Sri Ramakrishna at the Dakshineswar Temple with Rakhal, Prankrishna, Kedar, and Other Devotees
At Dakshineswar with Prankrishna, M., and others
Sri Ramakrishna is seated with the devotees in his room at the Kali Temple. He remains intoxicated day and night with ecstatic love for God – with an intense love for the Divine Mother.
A mat is spread on the floor. Sri Ramakrishna comes and takes his seat on it. In front of him are Prankrishna and M. Rakhal is also in the room. Hazra is sitting outside on the southeastern verandah.
It is winter, the month of Pausha. Thakur has wrapped himself in a moleskin shawl. It is Monday at eight o’clock on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Agrahayana, 1 January 1883.
A number of devotees belonging to Thakur’s inner circle have now come in contact with him. For more than a year Narendra, Rakhal, Bhavanath, Balaram, M., Baburam, Latu, and others have been visiting him regularly. Ram, Manomohan, Surendra, and Kedar had come a year earlier.
Almost five months ago Thakur had visited Vidyasagar’s Badurbagan house. Two months ago he went with Keshab Sen on a pleasure trip by steamer to Calcutta. They were accompanied by Vijay and some Brahmo devotees.
Prankrishna Mukherji lives in Calcutta’s Shyam-pukur locality. His ancestral home is in the village of Janai. He is a high government exchange officer who supervises auctions. Since he had no child from his first wife, he married a second time, with the former’s consent. The second wife has given birth to a son. Prankrishna has great love and devotion for Sri Ramakrishna. Because he is rather stout, Thakur sometimes calls him “the fat brahmin.” He is very good-natured. Some nine months ago, Thakur accepted his invitation to visit his home with the devotees. Prankrishna had prepared various dishes and sweets to offer him.
Thakur is sitting on the floor. Close to him is a basket of jilipis brought by a devotee. Thakur breaks off a piece and eats it.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Prankrishna, smiling): “You see, I repeat the name of the Divine Mother, so I get all these things to eat. (Laughter.)
“But She doesn’t give gourd and pumpkin. She gives the fruit of amrita, immortality – divine knowledge, intense love for God, discrimination, and dispassion.”
A young boy six or seven years old enters the room. Sri Ramakrishna is childlike. Just as a child conceals sweets from another child lest he should eat them, Thakur behaves in the same childlike manner. He covers the small basket of jilipis with his hand to conceal it and then pushes it aside.
Though Prankrishna is a householder, he discusses Vedanta. He says, “Brahman is real and the world illusory. I am indeed He – So ’ham.” Thakur says to him, “Life depends on food in the Kaliyuga. The path of devotion enjoined by Narada is best suited to this age.
“God is a matter of the heart. How can He be held devoid of any feelings of the heart?”
As he is covering the sweets with his hand to conceal them, like a child, Thakur merges into samadhi.
In the domain of ecstasy and vision of divine forms
Thakur is in samadhi for a long time; he remains absorbed in ecstasy. His body does not move, his eyes are fixed. One is not sure if he is breathing.
He exhales a long breath, as if returning to the domain of the senses.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Prankrishna): “God is not just formless. He has form too. You can behold His form. You can have the vision of His wondrous divine form through feeling, through love, through devotion for Him. The Divine Mother reveals Herself in various forms.”
Vision of Gauranga – Divine Mother in the form of Rati’s mother
“I saw the Divine Mother yesterday. She wore an ochre garment with an unstitched hem. She talked with me for some time.
“On another day She came to me in the form of a Muslim girl. She had the sectarian holy mark on her forehead, and She was naked – a girl six or seven years old. She walked with me and joked and chatted like a child.
“When I was at Hriday’s house, I had the vision of Gauranga. He wore a black-bordered cloth.
“Haladhari used to say, ‘God is beyond being and non-being.’ I went to the Mother and said, ‘Mother, Haladhari says this. So are Your forms illusory?’ The Mother came to me in the form of Rati’s mother and said, ‘You must remain in an ecstatic state.’ I told Haladhari what She said.
