Sri Ramakrishna with Brahmo Devotees at Brahmo Samaj in Sinthi
Sri Ramakrishna has arrived at the garden house of Beni Pal in Sinthi, where the semi-annual celebration of the Brahmo Samaj is taking place. It is Sunday, 22 April 1883, in the afternoon of the full-moon day of Chaitra, 10th of Vaishakh. Many Brahmo devotees have come. They sit around Thakur in the southern courtyard. After twilight Becharam, a teacher of the Samaj, will conduct worship.
The Brahmo devotees now and then ask Thakur questions.
A Brahmo Devotee: “Sir, what is the way?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “The way is devotion – love for God, and prayer.”
The Devotee: “Love or prayer?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Love first, then prayer.”
O mind, call upon the Divine Mother with a real cry. How can Mother Shyama then keep herself from coming?
Sri Ramakrishna sings the song and then continues: “One should chant His name and sing His glories continuously, and pray to Him. An old pot has to be cleaned every day. Cleaning it just once won’t do. And one should practice discrimination and non-attachment, being conscious of the fact that the world is transitory.”
The Brahmo devotee and renunciation of worldly life – selfless work in the world
The Brahmo Devotee: “Is it good to renounce worldly life?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Renunciation of worldly life is not for everyone. It is not for those whose desire for worldly enjoyment has not yet ended. Can you get drunk on only thirty millilitres of wine?”
The Brahmo Devotee: “So they should lead a worldly life?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, they should try to work without expectation of any reward. They should break open the jack-fruit after rubbing their hands with oil. A maid in a rich man’s house attends to all her work, but her mind dwells in her village. This is called working without attachment. It is called renunciation in mind. You should renounce mentally, while a sannyasin should renounce both outwardly and mentally.”
Brahmo devotee and end of worldly enjoyment – nature of a spiritual woman – when does dispassion occur?
The Brahmo Devotee: “What is the end of the desire for worldly enjoyment?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Worldly enjoyment means enjoyment of ‘lust and greed’. It is a great problem for a delirious patient to live in a room where tamarind pickles and water are stored. Until a person has enjoyed money, name and fame, bodily comforts and so on – until the desire for worldly enjoyments has ended – he doesn’t feel a longing for God.”
The Brahmo Devotee: “Who is bad, we or women?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “There are women with spiritual qualities just as there are women who are ignorant of the value of spirituality. A spiritually-minded woman takes you to God and one who is not spiritually-minded makes you forget Him and drown in worldliness.
“This world and worldly life are due to His Mahamaya. In it are both the power of knowledge and power of ignorance. When you take refuge in the power of knowledge, you keep the company of the holy, imbibe spiritual knowledge, love for God, dispassion and so on. In the power of ignorance are all things pertaining to the five elements and the five senses – sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing. They all give worldly enjoyment and make you forget God.”
The Brahmo Devotee: “If it makes you ignorant, why has God created it?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That’s His divine play. If there were no darkness, you would not realize the importance of light. If there were no sorrow, you wouldn’t appreciate happiness. The knowledge of good depends on the knowledge of bad.
“Besides, the fruit of a mango develops and ripens because of its skin. It’s only when the fruit is ripe that the skin can be thrown away. It’s only when the skin of maya is present that a person can gradually attain the knowledge of Brahman. Knowledge and ignorance are like the skin of the mango. They are both necessary.”
The Brahmo Devotee: “Is it all right to worship a form, or a deity made of clay?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You don’t believe in God with form. That’s all right. The image of God is not meant for you, only the feeling. Just the feeling of attraction, like Radha’s attraction for Krishna. Accept the love. Those who believe in God with form worship Kali, worship Mother Durga. How much they call on Her, crying, ‘Mother, Mother!’ How much they love! Accept that feeling. You don’t have to accept the image.”
The Brahmo Devotee: “How do you develop non-attachment? Why doesn’t everyone have it?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “You don’t develop non-attachment until the desire for worldly enjoyment is silenced. A child is made to forget everything else by giving him something to eat or a toy to play with. But when his eating and playing are over, he cries, ‘I want mummy!’ If he isn’t taken to his mother, he throws away the doll and screams.”
Sat-chit-ananda Itself is the Guru – after God- realization, rituals such as evening worship end
The Brahmo devotees don’t believe in the tradition of gurus. Now they talk about it.
