Sri Ramakrishna at a Devotee’s House in Calcutta
Ramchandra Dutta’s house – Sri Ramakrishna enjoys the kirtan
It is Saturday, 2 June, 1883, the dark fortnight of the month of Vaishakh. It is an auspicious day when Thakur comes to visit Calcutta. From Balaram’s home he goes to Adhar’s. Having heard the kalahantrita kirtan he comes to Ram’s house in Madhurai Street at Shimulia.
Ramchandra, who had qualified in medicine, was first an assistant chemical examiner in the Medical College. Later, he became a professor of chemistry in Science Association. He built his house with his own money. Thakur has visited on several auspicious occasions; consequently, it has become a very holy spot of pilgrimage for the devotees. By the grace of the Guru, Ramchandra is trying to lead the spiritual life of a householder. Sri Ramakrishna profusely praises Ram. He says, “Ram invites devotees to his house and serves them very well!” His house has become a special meeting place of the devotees. Nityagopal, Latu and Tarak [later Swami Shivananda] have become like members of Ramchandra’s own family. They have lived with him for several days. Besides, Narayana is worshipped there daily.
Ram first invited Sri Ramakrishna to his home on the Phuldolan day – it was the full moon day of Vaishakh. On this day nearly every year he invites Sri Ramakrishna with his devotees to celebrate the festival. Many of Ramchandra’s disciples, who are like his own children, continue to celebrate it.
Today the festival would be at Ram’s residence, which the Lord (Sri Ramakrishna) is to visit. So Ram has arranged a reading of the Srimad Bhagavata. Though the courtyard is small, a great deal has been arranged in it. There is a canopied dais for the pundit to sit while reading the story of Raja Harischandra from the Srimad Bhagavata. When Thakur arrives from his visits to Balaram and Adhar, Ramchandra goes to him to take the dust of his feet. He then accompanies Thakur to a prearranged seat in front of the dais. He is surrounded by devotees. M. is seated close to him.
Sri Ramakrishna and the story of Raja Harischandra
The story of Raja Harischandra continues. Vishwamitra said, “Maharaj, you have given me the whole earth along with the oceans! Thus you do not have the right to stay at any one place. Even so, you may go to live in the holy city of Kashi dham. It is the city of Mahadeva (Shiva). Come, let me take you and your wife, Shaibya, and your son. There, you may collect the offering for me.” Saying so, Bhagavan Vishwamitra accompanied the king to Kashi, where they visited the temple of Vishveshvara (Lord Shiva).
As soon as the visit to Vishveshvara Shiva is mentioned, Thakur becomes absorbed in ecstasy. He indistinctly utters, “Shiva, Shiva.”
King Harischandra could not make the promised offering, so he sold Shaibya. His son, Rohitashava, went with Shaibya. The pundit also narrates the story of Rohitashava picking flowers at his brahmin master’s house. A snake bit him in the garden and he died in the deep darkness of night. There was no one to cremate him. The old brahmin did not leave his bed. Shaibya, all alone, picked up the body of her son in her lap and started for the cremation ground. Every now and then thunder and lightning flashed among the clouds. It was as if lightning was playing again and again in order to pierce the darkness. Shaibya cried as she went, sorrow-stricken and full of fear.
Because he was unable to collect the entire money for the offering, Harischandra sold himself to a chandala (pariah). Having then turned into a chandala himself, he earned a small fee from cremating dead bodies. Many dead bodies burned, while others had already been reduced to ashes. How terrible the cremation ground was in the dark night. Shaibya reached it, weeping bitterly. The sound of her cries would rend any heart. What human being does not feel his heart melt to hear this story? All the listeners begin to cry loudly.
What is Thakur doing while listening to the story? He is sitting absolutely still, silent. Once a tear falls from the corner of his eye and he wipes it away. Why does he not cry out restlessly like the others?
The story continues. At last Vishwamitra came and revived Rohitashava. Everyone visited the temple of Vishveshvara Shiva. The pundit ends his reading having narrated that Harischandra’s throne was restored to him. Thakur has sat in front of the dais listening to the holy story for a long time. When the story ends, he goes to the outer room and sits down. The devotees and the pundit narrator follow him and sit around him. Thakur requests the pundit to narrate the story of Uddhava.
Liberation and bhakti – the love of gopis – gopis don’t want liberation
The narrator says – When Uddhava came to Vrindavan, the cowherd boys and the milkmaids of Braja ran eagerly to meet him. They asked him, “How is Sri Krishna? Has he forgotten us? Does he remember us?” Some of them began to cry, others took him to different parts of Vrindavan, saying, “At this spot Sri Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan on his finger. Here he slayed Dhenukasur. Here he slayed Shaktasur. He grazed his cows in this pasture. He wandered here on the bank of the Jamuna and played here with the cowherd boys. He talked with the gopis in this grove. Uddhava said, “Why are you so anxious about Sri Krishna? He is omnipresent. He is God Himself. There is nothing besides him.” The gopis said, “All this is beyond our comprehension. We are not educated. We only know our Krishna of Vrindavan who played with us here.”
