THE MASTER AND M.
August 19, 1883
IT WAS SUNDAY, the first day after the full moon. Sri Ramakrishna was resting after his noon meal. The midday offering had been made in the temples, and the temple doors were closed.
In the early afternoon the Master sat up on the small couch in his room. M. prostrated himself before him and sat on the floor. The Master was talking to him on the philosophy of Vedānta.
Householders and Non-dualism
MASTER (to M.): "Self-Knowledge is discussed in the Ashtāvakra Samhitā. The non-dualists say, 'Soham', that is, 'I am the Supreme Self.' This is the view of the sannyasis of the Vedantic school. But this is not the right attitude for householders, who are conscious of doing everything themselves. That being so, how can they declare, 'I am That, the actionless Supreme Self'? According to the non-dualists the Self is unattached. Good and bad, virtue and vice, and the other pairs of opposites, cannot in any way injure the Self, though they undoubtedly afflict those who have identified themselves with their bodies. Smoke soils the wall, certainly, but it cannot in any way affect Ākāśa, space. Following the Vedantists of this class, Krishnakishore used to say, 'I am Kha', meaning Ākāśa. Being a great devotee, he could say that with some justification; but it is not becoming for others to do so.
"But to feel that one is a free soul is very good. By constantly repeating, 'I am free, I am free', a man verily becomes free. On the other hand, by constantly repeating, 'I am bound, I am bound', he certainly becomes bound to worldliness. The fool who says only, 'I am a sinner, I am a sinner', verily drowns himself in worldliness. One should rather say: I have chanted the name of God. How can I be a sinner? How can I be bound?'
(To M.) "You see, I am very much depressed today. Hriday has written me that he is very ill. Why should I feel dejected about it? Is it because of maya or daya?"
M. could not find suitable words for a reply, and remained silent.
Maya and compassion
MASTER: "Do you know what maya is? It is attachment to relatives-parents, brother and sister, wife and children, nephew and niece. Daya means love for all created beings. Now what is this, my feeling about Hriday? Is it maya or daya? But Hriday did so much for me: he served me whole-heartedly and nursed me when I was ill. But later he tormented me also. The torment became so unbearable that once I was about to commit suicide by jumping into the Ganges from the top of the embankment. But he did much to serve me. Now my mind will be at rest if he gets some money. But whom shall I ask for it? Who likes to speak about such things to our rich visitors?"
At two or three o'clock in the afternoon Adhar Sen and Balarām arrived. After saluting Sri Ramakrishna, they sat on the floor and asked him if he was well. The Master said, "Yes, I am well physically, but a little troubled in mind." He did not refer to Hriday and his troubles.
The conversation turned to the Goddess Simhavahini.
MASTER: "Yes, I visited the Goddess. She is worshipped by one of the branches of the Mallick family of Calcutta. This branch of the family is now in straitened circumstances, and the house they live in is dilapidated. The walls and floor are spotted with moss and pigeon-droppings, and the cement and plaster are crumbling. But other branches of the Mallick family are well off. This branch has no signs of prosperity. (To M.) Well, what does that signify?"
M. remained silent.
MASTER: "The thing is that everyone must reap the result of his past-karma. One must admit the influence of tendencies inherited from past births and the result of the prarabdha karma. Nevertheless, in that dilapidated house I saw the face of the Goddess radiating a divine light. One must believe in the Divine Presence in the image.
"Once I went to Vishnupur. The raja of that place has several fine temples. In one of them there is an image of the Divine Mother, called Mrinmai.1 There are several lakes near the temple, known as the Lalbandh, Krishnabandh, and so on. In the water of one of the lakes I could smell the ointments that women use for their hair. How do you explain that? I didn't know at that time that the woman devotees offer ointments to the Goddess Mrinmayi while visiting Her temple. Near the lake I went into samādhi, though I had not yet seen the image in the temple. In that state I saw the divine form from the waist up, rising from the water."
In the mean time other devotees had arrived. Someone referred to the political revolution and civil war in Kabul. A devotee said that Yakub Khan, the Amir of Afghanistan, had been deposed. He told the Master that the Amir was a great devotee of God.