Brahmo Devotee: “Sir, is it impossible to attain knowledge of God without a Guru?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Sat-chit-ananda Himself is the guru. If a man as a guru awakens your spiritual consciousness, it is Sat-chit-ananda Himself who has taken up that form. A guru is a companion who leads you by the hand. After God-realization, the distinction between guru and disciple ceases. ‘It is a very difficult situation when the guru and the disciple can’t differentiate each other.’ That’s why Janaka said to Sukadeva, ‘Please give me the teacher’s fee first if you want the knowledge of Brahman.’ He said this because after attaining the knowledge of Brahman, the guru and the disciple wouldn’t be able to distinguish between each other. As long as there is no vision of God, the relationship of guru and disciple exists.”
The evening gradually sets in. Some of the Brahmo devotees say to Thakur, “It must be your time for evening worship.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “No, that’s not so. All this is done somewhat in the beginning. Later, there’s no need for rituals or worship items like kosha and kushi.”
Sri Ramakrishna and the Brahmo teacher, Becharam – Vedanta and Brahman
In the evening Becharam, the Adi Brahmo Samaj teacher, conducts the service from the pulpit. It is interspersed with Brahmo music and reading from the Upanishads. After the service, the teacher sits with Sri Ramakrishna and has a long conversation with him.
Sri Ramakrishna: “Well, what is your opinion? Are both God with and without form true?”
God-with-form, God-without-form, image of Consciousness and the devotee
Teacher: “Sir, God without form is like an electric current that you can’t see, but can experience.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, both are true – both God-with-form and formless God. Do you know what it’s like to speak only of God without form? It’s like a person playing only one note on a sanai that has seven holes. Another person plays many different melodies on the instrument. In the same way, people who believe in God-with-form enjoy Him in so many ways – the serene attitude, the attitude of His servant, friendship, with maternal feelings, and of a lover – so many moods.
“Do you know what the heart of the matter is? To fall somehow into the pool of nectar. Whether it is achieved by singing hymns or by being pushed into it by someone, the result is the same. Both ways bring the same immortality.
“A good illustration for Brahmo devotees is of water and ice. Sat-chit-ananda is like an infinite ocean. At various places in cold places, the water takes the form of ice. In the same way, Sat-chit-ananda Brahman, due to the cooling influence of devotees’ love and devotion for Him, takes forms for them. The rishis saw His supersensuous Spirit form [transcendental] and talked to Him. Devotees see His Spirit form through the body of ecstatic love.
“But then, Brahman is beyond speech and mind. Blocks of ice (God with form) melt under the heat of the sun of knowledge. After attaining the knowledge of Brahman, after attaining nirvikalpa samadhi, He is again the same Infinite, beyond speech and mind, formless Brahman without shape.
“The real nature of Brahman can’t be described in words. One becomes silent. Who can describe the infinite in words? However high a bird may fly, there is still more space above it. What do you say?”
Teacher: “Yes sir. The Vedanta does say that.”
Brahman without attributes is beyond speech and mind – beyond the three gunas
Sri Ramakrishna: “A salt doll went to measure the ocean. It didn’t return to give a report. There’s a view that Sukadeva and others experienced the sight and touch of Brahman – but they did not dive into it.
“I said to Vidyasagar that everything has been polluted by speech – but not Brahman. In other words, nobody has been able to say what Brahman is. The moment you say something, it becomes polluted. Vidyasagar was a learned man. He was pleased to hear this.
“I’ve heard that there are snow-covered mountains near Kedarnath. If you climb very high there you can’t return. Those who climbed them to find out what was there at such great height, or what you’d experience there, never returned to tell about it.
“A man is overwhelmed with Bliss when he attains God’s vision. He can’t utter a word. Who will give the report? Who will explain?
“The king lives behind seven gates. A powerful person sits at every gate. At each gate the disciple asks if it is the king. The guru replies, ‘No. Not this, not this.’ What the disciple sees at the seventh gate strikes him dumb. He is overwhelmed with joy. He doesn’t have to ask whether it is the king he’s seeing. As soon as he looks at him, all his doubts vanish.”
Teacher: “True, sir. The Vedanta does say this.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “When He creates, preserves and dissolves, he is called Brahman with attributes or the Primal Power. When he is beyond the three gunas, he’s called Brahman without attributes, beyond speech and mind – the Supreme Brahman.
