Sri Ramakrishna’s Joyous Conversations with Ishan, Doctor Sarkar, Girish, and Other Devotees at the House in Shyampukur
On the householder way of life
It is the fourteenth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Aswin. Celebrations of the three-day worship of Mahamaya on the seventh, eighth, and ninth days are over. The tenth day is Vijaya day. Greetings for this occasion are already over. Sri Ramakrishna is staying with some devotees in the Shyampukur area of Calcutta. He is suffering from a serious disease, cancer of the throat. The Ayurvedic physician, Ganga Prasad, treated him when he stayed at Balaram’s house. At that time Thakur asked whether or not his disease was curable. The physician did not reply; he remained silent. Allopathic doctors also hinted that the disease was not curable. Doctor Sarkar is now treating him.
Today is Thursday, 22 October 1885. A bed has been set up in a room on the second floor of the two-storied house in Shyampukur. Sri Ramakrishna is seated on the bed, while Doctor Sarkar, Ishan Chandra Mukhopadhyay, and some other devotees sit in front and around him. Ishan is a very charitable person. Though he lives on a pension, he gives in charity. He is always contemplating God. After hearing of Sri Ramakrishna’s illness, he has come to see him. Though Doctor Sarkar comes only to treat him, he stays for six or seven hours. He has great love and reverence for Sri Ramakrishna and looks upon the devotees as his very own.
It is about 7:00 p.m. on a moonlit night. It seems as if the full moon, the lord of the night, is raining nectar. Inside, a lamp is lit. Many people have come to be with this great man. They all watch him intently, anxious to hear what he says and see what he does. Looking at Ishan, Sri Ramakrishna addresses him.
Unattached worldly man – the way to be unattached
Sri Ramakrishna (to Ishan): “Blessed is the worldly man who attends to his duties in life but has love and devotion for God’s lotus feet. He is indeed brave. He is like a man carrying a two-maund load on his head, who watches a bridal procession passing by. The man has a heavy load on his head, yet he sees the bridegroom. Without great power of mind, it is not possible. He is just like a mud fish living in the mud – not a speck of mud soils its body. Or like a waterfowl that is forever diving into water – no water clings to its body when it flutters its wings even once.
“To be able to live unattached in the world, some spiritual practice is necessary. You have to live in solitude for some days – a year, six months, three months – and meditate on God. You must pray to Him earnestly to grant you love and devotion. And you should say to yourself, There is no one in this world who is my own. Those whom I call mine are so for just two days. Only God is my own. He alone is my all. Oh! how can I attain Him?
“You can live in the world after acquiring love and devotion for God. It is like smearing your hands with oil before cutting open a jackfruit. Then its milky sap won’t stick to your hands. The world is like water and man’s mind is like milk. If you keep milk in water, the milk and water become one. That is why one has to curdle milk in a quiet corner. When the milk is curdled, you can extract butter from it. And this butter, when placed in water, does not dissolve in it, but floats on the surface unattached.
“Some members of the Brahmo Samaj said to me, ‘Sir, we have the attitude of King Janaka. We will attend to worldly affairs in an unattached manner like he did.’ I said, ‘It is very difficult to attend to worldly affairs in an unattached way. You do not become King Janaka just by saying so. King Janaka practiced austerities for a long time, standing on his head with his feet up.’ You won’t have to stand on your heads, but you do have to practice spiritual disciplines. And you have to live in solitude. When you have gained knowledge and love for God in solitude, then you may go and live in the world. Curds can only be set in a solitary corner. If you disturb the milk, it won’t curdle.
“Janaka was unattached. That is why he is known by the name Videha, which means he had no consciousness of the body. Though he lived in the world, he moved around in it like one liberated in this very life. But to be rid of body-consciousness requires spiritual progress. It needs a lot of spiritual practice.
“Janaka was a great hero. He wielded two swords – one of spiritual knowledge and the other of work.”
Spiritual knowledge of the householder and of the sannyasin
“If you ask whether there is a difference between the knowledge of a householder and a sannyasin, the answer is that both are the same. The former is a man of knowledge, and so is the latter – just the same. But there is some risk for a householder living in the midst of ‘lust and greed.’ Living in a sooty room, you cannot escape a little stain, however clever you may be.
“Once you have churned the butter from the milk, if you keep it in a new earthen pot, it runs no risk of spoiling. But if you keep it in a pot of buttermilk, it is risky. (All laugh.)
