Thakur at Dakshineswar with Mahendra, Rakhal, Radhika Goswami, and Other Devotees
Advice to Mahendra and others – Captain’s devotion to God and service to his parents
Sri Ramakrishna is in his room at the Kali temple in Dakshineswar with the devotees. It is autumn, Friday, 19 September 1884, the 4th of Ashwin, 1291 B.Y. The time is two o’clock. It is the amavasya of the month of Bhadra, mahalaya. Mahendra Mukherji and his brother Priya Mukherji, M., Baburam, Harish, Kishori, and Latu are there. Some are seated on the floor and the others either stand or move about the room. Hazra is sitting in the verandah. Rakhal is in Vrindavan with Balaram.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mahendra and other devotees): “I went to Captain’s house in Calcutta. It was late at night when I returned.
“What a good nature Captain has! What love for God! He wears a short cloth when he performs the arati – once with an earthen lamp with three wicks and then with a lamp with one light. Finally he performs arati with camphor.
“He doesn’t speak when he performs worship. He motioned for me to take a seat.
“While he worships, his eyes show great emotion, red and swollen as if a wasp has stung them.
“He can’t sing, but he chants beautifully.
“In the presence of his mother, he sits below her, on the floor.
“His father was an officer in the British army. On the battlefield, he would hold a gun in one hand and worship Shiva with the other. His servant made clay images of Shiva for him. He wouldn’t even drink water before worshiping. He was paid six thousand rupees a year.
“Captain sends his mother to Kashi now and then. Twelve or thirteen people serve her there. It is a big expense. Captain knows Vedanta, the Gita, and the Bhagavata by heart.
“He says, ‘The gentlemen in Calcutta conduct themselves like malechhas.’
“In his early years, he practiced Hatha Yoga. That’s why he strokes my head when I’m in samadhi or ecstasy.
“His wife has another deity – Gopala. This time I didn’t find her so miserly. She also knows the Gita and other scriptures. What devotion they have! Whenever I sit for meals, they pour water on my hands to wash them. They even give me a wooden toothpick.
“They made a goat curry. Captain said, ‘It stays good for fifteen days.’ But his wife said, ‘No, no. It’s only good for seven days.’ It was tasty. She served a little of some other dishes. Since I eat more than they do these days, she served me more.
“After eating, Captain or his wife fan me.”
Jung Bahadur’s sons accompany Captain to see Thakur in 1875-76 – an unmarried Nepali girl sings the Gita Govinda – ‘I am a handmaid of God’
“They have great love for God. They show great reverence for sadhus. The people of western India (Punjab and Uttar Pradesh) have great devotion for sadhus. Jung Bahadur’s sons and a nephew came here. They didn’t wear their English trousers. They were somewhat in awe.
“Once a girl from his country came with Captain. She was a great devotee and hadn’t married. She could sing the Gita Govinda from memory. Dwarika Babu and his family came to hear her sing. I said, ‘They want to hear you. They are good people.’ While she was singing the Gita Govinda, Dwarika Babu began to wipe tears from his eyes. When asked why she had not married, she said, ‘I am a handmaid of God. Whom else can I serve now?’ Everybody respects her very much as a goddess, as the scriptures direct.
(To Mahendra and others) “Do you feel benefited by coming here? I would be quite pleased to hear that it helps. (To M.) Why do people come here? I am not much of a scholar.”
M.: “Sir, when Krishna himself became cows and cowherd boys (after the original ones were abducted by Brahma), their mothers stopped going to Yashoda after they found the new cowherd boys. Even the cows followed the calves, bellowing when they heard them.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What does that mean?”
M.: “That the Lord Himself had become every-thing – such an attraction was generated. The mind is attracted by the presence of God.”
Explanation of Krishna’s sport – love of the gopis –significance of stealing their clothes
Sri Ramakrishna: “This is the attraction of Yogamaya. She casts a spell. Radhika disguised herself as Subol with a calf in her arms, she was so afraid of Jatila (her sister-in-law). Jatila blessed her. When one takes refuge in Yogamaya, then even a Jatila blesses.
“The whole sport of Lord Hari is played out with the help of Yogamaya.
“The gopis, though married, felt great love for Krishna. They were madly in love with him – a woman doesn’t feel so much love for her husband. If someone says to her, ‘Look, your husband has come,’ she replies, ‘Let him. He can help himself to something to eat.’ But if she hears that it is another man who is handsome and a master of wit, she will run to see him and peep at him from behind a screen.
“If the gopis had not seen him, how could their minds feel such attraction for him? This attraction is possible even by hearing about him. ‘My mind is absorbed with him just by hearing his name, even without knowing him.’”
A devotee: “Sir, what is the meaning of the theft of the gopis’ clothes?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The eight fetters – the gopis were rid of all the fetters except the feeling of shame. So he snapped even that bondage. All bondages are removed when one realizes God.”
He who has fallen from yoga attains God after his desire for sense enjoyments is over
(To Mahendra Mukherji and other devotees) “Not everybody is attracted to God. There has to be a special receptivity. You have to have the right samskaras to feel such attraction. If that were not so, why should you be the only one to come here out of so many residents of Baghbazar? The ones without good tendencies don’t come. The Malaya breeze turns every tree into sandalwood. But the shimul, the ashwattha, the banyan, and some others are not transformed.