“Falling under the spell of maya, a man forgets his real nature – inheritor of his father’s limitless wealth. Maya consists of the three gunas. All three are dacoits. They rob a person of everything. They make him forget his real nature. They are sattva, rajas and tamas. Of them, only sattva can show the way to God, but not even this guna can take you to God.
“A rich man was walking along a path in the forest when three dacoits came and surrounded him. They robbed him of everything he had. After they’d snatched everything from him, one of the dacoits said, ‘What’s the use of sparing his life? Kill him.’ Saying this, he stepped forward to cut the man to pieces. The second dacoit said, ‘It’s not necessary to kill him. Let’s tie him up and leave him here. Then he won’t be able to tell the police.’ Saying this, they tied him up and left him there. A little later the third dacoit returned and said to him, ‘Oh, how great your suffering must be! Let me untie you.’ After freeing him, he took the man with him and showed him the way. When they reached the main road, he said, ‘Go on this road and you’ll reach home easily.’ The man said, ‘What do you mean, sir? Please come with me. You’ve done so much for me. I would be very pleased if you’d come to my home.’ The dacoit said, ‘No, I can’t go there. The police would catch me.’ Saying this, while pointing the way, the dacoit left.
“The first dacoit is tamas – the one who said, ‘What good will it do to spare his life? Kill him.’ Tamas leads to destruction. The second dacoit was rajas. Rajas binds man to the world – entangles him in different kinds of activity. Rajas makes a person forget God. Only sattva can show the way. Compassion, charity, love for God, etc. all come from sattva. Sattva is like the last landing of a staircase – beyond it there is only the roof. The supreme Brahman is one’s own natural home. Unless a person goes beyond the three gunas, he does not attain the knowledge of Brahman.”
Teacher: “What a clear explanation!”
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Do you know the nature of a devotee? ‘Let me speak and you listen, and when you speak, I will listen.’ You are a religious teacher. You teach so many people. You are a ship, but we are small fishing boats.” (They all laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna’s enjoyment of Hari’s kirtan – Sri Ramakrishna in the Haribhakti Pradayani Sabha (house of worship) in Ram Chandra’s house
Sri Ramakrishna has arrived at the Kansari Para Haribhakti Pradayani Sabha in Calcutta. It is Sunday, 13 May 1883, 31st day of Vaishakh, 1290 (B.Y.), the 7th day of the bright fortnight of Sankranti. The society is celebrating its annual festival. Manohar Sai is conducting the kirtan.
The topic of the song is ‘pique.’ Radha’s companions are saying to her, “Why are you piqued? It seems that you don’t care about Krishna’s happiness.” Radha says, “It’s not because he’s gone to Chandravali’s grove. Why should he go there? She doesn’t know how to serve him.”
The next Sunday, 20 May 1883, there is a kirtan again at Ram Chandra’s house, ‘The Song of Mathura.’ Thakur has arrived. The 14th day of the bright fortnight of Vaishakh, the 7th of Jaishtha. ‘The Song of Mathura’ is now being sung. Radha is saying many things regarding her separation from Krishna. She has wanted to see Shyam since she was a child. “Friend, my nails have worn down by counting the days on my fingers. Look, the garland he gave has dried up, but I have not thrown it away. Where has the moon of Krishna appeared now? It seems that it has run away in fear of pique. Oh, when shall I see that cloud of Krishna again? Will I ever see it again? O friend, I have never been able to see you to my heart’s content. For I have only two eyes, and over them my eyelids blink and tears stream. The peacock feather on his head is like an unmoving flash of lightning. Peacocks, seeing the cloud of his figure, would raise their wings and dance.”
“Friend, I cannot survive – please place this body on the branch of the Tamal tree and write Krishna’s name on it.”
Sri Ramakrishna says, “God and His name are one and the same. That’s why Radha is saying this. He who is Rama is also His name.”
Immersed in ecstasy, Thakur listens to this Mathur kirtan. A goswami musician is singing the songs. The same songs will be sung at Dakshineswar on Sunday, and then again sung at Adhar’s house the following Sunday.