“When parched rice is roasted, a few grains jump out of the frying pan, making the sound ‘pat-pat.’ They are like a jasmine flower that has no stain. Parched rice in the pot is also good, but not pure white like the flower; the grains have a little stain on them. When either a householder or a sannyasin gains spiritual knowledge, he becomes stainless, just like a jasmine flower. But after gaining spiritual knowledge, if he lives in the frying pan of the world, there may be a little red stain on his body. (Everybody laughs.)
“Once a bhairavi went to the court of King Janaka. Seeing a woman, Janaka lowered his head and cast his eyes down. Seeing this, the ascetic said, ‘Oh Janaka, you are still afraid of a woman!’ When one has attained the highest spiritual knowledge, one’s nature becomes that of a five-year-old child. Then one no longer distinguishes between a man and a woman.
“So there may be a stain on the body of a person of knowledge who lives in the world, but this stain does no harm. The moon has stains – they don’t obstruct the moonlight.”
Work after spiritual knowledge – for the welfare of humanity
“Some people take up teaching mankind after attaining knowledge – for example Janaka, Narada, and others. One must have spiritual power to teach mankind. The rishis attained knowledge for themselves. But religious teachers like Narada moved about for the good of mankind. They were heroes.
“When a bird sits on an old, dry piece of wood floating on water, it sinks. But when a heavy log floats on water, it can carry a cow, a man, and even an elephant across. A steamboat goes across with many passengers.
“Teachers such as Narada and others are like heavy logs of wood, or like steamboats.
“Some people eat, wipe their mouths with a hand towel, and sit down quietly lest others should know that they have eaten. (All laugh.) Another, having got a mango, cuts it into pieces to share with others.
‘‘Narada and such religious teachers lived for the welfare of others, even after attaining spiritual knowledge.’’
The Religion for the Age – Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
The doctor: “When one has attained knowledge, one becomes speechless. The eyes are closed and tears flow. Then one needs love and devotion.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Bhakti is a woman. So she has access to the inner apartments. Jnana can only go to the visitor’s room.” (Everybody laughs.)
Doctor: “But all women aren’t permitted in the inner apartments. Prostitutes can’t go there. So knowledge is needed.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “If a man doesn’t know the right path but has love for God within and wants to know Him, such a person attains God by sheer love and devotion for Him. A great devotee set out to have the darshan of Lord Jagannath. He didn’t know the way to Puri. Instead of going south, he went west. He lost his way, so he enquired earnestly from others. They told him, ‘Not this way, go that way.’ This devotee at last arrived at Puri and had the darshan of Lord Jagannath. Just see, even if you don’t know the way, somebody will tell you.”
The doctor: “But he did lose his way.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, he did, but in the end he reached his goal.”
Somebody asks: “Is God with form or without form?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “He is with form and also without form. A sannyasin went to Jagannath. After seeing the image, a doubt arose in his mind as to whether God is with form or without form. He had a stick in his hand. He began to feel around with it to see if it touched Jagannath’s body. First he moved it from one side to the other and did not feel the image. So he understood that there was no image of the deity before him. But when he moved the stick in the opposite direction, it touched the deity’s body. The sannyasin then understood that God is with form as well as without form.
“But it is very difficult to understand this. How can He who is without form be with form at the same time? This doubt does come to mind. Again, if He is with form, why then are there so many forms?”
Doctor: “He who has created forms is Himself with form. He also created the mind, so He is formless. He can be everything.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Without realizing God, one can’t understand all this. For the aspirant, God manifests Himself in many forms, in many ways. Somebody had a tub for dyeing. Many people used to visit him to get their clothes dyed. The dyer would ask, ‘Which colour do you want?’ One perhaps says, ‘I want it dyed red.’ The dyer immediately put it in his tub. Having dyed it, he says, ‘Here is your cloth dyed red.’ Maybe another says, ‘I want it dyed yellow.’ Dipping the cloth immediately in the same tub, the dyer says, ‘Here is your yellow cloth. Take it.’ When asked to dye it blue, he again dips the cloth in the same tub and says the same, ‘Here is your cloth dyed blue.’ In this way he dyed everybody’s cloths, dipping them in the same tub. There was a person watching this strange affair. The owner of the tub asked him, ‘How about you, brother? What colour do you want?’ The man answered, ‘Brother, please give me the colour of the dye in your vat.’ (Everybody laughs.)
