Sri Ramakrishna at Panchavati in Dakshineswar with Devotees
Sri Ramakrishna in Dakshineswar and reading from Devi Choudhurani
Saturday, 27 December, 1884, seventh day of the bright fortnight in the month of Paush. The devotees are on Christmas holiday so a number of them have come to see Sri Ramakrishna. Many of them came in the morning. When M. and Prasanna arrive, they see that Sri Ramakrishna is in the southern courtyard near his room. They salute him by touching his feet.
This is Sarada Prasanna’s first meeting with Sri Ramakrishna.
Sri Ramakrishna says to M. “Why haven’t you brought Bankim with you?”
Bankim is a schoolboy whom Thakur had met in Baghbazar. Noticing him from a distance, he had said, “He is a fine boy.”
A number of devotees have arrived, among them Kedar, Ram, Nityagopal, Tarak and Suresh (Mitra). Other young devotees are also present.
After some time, Thakur goes to the Panchavati with them. The devotees surround him, some standing, others seated. Thakur is sitting on the brick platform at the foot of the Panchavati with his face toward the southwest. Smiling, he asks M., “Have you brought the book?”
M. — Yes, Sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — Read a portion of it. I would like to hear it.
Sri Ramakrishna and duties of a king
The devotees are eager to see the book. It is Devi Choudhurani. Thakur has heard that Devi Choudhurani contains accounts of nishkama karma. He has also heard of Bankim, its writer. He will be able to gauge the author’s state of mind by hearing what he has said in the book. M. says, “A girl had fallen into the hands of dacoits. Her maiden name was Prafulla; later she became known as Devi Choudhurani. The dacoit into whose hands she fell was called Bhavani Pathak. He was a good man at heart. He made Prafulla practice sadhana and bhajan. He also taught her how to perform nishkama karma. This dacoit used to rob the wicked and distribute the money to the poor in charity. He said to Prafulla, “I conquer the wicked and protect the good.”
Sri Ramakrishna — This is the duty of a king.
M — At another place the book talks of bhakti. Bhavani Pathak sent a girl named Nishi to live with Prafulla. She had great love for God. She used to say that Sri Krishna was her husband. Prafulla was already married, though she lived alone with her mother; her father had died. Prafulla’s neighbours had accused her falsely and avoided her, so Prafulla’s father-in-law would not take her to his house. Instead, he made his son marry again. But Prafulla was very fond of her husband. On hearing the following account, you will be able to follow the story –
Nishi — I am the daughter of Bhavani Pathak. He is my father. He has dedicated me in a way.
Prafulla — In what way?
Nishi — Completely to Sri Krishna.
Prafulla — How do you mean?
Nishi — My beauty, youth and soul are all His.
Prafulla — Is he your husband?
Nishi — Why not? He is my husband who has full right to me.
Prafulla heaved a sigh and said, “I can’t tell. You have never seen your husband, that is why you are saying so. Had you seen your real husband, your mind would never have gone to Sri Krishna.”
The stupid Brajeswar (Prafulla’s husband) didn’t know [that his wife loved him so much].
Nishi said, “Any girl can be attracted to Sri Krishna, for He is possessed of infinite beauty, infinite youth, infinite splendour and infinite qualities.”
This young lady was Bhavani’s disciple, but Prafulla was illiterate. She didn’t say anything in reply. The fathers of the Hindu social law knew that the Lord is infinite and that the infinite cannot be placed within the small cage of the heart, though the finite can be. They knew that the infinite Lord of the Universe dwells within the cage of the heart as Sri Krishna. A husband is clearly finite. Thus the first step to pure love is to take the husband as the Lord Himself. That is why a Hindu woman looks upon her husband as the deity himself. All other societies are inferior to the Hindu society from this point of view.
Prafulla was an ignorant girl. She could not understand any of this. She said, “Friend, I can’t understand all these arguments. You haven’t yet told me your name.”
The friend said, “Bhavani Thakur has given me the name of Nishi (night). I am Nishi, the sister of Deva (day). One day I will take you to meet Deva. But please listen to what I was saying. The Lord alone is the supreme husband. A woman’s husband is the deity to her. Sri Krishna is the husband of them all. Why should we have two deities, two gods? If you divide the little bhakti of this small heart into two, what else will remain?”
Prafulla — What do you mean? Is there a limit to a woman’s bhakti?
Nishi — There is no limit to a woman’s love. But bhakti is one thing, love another.
What comes first, spiritual disciplines or education?
