THE FESTIVAL AT PĀNIHĀTI
Monday, June 18, 1883
Festival at Pānihāti
SRI RAMAKRISHNA had been invited to the great religious festival at Pānihāti, near Calcutta. This "Festival of the Flattened Rice" was inaugurated by Raghunath Das, a disciple of Sri Chaitanya. It is said that Raghunath used to run away from home, secretly practise his devotions, and enjoy the bliss of spiritual ecstasy. One day Nityananda said to him: "Thief! You run away from home and enjoy the love of God all alone. You hide it from us. I shall punish you today. You must arrange a religious festival and entertain the devotees with flattened rice." Since then the festival has been annually celebrated at Pānihāti by the Vaishnavas. Thousands of the followers of Sri Chaitanya participate in it. Its chief feature is the singing of the names and glories of God, and the dancing of the devotees in religious fervour. The centre of the festivity is the temple of Radha-Krishna, built on the bank of the Ganges.
The Master had been invited to the festival by Mani Sen, who was the custodian of the temple. Ram, M., Rākhāl , Bhavanath, and a few other disciples went with the Master in a carriage. On his way to Pānihāti Sri Ramakrishna was in a light mood and joked with the youngsters. But as soon as the carriage reached the place of the festival, the Master, to the utter amazement of' the devotees, shot into the crowd. He joined the kirtan party of Navadvip Goswami, Mani Sen's guru, and danced, totally forgetting the world. Every now and then he stood still in samādhi, carefully supported by Navadvip Goswami for fear he might fall to the ground. Thousands of devotees were gathered together for the festival. Wherever one looked there was a forest of human heads. The crowd seemed to become infected by the Master's divine fervour and swayed to and fro, chanting the name of God, until the very air seemed to reverberate with it. Drums, cymbals, and other instruments produced melodious sounds. The atmosphere became intense with spiritual fervour. The devotees felt that Gaurānga himself was being manifested in the person of Sri Ramakrishna. Flowers were showered from all sides on his feet and head. The shouting of the name of Hari was heard even at a distance, like the rumbling of the ocean.
Sri Ramakrishna entered by turn into all the moods of ecstasy. In deep samādhi he stood still, his face radiating a divine glow. In the state of partial consciousness he danced, sometimes gently and sometimes with the vigour of a lion. Again, regaining consciousness of the world, he sang, himself leading the chorus:
Behold, the two brothers have come, who weep while chanting Hari's
Again the Master sang:
See how all Nadia is shaking
The crowd, with the Master in the centre, surged toward the temple of Radha-Krishna. Only a small number could enter. The rest stood outside the portal and jostled with one another to have a look at Sri Ramakrishna. In a mood of intoxication he began to dance in the courtyard of the shrine. Every now and then his body stood transfixed in deep samādhi. Hundreds of people around him shouted the name of God, and thousands outside caught the strain and raised the cry with full-throated voices. The echo travelled over the Ganges, striking a note in the hearts of people in the boats on the holy river, and they too chanted the name of God.
When the kirtan was over, Mani Sen took Sri Ramakrishna and Navadvip Goswami into a room and served them with refreshments. Afterwards Ram, M., and the other devotees were also served with the prasad.
In the afternoon, the Master was sitting in Mani Sen's drawing-room with the devotees. Navadvip was also near him. Mani offered the carriage hire to Sri Ramakrishna. Pointing to Ram and the others, the Master said: "Why should they accept it from you? They earn money." He became engaged in conversation with Navadvip.
Different states of bhakti
MASTER: "Bhakti matured becomes bhava. Next is mahabhava, then prema, and last of all is the attainment of God. Gaurānga experienced the states of mahabhava and prema. When prema is awakened, a devotee completely forgets the world; he also forgets his body, which is so dear to a man. Gaurānga experienced prema. He jumped into the ocean, thinking it to be the Jamuna. The ordinary jiva does not experience mahabhava or prema. He goes only as far as bhava. But Gaurānga experienced all three states. Isn't that so?"
NAVADVIP: "Yes, sir, that is true. The inmost state, the semi-conscious state, and the conscious state."
MASTER: "In the inmost state he would remain in samādhi, unconscious of the outer world. In the semi-conscious state he could only dance. In the conscious state he chanted the name of God."
Navadvip introduced his son to the Master. The young man was a student of the scriptures. He saluted Sri Ramakrishna.
NAVADVIP: "He studies the scriptures at home. Previously one hardly saw a copy of the Vedas in this country. Max Muller has translated them; so people can now read these books."
Essence of the scriptures
MASTER: "Too much study of the scriptures does more harm than good. The important thing is to know the essence of the scriptures. After that, what is the need of books? One should learn the essence and then dive deep in order to realize God.
Ideal of the Gitā
"The Divine Mother has revealed to me the essence of the Vedānta. It is that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory. The essence of the Gitā is what you get by repeating the word ten times. The word becomes reversed. It is then 'tagi', which refers to renunciation. The essence of the Gitā is: 'O man, renounce everything and practise spiritual discipline for the realization of God.' "
NAVADVIP: "But how can we persuade our minds to renounce?"
MASTER: "You are a goswami. It is your duty to officiate as priest in the temple. You cannot renounce the world; otherwise, who would look after the temple and its services? You have to renounce mentally.
"It is God Himself who has kept you in the world to set an example to men. You may resolve in your mind a thousand times to renounce the world, but you will not succeed. God has given you such a nature that you must perform your worldly duties.
"Krishna said to Arjuna: 'What do you mean, you will not fight? By your mere will you cannot desist from fighting. Your very nature will make you fight.' "
At the mere mention of Krishna and Arjuna the Master went into samādhi. In the twinkling of an eye his body became motionless and his eyeballs transfixed, while his breathing could scarcely be noticed. At this sudden transformation Navadvip and his son and the other devotees looked at the Master in mute wonder.
