Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar with Pundit Shashadhar and other Devotees
Kali is Brahman – Brahman, the Absolute, and His Power are inseparable
Sri Ramakrishna is seated in the aforesaid room on a mat spread on the floor. Pundit Shashadhar is seated close to him. Many devotees are sharing the mat with them. Others are sitting on the bare floor. Surendra, Baburam, M., Harish, Latu, Hazra, Mani Mallick and other devotees are present. Thakur is talking about Pundit Padmalochan, who was the court pundit for the King of Burdwan. It is about four o’clock in the afternoon.
It is Monday, 30 June 1884. Pundit Shashadhar had met and talked with Thakur in Calcutta six days ago, on the day of the holy Rathayatra. Today he has come to Dakshineswar, accompanied by Bhudhar Chatterji and his elder brother. Pundit Shashadhar is staying with his brother in Calcutta.
The Pundit follows the path of jnana yoga. Thakur is explaining to him that both the Absolute and the phenomenal world belong to the same Being. One who is Indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute has assumed various forms to perform His divine sport. While talking of these things, Thakur loses external consciousness. He speaks, intoxicated by a divine mood. He says to the Pundit, “Brother, the Absolute is immutable, immovable like Mount Sumeru. But He who is ‘immovable’ is also ‘movable’.”
Drunk with the joy of ecstatic love, Thakur begins to sing. His divinely sweet voice puts to shame even the voice of the celestial musicians. He sings song after song –
Is there anybody who knows Kali, She, the consort of Kala? Even the six schools of philosophy do not reveal Her.
A goose and a gander move around in this wilderness of lotuses, accompanying one another. They are Kala and His consort.
My Divine Mother is the most beloved of Shiva (the Absolute), even as Sita is the most beloved of Rama.
Mahakala (the Spirit of Eternity, the Absolute) knows the greatness of my Divine Mother – greatness which is hidden from the view of ordinary beings. Who else can know Her so well?
My Divine Mother gives birth to the Universe – now think of Her greatness!
Says Prasad (the poet): ‘To think that one can know Her is to think that one can swim across the mighty ocean. One can only laugh at the idea.’
I understand this well enough with my mind; alas, my heart will not see it. It is a dwarf aspiring to reach the moon.
Is the Divine Mother the daughter of such an ordinary mother,
By repeating whose name, Mahesh (Shiva) remains alive even after drinking deadly poison?
By whose glance, creation, preservation and dissolution come about?
She who keeps the infinite universe in Her belly,
By whom the gods free themselves of their duties by taking refuge at Her feet,
Underneath whose feet Mahadeva, the God of gods, lies prostrate?
Is my Divine Mother only the chaste wife of Shiva, the Absolute?
She to whom the God of Death pays his obeisance?
Killing foes in the garb of the naked one, She stands on the breast of Mahakala.
O my mind, do tell me how it happens that She kicks the chest of Her Master.
Says Prasad, take the sport of the Divine Mother as wild and violent.
O mind, aspire with care and your intellect will be purified.
I don’t take ordinary wine. I say, ‘Victory to Kali’ and drink the wine of Everlasting Bliss.
When I repeat the Mother’s name, it intoxicates my mind and people call me a drunkard.
Taking the Guru’s seed mantra and having added the spice of worldly action to it,
My mind becomes drunk by taking only drops of the wine distilled by spiritual wisdom.
The container [body] is full of His seed mantra, which I purify by uttering Tara, the name of Divine Mother.
Says Prasad, by drinking such a Wine of Everlasting Bliss, one obtains the four pursuits of life (righteousness, wealth, fulfillment of desire and liberation).
Can everybody gain the treasure of Mother Shyama?
This foolish mind does not know how priceless this inherited treasure is.
Even with all his penance, indeed rare is Shiva’s vision of Her.
Only when the mind is intoxicated, can one attain the crimson feet of the Divine Mother.
Thakur’s state of ecstasy relaxes somewhat. He stops singing and is silent for awhile, then he gets up and sits down on the smaller cot.
The Pundit is charmed to hear the songs. He says to Thakur humbly, “Is there going to be any more singing?”
After a short time Thakur resumes singing –
The kite of my mind was soaring high up in the sky of the feet of Mother Shyama.
The rough wind of misdeeds made it fall circling to the ground.
Maya’s pull made it heavy and I could not raise it again.
It became entangled in the string of love for wife and children.
Alas! The framework of jnana [of the kite] is rent. One may pull it upwards, but it falls down.
It has lost its bow, so how can it fly? The six passions have overpowered it.
It was tied to the string of bhakti. While playing, it fell into illusion.
O Nareschandra! Rather then weep or laugh, it was better not to have played at all.
This time I have given my whole mind.
I have learned divine fervour from one well versed in it.
O Mother, I have found a man from a country which has no night.
And now I can no longer distinguish day from night.
I have rendered barren all ritualistic devotions.
I have surrendered myself at the Fearless feet of the Divine Mother. Am I afraid of Yama any more?
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.
Hearing “I have bought the name of Durga,” the Pundit begins to shed tears. Thakur sings again –
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.
O my mind, abide by yourself,
Do not go to any other’s house.
Search within yourself,
You will find there all you seek.
Having sung this song, Thakur says, “Bhakti is better than mukti (liberation).”
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.
Except for cowherd boys and milkmaids, no one knows its secret.
Because of bhakti in Nanda’s house, taking him as my father, I carried his burden on my head.
Study of scriptures and learning are futile – austerities are essential – man of vijnana
The Pundit has studied the Vedas and other scriptures. He enjoys discussing philosophy. Thakur, seated on the smaller cot, looks at him and instructs him during the course of conversation.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Pundit) — Certainly there are the Vedas and other scriptures. But unless one practices spiritual disciplines and austerities, it is not possible to realize God.
“One cannot see God in the six systems of philosophy, or in the Vedas, or the Tantras.
