Thakur with Devotees at the Dakshineswar Temple on Janmashtami Festival Day
Coming of Subodh – Purna, M., Gangadhar, Kshirode, and Nitai
Sri Ramakrishna is resting in his room. It is 8 p.m. on Monday, 31st of August 1885, 16th of Bhadra, the 6th day of the dark fortnight of Shravana.
Thakur is unwell. It is the beginning of his throat trouble. But he remains constantly thinking, day and night, of the spiritual welfare of the devotees. Sometimes he worries about his illness like a child. But the very next moment, forgetting everything, he is intoxicated with intense love for God. He becomes almost mad with love for the devotees, like a mother.
Two days ago, last Saturday night, Purna had written in a letter to Thakur: “I feel immense joy. Sometimes, because of the joy, I cannot sleep at night.”
When the letter had been read to Thakur, he had said, “The hair of my body stands on end to hear this. His state of joy will last. Let me see the letter.”
Folding it and pressing it in the palm of his hand, he had said, “Usually I can’t touch letters. But this is a good letter.”
Thakur rests a while in bed. Suddenly, perspiring, he sits up and says, “I feel that I will not be cured of this disease.”
All the devotees are worried to hear this from him.
The Holy Mother has arrived to serve Thakur and is living very quietly in the nahabat. Most of the devotees have no idea that she lives there. A woman devotee (Golap Ma) is also living in the nahabat. She frequently comes to Thakur’s room to visit him.
Thakur said to her yesterday, Sunday, “You have been here for many days. What will people think? You’d better go home and stay there for ten days or so.” M. heard this conversation.
Today is Monday. Thakur is not well. It is about 8 o’clock at night. He is lying on the small cot on his back, his head toward the south. After dusk Gangadhar came with M. from Calcutta. He is now sitting at Thakur’s feet. Thakur is talking to M.
Sri Ramakrishna: “Two boys came here. The great-grandson of Shankar Ghosh, his daughter’s son (Subodh), and another boy (Kshirode) from their neighborhood. Both of them are good boys. I am not well now. I have asked them to go to you for instruction. Do please look after them a little.”
M.: “Yes, sir. They live in our neighborhood.”
Beginning of Thakur’s illness – Dr. Bhagavan – Dr. Nitai
Sri Ramakrishna: “The other day I woke up in a sweat. What can this illness be?”
M.: “Sir, we have decided to have you examined by Dr. Bhagavan Rudra. He is an MD and a very good doctor.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What will he charge?”
M.: “He charges twenty or twenty-five rupees from others.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Then leave it alone.”
M.: “But sir, we will not pay more than four or five rupees.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Well, if you ask him this way, ‘Be kind enough to come and see him.’ Has he not heard anything about this place?”
M.: “It seems he has. He has indicated that he wouldn’t charge, but we will pay him so he will visit again.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It would be better if you called (Dr.) Nitai. After all, what do these doctors do when they come here? They only aggravate it by pressing the throat.”
It is 9 p.m. Thakur sits up to take a little farina pudding.
He feels no discomfort in eating. He says to M. happily, “I’ve been able to eat a little. I am feeling very happy.”
Janmashtami Day – with Narendra, Ram, Girish, and others
(Balaram, M., Gopal’s Mother, Rakhal, Latu, the younger Naren, the sadhu from Punjab, Navagopal, the Vaishnavas of Katoa, and Dr. Rakhal)
It is Janmashtami, Tuesday, 1 September 1885, 17th of Bhadra. Thakur is going to take a bath. A devotee massages him with oil while he sits on the southern verandah. Returning from a dip in the Ganges, M. salutes him.
After Thakur’s bath, clad in a towel and facing south, he salutes the deities from the verandah. Because of ill health, he is not able to visit the Kali Temple or Vishnu temples.
It is the anniversary of Krishna’s birth. Ram and other devotees have brought new clothes for Thakur. He puts them on – a dhoti from Vrindavan and a red silk cloth for the upper body. His pure body looks charming in these new clothes. When he has put them on, he salutes the deities.
Gopal’s Mother has prepared some food for Gopala and brought it from Kamarhatti. When she arrives, she says sadly to Thakur, “But you won’t eat any of it.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You see, I’m not well.”
Gopal’s Mother: “My misfortune! Please have a little in your hand.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Please bless me.”
Understanding him to be her Gopala, Gopal’s Mother feeds Thakur.
The devotees have brought sugar candy. Gopal’s Mother says, “Let me take this candy to the nahabat.” Sri Ramakrishna says, “I have to give it to the devotees. It’s difficult to keep asking for it from the nahabat. Leave it here.”
