Conversation at Girish’s House on Harmony of Knowledge and Devotion
Sri Ramakrishna is at Girish Ghosh’s Bosepara house talking about spiritual things with the devotees. It is three o’clock. M. arrives and salutes him by prostrating on the ground. Today is Wednesday, 25 February 1885, 15th of Phalgun, the 11th day of the bright fortnight. Last Sunday Sri Ramakrishna’s birthday was celebrated at Dakshineswar. Today, after visiting Girish’s house, Thakur is going to see a play by Vrishaketu at the Star Theatre.
Thakur arrived only a short time ago. M. had arrived late, having been delayed by finishing some work. Reaching Girish’s, M. sees that Thakur is talking enthusiastically about the harmony of the knowledge of the Absolute and the essence of love for God.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish and other devotees): “To be awake, to dream and to be in deep sleep – these are the three states of an individual’s consciousness.
“People who reason and discriminate don’t acknowledge these three states. They say that Brahman is beyond the gross, subtle and causal states – beyond the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. Everything is maya, they say, like the reflection in a mirror. The reflection has no substance. Only Brahman has substance, everything else is illusory.
“The knowers of Brahman say also that you see duality because of body-consciousness – you feel that even the reflection is real. When this identification is gone, you experience So ‘ham – I am That Brahman.”
A Devotee: “So is that what we should do? Follow the path of reasoning?”
Girish and two paths – reason and love for God – Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
Sri Ramakrishna: “There is the path of reasoning. Jnana Yoga. It is the path of the Vedantists. The other path is devotion. Bhakti Yoga. If a devotee weeps longingly for the knowledge of Brahman, he can attain it too.
“You can attain the knowledge of Brahman by following either path. Some people retain love for God even after attaining the knowledge of Brahman, to teach others. For example, incarnations of God.
“The ‘I’ of an incarnation of God returns after attaining samadhi – the ‘I’ of wisdom, the ‘I’ of a devotee. It is by this ‘I’ of wisdom that he can teach. Shankaracharya retained this ‘I’ of wisdom.
“Chaitanya Deva used to taste love of God with this ‘I’ and lived with love of God and devotees, talking about spiritual things and chanting God’s name.
“‘I-ness’ doesn’t die easily. So a devotee doesn’t reject the states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep as unreal – he accepts all the states. He also accepts the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. A devotee sees that it is these qualities that have become the twenty-four cosmic principles, that they are the world and its creatures. He also sees that God reveals Himself visually in the tangible form of Spirit.
“A devotee accepts the maya of knowledge and makes it his shelter. He takes refuge in the company of the holy, in pilgrimage, in knowledge, and in non-attachment – all of them. He says, ‘If “I” doesn’t leave easily, let the rascal remain a servant or a devotee.’
“A devotee also attains knowledge of the Oneness of God. He sees that there is nothing but God. He doesn’t call the world a dream, but he says that it is God who has become everything. In a garden of wax, it is all wax – only in different forms.
“But you attain this experience only when your love for God has matured. When too much bile accumulates, you get jaundice and everything looks yellow. Srimati, by constantly thinking about Shyam, saw everything filled with Shyam; and even felt herself to be Shyam. If lead remains immersed in a basin of mercury, it becomes mercury. Thinking a long time about a beetle, a cockroach becomes motionless. It doesn’t move and finally it turns into a beetle. A devotee also becomes ego-less constantly thinking about God. And then sees that ‘He is I’ and ‘I’ am, indeed, He.’ When the cockroach becomes a beetle, everything is accomplished. Then comes liberation.”
Girish and different moods of worship – ‘I have the mood of a child with its mother’
“As long as this ‘I’ remains, a person should call on Him with one of these attitudes: serenity, servant, child and so on.
“I had the attitude of a maid-servant for a whole year – the servant of the Divine Mother. I dressed and adorned myself as a woman in many ways. And I wore a nose ring. If you assume the attitude of a woman, you can conquer lust.
“You should worship the Primal Power. You have to please Her. It is She who lives in the world in the form of all women. That’s why I look on all women as mother.
“The attitude of looking on women as mother is very pure. The Tantra mentions worship in the company of a woman, vamachara. But that’s not good. There’s danger of slipping if you keep an object of enjoyment near you.
“Looking at a woman as mother is like the ekadashi fast without taking a drop of water. There’s not a single trace of desire in it. But then there’s also the ekadashi fast with a meal of fruit and roots. And then there’s also ekadashi when you eat luchis and vegetable curry. I keep the ekadashi without taking a drop of water. I performed the Shorashi Puja with the attitude of a woman as mother. I saw her breasts and female private parts as parts of Mother.
“The attitude of God as Mother is the last word in spiritual practice. ‘You are the Mother and I am Your son’ – this is the last word.”