“Somebody went to defecate [in a forest]. There he saw a beautiful creature on a tree. When he came back, he said to someone, ‘Brother, I saw a red-coloured creature on that tree over there.’ That person said, ‘I’ve seen it too, but it’s not red; it’s green.’ Yet another person said, ‘No, no. It’s not green; it’s yellow.’ Others also spoke out, one saying it was violet, another blue, another black, and so on. This led to a quarrel. Then they all went to the tree. There was a man sitting there, and, when asked, he said, ‘I live under this tree, and I know this particular creature very well. You are all speaking the truth. It is sometimes red, sometimes green, sometimes yellow, sometimes blue – so many colours. And at times I see that it has no colour at all.’
“Only a person who constantly thinks of God can know His real nature. Only he knows that God reveals Himself in various forms. He is seen in different ways. He has attributes, and then He is without attributes. Only he who lives under the tree knows that this ever-changing creature has different colours, and at times no colour at all. The others only quarrel and trouble themselves.
“He is with form and He is formless. Do you know what He is like? Imagine an ocean of boundless Existence-Knowledge-Bliss. With the cooling effect of devotion, the water of this ocean freezes at places into icebergs. In other words, God takes a concrete form for the devotee, sometimes with a body. And when the sun of knowledge rises, the ice melts.”
Doctor: “When the sun rises, ice melts into water. But then, you know, water turns into formless vapour.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That is to say, when one realizes that the Absolute is the only reality and the world an illusion, one attains samadhi, and all forms vanish. Then one is not aware of Him as a person. What He is cannot be put into words. Who would speak of it? He who is to speak does not exist. His ‘I’ cannot be found even if you search for it. Then the Absolute is without attributes, and one has only an inner experience. Brahman cannot be known through the mind and the intellect.
“So it is said that bhakti, love of God, is the light of the moon and jnana is the sun. I hear that in the north, as well as the south, there are oceans where it is so cold in certain places that water freezes into ice. A ship is unable to sail there.”
Doctor: “Then one comes across obstacles on the path of bhakti.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, that is true. But it doesn’t do any harm. It is that very water of the ocean of Sat-chit-ananda that freezes into ice. And there is no harm if you want to reason further by saying that Brahman is real while the world is an illusion. In that case the ice will melt by the heat of the sun of jnana. Then what remains is the same ocean of Sat-chit-ananda.”
The ripe ‘I’ and the unripe ‘I’ –
the ‘I’ of a devotee and the I’ of a child
“When you have reasoned it out and attained samadhi, your ‘I’ vanishes. But this is very difficult. The ‘I’ never wants to disappear – and since it doesn’t, you have to return to this world again.
“The bullock bellows, ‘Hamba, hamba’ (‘I, I’). There is so much misery for it. The whole day, in rain or sunshine, it pulls a plough. Or it is slaughtered by a butcher. Even that is not the end. A tanner tans the leather and shoes are made from it. Last of all, strings are made from its intestines. When it falls into the hands of a carder and says, ‘Tuhun, tuhun’ (you, you), only then is it released.
“When one says, ‘Naham, naham, naham’ (‘not I, not I, not I’), I am nothing, O Lord. I am the servant; You are the Master,’ it is only then that he is released, he is liberated.”
Doctor: “But one must fall into the hands of a carder.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna: “If ‘I’ simply refuses to go, let the rascal remain as the ‘servant I.’ (All laugh.)
“Some people retain their ego even after attaining samadhi, as the ‘servant I,’ the ‘devotee I.’ Shankaracharya retained the ‘I of knowledge’ to teach people. The ‘servant I,’ the ‘devotee I,’ the ‘I of knowledge’ are all the ‘ripe I.’ What is the ‘unripe I?’ ‘I am the doer, I am the son of such a big man, I am so learned, I am wealthy, how dare you talk to me in this way?’ – such kinds of attitudes. If somebody steals into a man’s house and is caught, first of all the stolen articles are snatched from him. Then, after the man gives the thief a good beating, he hands him over to the police, saying, ‘Don’t you know who you are robbing?’
“After you have realized God, your nature becomes that of a five-year-old child. The ‘I of a child’ and the ‘ripe ‘I.’ A child is not subject to the three gunas – it is beyond them. He is not subject to any one of the gunas – sattva, rajas, or tamas. See how a child is not governed by tamas. He may quarrel and fight with somebody now, but the next minute he puts his arm around him, shows him love, and plays with him. He is also not under the influence of rajas. He makes a toy house with so much effort! But soon afterward he leaves it and runs to his mother. He may wander around wearing a pretty cloth, but the next moment he lets it falls off into the dust. He may forget the cloth completely, or he may wander around with it under his armpit! (Laughter.)