Regaining partial consciousness, he said to Navadvip: "Yoga and bhoga. You goswamis have both. Now your only duty is to call on God and pray to Him sincerely: 'O God, I don't want the glories of Thy world-bewitching maya. I want Thee alone!' God dwells in all beings, undoubtedly. That being the case, who may be called His devotee? He who dwells in God, he who has merged his mind and life and innermost soul in God."
The Master returned to the sense plane. Referring to his samādhi, he said to Navadvip: "Some say that this state of mine is a disease. I say to them, 'How can one become unconscious by thinking of Him whose Consciousness has made the whole world conscious?' "
Mani Sen said good-bye to the invited brahmins and Vaishnavas with suitable gifts of money. He offered five rupees to Sri Ramakrishna. The latter said that he could not possibly accept any money. But Mani insisted. The Master then asked him in the name of his guru not to press him. Mani requested him again to accept the offering. Sri Ramakrishna asked M., in a distressed voice, whether he should take the money. The disciple made a vehement protest and said, "No, sir. By no means."
Friends of Mani Sen gave the money to Rākhāl , requesting him to buy some mangoes and sweets for the Master. Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: "I have definitely said to Mani that I would not accept the money. I feel free now. But Rākhāl has accepted it. His is now the responsibility."
Sri Ramakrishna, accompanied by the devotees, took a carriage to return to Dakshineswar. They were going to pass the temple garden of Mati Seal on the way. For a long time the Master had been asking M. to take him to the reservoir in the garden in order that he might teach him how to meditate on the formless God. There were tame fish in the reservoir. Nobody harmed them. Visitors threw puffed rice and other bits of food into the water, and the big fish came in swarms to eat the food. Fearlessly the fish swam in the water and sported there joyously.
Coming to the reservoir, the Master said to M.: "Look at the fish. Meditating on the formless God is like swimming joyfully like these fish, in the Ocean of Bliss and Consciousness."
Monday, June 25, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna was at Balarām Bose's house in Calcutta. Rākhāl and M. were seated near him. The Master was in ecstasy. He conversed with the devotees in an abstracted mood.
MASTER: "Let me assure you that a man can realize his Inner Self through sincere prayer. But to the extent that he has the desire to enjoy worldly objects, his vision of the Self becomes obstructed."
M: "Yes, sir. You always ask us to plunge into God."
MASTER (joyously): "Yes! That's it. Let me tell you that the realization of Self is possible for all, without any exception."
M: "That is true, sir. But God is the Doer. He works through different beings in different ways, according to their capacity to manifest the Divine. God gives to some full spiritual consciousness, and others He keeps in ignorance."
MASTER: "No, that is not so. One should pray to God with a longing heart. God certainly listens to prayer if it is sincere. There is no doubt about it."
A DEVOTEE: "Yes, sir. There is this 'I-consciousness' in us; therefore we must pray."
Nitya and Lila
MASTER (to M.): "A man should reach the Nitya, the Absolute, by following the trail of the Lila, the Relative. It is like reaching the roof by the stairs. After realizing the Absolute, he should climb down to the Relative and live on that plane in the company of devotees, charging his mind with the love of God. This is my final and most mature opinion.
"God has different forms, and He sports in different ways. He sports as Isvara, deva, man, and the universe. In every age He descends to earth in human form, as an Incarnation, to teach people love and devotion. There is the instance of Chaitanya. One can taste devotion and love of God only through His Incarnations. Infinite are the ways of God's play, but what I need is love and devotion. I want only the milk. The milk comes through the udder of the cow. The Incarnation is the udder."
Was Sri Ramakrislma hinting that he was an Incarnation of God? Did he suggest that those who saw him saw God? Did he thus speak about himself when speaking of Chaitanya?
It was a hot day in June 1883. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the steps of the Śiva temples in the temple garden. M. arrived with ice and other offerings and sat down on the steps after saluting the Master.
MASTER (to M.): "The husband of Mani Mallick's granddaughter was here. He read in a book that God could not be said to be quite wise and omniscient; otherwise, why should there be so much misery in the world? As regards death, it would be much better to kill a man all at once, instead of putting him through slow torture. Further, the author writes that if he himself were the Creator, he would have created a better world."
M. listened to these words in surprise and made no comment.
The ways of God are inscrutable
MASTER (to M.): "Can a man ever understand God's ways? I too think of God sometimes as good and sometimes as bad. He has kept us deluded by His great illusion. Sometimes He wakes us up and sometimes He keeps us unconscious. One moment the ignorance disappears, and the next moment it covers our mind. If you throw a brick-bat into a pond covered with moss, you get a glimpse of the water. But a few moments later the moss comes dancing back and covers the water.
Body-consciousness produces duality
"One is aware of pleasure and pain, birth and death, disease and grief, as long as one is identified with the body. All these belong to the body alone, and not to the Soul. After the death of the body, perhaps God carries one to a better place. It is like the birth of the child after the pain of delivery. Attaining Self-Knowledge, one looks on pleasure and pain, birth and death, as a dream.
"How little we know! Can a one-seer pot hold ten seers of milk? If ever a salt doll ventures into the ocean to measure its depth, it cannot come back and give us the information. It melts into the water and disappears."
At dusk the evening service began in the different temples. The Master was sitting on the small couch in his room, absorbed in contemplation of the Divine Mother. Several devotees also were there. M. was going to spend the night with the Master.
A little later Sri Ramakrishna began to talk to a devotee privately, on the verandah north of his room. He said: "It is good to meditate in the small hours of the morning and at dawn. One should also meditate daily after dusk." He instructed the devotee about meditation on the Personal God and on the Impersonal Reality.
After a time he sat on the semicircular porch west of his room. It was about nine o'clock.