Difficult rules for a monk – rules for householders and Girish
“A sannyasin keeps the ekadashi fast without taking a drop of water. It is a dangerous situation if he clings to enjoyment. ‘Lust and greed’ are sense enjoyments – they’re like swallowing your own spittle. Money, name and fame, sense pleasures – all these are sense enjoyments. It’s not good for a sannyasin to even sit and talk to a woman devotee. It harms not only him, but others – they don’t learn from it. It doesn’t help them. A sannyasin lives to teach others.
“Sitting or talking with women for a long time is also described as a kind of sexual intercourse. There are eight kinds of intercourse: Listening to a woman and enjoying her conversation is one kind. Talking about women is another kind. To whisper to a woman in private is also a kind of intercourse. Another kind is to keep a memento of a woman and enjoy it. Touch is another kind. That’s why you shouldn’t touch the feet of your guru’s wife if she’s young. These are all rules of conduct for a sannyasin.
“It’s different for householders. After begetting one or two children, a husband and wife should live as brother and sister. The other seven forms of intercourse are not so harmful for them.
“A householder has debts: debts to gods, to the father, to the rishis, to raise one or two children, and then debts to his wife – if she is chaste.
“Worldly people don’t understand who a good wife is, and who is a bad one; who is the power of knowledge, vidyashakti and who exhibits the power of ignorance, avidyashakti. A good wife who is the power of knowledge has very little lust, anger and so on. Her sleep is short, she pushes her husband’s head away. She has affection, compassion, devotion to God, modesty, and so on. She serves everybody like a mother. And she helps her husband to develop love for God. She doesn’t spend much, so her husband doesn’t have to work harder and deprive himself of thinking about God.
“And then, there are mannish women who have certain signs. Their bad traits are – squint eyes, pigeon breasts, cat eyes, and calf cheeks.”
Essence of samadhi and Girish – ways to God-realization – Girish poses a question
Girish: “What is the way for us?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Bhakti, love for God, is the essence. But then there is the sattva of bhakti, rajas of bhakti and tamas of bhakti.
“Sattvic bhakti means an attitude of humility and modesty, while tamasic bhakti shows itself in the attitude of a highway robber: ‘I have recited His name, how can I sin? You are my real Mother, You will have to reveal Yourself to me.’”
Girish (smiling): “You yourself are teaching us tamasic bhakti.”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “But there are signs when one has attained His vision. The devotee goes into samadhi – there are five kinds or five different feelings. One is like the movement of an ant – the spiritual current feels like it is crawling up like an ant. The second is like the movement of a fish. The third feels like the zig-zagging of a snake, the fourth like the flight of a bird – flying from one branch to another. The fifth is like the movement of a monkey, as if the great current jumps up to the head. Samadhi follows.
“And there are two other kinds of samadhi. Unwavering samadhi when the person is completely unconsciousness of the outside world. It can last a long time, perhaps many days. In the other samadhi, the scattered mind suddenly withdraws and unites with God.”
Sudden samadhi and M.
(To M.) “Do you understand this?”
M.: “Yes, sir.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “People have realized God many different ways. Some attain Him by long and hard spiritual practices – they become perfect through them. Some are perfect from birth – for example, Narada, Sukadeva and others. They are known as ever-perfect. And then there are those who realize Him suddenly, – not expecting it, like Nanda Basu’s inheriting great wealth.”
Girish’s peaceful attitude – devotion and liberation of the shudra in the Kaliyuga
Saying this, Thakur begins to sing, absorbed with feeling:
Does everyone attain the treasure of Shyama? Does everyone get the treasure of Kali?
The ignorant mind does not know what She is.
Even Shiva with all his austerities cannot fix his mind on Her crimson feet.
The riches and wealth of Indra and the other gods is a trifle compared to Her love.
If Mother Shyama turns toward one and casts Her glance, that one lives in eternal Bliss.
The kings of yogis, the best of munis, and Indra are unable to meditate on Her feet.
But the worthless Kamalakanta still yearns for those feet.
Thakur remains in ecstasy for some time. Girish and other devotees are seated in front of him. A few days ago Girish had said quite a few rude things at the Star Theatre, but he is in a quiet mood now.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “This mood of yours is very good – the peaceful mood. That’s why I said to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, make him peaceful so he doesn’t say rude things to me.’”
Girish (to M.): “It seems like somebody is pressing my tongue and not letting me speak.”
Sri Ramakrishna is still in ecstasy and he gradually becomes forgetful of people and things outside. Then coming down somewhat to the normal state, he brings his mind down. He looks again at the devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna (looking at M.): “All these people come (to Dakshineswar). Let them. The Divine Mother knows everything.