“You don’t lack money. When a person falls from yoga, he takes birth in a prosperous family. This enables him to renew his spiritual practices for the realization of God.”
Mahendra Mukherji: “Why does a person fall from yoga?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Perhaps while contemplating God, he suddenly develops a desire for enjoyment. This craving makes him fall from yoga. In the next life he will have the same spiritual tendencies.”
Mahendra: “Then what is the way out?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “There is no liberation as long as you nurse some desire for enjoyment. That is why you should fulfill all desires. Eat, dress, enjoy sex, and so on in time. (Smiling) What do you think? Should it be with your own wife or another woman?” (M. and Mukherji laugh.)
Life of Thakur told by himself – various desires of Thakur
His earlier story – first visit to the Nath’s garden in Calcutta – bath in the Ganges
Sri Ramakrishna: “It’s not good to have a desire for enjoyment. That’s why I used to fulfill any desire which arose in my mind right away.
“When I saw some colourful sandesh at Burrabazar, I wanted to eat them. They brought them to me and I ate a lot of them, but then I got sick.
“One day in my childhood, when I was taking a dip in the Ganges, I saw a boy with a golden band around his waist. I was in the garden of the Naths. During a state of ecstasy, I felt I should also wear a band of gold. But I couldn’t wear it long. When I put it on, a creeping sensation rose up inside me, a rapid, slithering movement. You see, my body had touched gold. I had to take it off right away. If I hadn’t, I would have had to tear it off.
His earlier story – listening to chanting of Chandi by Sambhu and Raj Narayana – Thakur serves the sadhus
“I wanted to hear the recitation of the Chandi by Sambhu. After hearing it, I wanted to hear the chanting again by Raj Narayana. I heard it, too.
“Many sadhus used to visit at that time. I felt the desire to have a separate bhandara (free kitchen) for their service. Mathur Babu complied with my wish. The sadhus were given food, fuel, and so on from that bhandara.
“Once a wish arose in my mind to wear an expensive robe made of gold thread and to smoke a silver hubble-bubble. Mathur Babu sent the new robe, hubble-bubble, everything. I put the robe on and puffed at the hubble-bubble in different ways, first this way and then another, once from above and then from below. Then I said to myself, ‘O mind, this is what is known as smoking a silver hubble-bubble.’ And I gave it up. I wore the robe for a little while and then took it off. I stamped on it, spat on it, and said, ‘So this is an expensive robe. This robe brings rajas.’”
Rakhal and Balaram in Vrindavan – Thakur’s earlier story – Rakhal experiences his first ecstasy in 1881
Rakhal is in Vrindavan with Balaram. In the beginning he used to write letters praising Vrindavan. He wrote to M., “It is really a very nice place. You must come. Peacocks and peahens dance together. And there is music and dance – there is perpetual joy.” After that Rakhal fell ill with a fever common to Vrindavan. Thakur was very worried when he heard about it. He took a vow to worship the Chandi for his sake. Talking about Rakhal, he said, “It was here that Rakhal first experienced ecstasy, while he was massaging my feet. A Bhagavata pundit was in the room speaking about the Bhagavata. Listening to what he was saying, Rakhal first began to tremble every now and then, and then he became perfectly still.
“He experienced ecstasy a second time in Balaram’s house. He lay down in that state.
“Rakhal’s spiritual ideal is God with form. He will leave a place where the formless God is mentioned.
“I made a vow to worship Chandika for his sake. He has renounced his home and family and depends on me. I used to send him to his wife – he had a little desire for enjoyment left.
“He wrote to him (pointing to M.) from Vrindavan, ‘It is a good place. Peacocks and peahens dance together. These birds have put me in a difficult situation.’
“He’s there with Balaram. Ah, what a sweet nature Balaram has! He doesn’t go to Kathar in Orissa for my sake. His brother has stopped sending him a monthly allowance saying, ‘Come live here. Why are you wasting so much money there?’ He didn’t listen, just because he wants to see me.
“What a fine nature he has! Day and night he is busy with worship. His gardeners make garlands for the Deity. He will stay in Vrindavan for four months just to save money. He gets a monthly allowance of two hundred rupees.”
His earlier story – he weeps for Narendra – Narendra’s first visit to him in 1881
“Why am I so fond of these young men? The idea of ‘lust and greed’ has not entered their minds yet. I see them as ever-perfect.
“When Narendra came the first time, he was dressed in a dirty cloth. But looking at his face and eyes, I felt that he had mettle within. He didn’t know many songs then. He sang one or two: ‘O mind, return to thy abode’ and ‘Will my days just pass in vain, O Lord?’
“When he came, the room would be full of people, but I would talk looking only at him. He’d say, ‘Please talk to them.’ Then I would.
“I used to weep for him in Jadu Mallick’s garden house. I was mad with longing to see him. I would hold Bholanath’s hand and weep. Bholanath said, ‘Sir, it’s not right for you to do this for the sake of a kayastha boy.’ The fat brahmin one day folded his hands and said, ‘Sir, he’s only moderately educated. Why do you get so restless for him?’