“Even so, one should understand the scriptures and act according to their injunctions. Once a person lost a letter and couldn’t remember where he had left it. He began to look for it with a lamp. Two or three people set themselves to the task of searching for it and at last it was found. The message of the letter was, ‘Send five seers of sandesh and a piece of wearing-cloth.’ Having read it, the man threw the letter away, for it was no longer of any use. Now he only had to buy five seers of sandesh and a piece of cloth and send them.”
The art of teaching – comparison between reading, hearing and seeing
“Higher than reading is hearing and higher than hearing is seeing. One internalizes more when one hears from the lips of the guru, or from a holy man. Then one doesn’t have to think about the non-essential part of the scriptures.
“Hanuman said, ‘Brother, I don’t know the phases of the moon, or the position of the planets. I only contemplate Rama.’
“Seeing is far better than hearing. All doubts vanish when you see. The scriptures talk of so many things. It is all futile without having the direct vision of God, without having love and devotion for His lotus feet, without purification of the heart. The almanac forecasts twenty measures of rainfall. But squeeze the almanac and not a single drop of water falls out. Not even one drop falls.”
How long does one have to reason? Till one realizes God – who is a vijnani?
“How long does one have to reason about the text of the scriptures? As long as one does not have the direct realization of God. How long does the bee hum? As long as it does not sit on a flower. When it sits on a flower to drink honey, it doesn’t make any sound.
“The truth is that one may talk with others even after God-realization. But this conversation only revolves around the divine Bliss of God – it is like a drunkard crying, ‘Victory to Kali.’ Besides, even a bee hums indistinctly after sipping honey from a flower.”
Is Thakur perhaps hinting of his own state by referring to a vijnani?
“The jnani reasons, ‘Not this, not this.’ Reasoning in this way, he reaches a point of Divine Bliss, and that is Brahman.
“What is the nature of a jnani? He follows the injunctions of the scriptures.
“Once I was taken to Chanak and met a number of sadhus. Some of them were sewing. (All laugh.) They left their sewing when they saw us. They sat cross-legged and began to talk to us. (All laugh.)
“A jnani does not talk about spiritual things unless you broach the subject of God. He will normally ask you, ‘How are you doing now? Is all well in the family?’
“But the vijnani conducts himself differently. He doesn’t care about anything – maybe his wearing cloth is off, or held under his arm as children will do.
“He who knows that the Lord exists is a jnani. He who knows that there is fire in firewood is a man of knowledge. But the vijnani is he who makes fire with the wood, cooks his food over it, and eats to his fill.
“The eight fetters fall off the vijnani. He only retains the semblance of lust, anger and the rest.”
The Pundit — ‘bhidyate hradayagranthi chidyante sarvasaàçayäù.’ The knots of the heart are cut and all doubts vanish.
His earlier story – visit to Krishnakishore’s house – Thakur’s state of a vijnani
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes. A ship was sailing on the ocean. Suddenly all its iron joints, nails, and screws began to fall out. It was passing a mound of magnetic stone, so all the iron began to loosen.
“I used to visit Krishnakishore’s house. One day when I went to his house, he asked me, ‘Why do you chew betel leaf?’ I said, ‘If I feel like it, I will chew betel-leaf, look at myself in the mirror, or dance naked among a thousand females.’ Krishnakishore’s wife scolded him, saying, ‘You don’t know how to talk to people! What have you said to Ramakrishna?’
“In this state [of vijnana], passions like lust, anger and the rest are burnt up, though the physical body remains the same. One looks just like anybody else. But inside one has become hollow and absolutely pure.”
A Devotee — Does the body last after God-realization?
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, in the case of a few people, the body remains alive to do some work – to instruct mankind. Sins vanish with a dip in the Ganges and one attains liberation. But one is not cured of one’s blindness. Of course, one does not have to be reborn again and again to reap the fruit of sinful actions, which would otherwise have resulted in several rebirths. One has to live till the momentum of the actions of previous births has been exhausted. However, the impetus of current actions does not give rise to future births. In the case of such a person, when passions like lust and anger have been burned up, the body remains to perform a few actions.
The Pundit — This is called samskara.
Sri Ramakrishna — The vijnani always sees the presence of God. That is why he is in such a relaxed state of mind. He sees God even with his eyes open. At times he comes down from the Absolute to the phenomenal world, and at other times he goes up from the phenomenal world to the Absolute.
The Pundit — I don’t understand this concept.
Sri Ramakrishna — The jnani reaches the Eternal and Indivisible Sat-chit-ananda by discriminating, ‘Not this, not this.’ He reasons, saying to himself, ‘God is not the embodied being, He is neither the universe nor the twenty-four cosmic principles.’ Reasoning thus, he reaches the Absolute and sees that God has become everything and dwells in all – embodied beings, the universe, and the twenty-four cosmic principles.
“One must curdle milk and churn it to extract butter. However, when you have taken the butter out, you observe that the butter indeed belongs to the buttermilk and the buttermilk belongs to the butter. The bark of a tree belongs to the pith and the pith belongs to the bark.”
The Pundit (to Bhudhar, smiling) — Did you understand? It is very difficult to comprehend.
Sri Ramakrishna — When there is butter, there must also be buttermilk. If you think butter, the idea of buttermilk also comes to mind – for the reason that there can be no butter without buttermilk. Therefore, when you accept the Absolute, you have also to accept the phenomenal world. It is a case of involution and evolution. One attains this state after having the direct realization of both aspects of God: Personal and Impersonal. The Personal God is symbolic of Consciousness and the Impersonal God is the Indivisible Sat-chit-ananda.
“God indeed has become everything. Therefore, ‘the world is a mansion of joy’ for the vijnani. For the jnani, however, this world is ‘a veil of deception’. Ramprasad called it ‘a veil of deception’. That is why somebody rejoined –
This world is indeed a thing of joy; let me eat and drink and be merry.