“If you say to this boy, ‘You have a pretty cloth, whose is it?’ He replies, ‘It’s mine. My father gave it to me.’ If you say to him, ‘Dear one, give me your cloth,’ he replies, ‘No, I won’t give it to you! It’s mine. My daddy gave it to me.’ Later, if you can cajole him by giving him a doll or a flute, he may give you his five-rupee cloth and leave. A five-year-old child is also not attached to sattva. He is so fond of his neighborhood companions that he can’t bear to be separated from them for even a moment. But when he goes away with his parents, he makes new friends and showers all his love on them. He forgets his old companions altogether. And then he has no pride of caste. If his mother has told him that so-and-so is his elder brother, he accepts him as his real brother one-hundred percent. If he is the son of a brahmin, and the other the son of a potter, he will eat with him from the same plate. And then also he has no idea of purity or impurity. He may eat without having washed his bottom after defecating. And he has no sense of shame: he may ask somebody if he has had full evacuation!
“And then there is the ego of an old man. (The doctor laughs.) Old people have a number of bonds such as caste, pride, shame, contempt, fear, worldliness, calculation, and deceit. If he has any grudge or ill will toward someone, he can’t get rid of it easily – perhaps even as long as he is alive. And then there are pride of learning and the pride of wealth. An old man’s ‘I’ is an ‘unripe I.’”
Who cannot gain spiritual knowledge?
(To the doctor) “A few people cannot gain spiritual wisdom. People who have the ‘I of learning,’ the ‘I of knowledge,’ and the ‘I of wealth’ do not attain spiritual knowledge. If you tell these people that there is a nice holy man at a certain place and ask them if they would like to visit him, they immediately offer a number of excuses and say they can’t go. They think to themselves, I am such a big man. Why should I go?”
The three gunas – sattva leads one to God – the way to discipline the senses
“The nature of tamas is pride. It comes from ignorance.
“The Puranas say that Ravana had more rajas, Kumbhakaran more tamas, and Bibhishana more sattva. This is why Bibhishana could attain Ramachandra. Anger is another characteristic of tamas. In anger one loses the sense of right and wrong. Hanuman set fire to Lanka without thinking that fire could destroy Sita’s cottage too.
“Then there is another characteristic of tamas – lust. Girindra Ghosh of Pathuraghat said, ‘You can’t get rid of enemies like lust and anger, so change their direction.’ Desire God. Have intercourse with Sat-chit-ananda. And if you can’t get rid of anger, bring the tamas of bhakti: ‘What! I have repeated the name of Durga, shall I not be liberated? There is no sin for me, no bondage.’ Thereafter, be greedy for God-realization. Fall in love with God’s beauty and say, ‘I am the servant of God. I am His son.’ If you have to be proud, be proud of this. You can turn the directions of the six enemies this way.”
Doctor: “It is very difficult to control the senses. You have to put blinders on both sides of a horse’s head. In some cases, you may have to cover both eyes completely.
Sri Ramakrishna: “There is no fear if He bestows His grace once, if the Lord grants you His vision, if you realize the Atman once. Then the six passions can do no harm.
“Ever-perfect saints like Narada and Prahlada don’t have to put blinders over their eyes.”
Doctor: “But it’s not good for a father to hold his boy’s hand.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That’s not true. Spiritually advanced people have the nature of a child. Before God they are childlike; their egos vanish. They derive all their strength from God. It is the strength of the Father – nothing is their own. This is their firm conviction.”
The path of reason and the path of joy – Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
Doctor: “Will a horse move forward unless you put blinders on the sides of its eyes? Unless the enemy is subjugated, can one realize God?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What you are saying is called the path of reason, Jnana Yoga. You can realize God this way too. Jnanis say that you must first purify your consciousness. Spiritual disciplines are needed first, then you can attain knowledge.
“You can attain Him by the path of devotion too. If you once develop love for the lotus feet of God, if you begin to enjoy chanting His name and glories, you don’t have to try to control your passions any more. They are subjugated automatically.
“Can a person who loses his son quarrel with anybody on that day? Or can he enjoy a feast? Can he walk around with his head high and enjoy sense pleasures?
