With Doctor Sarkar, Narendra, Sashi, Sarat, M., Girish, and Others at the Shyampukur House
His earlier story – in a state of God-intoxication, behind the kuthi, Thakur feels his body burnt by a sacrificial fire – Pundit Padmalochan’s faith and his death
For treatment of his illness, Sri Ramakrishna is living with devotees in a house at Shyampukur. Today is Friday, 23 October 1885, the day of the full moon.The time is 10:00 in the morning. Thakur is talking with M., who is helping him with his socks.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Would it be all right to cut my woolen scarf to wrap around my legs to warm them?”
Yesterday, on Thursday night, Sri Ramakrishna had a long conversation with Dr. Sarkar. Referring to it, Thakur laughs and says to M., “Yesterday I told him the story about saying ‘You, you [the calf and egotism being the cause of all suffering].’”
Sri Ramakrishna had said, “A person keeps getting scalded by the three fires of the world, yet says it is alright. A sharp thorn cuts into his hand and he bleeds profusely, yet he says, ‘There’s nothing wrong with my hand.’ This thorn has to be burnt in the fire of spiritual knowledge.”
The younger Naren, remembering it, says, “What you said about the thorn was nice. Burn it in the fire of spiritual knowledge!”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I had the experience of this myself. One day when I was walking behind the kuthi, my body felt like it was ablaze in a sacrificial fire.
“Padmalochan said, ‘I will call an assembly of people and talk about your experiences.’ But he died soon after.”
The time is eleven o’clock. Mani has taken news of Thakur to Dr Sarkar at his house. Hearing about Thakur’s condition, the doctor speaks of him and shows his eagerness to hear more.
Doctor (smiling): “How well I said yesterday, ‘To say ‘You, you,’ first you have to fall into the hands of a carder!’”
Mani: “That’s true, sir. Unless you fall into the hands of a real guru, your ego doesn’t disappear. And how nicely he talked about love for God. Bhakti is a woman and can go right into the inner apartments.”
Doctor: “Yes, these really are beautiful words. But you still can’t give up jnana.”
Mani: “The Paramahamsa Deva doesn’t say that. He accepts both knowledge and love – God with form and God without form. He says that the cooling power of love for God has formed water into ice, but when the sun of knowledge rises, the ice melts again. In other words, you realize God with form through love, and the formless Absolute through knowledge.
“And we have noticed that he feels God is so very near that he’s always talking with Him. Like a small boy, he says, ‘Mother, it hurts a lot.’
“And what powers of observation he has! He saw some fossils in the museum. Immediately he found in them a simile for holy company. Just as they [the fossils] have become stone by dwelling near stones, one becomes holy by associating with the holy.”
Doctor: “Yesterday Ishan Babu was harping on the subject of the incarnation of God. ‘What is an incarnation after all! It is calling a man God!’”
Mani: “But such is his faith. What is the use of interfering with it?”
Doctor: “You’re right, it would be of no use.”
Mani: “And how he made us laugh when he said, ‘Someone saw that a certain house had collapsed, but it wasn’t mentioned in the newspaper, so no one would believe it.’”
The doctor keeps quiet because Thakur has said to him, “Your science does not mention incarnations of God, so there is no incarnation of God.”
It is midday. The doctor gets into the carriage with Mani. After visiting some other patients, he will go to examine Sri Ramakrishna.
The other day the doctor was invited by Girish to see the play Buddha Lila. Now sitting in the carriage, he says to Mani, “It would have been better to call Buddha the incarnation of compassion. Why was he called an incarnation of Vishnu?”
The Doctor drops Mani at the crossing of Hedua road.
Thakur in the state of a Paramahamsa – seeing joy spreading like fog all around – vision of Mother of the Universe seeming to say, ‘Come delusion, come illusion!’
It is about 3 o’clock. One or two devotees are sitting with Thakur. Impatient like a child, he asks repeatedly, “When is the doctor coming? What time is it now?” The doctor is to come this evening.
Suddenly Thakur goes into the mood of a child. Taking a pillow on his lap, he holds it maternally, as if nursing a child. Then he laughs like a child and, in ecstasy, and puts on his dhoti in a strange way. Mani and the others watch him in amazement.
In a little while the ecstatic mood diminishes. It is time for his meal. He eats a little farina pudding and talks to Mani alone about a very secret experience.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Mani): “Do you know what I just saw in a state of ecstasy? A vast meadow extending six or eight miles through which the road to Sihore runs. I was alone in that field. I saw a fifteen- or sixteen-year old boy paramahamsa, like the one I had seen earlier under the banyan tree.