M. — Bhavani made Prafulla practice spiritual disciplines.
“During the first year, Bhavani did not let any man enter Prafulla’s house. Nor did he allow her to talk to a man outside. The next year he removed the restriction of speaking to a man, but he still did not let one enter her house. In the third year, when Prafulla’s head was shaved, Bhavani Thakur took a few select disciples with him to her house. Prafulla, with her shaven head and eyes cast down, talked with them about the scriptures.
“After this she began her formal education. She studied grammar, Raghuvamsa, Kumar (Kumar Sambhava), Naishadha and Shakuntala. She also studied some Samkhya philosophy, Vedanta and Nyaya.”
Sri Ramakrishna — Do you know what this means? People like the author of this book believe that jnana is impossible without education. They think that first one should learn how to read and write, that the Lord comes later. In other words, they think that reading and writing are necessary for knowing the Lord. But if you wish to talk to Jadu Mallick, what use is it to know how many houses, how much wealth, how many company shares he has? What is the need of this information? One must somehow enter Jadu Mallick’s house and talk to him, whether one flatters his gatekeepers or is pushed aside by them. If you wish to know about his property or riches, you can know it by asking Jadu Mallick directly! Then you will know it very easily. Rama comes first, His splendour, the world, come later. That is why Valmiki repeated the sacred word Mara: Ma means Ishvara, and ra signifies the world, His splendour.
The devotees drink the nectar of Thakur’s words, speechless with wonder.
Sri Ramakrishna and nishkama karma – dedicate result to God and cultivate bhakti
M. — When she had finished her studies and practiced spiritual disciplines for quite some time, Bhavani Thakur went to see Prafulla again. He intended to impart to her the knowledge of nishkama karma (selfless work). He recited the following verse from the Gita –
Tasmad asaktah satatam karyam karma samachara,
Asakto hy acharan karma param apnoti purushah.
[Therefore, constantly perform your obligatory duty without attachment; for by doing duty without attachment, man verily obtains the Supreme.]
“There are three characteristics of non-attachment:
“(1) Control of the senses, (2) Lack of egotism and (3) Dedication of the fruit of action to Sri Krishna.
“One cannot practice religion without giving up egotism. He recited another verse from the Gita –
Prakriteh kriyamanani gunaih karmani sarvasah,
Ahamkara vimudhatma karta aham iti manyate.
[The Gunas of Prakriti perform all karma. With the understanding clouded by egoism, a man thinks, ‘I am the doer.’]
“Then he asked her to surrender all the fruits of action to Lord Krishna. He recited from the Gita –
Yat karoshi yad asnasi yaj juhoshi dadasi yat.
Yat tapasyasi kaunteya tat kurushva mad arpanam.
(Gita 9 :27)
[Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer in sacrifice, whatever you give away, whatever austerity you practice, O son of Kunti, do it as an offering to Me.]
“He talked to Prafulla of the three characteristics of nishkama karma (selfless work).”
Sri Ramakrishna — These are nice words from the Gita. They cannot be refuted. But note this. The author speaks of offering the fruits of action to Sri Krishna, but not cultivating bhakti for Him.
M. — That has not been emphasized here.
Calculating intelligence does not move one forward – one must take a plunge
“Now they talked of how to make use of wealth. Prafulla said, ‘All wealth must be offered to Sri Krishna.’ ”
Prafulla — When I have made an offering of all my work to Sri Krishna, I offer my riches to him too.
Bhavani — All?
Prafulla — Yes, all
Bhavani — But it is impossible to remain unattached to work. Attachment creeps in when you have to earn your food. You have two alternatives: you can either live on alms – or you will have to preserve your body with the help of money. Even a person living on alms becomes attached to it. So you must use your money to maintain your body.
M. (smiling to Sri Ramakrishna) — That much is calculating intelligence!
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, this is calculating intelligence – a business-minded intellect! But he who wants the Lord takes a plunge at once. He doesn’t calculate that so much is needed for preserving the body.
M. — Next Bhavani asked her how she would offer her wealth to Sri Krishna. Prafulla replied, ‘Sri Krishna dwells in all beings. So I will distribute my wealth amongst them.’ Bhavani said, ‘Good. Very good.’ And then he began to recite more verses from the Gita.
Yo mam pashyati sarvatra sarvam cha mayi pashyati,
Tasya aham na pranashyami sa cha me na pranashyati.
Sarvabhuta sthitam yo mam bhajati ekatvam asthitah,
Sarvatha vartamanah api sa yogi mayi vartate.