MASTER: "Those who come here will certainly have all their doubts removed. What do you say?"
M: "That is true, sir."
A boat was moving in the Ganges, far away from the bank. The boatman began to sing. The sound of his voice floating over the river reached the Master's ears, and he went into a spiritual mood. The hair on his body stood on end. He said to M., "Just feel my body." M. was greatly amazed. He thought: "The Upanishads describe Brahman as permeating the universe and the ether. Has that Brahman, as sound, touched the Master's body?"
After a time Sri Ramakrishna began to converse again.
MASTER: "Those who come here must have been born with good tendencies. Isn't that true?"
M: "It is true, sir."
MASTER: "Adhar must have good tendencies."
M: "That goes without saying."
MASTER: "A guileless man easily realizes God. There are two paths: the path of righteousness and the path of wickedness. One should follow the path of righteousness."
M: "That is true, sir. If a thread has a single fibre sticking out, it cannot pass through the eye of a needle."
MASTER: "If a man finds a hair in the food he is chewing, he spits out the entire morsel."
M: "But you say that the man who has realized God cannot be injured by evil company. A blazing fire burns up even a plantain-tree."
Saturday, July 14, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna arrived at Adhar's house in Calcutta. Rākhāl , M., and other devotees were with the Master. Adhar had arranged to have Rajnarayan, the famous singer, and his party, recite the Chandi.
Rajnarayan began the recital in the worship hall. He sang:
I have surrendered my soul at the fearless feet of the Mother;
As the Master listened, he became filled with divine fervour and joined the musicians. Now and then he improvised an appropriate line. Suddenly he went into samādhi and stood still.
The singer sang again:
Who is the Woman yonder who lights the field of battle?
Saturday, July 21, 1883
It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when Sri Ramakrishna, with Ramlal and one or two other devotees, started from Dakshineswar for Calcutta in a carriage. As the carriage passed the gate of the Kāli temple, they met M. coming on foot with four mangoes in his hand. The carriage stopped and M. saluted the Master. Sri Ramakrishna was going to visit some of his devotees in Calcutta.
MASTER (to M., with a smile): "Come with us. We are going to Adhar's house."
M. got joyfully into the carriage. Having received an English education, he did not believe in the tendencies inherited from previous births. But he had admitted a few days before that it was on account of Adhar's good tendencies from past births that he showed such great devotion to the Master. Later on he had thought about this subject and had discovered that he was not yet completely convinced about inherited tendencies. He had come to Dakshineswar that day to discuss the matter with Sri Ramakrishna.
MASTER: "Well, what do you think of Adhar?"
M: "He has great yearning for God."
MASTER: "Adhar, too, speaks very highly of you."
M. remained silent awhile and then began to speak of past tendencies.
M: "I haven't much faith in rebirth and inherited tendencies. Will that in any way injure my devotion to God?"
Everything is possible for God
MASTER: "It is enough to believe that all is possible in God's creation. Never allow the thought to cross your mind that your ideas are the only true ones, and that those of others are false. Then God will explain everything.
"What can a man understand of God's activities? The facets of God's creation are infinite. I do not try to understand God's actions at all. I have heard that everything is possible in God's creation, and I always bear that in mind. Therefore I do not give a thought to the world, but meditate on God alone. Once Hanuman was asked, 'What day of the lunar month is it?' Hanuman said: 'I don't know anything about the day of the month, the position of the moon and stars, or any such things. I think of Rāma alone.'
"Can one ever understand the work of God? He is so near; still it is not possible for us to know Him. Balarama did not realize that Krishna was God."
M: "That is true, sir."
Maya is the cause of ignorance
MASTER: "God has covered all with His maya. He doesn't let us know anything. Maya is 'woman and gold'. He who puts maya aside to see God, can see Him. Once, when I was explaining God's actions to someone, God suddenly showed me the lake at Kamarpukur. I saw a man removing the green scum and drinking the water. The water was clear as crystal. God revealed to me that Satchidananda is covered by the scum of maya. He who puts the green scum aside can drink the water.
"Let me tell you a very secret experience. Once I had entered the wood near the pine-grove, and was sitting there, when I had a vision of something like the hidden door of a chamber. I couldn't see the inside of the chamber. I tried to bore a hole in the door with a nail-knife, but did not succeed. As I bored, the earth fell back into the hole and filled it. Then suddenly I made a very big opening."
Uttering these words, the Master remained silent. After a time he said: "These are very profound words. I feel as if someone were pressing my mouth. . . . I have seen with my own eyes that God dwells even in the sexual organ. I saw Him once in the sexual intercourse of a dog and a bitch.
"The universe is conscious on account of the Consciousness of God. Sometimes I find that this Consciousness wriggles about, as it were, even in small fish."
The carriage came to the crossing at Shovabazar in Calcutta. The Master continued, saying, "Sometimes I find that the universe is saturated with the Consciousness of God, as the earth is soaked with water in the rainy season.
"Well, I see so many visions, but I never feel vain about them."
M. (with a smile): "That you should speak of vanity, sir!"
MASTER: "Upon my word, I don't feel vanity even in the slightest degree."
M: "There once lived a man in Greece, Socrates by name. A voice from heaven said that he was wise among men. Socrates was amazed at this revelation. He meditated on it a long time in solitude and then realized its significance. He said to his friends, 'I alone of all people have understood that I do not know anything.' But every man believes he is wise. In reality all are ignorant."
MASTER: "Now and then I think, 'What is it I know that makes so many people come to me?' Vaishnavcharan was a great pundit. He used to say to me: 'I can find in the scriptures all the things you talk about. But do you know why I come to you? I come to hear them from your mouth.' "
M: "All your words tally with the scriptures. Navadvip Goswami also said that the other day at the festival at Pānihāti. You told us that day that by repeating the word 'Gitā' a number of times one reverses it and it becomes 'tagi', which refers to renunciation. Renunciation is the essence of the Gitā. Navadvip Goswami supported your statement from the grammatical standpoint."