O physician, you are a fool! You only see things on the surface – and I have understood the secret.
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.)
“The vijnani has enjoyed the Bliss of God in a special way. Some have heard of milk, others have seen it, and yet there are some who have drunk it. The vijnani has drunk milk, enjoyed it, and been nourished by it.”
Thakur remains silent for awhile and asks the Pundit to have a smoke. The Pundit goes to the long southeastern verandah to smoke.
Jnana and vijnana – Thakur and the rishis of the Vedas
The Pundit returns and sits on the floor with the devotees. Thakur, seated on the smaller cot, resumes the conversation.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Pundit) — I say this to you. There are three kinds of joy: the joy of worldly enjoyment, the joy of worship and the bliss of Brahman. The joy of ‘lust and gold’ is the joy of worldly enjoyment, it is the joy in which worldly people always remain occupied. The joy of worship is that which one enjoys when chanting the name and glories of God. And the bliss of Brahman is the joy of the vision of God. The rishis became free-willed after experiencing the bliss of Brahman.
“Chaitanyadeva used to experience three kinds of spiritual states: the inmost state, the semi-conscious state, and the conscious state. In the inmost state, he would have the vision of God and pass into samadhi – he would attain the state of Jada Samadhi. In the semi-conscious state, he would retain partial awareness of the external world. And in the conscious state, he would sing the name and glories of God.”
Hazra (to the Pundit) — So all your doubts are now resolved.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Pundit) — What is samadhi? In samadhi, the mind becomes merged with the Absolute. The jnani passes into Jada Samadhi – in it, I-consciousness vanishes. The samadhi experienced in bhakti yoga is called Chetana Samadhi. In it, one retains the ego of the servant and Master relationship, the ego of lover and Beloved, or the ego of enjoyer and Bliss. The Lord is the Master and the devotee is the servant; the Lord is the Beloved and the devotee the lover; the Lord is the Fountain of Bliss and the devotee its enjoyer. The devotee does not want to become sugar; he wants to eat and enjoy it.
The Pundit — What will happen if God dissolves the ego completely, if He makes sugar of the devotee?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — Feel free to say what you have on your mind. ‘Be frank for once, mother Kaushalya.’ (All laugh.) Don’t the scriptures talk of Narada, Sanaka, Sanatana, Sananda and Sanatkumara?
The Pundit — Yes sir, the scriptures mention them.
Sri Ramakrishna — Though they were jnanis, they retained their ego of devotion. Haven’t you read the Bhagavata?
The Pundit — I have read it partially, but not all of it.
Sri Ramakrishna — Pray to God. He is compassionate. Will He not listen to the words of His devotee? He is the wish-fulfilling tree. Approach Him and ask: He will grant your wish.
The Pundit — I haven’t thought much about it before. Now I understand.
Sri Ramakrishna — After one attains knowledge of the Absolute, God permits a little ego to remain. This ego is the ‘I of the devotee,’ or the ‘I of knowledge’. It is with this ‘I’ that one enjoys His infinite play. Rubbing the pestle for a long time, it was reduced to a very small size. But when it fell into the forest of willows, it brought the destruction of the entire clan of Yadus. That is why the vijnani keeps the ‘I of devotion’ or the ‘I of knowledge’, to enjoy the Bliss of God and to teach mankind.
Rishis had timid natures and were easily frightened – a new light on the Vedanta
“The rishis were timid and easily frightened. Do you know what their attitude was? ‘Let me somehow get my own salvation; who knows what will happen in the future? So who can think for others?’ A piece of dry or rotten wood somehow is able to float on water, but if even a bird sits on it, it sinks. A heavy log not only floats, but also carries a number of animals. A steamship crosses the ocean and also takes people across.
“Religious teachers like Narada are vijnanis; they are more courageous than other rishis. They are like expert checker players who call out, ‘What do you want, a six or a five of the dice?’ And lo! Each time he throws the right number! What an expert player! And this fellow twirls his mustaches as he plays!
“Jnanis are afraid. They are like amateur chess players who are anxious to move a piece to the safety zone. The vijnani, on the other hand, has no fear of anything. He has had a direct vision of both aspects of God, Personal and Impersonal. He has talked, communed, with God – he has enjoyed the Bliss of God.
“The vijnani feels Bliss when, through contemplating God, his mind merges in the Indivisible. Again he is in Bliss when he keeps his mind on the divine play, the phenomenal world, without his mind being merged in the Absolute.
“A mere jnani is monotonous. He only discriminates, ‘Not this, not that; all this is like a dream.’ ‘I have raised both my hands’. That is why I accept everything [both the Absolute and the phenomenal world].
“A woman went to see her weaver friend who was spinning yarn of different kinds of silk. The weaver friend was very happy to see her. She said, ‘Friend, I am so happy that you have visited my home; I cannot express my joy. Let me get some refreshments for you.’ The weaver friend went out of the room. While she was away, her visitor was tempted by multi-coloured yarn of silk. She hid a bundle of it under her arm. The weaver came back with the refreshments and served them to her with great enthusiasm. But looking at her silk yarn, she understood that her friend had pinched a bundle of it. She thought of a stratagem to recover her yarn.
“She said, ‘Friend, we have not seen each other for a long time. This is a very happy day. Let’s dance together.’ The visitor friend said, ‘Yes friend, I, too, feel great joy.’ So they began to dance. The hostess saw that her friend was dancing without raising her arms. She said, ‘Come, friend, let’s dance with our arms raised, it’s such a happy day today!’ The visitor friend began to dance, but keeping one arm raised and the other pressing her side. The hostess said, ‘My dear, what is this, dancing with only one arm raised! Let us dance with both hands raised. See how I am dancing with both hands raised?’ But the visitor laughed, still danced pressing one arm to her side, with the other raised. She continued to dance and said, ‘One dances as one knows, friend.’
