Sri Ramakrishna with Devotees at Dakshineswar Temple on the Vijaya Festival Day
Meditation on the image made of Spirit, and on one’s mother
Sri Ramakrishna is staying at the Dakshineswar Temple. It is about 9:00 o’clock. He is resting on the smaller cot and Mani is sitting on the floor talking to him.
It is Sunday, 22 October 1882, the 10th day of the bright fortnight of Aswin – Vijaya day. Rakhal is staying with Thakur these days; Narendra and Bhavanath visit him from time to time. Ramlal, Thakur’s nephew, and Hazra are also staying with him. Ram, Manomohan, Suresh, M. and Balaram visit him almost every week. Baburam has visited him only once or twice.
Sri Ramakrishna — Do you have [Durga] puja holidays?
Mani — Yes sir. I went to Keshab Sen’s house all three days – the seventh, the eighth and the puja day of the ninth.
Sri Ramakrishna — You did indeed!
Mani — I heard a beautiful explanation of Durga Puja from him.
Sri Ramakrishna — What did you hear? Tell me.
Mani — Service was being performed daily at Keshab’s house – till ten or eleven. During a service, he gave this explanation of Durga Puja. He said, ‘If you attain the Mother, if you can install Mother Durga in the temple of your heart, Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartika and Ganesha follow. Lakshmi is wealth; Saraswati is knowledge; Kartika is courage; and Ganesha represents success. All these gods and goddesses arrive of their own accord if the Mother comes.’
Narendra and other intimate disciples of Sri Ramakrishna
Sri Ramakrishna heard a description of Keshab Sen’s entire service from Mani; intermittently he asked a few questions. Then he said, “Don’t go here and there. Come only here.”
“They who are intimately connected with me must only come here. Narendra, Bhavanath and Rakhal are my intimate disciples. They are not ordinary people. Serve them a meal one day. What do you think of Narendra?”
Mani — Very highly, Sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — Just see what qualities Narendra has! He sings well, he can play musical instruments, and he is well-educated. He has also conquered his senses. He says he won’t marry. His mind has been turned towards God since childhood.
Sri Ramakrishna talks with Mani about other things.
God with form or without form – meditation on image made of spirit, and on one’s mother
Sri Ramakrishna — How are you faring in your meditation these days? Do you like God with form or God without form?
Mani — Sir, at present my mind is not drawn to God with form. But, then, I can’t concentrate on the formless God either!
Sri Ramakrishna — So, you see? The mind doesn’t become concentrated on the formless God in the beginning. At this stage, meditation on God with form is good.
Mani — Is it right to meditate on clay images?
Sri Ramakrishna — Why clay? They are images made of spirit.
Mani — But sir, one still has to think of the hands and feet and so on. On the other hand I say to myself that in the beginning, the mind won’t concentrate except on a form – you said so – but He can assume various forms. May one meditate on the form of one’s own mother?
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, she is the guru. She is the embodiment of the All-Blissful Mother.
Mani is silent, but after awhile he asks Thakur –
Mani — What do you see when you meditate on the formless God? Can it be described?
Sri Ramakrishna (after a short reflection) — You know what it’s like?
Saying this, Thakur is silent. Then he gives a special description of what one experiences when having a vision of God with form as well as the formless God. He pauses again.
Sri Ramakrishna — The fact is that you need to practice spiritual disciplines to understand. If you want to take jewels from a locked room, you have to make some effort to find the key to open the lock. Then you can remove the jewels from it. If you just stand before a locked room thinking, ‘I have now opened the door, now broken the strong-box and now taken the jewels out’ – such reflection is of no avail. One must practice spiritual disciplines.
God is infinite and so is Thakur – all are paths – visit to Vrindavan
The jnani believes in infinite incarnations of God – aspirant who doesn’t desire to move around – why pilgrimages?
Sri Ramakrishna — Jnanis meditate on the formless God. They don’t believe in the incarnation of God. Arjuna sang a hymn of praise to Sri Krishna, ‘You are Brahman Absolute.’ Krishna said to him, ‘Would you like to see whether or not I am the Absolute Brahman? Come with me.’ Saying this, he took Arjuna to a particular place and said, ‘What do you see?’ Arjuna said, ‘I see a big tree with clusters of fruit similar to black berries.’ Krishna said, ‘Come closer and you will see that these are not clusters of black fruit. Innumerable clusters of Krishnas, like me, are hanging there. That is to say, the same tree of the Absolute Brahman yields numberless incarnations of God.’
“Kavirdas was inclined to believe in the formless God. Referring to Krishna, he would remark, ‘How can I meditate on him? The milkmaids used to clap while he danced like a monkey.’ (Smiling) I am a believer in God with form when I am with those who believe in God with form. And I am a believer in the formless God when I am with those who hold this belief.”