“Time and again when I forget Her command, I suffer. I broke my tooth when I was not in that state. So I will remain in an ecstatic mood until I hear a divine command directly or have a different experience. I’ll follow the path of love for God. What do you say?”
Prankrishna: “Yes, sir.”
Why does an incarnation of God entertain devotion? – it is Rama’s will
Sri Ramakrishna: “But why should I ask you about it? There is someone within me who does all this through me. Sometimes I used to go into a divine mood when I could not be at peace without offering worship.
“I am the machine and He is the operator. I do as He makes me do. I speak as He makes me speak.
“Ramprasad, the poet, says:
I sail my boat in the ocean of the world.
I rise with the tide and subside with the ebb.
“During a storm a dry leaf is sometimes blown onto a clean surface and sometimes into a gutter. The wind carries it where it wills.
“The weaver said, ‘It was by Rama’s will that a robbery took place. It was by Rama’s will that the police arrested me. And it was by Rama’s will that I was set free.’
“Hanuman said, ‘O Rama, You are my only refuge, I surrender to You. Bless me that I may have pure love for Your lotus feet and grant that I may never be enchanted by Your world-bewitching maya.’
“A bullfrog, at the point of death, said to Rama, ‘Rama, when I’m seized by a snake, I shout for Your help, “Rama, protect me!” But since I’m dying now by Rama’s own arrow, I can only stay silent.’
“Before, I used to see God with these physical eyes, the way I see you. Now I behold visions in ecstasy.
“After realizing God, one develops the nature of a child. One acquires the nature of Him on Whom one meditates. God’s nature is like that of a child. Just as a child builds a house, breaks it down, and then rebuilds it in play, in the same way God creates, preserves, and dissolves. Just as a child is not subject to any guna, He too is beyond the three gunas of sattva, rajas, and tamas.
“That’s why a paramahamsa keeps five or ten children with him – to absorb their nature.”
A young man between twenty and twenty-two years old has come from Agarpara. Whenever he comes, he takes Thakur, by a sign, to a solitary corner and whispers his thoughts to him. He has only recently begun visiting Thakur. Today he is sitting on the floor near Sri Ramakrishna.
Feminine attitude and conquest of lust – guilelessness and God-realization
Sri Ramakrishna (to the young man): “You can change your nature by imitating something. If you cultivate a feminine nature, you gradually slay enemies like lust. Then you begin to act just like a woman. Men who play the role of women in a religious theatrical performance, begin to brush their teeth like women and talk like women when they bathe.
“Please come again, either on Saturday or Tuesday.
(To Prankrishna) “Brahman and His Power are one and the same. If you don’t believe in His Power, the world becomes illusory for you. I, you, hearth and home, and the family – all of them become illusory. It is because of the Primordial Energy that the world stands firm. A framework can’t be made without bamboo poles. You can’t even make a beautiful image of Durga.
“A person can’t attain spiritual awakening and realize God without getting rid of worldliness. Worldly desire leads to hypocrisy. God cannot be realized unless one is guileless at heart.
Let go of cleverness and hypocrisy, and be sincerely devoted to God.
Embracing service, worship, and self-surrender, you will easily attain Ragurai.
“People who are engaged in worldly activities – in office work or some business – should also follow the path of truth. Truthfulness is the spiritual austerity in the Kaliyuga.”
Prankrishna: “‘On this spiritual path, one should speak the truth, control the senses, serve others unceasingly, remain steadfast, and be a refuge to others.’ This is what the Mahanirvana Tantra says.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, one must internalize all these qualities.”
Sri Ramakrishna’s attitude in ecstasy akin to Yashoda’s
Sri Ramakrishna goes to the smaller cot and sits down. Filled with God-consciousness, he looks at Rakhal. In an ecstatic mood he becomes overwhelmed with maternal affection as he gazes at him. The hair on his body stands on end. Is he seeing Rakhal as Yashoda used to see baby Krishna?