“Bhavanath and Narendra are a twosome, they’re a couple like husband and wife. That’s why I asked Bhavanath to associate closely with Narendra. The spiritual ideal of both of them is the formless One.”
Strict rules for sannyasins – renunciation for teaching others – Ghoshpara spiritual practices
“I forbid the youngsters from visiting with women frequently or staying long with them.
“Haripada fell into the snare of a Ghoshpara woman. She exhibits motherly affection, and Haripada is a child. He doesn’t understand anything. These women act like this when they see youngsters. I hear that Haripada lies in her lap, and she feeds him with her own hands. I shall tell him that all this is not good. This motherly affection may later turn to lower conduct.
“These women carry out spiritual disciplines with men, taking them to be Sri Krishna. They say, ‘He is Raja Krishna.’ Their guru asks, ‘Have you found your Raja Krishna?’ They say, ‘Yes, I have.’
“The other day that woman came here. I saw her furtive glances. Not good! Gauging her sentiments I said, ‘Treat Haripada as you are doing now – and don’t change your feelings.’
“The young men are in the stage of practicing spiritual disciplines. Their only practice now must be renunciation. A sannyasin must not even see a picture of a woman. I tell them, ‘Even if a woman is a devotee, do not sit beside her and talk. Speak very briefly, while standing.’ Even after attaining perfection, you have to do this. It is both for your own protection and for setting an example. When women come here, I also say to them after a while, ‘Now go and visit the temples.’ If they don’t leave when I say this, I myself leave. Seeing me do this, others will learn.”
His earlier story – visit to Phului Shyambazar in 1880 – attraction of an incarnation
“Well, you see, all these youngsters are coming here, and so are you. What does it mean? There certainly must be something here (within me). Why else would you feel attracted, why would I draw people here?
“When I was in Hriday’s home in the countryside (in Sihore, near Kamarpukur), they took me to Shyambazar. I could see that they were devotees of Gauranga. It was revealed to me before I entered the village. I saw Gauranga. There was such an attraction that crowds of people came for seven days and nights. And there was only kirtan and dance. People sat on walls and some in the trees.
“I stayed at Natabar Goswami’s house. There were crowds of people there day and night. I’d run away to a weaver’s house in the morning, but people would gather there in no time. They’d bring drums and cymbals. The drums would play ‘takuti, takuti.’ We’d have our meal at three in the afternoon.
“News went around that a man had died and come to life again seven times. Lest I should fall ill from the heat, Hriday would pull me out into the fields. But there, too, crowds gathered like rows of ants. Again the same playing of drums and cymbals: ‘Takuti, takuti!’ Hriday would say to them angrily, ‘Have we never heard kirtan before?’
“The Vaishnava priests came to create a row, thinking that we were there to take away their fees. But then they saw that I didn’t touch a piece of cloth or even a thread. One of them said, ‘He is a knower of Brahman.’ So the gosais wanted to test me. One of them asked, ‘Why doesn’t he have a rosary or a holy mark on his forehead?’ Another of them answered, ‘The dry branch of the coconut tree has dropped off on its own.’ I learned about the ‘coconut branches’ from there – that after one has attained knowledge of Brahman, all adjuncts fall off by themselves.
“People from distant villages would come and spend the night there. A number of women slept in the courtyard of the house where I was staying. Hriday was going out to urinate one night. They said, ‘You might do it here (in the courtyard) itself.’
“I came to understand there in Shyambazar the attraction of the Divine Incarnation. When God descends to play His part, attraction is generated by Yogamaya. A spell is cast.”
Sri Ramakrishna and Radhika Goswami
It is almost three o’clock. Thakur has been talking to the two Mukherji brothers and other devotees. Radhika Goswami, who is about thirty years old, arrives and salutes Thakur. This is his first visit. He takes a seat.
Sri Ramakrishna: “Do you belong to the Advaita family?”
The Goswami: “Yes, sir.”
Hearing that the goswami is a descendent of Advaita Goswami, Thakur salutes him with folded hands.
Reverence for the family of goswamis and brahmins – birth in the family of a saint
Sri Ramakrishna: “Born into the family of Advaita Goswami! Surely one inherits the qualities of one’s ancestors.
“A high quality mango tree yields only high quality mangoes. (The devotees laugh.) No bad fruit, though there is some difference in size. Some small, others large, because of the quality of the soil. Isn’t that right?”
The goswami (humbly): “Sir, what do I know?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Whatever you may say, people won’t let you off so easily.
M. remains silent. Thakur continues.
Sri Ramakrishna: “If you have a saintly person as a predecessor, he will certainly pull you up, even if you have a thousand faults. When the Gandharvas captured the Kauravas, Yudhisthira had them liberated. He set free even Duryodhana, who had shown him so much enmity and was the cause of his exile.
“Besides, one should respect the holy garb. It reminds one of the real thing. Chaitanya Deva put religious robes on a donkey and then bowed to it.
