Birthday Celebration for Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar – Joyful Kirtan with Narendra and Other Devotees
Sri Ramakrishna is sitting on the long northeastern verandah at the Dakshineswar Temple, listening to the songs relating to Gopigoshtha and Subol Milan. Narottam is singing. Today is Sunday, 22 February 1885, 12th day of Phalgun 1291 (B.Y.), the eighth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month. The devotees are celebrating Sri Ramakrishna’s birthday. According to the lunar calendar, it fell on the 2nd of the bright fortnight of Phalgun, last Monday. Narendra, Rakhal, Bhavanath, Surendra, Girindra, Binode, Hazra, Ramlal, Ram, Nityagopal, Mani Mallick, Girish, Mahendra Kaviraj of Sinthi and many other devotees have assembled. The kirtan has been going on since early morning. It is now about eight o’clock. M. enters and salutes Sri Ramakrishna. Thakur motions to him to sit near him.
Listening to the singing, Sri Ramakrishna has become filled with emotion. Sri Krishna is late in bringing the cows to pasture. One of the cowherd boys says, “Mother Yashoda is keeping him from coming.” Balai says sharply, “I’ll blow a horn and bring Kanai here.” Balai’s love for him is deep.
The musicians continue. Sri Krishna is playing his flute. As the milkmaids and cowherds listen, different moods arise in their minds.
Thakur sits with the devotees and listens to the singing. Suddenly his glance falls on Narendra, who is sitting close to him. Thakur stands up and goes into samadhi. He touches Narendra’s knee with one foot. Returning to normal consciousness, Thakur sits down again. Narendra leaves the room. The kirtan goes on.
Sri Ramakrishna whispers to Baburam, “There’s pudding in the room. Please go and give some to Narendra.”
Is Thakur seeing the very presence of God in Narendra?
At the end of the kirtan Sri Ramakrishna returns to his room. He feeds Narendra affectionately with sweets.
Girish believes that God has come down to earth in the form of Sri Ramakrishna.
Girish (to Sri Ramakrishna): “All your actions are like Sri Krishna’s – the way he used to pose before Yashoda.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, because Sri Krishna was an incarnation of God. Playing as a human being, He acts like this. Even while he lifted the Govardhan hill (on his hand), he pretended to Nanda that he found it difficult to pick up a footstool.”
Girish: “I’m sure I understand you now.”
Sri Ramakrishna puts on new clothes for his birthday – service rendered to him by devotees – in samadhi
Thakur is sitting on the smaller cot. It is about eleven o’clock. Ram and other devotees want to dress Thakur in a new cloth. Thakur says, “No, no.” Pointing to a person educated in English, he says, “What will he say about it?” When the devotees insist, Thakur says, “If you insist, I’ll do it.”
The devotees are making arrangements for Thakur’s meal in the room.
Thakur asks Narendra to sing. Narendra sings:
In dense darkness, O Mother, Your formless beauty sparkles. And so the yogi meditates in a dark mountain cave.
In the lap of infinite darkness, on the waves of the great silence, eternal peace and joy float without end.
Putting on the form of the Formless One, in darkness draped, O Mother, who are You, seated alone in boundless bliss?
At the lotus of Your fear-dispelling feet flashes the lightning of love, while loud and earth-shaking laughter issues from Your dazzling face.
What wondrous beauty, what an enchanting face I see!
The Lord of my soul has entered my humble hut,
and the spring of love wells forth.
O Lord, beloved of my heart, what treasure shall I offer You?
Accept my soul, accept my life; whatever I have, accept all that from me.
As Narendra sings, “O Mother, who are You, seated alone in boundless bliss?” Thakur immediately loses all outer consciousness and goes into deep samadhi. After a long time, when he returns to normal, the devotees make him sit for his meal. He is still absorbed in ecstasy and eats rice but with both hands. He says to Bhavanath, “Please feed me.” He is still in an ecstatic mood and is unable to feed himself. Bhavanath feeds him.
Thakur eats a little. Then Ram says, “Nityagopal will eat from your leaf plate.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “From the plate? Why?”
Ram: “Can’t he eat from your leaf plate if you say he can?”
Seeing Nityagopal in an ecstatic mood, Thakur feeds him one or two morsels
By this time the devotees of Konnagar have arrived by boat. They enter the room singing kirtan. After singing, they go out for refreshments. A singer, Narottam, is in the room. Thakur says to him, “Their music is like they’re pushing a boat in the river. The music should be such that everybody wants to dance. You should sing like this:
O Brother, because of the intensity of Gaur’s ecstatic love, the village of Nadia is swaying.