“If a moth sees light once, can it then live in darkness?”
Doctor (smiling): “No, it does not. Instead, it rushes into the flame, and it perishes there.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, the devotee doesn’t burn himself to death like a moth. It is the light of a jewel toward which the devotee rushes. The light of a jewel may be very bright, but it is cool and comforting. This light doesn’t burn the body, but creates peace and joy.”
Jnana Yoga is very difficult
“You can attain Him by the path of reasoning, by the path of Jnana Yoga. But this path is very difficult. ‘I am not the body, or the mind, or the intellect; I am neither disease, nor sorrow, nor restlessness. I am the Self of Sat-chit-ananda, beyond pleasure and pain, not subject to the senses.’ It is very easy to say all this in words, but it is very difficult to practice, to make it a part of your being. Your hand is scratched by thorns. It is bleeding profusely, yet you say, ‘Where? My hand is not scratched by thorns! I am all right.’ To say this, you first have to burn the thorns in the fire of knowledge.”
Knowledge and book learning – Thakur’s system of education
“Many people think that without reading books, they can’t learn, they can’t attain knowledge. But it is better to listen than to read, and it is better to see than to listen. There is a great difference between hearing of Kashi and visiting Kashi.
“And then, a person who plays chess doesn’t see his move clearly, while the onlookers can see much better and can suggest moves to the player. Worldly people think they’re very intelligent, but they are attached to the world. They are playing the game, so they can’t understand their moves well. Holy people who have renounced the world are unattached to worldly things and are more knowledgeable than worldly people. Since they don’t play the game themselves, they can tell the moves better from outside.”
Doctor (to the devotees, indicating Sri Ramakrishna): “He couldn’t have gained so much knowledge by reading books. Faraday communed with nature, so he was able to discover great scientific truths. He couldn’t have attained all this by knowledge derived from reading books. Mathematical formulae only throw the brain into confusion. They are a great obstacle to original inquiry.”
Divine wisdom and book learning
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “When I used to lie on the ground in the panchavati, I would call on the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, please show me what the karmis (ritualists) have achieved through their rituals, the yogis through yoga, and the jnanis through reasoning.’ I used to say much more. How to tell you all that!
‘‘Oh, what a state I passed through! Sleep was lost to me.”
Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna sings:
I’ve shaken off my sleep; how can I fall into slumber again? For I am wide awake in the sleeplessness of union.
O Divine Mother, made one with You at last, my slumber I have lulled asleep for evermore.
“I have read no books. But you see, I repeat the Divine Mother’s name, so they all show me respect. Sambhu Mallick said to me: Here is Santiram Singh quite able to beat anybody even though he carries no sword or shield.” (All laugh.)
Now the talk turns to Girish Chandra Ghosh’s play, Buddha Charita. He had invited the doctor to see the play, and the doctor enjoyed it very much.
Doctor (to Girish): “You are a very bad man! Shall I have to visit the theatre every day?”
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “What is he saying? I don’t understand.”
M.: “He liked the play very much.”
Conversation about divine incarnation – an incarnation of God and an ordinary soul
Sri Ramakrishna (to Ishan): “You haven’t said anything. This man (the doctor) doesn’t believe in divine incarnation.”
Ishan: “Sir, I can’t argue any more. I don’t like arguments.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Why? Why not speak out about what is right?”
Ishan (to the doctor): “Because of our ego, we people have little faith. Kak Bhushundi, the crow, didn’t accept Ramachandra as an incarnation of God in the beginning. At last, after it had wandered through the regions of the moon and the gods and had gone to Kailash, it saw that there was no way to free itself from Rama. And so it surrendered itself, taking shelter in him. Rama then took it in his hand and swallowed it. Bhushundi saw that, even though it was still perched on its tree. Pride having left it, it understood that, though outwardly Ramachandra was a human being like others, yet he had the whole universe in his belly – the sky, the moon, the stars, the sun, the planets, the ocean, hills, men, beasts, trees and so on. All these were inside his belly.”
Limited powers of the conditioned
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “It is very difficult to understand that He is both limitless and limited. The Absolute belongs to the same Being as the phenomenal world. How can we force ourselves with our little intelligence to say that He can’t become a man? Can our little intelligence realize all these things? Can a one-seer pail contain four seers of milk?
“So you have to put your faith in the words of those holy men and great souls who have realized God. They contemplate God constantly, just as a lawyer remains involved with his lawsuit. Can you believe in the words of Kak Bhushundi?”