MASTER: "Have you found anyone else resembling me-any pundit or holy man?"
M: "God has created you with His own hands, whereas He has made others by machine. All others He has created according to law."
MASTER (laughing, to Ramlal and the other devotees): "Listen to what he is saying!"
Sri Ramakrishna laughed for some time, and said at last. "Really and truly I have no pride-no, not even the slightest bit."
M: "Knowledge does us good in one respect at least; it makes us feel that we do not know anything, that we are nothing."
MASTER: "Right you are! I am nothing. I am nobody. "Do you believe in English astronomy?"
M: "It is possible to make new discoveries by applying the laws of Western astronomy. Observing the irregular movement of Uranus, the astronomers looked through their telescopes and discovered Neptune shining in the sky. They can also foretell eclipses."
MASTER: "Yes, that is so."
Master's visits to various devotees
The carriage drove on. They were approaching Adhar's house. Sri Ramakrishna said to M., "Dwell in the truth and you will certainly realize God."
M: "You said the other day to Navadvip Goswami:'O God, I want Thee. Please do not delude me with Thy world-bewitching maya. I want to realize Thee.' "
MASTER: "Yes, one should be able to say that from one's innermost soul."
Sri Ramakrishna arrived at Adhar's house and took a seat in the parlour. Ramlal, Adhar, M., and the other devotees sat near him. Rākhāl was staying with his father in Calcutta.
MASTER (to Adhar): " Didn't you let Rākhāl know that I was coming?"
ADHAR: "Yes, sir. I have sent him word."
Finding that the Master was eager to see Rākhāl , Adhar at once sent his carriage to fetch him. Adhar had been yearning to see the Master that day, but he had not definitely known that Sri Ramakrishna was coming.
ADHAR: "You haven't been here for a long time. I prayed to God today that you might come. I even shed tears"
The Master was pleased and said with a smile, "You don't mean that!"
It was dusk and the lamps were lighted. Sri Ramakrishna saluted the Divine Mother with folded hands and sat quietly absorbed in meditation. Then he began to chant the names of God in his sweet voice: "Govinda! Govinda! Satchidananda! Hari! Hari!" Every word he uttered showered nectar on the ears of the devotees.
Ramlal sang in praise of Kāli, the Divine Mother:
Thy name, I have heard, O Consort of Śiva, is the destroyer of our
As Ramlal sang the lines:
Above, in the throat, is the sixteen-petalled lotus flower, of smoky
The Master said to M.: "Listen. This is known as the vision of Satchidananda, the Formless Brahman. The Kundalini, rising above the Visuddha chakra, enables one to see everything as Ākāśa."
M: "Yes, sir."
MASTER: "One attains the Absolute by going beyond the universe and its created beings conjured up by maya. By passing beyond the Nada one goes into samādhi. By repeating 'Om' one goes beyond the Nada and attains samādhi."
Adhar served Sri Ramakrishna with fruits and sweets. The Master left for Jadu Mallick's house.
Sri Ramakrishna entered the room in Jadu's house where the Divine Mother was worshipped. He stood before the image, which had been decorated with flowers, garlands, and sandal-paste, and which radiated a heavenly beauty and splendour. Lights were burning before the pedestal. A priest was seated before the image. The Master asked one of his companions to offer a rupee in the shrine, according to the Hindu custom.
Sri Ramakrishna stood a long time with folded hands before the blissful image, the devotees standing behind him. Gradually he went into samādhi, his body becoming motionless and his eyes fixed.
With a long sigh he came back to the world of the senses and said, still intoxicated with divine fervour, "Mother, good-bye." But he could not leave the place. He remained standing there. Addressing Ramlal, he said: "Please sing that song. Then I shall be all right."
O Mother, Consort of Śiva, Thou hast deluded this world. . . .
The Master went to the drawing-room with the devotees. Every now and then he said, "O Mother, please dwell in my heart." Jadu was sitting in the drawing-room with his friends. The Master sat down, still in an ecstatic mood, and sang:
O Mother, ever blissful as Thou art,
Finishing the song, he said to Jadu, still in a state of divine fervour: "Well, sir, what shall I sing? Shall I sing 'Mother, am I Thine eight-months child'? "
Mother, am I Thine eight-months child? Thy red eyes cannot frighten me!
Coming down nearly to a normal state, the Master said, "I shall take some of the Divine Mother's prasad." Then he ate a little of it.
Jadu Mallick was sitting near him with several friends, among whom were a few of his flatterers.
MASTER (with a smile): "Well, why do you keep these buffoons with you?"
JADU (with a smile): "Suppose they are. Won't you redeem them?"
MASTER (smiling): "The water of the Ganges cannot purify a wine-jar."
Jadu had promised the Master that he would arrange a recital of the Chandi in his house. Some time had elapsed, but he had not yet kept his promise.
MASTER: "Well, what about the recital of the Chandi?"
JADU: "I have been busy with many things; I haven't been able to arrange it."
MASTER: "How is that? A man gives his word and doesn't take it back! 'The words of a man are like the tusks of the elephant: they come out but do not go back.' A man must be true to his word. What do you say?"
JADU (with a smile): "You are right."
MASTER: "You are a shrewd man. You do a thing after much calculation. You are like the brahmin who selects a cow that eats very little, supplies plenty of dung, and gives much milk." (All laugh.)
After a time he said to Jadu: "I now understand your nature. It is half warm and half cold. You are devoted to God and also to the world."
The Master and his devotees were served by Jadu with sweets and fruit, and then the party left for the home of Khelat Ghosh.