“I was surrounded on all sides by a mist of joy when a boy thirteen or fourteen years old raised his head out of the mist. He looked like Purna. Both of us were naked. We began running around the field and playing.
“Purna felt thirsty. He drank water from a glass and then offered it to me. I said, ‘My dear, I can’t drink your leftovers.’ Then he laughed and went away to wash the glass. He brought me fresh water in it.”
Dreadful and fearful Mother – She shows that everything is a spell
Thakur again goes into samadhi. Returning to normal consciousness, he resumes his conversation with Mani.
“My mental attitude has changed. I can no longer eat the holy food offered to the deities. The Real and the apparent have become the same to me. Do you know what I saw? A divine form, the Mother of the Universe, with a child in her womb. She gave birth to it and then swallowed it again. As much as went into Her became empty. She was showing me that everything is empty.
“She seemed to be saying, ‘Come, delusion; come illusion! Come!’”
Mani reflects on Thakur’s saying, “Only the magician is real, all else is illusion.”
Occult powers are not good – occult powers are of a lower order
Sri Ramakrishna: “Well, I tried to attract Purna, but I couldn’t. It weakens my faith a little.”
Mani: “But that would be occult power.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, downright occult power.”
Mani: “When we were returning to Dakshineswar with you from Adhar Sen’s house, a bottle broke in the carriage. Somebody said, ‘Is that going to cause any trouble?’ You said, ‘I can’t bother about that. That would be using occult power.’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “In the same way sickly boys are made to lie on the ground where Hari’s name is chanted so they may get well. Curing disease using occult powers is an act of miracle. Those who call upon the Lord for healing a disease have a very low spiritual ideal.”
Ultimate spiritual knowledge – the body and Self are different – Thakur’s life as told by him
It is evening. Sitting on his bed, Thakur is meditating on the Divine Mother and chanting Her name. A number of devotees are sitting silently near him.
After a while Dr. Sarkar arrives. Latu, Sashi, the younger Naren, Paltu, and many other devotees are present. Ramtaran of the Star Theatre has come with Girish. He is going to sing.
Doctor (to Sri Ramakrishna): “Last night at three o’clock, I was very worried about you. It had rained and I wondered if the doors and windows of your room had been closed or left open. How could I know?”
Sri Ramakrishna is happy with the doctor’s affection and says, “What are you saying, my dear? As long as you have a body, you have to take care of it. But I see that it is separate from the Self. When you are completely rid of the attachment to ‘lust and greed,’ you realize that the body and the Self are different from each other. When the water in a coconut dries up completely, the shell and the kernel separate from each other. Then you can feel the kernel rattling inside the shell. Or, take another example, a sword and its sheath.
“The sword is separate from the sheath. That’s why I can’t ask the Divine Mother to cure the disease of my body.”
Girish: “Pundit Shashadhar said to him [Sri Ramakrishna], ‘Please bring your mind to your body in samadhi. That will get rid of your disease.’ But he had seen in ecstasy that the body was rattling like a skeleton.”
His earlier story – visit to the museum – his prayer in pain
Sri Ramakrishna: “Long ago I was very ill. I was sitting in the Kali Temple. I felt like praying to the Divine Mother for help, but I couldn’t do it for myself. I said, ‘Mother, Hriday asked me to speak to you about my illness.’ I couldn’t say more. While I was saying it, I suddenly remembered the Asiatic Society Museum. It had a skeleton of human bones tied together with wires. Immediately I said, ‘Mother, please tie this body with wires like the skeleton so I can go around chanting your name and glories.’ I couldn’t ask for any occult powers.
“In the beginning Hriday said to me – you see, in those days I was under Hriday’s care – ‘Ask the Divine Mother for some power.’ And what a sight I saw when I went to the Kali temple to ask for power! I saw a widow prostitute thirty or thirty-five years old shamelessly opening her cloth and excreting. I became angry with Hriday because he told me to pray for occult powers.”
Ramtaran’s song – Thakur in ecstasy
Ramtaran sings now:
Behold my beloved vina, strung with special care,
For him who plays it tenderly, its strings tuned neither high nor low, its sweetness flows in a hundred streams.
But if the strings are slack, they will be mute, and over-stretched, they will break in two.
Doctor (to Girish): “Are these songs original?”
Girish: “No, they are adapted from Edwin Arnold.”
Ramtaran first sings a song from a play of Buddha’s life:
We cry for rest, but where to find it?