It is eleven o’clock. The devotees of Calcutta are arriving one by one: Balaram, Narendra, the younger Naren, Navagopal, and a Vaishnava devotee from Katoa. Rakhal and Latu are living here. A sadhu from the Punjab has been staying in the panchavati for some time.
The younger Naren has a tumor on his forehead. While strolling in the panchavati, Ramakrishna says, “Why don’t you get this lump removed? It’s not on the throat, it’s on the forehead. It wouldn’t harm you. People even have surgery to treat swollen testicles.” (Laughter.)
The Punjabi sadhu is going along the garden path. Thakur says, “I don’t attract him. He has the disposition of a jnani. I see him as a dry piece of wood.”
Thakur returns to his room. They talk about Shyamapada Bhattacharya.
Balaram: “He said, ‘The ecstasy Narendra felt when Thakur placed his foot on his chest I didn’t experience.’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Do you know why? It’s very difficult to concentrate a mind scattered by ‘lust and greed.’ He has to hold a village court. He said so. And he has to worry about his children. Narendra’s and the other youngsters’ minds are not scattered. ‘Lust and greed’ have not yet entered into them.
“But he (Shyamapada) is a great person.”
The Vaishnava from Katoa is asking Thakur questions. He is a bit squint-eyed.
Discussion about previous lives – taking birth to gain love for God
Vaishnava: “Sir, is there another life after this one?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The Gita says, ‘A man is reborn with the same tendencies he had at the time of his death.’ King Bharata was born as a deer because he was thinking of his deer in his last moments.”
Vaishnava: “I could believe this if someone had seen it with his own eyes and told me.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I don’t know, my dear. I’m unable to cure myself of disease, how can I tell you what happens after death?
“What you are talking about is a matter of petty intelligence. Make an effort to attain love for God. You have taken birth as a human being only for that. You have come to the garden to eat mangoes. What need is there to know how many thousands of branches and how many millions of leaves there are in the garden? What is the use of knowledge about what happens after death?”
Girish Ghosh and avatarhood – who is holy? He who has faith and love for God
Girish Ghosh arrives by carriage with a couple of friends. He is drunk. Weeping when he comes in, he places his head on Thakur’s feet, still crying.
Sri Ramakrishna pats his back affectionately. He calls a devotee and says, “Prepare a smoke for him.”
Raising his head, Girish says with folded hands, “You alone are the full manifestation of Brahman. If this is not true, everything is false. I have been regretting that I could not serve you.” (These words are said so tenderly that one or two devotees begin to weep).
“Oh Lord, grant a boon that I may serve you for a year. Who cares for salvation? I don’t give a damn. Tell me, may I serve you for a year?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “People here are not nice. They could say something about it.”
Girish: “No, that will not be. Grant that –”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Well, serve me when I go to your house.”
Girish: “No. Let me serve you here.”
Sri Ramakrishna (seeing that he won’t relent): “All right, let it be as God wills.”
Thakur’s illness is in his throat. Girish says, “Say that you will be cured. All right. I will expel it magically. Kali! Kali!”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Will it cure the disease?”
Girish: “Get well! (Blowing at the throat) Phuh. If you are not cured, then you will be with the love and devotion I have for you. Say that you are cured.”
Sri Ramakrishna (irritated): “Go away. I can’t say those things. I can’t ask the Divine Mother to cure the illness. Alright, it will be according to God’s will.”
Girish: “You are deceiving me! It depends on your will.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Shame! Don’t say such a thing. I am only a devotee and not Krishna. You may think what you like. You may look on your guru as God, but it is wrong to talk that way. You must not say such a thing.”
Girish: “Say that you will be cured.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “All right. Whatever has come about will go away.”
According to his mood, Girish addresses Thakur now and then, “Well, dear sir, why haven’t you come in your beautiful form this time?”
Later, he adds, “Perhaps this time it will save Bengal.”
Some devotees say to themselves, “Is it just for saving Bengal? It will be the whole world!”
Girish again says, “Why is he here? Does anybody understand? He has come down out of compassion for the sorrows of mankind – to save them.”
The coachman has been calling. Girish rises and goes to him. Sri Ramakrishna says to M., “See where he is going. I hope he doesn’t beat him.” M. follows Girish.
Girish returns and recites a prayer to Thakur, “O Lord, grant that I may be so pure that I may never have a sinful thought.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “But you are already pure. You have faith and love for God. Aren’t you already in a joyful state?”
Girish: “No, sir. The mind is sick. No peace. That’s why I drink so much wine.”