(To a young man of the neighbourhood) “Hello! What do you think? What’s man’s duty?”
Everyone remains silent. Is Thakur saying that the aim of human life is God-realization?
Thakur is now in an ecstatic mood. Finding a glass of water near him, he drinks from it. He says to himself, “Why, I have drunk water in this mood.”
Sri Ramakrishna and Atul – yearning for God
It is not yet dusk. Thakur is talking with Atul, Girish’s brother. Atul is sitting in front of him with the other devotees. A brahmin neighbour is also sitting there. Atul is an advocate of the High Court.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Atul): “I have this to tell you – do both. Live in the world and also try to develop love for God.”
Brahmin neighbour: “Can a person attain perfection without being a brahmin?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Why not? Devotion of shudras in the Kaliyuga has been mentioned. For example, Shavari, Ruhidas, Guhak Pariah – all these.”
Narayan (smiling): “Brahmins and shudras, all one!”
Brahmin neighbor: “Is it possible to find God in one lifetime?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What is not possible when God’s grace dawns? If you bring a light into a room that’s been dark for a thousand years, does the darkness disappear little by little? No, the room is lit up all at once.
(To Atul) “Intense renunciation is necessary. It has to be like a naked sword removed from its sheath. When such dispassion arises in the mind, near and dear relatives appear like deadly snakes, and the home like a deep well. And you have to call on God earnestly, with a yearning heart. He is bound to listen to an earnest call.”
Everybody is silent, reflecting on what Thakur has said.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Atul): “But maybe you don’t have such yearning, such a pull.”
Atul: “The mind doesn’t concentrate.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The yoga of practice. You have to call on Him daily. It doesn’t happen in one day. Yearning comes when you call on Him daily.
“How can yearning come when a person is involved in worldly things day and night? In the beginning Jadu Mallick used to listen to spiritual talk, and he also used to talk about God. These days he doesn’t talk so much. Day and night he is surrounded by flatterers and only talks about worldly things.”
Prayer at dusk – Tejchandra
It is now dusk. A lamp is lighted in the room. Sri Ramakrishna chants the name of God. He sings and prays.
He chants, “Haribol, Haribol, Haribol” and then, “Rama, Rama, Rama,” then, ‘Nitya Lilamayi,’ ‘O Mother, tell us the way, Mother. You are our only refuge, our only refuge, our only refuge are You.’
Noticing that Girish is restless, Thakur stops talking for awhile. He says to Tejchandra, “Come and sit closer to me.”
Tejchandra comes and sits near him. After awhile, he whispers to M., “I have to leave.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “What is he saying?”
M.: “He has to go home.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Why do I attract these boys so much? Because they are pure receptacles – worldliness hasn’t touched them yet. If there is worldliness in a person, he can’t grasp spiritual instruction. You can keep milk safely in a new pot, but if you put it in a pot already used for making curds, it turns sour. A cup that garlic paste has been made in doesn’t lose its smell even if you wash it a thousand times.”
Sri Ramakrishna, Star Theatre – Thakur watches the play of Vrishaketu with Narendra and others
Sri Ramakrishna is going to watch the performance of Vrishaketu. The Star Theatre is the same theatre on Beadon Street where the Manomohan Theatre later came into existence. Arriving there, they sit in a box facing south. M. and other devotees sit near Thakur.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “Has Narendra come?”
M.: “Yes, sir.”
The play begins. Karana and his wife, Padmavati, sacrifice their son, Vrishaketu [to please God, their guest, who came in the guise of a Brahmin to test Karana’s charity]. Each one holds one end of a saw. Padmavati cries while she cooks the meat. The old brahmin guest says happily to Karana, “Come now, let’s sit down together and share the meat.” Karana says, “I can’t do that. I can’t eat the flesh of my son.”
A devotee breathes heavily in consolation. Thakur also expresses his sorrow.
The play over, the Master goes to the recreation room. Girish, Narendra and other devotees are already there. When he enters the room, Sri Ramakrishna stands near Narendra and says, “I have come.”
Overwhelmed hearing the sound of the sanai
Thakur sits down. The music is still heard.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the devotees): “I feel happy listening to this music. There (in Dakshineswar), I used to be filled with ecstasy when they played the sanai. Noticing my state of mind, a sadhu said, ‘This is a sign of the knowledge of Brahman.’”
Girish and ‘me-mine’
When the music stops, Sri Ramakrishna speaks again.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): “Is it your theatre or does it belong to other people too?”
Girish: “Ours, sir.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It’s good to say ‘ours’. It’s not good to say ‘mine’. Some people [talk of me and mine] say, ‘I have come here on my own.’ Only egotistical people of poor understanding say such a thing.”