Thakur merges again into samadhi. The devotees sit speechless with wonder as they watch his marvelous state of God-consciousness.
Coming down a little to normal consciousness, Sri Ramakrishna says, “Why am I inspired at the sight of Rakhal? The more one advances towards God, the less one sees of His glories and splendour. A spiritual aspirant first beholds the vision of a deity with ten arms. There is a greater representation of splendour in this image. Then there is a vision of a two-armed deity – no longer holding weapons and missiles. Still later is the vision of Gopala. There is no show of power, only the form of a little child. Beyond that there is only divine light.”
The state of brahmajnana after attaining samadhi –reasoning and attachment given up
“After realizing God and communing with Him in samadhi, all reasoning and discrimination disappear.
“How long does one reason? As long as there is the consciousness of plurality. You reason as long as you are aware of the world and its embodied beings, ‘I’ and ‘you.’ Attaining true knowledge, you become silent. Trailanga Swami is like that.
“Haven’t you seen a feast when brahmins are invited? The feast starts with a great uproar. As their stomachs are filled, the noise lessens. When curds with sugar drops are served, there is just the sound of ‘sup sup’ – no other sound is heard then. And when the feast is over, they go to sleep – that is samadhi. Then there is no sound at all.
(To M. and Prankrishna): “Most people talk about the knowledge of Brahman, but their minds are preoccupied with lower worldly things – home and hearth, money, name and fame, and sense pleasures. As long as you stand at the foot of the monument you see carriages, horses, English men and women, and so on. But when you climb to the top of the monument, you see the vast expanse of sky and ocean. Then you don’t enjoy the sight of buildings, carriages, horses, and people – they all appear to be so many ants.
“On attaining the knowledge of Brahman, attachment to the world and enthusiasm for ‘lust and greed’ vanishes. You attain perfect peace. A piece of burning wood produces a crackling sound and gives out heat. When it is consumed and has turned to ash, all sound ceases. As soon as you get rid of attachment, the restlessness for ‘lust and greed’ vanishes. Finally you attain tranquility.
“The nearer you come to God, the more tranquility you feel. Peace, peace, profound peace. The nearer you approach the holy Ganges, the cooler you feel. A dip in it is even more soothing.
“The world, living beings, and the twenty-four cosmic principles – these exist because God exists. Give up God and nothing remains. Adding zeroes to the digit one increases the number. But if you remove the one, the zeroes have no value.”
Is Sri Ramakrishna hinting at his own state in his next words to be gracious to Prankrishna?
Sri Ramakrishna’s state – the ‘I of a devotee’ after attaining the knowledge of Brahman
“After attaining the knowledge of Brahman – merging in samadhi – some people come down to a lower plane and live with the ‘I of knowledge,’ or the ‘I of devotion.’ When the market shuts down, some people stay there of their own sweet will – for example, some like Narada, who retained the ‘I of knowledge’ to teach people.
“Even if only a little attachment to the world remains, one cannot realize Him. Just a little fibre sticking out from a thread keeps it from passing through the eye of a needle.
“One who has attained God retains only the appearance of passions like lust and anger – they’re like a burnt string. There is the shape of a string, but it is blown away by a mere puff.
“God is seen when the mind is completely rid of attachment. Whatever rises in a pure mind is the voice of God. Pure mind is the same as pure intellect, and it is also the same as pure Atman. Except for God, there is nothing pure.
“Only by realizing God does one go beyond dharma and adharma.”
Saying this, Thakur sings a song of Ramprasad in his celestial voice.
Sri Ramakrishna in the mood of Radha
Thakur is sitting on the southeastern verandah of his room. Prankrishna and other devotees are with him. Hazra is also sitting on the verandah. Laughing, Thakur says to Prankrishna:
“Hazra is not an insignificant man. If one finds the big dargah here [referring to himself], Hazra is a small dargah.” (All laugh.)