After a while Girish adds, “Lord, I am surprised that I am serving the Supreme Brahman. What austerities did I perform that I am eligible for this service?”
Thakur has his midday meal. Because of his illness, he eats only a little very simple food.
He is always in a state of ecstasy, forcing his mind down to bring it to his body. But like a child he is unable to take care of the body. Childlike, he says to the devotees, “I have eaten a little. Now I’d like to lie down. You may go outside a little while.”
Thakur has a little rest. The devotees seat themselves again in his room.
Girish Ghosh – guru is one’s spiritual ideal – two kinds of devotees
Girish: “Yes sir, the guru and the spiritual ideal. I am fond of the form of the guru! I don’t fear him. Why is that? Whenever I see a person in ecstasy, I run away from him ten cubits. I fear it.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The spiritual ideal itself comes as the guru. After practicing meditation on a corpse, when a person gets the vision of the chosen ideal, the guru himself comes and says to the disciple, ‘O disciple, this is your ideal.’ Saying this, the guru merges into the form of the chosen ideal. The disciple then no longer sees the guru. When one attains the ultimate knowledge, who can be the guru and who can be the disciple? This is a very difficult situation, where there is no difference between the disciple and the guru.”
Devotee: “The head of the guru and feet of the disciple.”
Girish (happily): “Yes!”
Navagopal: “Listen to the meaning. The head of the disciple belongs to the guru, just as the feet of the guru belong to the disciple. Do you understand?”
Girish: “No, that is not the meaning. Doesn’t a son climb up on his father’s shoulder? So it says ‘the feet of the disciple.’”
Navagopal: “That happens only when the son feels like an infant.”
His earlier story – Sikh devotees – two classes of devotees: baby monkeys and kittens
Sri Ramakrishna: “There are two kinds of devotees: One kind has the nature of a kitten – absolute dependence on what the mother may do. It only knows how to meow. It doesn’t know where it is going, or what it will do. The mother cat sometimes puts it in the kitchen and sometimes on a bed. In the same way, a devotee gives the power of attorney to God. Having given God the power of attorney, he is free from any anxiety.
“The Sikhs said, ‘God is kind.’ I said, ‘He is our mother and father, why say He is kind? If after giving birth to children, shouldn’t the parents bring them up? Should the neighbours do it? This kind of devotee really believes that He is our own mother and our own father.’
“There is another class of devotee. They have the nature of a young monkey. A young monkey holds onto its mother with all its strength. These devotees feel they have some duty to perform – to go on pilgrimage, to practice japa and spiritual disciplines, to worship with sixteen items – and that only then will they be able to hold onto God. This is their attitude.
“Both types are devotees. (To the devotees) The more you proceed towards God, the more you will see that God Himself has become everything, that it is He who is doing everything. He is the guru and He Himself is the spiritual ideal. It is He Himself who has granted you spiritual knowledge and love for God.”
His earlier story – advice to Keshab Sen: go forward
“The farther you proceed, the more you will see that there is something beyond the sandalwood forest – silver mines, gold mines, and diamonds and jewels. Therefore, go forward.
“But how can I even say, ‘Go forward?’ When householders go too far, their world falls away. Once Keshab Sen was conducting a worship. He said, ‘Oh God, may we drown in the river of Your love!’ When the service was over, I said to him, ‘My dear, can you drown yourself in a river of love? What then would happen to those who are sitting behind the screen?’ But please do this. Dive every now and then and then get back to the bank.” (All laugh.)
Chattering of Vaishnava – ‘one must bring injunctions into practice’ – truthfulness is austerity
The Vaishnava from Katoa is arguing with Thakur. Thakur says to him, ‘Stop all this chattering. When butter contains water, it produces a sizzling sound.’
“Once a person has tasted the bliss of God, the tendency to argue vanishes. When a bee tastes the joy of sipping honey, it no longer buzzes.
“What will you achieve with talk after reading books? How many verses the pundits quote – ‘Shirna Gokulmandali’ (“The group in Gokul has shrunk”) and so forth.
“What will you gain by just repeating ‘hemp, hemp?’ Even if you rinse your mouth with it, nothing happens. It has to go into the stomach. Only then will you feel intoxicated. Without calling on God in solitude and with yearning, all these things cannot be internalized.”
Doctor Rakhal arrives to examine Thakur, who says to him eagerly, “Please come and sit down.” The conversation with the Vaishnava continues.