Doctor: “I have faith in what I think is right. And once I have faith, I don’t doubt. But how can I call Rama an incarnation of God? First, take the murder of Vali. Rama killed him with his arrow and hid himself like a thief. This is how a man acts, not God.”
Girish Ghosh: “Sir, only God could do such a thing.”
Doctor: “And then remember his forsaking of Sita.”
Girish: “Sir, this too could be done by God, not by man.”
Science, or the words of saints
Ishan (to the doctor): “Why don’t you believe in the incarnation of God? You yourself have just said that He who has created forms has form, and He who has created the mind is without form. You have just said that anything is possible for God.”
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing): “That God can incarnate in a human form is not mentioned in his science. So how can he believe it? (All laugh.)
“Listen to this story. Somebody said, ‘Brother, I have just been to a place where I saw a house fall down with a terrible crash.’ The listener was an English-educated person. He said, ‘Wait a minute. Let me see if it’s in the newspaper.’ He didn’t find news of a house falling in the paper, so he said, ‘I say, brother, I don’t believe you. It isn’t in the newspaper, so it isn’t true.’” (All laugh.)
Girish (to the doctor): “You will have to accept Sri Krishna as God. I won’t allow you to look on Him as a man. You will have to call him either God or a demon.”
Simplicity of heart and faith in God
Sri Ramakrishna: “Unless you are simple at heart, you can’t have faith in God easily. God is very far from a person having a worldly intellect. A worldly intellect creates doubts, and different kinds of pride appear – the pride of learning, the pride of wealth, and so on. But he (the doctor) is simple at heart.”
Girish (to the doctor): “Sir, what is your opinion? Can a deceitful person ever attain spiritual knowledge?”
Doctor: “Oh Lord! Could he ever gain knowledge?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “How simple Keshab Sen was! One day when he came to the Kali Temple, he saw the guesthouse. He asked – it was four o’clock – ‘When are the guests and the poor going to be fed?’
“The more faith you have, the more spiritual knowledge you will gain. A cow which is choosy in fodder doesn’t give much milk. But the cow that gobbles anything you give it – vegetable leaves and skin, straw – yields streams of milk. (Everybody laughs.)
“Unless you have the faith of a child, you can’t realize God. A mother says, ‘He is your elder brother.’ The child has such faith that he believes him to be his brother without the least doubt. The mother says, ‘There’s a bogey man!’ The child believes one hundred percent that there is a bogey man in the room. God bestows His mercy on him who has the faith of a child. You cannot attain God with a worldly intellect.’’
Doctor (to the devotees): “It isn’t good to drink milk from a cow that eats all sorts of things. We used to feed our cow anything, and later I fell very ill. I wondered what the reason could be. After a great deal of enquiry, I found that it had been eating everything. That created a lot of problems. I had to go to Lucknow [to get cured]. In the end it cost me twelve thousand rupees! (Roars of laughter.)
“Well, it’s not easy to see the relation between cause and effect. Why misfortune falls, one cannot tell. A seven-month-old girl of a family of the Paikpara gentleman fell ill with whooping cough. I went there to treat her. I couldn’t uncover the cause of her illness until I found that she had drunk the milk of an ass that had gotten wet in the rain.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna: “What do you mean? It’s like saying my cab passed under a tamarind tree and I suffered from acidity!” (The doctor and all others laugh.)
Doctor (laughing): “The captain of a ship had a bad headache. After consultation, the doctor had a poultice applied to the side of the ship. (All laugh.)
Company of the holy and renunciation of sense enjoyments
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “It is necessary to keep the constant company of holy people. The disease is chronic. One has to act on their advice and not just listen to them. One has to take medicine and control one’s diet. The diet prescribed by a doctor is important.”
Doctor: “Prescribed food is most important.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “There are three kinds of physicians – superior, mediocre, and inferior. The physician who comes, feels the pulse and leaves, saying, ‘You must take the medicine,’ is an inferior physician. He doesn’t bother to know whether or not the patient has taken the medicine. The physician who makes the patient understand in so many ways why he should take the medicine talks to him nicely, saying, ‘Brother, how can you get well unless you take the medicine? Dear brother, do take it. I, myself, will put it in your mouth.’ He is a mediocre physician. And the physician who puts his knee on the chest of the patient and forces the medicine down his throat when the patient refuses to take it is the superior physician.”