(To Narottam) “And this should be added to it.”
Behold the two brothers who shed tears on chanting Hari’s name have come.
They who ask for prema (ecstatic love) even after receiving blows, these two brothers have come.
They who are Kanai and Balai of Vraja, these two brothers have come.
They who embrace even the pariah, these two brothers have come.
And you should sing this too.
O Lord, Gaur and Nitai, you two brothers are so full of compassion.
You even raise the chandala up in your arms and utter Haribol to him with so much compassion, O Lord of the indigent.
Conversation with devotees during the birthday celebration
The devotees now eat the sacrificial food. They are happy to have the flattened fried rice, sweets and some other kinds of food. Thakur says to M., “Didn’t you invite the Mukherjis? Please ask Surendra to feed the musicians.”
Bepin Sarkar has come. A devotee says, “This is Bepin Sarkar.” Thakur sits up and says humbly, “Give him a seat and offer him a betel leaf.” He says to him, “I can’t talk to you. There’s such a big crowd.”
Seeing Girindra, Thakur says to Baburam, “Give him a seat.” Seeing that Nityagopal is squatting, Thakur says, “And him too.”
Mahendra, the kaviraj from Sinthi, has arrived. Smiling, Thakur points to Rakhal and says, “Show him your pulse.”
He says to Ramlal, “Make friends with Girish Ghosh. Then you’ll be able to go to the theatre [free of charge].” (Laughter.)
Narendra has been talking a long time to Hazra on the verandah. Since the death of Narendra’s father, there are great troubles with his family. Narendra comes in the room and sits down.
Thakur gives Narendra various instructions
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra): “Were you sitting with Hazra? You are ‘a foreigner’ and he is a ‘woman separated from her lover.’ Hazra also needs one and a half thousand rupees. (Laughter.)
“Hazra says, ‘Narendra has developed sixteen annas of sattva guna, but he still has a little red raja guna in him. I am seventeen annas of pure sattva.’ (All laugh.)
“When I say, ‘You are dry because you only reason,’ he says, ‘I’m dry because I drink the nectar of the sun.’
“When I talk to him about pure love for God, when I say that a pure devotee doesn’t want money and wealth and splendour, he says, ‘When the flood of His grace rises, not only will streams be flooded, but even canals and pools will be filled with water. A person gains pure devotion and also the six splendours. And money too.’”
Narendra and many other devotees are sitting on the floor in Thakur’s room. Girish enters and takes a seat.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “I regard Narendra as the very essence of Atman. And I obey him.”
Girish: “Who do you not obey?”
Narendra belongs to the Supreme Abode
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “He has a manly nature and I have a feminine nature. Narendra has a high spiritual ideal – the abode of Indivisible Brahman.”
Girish goes out for a smoke.
Narendra (to Sri Ramakrishna): “I had a talk with Girish Ghosh about you. He’s a great man.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What did you say about me?”
Narendra: “That you don’t know how to read and write and we are all learned – this is the drift of the conversation.” (Laughter.)
Sri Ramakrishna and Narendra – scholarship and scriptures
Mani Mallick (to Thakur): “You are learned without being literate.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra and others): “To tell you the truth, I haven’t studied Vedanta or other scriptures, but I’m not a bit sorry about it. I know the essence of Vedanta: Brahman is real and the world is an illusion. And what is the essence of the Gita? That when you go on repeating the word Gita ten times, you get tyagi, tyagi.
“A person should know the essence of the scriptures from the lips of a guru, but then practice spiritual disciplines. Somebody wrote a letter. Before it was read, it got lost. Everybody began to look for it. When they found the letter, they read that five seers of sandesh and a dhoti had to be bought. They threw the letter away and began to collect five seers of sandesh and a dhoti. In the same way, when you know the essence of the scriptures, what further need do you have to read the book? Now you have to practice spiritual disciplines.”
Girish enters the room.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “Hello! What were you saying about me? I just eat, drink and live.”
Girish: “What else should we say about you? Are you a sadhu?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I’m no sadhu. Truly, I don’t feel like I am.”
Girish: “Even in joke, I can’t compete with you.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “I went to Jaygopal Sen’s garden house wearing a red-bordered dhoti. Keshab Sen was there. Seeing my red-bordered dhoti, he said, ‘That’s a lot of colour today – so much red border!’ I said, ‘I have to distract Keshab’s mind, so I have come like a spring festival.’
Narendra is going to sing now. Sri Ramakrishna asks M. to take down the tanpura. Narendra tunes it for a long time. Thakur and the others become impatient.