“Why do people salute the shankhachila? When Kamsa tried to kill the Divine Mother, she flew away as a falcon with conchlike markings on her wings. That’s why, everyone bows to see this kind of bird.”
His earlier story – Koar Singh worships Thakur at Chanak – Thakur’s loyalty to the king
“Soldiers saluted an Englishman who came to the cantonment of Chanak. Koar Singh explained to me that the country is under English rule, so one must salute an Englishman.”
Thakur condemns sectarianism before the goswami –Shaktas and Vaishnavas
“Shaktas follow the Tantra while Vaishnavas follow the Puranas. It is not wrong for Vaishnavas to speak about their spiritual practices. But the followers of Tantra keep their practices secret. That’s why you can’t completely understand a Shakta.
(To the goswami) “You are good people. You do so much japa and chant the name of the Lord so much.”
The goswami (humbly): “We do nothing great. I am worthless.”
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “Humility is good, but there’s another attitude: ‘I repeat the name of Lord Hari. How can sin touch me?’ People who say every day, ‘I am a sinner, sinner I am; I am worthless, worthless I am,’ indeed become so. What lack of faith! A person who has chanted His name so much and yet says, ‘Sin, sin!’”
The goswami is amazed to hear this.
His earlier story – Thakur dresses as a Vaishnava in Vrindavan – 1868
Sri Ramakrishna: “I dressed myself in the garb of a Vaishnava in Vrindavan and wore it for fifteen days. (To the devotees) I used to practice the disciplines of all the different paths of religion for a few days. Only then would I feel at peace.
(Laughing) “I practiced them all. And I accept all paths. I accept the Shaktas as well as the Vaishnavas. And also the Vedantists. That’s why people of all faiths come here. They all think I belong to their faith. I also respect the modern Brahmos.
“Somebody had a large tub with a single dye in it. But it had this wonderful quality: it would dye cloth any colour someone desired.
“One clever fellow said, ‘You have to give me the dye which you used to dye their clothes.’ (Thakur and all others laugh.)
“Why should I be one-sided? I’m not worried that people of a certain faith won’t visit. It doesn’t matter to me if someone comes or not. I also have no thought that a certain person should be in my control. Adhar Sen wanted me to pray to the Divine Mother so that he’d get a high position. He didn’t get it. As a consequence, if he thinks in a different way about me, let him. I don’t care.”
His earlier story – feeling of the formless One in Keshab Sen’s house – with Vijay Goswami in the school of Gadadhar from Ariadaha – Vijay’s character
“And then when I went to Keshab Sen’s house my attitude changed. They are always talking there of the formless One. So I said to the Divine Mother in an ecstatic mood, ‘Mother, don’t come here. These people don’t believe in Your forms.’”
The goswami is quiet when he hears all these words against sectarianism.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Vijay is in a very good state of mind.
“He falls on the ground when he chants, ‘Hari, Hari.’
“He spends his time until four in the morning in devotional singing and meditation. He wears ochre cloth now. When he sees an image of God, he prostrates to offer his salutations.
“He went to Gadadhar’s schoolhouse with me. I said, ‘Here, he [Chaitanya Deva] used to practice meditation.’ Immediately Vijay prostrated there.
“He again prostrated himself before Sri Chaitanya’s picture.”
The goswami: “And before the image of Radha-Krishna?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “He fell prostrate there too. All his actions are orthodox.”
The goswami: “He can now be taken into Vaishnava society.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “He doesn’t care much what people say.”
The goswami: “But Vaishnava society would be benefited by having such a person.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “He has great respect for me.
“It is difficult to find him. Today he is invited to Dacca, tomorrow to another place. He is always so busy.
“There are lots of problems in the (Sadharan Brahmo) Samaj.”
The goswami: “Why, sir?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “They say to him, ‘You associate yourself with believers in God with form. You’ve become an idolater.’
“He is broad-minded and straightforward. Unless one is simple at heart, one doesn’t receive the grace of God.”
Instructions to the Mukherjis – household life – go forward – yoga of practice
Now Thakur is talking with the Mukherji brothers. The elder brother, Mahendra, is in business. He has not taken service under anyone. The younger, Priyanath, used to be an engineer. He has now made some provision and no longer works. The elder Mukherji is thirty-five or thirty-six. His home is in the village of Kedati. He also has a house at Baghbazar in Calcutta.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “If you feel a little inspiration, don’t rest content. You must go forward. There is more after the sandalwood trees – there are silver mines and gold mines.”
Priya (smiling): “Sir, our legs are shackled. We can’t move forward.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What can shackles on the feet do? It is the mind that matters.
“You are bound or freed by the mind. There were two friends. One of them went to visit a prostitute and the other to listen to a recital of the Bhagavata. The former said, ‘I am damned. My friend is listening to a recital of the story of Lord Hari and I am here in such a dirty place!’ The one listening to the Bhagavata said to himself, ‘I am cursed. See how my friend is enjoying himself and having fun. What a fool I am!’ Just see, the first one was taken after death by the messengers of Vishnu to Vaikuntha. The latter was taken to the nether world of Yama.”
Priya: “But the mind is not under my control.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What do you mean? There is the yoga of practice. Practice it. You will see that your mind will go wherever you take it.