Mani (smiling) — You, too, are infinite, like Him of whom we are talking. It is impossible to limit you.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — You have understood! Do you know what one should do? One should practice the disciplines of all religions. One should tread each of their paths. Does a piece in Indian chess reach home unless it moves to all the squares? When it reaches home, no other piece can overtake it.
Mani — That is true.
Sri Ramakrishna — There are two classes of yogis: the vahudakas and the kutichakas. The sadhu who visits many places of pilgrimage and hasn’t yet attained peace of mind is a vahudaka. But the yogi who has stilled his mind after visiting several places, who has found peace of mind, fixes an asana for himself and doesn’t move from it. He feels joy only when he sits at that same place. He doesn’t feel the need to go on pilgrimage. If he goes to holy places at all, it is to get inspiration.
“I had to practice disciplines of all the religions: Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. I also followed the paths of the Shaktas, Vaishnavas, Vedantists and other sects. I saw that it was the same Lord toward whom everybody was moving. Only their paths were different.
“I have gone on pilgrimages, but one time I suffered a great deal. I went with Mathur’s family to Kashi and was sitting in Raja Babu’s drawing room. They were all talking about worldly affairs – about money, land, and what not. Hearing them, I began to weep. I said, ‘Divine Mother, where have you brought me? I was much better off at Dakshineswar.’ In Prayag I saw that the pond, the durva grass, plants, and the tamarind leaves were all the same as here! The only difference was that the excreta of the people of the west [Uttar Pradesh, west of Bengal] appeared like husk. (Thakur and Mani laugh.)
“Undoubtedly one gets inspiration in a place of pilgrimage. I went to Vrindavan with Mathur Babu. In the party were ladies of Mathur Babu’s family and also Hriday. Just seeing the Kaliyadaman ghat, I felt inspired and was overwhelmed with divine emotion. Hriday used to bathe me at this ghat of the Jamuna as one bathes a child.
“In the evening I would go for a stroll on the bank of the Jamuna. Cows would be returning from pasture, coming across the sandbank of the Jamuna. Just seeing them, I was inspired with Krishna. I began to run around like an intoxicated person, crying, ‘Where are you Krishna, where …’
“I went to Shyamkunda and Radhakunda in a palanquin. I got down from it to see Mount Govardhan. No sooner did I see it than I was overwhelmed with divine emotion. I ran to the top of it and lost external consciousness. Then the residents of Vraja carried me down. I was overwhelmed with divine emotion to see the plains, the plants, trees and deer on the way to Shyamkunda and Radhakunda. My clothes became wet with tears. I said to myself, ‘Oh Krishna! Everything is here – but I am not able to find you!’ I sat in the palanquin without the strength to utter a word. I sat quietly. Hriday, following the palanquin, told the palanquin bearers to be very careful.
“Gangama was leading a highly spiritual life. She was very old and lived alone in a hut near Nidhuvan. Seeing my spiritual state and ecstasy, she said, ‘He is the very embodiment of Radha.’ She called me ‘dulali’. Being with her, I forgot everything – to eat, or to return home. Hriday sometimes brought food from home to feed me. Gangama also prepared some food for me.
“Gangama used to go into ecstasy. People would gather to watch her in her ecstatic state. Once she climbed up on Hriday’s shoulders in a state of ecstasy.
“I didn’t feel like leaving Gangama and returning to Calcutta. Arrangements were made for me to stay with her. I was to eat double-boiled rice. Gangama would have her bedding on one side of the room and I on the other. All this was arranged. Hriday then said, ‘You are suffering badly from indigestion. Who will look after you?’ Gangama said, ‘Why, I will look after him! I will nurse him.’ Hriday pulled me toward him by one hand and Gangama dragged me toward her by the other. Just then I was reminded of my mother. She was staying all alone in the Nahabat at the Kali Temple in Dakshineswar. Thus I could not stay. I said, ‘No, I shall have to return.’
“There is such a nice spiritual atmosphere in Vrindavan. When new pilgrims arrive, the boys of Vraja say, ‘Repeat the name of the Lord and open your purse!’ ”
About eleven o’clock Sri Ramakrishna takes the prasad of Mother Kali. After relaxing for awhile at midday, he spends the afternoon in conversation with the devotees. Now and then he utters, “Om,” or “Ha, Chaitanya!”
Evening arati has been performed in the shrine. It is Vijaya Day – Sri Ramakrishna comes to the Kali Temple. After he has paid his obeisance to the Mother, the devotees take the dust of his feet. Ramlal has performed the arati of Mother Kali. Sri Ramakrishna calls out to him, “Hey, Ramlal. Where is it?”
An offering of Indian hemp has been made to Mother Kali. Sri Ramakrishna calls Ramlal because he wishes to touch the consecrated hemp with his hand. He asks him to distribute a little to every devotee.