Khelat Ghosh's house was a big mansion, but it looked deserted. As the Master entered the house he fell into an ecstatic mood. M., Ramlal, and a few other devotees were with him. Their host was Khelat Ghosh's brother-in-law. He was an old man, a Vaishnava. His body was stamped with the name of God, according to the Vaishnava custom, and he carried in his hand a small bag containing his rosary. He had visited the Master, now and then, at Dakshineswar. But most of the Vaishnavas held narrow religious views; they criticized the Vedantists and the followers of the Śiva cult. Sri Ramakrishna soon began to speak.
MASTER: "It is not good to feel that one's own religion alone is true and all others are false. God is one only, and not two. Different people call on Him by different names: some as Allah, some as God, and others as Krishna, Śiva, and Brahman. It is like the water in a lake. Some drink it at one place and call it 'jal', others at another place and call it 'pani', and still others at a third place and call it 'water'. The Hindus call it 'jal', the Christians 'water', and the Mussalmans 'pani'. But it is one and the same thing. Opinions are but paths. Each religion is only a path leading to God, as rivers come from different directions and ultimately become one in the one ocean.
Oneness of God
"The Truth established in the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Tantras is but one Satchidananda. In the Vedas It is called Brahman, in the Puranas It is called Krishna, Rāma, and so on, and in the Tantras It is called Śiva. The one Satchidananda is called Brahman, Krishna, and Śiva."
The devotees were silent.
A VAISHNAVA DEVOTEE: "Sir, why should one think of God at all"
MASTER: "If a man really has that knowledge, then he is indeed liberated though living in a body.
Shallow faith of the worldly-minded
"Not all, by any means, believe in God. They simply talk. The worldly-minded have heard from someone that God exists and that everything happens by His will; but it is not their inner belief.
"Do you know what a worldly man's idea of God is like? It is like the children's swearing by God when they quarrel. They have heard the word while listening to their elderly aunts quarreling.
"Is it possible for all to comprehend God? God has created the good and the bad, the devoted and the impious, the faithful and the sceptical. The wonders that we see all exist in His creation. In one place there is more manifestation of His Power, in another less. The sun's light is better reflected by water than by earth, and still better by a mirror. Again, there are different levels among the devotees of God: superior, mediocre, and inferior. All this has been described in the Gitā."
VAISHNAVA: "True, sir."
Various classes of devotees
MASTER: "The inferior devotee says, 'God exists, but He is very far off, up there in heaven.' The mediocre devotee says, 'God exists in all beings as life and consciousness.' The superior devotee says: 'It is God Himself who has become everything; whatever I see is only a form of God. It is He alone who has become maya, the universe, and all living beings. Nothing exists but God.' "
VAISHNAVA: "Does anyone ever attain that state of mind?"
Signs of God-vision
MASTER: "One cannot attain it unless one has seen God. But there are signs that a man has had the vision of God. A man who has seen God sometimes behaves like a madman: he laughs, weeps, dances, and sings. Sometimes he behaves like a child, a child five years old-guileless, generous, without vanity, unattached to anything, not under the control of any of the gunas, always blissful. Sometimes he behaves like a ghoul: he doesn't differentiate between things pure and things impure; he sees no difference between things clean and things unclean. And sometimes he is like an inert thing, staring vacantly: he cannot do any work; he cannot strive for anything."
Was the Master making a veiled reference to his own states of mind?
Knowledge and ignorance
MASTER (to the
Vaishnava devotee): "The feeling of 'Thee and Thine' is the
outcome of Knowledge; 'I and mine' comes from ignorance. Knowledge
makes one feel: 'O God, Thou art the Doer and I am Thy instrument.
"An ignorant person says, 'Oh, God is there-very far off.' The man of Knowledge knows that God is right here, very near, in the heart; that He has assumed all forms and dwells in all hearts as their Inner Controller."
Sunday, July 22, 1883
Taking advantage of the holiday, many householder devotees visited Sri Ramakrishna in his room at the Dakshineswar temple garden. The Young devotees, mostly students, generally came on week-days. Sometimes the Master asked his intimate disciples to come on a Tuesday or a Saturday, days that he considered very auspicious for special religious instruction. Adhar, Rākhāl , and M. had come from Calcutta in a hired carriage.
Sri Ramakrishna had enjoyed a little rest after his midday meal. The room had an atmosphere of purity and holiness. On the walls hung pictures of gods and goddesses, among them one of Christ rescuing the drowning Peter. Outside the room were plants laden with fragrant flowers, and the Ganges could be seen flowing toward the south. The Master was seated on the small couch, facing the north, and the devotees sat on mats and carpets spread on the floor. All eyes were directed toward him. Mani Mallick, an old Brahmo devotee about sixty-five years of age, came to pay his respects to the Master. He had returned a few months earlier from a pilgrimage to Benares and was recounting his experiences to Sri Ramakrishna.
Difficulty of the Vedantic method
MANI MALLICK: "A monk whom I met in Benares said that no religious experience is possible without the control of the sense-organs. Nothing could be achieved by merely crying, 'God! God!' "
MASTER: "Do you understand the views of teachers like him? According to them, one must first practise spiritual discipline: self-restraint, self-control, forbearance, and the like. Their aim is to attain Nirvāna. They are followers of Vedānta. They constantly discriminate, saying, 'Brahman alone is real, and the world illusory.' But this is an extremely difficult path. If the world is illusory, then you too are illusory. The teacher who gives the instruction is equally illusory. His words, too, are as illusory as a dream.
"But this experience is beyond the reach of the ordinary man. Do you know what it is like? If you burn camphor nothing remains. When wood is burnt at least a little ash is left. Finally, after the last analysis, the devotee goes into samādhi. Then he knows nothing whatsoever of 'I', 'you', or the universe.