Binode says, “Today it will be tuned and another day we’ll hear the song.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna laughs and says, “I feel like breaking it. Only tang, tang is being produced? It may be followed by tana nana, nere tum.”
Bhavanath: “There’s always impatience before a musical performance.”
Narendra (while tuning): “When you don’t understand.”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “There! He’s explained away all our complaints!”
Narendra’s song and Sri Ramakrishna’s ecstasy – inwardness and outwardness – still water and wave
Narendra sings. Thakur listens, sitting on the smaller cot, and Nityagopal and other devotees listen, sitting on the floor.
O the all-knowing Mother, You are always awake within me. Night and day You hold me in your arms.
Song No. 2
Sing O brother, the name of the Self of Joy. She, the one Reality, brings peace to my mind.
Song No. 3
In dense darkness, O Mother, Your formless beauty sparkles. And so the yogi meditates in a dark mountain cave.
Thakur, filled with ecstasy, comes down from the cot and sits near Narendra. He speaks while still in ecstasy.
Sri Ramakrishna: “Should I sing? Fie on it! (To Nityagopal) What do you think? You have to hear it before you’re inspired. What happens after makes no difference.
“He has lit a fire. That’s good. Then afterward it is quiet. I’m silent and you should also remain silent.
“The important thing is to be immersed in the nectar of joy.
“Should I sing? Well, I may. When water is still, it is water and when it is in waves, it is still water.”
Advice to Narendra – go beyond knowledge and ignorance
Narendra is sitting near. His family at home is in trouble and he is always worried about them. He used to visit the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and still reasons about knowledge. He is interested in reading Vedanta and other holy books. He is about twenty-three years old. Thakur looks at him steadfastly.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling, to Narendra): “You are kha (like space). If only you did not have this tax (worry at home). (All laugh.)
“Krishnakishore used to say, ‘I am kha.’ One day I went to his house and found him worried. He wouldn’t talk much. I asked him, ‘Brother, what has happened? Why are you sitting so silently like this?’ He said, ‘The tax man came and warned me that if I didn’t pay taxes, he would auction off all the pots and pans in my house. So I’m worried.’ I laughed and said, ‘How is that? You are ‘kha,’ like the sky. What does it matter if the rascal comes and carries away your pots and pans?’
“So I say to you, ‘You are only ‘kha’. Why do you worry so much? Do you know that Sri Krishna said to Arjuna, ‘If you have even one of the eight occult powers, you can be a little powerful, but you will not be able to attain Me.’ You can have power, strength, money and things like that through occult powers, but not God.
“And there’s something else – go beyond knowledge and ignorance. Many people say that a certain person is a great man of knowledge, but in reality it is not so. Vasishtha was such a great jnani, but he lost his balance at the loss of his sons. Lakshmana said, ‘Rama, this is strange! He is totally overwhelmed with sorrow.’ Rama answered, ‘Brother, the person who has knowledge also has ignorance. A person who is conscious of light also knows darkness. One who knows what is good also knows what is bad. The one who knows what happiness is also knows what sorrow is. Brother, go beyond both. Go beyond happiness and sorrow, knowledge and ignorance.’ That’s why I say to you, ‘Go beyond knowledge and ignorance.’”
Sri Ramakrishna with devotees – advice to Surendra – family life and charity – mind yoga and action yoga
Sri Ramakrishna again sits on the smaller cot, the devotees near him on the floor. Surendra also sits near him. Thakur looks at him affectionately and, in the course of their conversation, advises him on many things.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Surendra): “Come here now and then. The Naked One (Totapuri) used to say that a pot should be washed every day or it will get stained. It’s necessary to keep the company of holy men often. A sannyasin has to renounce ‘lust and greed’, but that’s not the path for you. You should occasionally go into solitude and call on God with a longing heart. You should renounce mentally.
“Unless you are a heroic devotee, you can’t take care of both sides. King Janaka lived a worldly life after he had attained perfection through spiritual disciplines. He wielded two swords: one of knowledge and the other of action.”
After saying this, Thakur sings:
This world is indeed a thing of joy; let me eat and drink and be merry.
King Janaka, the great royal sage, was he inferior in any respect to the holy man who has given up the world?
Oh no, it was he who was loyal to both matter and Spirit, who realized God and at the same time drank his cup of milk. (Laughter.)
“For you people, Chaitanya Deva’s advice is best: compassion for the living, service, and chanting God’s name and glories.
“Why do I say this? You work in a merchant’s office. You have to attend to many things. That’s why I say it to you.