“I don’t press one arm to my side. Both of my hands are free. I have no fear. I accept both the Absolute and the phenomenal world, the Nitya and the lila.”
Does Thakur mean that the jnani cannot dance with both hands raised because of his desire for name and fame, and desire for liberation? Does he mean that the jnani cannot accept both the Absolute and the phenomenal world and fears that he might get bound, but that the vijnani has no such fear?
Sri Ramakrishna — I said to Keshab Sen that he could not succeed spiritually without renouncing his ego. He said, ‘If I do that, I won’t be able to keep my organization intact.’ Then I said to him: I am only asking you to renounce the ‘unripe I’, the ‘rascal I’. There is no harm in retaining the ‘ripe I’, the ‘I of a child’, the ‘I of God’s servant’ and the ‘I of knowledge’. The ‘I of a worldly man,’ the ‘I of ignorance,’ and the ‘unripe I’ are like a stick which divides the water of the ocean of Sat-chit-ananda into two parts. On the other hand, the ‘I of God’s servant,’ the ‘child’s I,’ or the ‘I of knowledge’ is like a line drawn on the surface of water. One clearly sees that there is one expanse of water. The line appears to divide the water into two, but in reality one sees one expanse of water.
“Shankaracharya retained the ‘I of knowledge’ to teach mankind.”
After attaining the knowledge of the Absolute, some retain the ‘ego of a devotee’ – attitude of gopis
“God retains the ‘I of knowledge,’ or the ‘I of a devotee’ in many people, even after they attain the knowledge of the Absolute. Hanuman had the attitude of a servant of God, of a devotee, after having the direct vision of both aspects of God, Personal and Impersonal. He said to Ramachandra, ‘Rama, at times I think of You as the whole and myself as a part of You. Sometimes I say to myself that I am Your servant and You the Master. And then, Rama, when I attain the Highest Knowledge, I see that You indeed are I and I am You.’
“Suffering the pangs of separation from Krishna, Yashoda went to Radha. Noticing her distress, Radha revealed her real nature to Yashoda, saying, ‘Krishna is Chidatma, Absolute Consciousness, and I am Chitshakti, His Primal Power. Mother, ask me for a boon.’ Yashoda said, ‘Mother, I don’t want knowledge of the Absolute. Only grant the boon that I may always see the form of Gopala in my meditation, that I may ever associate with the company of Krishna’s devotees, that I may serve the devotees of God, and that I may always chant the name and glories of God.’
“The gopis once wished to see the divine form of the Lord. Krishna asked them to dive into the Jamuna. As they dived, they found themselves in Vaikuntha where they had the vision of the Lord endowed with six divine powers. But the gopis did not like it. They said to Krishna, ‘We only want to see our Gopala, we only want to serve him – please grant this, we want nothing else.’
“Before going to Mathura, Krishna tried to impart the knowledge of the Absolute to the gopis. He said, ‘I am within and without every being. Why should you see only one of my forms?’ The gopis said, ‘Krishna, are you thinking of leaving us? Is that the reason you are imparting the knowledge of the Absolute?’
“Do you know what the attitude of the gopis is? We belong to Radha and Radha belongs to us.”
A Devotee — Does this ‘I of a devotee’ ever disappear altogether?
Sri Ramakrishna and the Vedanta
Sri Ramakrishna — The ‘I of a devotee’ does disappear completely at times. Having attained the knowledge of the Absolute, one merges into samadhi. I, too, lose I-consciousness, but not all the time. Do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti – one cannot stay long at ti [the highest note]. One has to come down again to the lower notes. I say to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, please don’t give me the knowledge of the Absolute.’ Formerly many believers in the Personal God used to visit me. Since then the Brahmajnanis have started arriving. During that period I would remain in samadhi most of the time, having lost all external consciousness. And when I would regain outer consciousness, I would pray to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, please don’t give me the knowledge of the Absolute.’
The Pundit — Does God listen to our prayers?
Sri Ramakrishna — The Lord is a kalpataru, the wish-fulfilling tree. You will certainly receive whatever you ask of Him. But you have to stand near the kalpataru when you ask for something. Only then is your wish fulfilled.
“But then there is something special. God knows one’s inner feelings. Whatever one cherishes while practicing spiritual disciplines indeed comes to pass – as one desires, so one gains. A magician showed his magic feats to a king and now and then he said, ‘Oh king, give me money, give me cloth.’ As he said this, his tongue twisted and got stuck to his palate. At once he had suspension of breath. Now he could neither speak, nor make any sound, and he became motionless. Thinking him dead, they made a brick grave and buried him in that posture. A thousand years later someone dug up that grave. People saw a person seated in the grave merged in samadhi. Taking him as a holy man, they began to worship him. When they shook and moved him, his tongue became detached from his palate. The fellow then regained outer-consciousness and shouted, ‘Just see my magic! See my feats! Oh king! Give, give me money, give me cloth.’
“I would cry and say to the Divine Mother, ‘Mother, destroy my tendency to reason!’ ”
The Pundit — Did you, too, have it (the tendency to reason)?
Sri Ramakrishna — Yes, at one time.
The Pundit — If you tell us how you got rid of this tendency to reason, we might also free ourselves. How did you get rid of it?
Sri Ramakrishna — It just happened, somehow.
Aim of life is God-realization – the paths to it
God’s splendour and the joy of His Bliss – some people don’t want the knowledge of His splendour
Thakur is silent for awhile before he resumes the conversation.
Sri Ramakrishna — The Lord is a kalpataru, a wish-fulfilling tree. One should pray standing near it. Then one receives whatever one asks of Him.