Sri Ramakrishna with devotees at the Dakshineswar Temple
Sri Ramakrishna is standing in his room at the Dakshineswar temple and talking to the devotees. Sunday today, 27 May 1883, 14th of Jaishtha, the 5th day of the dark fortnight, time about nine o’clock. The devotees have assembled gradually.
Sri Ramakrishna (to M.): “It’s not good to have hostility – it’s not good that the Shaktas, the Vaishnavas and the Vedantists quarrel with each other. Padmalochan was the court pundit in Burdwan. A discussion was going on in a meeting about who was greater, Shiva or Brahma. Padmalochan gave a beautiful reply: ‘I don’t know. I haven’t talked to either Shiva or Brahma.’ (They all laugh.)
“If you have earnest longing, you can attain Him by any path. But you must be steadfast. There’s another name for single-minded devotion, chaste devotion. Think of a tree with a single trunk. It grows straight up. Other devotion is like a tree with five branches. The gopis had such single-minded devotion that they didn’t want to see any person but the shepherd Krishna of Vrindavan wearing his peacock feather crown and yellow loin-cloth. When they saw Krishna in Mathura in royal dress with a turban on his head, they drew down their veils and said, ‘Who is he? Should we become unchaste by talking to him?’
“The way a wife serves her husband is also single-minded devotion. She serves food to her husband’s younger and elder brothers and gives them water to wash their feet, but she has quite a different relationship with her husband. In the same way, you can have single-minded devotion to your own religion, but you shouldn’t show malice to other religions because of it. Instead, you should conduct yourself with them in a sweet manner.”
Thakur goes to the Kali Temple after a dip in the Ganges. He is accompanied by M. Sitting on the worshipper’s seat, he offers flowers at the lotus feet of the Divine Mother. From time to time he puts them on his head and meditates.
Worship of the Mother of the Universe and of Self – mantra for destroying danger – dancing
Thakur rises from his seat after quite some time. He is absorbed with emotion and dances and chants the name of the Mother. He says, “O Mother! Destroyer of all the trials in life, Remover of adversity.”
There is bound to be sorrow and adversity for an embodied person. It seems that he might be reciting this great mantra for destroying danger and calling on Her with a yearning heart to teach humanity.
His earlier story – Sri Ramakrishna and Nakur Babaji of Jhamapukur
Now Thakur comes to sit on the verandah to the west of his room. He is still in ecstasy. Rakhal, M., Nakur Vaishnava and some others are near him. Thakur has known Nakur Vaishnava for twenty-eight or twenty-nine years. When Sri Ramakrishna first came to Calcutta and lived at Jhamapukur, he used to perform worship at different houses. At that time he would sit at Nakur Vaishnava’s shop and enjoy his company. Now Nakur Vaishnava comes almost every year to see Thakur during Raghav Pandit’s celebrations in Panihati. Nakur is a devout Vaishnava and sometimes celebrates festivals. He lives in M.’s neighbourhood. He showed M. the old house belonging to Govinda Chatterji where Thakur lived when he was in Jhamapukur.
Sri Ramakrishna enjoys the singing of the name of the Mother of the Universe
Filled to overflowing with emotion, Thakur sings:
Kali ever-joyous, the beloved of Shiva! Mother, You dance and clap Your hands of your own accord.
O Eternal Primal Power, the image of the zero-shaped moon, where did You get Your garland of skeletons when there was no universe?
You are the great mechanic while we are instruments in Your hand, moving at Your will.
We do what You make us do Mother, we speak the way You make us speak.
O attributeless Mother, fondly berating You, Kamalakanta says – O Mother, the destroyer of all, You have swallowed both piety and impiety with the sword in Your hand.
Again he sings:
Mother! you are Tara,
Mother! You are Tara, though You have assumed the three gunas, and You are the Limitless.
I know You are merciful to the lowly, the one who removes all distress.
You are sandhya, You are Gayatri, You are the support of the Universe, O Mother!
You are the savior of yearning souls; You have stolen the heart of Shiva.
You are in water; You are in earth; You are the root of the Beginning.
In all bodies You dwell, in all beings, in that with form and without.
Again he sings:
There is mal in golmal, leave out gol and hang onto mal.
[Pun on the word golmal which means confusion, but is composed of two words gol [disorder] and mal [wealth]].
O mind, we have no business here! Let us go to that region of the stars
O Mother Shankari! The boat of my body is sinking in the sea of the world. The tempest of maya and infatuation is gradually rising.
