Adhar’s House – Sri Ramakrishna with Rakhal, Ishan and Other Devotees
Childlike faith – the untouchables and Shankaracharya – heart of a sadhu
Thakur is fond of Ishan Mukherji. He was a Superintendent in the Accountant General’s Office. After retiring he took to meditation and charitable work. One day Thakur went to his house on the Macchuabazar Street and had his meal there, with devotees. Ishan had invited a number of guests. (See Part I). Thakur stayed almost the whole day. Narendra was expected, but couldn’t come.
Since retiring, Ishan has visited Thakur at Dakshineswar often and gone to a solitary spot on the bank of the Ganges in Bhatpara to meditate. Now he is going to perform Gayatri purashcharana in Bhatpara.
Today is Saturday, 22 September 1883, the 6th day of Aswin.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Ishan): “Please tell that story of yours – about the boy who sent a letter.”
Ishan (smiling): “A boy heard that God had created us. So he wrote a letter to God as a prayer and mailed it in a post box. The address he gave was Heaven.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “Did you notice the story? You can only succeed in spiritual life with childlike faith. (To Ishan) And that story about the renunciation of work.”
Ishan: “After realizing God, all ritualistic devotion like sandhya drops off. One day everybody was performing devotions on the bank of the Ganges, everybody but one person. When asked, he said, ‘I’m observing impurity. I can’t perform rituals. I’ve had both the defilements of death and birth – the death of Mother Ignorance and the birth of Self-knowledge.
Sri Ramakrishna: “And now that story – about caste discrimination falling off by attaining Self-realization.”
Ishan: “Acharya Shankara was going up the steps in Kashi after a bath in the Ganges. Seeing an untouchable with some dogs in front of him, he said, ‘Hey, you touched me!’ The pariah said, ‘Master, neither have you touched me nor have I touched you. The Atman within all is not touched by anything.’ Is there any difference between the sun’s reflection in wine and in the water of the Ganges?” 
Sri Ramakrishna (smiling): “And next the story about the harmony of religions – that God can be realized by any path.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “And also that story about the heart of a sadhu being the biggest of all.”
Ishan (smiling): “The earth is the biggest thing we see. But the sea is even bigger – and the sky bigger than the sea! But Lord Vishnu has authority over all – heaven, the mortal world and the nether world – all three worlds in a single foot. That foot of Vishnu is in the sadhu’s heart. So the sadhu’s heart is the biggest of all.”
The devotees thoroughly enjoy listening to these words.
The worship of the Primal Power is the worship of Brahman – Brahman and the Primal Power are the same
Identity of God the Absolute and God the creator, preserver and destroyer
Ishan is going to perform Gayatri purashcharana in Bhatpara. Gayatri is the mantra of Brahman. Until a person is completely rid of worldly attractions, he does not attain the knowledge of Brahman. But a worldly mind cannot be gotten rid of since life depends on food in the age of Kali. It is always concerned with the senses of sight, taste, smell, touch and sound. That is why Sri Ramakrishna says, “It is not possible to live by the Vedic tenets in the Kaliyuga.” That which is Brahman is also Shakti, the power. When worshipping power, one is worshipping Brahman. When there is creation, preservation and destruction, it is called Shakti – they are not different, they are the same.”
The quest of the Absolute and Ishan – the Vedantist position, ‘I am He,’ So ’ham
“Whatever we see or think is the manifestation of the same Primal Power, the Primal Consciousness – creation, preservation and dissolution, the world and living beings. Also meditation, he who meditates, love for God, ecstatic love for God – all these are manifestations of that Primal Power.
“But Brahman and Shakti are inseparable. Hanuman sang a hymn of praise for Rama when he returned from Lanka. He sang, ‘O Rama, You are the Supreme Brahman and Sita is Your Shakti. You are one and the same.’ Like a snake and its zigzag movement. The moment you think of the movement of a snake, the snake comes to your mind. And when you think of a snake, you think of its movement. As soon as you think of milk, you think of its colour, its whiteness. And as soon as you think of milky whiteness, you think of milk. As soon as you think of wetness, you think of water. And, as soon as you think of water, you have to think of its wetness.
“This very Primal Power, or Mahamaya, covers Brahman. As soon as the veil is removed you realize, ‘I am You and You are I.’