“You tell lies at the office. So why do I eat the food you bring me? Because, you give in charity and also practice meditation. You give away more than you earn. ‘A melon seed is larger than the fruit.’
“I can’t eat food brought by a miser. Their money is squandered in a number of ways: first, in law-suits; second, in robbery or theft; third, in medical expenses; and then by the extravagance of bad children. This is how their money goes.
“It’s very good that you give in charity and perform meditation. Whoever has money should give in charity. A miser’s wealth is hidden away, but the wealth of a generous man is saved and spent in good causes. There in the countryside [Kamarpukur], farmers bring water to their fields by digging canals. Sometimes the flow of water is so forceful that it breaks the ridges and floods the fields. The crops are then destroyed. That’s why the farmers make holes at places along the ridge. They are called ‘muzzles.’ The water runs out a little through them so the ridge doesn’t wash away by the force of the water. Then a layer of silt covers the field. This layer makes the field very fertile and yields a very good crop. A charitable person reaps the four fruits of karma – virtue, wealth, fulfillment of legitimate desires and liberation.”
All the devotees listen attentively to this instruction of Thakur on the virtue of charity
Surendra: “I can’t meditate well. Now and then I repeat, ‘Ma, Ma.’ At bedtime I repeat, ‘Ma, Ma’ and fall asleep.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That’s enough. It is remembrance.”
“Mano yoga and Karma yoga. Performing worship, going on pilgrimage, service to living beings and so on under the guru’s instruction is called karma yoga. The work Janaka used to perform is also called karma yoga. Mano yoga is what yogis do: remembering God and meditating on Him.
“When I go to the Kali Temple, I say to myself, ‘Mother, you are the mind also.’ Pure mind, pure intellect and pure Atman are one and the same thing.”
It is almost dusk. Most of the devotees are returning home after saluting Thakur. He goes to the western verandah with Bhavanath and M.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Bhavanath): “Why do you come here so infrequently?”
Bhavanath (smiling): “I visit you once a fortnight. The other day I saw you on the road. That’s why I didn’t come then.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What are you saying? What use is it to just see each other? There should be touching and talking too.”
Thakur with Girish and other devotees on the night of his birthday – in the joy of ecstasy
It is evening. The sounds of arati in the temples can be heard. Today is the 8th day of the bright fortnight of Phalgun. The Holi festival will be held six or seven days later, on the next full moon.
The spires of the temple, the courtyard, the garden, the tree tops are beautifully lit by moonlight. The Ganges is flowing north by the temple, its surface bright with moonlight, as if with joy. Sri Ramakrishna, seated on the smaller cot, is meditating quietly on the Divine Mother.
One or two devotees are still here after the birthday celebration. Narendra had left earlier.
Arati is over. Absorbed in ecstasy, Thakur begins to pace the long southeastern verandah. M. stands watching him. Suddenly, Thakur says to him, “O, how beautifully Narendra sings!”
Meditation on Mahakali according to Tantra – the deep meaning of meditation
M.: “Sir, are you talking about the song beginning ‘in dense darkness?’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes. There’s deep meaning in that song. It is still drawing my mind.”
M.: “Yes, sir.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “To meditate in the dark is prescribed in the Tantra. Where is sunlight then?”
Girish Ghosh comes in and stands near. Sri Ramakrishna sings the song:
Is my Mother black?
She is the image of death.
Naked, She is illumining my heart.
Thakur, as though intoxicated, stands there with a hand on Girish’s body.
What need is there of going to the Ganges, Prabhas, Kashi and Kanchi if the lips can utter ‘Kali, Kali’ when my life ebbs away?
He who repeats ‘Kali’ in all the three sandhyas needs no daily ritualistic worship.
Worship itself follows his footsteps but can never overtake him.
Charity, kindness and vows no longer appeal to him.
For Madan, the poet, all worship means the red feet of the Blissful Mother.
Who can know the qualities of the holy name of Kali,
The praises of which are sung by the God of gods, Mahadeva Himself?
Then he sings:
This time I have given my full attention.
I have learned divine fervour from one well-versed in it.
O Mother, I have found a man from the country which has no night.
And now I can no longer distinguish day and night.
I have rendered barren all ritualistic devotions.
My sleep is broken. Why should I sleep anymore?
I am awake in the sacrifice of yoga.
Having received the sleep of yoga from You, I have put sleep to sleep.
I have given myself permanent colour with the help of borax and sulphur.
Both eyes brush the floor of the temple of my mind.
Says Ramprasad: Knowing the truth that Kali is the Supreme Brahman,
It seems that Thakur’s joy of ecstasy increases as he looks at Girish. He sings more songs as he stands there:
I have surrendered myself at the Fearless feet of the Divine Mother. Am I afraid of Yama anymore?