"Padmalochan was a man of deep wisdom. He had great respect for me, though at that time I constantly repeated the name of the Divine Mother. He was the court pundit of the Maharaja of Burdwan. Once he came to Calcutta and went to live in a garden house near kamarhati. I felt a desire to see him and sent Hriday there to learn if the pundit had any vanity. I was told that he had none. Then I met him. Though a man of great knowledge and scholarship, he began to weep on hearing me sing Ramprasad's devotional songs. We talked together a long while; conversation with nobody else gave me such satisfaction. He said to me, 'Give up the desire for the company of devotees; otherwise people of all sorts will come to you and make you deviate from your spiritual ideal.' Once he entered into a controversy, by correspondence, with Utshavananda, Vaishnavcharan's guru. He told me an interesting incident. Once a meeting was called to decide which of the two deities, Śiva or Brahma, was the greater. Unable to come to any decision, the pundits at last referred the matter to Padmalochan. With characteristic guilelessness he said: 'How do I know? Neither I nor any of my ancestors back to the fourteenth generation have seen Śiva or Brahma.' About the renunciation of 'woman and gold', he said to me one day: 'Why have you given up those things? Such distinctions as "This is money and that is clay" are the outcome of ignorance.' What could I say to that? I replied: 'I don't know all these things, my dear sir. But for my part, I cannot relish such things as money and the like.'
"There was a pundit who was tremendously vain. He did not believe in the forms of God. But who can understand the inscrutable ways of the Divine? God revealed Himself to him as the Primal Power. This vision made the pundit unconscious for a long time. After regaining partial consciousness he uttered only the sound 'Ka! Ka! Ka!' He could not fully pronounce 'Kāli'."
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, you met Pundit Vidyasagar. What did you think of him?"
MASTER: "Vidyasagar has both scholarship and charity, but he lacks inner vision. Gold lies hidden within him. Had he but found it out, his activities would have been reduced; finally they would have stopped altogether. Had he but known that God resides in his heart, his mind would have been directed to God in thought and meditation. Some persons must perform selfless work a long time before they can practise dispassion and direct their minds to the spiritual ideal and at last be absorbed in God.
Charity and attachment
"The activities that Vidyasagar is engaged in are good. Charity is very noble. There is a great deal of difference between daya, compassion, and maya, attachment. Daya is good, but not maya. Maya is love for one's relatives-one's wife, children, brother, sister, nephew, father, and mother. But daya is the same love for all created beings without any distinction."
M: "Is daya also a bondage?"
The three gunas
MASTER: "Yes, it is. But that concept is something far beyond the ordinary man. Daya springs from sattva. Sattva preserves, rajas creates, and tamas destroys. But Brahman is beyond the three gunas. It is beyond Prakriti.
"None of the three gunas can reach Truth; they are like robbers, who cannot come to a public place for fear of being arrested. Sattva, rajas, and tamas are like so many robbers.
"Listen to a story. Once a man was going through a forest, when three robbers fell upon him and robbed him of all his possessions. One of the robbers said, 'What's the use of keeping this man alive?' So saying, he was about to kill him with his sword, when the second robber interrupted him, saying: 'Oh, no! What is the use of killing him? Tie him hand and foot and leave him here.' The robbers bound his hands and feet and went away.
After a while the third robber returned and said to the man: 'Ah, I am sorry. Are you hurt? I will release you from your bonds.' After setting the man free, the thief said: 'Come with me. I will take you to the public highway.' After a long time they reached the road. Then the robber said: 'Follow this road. Over there is your house.' At this the man said: 'Sir, you have been very good to me. Come with me to my house ' 'Oh, no!' the robber replied. 'I can't go there. The police will know it.'
This world itself is the forest. The three robbers prowling here are sattva, rajas, and tamas. It is they that rob a man of the Knowledge of Truth. Tamas wants to destroy him. Rajas binds him to the world. But sattva rescues him from the clutches of rajas and tamas. Under the protection of sattva, man is rescued from anger, passion, and the other evil effects of tamas. Further, sattva loosens the bonds of the world. But sattva also is a robber. It cannot give him the ultimate Knowledge of Truth, though it shows him the road leading to the Supreme Abode of God. Setting him on the path, sattva tells him: 'Look yonder. There is your home.' Even sattva is far away from the Knowledge of Brahman.
Nature of Brahman cannot he described
"What Brahman is cannot be described. Even he who knows It cannot talk about It. There is a saying that a boat, once reaching the 'black waters' of the ocean, cannot come back.
Parable of the four friends
"Once four friends, in the course of a walk, saw a place enclosed by a wall. The wall was very high. They all became eager to know what was inside. One of them climbed to the top of the wall. What he saw on looking inside made him speechless with wonder. He only cried,'Ah! Ah!' and dropped in. He could not give any information about what he saw. The others, too, climbed the wall, uttered the same cry, 'Ah! Ah!', and jumped in. Now who could tell what was inside?
"Sages like Jadabharata and Dattatreya, after realizing Brahman, could not describe It. A man's 'I' completely disappears when he goes into samādhi after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman. That is why Ramprasad sang, addressing his mind:
If you should find the task too hard, Call upon Ramprasad for help.
The mind must completely merge itself in Knowledge. But that is not enough. 'Ramprasad', that is, the principle of 'I', must vanish too. Then alone does one get the Knowledge of Brahman."
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, is it possible then that Sukadeva did not have the ultimate Knowledge?"
MASTER: "According to some people, Sukadeva only saw and touched the Ocean of Brahman; he did not dive into It. That is why he could return to the world and impart religious instruction. According to others, he returned to the world of name and form, after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman, for the purpose of teaching others. He had to recite the Bhagavata to King Parikshit and had to teach people in various ways; therefore God did not destroy his 'I' altogether. God kept in him the 'ego of Knowledge.' "
God and religious organization
DEVOTEE: "Can one keep up an organization after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman?"