“As long as there is the covering of Mahamaya, cherishing the Vedantist attitude of So ’ham, ‘I am indeed that Supreme Brahman,’ is not correct. Waves belong to water, water does not belong to waves. As long as there is the veil, it is good to call God, ‘Ma, Ma – You are my Mother, I am Your child.’ ‘You are my Lord, I am Your servant.’ The attitude of master and servant is also good. All other attitudes, such as serenity, friendship etc. – follow from this attitude. If a master has affection for his servant, he may say to him, ‘Come, sit beside me. You and I are not different.’ But if the servant sits beside the master of his own accord, won’t the master be cross?”
The Primal Power, the play of the incarnation of God – and Ishan – what is maya? The harmony of the Vedas, the Puranas and the Tantras
“As for the play of an incarnation of God, it is all the manifestation of the power of Consciousness. He who is Brahman is also Rama, Krishna and Shiva.”
Ishan: “Hari and Hara come from the same root. They are only distinguished in inflection.” (All laugh.)
Sri Ramakrishna: “Yes, except for the One, nothing exists. The Vedas say, ‘Om Sat-chit-ananda Brahman.’ The Puranas says, ‘Om Sat-chit-ananda Krishna.’ And the Tantra says, ‘Om Sat-chit-ananda Shiva.’
“This very Consciousness in the form of Mahamaya keeps everyone in ignorance. The Adhyatma Ramayana says, ‘All the rishis who saw Rama just said only this, ‘O Rama, don’t enchant us with Your world-bewitching maya!’”
Ishan: “What is maya?”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Everything that you see, hear or think is all maya. If you have to say so in a word, ‘lust and greed’ constitute the veil of maya.
“There’s nothing wrong in chewing betel-nut, eating fish, having a smoke or massaging the body with oil. What is the use of only giving these up? Giving up ‘lust and greed’ is the one thing necessary. Giving them up is true renunciation. Householders should now and then retire into solitude and practice spiritual disciplines. After developing love for God through them, they can renounce mentally. Sannyasis should renounce both within and without.”
Keshab Chandra Sen and renunciation – Navavidhan and doctrine of the Formless – dogmatism
“I said to Keshab Sen, ‘How can a person suffering from delirium be cured if he lives in a room where there’s a pitcher of water and tamarind pickles? You have to go into solitude now and then.”
A Devotee: “Sir, how about Navavidhan – it seems to me like a mix of five kinds of lentils.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Some people say it’s modern. But I ask myself, ‘Is the God of the Brahmos a different God?’ They call their cult Navavidhan, the new dispensation. That may be so. Just as there are six systems of philosophy. Maybe this is like them.
“But, you know where the believers of the formless God are mistaken? When they say that God is formless and all other views are wrong.
“I know that God is both with form and without form – and much more beyond that. God can be everything.”
God in the untouchables
(To Ishan) “The same Consciousness, the same power of Ignorance, has become the twenty-four cosmic principles. One day when I was meditating, my mind entered Rasik’s house. He is a scavenger. I said to my mind, ‘Stay, stay here, you rascal!’ The Divine Mother showed me that all the members of his household were the same containers and have the same kulkundalini inside and the same six centers.
“Is the Primal Power male or female? In the countryside [Kamarpukur], I saw Kali being worshipped in the house of the Lahas. She was wearing a sacred thread around Her neck. Somebody asked, ‘Why a sacred thread around the Mother’s neck?’ The master of the house, said, ‘Brother, you have understood the Mother. But I don’t know whether She is male or female.’
“It’s said that the Mahamaya once swallowed Shiva. When her six centers were awakened, Shiva emerged out of Her thigh. Then He [Shiva] created the Tantra philosophy.
“You have to take refuge in that Chitshakti, that Mahamaya.”
Ishan: “Please shower your grace on me.”
Advice to Ishan – dive deep – need of a guru – brahmin pundit – Ishan and scriptures – mere book-learning
Sri Ramakrishna: “Pray with a guileless mind, ‘O Lord, reveal Yourself to me!’ Weep! Say, ‘O Lord, please take my mind off ‘lust and greed!’’
“And dive. Can you reach the jewels by swimming on the surface of the water? You have to dive deep.
“Get the information from your guru about where to search. A person was looking for a special stone image of Shiva. Somebody came along and said, ‘Go near that stream and you will find a tree. Close to the tree is a whirlpool. You will have to dive at that spot. Then you will find the stone image.’ You have to get instruction from the guru where to search.”