“The mind is like a freshly laundered cloth. It will get dyed red if you put it in red dye, and you can dye it blue by putting it in blue dye. Whatever colour you dye it in, it will take that colour.
(To the goswami) “Have you anything to ask?”
The goswami (very humbly): “No, sir. I’ve been able to see you and have been listening to all you are saying.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Now go and visit the deities in the temples.
The goswami (very humbly): “Could you sing a little on the greatness of Sri Chaitanya?
Thakur sings for the goswami:
Why has my body turned fair-complexioned?
Gauranga Deva casts a glance toward Vrindavan,
And from his eyes flow tears of ecstasy.
What is this, if not divine rapture?
Gauranga is an ocean of bliss.
In ecstasy he laughs, weeps, dances, and sings.
Every wooded grove he sees as Vrindavan, and the ocean as the Jamuna.
He places his head on his own feet,
For he is Gaur without, but Sri Krishna within.
Advice to Radhika Goswami about harmony of religions
Thakur speaks again after the song is over.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the goswami): “All these songs suit you (Vaishnavas). But if a Shakta or someone from the Ghoshpara sect comes, what shall I sing?
“You will find all kinds of attitudes here, for different kinds of people – Vaishnavas, Shaktas, Kartabhajas, Vedantists, as well as Brahmos.
“It is by His will that so many different religions, so many beliefs, have come into existence.
“God has given to everyone what agrees with his stomach. A mother doesn’t serve rice and fish to all her children. It doesn’t suit everyone. So for some, she prepares fish soup.
“A person clings to the attitude which is agreeable to his nature and feelings.
“In a community festival where different kinds of people visit, images of various kinds are made. There are images of Radha-Krishna, Hara-Parvati and Sita-Rama – different images placed in different places. And you see people crowding before each one. Vaishnavas are seen standing for a long time to view Radha-Krishna, Shaktas near Hara-Parvati, and those who are devotees of Rama crowd around Sita-Rama.
“But those whose minds are not inclined toward any deity at all belong to a different class. At a community festival, they also prepare images such as a prostitute beating her paramour with a broom. People who have no deity in mind stand there with mouths agape, and the people look at them and call out loudly to their friends, ‘Tell me, what are you looking at there? Come here, come here.’” (Everyone laughs.)
The goswami salutes and takes his leave.
Thakur makes merry with the young devotees – he watches the arati of Mother Kali and fans Her with a chamara
The Mother and son talk. Why do you make me reason?
It is five o’clock. Thakur is on the western verandah. Baburam, Latu, the two Mukherji brothers, M., and some others are with him.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M. and the others): “Why should my mind run in a single track? These people are Vaishnavas and bigoted. They think that only their belief is correct and that all others are wrong. What I have said has gone deep into him [meaning Radhika Goswami]. (Smiling) An elephant needs to be goaded on the head because that’s where it is sensitive.”
Now Thakur begins to have fun with the youngsters.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the devotees): “I don’t serve them [the youngsters] only vegetarian food. I also give them a little water smelling of fish. Otherwise, why would they come?”
The Mukherjis leave the verandah to stroll for a while in the garden.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “I used to practice japa – and go into samadhi. What does that mean?”
M. (very seriously): “That is very good, sir.”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Good! Good! But what would they (the Mukherjis) think about it?”
M.: “Why? Didn’t Captain say that you are like a child? After realizing God, one becomes like a child.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That person at times acts like a child, a boy, and sometimes like an adult. In boyhood he talks nonsense. Sometimes he even uses foul language. But when he is in the state of adulthood, he teaches forcefully like a lion.
“You’d better talk to the Mukherjis and explain.”
M.: “I don’t have to explain. Don’t they know already?”
After a few jokes with the youngsters, Sri Ramakrishna says to a devotee, “It is new moon today. Please go to the Divine Mother’s temple.’
The sound of arati can be heard after dusk. Thakur says to Baburam, “Come, let’s go to the Kali temple.” Then he and Baburam and M. go. Seeing Harish sitting on the verandah, Thakur says, “Is he again in ecstasy?”
Crossing the courtyard, they watch the arati of Sri Radhakanta for a while. Then they continue toward Mother Kali’s temple. Thakur raises his arms and calls out to the Mother of the Universe, “Mother, O Mother. O, Brahmamayi!” Coming to the raised platform in front of the temple, he prostrates in salutation to the Divine Mother. The arati is being performed before the Mother. Thakur enters the shrine and begins to fan Her with a chamara.
The worship ends. The people who had been watching the arati all prostrate together. Sri Ramakrishna comes out of the shrine and salutes Her. Mahendra Mukherji and the other devotees also salute.
Today is new moon day, the darkest day of the fortnight. Thakur becomes fully absorbed in ecstasy, in divine intoxication. He holds Baburam’s hand and returns to his room staggering like a drunkard.
The lamp-lighter has lit a lamp on the western verandah of his room. Thakur comes and sits there for some time. He chants, “Hari Om, Hari Om,” and several other mantras from the Tantras.
In a little while Thakur goes and sits on his small bed, facing east. Even now he is fully absorbed in a divine mood.