Pleasure and pain are characteristics of physical life
MASTER: "But you must remember that pleasure and pain are the characteristics of the embodied state. In Kavi Kankan's Chandi it is written that Kaluvir was sent to prison and a heavy stone placed on his chest. Yet Kalu was born as a result of a boon from the Divine Mother of the Universe. Thus pleasure and pain are inevitable when the soul accepts a body. Again, take the case of Srimanta, who was a great devotee. Though his mother, Khullana, was very much devoted to the Divine Mother, there was no end to his troubles. He was almost beheaded. There is also the instance of the wood-cutter who was a great lover of the Divine Mother. She appeared before him and showed him much grace and love; but he had to continue his profession of wood-cutting and earn his livelihood by that arduous work. Again, while Devaki, Krishna's mother, was in prison, she had a vision of God Himself endowed with four hands, holding mace, discus, conch-shell, and lotus. But with all that she couldn't get out of prison."
M: "Why speak only of getting out of prison? This body is the source of all our troubles. Devaki should have been freed from the body."
Law of karma
MASTER: "The truth is that one must reap the result of the prarabdha karma. The body remains as long as the results of past actions do not completely wear away. Once a blind man bathed in the Ganges and as a result was freed from his sins. But his blindness remained all the same. (All laugh.) It was because of his evil deeds in his past birth that he had to undergo that affliction."
M: "Yes,sir. The arrow that has already left the bow is beyond our control."
MASTER: "However much a bhakta may experience physical joy and sorrow, he always has knowledge and the treasure of divine love. This treasure never leaves him. Take the Pandava brothers for instance. Though they suffered so many calamities, they did not lose their God-Consciousness even once. Where can you find men like them, endowed with so much knowledge and devotion?"
Just then Narendra and Colonel Viswanath Upadhyaya entered the room. Narendra was then twenty-two years old and studying in college. They saluted the Master and sat down. The Master requested Narendra to sing. The Tānpura hung on the west wall of the room. The devotees fixed their eyes on Narendra as he began to tune the drums.
MASTER (to Narendra): "The drums don't sound as well as before."
CAPTAIN: "They are now full. Therefore they are quiet, like a vessel filled with water. Or they are like a holy man, who remains silent when his heart is full of God-Consciousness."
MASTER: "But what about sages like Nārada?"
CAPTAIN: "They talked because they were moved by the sufferings of others."
MASTER: "You are right. After attaining samādhi, Nārada, Sukadeva, and others came down a few steps, as it were, to the plane of normal consciousness and broke their silence out of compassion for the sufferings of others and to help them."
Narendra began to sing:
Oh, when will dawn for me that day of blessedness
No sooner had the Master heard a few words of the song than he went into deep samādhi. He sat with folded hands, facing the east. His body was erect and his mind completely bereft of worldly consciousness. His breath had almost stopped. With unwinking eyes he sat motionless as a picture on a canvas. His mind had dived deep into the Ocean of God's Beauty.
Narendra left the room and went to the east verandah, where Hazra was seated on a blanket, with a rosary in his hand. They fell to talking. Other devotees arrived. The Master came down from samādhi and looked around. He could not find Narendra. The Tānpura was lying on the floor. He noticed that the earnest eyes of the devotees were riveted on him.
MASTER (referring to Narendra): "He has lighted the fire. Now it doesn't matter whether he stays in the room or goes out.
Joy of God-Consciousness
(To Captain and the other devotees) "Attribute to yourselves the bliss of God-Consciousness; then you too will experience ineffable joy. The bliss of God-Consciousness always exists in you. It is only hidden by the veiling and projecting power of maya. The less you are attached to the world, the more you love God."
CAPTAIN: "The farther you proceed toward your home in Calcutta, the farther you leave Benares behind. Again, the farther you proceed toward Benares, the farther behind you leave your home."
MASTER: "As Radha advanced toward Krishna, she could smell more and more of the sweet fragrance of His body. The nearer you approach to God, the more you feel His love. As the river approaches the ocean it increasingly feels the flow of the tides.