Ishan: “Yes, sir.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “Sat-chit-ananda Himself comes as the Guru. If someone receives initiation from a human guru and regards the guru as a mere man, he will not succeed. He will have to regard the guru as God Himself. Only then will he have faith in the mantra. And faith does bring everything. Eklavya (a low caste boy) made a clay image of Drona and then learned archery standing in the forest before the image. He worshipped the clay Drona as Dronacharya himself. Thus, through that faith, he perfected himself in archery.
“And don’t bother too much with brahmin pundits. They’re always after money.
“I’ve seen brahmins who’d come to perform ceremonies – reading the Chandi or some other scripture – turning over many of the pages without reading. (All laugh.)
“A nail knife is enough to kill yourself, but to kill others you need such weapons as a sword and a shield. That’s the purpose of the scriptures.
“You don’t need many scriptures. If you don’t have discrimination, mere scholarship won’t help. Even the study of the six philosophies is of no avail. Go in solitude and weep for Him, call upon Him. He will certainly do everything for you.”
Practicing spiritual disciplines in seclusion – concern for cleanliness and Ishan
Ishan is building a hut with eight thatched roofs on the bank of the Ganges in Bhatpara to perform purashcharana. Thakur has heard about it.
Sri Ramakrishna (impatiently, to Ishan): “Oh yes, is the hut ready? The fact is that the less people know about such activities, the better. People of sattvic nature meditate in their minds or in a forest or some solitary place. Sometimes they even meditate inside a mosquito net.”
Sometimes Ishan takes Hazra to Bhatpara with him. Hazra is always concerned about outward purity. Sri Ramakrishna has asked him not to behave like that.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Ishan): “Well, don’t involve yourself with undue concern about outward purity. A sadhu felt very thirsty. A man with a water-skin passed his way. He offered water to the sadhu. The sadhu asked, ‘Is your container clean?’ The man said, ‘Sir, it is very clean, but in yours is a lot of urine and excreta. So I say, drink water from my skin. It won’t cause any harm.’ Your skin, i.e. your body, your stomach, contains filth.
“And believe in God’s name. Then you won’t need to go on pilgrimages.”
Saying this and overwhelmed with emotion, Thakur begins to sing.
Renunciation of rituals in the stage of perfection
Why go to Gaya, Ganges, Prabhas, Kashi, or Kanchi, if I can breathe my last chanting Kali’s name?
Of what use are rituals for one who utters Kali’s name at dawn and noon and dusk? Worship itself will follow in his footsteps, never catching up.
Charity, vows, and almsgiving no longer appeal to Madan’s mind. His worship alone is surrender at the Mother’s blessed feet.
Lord Shiva Himself, the God of Gods, with all His powers, sings Her praises. Who, then, can conceive of the power of Her holy name?
Ishan remains silent.
Advice to Ishan; childlike faith – first practicing spiritual disciplines like Janaka, then God-realization in the world
Sri Ramakrishna (to Ishan): “If you still have any doubts lurking inside, please ask me.”
Ishan: “Sir, you talked about faith.”
Sri Ramakrishna: “It’s only through true faith that you can realize Him. It happens sooner if you have full faith. If a cow is choosy about her fodder, she yields less milk. If she grazes on all kinds of grasses and leaves, she yields more milk.
“Rajakrishna Bannerji’s son told a story: A person received a command from God to see his ideal deity in a ram. He believed it. God exists in all.
“A guru said to his disciple, ‘It is Rama who resides in every being.’ The devotee put his full faith in this. When he saw a dog running away with a chapatti in its mouth, the devotee ran after it with butter in a container, shouting, ‘Rama, wait a minute! Let me butter your chapatti.’
“Oh, what faith Krishnakishore had. He would say that by reciting, ‘Om Krishna, Om Rama,’ you earn the result of millions of sandhyas.
“Also Krishnakishore would say to me in my ear secretly, ‘Please don’t tell anybody that I don’t like sandhya and other rituals anymore.’
“I also feel the same way. The Divine Mother reveals to me that She has become everything. Once when I was coming back from the Jhautala towards the Panchavati after easing myself, I saw a dog following me. I stopped at the Panchavati and said to myself, ‘Maybe the Mother is going to say something through it.’
“So, as you said just now, a person attains everything by faith.”
Difficult problems of the householder and the Lord’s grace
Ishan: “But I am a householder.”
This world is indeed a thing of joy; let me eat and drink and be merry.
King Janaka, the great royal sage, was he inferior in any respect to a 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.