The Mukherji brothers, Baburam, and others sit on the floor.
Origin of language – the philosophy of prayer
Absorbed in ecstasy, Thakur talks with the Divine Mother. He says, “Mother, that You will only do it when I speak to You – that cannot be true.
“What does talking really mean? It is just giving a hint. Someone says, ‘I shall eat.’ Another person says, ‘Go on, I won’t listen to you.’
“Well, Mother, if someone says, ‘I want to eat,’ doesn’t he still feel hungry? It cannot be that You will listen only when I pray to You, that You will not listen when I long within. This cannot be true.
“You are what You are. Then why do I speak? Why do I pray?
“Oh, I do what You make me do.
“Oh, it is all confusion. Why do You make me reason?”
Thakur is talking to God. The devotees listen to him, speechless with wonder.
Samskaras and necessity of austerities – instruction to the devotees – service to sadhus
Now Thakur glances at the devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the devotees): “Good tendencies of past birth are essential to realize God. You have to have done something, practiced some austerities. Whether it is done in this life or in a past one.
“When Draupadi was being disrobed, the Lord appeared before her when he heard her earnest cry. He said, ‘Try to remember if you have ever given a piece of cloth in charity. If you have, your modesty will be saved.’ Draupadi said, ‘I remember a rishi bathing in a river and his loin cloth floated away with the current. I tore off half of my cloth and gave it to him.’ The Lord said, ‘Then you have nothing to fear now.’”
M. is sitting on a foot rug east of Thakur’s bed.
(To M.) “Have you understood this?”
M.: “Yes sir, about tendencies.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Please repeat what I have said. Let me hear.”
M.: “Draupadi had gone for a bath –” (Hazra enters.)
Hazra has been living here for the last two years. He first met Thakur in 1880 in the village of Sihore near Kamarpukur. Thakur’s nephew, Hriday Mukhopadyaya, the son of his cousin Himangani Devi, lived there. At the time Thakur was staying at Hriday’s house.
Hazra’s native village is Madagod near Sihore. He has some land there. He is married and has children and other relatives. They get by somehow, though he has a debt of about a thousand rupees.
Hazra has felt dispassion since youth. He has a habit of seeking out sadhus and devotees. When he first came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar and wanted to stay there, Thakur, already having met him in the village and seeing his devotional nature, asked him to stay and look after him.
Hazra’s attitude is that of a man of knowledge. He doesn’t like Thakur’s devotional nature and his interest in the youngsters. Now and then he thinks of Sri Ramakrishna as a great soul, but at other times, he looks upon him as an ordinary individual.
He has taken a seat in the southeastern verandah of Thakur’s room. There he repeats God’s name on a rosary. Rakhal and other devotees do not spend as much time practicing japa, and Hazra criticizes them because of it.
He is a stickler for religious rules of conduct, which have become a sort of mania with him. He is about thirty-eight years old.
Hazra enters the room. Thakur enters a somewhat ecstatic mood and begins to talk.
Does God listen to prayers? – weep for Him, He will listen
Sri Ramakrishna (to Hazra): “What you are doing is all right. But somehow it doesn’t come together right.
“Don’t find fault with anyone. Not even an insect. You yourself tell the tale of the sage Lomasha. Just as you pray for love of God, you must also pray that you may not find fault with others.”
Hazra: “Does He listen if you pray for divine love?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “A hundred times – if it is genuine and sincere. Does a worldly man weep for God as he does for his wife or son?”
His earlier life – the trembling of a resident of Kamarpukur over his wife’s illness
“The wife of a person fell ill. Thinking that her illness was incurable, this fellow began to shake with fear and was about to fall down unconscious!
“Who does that for God?”
Hazra takes the dust of Thakur’s feet.
Sri Ramakrishna (hesitating): “What are you doing?”
Hazra: “Shall I not take the dust of the feet of the man I live with?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Satisfy God and everyone will be satisfied! The whole world is pleased when God is pleased. When the Lord felt satisfied after eating the greens in Draupadi’s pot and said, ‘I am full,’ all the beings of the whole world were satisfied. Indeed, they felt they had eaten more than their fill. But when the sages ate, was the whole world satisfied? Did it feel that it had eaten more than its fill?”
Thakur is saying that some work is necessary for the teaching of mankind.
His earlier story – a sadhu under the banyan tree worships his guru’s sandals and a shalagram
Sri Ramakrishna (to Hazra): “Even after attaining spiritual knowledge, one performs worship and other rituals in order to set an example.
“I visit the Kali temple and also bow before all these pictures in my room. That’s why others do it. If a habit is formed, the mind feels uncomfortable if it is not done.
“I saw a sannyasin under the banyan tree. He had placed his guru’s sandals on a small carpet. And he placed a shalagram on the same carpet! He was worshipping them! I asked, ‘If you have attained so much spiritual knowledge, what is the need of ritualistic worship?’ The sannyasin said, ‘I’m doing everything else, why not this too? I can place a flower on the guru’s foot, and also on the emblem.’
“As long as one has a body, one cannot give up work. As long as there is mud at the bottom of the lake, there are bound to be some bubbles.”