“How many things has the Lord created! He has created the limitless universe; why do I need to know of His limitless splendours? If you have the desire to know them, first attain God, then He Himself will tell you about them. Why do you need to know how many buildings and how many company shares Jadu Mallick has? What you must do is to somehow talk with this gentleman, even though you have to leap over a ditch or entreat him or be pushed aside by his gatekeeper. After becoming acquainted with him, he will tell you all about his wealth if you ask him. Moreover, when you have talked to the gentleman, his officials will also show you respect. (All laugh.)
“There are some who don’t want to know about God’s splendours. Why do I care to know how many litres of wine are in the tavern? I become intoxicated by only one bottle of wine. Why should I desire the knowledge of God’s splendours? I am already intoxicated with just a little wine.”
Path of Jnana Yoga is very difficult – avataras and the like are ever-perfect
“Bhakti yoga and Jnana Yoga are both paths to realize God. You may take any path and you will reach Him. The path of bhakti is an easy path. The path of jnana and discrimination, however, is difficult.
“Why reason which of the paths is better? I have been talking to Vijay about it for many days. I said to him, ‘A person used to pray: Oh Lord, please tell me who You are and what Your attributes are.’
“The path of knowledge and discrimination is difficult. Parvati, revealing Her different forms to her father, Giriraj, said: ‘Father, if you want the knowledge of Brahman, associate with holy men.’
“It is not possible to express Brahman in words. The Rama Gita says that Brahman can be described only by indirect hints. It is like saying that the ‘cowherd village’ overlooks the Ganges. By saying that the ‘cowherd village’ overlooks the Ganges, one indirectly states that the ‘cowherd village’ is on the bank of the Ganges.
“Why should one not attain the direct realization of the formless Brahman? But it is exceedingly difficult. When one renounces all sense-objects – of form, taste, smell, speech and touch – and the mind is merged, only then one attains the inner experience of God. But then one knows only this much about Brahman, that It exists.”
The Pundit — ‘astétyopalabdhavya’ – God is experienced as Existence.
Sri Ramakrishna — One must establish a relationship with God to attain Him – either the attitude of a hero, or of a female lover of the Lord, or of a handmaid, or of a child.
Mani Mallick — Only then can one be steadfast in one’s spiritual life.
Sri Ramakrishna — I lived with the attitude of a female companion of God for many days. I used to say, ‘I am the maidservant of the All-Blissful Mother, Brahmamayi. Oh handmaids, make me your handmaiden. Saying that I am the maidservant of Brahmamayi, I will walk about proudly.’
“There are some who realize God without practicing spiritual disciplines. They are known as nityasiddhas, or ever-perfect. On the other hand, those who realize God after practicing spiritual disciplines, such as repetition of the Name and other austerities, are called sadhanasiddha, perfected by spiritual disciplines. However, there are some devotees who are perfected by God’s grace; they are called kripasiddha. For example, when a lamp is brought inside a room that has been lying dark for a thousand years, it is illuminated in a moment.
“And then there are some devotees who suddenly attain God-vision; they are called hathatsiddha. For example, a poor man’s son is suddenly noticed by a rich man. The aristocrat gives him his daughter in marriage, along with land, house, carriage, servants and maids – he now owns them all.
“And then some devotees are perfected in a dream; they are called svapnasiddha. They attain the vision of God in a dream.”
Surendra (laughing) — Then I’ll go to sleep now. I’ll wake up an aristocrat.
Sri Ramakrishna (affectionately) — You are already an aristocrat. Add the vowel ‘a’ to the letter ‘k,’ it becomes ‘ka’. It is futile to add another vowel ‘a’ to it. But even if you do, it will still be ‘ka’. (All laugh.)
“The nityasiddha is of an altogether different class. He is, for instance, like tinder stick. Rub it a little and it produces fire. Even without rubbing, it gives fire. The nityasiddha realizes God with very little spiritual disciplines, sometimes without performing any spiritual practices at all.
“However, the nityasiddha, does practice spiritual disciplines after attaining God. He is like the pumpkin or the gourd plants which first bear fruit, and then flowers.”
The Pundit, hearing of ‘the pumpkin or gourd plant bearing fruit first,’ laughs.
Sri Ramakrishna — And the nityasiddha is like the homa bird. Its mother soars high up in the sky. When the chick is born, it falls toward the earth. It grows wings and opens its eyes during the fall – but before striking the ground and hurting itself, it rushes up toward its mother, screaming, ‘Where are you mother, where?’ Remember, Prahlada shed streams of tears of love as soon as he wrote the alphabet ‘K’.
Is Thakur describing his own state by his illustration of the tinder stick and the homa bird, in relation to the Nityasiddha?
Thakur seems very happy to see the humility of the Pundit. He talks to the devotees about the Pundit’s good nature.
Sri Ramakrishna (to the devotees) — He has a very fine nature. It is not difficult to drive a nail into a mud wall. But when you try to drive it into a stone wall, its point breaks and no hole appears in the stone. There are people whose spiritual consciousness is not awakened, though they may hear about God a thousand times. They are like a crocodile whose hide remains unaffected even when hit by a sword.
Spiritual practice is better than learning and scholarship – discrimination
The Pundit — One can injure a crocodile by thrusting a spear into its belly. (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — What use is it to read so many scriptures? It is philosophy! (All laugh.)
The Pundit (smiling) — Yes, it is mere philosophy.
Sri Ramakrishna — What use is it to talk a lot? When learning archery, one first aims at a banana tree, then at a reed, next a wick, and then at a flying bird.
“That is why one should first concentrate the mind on the Personal God.
“And then there are devotees who have gone beyond the three gunas. They are called trigunatita devotees. For example, Narada and others like him are nitya devotees, devoted to God eternally. Such devotees consider Krishna as the embodiment of Spirit, His Abode as Spirit, and His devotee as Spirit too. To them the Lord is eternal, His devotee is eternal and His abode is eternal too.