Atmaupamyena sarvatra samam pashyati yah Arjuna,
Sukham yadi va dukham sa yogi paramo matah.
[He who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me is never lost to Me, nor do I become lost to him.
He who is established in oneness and worships Me abiding in all beings, that yogi lives in Me, whatever his mode of living maybe.
That yogi, O Arjuna, is regarded as the supreme, who judges pleasure or pain everywhere by the same standard that he applies to himself.]
Sri Ramakrishna — These are marks of the highest class of devotee.
Worldly men and their language – influence of one’s natural instincts
M. continues to read.
“A great deal of labour is required for charity to all beings. Some display of dress, sense enjoyments and luxury are necessary. Bhavani, therefore, said, ‘Sometimes one needs a bit of shopkeeping.’ ”
Sri Ramakrishna (displeased) — One needs shopkeeping! Words reveal a man’s true nature. If a person worries night and day about worldly affairs and continues to deceive people, his words convey that attitude. He who eats radish, belches radish. Instead of talking of shopkeeping, he could have said it in a much better way, namely, ‘One must act as if one is the doer, knowing very well that one is not the doer.’ The other day somebody was singing a song that talked of ‘profit’ and ‘loss’. I asked the fellow to stop singing it. What one worries about night and day gushes forth in whatever he says!
The way to God-vision – life of Thakur spoken with his own holy lips
The reading of the book continues. Now the topic is God-realization. Prafulla has now become Devi Choudhurani. It is the seventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of Vaishakha. Devi is seated in a houseboat and talking with Deva. The moon has risen. The boat is anchored on the Ganges. Devi and her two friends are seated on the roof of the boat. They are discussing whether the Lord can be seen. Devi said, “Just as the nose perceives the fragrance of flowers, similarly the mind perceives the Lord. ‘The Lord is visible to the mind.’ ”
Sri Ramakrishna — Perception by the mind! God is not visible to this mind, but to the purified mind! Then this mind disappears. Even one who has the least trace of attachment to sense objects does not succeed. When the mind is purified, you may call it the pure mind, or the pure Atman.
Telescope of yoga – Sri Ramakrishna on fidelity to husband
M. — The author says later that the mind cannot perceive the Lord easily. Prafulla says, ‘To perceive Him you need a telescope. And this telescope is yoga (communion). Next, as in the Gita, she talks of the three kinds of yoga: Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. It is with the telescope of these yogas that one sees the Lord.
Sri Ramakrishna — This is very fine. These are the words of the Gita.
M. — At last Devi Choudhurani met her husband. She said to him, ‘You are my God. I was trying to learn how to worship another God, but I could not. You have taken the place of all my gods.’
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — ‘Couldn’t learn’! This is called pativrata dharma (fidelity of a chaste woman to her husband). This, too, is a path.
The reading of the book is over. Thakur smiles. The devotees wait eagerly for him to say something.
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing, to Kedar and other devotees) — From one point of view, pativrata dharma is not bad. We worship the Lord in an image. Can’t we worship Him in a living person? It is He who is sporting as man.
His earlier story – state of Brahmajnana in Thakur and his seeing the Lord in all creatures
“What states have I passed through! I was filled with the bhava of Hara and Gauri (Shiva and Parvati) for a long time. I also spent many days in the bhava of Radha and Krishna, as well as Sita and Rama. When I was in Radha’s bhava I used to repeat, ‘Krishna, Krishna.’ And when in the state of Sita, I would repeat, ‘Rama, Rama.’
“Even so, there was no end to His sport! After going through all these states, I said, ‘Mother, there is separation in all these states. Pray grant me the state in which there is no separation.’ After that I stayed in the bhava of Indivisible Sachchidananda for quite some time. I removed the pictures of gods from my room.
“I began to see Him in all creatures. My offering of worship dropped. It was only this bel tree to which I used to come to pluck a few leaves. One day when I was going to pluck a leaf, a little bark of the tree was detached. I saw that the tree was filled with consciousness! I felt sad in my heart. I tried to pluck durva grass but couldn’t. I had to force myself to pluck it.
“I cannot cut a lemon. The other day I did it with great difficulty, uttering ‘Victory to Kali!’ Just as an animal slaughtered in sacrifice to the Goddess. One day when I was gathering flowers, She showed me that the flowers on the tree were Virat. I saw that the worship was over and there were bouquets of flowers on the forehead of Virat! I could not pluck any flowers then.