The three stages: the scripture, the word of the guru, and spiritual practice; then one achieves the Goal
(To Hazra) “If there is knowledge of one, there is also knowledge of many. What help is there in mere reading of the scriptures?
“Scriptures contain sugar mixed with sand. It is very difficult to take out only the sugar. Therefore, one should hear the essence of a scripture from a sadhu or guru. After that, what is the need for scripture anymore?
“Say you’ve received a letter requesting five seers of sandesh and a piece of wearing cloth. If the letter is lost, you look for it anxiously. Finding it after a long search, you read it: ‘Send five seers of sandesh and a piece of cloth.’ Then, you can throw the letter away. What use is it now? Your work now is to procure the sandesh and cloth.
(To Mukherji, Baburam, M., and other devotees) “After getting all the information, dive in. Having made sure where the pot is lying on the bottom of the pond, dive only there.
“You have to hear the essence of the scriptures from the lips of the guru and then take to spiritual practices. When you are absolutely sure what the right spiritual practice is for you, you begin to perceive God directly.
“And you can be sure of the right spiritual practice only when you dive. What use is it to sit down and reason about what you have read in the scriptures? Fools just reason about the way and then perish, because they don’t dive. Let them go!
“If you say that in diving there is the fear of sharks and crocodiles – the fear of desires and anger – then rub your body with turmeric powder before you dive. They won’t come near you. Turmeric powder is discrimination and non-attachment.”
His earlier story: Sri Ramakrishna’s practice of spiritual disciplines according to the Purana, the Tantra, and the Vedanta – spiritual practices in the panchavati, under the bel tree and in the chandni –initiation into sannyasa from Totapuri in 1866
Sri Ramakrishna (to the devotees): “God made me practice various kinds of spiritual disciplines, first according to the Puranas, then according to the Tantras and also the disciplines of the Vedas. At first I practiced them in the panchavati. I planted a grove of tulsi plants, and I used to sit inside it and meditate. Sometimes I would call out with great longing, ‘Mother, Mother,’ or at times repeat, ‘Rama, Rama.’
“When I repeated the name of Rama, I would sometimes tie a tail on my body in the spirit of Hanuman. It was a state of deep intoxication. During that time, I’d put on a silk cloth to worship. What joy was in that worship!
“The spiritual practices according to the Tantra were performed under the bel tree. At that time I could see no difference between a tulsi plant and the fruit of a sajina.
“In that state, I used to eat the leftovers from the previous night’s offering to Mother Durga; they could have been defiled by a snake or something.
“Sometimes I would ride a dog and push fried bread into its mouth and then eat it myself. The whole world is Vishnu. I would rinse my mouth with water fallen in puddles on the ground; I brought water from the pond and put it in the puddles to rinse my mouth with.
“One cannot have spiritual realization without destroying ignorance. So I used to assume the attitude of a tiger and eat it up.
“When I performed disciplines according to the Vedas, I became a sannyasin. I used to lie down in the chandni and say to Hriday, ‘I have become a sannyasin. I shall eat in the chandni.’”
Thakur sees various divine forms during his practice of spiritual disciplines – Mother of the Universe instructs him on the Vedanta and the Gita
(To the devotee) “I remained on my seat resolutely and said to the Divine Mother, ‘I am a fool. Pray, let me know what is in the various scriptures – in the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Tantras.’
“The Divine Mother said, ‘The essence of the Vedanta is that Brahman alone is real, that the world is illusory. He who is mentioned as Sat-chit-ananda Brahman in the Vedas is called Sat-chit-ananda Shiva in the Tantra. It is He who is known as Sat-chit-ananda Krishna in the Puranas.’
“What you hear when the word gita is repeated ten times is the essence of the Gita; that is, ‘tagi, tagi’ [renounce, renounce].
“When a person realizes God, the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Purana, and the Tantra all become insignificant.
(To Hazra) “He is no longer able to pronounce Om. Why does this happen? I cannot utter the word Om unless I come down very far from samadhi.
“The scriptures describe various states one has after a direct vision of God. I had them all – the state of a child, of a ghoul, and of lifeless matter.
“I also used to have visions the way they are described in the scriptures. At times I would see the whole universe filled with sparks of fire. Sometimes, I saw lakes of mercury all around me, shining brightly. And sometimes I would see it as molten silver. At times, I saw, as it were, torches giving out many-coloured lights.
“All these conform to what is said in the scriptures. That was reassuring.”
Sri Ramakrishna’s state – union of the phenomenal and the Absolute
“And then it was revealed to me that God Himself had become the living beings, the universe, and the twenty-four cosmic principles. Climbing up to the rooftop and then coming down the stairs. It’s the process of involution and evolution.
“Oh, what states I was kept in! One state would follow another like the movement of a husking machine. When one goes down, the other goes up.
“When I am in meditation, in samadhi, I see God. I also see Him when my mind comes back to the external world. I see Him on this side of the mirror, and I also see Him on the back of the mirror.”
Both the Mukherji brothers, Baburam, and other devotees listen to Thakur, amazed.
