Sri Ramakrishna at Cossipore Garden House with Narendra and other Devotees
The Buddha and Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna is living with devotees at the Cossipore Garden House. Today is Friday, five o’clock, 9 April 1886, the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra.
Narendra, Kali, Niranjan and M. are sitting on the floor talking.
Niranjan (to M.) — I hear that Vidyasagar is going to start a new school. Why don’t you try to arrange some employment there for Narendra?
Narendra — I have had enough of service under Vidyasagar.
Narendra has just returned from Bodh-Gaya, where he saw an image of Buddha. He had become merged in deep meditation before it. A new tree has grown up in the same spot as the bodhi-tree under which the Buddha had practiced austerities and attained nirvana. He saw it while he was there. Kali says, “One day Narendra sang a song at Umesh Babu’s house in Gaya, to the accompaniment of a drum. He sang a kheyal, a dhrupada and so forth.”
Sri Ramakrishna is sitting on a bed in the hall. A good part of the night has elapsed. Mani is sitting with him alone, fanning him. Latu comes in and sits down.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mani) — Please bring a chadar and a pair of slippers.
Mani — Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Latu) — The chadar is worth ten annas, and then there is the pair of slippers. How much will both of them cost?
Latu — One rupee ten annas.
Thakur asks Mani by a sign to note the price.
Narendra comes in and sits down. Sashi, Rakhal and one or two other devotees also come in and take their seats. Thakur asks Narendra to gently massage his feet.
Sri Ramakrishna asks Narendra by a sign, whether he has had anything to eat.
Was the Buddha an atheist? ‘The state beyond theism and atheism’
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling, to M.) — He went there (to Bodh-Gaya).
M. (to Narendra) — What did the Buddha believe in?
Narendra — He could not express in words what he attained from spiritual practices. So everybody says he was an atheist.
Sri Ramakrishna (by signs) — Why an atheist? No, he was not an atheist. It is only that he could not express his experience in words. Do you know what a Buddha is? To become one with bodha (enlightenment) by continually meditating on it – to become transformed into Pure Intelligence Itself.
Narendra — Yes, sir. There are three classes of buddhas: the Buddha, the Arahat and the Boddhisattva.
Sri Ramakrishna — This is indeed God’s play – a new and special divine sport.
“Why should he be an atheist? It is a state between ‘is’ and ‘is not’ in which one realizes one’s own Real Self.”
Narendra (to M.) — It is the state in which contradictions meet. Hydrogen and oxygen produce refreshing water; the same hydrogen and oxygen are used in the Oxy-hydrogen blowpipe.
“It is the state in which both the performance of work and the renunciation of work is possible – in other words, it is performing nishkama karma, or work without the desire for its fruits.
“Worldly people who are involved with sense objects believe in the ‘existence’ of the universe, while the Mayavadins, illusionists, believe that nothing exists. Buddha’s state was beyond ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’.”
Sri Ramakrishna — ’Existence’ and ‘non-existence’ are the attributes of prakriti (nature). Reality is beyond both ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’.
The devotees remain silent for awhile. Thakur speaks again.
Narendra and the kindness and dispassion of the Buddha
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra) — What did Buddha say?
Narendra — He did not comment on whether God ‘exists’ or not. He only preached compassion.
“A hawk took hold of a bird and was about to eat it. The Buddha cut a piece of flesh from his own body and gave it to the hawk to save the prey’s life.”
Sri Ramakrishna is again silent. Narendra talks more about the Buddha with great enthusiasm.
Narendra — Oh, what dispassion! Though Buddha was a prince, he renounced everything. What can those who possess nothing, who have no riches, renounce?
“After attaining nirvana, Buddha once visited his home and persuaded his wife and son and other members of the royal family to adopt a life of dispassion. What renunciation he had! Compare this with the conduct of Vyasadeva, who dissuaded Shukadeva from giving up the world. He said to him, ‘Son, practice religion as a householder.’ ”
Thakur is silent. He still does not comment.