Navakumar comes to the door of the verandah. At the sight of the devotees sitting there, he leaves. Thakur says, “The image of egotism.”
It is about half past nine. Prankrishna salutes Sri Ramakrishna and takes his leave. He is going to his house in Calcutta.
In Thakur’s room a renunciate sings a song to the accompaniment of a single-stringed instrument:
Nityananda’s ship is here.
Catch hold if you want to cross over.
Six handsome angels ever guard it,
Their backs and chests masked by shields.
Opening the main portal, they dole out precious jewels.
He sings another song:
Build your house now, for torrential rains will soon approach. Be prepared. Take ginger water; be up and doing to construct it.
When the month of Shravana arrives, you’ll not be able to see.
Bamboo and thatch will rot, and you will not be able to lay a roof.
With a gust of wind, the thatch will fly away, along with its frame,
Leaving a gaping hole.
You will look agape, and you will leave.
Once more he sings:
In what mood are you repeating Hari’s name, while roaming about Nadia in pauper’s garb, though you yourself are Hari?
I cannot comprehend why you have assumed this attitude and such behavior.
Thakur is listening to the songs when Kedar Chatterji enters and salutes him. He is in his office clothes, and wearing a cloak and a pocket watch and chain. Whenever he hears about God, his eyes fill with tears. He is a very loving soul and cherishes the attitude of the gopis of Vrindavan.
Seeing Kedar, Thakur is instantly inspired with the divine sport at Vrindavan. In a mood of ecstatic love, he stands up and sings, addressing Kedar:
Tell me, friend, How far is that grove where my Shyamasundar is?
I cannot walk much farther.
Singing the song in the attitude of Sri Radha, Thakur enters into samadhi – he stands still like a portrait. Tears of joy flow from both corners of his eyes.
Kedar kneels before him and, touching Thakur’s feet, sings a hymn:
I bow to Brahman-Consciousness, the primal seed of the universe, abiding in the lotus of the heart,
Who, without attributes, rests in undifferentiated repose, known only to Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh,
Who is attained only by yogis in the depth of meditation,
Who removes the fear of life and death and is the essence of Knowledge and Truth.
After some time, Thakur returns to normal consciousness. Kedar was going to work in Calcutta from his home in Halishahar when he stopped to visit the Dakshineswar Kali Temple to see Thakur. After a little rest, he leaves.
While Thakur talks to the devotees, midday approaches. Ramlal brings Sri Ramakrishna a plate of Mother Kali’s prasad. He eats the prasad facing south. Like a child, he takes a little of everything.
After eating, Thakur rests awhile on the smaller cot. Later the Marwari devotees arrive.
Yoga of practice – two paths: that of discrimination and that of loving devotion to God
It is three o’clock. The Marwari devotees sit on the floor and ask Thakur a few questions. M., Rakhal and several other devotees are seated in the room.
A Marwari devotee: “Sir, what is the way?”
“Discrimination means differentiating between the real and the unreal. The only real or eternal Substance is God and everything else is unreal or impermanent. Only the magician is real, his magic is illusory. One must discriminate in this way.
“Discrimination and dispassion. Differentiating between the real and the unreal in this manner is discrimination. Dispassion means a distaste for worldly things. This does not come about all of a sudden. It has to be practiced daily. To begin with, you have to renounce ‘lust and greed’ in the mind. Then, God willing, you can renounce them externally as well as internally. It is not possible to ask Calcutta people to renounce everything for the sake of God. You have to say to them, ‘Renounce these mentally.’
“One is able to renounce the attachment to ‘lust and greed’ by the yoga of practice. The Gita says this. Practice brings extraordinary strength to the mind. Then you don’t find it difficult to subdue the senses, to control passions like lust and anger. For instance, a tortoise doesn’t bring out its limbs once it has drawn them inside its shell, even if you cut it into four pieces with an axe.”