We know not from where we have come, nor to where we will float away.
We return again and again, weeping and laughing without end,
And always wondering where we may go.
O Awakened One, let me also awaken.
How long will it take for my dream to end?
The awakened sleep no more.
But for now a dense and dreadful darkness lies all around.
Destroy this darkness! Be my light!
Except for you, there is no way. And so I seek refuge at your feet.
Thakur goes into samadhi listening to the song. Then Ramtaran sings again:
Blow, blow, O raging storm…
Vision of god, the sun
When the song is over, Thakur says, “What have you done? Why the bitter soup of neem leaves after rice pudding?
“As soon as you sang, ‘Destroy this darkness,’ I saw the darkness all around dispelled by the rising sun. And everyone taking refuge at the feet of the sun.”
Ramtaran sings again, first:
O Mother, saviour of the helpless, You are the slayer of evil. In You the three qualities of sattva, rajas, and tamas dwell.
You, who create, preserve, and dissolve the world, are with form as well as Formless. O my Mother, truly You manifest in every form.
My devotion and worship have come to an end; no longer can I offer worship to Mother Shyama,
And by no means can I control the mind. Oh, how it torments me! For shame!
Hearing this song, Thakur again goes into samadhi.
O Mother, who has offered these heaps of red hibiscus flowers at Your feet?
The ecstasy of younger Naren and others – duties of monks and householders
The song is over. Most of the devotees sit silently, deeply touched. The younger Naren is absorbed in meditation, sitting motionless like a wooden figure.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor, pointing at the younger Naren): “He is very pure – untouched by the least trace of worldly thoughts.”
The doctor looks at younger Naren, who is still in meditation.
Manomohan (laughing, to the doctor): “About your son, he [Ramakrishna] says, ‘If I have the son, I don’t care about the father.’”
Doctor: “That’s it! That’s why I say that you forget everything else when thinking of the child. (that is, you are occupied with the incarnation or the devotee and forget God).”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “It’s not that I don’t want the Father.”
Doctor: “I understand. How can you do without saying a few things like this?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Your son really is guileless. Sambhu’s face reddened when he said, ‘God is bound to listen if you call on Him sincerely.’ Do you know why I love these boys so much? They are like pure milk that only needs to be brought to a boil to be offered to the deity. Watery milk has to be boiled quite a bit. A lot of firewood is wasted.
“These boys are like unused earthen pots – they are good receptacles. Milk can be put in them without a care. Talk to them just a little about spiritual knowledge and their consciousness is awakened. Worldly people are not easily awakened. It is always risky to keep milk in a pot that’s been used for curds. It might go bad.
“Worldliness – ‘lust and greed’ – hasn’t touched your son.”
Doctor: “That’s because he’s living off his father’s earnings! I’d like to see if he’d remain untouched by worldliness if he had to earn his own living.”
Monk and renunciation of woman – monk and renunciation of gold
Sri Ramakrishna: “That’s true! That’s certainly true. But the fact is that God is very far away from worldliness. Otherwise, He is as near as the palm of the hand. (To Doctor Sarkar and Doctor Dokari) Renunciation of ‘lust and greed’ is not for you. You only have to renounce them mentally. I said the same thing to the goswamis, ‘Why do you talk about renunciation? It won’t do for you to renounce – you have to attend to the worship of Shyamasundar.’
“Renunciation is for sannyasins. They shouldn’t even see the picture of a woman. Women are like poison for them. They must keep at least ten cubits away or, if that’s not possible, at least one cubit. Even if a woman is a great devotee, a sannyasin shouldn’t talk to her for long.
“A sannyasin should live in a place where he doesn’t even see the face of a woman, or very rarely.
“Money is also a poison for sannyasins. When you have money, you quickly fall prey to anxiety, pride, physical comfort, anger, and so forth. Rajas increases. When there is rajoguna, it leads to tamoguna. So a sannyasin shouldn’t touch money. ‘Lust and greed’ make you forget God.”
Advice to the doctor – right use of money – wife for a householder
“But you know, money buys food and clothing and a place to live. It also provides for worship of the Lord and for holy men and devotees.
“But hoarding it is useless. A bee takes great trouble to make its hive. But then someone comes and breaks into it and takes away the honey.”
The Doctor: “For whom does one save? Perhaps for the sake of a bad son!”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Not just a bad son alone. Maybe your wife is of easy virtue. She may even give away your watch and chain to her lover.
“You don’t have to renounce women altogether. It’s not wrong to sleep with your own wife. But after you’ve had children, you should live like brother and sister.