Sri Ramakrishna with Narendra and others
Narendra: “The world is theatre.”
Narendra: “Everything is the play of vidya.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, yes. But that only comes with the knowledge of Brahman. In the case of a devotee following the path of devotion, there’s both: vidyamaya and avidyamaya.
“Sing a little.”
The waves of ecstatic love for God rise on the sea of the bliss of consciousness.
The sweet play of intense bliss has overwhelmed me.
All has become one in the great union.
All divide and distinctions of time and space have disappeared.
Now, raising your arms in the inebriation of bliss, with the mind sing Hari’s name.
When Narendra sings, “All has become one in the great union,” Sri Ramakrishna says, “This is what a person realizes when he has attained the knowledge of Brahman – as you were saying, indeed everything is vidya.”
When Narendra sings, “Now raising your arms in the inebriation of bliss, with the mind sing Hari’s name,” Sri Ramakrishna says, “Repeat that again.”
When the song ends, Sri Ramakrishna resumes his conversation with the devotees.
Girish: “Devendra Babu didn’t come. He said peevishly, ‘We don’t have fillings of condensed milk, we’re only filled with lentil paste. What can we contribute if we go there?”
Sri Ramakrishna (surprised): “What? He never spoke like that before!”
Thakur has refreshments. He offers some to Narendra.
Jatin Deva (to Sri Ramakrishna): “You’re always saying, ‘Eat, Narendra; do eat, Narendra.’ Have the rest of us washed in with the wave?”
Thakur is very fond of Jatin, who comes to Dakshineswar to visit him from time to time. Sometimes he stays for the night. He is a son of an aristocratic family of Sobhabazar – he belongs to the house of Radhakanta Deva.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Narendra, smiling): “He’s (Jatin) talking about you.”
Then Thakur laughs and touches Jatin affectionately by holding his chin. He says “Go there and eat” [in other words, go to Dakshineswar].
Girish’s belief in incarnations of God – Is Sri Ramakrishna an incarnation?
After watching the action on the stage for awhile, Thakur becomes absent-minded. He whispers to M.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “Well, is it true, what Girish Ghosh says (that he is an incarnation of God) true?”
M. “He’s right. If it weren’t true, why would it appeal to us?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Look, I’m going through a change. My old mood has changed. I can’t touch anything metal anymore.”
M. listens, speechless.
Sri Ramakrishna: “This is a new state. It has a deep meaning.”
Thakur cannot touch metal. Incarnations of God do not enjoy any of the splendours of maya. Is this why Thakur is saying this?
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “Do you see any change in me?”
M.: “How, sir?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “In what I do.”
M.: “Your activities are increasing as more people have come to know about you.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You see! What I said before is becoming true now.”
Thakur is silent for awhile. Then suddenly he says, “Well, why can’t Paltu meditate well?”
Girish’s cup of garlic – the Lord’s message of hope for so-called sinners
Now Thakur is ready to go back to Dakshineswar.
Talking about Girish, Thakur had said to a devotee, “Does the cup in which garlic paste is made lose its smell completely if you wash it a thousand times?” Girish’s pride had been wounded.
When Thakur is ready to go, Girish speaks to him.
Girish (to Sri Ramakrishna): “Will the smell of garlic ever go?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, it will go.”
Girish: “So you are saying that it will?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “All smell or odor leaves when you put it in fire for a long time. If you put a cup smelling of garlic through fire, it won’t retain its smell. It becomes a fresh, new cup.
“The person who says he won’t succeed doesn’t succeed. A person who feels he is liberated becomes liberated. But the person who thinks himself bound remains bound. The one who says emphatically that he is liberated does in fact become liberated. The one who says day and night, ‘I am bound, I am bound’ truly is bound.”
. Mandukya Upanishad.
. That is, the identification of oneself with the body/mind.
. The highest state of samadhi, total oneness with Brahman.
. Union with God in which one is inert and appears lifeless.
. Shanta, dasya, vatsalya.
. Worship of a sixteen-year old girl.
. smaraëaà kértanaà keliù prekñaëaà guhyabhäñaëam,
saìkalpo’dhyavasäyaçca kriyäniñpattireva ca.
[Hearing about women, speaking about them, playing with women, watching them, speaking to them secretly, thinking of sexual intercourse, determination towards it and the actual accomplishment; these are the eights kinds of sexual intercourse.]
. Swapna siddha.
. Kripa siddha.
. Pash-mukta Shiva, pash-baddha jiva. Thakur is making a pun on the word pash (pass).
. Abhyasa Yoga.
. The Mother image of eternal sport.
. Meaning: without milk, the sweetness of divine love, we will only be filled with worthless lentil soup.
. Radhakanta was the family’s household deity.
. A marriage farce.
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