“Those who reason and discriminate, saying, ‘Not this, not this,’ don’t believe in God-incarnate. Hazra says well: the Divine Incarnation is for the devotee and not for the jnani. The jnani is content with the attitude of ‘Soham.’ ”
Thakur and the devotees remain silent for awhile. Now the Pundit speaks.
The Pundit — Sir, how does one get rid of an insensitive attitude – when one sees someone laughing and the mind thinks of the muscles and nerves? Or when seeing someone in sorrow, the mind goes to the nervous system?
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — That is why Narayan Shastri used to say that studying scriptures has its pitfalls. Arguing and reasoning may bring about a downfall.
The Pundit — Sir, is there no way out? Please clarify a little.
Sri Ramakrishna — There is a way out. It is discrimination. A song says –
Ask – about the Lord – the son called viveka who knows the Real (God) from the unreal phenomenal world.
“The way is: discrimination, nonattachment, and love for God. Without practicing discrimination, one cannot make a correct statement. Samadhyayi, after expounding religion for some time, said, ‘God is devoid of sweetness and bliss.’ That is like saying, ‘There is a cowshed full of horses at my maternal uncle’s house.’ Do horses live in cowsheds?
(Smiling) “You have now become a chanabara. It will not only be good for you to remain soaked in syrup for three or four days, but also good for others. Just for three or four days.”
The Pundit (smiling) — The chanabara has been burnt into coal.
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling) — No, no. It has taken the brown colour of a cockroach.
Hazra — It has been fried well. It will now soak up the syrup nicely.
His earlier story – instruction by Totapuri – significance of the Gita – yearn for God
Sri Ramakrishna — You see, there is no need to read the scriptures a lot. Too much reading inclines one to reason and argue. The Naked One (Totapuri) taught me that the essence of the Gita is what you hear when the word Gita is repeated ten times. In other words, by repeating ‘Gita’ ten times, it becomes ‘tyagi,’ renunciation.
“The path is to cultivate discrimination, nonattachment, and love for the Lord. What kind of love? Such love that you yearn for Him with heart and soul, the way a cow runs longingly after her calf.”
The Pundit — The Vedas say exactly the same thing: ‘We call on You the way the cow bellows for its calf.’
Sri Ramakrishna — Weep with yearning for God. If one can renounce everything through developing discrimination and nonattachment, one can have the direct vision of God.
“That yearning brings about God-intoxication, whether you follow the path of knowledge, or of love and devotion. The sage Durvasa was mad with the Knowledge of God.
“There is a great deal of difference between the jnana of a householder and that of an all-renouncing sannyasin. The knowledge of the householder is like the light of an earthen lamp that only lights the room. The householder cannot understand beyond his body, home and family. But the knowledge of an all-renouncing sannyasin is like the radiance of the sun. One can see both inside and outside the room with its light. Chaitanyadeva’s knowledge was like that of the sun – the radiance of the sun of knowledge. Further, he was also endowed with the soothing light of the moon of love and devotion. He had both the Knowledge of the Absolute and ecstatic love for God.”
Is Thakur describing his own state by referring to the state of Chaitanyadeva?
Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga – bhakti according to Narada in the age of Kali
“Affirmation and negation. Love, devotion and feeling for God is a positive path; the negative path is different. You are talking of the path of negation. But it creates a difficult situation in that the guru and the disciple do not see one another as different. Shukadeva went to Janaka for instruction about the knowledge of Brahman. Janaka said, ‘First you have to make an offering of the teacher’s fee. When you have attained the knowledge of Brahman, you will not make any offering because then there will remain no difference between guru and disciple.’
“Both the path of affirmation and negation are ways to realize the same goal – there are numberless beliefs and numerous paths. But there is a special point. According to Narada, bhakti is the injunction for the age of Kali. On this path one first develops love and devotion to God, then it matures into bhava. Higher than bhava is mahabhava and prema. An ordinary mortal does not attain mahabhava and prema. He who has attained it has attained the Substance, namely realized God.”
The Pundit — Sir, when one teaches, one must explain in different ways.
Kali is Brahman, Brahman and his Power are inseparable – harmony of all religions
The Pundit is talking to Mani Mallick, who is a member of the Brahmo Samaj. The Pundit raises strong arguments about the good and bad aspects of the Brahmo Samaj. Thakur is sitting on the smaller cot and watches them talk. He smiles. Sometimes he intervenes. “This is the tamasic aspect of sattva,” he says, “the heroic attitude. This too is needed. One should not keep quiet at the sight of injustice and untruth. You may find that an unchaste woman is trying to take you from your spirituality. You then must assume the heroic attitude. You must say, ‘Why, you witch, you’re trying to harm my spiritual life! I’ll cut you into two pieces right now!’ ”
Thakur then laughs and says, “Mani Mallick’s faith in Brahmo doctrines is long standing. You wish to convert him to your views. Is it easy to change old tendencies so quickly? There was a Hindu who was a great devotee. He used to worship the Mother of the Universe and repeat Her name constantly. When the Muslims conquered the country, they caught this devotee and converted him to Islam, saying, ‘You are now a Muslim. Say Allah. You must only repeat the name of Allah.’ The fellow began to repeat, ‘Allah, Allah,’ with great difficulty. At times he uttered, ‘Jagadamba’ (the name of the Mother of the Universe) in spite of himself. At that, the Muslims decided to kill him. He cried, ‘Save me, Sheikh! Please don’t kill me. I am trying hard to repeat the name of your Allah. But our Mother of the Universe has filled me up to my throat. She is pushing your Allah out.’ ”(All laugh.)
(To the Pundit, smiling) “Please don’t say anything to Mani Mallick.”
“You know how it is. People have different tastes and can only digest certain kinds of foods. God has created various religions, various faiths – for people of differing capacities. Not everybody is qualified for the knowledge of Brahman. So He has made provision for the worship of God with form. A mother brings home fish for her children and cooks it differently – as fish with curry, as fish sauce and fish with fried rice. Not everyone can digest fish with fried rice, so she makes fish curry for him who has a weak stomach. Others like fish sauce, or fried fish. Just as there are people of different temperaments, there is also a difference in their fitness and capacity.”
