘maya of knowledge’.
“Following the path of the ‘maya of knowledge’ step by step, one attains the knowledge of Brahman. ‘The maya of knowledge’ is like the last few steps of the stairs. Only the roof remains beyond. Some people like to climb up and down the staircase even after reaching the roof. They retain the ‘ego of knowledge’ even after attaining the knowledge of Brahman – in order to instruct mankind, to taste the bliss of divine love, and to enjoy the company of devotees.”
Narendra and the other devotees are silent. Is Thakur describing his own state of mind?
Narendra — Some people get angry with me when I talk of renunciation.
Sri Ramakrishna (in a sweet voice) — But renunciation is necessary.
Pointing at parts of his body, Thakur says, “When an object is covered with another object, don’t you have to remove the top object to get the lower one? Can you reach one without removing the other?”
Narendra — Right, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna (sweetly, to Narendra) — When one sees that everything is filled with God, can one see anything else?
Narendra — Does one have to renounce the world?
Sri Ramakrishna — As I said, what else can one see after having the glimpse of everything filled with God? The world is not visible then.
“But one must renounce in the mind. No one who comes here is a worldly person. Some of them had a slight desire – to live with women. (Rakhal, M. and others smile a little). That desire is now fulfilled.”
Narendra and the heroic attitude
Thakur looks lovingly at Narendra and becomes completely filled with joy. Glancing at the devotees, he says, “Wonderful!” Narendra smiles and asks Thakur, “What is wonderful?”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — You are renouncing very nicely.
Narendra and the devotees look silently at Thakur. Rakhal then speaks.
Rakhal (smiling, to Thakur) — Narendra understands you pretty well.
Thakur laughs and says, “Yes, I have noticed that there are many others, too, who understand me.” (To M.) “Am I right?”
M. — Yes, sir.
Thakur gazes at Narendra and Mani. With his finger he draws the attention of the other devotees to them. At first, he points at Narendra and then at Mani. Rakhal has understood Thakur’s hint and speaks –
Rakhal (smiling, to Sri Ramakrishna) — You are saying that Narendra has the heroic attitude, while he [M.] that of the handmaid of God. (Thakur laughs.)
Narendra (smiling) — He [M.] doesn’t talk much and is timid. Is that why you say that?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling, to Narendra) — Well, what about my attitude?
Narendra — You have both attitudes, the heroic as well the attitude of handmaid of God.
Who is Sri Ramakrishna?
Thakur becomes filled with ecstasy when he hears this. Placing his hand on his chest, he mutters –
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra and the other devotees) — I see that whatever exists has emerged out of this.
He asks Narendra by a sign what he has understood.
Narendra — Every created object has come from within you.
Sri Ramakrishna (joyfully, to Rakhal) — Did you hear what he said?
Thakur asks Narendra to sing a song. Narendra hums a tune and then sings. He is in a mood of renunciation:
Transitory is human life, like drops of water dancing on lotus leaves,
The company of a holy man even for a moment serves as a boat to take one across the sea of this world.
When he has sung a couple of lines, Thakur says to Narendra by a sign, “What is this? What is this? It is a very ordinary idea.”
Now Narendra sings a song expressing the attitude of a gopi.
O, my friend, where has the divine lover of Vraja gone? Do you not see that the separation from Him will kill me?
Artless daughter of a milkman as I am, He has forgotten me and made love to others more beautiful than I!
Who knew, my dear friends, that a lover so tender, so divine, would go begging for external beauty.
Fool I was to have forgotten myself at the sight of His heavenly beauty and to have held His feet fast to my throbbing bosom!
O, now I must consign this body to a watery grave in the Jamuna! Or take poison and put an end to my miserable existence!
Or give me a creeper from the woods to fasten round my neck; let me thus die by hanging from a young Tamal tree, dark brown like Him;
Failing all this, let me repeat day and night the sweet name of the beloved: Shyam, Shyam, Shyam, Shyam, and stop not until this body ceases to breathe.
Hearing the song, Thakur and the devotees are deeply touched. Tears of divine love roll down Thakur’s and Rakhal’s cheeks. Narendra is intoxicated with the love of the gopis of Vraja. He sings another song, humming its tune like a devotional hymn –
O, my beloved! O beloved, mine!
What do I say to you, O what do I say?
(Foolish woman that I am and never a favourite of Fortune)
You are the mirror to be held by my hands, You are the flower for my head!
O, I shall make You a flower and wear You in my hair.
I shall hide You, hide You, O my beloved, under my braided hair.
Worn under the hair, no one shall see You.
O, You are cooling collyrium for the eyes.
You are the betel leaf chewed with nuts and sweet fragrant spices for the mouth.
I shall make You, O my beloved, my Shyam, collyrium for the eyes, and thus wear You.
They shall think I have painted my eyes with dark-brown pigment and shall not find You.
You are the cool fragrant sandal paste for the body, and the necklace for the neck.
I shall cool, O my Beloved, my body, mind and soul with You, my dark-brown sandal paste!
And I shall make You my necklace and wear You round my neck and on my bosom and next to my heart.
To the body, You are life! To the house, You are the one thing that one cannot do without.
To me, O my Beloved, You are verily what wings are to the bird – what water is to the fish.
 Supreme yoga experience
 Yasminsthito na duùkhena guruëäpi vicälyate (Gita 6:22)
 Earth, water, fire, air and ether
 Avidya maya
 Vidya maya; maya of knowledge
 The fearless attitude of burning faith
 A name of Sri Krishna
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