“But first you have to practice spiritual disciplines secretly, in seclusion. Then you can live in the world and become a King Janaka. But if you don’t, how can you be like him?
“Just see, Kartika, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Saraswati, are all there, but Shiva is sometimes lost in samadhi. And sometimes he dances, chanting ‘Rama, Rama.’”
. All of Ishan’s sons were very well-educated. The eldest, Gopal, was a District Magistrate. The middle, Satish Chandra, was a District Judge. Satish was a classmate of Narendra. He could play the pakhavaj beautifully. He was a government servant in Gazipur. It was at his house that Narendra stayed during his pravajya state [period of sannyasa wandering] and met Pavhari Baba. One of the brothers, Girish, had worked as Assistant Registrar at Calcutta University for a long time. Ishan gave so much in charity that at the end of his life he became a debtor and suffered great difficulties. His wife died many years before his own death.
. The kingdom of heaven is revealed unto babes, but is hidden from the wise and the prudent. Bible.
. Bhagavad Gita 6:29.
. Bhagavad Gita 4:11.
. The word pratyaya has two meanings: faith and inflection. This is a pun meaning that if you have faith in God it doesn’t matter who you worship.
. Hari is a name of God according to followers of Vishnu, Hara of Shiva.
. Bhagavad Gita 12:5.
. naiva väcä na manasä präptuà çakyo na cakñuñä ,
astéti bruvato’nyatra kathaà tadupalabhyate .
astétyevopalabdhavyastattvabhävena cobhayoù ,
astétyevopalabdhasya tattvabhävaù prasédati .
kaöhopaniñad 2-3-12, 2-3-13
[It cannot be attained through speech, nor through mind, nor through eye. How can It be known to anyone apart from him who speaks of It as existing? The Self is (first) to be realized as existing, and then as It really is. Of these two, the real nature of the Self that has been known as merely existing, becomes favourably disposed for the self-revelation.]
. ajïänenävåtaà jïänaà tena muhyanti jantavaù
[Knowledge is enveloped in ignorance, hence do beings get deluded.]
daivé hyeñä guëamayé mama mäyä duratyayä |
mämeva ye prapadyante mäyämetäà taranti te ||
[Verily, this divine illusion of Mine, constituted of the gunas, is difficult to cross over. Those who devote themselves to Me alone, cross over this illusion.]
. nänto’sti mama divyänäà vibhüténäà parantapa |
[There is no end of My divine attributes, O scorcher of foes.]
. mahäbhütänyahaìkäro buddhiravyaktameva ca,
indriyäëi daçaikaà ca païca cendriyagocaräù.
[The great elements, egoism, intellect, as also the Unmanifested, the ten senses and the one (mind), and the five objects of the senses.]
. tadvä etadakñaraà gärgyadåñöaà dåñöå, açrutaà çrotå, amataà mantå, avijïätaà vijïätå, nänyadato’sti dåñöå, nänyadato’sti çrotå, nänyadato’sti mantå, nänyadato’sti vijïätå, etasminnu khalvakñare gärgyäkäça otaçca protaçceti.
[O Gargi, this Immutable, is never seen but is the Witness. It is never heard, but is the Hearer. It is never thought, but is the Thinker. It is never known, but is the Knower. There is no other witness but This, no other hearer but This, no other thinker but This, no other knower but This. By this Immutable, O Gargi, is the ether pervaded.]
. Vanalinga, a particularly-shaped stone found in nature.
. pitäsi lokasya caräcarasya tvamasya püjyaçca gururgaréyän
[You are the Father of the world, moving and unmoving; the object of its worship; greater than the great.]
. uttamä tattvacintaiva madhyamaà çästracintanam |
adhamä mantracintä ca térthabhräntyadhamädhamä ||
maitreyé upaniñat 2-21
[To meditate upon the Reality is the best, to meditate upon the scriptures is placed in the middle, to meditate upon the mantra is inferior and to wander about in the places of pilgrimage inferior than the inferior.]
. navadväramalasrävaà sadä käle svabhävajam |
durgandhaà durmalopetaà spåñövä snänaà vidhéyate ||
maitreyé upaniñat 2-6
. sarvadharmänparityajya mämekaà çaraëaà vraja,
ahaà tvä sarvapäpebhyo mokñyayiñyämi mä çucaù.
[Relinquishing all dharmas take refuge in Me alone; I will liberate you from all sins; grieve not.]
. With man it is impossible, but nothing is impossible with the Lord – Christ.
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