The Marwari devotee: “Sir, you said that there are two paths. What is the other one?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It is the path of ardent love for God. Weep for Him with a yearning heart, in solitude or in a secret corner, and cry to Him, ‘Grant me Your vision!’
Cry out with yearning, O mind, and see how Mother Shyama can withhold Herself from you!
The Marwari devotee: “Sir, what is the meaning of worshiping a form of God? And what is the meaning of God without form or attributes?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Just as you are reminded of your father when seeing his photograph, similarly, by continuously worshiping an image of God, you will have revealed to you in a flash His real nature.
“Do you know what the form of Reality is like? Just like bubbles rising on an expanse of water. Different forms arising in the subtle space of Consciousness, in the Great Space of Con-sciousness. An incarnation of God is one of such forms. As for the divine play of an incarnation, well, it’s the sport of the Primal Energy.”
Learning and scholarship – Who am I? I am none other than You
“What is there in learning and scholarship? You can attain God by calling upon Him with a yearning heart. Knowledge of different kinds is not essential.
“Religious teachers need to know many things; for killing others, you need a sword and a shield. To kill yourself, even a needle or a nail-knife will do.
“Who am I? When you try to discover that, you find God. Am I flesh or bone or blood or marrow – or am I the mind or intellect? Through such reasoning you ultimately see that you are none of these – ‘not this, not this.’ The Atman cannot be touched or grasped. It is without attributes and qualities.
“But according to the path of loving devotion, God has attributes. Krishna is Consciousness and His abode is Consciousness. Everything is Consciousness.”
The Marwari devotees salute Sri Ramakrishna and take their leave.
Evening worship at Dakshineswar Temple
It is dusk. Thakur is watching the Ganges. A lamp is burning in his room. He chants the name of the Divine Mother and, sitting on the smaller cot, meditates on Her.
In the temple, arati is being performed, and people strolling in the panchavati or on the embankment hear the sweet tones of the gong from a distance. The flood tide on the river flows northward with a soft murmuring sound. The music of the arati mingled with its murmur makes even a sweeter sound. Surrounded by such an atmosphere, Thakur sits intoxicated with love for God. Everything is sweet, the heart is filled with sweetness. Sweet, sweet, sweet.
. Jnana, prema, viveka, and vairagya.
. Naradiya bhakti: self-surrender and loving devotion to God.
. Shuddha bhakti.
. One of three types of universal energies: sattva, rajas and tamas.
. Prakriti bhava.
. A name for Rama.
. asmindharme maheçi syät satyavädé jitendriyaù|
paropakäranirato nirvikäraù sadäçayaù||
. Later Swami Brahmananda.
. Trailanga Swami was a famous monk in Benares who had taken a vow of silence. Sri Ramakrishna met him on his second pilgrimage there.
. Ochterloney Monument in Calcutta.
. The twenty-four categories or cosmic principles enunciated in the Samkhya Philosophy are: mahat, cosmic intelligence; buddhi, the discriminating faculty; ahamkara, the sense of ego; manas, perceiving mind; chitta (mind-stuff), the recording faculty or memory; five organs of sense-perception (hearing, touch, sight, taste, smell); five organs of action (hands, feet, speech, organ of excretion, organ of generation);l five subtle elements (tanmatras – the potential of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell), which, in differing combinations produce the gross elements (mahabhutas – ether/akasha/space, air, fire, water, and earth).
. Virtue and vice, righteousness and unrighteousness.
. Four fruits: Dharma (virtue), artha (wealth), kama (legitimate desires), and moksha (liberation).
. For the complete song refer to Volume I, Section II, Chapter VI.
. Burial place of a Muslim saint, considered sacred.
. Ginger helps in digestion.
. A time of incessant downpour during which visibility is very low.
. Sakhi; gopi friend of Radha in Vraja and female lover of the Lord.
. Devotees from the Burrabazar district of Calcutta.
. Abhyasa Yoga.
. Viveka and vairagya.
. For the complete song refer to Volume I, Section I, Chapter V.
. Neti, neti.