“If you are attached to ‘lust and greed,’ you develop pride of learning, pride of wealth and high position – all these things.”
Advice to Dr. Sarkar – pride is not good – ego of knowledge is good – it enables one to teach others
Sri Ramakrishna: “Unless you give up pride, you can’t attain spiritual knowledge. Water doesn’t stay on the top of a mound. It flows down quickly on all sides to the ground below.”
Doctor: “The water that comes down to the lower ground from all sides is both good and bad. It can be muddy and full of sewage, too. And there are hollows on the tops of hills – for instance, in Nanital and Mansarovar – where you have only pure water from the sky.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Only water from the sky. Ah, beautiful!”
Doctor: “And water from a higher level flows down in all directions.”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Someone got a siddha mantra. He stood on the top of a hill and shouted to the people below, ‘You can realize God if you repeat this mantra.’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “But then, there is a problem. When your soul is full of yearning for God, you don’t see any difference between good water and dirty water. To know God, one might go to a good person, but sometimes also to people who are ignorant. But when His grace descends, even the turbid water does no harm. When He grants Knowledge, He tells everything – which water is good and which bad.
“There can be low ground on the top of a hill, but not on the hill of the ‘rascal I.’ The pure water from the sky only collects when there is the ‘I of knowledge,’ or the ‘I of a devotee.’
“The water from a higher level can no doubt flow in all directions, but it is only possible if it comes down from the hill of the ‘ego of knowledge.’
“Without receiving God’s command, a person can’t teach other people. Shankaracharya retained the ‘I of knowledge’ after attaining Knowledge in order to teach mankind. But lecturing without having attained Him! What good can it do for people?”
His earlier story – Samadhyayi’s lecture – visit to Nandan Bagan Brahmo Samaj
“I went to the Nandan Bagan Brahmo Samaj. After worship, the leader lectured from a podium. While reading his prepared lecture, he looked all around. Even while meditating, he opened his eyes to see now and then.
“A person who hasn’t realized God can’t give right instruction. He may say one thing correctly but the next thing he says is totally confusing.
“Samadhyayi gave a lecture in which he said, ‘God is beyond mind and speech. He is without sweetness and bliss. You must sing His glories with the sweetness of your own love and devotion.’ Look at how he describes Him who is the very fountain of sweetness and bliss, the essence of joy! What will such a lecture do? Can it teach anybody?
“Someone said, ‘My maternal uncle has a cowshed full of horses.’ Horses in a cowshed! (Everyone laughs.) This can only mean that there are no horses there.”
Doctor (smiling): “There are no cows either.” (All laugh.)
The devotees who had been enraptured regain their normal mood. The doctor is enjoying them.
He asks M., “Who is that person?” M. introduces Paltu, the younger Naren, Bhupati, Sarat, Sashi, and the other young devotees by pointing to them one after the other.
About Sashi, M. says, “He is going to take his B.A. examination.”
The doctor’s mind has gone elsewhere.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “Look here, listen to what he’s saying.”
The doctor hears about Sashi.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor, pointing to M.,): “He teaches school boys.”
The Doctor: “That’s what I heard.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “How amazing! I’m unlettered but educated people come here. Isn’t it surprising? You have to admit that it’s God’s play.”
Today is the Kojagar Purnima day, about half past nine in the evening. The doctor has been here watching everything since six o’clock.
Girish (to the doctor): “Well, sir, does this happen to you? You say to yourself, ‘I’m not going there,’ and yet you seem pulled by something. I’m asking because it happens to me.”
Doctor: “I don’t feel quite like that, but only the heart knows what is happening in the heart. (To Sri Ramakrishna) Besides, you shouldn’t talk about things like this.”
. Kojagar Purnima.
. See Volume I, Section XV.
. Tuhum, tuhum. For the complete story of the calf, see Volume I, Section XV, Chapter II.
. Three afflictions or fires of the world: Adhidaivika, misfortunes caused by natural disasters or the forces of nature; adhibhautika, misfortunes caused by other living beings, i.e. war, physical or verbal assault, attacks of animals, snake bites, and so on; adhyatmika, misfortunes arising from the harm we do ourselves by mental anguish, addictions, and self-destructive behavior.
. Three to four kosas.
. Later Swami Ramakrishnananda.
. For complete song refer to Volume III, Section XXII, Chapter III.
. A mantra that leads to perfection.
. Sashi (later Swami Ramakrishnananda) first saw Sri Ramakrishna in 1884.
. The full moon day after the worship of Durga.
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