All remain silent. Thakur says to the Pundit, “Go have the darshan of the deity. Then take a stroll in the garden for awhile.”
It is half past five. The Pundit and his friend rise. They will visit the shrine. Some devotees accompany them.
After some time Thakur and M. walk down together toward the brick ghat on the bank of the Ganges. Thakur says to M., “Baburam now says: What shall I gain by studying?”
Thakur meets the Pundit on the bank of the Ganges. He says, “Are you not going to the Kali Temple? I came to make sure that you do go.” The Pundit is a little embarrassed and says, “Sir, let’s go together to have the darshan of the deity.”
Smiling broadly, Sri Ramakrishna walks toward the Kali Temple through the courtyard. He says, “Listen to a song.” He begins to sing sweetly.
Is my Mother really black? The Naked One, of black hue, illumines my heart.
Reaching the courtyard of the chandni, he says again, “One of the songs says” –
Lighting the fire of jnana in the chamber,
Look at the Mother, the embodiment of Brahman.
Reaching the shrine, Thakur lies prostrate in obeisance. Hibiscus flowers and vilwa leaves have been placed at the holy lotus feet of the Mother. She, the three-eyed one, looks at the devotees with eyes full of affection. Her hand is raised to assure fearlessness. The Mother is clad in a Benares sari with jewelry.
Viewing the holy image, the elder brother of Bhudhar remarks, “I have heard that it was made by the sculptor, Nabin.” Thakur says, “I don’t know about that. What I know is that She is the image of Spirit.”
Thakur, accompanied by the devotees, walks through the natmandir toward the south. Seeing the block for sacrificing goats, the Pundit remarks, “The Mother is not able to see the goats being slaughtered.” (All laugh.)
Thakur is now returning to his room. He says to Baburam, “Come with us.” M. also joins them.
It is dusk. Thakur comes to the circular verandah west of his room and sits down. He is absorbed in divine emotion – semi-conscious to the external world. Close to him are Baburam and M.
Thakur is having difficulties these days for lack of personal service. Rakhal does not live here now. There are others, but they cannot touch Thakur in all his spiritual states [while offering service]. Thakur says to Baburam with a sign, “Do stay with me. I cannot allow just anybody to touch me in this state. It would be nice if you would stay here.”
God-realization and giving up work – a new ‘pot’ – householder devotee and unchaste woman
The Pundit has returned to Thakur’s room after visiting the shrine. From the western circular verandah, Thakur says to him, “Have a little water to drink.” The Pundit says, “I have not yet performed the evening worship.” Immediately Thakur rises and sings, intoxicated with divine emotion –
What is the need of visiting Gaya, Ganges, Prabhas, Kashi, Kanchi or such holy places
If the lips can utter, ‘Kali, Kali’, Kali,’ when life ebbs away?
He who calls on Kali at the three hours of dawn, noon and dusk needs no daily ritualistic worship.
Worship itself follows his footsteps, but can never overtake him.
He can no longer concern himself with repetition of the Name, yajna, worship, or sacrificial fire.
For Madan all worship and rituals mean the blood-red feet of the Mother, the embodiment of Brahman.
Intoxicated with divine love, Thakur says, “How long does one have to perform sandhya? As long as the mind does not merge in Him when repeating ‘Om’.”
The Pundit — So I will have some water, I can perform sandhya later.
Sri Ramakrishna — I don’t want to disturb the current of your personal routine. One does not renounce till the time is ripe. When the fruit is ripe, the flower falls off by itself. One should not push and tug at a coconut when it is not ripe – that would injure the tree.
Surendra is getting ready to go home. He invites his friends to come along, so that he can take them in his carriage.
Surendra — Mahendra, are you coming?
Thakur is absorbed in ecstasy – he has not come back fully to the normal state of consciousness. He says to Surendra in this state, “Don’t carry more people than your horse can draw.” Surendra pays his obeisance and leaves.
The Pundit leaves to perform evening service. M. and Baburam have to go to Calcutta and they are paying their obeisance to Thakur, who is still in ecstasy.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.) — I can hardly speak. You must wait for awhile.
M. sits down, waiting for Thakur’s command. Thakur beckons Baburam to sit. Baburam says to M., “Let’s stay a little longer.” Thakur says, “Fan me a little.” Baburam fans him, so does M.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M., affectionately) — Why don’t you visit more often?
M. — Sir, there is no particular reason. I have been busy at home.
Sri Ramakrishna — Yesterday I came to know Baburam’s spiritual ideal. That is why I insist on keeping him here. A bird hatches its egg at the right hour. Do you know who they are? They are pure Atman, not yet fallen into the trap of ‘lust and greed’.
M. — True, sir. He has no stain yet.
Sri Ramakrishna — He is like a new pot [of clay]. Milk will not sour when put in it.
M. — Yes, sir.
Sri Ramakrishna — I feel the need to keep Baburam here. I am put in various spiritual states and it is essential that such a person stay with me. Baburam says, ‘I can manage to stay permanently only gradually. Otherwise, it will create difficulties at home; they will raise a row.’ I say to him, ‘Come on Saturdays and Sundays.’
By this time the Pundit has returned from performing evening service. He is accompanied by Bhudhar and his elder brother. They are ready to eat some refreshments now.
Bhudhar’s elder brother says, “Please let us know if we will succeed in spiritual life. What is the way for us?”
Sri Ramakrishna — You are a mumukshu. One attains the Lord when one develops yearning for Him. Don’t eat the food offered at the death ceremony. You must live with your family like an unchaste woman. An unchaste woman attends to all her household work with full attention, but her mind remains tied night and day to her paramour. Attend to all your household work, but always keep your mind on the Lord.