His earlier story – settling of disputes by a truthful and religious person
“In our village there are many people with pot-bellies and mustaches. But good people are brought from several miles away in a palanquin because they are truthful and religious. They are brought to settle disputes. They don’t bring those who are mere pundits.
“Truthfulness is the austerity of the Kaliyuga. Truthfulness, dependence on God, and looking upon other men’s wives as mother – these are the means.”
Like a child, Thakur says to the doctor, “Sir, please cure me of this.”
Doctor: “Can I cure you?”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “A doctor is the Lord Himself. I honour all.”
Reconciliation of free will and God’s will – liberty and necessity – God Himself is the mahout Narayana
“If you say I should remain quiet because everyone is God, I believe in the mahout Narayana as well.
“Pure mind and pure atman are one and the same. What comes to a pure mind is God Himself. He is Himself the mahout Narayana.
“Why shouldn’t I listen to Him? God alone is the doer. As long as He keeps my ‘I-ness’ in me, so long will I act according to His instruction.”
The doctor is now going to examine Thakur’s throat. Thakur says, “Doctor Mahendra Sarkar pressed my tongue the way they press a cow’s tongue.”
Thakur touches the doctor’s shirt and says to him again, like a child, “Sir, please cure me of this.”
Seeing the laryngoscope, Thakur laughs and says, “I understand – you will see the image of my throat in it.”
Narendra sings. Because of Thakur’s illness, not many songs are sung.
Doctor Bhagavan Rudra and Sri Ramakrishna
After taking his midday meal, Sri Ramakrishna is sitting on his bed, talking to Doctor Bhagavan Rudra. M., Rakhal, Latu, and some other devotees are also in the room.
It is Wednesday, 2 September 1885, 18th of Bhadra, the eighth to ninth day of the month of Shravana, the day of the Nanda Festival. The doctor hears all about Thakur’s disease.
Thakur comes down to the floor and sits near the doctor.
Sri Ramakrishna: “You see, I can’t tolerate the medicine. I have a different constitution.”
Touching money, tying knots, saving – all these are impossible for Thakur
“Well, what do you think about this? My hand becomes twisted when I touch money and my breathing stops. And if I tie a knot, I can’t breathe till the knot is untied.”
After saying this, he asks for a rupee. The doctor is left speechless by what he sees: the hand on which the rupee coin is placed twists and Thakur’s breathing stops. When the rupee is removed, Thakur exhales three long breaths one after the other and his hand again relaxes.
The doctor says to M., “It is action on the nerves.”
His earlier story – saving opium in Sambhu Mallick’s garden – picking mangoes in the native village of Kamarpukur – saving impossible
Thakur says to the doctor again, “There’s another thing. I can’t save anything at all. One day I went to Sambhu Mallick’s garden. I had great stomach trouble and Sambhu said, ‘Take a little opium bit by bit. It will make you feel better.’ He tied a little in a corner of my cloth. When I was returning, I began to wander around at the gate – I couldn’t find the way. When I threw the opium away, I regained my normal state and returned to the temple garden.
“One day in my village, I picked some mangoes to take home, but then I couldn’t walk. I remained standing in one place. When I put the mangoes in a pit, only then could I return home. Well, what do you think of this?”
Doctor: “There is special power behind it – will power.”
Mani: “He says it is the Lord’s power. But you say it is will power.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “And then if someone says, ‘You are better,’ at once I feel much better. The other day the brahmin woman said, ‘You are fifty percent better.’ I immediately began to dance.”
Thakur is pleased with the doctor’s nature. He tells him, “You have a fine nature. There are two signs of a person who has attained knowledge: a serene temperament and absence of pride.”
Mani: “He (the doctor) has lost his wife.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “I tell you that God can be attained if one has these three attractions combined: a mother’s love for her child, the love a chaste woman for her husband, and the love of a worldly person for his possessions.
“Sir, please cure me however you can.”
The doctor is now going to examine the diseased throat. Thakur sits on a chair in the semicircular verandah. First he talks of Doctor Sarkar, “The rascal! He pressed my tongue as if it was a cow’s!”
Doctor Bhagavan: “I don’t think he meant to.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, it’s not that. He pressed it so he could examine it properly.”
. Later Swami Akhandananda.
. Later Swami Subodhananda.
. Anniversary of Krishna’s birth.
. Baby Krishna.
. Panchayat, “acting as an arbiter.”
. Purna Brahman, or Brahman in His absolute fullness. “Manifestation” implies partialness and differentiation; this is the unmanifest Whole.
. Brahman in His full manifestation, Purna Brahman.
. Shava sadhana.
. Manushya means “human being,” and manhosha “awakened mind.”
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