Ideals of Jnāni and bhakta
"The Jnāni experiences God-Consciousness within himself; it is like the upper Ganges, flowing in only one direction. To him the whole universe is illusory, like a dream; he is always established in the Reality of Self. But with the lover of God the case is different. His feeling does not flow in only one direction. He feels both the ebb-tide and the flood-tide of divine emotion. He laughs and weeps and dances and sings in the ecstasy of God. The lover of God likes to sport with Him. In the Ocean of God-Consciousness he sometimes swims, sometimes goes down, and sometimes rises to the surface-like pieces of ice in the water. (Laughter.)
Brahman and Śakti are not different
"The Jnāni seeks to realize Brahman. But the ideal of the bhakta is the Personal God-a God endowed with omnipotence and with the six treasures. Yet Brahman and Śakti are, in fact, not different. That which is the Blissful Mother is, again, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. They are like the gem and its lustre. When one speaks of the lustre of the gem, one thinks of the gem; and again, when one speaks of the gem, one refers to its lustre. One cannot conceive of the lustre of the gem without thinking of the gem, and one cannot conceive of the gem without thinking of its lustre.
"Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute is one, and one only. But It is associated with different limiting adjuncts on account of the different degrees of Its manifestation. That is why one finds various forms of God. The devotee sings, 'O my Divine Mother, Thou art all these!' Wherever you see actions, like creation, preservation, and dissolution, there is the manifestation of Śakti. Water is water whether it is calm or full of waves and bubbles. The Absolute alone is the Primordial Energy, which creates, preserves, and destroys. Thus it is the same 'Captain', whether he remains inactive or performs his worship or pays a visit to the Governor General. Only we designate him by different names at different times."
CAPTAIN: "Yes, sir, that is so."
MASTER: "I said those words to Keshab Sen."
CAPTAIN: "Keshab is not an orthodox Hindu. He adopts manners and customs according to his own whim. He is a well-to-do gentleman and not a holy man."
MASTER (to the other devotees): "Captain forbids me to go to see Keshab."
CAPTAIN: "But, sir, you act as you will. What can I do?"
MASTER (sharply): "Why shouldn't I go to see Keshab? You feel at ease when you go to the Governor General's house, and for money at that. Keshab thinks of God and chants His name. Isn't it you who are always saying that God Himself has become the universe and all its living beings? Doesn't God dwell in Keshab also?"
With these words the Master left the room abruptly and went to the northeast verandah. Captain and the other devotees remained, waiting for his return. M. accompanied the Master to the verandah, where Narendra was talking with Hazra. Sri Ramakrishna knew that Hazra always indulged in dry philosophical discussions. Hazra would say: "The world is unreal, like a dream. Worship, food offerings to the Deity, and so forth, are only hallucinations of the mind. The aim of spiritual life is to meditate on one's own real Self." Then he would repeat, "I am He." But, with all that, he had a soft corner in his heart for money, material things, and people's attention.
Sri Ramakrishna smiled and said to Hazra and Narendra, "Hello! What are you talking about?"
NARENDRA (smiling): "Oh, we are discussing a great many things. They are rather too deep for others."
MASTER (with a smile): "But Pure Knowledge and Pure Love are one and the same thing. Both lead the aspirants to the same goal. The path of love is much the easier."
Narendra quoted a song:
O Mother, make me mad with Thy love!
Narendra said to M. that he had been reading a book by Hamilton, who wrote: "A learned ignorance is the end of philosophy and the beginning of religion."
MASTER (to M.): "What does that mean?"
Narendra explained the sentence in Bengali. The Master beamed with joy and said in English, "Thank you! Thank you!" Everyone laughed at the charming way he said these words. They knew that his English vocabulary consisted of only half a dozen words.
It was almost dusk when most of the devotees, including Narendra, took leave of the Master. Sri Ramakrishna went out and looked at the Ganges for a few minutes from the west porch. Two priests were bathing in preparation for the evening worship. Young men of the village were strolling in the garden or standing on the concrete embankment, gazing at the murmuring river. Others, perhaps more thoughtful, were walking about in the solitude of the Panchavati.
It became dark. The maidservant lighted the lamp in Sri Ramakrishna's room and burnt incense. The evening worship began in the twelve temples of Śiva and in the shrines of Krishna and Kāli.