“God sports as a human being. I see man as the veritable Narayana. Just as by rubbing pieces of wood you get fire, similarly one has the vision of the Lord in man when his love for God becomes very intense. If the bait is of good quality, big carp gulps it eagerly.
‘When you are intoxicated with ecstatic love, you see God in all beings. The gopis (milkmaids) saw Sri Krishna in all beings – saw everything filled with Sri Krishna. They would say, ‘We indeed are Krishna!’ This was their state of intoxication with God. Looking at trees, they would say, ‘These are hermits practicing austerities, they are meditating on Sri Krishna.’ Seeing dry grass they would say, ‘Just see, the hair of the earth is standing on end at the touch of Sri Krishna.’
“A chaste and devoted wife looks upon her husband as God. Why not? If you can worship God in an image, why not in a living person?”
Avirbhava in an image – when does one see the Lord in man? The nityasiddha (ever-perfect) and the world
“Three things are necessary for God’s avirbhava in an image: one, the devotion of the priest; two, a beautiful image; and three, the devotion of the master of the house. Vaishnavcharan said, ‘At the end of one’s life, one’s interest becomes centered in God’s sport as a human being.’
“Yet it has to be noted that unless you have had God-vision, you cannot see Him in this way (sporting as a man). Do you know what the marks of God’s vision are? One acquires the nature of a child. Why does one acquire a child’s nature? Because the Lord Himself has the nature of a child. So he who has God’s vision acquires a child’s nature.”
Way to God-realization – deep dispassion and realization that He is your own Father
“You must see Him in this way. The question is how to realize God. Deep dispassion is the means. One should be able to say, ‘What? You are the Father of the universe! Am I not a part of the world? How dare You not be kind to me, You rascal!’
“One develops the qualities of him whom one worships. If one worships Shiva, one acquires his nature. Say there is someone who is a devotee of Rama, who meditates day and night on Hanuman. He thinks that he has become Hanuman. At the end, his faith becomes firm like the pole star. He begins to feel that he has grown a short tail.
“One who is born into the spiritual heritage of Shiva acquires jnana, the nature of Shiva, and one who is born into the spiritual heritage of Vishnu acquires bhakti, the nature of Vishnu. They who belong to Shiva have the nature of a jnani and they who belong to Vishnu conduct themselves as devotees.”
Chaitanya Deva is an incarnation – common man is feeble
M. — But what about Chaitanya Deva? You said that he had both jnana and bhakti.
Sri Ramakrishna (displeased) — It was different with him. He was an incarnation of the Lord. There is a lot of difference between him and ordinary beings. He had such dispassion that when Sarvabhauma poured sugar on his tongue, it did not get wet and was carried away by the wind. He was always in samadhi! What a great victor of lust! And you compare him with a common man! The lion mates only once in twelve years, though it eats meat. On the other hand, the sparrow eats grain and mates night and day. It is the same with the avatar and the common man. The common man may give up lust, but he probably indulges in intercourse once in awhile. He cannot control himself. (To M.) Why be ashamed? He who attains God looks upon an ordinary being as a worm! ‘One cannot succeed spiritually if one has shame, hatred, or fear.’ These are all bonds. You know there are ‘eight bonds.’
“The nityasiddhas (ever-perfect ones) have no fear of the world. Worldly life is like a game of chess for them; as in the game, they do not fear of what the next move will bring.
“The nityasiddha may live a worldly life if he so desires. Some people can wield two swords at the same time. They become such an expert that if a sword strikes against a stone, the latter flies away at its blow.”
Yoga is the way to God-vision – marks of a yogi
The devotee — Sir, in what state of mind does one have the vision of the Lord?
Sri Ramakrishna — One can attain nothing unless one concentrates the mind to a point. The Bhagavata mentions that Shukadeva would walk around looking like a soldier with a bayonet. He would see neither this way nor that – his eyes were glued to his goal, Bhagavan. This is called yoga.
“The chatak bird drinks only rainwater. Let the Ganges, the Jamuna, the Godavari and other rivers be full of water. Let the seven seas also be full of water. But it will not take water from any of these. It will only drink the rainwater from the cloud of swati nakshatra.
“He who has attained such yoga can have the Lord’s vision. Till the curtain rises in a theatre, the audience talks of their homes, their offices, their schools and so on. As soon as the curtain rises, all talk stops at once. Then all eyes are fixed on the play. Even if one speaks a word or two after a long time, one talks only about the play.
“The man inebriated by wine talks only of the joy of drunkenness.”