Doctor: “And there are medicines for which you don’t have to put your knees on the patient’s chest. For example, homeopathic medicines.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “There is no danger if a superior physician puts his knee on the patient’s chest.
“Like physicians, there are also three kinds of religious teachers. Those who don’t keep contact with their disciples after giving them instructions are the inferior ones. Those who explain to their disciples over and over again for their own good so that they can assimilate their instructions – those who implore the disciples lovingly – are mediocre ones. And those who even use force when they find that the disciple hasn’t listened are known as superior teachers.”
Women and sannyasins – hard rules for sanyasins
(To the doctor) “A monk has to avoid ‘lust and greed.’ He should not even look at the picture of a woman. Do you know what women are like? Like tamarind pickles – the moment you think of them, your mouth begins to water. Tamarind pickles should not be brought into view.
“But this is not for you householders – it is for a monk. As far as possible, you should live unattached among women. From time to time you should go into solitude and meditate on God. No one else should be there. When you have gained faith and love for Him, you will be able to live unattached to a large extent. After having one or two children, a husband and wife should live together as brother and sister. And they should pray to God that the mind not go to sense enjoyment – and that there will be no more children.”
Girish (laughing at the doctor): “You have been here for three or four hours. Aren’t you going to treat your patients?”
Doctor: “My practice and my patients are no more for me now! My meeting this Paramahamsa has deprived me of everything!” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna: “Look here, there is a river called Karmanasha (the destroyer of all activities). A great problem arises when you take a plunge into this river. Once you dive in, your activity is over. You can’t work after that.” (The doctor and all others laugh.)
Doctor (to M., Girish, and other devotees): “Look here, I am your very own. It’s not that I come here as a doctor. If you accept me as your own, I am your kith and kin.”
Sri Ramakrishna (to the doctor): “There is such a thing as selfless devotion. It is very good if one can attain it. Prahlada had this selfless devotion. Such a devotee says, ‘O Lord, I want neither wealth nor name nor bodily pleasures, and so forth. Only grant that I may have pure love for Thy lotus feet.’”
Doctor: “Yes, I have seen people bowing in the Kali Temple. They have nothing but desires within – ‘Grant that I may get some employment’ or ‘Grant that I be cured,’ and so on.
(To Sri Ramakrishna) “You should not talk with people because of this disease of yours. But when I come, you may talk with me.’’ (Everybody laughs.)
Sri Ramakrishna: “Please cure me of this disease. I can’t repeat His name and sing His glories.”
Doctor: “Meditation alone is enough.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “What are you saying? Why should I live such a monotonous life? I eat fish cooked several different ways – sometimes in curry, sometimes spiced, sometimes with tamarind, and at times fried or baked. Sometimes I perform worship, sometimes I chant God’s name, sometimes I meditate, and at other times I sing His name and glories. Sometimes I dance, repeating His name.”
Doctor: “I’m not monotonous either.”
What is the harm in not believing in the incarnation of God?
Sri Ramakrishna: “Your son, Amrita, doesn’t believe in the incarnation of God. What is the harm in it? You can realize God by believing in Him without form and you can also realize God by believing in Him with form. What is needed is to have faith in Him and to surrender yourself. Man is ignorant; he can make mistakes. Can you put four seers of milk in a one-seer jug? Therefore, whatever path you choose, call upon God with a longing heart. He is the knower within the heart. He will surely listen to your inner call. You will reach Him alone, whatever path you take, whether you believe in God with form or God without form, as long as you have a longing heart.
“Whether you eat sugared roti (Indian bread) straight or sidewise, it will taste equally sweet. Your son, Amrita, is a very good boy.”
Doctor: “He is your disciple.”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling, to the doctor): “No fellow is my disciple. Rather, I am everybody’s disciple. We are all children of God. We are all His servants. I also am a child of God, and His servant too.
“‘Uncle moon is everybody’s uncle.’”
Everyone present enjoys this and laughs.
. Durga Puja.
. Female ascetic.
. Purna jnana.
. The Tantric scriptures list eight bonds or fetters: shame (lajja), hatred or contempt (ghrana), fear (bhaya), pride of caste, rank or race (jati), hesitation or suspicion (shanka), secretiveness (jugupsa), pride of family, ancestry, or lineage (kula), and pride of good conduct, character or piety (shila).
. Lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride and envy.
. Doctor Sarkar is referring to passions.
. Ahetuki bhakti.