His earlier story – detachment of Sambhu Mallick – takes shelter with a saintly person
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mukherji and others): “Captain now is in the state of a spiritual aspirant.
“It isn’t necessarily true that one remains attached (to the world) just by being rich. Sambhu (Mallick) used to say, ‘Hridu, I sit here ready with my bundle packed.’ I would say, ‘What an ominous thing you are saying!’ Then Sambhu would say, ‘No, please say that I may go to Him, having renounced everything.’
“Devotees of God have no fear. They are near and dear to Him. He will draw them. When Duryodhana and his companions were made prisoners by the Gandharvas, it was Yudhisthira who had them released. He said, ‘It would be a disgrace if our relatives remain in such difficulty.’”
Brahmins of the temple – Sri Ramakrishna preaches devotion to them
It is about 9 p.m. Both the Mukherji brothers are getting ready to return to Calcutta. Thakur gets up and strolls for a while through the room and the verandah. He hears loud singing in the Vishnu temple. Asking about it, a devotee tells him, “Latu and Harish have joined them.” Thakur says, “That’s it.”
Thakur goes to the Vishnu temple with the devotees. They prostrate before Sri Radhakanta.
Thakur notices that the brahmin servants of the temple, those who cook and prepare offerings for the deities and who serve it to the guests, have gathered together in a large number to sing the kirtan. Thakur stands there for a while and encourages them.
Returning to his room through the courtyard, he says to the devotees, “Look, some of these fellows wash the pots and pans, and some of them visit houses of prostitution.”
Reaching his room, Thakur sits down on his cot. Those who were engaged in singing kirtan come and salute him.
Thakur says to them, “As you sweat to earn money, so you should perspire chanting Lord Hari’s name, dancing and singing.”
“I thought of dancing with you. But then I saw that the vegetable was seasoned perfectly – even fenugreek had been put in. (All laugh.) What seasoning could I add to it?
“Please come here now and then to sing Lord Hari’s name.”
Mukherji and others bow to Thakur and take their leave.
Their carriage comes right up to the smaller verandah north of Thakur’s room. Its lights are lit.
Departure of devotees – Thakur’s affection for them
Thakur is standing on the northeastern side of the verandah facing north. A devotee brings a light to show the devotees the way to the carriage.
Today is the dark new moon night, the night of Amavasya. The Ganges flows to the west of Thakur and in front is the nahabat, the flower garden, and the kuthi. The path to the main gate is to the right of Thakur.
The devotees bow their heads at Thakur’s feet and then get into the carriage one after the other. Thakur says to a certain devotee, “Why don’t you tell Ishan to find some work for him?”
Seeing that there are too many people riding in the carriage, creating a hardship for the horse, Thakur asks, “Aren’t there too many people for one carriage?”
He remains standing. The devotees leave for Calcutta, watching Thakur’s image full of love and grace for the devotees.
. New moon day.
. The sacred day of invocation of Mother Durga prior to Her worship.
. Short dhoti.
. Subadar; officer in a company of native Indian soldiers.
. Non-Hindus; a term of deprecation.
. Dwarika Babu, Mathur’s eldest son, died in 1877 (Pausha, 1284 B.Y.) at the age of 40. Captain first came in 1875-76, so this performance of Gita Govinda probably took place between 1875 and 1877.
. Krishna’s cowherd companion.
. Khaichur, a round sweetmeat prepared by boiling coarsely powdered parched rice in sugar malt.
. Sarbhaja, a sweetmeat prepared by frying milk-film.
. A form of Durga.
. The Kayasthas were a community noted for their adaptability to secular society. Under British rule many Kayasthas learned English and gave their children a British education.
. A nickname for Prankrishna.
. Gotra, one of forty-nine subdivisions of the brahmin caste, each the lineage of a celebrated teacher.
. When the evil King Kamsa learned that a son of his sister Devaki would slay him, he imprisoned her and her husband Vasudeva. At birth Krishna was switched with the Divine Mother, who had taken the form of an infant. When Kamsa came to kill the baby, the Divine Mother transformed herself into a bird (the shankhachila) and flew away.
. Abhyasa yoga.
. God of death.
. Abhyasa yoga.
. For the complete song refer to Section XIX, Chapter IV.
. Daughter of Thakur’s father’s sister.
. Hazra (Pratap Chandra Hazra): When he was about thirty-eight years old, Pratap left his wife and children to lead a spiritual life at Dakshineswar. Argumentative and critical of others, he nevertheless had extraordinary faith and devotion to Ramakrishna, who joked that he was there to “thicken the plot.” He returned to his native village of Madagod, near Kamarpukur, where he died at the age of sixty-three or sixty-four, in the month of Chaitra, 1306 B.Y. (A.D 1900).
. It is indeed impossible for an embodied being to renounce action entirely. But he who renounces the fruit is regarded as one who has renounced (Gita 18:11).
. Sajina: A vegetable of the genus Moringa, appearing as sticks growing on trees, and known in English as “drumstick leaves.”
. Perform achamana, a preliminary purification rite of ritualistic worship, sipping and sprinkling water.
. Bhakta vatsala.
back to Kathamrita Main Page