I have tied to the top tuft of my hair the almighty mantra of the name of Kali,
Having sold my body in the mart of the world, I have bought the name of Durga.
I have planted the wish-fulfilling tree, the name of Mother Kali, in my heart.
I am waiting to open my heart to Yama to show him the name of Kali residing there.
I have thrown out the six bad beings that were dwelling in my body.
Says Ramprasad, I am prepared to start my journey of life, taking the name of Durga.
Intoxicated with feeling, Thakur continues to sing:
I have bought Sri Durga’s name having sold my body in the market place of the world.
(To Girish and other devotees): “Bhavate bhrala tanu haral ge jnana. [Feelings of ecstasy fill my body and steal my consciousness.]
“That jnana means consciousness of the outside world. You need consciousness of Truth, consciousness of Brahman. The body becomes filled with divine ecstasy and you lose all body consciousness.”
Is Sri Ramakrishna an incarnation of God? The state of a paramahamsa
“Love for God is the essence. There is love with a motive and there is also motiveless devotion, pure love and devotion, love that seeks no return. Keshab Sen and his group didn’t know about motiveless love. In this love the devotee has no desire for return, he only has devotion for the lotus feet of the Lord.
“Then there is ecstatic love, as if love for God is overflowing. ‘The devotee laughs, weeps and dances in ecstasy’ – it’s like Chaitanya Deva’s. Rama said to Lakshmana, ‘Brother, wherever you find overflowing love, know that I am present.”
Is Thakur alluding to his own state? Is he an incarnation of God like Chaitanya Deva, come down to earth to teach mankind love for God?
Girish: “Everything is possible by your grace. Just think what I was before, and what I am now!”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Well brother, you had good tendencies from past births. That’s why it happened. Nothing happens before its time. When the time comes for a disease to be cured, the physician says, ‘Grind this leaf with black pepper and take the powder.’ The patient recovers. Who knows whether it was the medicine with black pepper which cured the patient, or it was spontaneous?
“Lakshmana said to Lava and Kusha, ‘You are children. You don’t know Ramachandra. By the touch of his feet, the Ahalya who had been turned into a stone became a woman again.’ Lava and Kusha said, ‘Yes sir, we know all this. We’ve heard all about it.’ A stone turned into a human being because of the words of a sage. The sage Gautama had said that in the age of Treta Ramachandra would pass by this ashrama. ‘By the touch of his feet you will again turn into a human being.’ Who can tell now whether it happened because of Rama’s holiness or because of the words of the sage?
“Every single thing happens by the will of God. If you are becoming spiritually awakened here, please know me to be only the instrument. ‘Uncle moon is the uncle of all.’ Everything happens by the will of God.”
Girish (smiling): “Yes, certainly by the will of God. That’s what I’m saying.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “If a person is sincere, he realizes God soon. There are some who do not attain knowledge: One, a person who has a crooked mind – insincere. Two, one who is obsessed with external purity. And three, one who doubts.
Thakur praises Nityagopal’s ecstatic condition.
There are still three or four devotees standing near Thakur on the long southeastern verandah, listening closely. He describes the state of a paramahamsa: “A paramahamsa always has the awareness that God is real and everything else is transitory. Only a swan can separate milk from water. If milk is mixed with water, the acid on its tongue can separate the milk from the water. A paramahamsa also has a similar acid, that of ecstatic love for God. Having such love, he can discriminate between the eternal and the transitory. He can experience God and see Him.”
. His father.
. Gauranga and Nityananda.
. To chant the name of Lord Hari.
. Ayurvedic physician.
. One-hundred percent.
. tameva dhéro vijïäya prajïäà kurvéta brähmaëaù,
nänudhyädbahüïchabdän väco vigläpanaà hi tat.
[The intelligent aspirant after Brahman, knowing about this alone, should attain intuitive knowledge. He should not think of too many words, for it is particularly fatiguing to the organ of speech.]
. Mental yoga.
. Dol festival, a color-sprinkling ceremony.
. At dawn, noon and twilight.
. Borax and sulphur render paint permanent.
. King of Death.
. Six passions, namely lust, anger, avarice, delusion, pride and envy.
. Urjita bhakti.
. çraddhäluratyürjitabhaktilakñaëo yastasya dåçyo’hamaharniçaà hådi
adhyätma rämäyaëa – uttara käëòa 5-58
[He who has deep faith and has great urjita bhakti, I am always visible to him in his heart.]
. Rama’s sons.
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