Uddhava said, “He is the very presence of Bhagavan. If you meditate on him, you do not have to come to this world. Meditation on him liberates the jiva (embodied soul).” The gopis said, “We don’t understand all this talk about liberation and such. We only want to see our Krishna, the beloved of our soul.”
Sri Ramakrishna listens to all the conversation with full attention and goes into bhava. He says, “The gopis are right.” Then he begins to sing in the same sweet voice –
I am not hesitant to grant mukti (liberation). I hesitate to grant pure bhakti.
Who wins pure love surpasses all. He is served by all.
He triumphs over the three worlds.
Listen, O Chandravali, I will tell you of love.
One may gain liberation but rare indeed is bhakti.
Because of bhakti I became King Bali’s doorkeeper in the nether world.
Only in Vrindavan can one find pure love.
But for cowherd boys and milkmaids none knows its secret.
Because of bhakti in Nanda’s house, taking him as my father, I carried his burden on my head.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the narrator) — The bhakti of the gopis is prema bhakti. It is avyabhicharini and single-minded bhakti. Do you know what vyabhicharini bhakti is? It is bhakti mixed with jnana. In it one believes that Krishna has become all – he is the Supreme Brahman, he is Rama, he is Shiva and he is Shakti. But prema bhakti is not mixed with jnana. Hanuman came to Dwaraka and said, ‘I want to see Sita and Rama.’ Bhagavan [Sri Krishna] said to Rukmini, ‘Please assume the form of Sita. Otherwise, there will be no escape from Hanuman.’ When the Pandavas were performing Rajasuya Yajna, many kings were present. They all made Yudhisthira sit on his throne and paid obeisance to him. Bibhishana said, ‘I shall only pay obeisance to Narayana (Vishnu) and to none else.’ Then Sri Krishna himself lay prostrate before Yudhisthira to pay his obeisance. Thereafter, Bibhishana did the same, with his crown on his head.
“Do you know what it is like? It is like a bride in the family. She serves her husband’s younger and elder brothers, his father and also her own husband. She gives them water to wash their feet and a towel. She provides a low wooden seat for them all. But she has quite another type of relationship with her husband.
“Prema bhakti is comprised of the two feelings, ‘I’ and ‘mine’. Yashoda thinks, ‘Who will look after Gopal (Krishna) if I don’t do so? He may fall ill if I don’t.’ Yashoda does not know that Krishna is Bhagavan Himself. On the other hand, she feels, ‘He is mine.’ She knew: Krishna is mine, that Gopal is my own. Uddhava said, ‘Your Krishna is Bhagavan Himself. He is the Lord of the Universe. He is no ordinary being.’ Yashoda replied, ‘I am not asking you about your Lord. I am asking you about my Gopal – my Gopal, not the Lord.’
“What single-minded devotion the gopis had! Only after many, many entreaties to enter the royal court did the doorkeeper take them to Krishna. But when they saw a person with a turban, they stood with bowed heads. ‘Who is this person with a turban?’ they asked among themselves ‘Shall we lose our chastity by talking to this man? Where is the beloved of our souls who wears yellow robes and a crest of peacock feathers?’
“See, what single-minded love they had for Him! A unique kind of mood persists in Vrindavan. People around Dwaraka worship Krishna, Arjuna’s friend. They have little regard for Radha.”
Firm faith of gopis – jnana bhakti and prema bhakti
A Devotee — Which is better: bhakti mixed with jnana or prema bhakti?
Sri Ramakrishna — Unless one has intense love for the Lord, one cannot attain prema bhakti (ecstatic love) and does not consider Him as one’s very own. Three friends were going through a forest when they saw a tiger. One of them said, ‘Brother, we are done for.’ The second said, ‘Why should we die? Let’s call on the Lord.’ And the third one said, ‘No, why trouble Him? Come, let’s climb a tree!’
“The person who said, ‘We are done for,’ did not know that the Lord is the savior. He who said, ‘Let’s call on the Lord,’ was a jnani. He knew that the Lord creates, preserves and dissolves. And he who said, ‘Why should we trouble Him? Come, let’s climb a tree,’ had prema (intense love) in his heart; he had deep love for God. Such a love has this characteristic: the one who has it considers himself more powerful than the beloved. He does not want his beloved troubled. He wants to save his beloved from even the prick of a thorn.”
Ram takes Thakur and the devotees upstairs and serves them several kinds of sweets. The devotees take the prasad full of joy.
 Expressing regret at separation as a result of insult hurled by a lover. Here it indicates pangs of separation of Radha from Krishna.
 Lord Vishnu
 A festival held in honour of Sri Krishna on the full moon day of Vaishakh. A swing of flowers is decorated for Sri Krishna on this day.
 Place of pilgrimage
 Dhenukasur and Shaktasur were demons sent by Kamsa to kill Sri Krishna
 One of the gopis at Vrindavan
 Ecstatic love for the Lord
 Unalloyed; non straying
 Disloyal to one’s ideal; unchaste