Sri Ramakrishna in Panchavati – avatar cannot be attributed to any guilt
Nityagopal is seated in front of Thakur. He is always absorbed, in a state of bhava, and doesn’t utter a word.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Gopal! You are always silent!
Nityagopal (like a child) — I … don’t … know.
Sri Ramakrishna — I understand why you don’t speak! For fear you might commit a mistake.
“Certainly. Indeed. Jaya and Vijaya were the doorkeepers of Narayana. They stopped Sanaka, Sanatana and other rishis from entering Narayana’s palace. Because of this offense, they had to take birth thrice in this world.
“Sridama was the doorkeeper of Viraja in Goloka. Radha went to the house of Viraja and tried to enter. She wanted to catch Sri Krishna. Sridama stopped her, and Radha cursed him: ‘Get away! You will be born as a demon in the mortal world!’ Sridama also cursed her. (All smile a little.)
“But you must know that if a boy holds his father’s hand, he can fall into a pit. But when the father holds the boy’s hand, he need have no fear
“The story of Sridama is given in the Brahmavaivarta Purana.”
Kedar Chatterji lives in Dhaka. He is a government official. Formerly he was posted in Calcutta. He is a great devotee of Thakur. He has come across a number of devotees in Dhaka. They come to him occasionally to receive instruction. The devotees don’t come to see him empty-handed. They bring a lot of sweetmeats and so forth as offerings.
Sri Ramakrishna’s various moods and states for all types of people
Kedar (very humbly) — Can I eat what they bring me?
Sri Ramakrishna — There is no harm if they bring them out of bhakti for the Lord. But if there is some motive behind it, it is not good.
Kedar — I have told them that I am free from all cares. I have said, ‘He [Sri Ramakrishna] who has bestowed grace on me knows everything.’
Sri Ramakrishna (laughing) — That is true. All kinds of people come here. So you find various moods here.
Kedar — What need have I to know so much?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — No, my dear, you must have a little of everything. If a person starts a grocery shop, he must keep a little bit of all kinds of things in his shop: masur dal (a kind of lentils), tamarind and so on.
“An expert musician can play a little on all instruments.”
Thakur goes out to Jhautala to ease himself. A devotee takes the wash pot and leaves it there.
The devotees stroll around. Some of them walk toward Thakur’s room, the others return to the Panchavati. Coming back, Thakur says, “I had to ease myself two or three times. I ate at Mallick’s house. He is such a worldly man, my stomach was upset!”
Sri Ramakrishna, the man of samadhi, is reminded of his betel box
Thakur’s betel box is still lying on the platform in the Panchavati. There are one or two other articles left as well.
Sri Ramakrishna says to M., “Bring that box and the other articles to my room.” Saying so, Sri Ramakrishna goes south toward his room. The devotees follow him. One of them holds the betel box, the other the wash pot and so on.
Thakur rests at midday. Some devotees arrive and sit down. Thakur is leaning against a small pillow on the smaller cot. A devotee asks him –
Can the bhava of the jnani and of the devotee be in the same person? Practice of spiritual disciplines is needed
“Sir, can one know the Lord’s attributes through knowledge?”
Thakur says, “Not through ordinary knowledge. You cannot know Him by that. You need to practice spiritual disciplines. And you must adhere to one attitude, for instance that of a servant. The rishis have the shanta bhava (of calmness). Do you know what the attitude of the jnani is? To meditate on one’s own real Self. (Laughing to a devotee) What is your attitude?”
The devotee doesn’t reply.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — You have both attitudes: you want to meditate on your own real Self – and you certainly have the attitude of the servant toward his master. Am I not right?
The Devotee (smiling, but diffidently) — Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — That is why Hazra says that I can read the thoughts of people. This only comes about in a very advanced stage. Prahlada had reached that state.
“But practice of any attitude requires one to perform karma.
“A person pricks his hand with a thorn of the plum tree and his hand bleeds profusely. But he says, ‘Nothing has happened to me, it hasn’t pricked me.’ On further enquiry, he says, ‘It is all right, I am fine.’ What use is merely saying it? One has to develop this attitude by practice.”
The devotees listen to the nectarine words of Thakur.
 Later Swami Trigunatitananda
 Work done without expectation of any reward
 Spiritual practices
 Devotional singing
 Omnipresent God; all-pervading Spirit
 The Divine presence manifesting in the image of the Deity
 A particular conjunction of stars
 A woman companion of Sri Krishna
 The Abode of Vishnu