At the Dakshineswar Kali Temple with Balaram and other devotees – instructions to Balaram
Physical signs – speaking the truth – harmony of religions – ‘lust and greed’ constitute maya
It is Tuesday afternoon, 24 October, the time about 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock. Thakur is standing close to the food-shelf. Balaram and M. have arrived from Calcutta in a carriage and have made obeisance to him. When they sit down after saluting him, Thakur says with a smile, “I came to take some food from the shelf. No sooner did I touch the food with my hand than a lizard fell on my body! I immediately pulled my hand back.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna — Oh, yes! You must believe in all these things. Just see, Rakhal is suffering, and I, too, feel pain in my limbs. Do you know what’s the matter? When I was leaving my bed, I saw a certain person’s face and thought that Rakhal was coming! (All laugh.) Oh, yes! You must notice all these physical signs. Narendra brought a friend who was blind in one eye – not totally blind. However, I said to myself, ‘Just by chance Narendra has brought such trouble with him!’
“There is a certain person who visits here, but I can’t eat any of the food he brings. He works in an office on a salary of twenty rupees a month – and earns an extra twenty rupees by submitting fraudulent bills. He tells lies. I don’t talk to him very long. Sometimes he doesn’t go to his office for three or four days and stays here. Do you know why? He wants to get another job through my recommendation.”
Balaram belongs to a family of devout Vaishnavas. His father, an old man, is a pious devotee. He has a tuft of hair on his head and wears a string of tulsi beads around his neck; he constantly repeats the name of the Lord on his rosary. The family has a big estate in Orissa. Besides, they have built shrines to Radha-Krishna in Kothar, Vrindavan and many other places, where worship and service of the deities is performed. They have built [free] guesthouses there as well. Balaram is a recent visitor to Sri Ramakrishna, who imparts instructions to him during the course of conversation.
Sri Ramakrishna — A certain person visited me the other day. I hear that he may be a slave to his hag of a wife. Why doesn’t one see God? The reason is that ‘lust and greed’ form a veil. How could he say in your presence, ‘A paramahamsa visited my father and my father cooked a chicken for him!’ (Balaram laughs.) I am in such a spiritual state that I can only eat a little fish gravy if it is first offered to the Divine Mother. But I can’t eat meat offered to the Mother. I only taste it with the tip of my finger, lest the Mother should be cross with me. (All laugh.)
His earlier story – on the way to Burdwan – journeys through his native countryside – he hears Nakur Acharya’s songs
“Well, can you explain the state of my mind? I was going to my village [Kamarpukur] by bullock cart from Burdwan. Suddenly a storm arose and it began to rain heavily. A group of people came and gathered around the cart. My companions told me they were dacoits. So I began to repeat the Lord’s name. Sometimes I repeated Rama’s name, sometimes Kali’s, and then Hanuman’s. I repeated all these names. What do you think of this?”
Is Sri Ramakrishna hinting that there is but one God with numberless names; that followers of different religions and sects quarrel with each other in vain?
Sri Ramakrishna (to Balaram) — Maya is only ‘lust and greed’. By living in the midst of them for a few days, one loses spiritual awareness but feels that all is well. A scavenger carries a pot of excreta and in course of time, doesn’t feel any repulsion for it. One gradually acquires love and devotion for God by practicing the chanting of the Lord’s name and glories.
(To M.) — One should not be ashamed of repeating the Lord’s name. One does not succeed as long as one has these three: shame, hatred and fear.
“They sing very nice kirtans in that part of the country. They sing them to the accompaniment of a drum. The song of Nakur Acharya is wonderful indeed. (To Balaram) Don’t you have a temple in Vrindavan where worship and service to the deity is performed?”
Balaram — Yes, sir. We have a grove where Krishna is worshipped.
Sri Ramakrishna — I have been to Vrindavan. Nidhu grove is a very nice place.
 Sri Ramakrishna means that the mother should be adored and highly respected
 Kutichaka: an aspirant who settles down peacefully at one place on an asana
 Meditation seat
 Kashi and Allahabad are both in Uttar Pradesh, which is west of Bengal (Dakshineswar). Thakur is saying that there is no difference in locality, there is only difference in regard to worldly people (such as he saw in Raja Babu’s drawing room) and those interested in God; i.e. what one takes in, one gives out: if one is only concerned with coarse, worldly things, one expresses what is coarse.
 A dear little girl
 Sacramental food
 Singing devotional songs together with the waving of lights before the sacred images
 The dropping of a lizard is believed to be a bad omen
 Orthodox Hindus believe that the first face in the morning indicates whether the day will be good or bad
 Orthodox Hindus are forbidden to eat chicken, or meat
 Shyam Sunder