MASTER: "Once I talked to Keshab Sen about the Knowledge of Brahman. He asked me to explain it further. I said, 'If I proceed further, then you won't be able to preserve your organization and following.' 'Then please stop here!' replied Keshab. (All laugh.) But still I said to Keshab: ' "I" and "mine" indicate ignorance. Without ignorance one cannot have such a feeling as "I am the doer; these are my wife, children, possessions, name and fame".' Thereupon Keshab said, 'Sir, if one gave up the "I", nothing whatsoever would remain.' I reassured him and said: 'I am not asking you to give up all of the "I". You should give up only the "unripe I". The "unripe I" makes one feel: "I am the doer. These are my wife and children. I am a teacher." Renounce this. "unripe I" and keep the "ripe I", which will make you feel that you are the servant of God, His devotee, and that God is the Doer and you are His instrument.' "
DEVOTEE: "Can the 'ripe I' form an organization?"
Two kinds of ego
MASTER: "I said to Keshab Sen that the 'I' that says, 'I am a leader, I have formed this party, I am teaching people', is the 'unripe I'. It is very difficult to preach religion. It is not possible to do so without receiving the commandment of God. The permission of God is necessary. Sukadeva had a command from God to recite the Bhagavata. If, after realizing God, a man gets His command and becomes a preacher or teacher, then that preaching or teaching does no harm. His 'I' is not 'unripe'; it is 'ripe'.
"I asked Keshab to give up this 'unripe I'. The ego that feels, 'I am the servant of God and lover of God' does not injure one. I said to him: 'You have been constantly talking of your organization and your followers. But people also go away from your organization.' Keshab answered: 'It is true, sir. After staying in it several years, people go to another organization. What is worse, on deserting me they abuse me right and left.' 'Why don't you study their nature?' I said. 'Is there any good in making anybody and everybody a disciple?'
"I said to Keshab further: 'You should accept the Divine Mother, the Primal Energy. Brahman is not different from Its Śakti. What is Brahman is also Śakti. As long as a man remains conscious of the body, he is conscious of duality. It is only when a man tries to describe what he sees that he finds duality.' Keshab later on recognized Kāli.
"One day when Keshab was here with his disciples, I said to him that I would like to hear him preach. He delivered a lecture in the chandni. Then we all sat by the bathing-ghat and had a long conversation. I said to him: 'It is Bhagavan alone who in one form appears as bhakta, and in another as the Bhagavata. Please repeat "Bhagavata-Bhakta-Bhagavan".' Keshab and his disciples repeated the words. Then I asked him to repeat 'Guru-Krishna-Vaishnava'. Thereupon Keshab said: 'Sir, I should not go so far now. People will say that I have become an orthodox Hindu.'
"It is extremely difficult to go beyond the three gunas. One cannot reach that state without having realized God. Man dwells in the realm of maya. Maya does not permit him to see God. It has made him a victim of ignorance.
Man's inordinate attachment
"Once Hriday brought a bull-calf here. I saw, one day, that he had tied it with a rope in the garden, so that it might graze there. I asked him, 'Hriday, why do you tie the calf there every day?' 'Uncle,' he said, 'I am going to send this calf to our village. When it grows strong I shall yoke it to the plough.' As soon as I heard these words I was stunned to think: 'How inscrutable is the play of the divine maya! Kamarpukur and Sihore are so far away from Calcutta! This poor calf must go all that way. Then it will grow, and at length it will be yoked to the plough. This is indeed the world! This is indeed maya!' I fell down unconscious. Only after a long time did I regain consciousness."
It was three or four o'clock in the afternoon. M. found Sri Ramakrishna seated on the couch in an abstracted mood. After some time he heard him talking to the Divine Mother. The Master said, "O Mother, why hast Thou given him only a particle?" Remaining silent a few moments, he added: "I understand it, Mother. That little bit will be enough for him and will serve Thy purpose. That little bit will enable him to teach people."
Did the Master thus transmit spiritual powers to his disciples? Did he thus come to know that his disciples, after him, would go out into the world as teachers of men?
Rākhāl was in the room. Sri Ramakrishna was still in a state of partial consciousness when he said to Rākhāl : "You were angry with me, weren't you? Do you know why I made you angry? There was a reason. Only then would the medicine work. The surgeon first brings an abscess to a head. Only then does he apply a herb so that it may burst and dry up."
After a pause he went on: "Yes, I have found Hazra to be like a piece of dry wood. Then why does he live here? This has a meaning too. The play is enlivened by the presence of trouble-makers like Jatila and Kutila.
(To M.) "One must accept the forms of God. Do you know the meaning of the image of Jagaddhatri? She is the Bearer of the Universe. Without her support and protection the universe would fall from its place and be destroyed. The Divine Mother, Jagaddhatri, reveals Herself in the heart of one who can control the mind, which may be compared to an elephant."
RĀKHĀL : "The mind is a mad elephant."
MASTER: "Therefore the lion, the carrier of the Divine Mother, keeps it under control."
It was dusk. The evening service began in the temples. Sri Ramakrishna was chanting the names of the gods and goddesses. He was seated on the small couch, with folded hands, and became absorbed in contemplation of the Divine Mother. The world outside was flooded with moonlight, and the devotees inside the Master's room sat in silence and looked at his serene face.
In the mean time Govinda of Belgharia and some of his friends had entered the room. Sri Ramakrishna was still in a semi-conscious state. After a few minutes he said to the devotees: "Tell me your doubts. I shall explain everything."
Govinda and the other devotees looked thoughtful.
Black complexion of the Divine Mother
GOVINDA: "Revered sir, why does the Divine Mother have a black complexion?"