The Pundit is eating his refreshments. Thakur asks him to sit to eat.
After the Pundit has finished, Sri Ramakrishna says to him, “You have read the Gita, no doubt. It says that there is a special power of God in one who is honoured and respected by all.”
The Pundit — Whatever being is glorious, prosperous or powerful, know that to have sprung but from a spark of My splendour.
Sri Ramakrishna — You have, no doubt, the power of His spark within yourself.
The Pundit — Shall I persevere in the vows that I have taken?
Thakur, reluctantly says, “Yes, you must.” Then he changes the topic to sidetrack the issue.
Sri Ramakrishna — You must accept Shakti. Vidyasagar asked, ‘Has God given more power to some?’ I replied, ‘Otherwise, how can one man defeat a hundred men? Why is Queen Victoria respected and honoured if not because of God’s power?’ Then I asked him whether he agreed to this fact. He replied, ‘Yes, I do.’
The Pundit rises to take leave of Thakur and offers him his obeisance by touching his head to the floor. His companions and friends also salute Thakur.
Thakur says, “Please come again. A hemp smoker is happy to be in the company of another hemp smoker. He may even embrace him. When he sees other people, he hides his face from them. A cow licks the body of its own calf. The others, she pushes away with her horns.” (All laugh.)
When the Pundit has left, Thakur laughs and says, “He has become ‘diluted’ in one day. Did you notice his humility, how he accepted everything?”
It is the 7th day of the bright fortnight in the month of Ashada. The rays of the moon fall onto the western verandah. Thakur is still sitting there. M. salutes him. Thakur asks affectionately, “Are you leaving?”
M.— Yes, sir, I would like to take your leave.
Sri Ramakrishna — I have been thinking that I would visit the homes of the devotees one by one. I shall visit your house one day. What do you say?
M. — That would be very nice, sir.
 The Car festival
 The Spirit of Eternity
 Muladhara is the first lotus with four petals and is the root of the Sushumna in the spine. The Kundalini is coiled up at the Muladhara lotus.
 Sahasrara is the lotus of a thousand petals, which is the goal of the spiritual energy (Shakti) awakened by the yogi at the Muladhara. When the Shakti reaches the Sahasrara and becomes united with Shiva or Brahman, the result is samadhi, Brahmajnana.
 She has Her own way in everything
 The gods and demons churned the ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality. The churning also produced deadly poison. To save mankind from the poison, Lord Shiva drank it all.
 Jai Kali
 The four fruits: Dharma, artha, kama and moksha
 Lust, anger, avarice, delusion, pride and envy
 King of Death
 Six passions, namely lust, anger, avarice, delusion, pride and envy
 One of the gopis at Vrindavan
 A kind of sweetmeat in Bengal made of cheese and sugar
 Thakur means that the drunkard can hardly say anything other than ‘Victory to Kali,’ on account of his drunkenness.
 Hatred, shame, fear, lineage, pride of good conduct, secretiveness, caste and grief
 After God-realization
 Tendencies inherited from one’s past births
 Neti, neti
 They are the following, viz. – the five gross elements (earth, water, fire, air, space); the five pranas (vital airs) (prana, udana, samana, vyana, apana); the five organs of sense; the five organs of work; the mind; the determinative faculty (buddhi); the ego; chitta (mind-stuff)
 Ramprasad belonged to the caste of physician.
 That is, they could step beyond rules and regulations
 A reference to an episode in the Ramayana about Kaushalya, the mother of Rama
 The childhood friends of Samba, one of Krishna’s sons, playfully disguised him as a pregnant woman by dressing him in female clothes and hanging an iron pestle below his waist. They presented him before a group of ascetics and asked them what sort of child the woman would give birth to. Enraged that a joke had been played on them, the munis proclaimed a curse that the iron pestle would be the ruin of the entire clan of Yadus. Fearfully, the boys took the pestle to the ocean and rubbed it for a very long time. The particles that fell from it, on striking the ground, became strong willow reeds. The boys threw the last piece of pestle into the sea.
In the meantime Krishna’s clan, the Yadus, had become overbearingly vain and arrogant and they began to fight among themselves. At last they took the powerful willow reeds sprung from the pestle dust and, with them as weapons, fought each other to the death. Krishna, having decided that it was time that he also pass on, bade his father and his wives farewell and seated himself under a tree for meditation. Only one of his legs was not obscured by the leafy and outreaching branches of the tree. A hunter mistook him for a deer and killed him with an arrow, the point of which was the last piece from the pestle that had been thrown into the sea. Thus did the munis’ curse find fulfillment.
 Bahaduri wood
 Refer to the parable next to understand this statement
 Baby Krishna
 The abode of Vishnu
 Members of the Brahmo Samaj who believed in the Formless Brahman
 Himalaya, the king of mountains
 Sakhi; gopi of Vraja
 Arani wood; a special kind of wood that produces fire by rubbing
 The alphabet ‘K’ reminded Prahlada of Krishna, his Chosen Ideal
 I am He
 For complete song, refer to Volume I, Section II, Chapter VI of this book
 Bengali sweetmeat made of fried cheese
 Bhavamukha chaitanya
 Abhavamukha chaitanya
 Knowledge and discrimination
 Matured bhakti, a state of ecstasy
 The highest manifestation of divine love
 Ecstatic love; a state in which the devotee forgets the world and his own body
 That is, focus on the essential thing
 Qualities that lead Godward
 Baburam was the embodiment of purity, so could help Thakur with personal service
 Author of the song
 Daily service morning, noon and evening, as laid down for the twice-born
 Young men like Baburam who are pure in heart
 One with a burning desire for liberation
 Yadyadvibhütimatsattvaà çrémadürjitameva vä. (Gita 10:41)
 Power of Brahman, personification of the Primal Energy