Narendra —Buddha did not believe either in divine power, or in love and devotion for God. He sought only nirvana. What dispassion! When he sat under the bodhi-tree to meditate, he said, ‘ihaéva çuñyute meà çaréram.’ In other words, if I do not attain nirvana, then let my body dry up here. Such firm resolve!
“Indeed, it is the body that is mischievous! Is it possible to do anything without bringing it under control?”
Sashi — But you say that eating meat develops sattva. You insist that meat-eating is good.
Narendra — I eat meat just as I relish eating rice. I can eat rice alone, even without salt.
After awhile, Sri Ramakrishna talks. By signs, he enquires about the Buddha.
Sri Ramakrishna — Did Buddha have a tuft of hair on his head?
Narendra — No, sir. He has hair that looks like strings of rudraksha beads coiled a number of times on top of his head.
Sri Ramakrishna — And his eyes?
Narendra — His eyes are lost in samadhi.
Direct vision of Sri Ramakrishna: ‘I am indeed He’
Thakur is silent. Narendra and the other devotees have fixed their eyes on him. Suddenly he smiles a little and begins to talk again to Narendra. Mani is fanning him.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra) — Well, don’t you have everything here – lentil pulse, gram pulse and even tamarind?
Narendra — After experiencing all those states, you are staying on a lower plane now.
Mani (to himself) — He is in the state of a devotee now – after living all the states.
Sri Ramakrishna — It is as if someone keeps pulling me down to a lower plane.
Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna takes the fan from Mani’s hand and resumes the conversation.
Sri Ramakrishna — The way I see this fan directly in front of me, in exactly the same way, I have the sight of God. And I have also seen…
Saying this, Thakur brings his hand over his heart and says to Narendra by a sign, “Tell me what I said.”
Narendra — I have understood it.
Sri Ramakrishna — Let me see what you heard
Narendra — I didn’t hear you clearly.
Sri Ramakrishna repeats with a sign, “I have seen that He (the Lord) and the Being who resides within the heart are one and the same person.”
Narendra — Yes, yes. Soham (I am He).
Sri Ramakrishna — But there is a thin line dividing the two – (the ego of the devotee) so that I may enjoy the divine play.
Narendra (to M.) — When a great soul attains salvation, he continues to live in the world for the welfare of mankind. He retains his ego, and his body is subjected to pleasure and pain.
“For instance, consider the work of a porter. People like us do the work of a porter under compulsion, but great souls work willingly as porters.”
Sri Ramakrishna and grace of the Guru
Everyone is silent again. Sri Ramakrishna, the ocean of motiveless grace, speaks again. He is explaining to Narendra and the others more about himself.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra and the other devotees) — One can see the roof, but it is very difficult to climb onto it.
Narendra — Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — But if someone has already reached the roof, he can pull another person up with a rope.
Five kinds of samadhi of Sri Ramakrishna
“A sadhu from Rishikesh visited here. He said to me, ‘How wonderful! I have seen five kinds of samadhi in you.’
“At times, it is like a monkey: The spiritual current jumps like a monkey in the tree of the body, from one branch to another, leading to samadhi.
“At other times it is like a fish: Just as a fish swims swiftly in water, the spiritual current moves up inside the body and brings about samadhi.
“And sometimes it is like a bird: Like a bird it is sometimes on this branch of the tree of the body and sometimes it hops to another branch.
“At times it is like an ant: The spiritual current creeps up slowly within like an ant. When it reaches the Sahasrara (the thousand-petalled lotus in the top of the head), one attains samadhi.
“And sometimes it is like a snake: In other words, the spiritual current moves in a wriggling motion like a snake and brings about samadhi when it reaches the Sahasrara.”
Rakhal (to the devotees) — Let us stop. There has been too much conversation. It will aggravate his illness.
 A long piece of cloth worn over the upper part of the body, often draped as a shawl
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