MASTER: "You see Her as black because you are far away from Her. Go near and you will find Her devoid of all colour. The water of a lake appears black from a distance. Go near and take the water in your hand, and you will see that it has no colour at all. Similarly, the sky looks blue from a distance. But look at the atmosphere near you; it has no colour. The nearer you come to God, the more you will realize that He has neither name nor form. If you move away from the Divine Mother, you will find Her blue, like the grass-flower. Is Syama male or female? A man once saw the image of the Divine Mother wearing a sacred thread. He said to the worshipper: 'What? You have put the sacred thread on the Mother's neck!' The worshipper said: 'Brother, I see that you have truly known the Mother. But I have not yet been able to find out whether She is male or female; that is why I have put the sacred thread on Her image.'
"That which is Syama is also Brahman. That which has form, again, is without form. That which has attributes, again, has no attributes. Brahman is Śakti; Śakti is Brahman. They are not two. These are only two aspects, male and female, of the same Reality, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute."
GOVINDA: "What is the meaning of 'yogamaya'?"
MASTER: "It signifies the yoga, or union, of Purusha and Prakriti. Whatever you perceive in the universe is the outcome of this union. Take the image of Śiva and Kāli. Kāli stands on the bosom of Śiva; Śiva lies under Her feet like a corpse; Kāli looks at Śiva. All this denotes the union of Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is inactive; therefore Śiva lies on the ground like a corpse. Prakriti performs all Her activities in conjunction with Purusha. Thus She creates, preserves, and destroys. That is also the meaning of the conjoined images of Radha and Krishna. On account of that union, again, the images are slightly inclined toward each other.
"To denote this union, Sri Krishna wears a pearl in His nose, Radha a blue stone in hers. Radha has a fair complexion, bright as the pearl. Sri Krishna's is blue. For this reason Radha wears the blue stone. Further, Krishna's apparel is yellow, and Radha's blue.
"Who is the best devotee of God? It is he who sees, after the realization of Brahman, that God alone has become all living beings, the universe, and the twenty-four cosmic principles. One must discriminate at first, saying 'Not this, not this', and reach the roof. After that one realizes that the steps are made of the same materials as the roof, namely, brick, lime, and brick-dust. The devotee realizes that it is Brahman alone that has become all these-the living beings, the universe, and so on.
"Mere dry reasoning-I spit on it! I have no use for it! (The Master spits on the ground.)
"Why should I make myself dry through mere reasoning? May I have unalloyed love for the Lotus Feet of God as long as the consciousness of 'I' and 'you' remains with me!
(To Govinda) "Sometimes I say, 'Thou art verily I, and I am verily Thou.' Again I feel, 'Thou art Thou.' Then I do not find any trace of 'I'. It is Śakti alone that becomes flesh as God Incarnate. According to one school of thought, Rāma and Krishna are but two waves in the Ocean of Absolute Bliss and Consciousness.
Seeing God in everything
"Chaitanya, Consciousness, is awakened after Advaita-jnāna, the Knowledge of the non-dual Brahman. Then one perceives that God alone exists in all beings as Consciousness. After this realization comes Ānanda, Bliss. Advaita, Chaitanya, and Nityananda.
(to M.) "Let me ask you not to disbelieve in the forms of God. Have faith in God's forms. Meditate on that form of God which appeals to your mind.
(To Govinda) "The fact is that one does not feel the longing to know or see God as long as one wants to enjoy worldly objects. The child forgets everything when he plays with his toys. Try to cajole him away from play with a sweetmeat; you will not succeed. He will eat only a bit of it. When he relishes neither the sweetmeat nor his play, then he says, 'I want to go to my mother.' He doesn't care for the sweetmeat any more. If a man whom he doesn't know and has never seen says to the child, 'Come along; I shall take you to your mother', the child follows him. The child will go with anyone who will carry him to his mother.
The soul becomes restless for God when one is through with the enjoyment of worldly things. Then a person has only one thought-how to realize God. He listens to whatever anyone says to him about God."
M. (to himself): "Alas! The soul becomes restless for God only when one is through with the enjoyment of worldly things."
August 18, 1883
Mystery of Divine Incarnation
Sri Ramakrishna was at Balarām Bose's house in Calcutta. He was explaining the mystery of Divine Incarnation to the devotees.
MASTER: "In order to bring people spiritual knowledge, an Incarnation of God lives in the world in the company of devotees, cherishing an attitude of love for God. It is like going up and coming down the stairs after having once reached the roof. In order to reach the roof, other people should follow the path of devotion, as long as they have not attained Knowledge and become free of desire. The roof can be reached only when all desires are done away with. The shopkeeper does not go to bed before finishing his accounts. He goes to sleep only when his accounts are finished.
(To M.) "A man will certainly succeed if he will take the plunge. Success is sure for such a man.
"Well, what do you think of the worship conducted by Keshab, Shivanath, and the other Brahmo leaders?"
M: "They are satisfied, as you say, with describing the garden, but they seldom speak of seeing the Master of the garden. Describing the garden is the beginning and end of their worship."
MASTER: "You are right. Our only duty is to seek the Master of the garden and speak to Him. The only purpose of life is to realize God."
Sri Ramakrishna then went to Adhar's house. After dusk he sang and danced in Adhar's drawing-room. M., Rākhāl , and other devotees were present. After the music he sat down, still in an ecstatic mood. He said to Rākhāl : "This religious fervour is not like rain in the rainy season, which comes in torrents and goes in torrents. It is like an image of Śiva that has not been set up by human hands but is a natural one that has sprung up, as it were, from the bowels of the earth. The other day you left Dakshineswar in a temper. I prayed to the Divine Mother to forgive you."
The Master was still in an abstracted mood and said to Adhar, "My son, meditate on the Deity whose name you chanted." With these words he touched Adhar's tongue with his finger and wrote something on it. Did the Master thereby impart spirituality to Adhar?