Come, Mother. Let mother and son talk a little about suffering,
Some elephants carry a canopy. And some have tasty curd on dried roasted rice.
Sri Ramakrishna says to the devotees, “It’s not good to only talk of sorrow to householders. You should be cheerful. Those who are used to going without food can fast for two days. But others, whose meals are only somewhat delayed, fall ill. It isn’t good to talk to them only about sad things and about sorrow.
“Vaishnavcharan used to say, “What’s this, just saying ‘Sin, sin. Enjoy yourself!’”
Thakur has not rested for even a short time after his meal before Manohar Sai Goswami arrives.
Sri Ramakrishna is filled with ecstasy in the attitude of Sri Radha – Is it Thakur or Gauranga?
The goswami is singing a kirtan about the first intimations of love. Listening to it for only a short time, Thakur becomes absorbed in the ecstatic mood of Radha.
The beginning song is about Gaur Chandrika. “With your hand on your palm – worried – Gaur, why are you downcast today?” Perhaps he is absorbed in Radha.
The goswami sings another song:
She slowly moves in and out of the room, again and again.
Why is her mind distracted? She is breathing rapidly.
She looks steadily at the Kadamba forest.
(Radha, what has happened to you?)
Hearing this line, Sri Ramakrishna goes into a deep mood. He tears the shirt off his body and throws it away.
When the singer sings, “Her cool limbs become motionless at a soft touch,” Thakur trembles in mahabhava.
(Looking at Kedar) Thakur says in the singing tone of the kirtan, “O the master of my soul, the beloved of my heart, bring Krishna here; a friend of one’s heart should do this. Either bring him here or take me there. I will remain your maid-servant forever.”
The singer, the goswami, is overwhelmed to see Thakur’s divine state. Folding his hands, he says, “Please take away my worldly tendencies.”
The goswami: “Sir, I am like an ox carrying a load of sugar. But I haven’t been able to taste it.”
The kirtan continues. The singer describes Radha’s condition. ‘The cuckoo is warbling sweetly.’ Hearing it, perhaps Radha is reminded of the sounds of Vraja, which is why she chants the name of Jaimini. She says, “Gopi friend, this life of mine will not survive separation from Krishna. Please place this body on a branch of the tamal tree.”
The goswami ends the kirtan after singing of the meeting of Radha and Krishna.
. Bhagavad Gita 9:27.
. Refers to Sri Ramakrishna’s instruction to Keshab – ‘The Goddess of consciousness in the clay image.’
. Fish-shaped spoons, one larger than the other, used in ritualistic worship.
. Shanta, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhura.
. brahmaivedamamåtaà purastädbrahma paçcädbrahma dakñiëataçcottareëa |
adhaçcordhvaà ca prasåtaà brahmaivedaà viçvamidaà variñöham ||
[All that is in front is but the immortal Brahman. The immortal Brahman is behind, and also on the right and the left. It reveals everything above and below. This world is nothing but the supreme Brahman.]
. Brahman without attributes.
. Brahman with attributes.
. prayujyamäne mayi täà çuddhäà bhägavatéà tanum |
ärabdhakarmanirväëo nyapatatpäïcabhautikaù ||
[Narada said, “I have attained the divine body, pure and omnipresent.” When that Bhagavati-tanu, the divine body of Sudha-Sattva fit for the service of the Lord, was generated in me, my body of the gross material elements fell dead on the exhaustion of that quantum of my karma responsible for the previous embodiment.]
. acintyam avyapadeçyam … advaitam
. yato väco nivartante . apräpya manasä saha. taittiréyaopaniñad 2-4-1 [One is not subjected to fear at any time if one knows the Bliss that is Brahman.]
. bhidyate hådayagranthiçchidyante sarvasaàçayäù,
kñéyante cäsya karmäëi tasmin dåñöe parävare | munòakopaniñad 2-2-8 [The knot of the heart gets untied, all doubts become solved, and all one’s actions become dissipated.]
. Qualities or cosmic energies.
. Dark-hued Krishna.
. Nishtha bhakti.
. Avyabhicharini bhakti.
. The savior, literally “she who takes one across [the ocean of worldly existence]”.
. Ref: A holy man who visits the city after first finding lodging.
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