As it was the first day after the full moon, the moonlight soon flooded the tops of the trees and temples, and touched with silver the numberless waves of the sacred river.
The Master returned to his room. After bowing to the Divine Mother, he clapped his hands and chanted the sweet names of God. A number of holy pictures hung on the walls of the room. Among others, there were pictures of Dhruva, Prahlada, Kāli, Radha-Krishna, and the coronation of Rāma. The Master bowed low before the pictures and repeated the holy names. Then he repeated the holy words, "Brahma-Ātmā-Bhagavan; Bhagavata-Bhakta-Bhagavan; Brahma-Śakti, Śakti-Brahma; Veda, Purana, Tantra, Gitā, Gayatri." Then he said: "I have taken refuge at Thy feet, O Divine Mother; not I, but Thou. I am the machine and Thou art the Operator", and so on.
Master extols Narendra
While the Master was meditating in this fashion on the Divine Mother, a few devotees, coming in from the garden, gathered in his room. Sri Ramakrishna sat down on the small couch. He said to the devotees: "Narendra, Bhavanath, Rākhāl , and devotees like them belong to the group of the nityasiddhas; they are eternally free. Religious practice on their part is superfluous. Look at Narendra. He doesn't care about anyone. One day he was going with me in Captain's carriage. Captain wanted him to take a good seat, but Narendra didn't even look at him. He is independent even of me. He doesn't tell me all he knows, lest I should praise his scholarship before others. He is free from ignorance and delusion. He has no bonds. He is a great soul. He has many good qualities. He is expert in music, both as a singer and player, and is also a versatile scholar. Again, he keeps his passions under control and says that he will never marry. There is a close friendship between Narendra and Bhavanath; they are just like man and woman. Narendra doesn't come here very often. That is good, for I am overwhelmed by his presence."
Monday, August 20, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on his bed, inside the mosquito net, meditating. It was about eight o'clock in the evening. M. was sitting on the floor with his friend Hari Babu. Hari, a young man of twenty-eight, had lost his wife about eleven years before and had not married a second time. He was much, devoted to his parents, brothers, and sisters.
Hazra was living at Dakshineswar. Rākhāl lived with the Master, though now and then he stayed at Adhar's house. Narendra, Bhavanath, Adhar, M., Ram, Manomohan, and other devotees visited the Master almost every week.
Hriday, Sri Ramakrishna's nephew, was ill in his home in the country. The Master was worried about him. One of the devotees had sent him a little money, but the Master did not know it.
When Sri Ramakrishna came out of the mosquito net and sat on the small couch, the devotees saluted him.
MASTER (to M.): "I was meditating inside the net. It occurred to me that meditation, after all, was nothing but the imagining of a form, and so I did not enjoy it. One gets satisfaction if God reveals Himself in a flash. Again, I said to myself, 'Who is it that meditates, and on whom does he meditate?' "
M: "Yes, sir. You said that God Himself has become everything-the universe and all living beings. Even he who meditates is God."
MASTER: "What is more, one cannot meditate unless God wills it. One can meditate when God makes it possible for one to do so. What do you say?"
M: "True, sir. You feel like that because there is no 'I' in you. When there is no ego, one feels like that."
MASTER: "But it is good .to have a trace of ego, which makes it possible for a man to feel that he is the servant of God. As long as a man thinks that it is he who is doing his duties, it is very good for him to feel that God is the Master and he God's servant. When one is conscious of doing work, one should establish with God the relationship of servant and Master."
M. was always reflecting on the nature of the Supreme Brahman.
Nature of Brahman
MASTER (to M.): "Like the Ākāśa, Brahman is without any modification. It has become manifold because of Śakti. Again, Brahman is like fire, which itself has no colour. The fire appears white if you throw a white substance into it, red if you throw a red, black if you throw a black. The three gunas-sattva, rajas, and tamas-belong to Śakti alone. Brahman Itself is beyond the three gunas. What Brahman is cannot be described. It is beyond words. That which remains after everything is eliminated by the Vedantic process of 'Not this, not this', and which is of the nature of Bliss, is Brahman.
"Suppose the husband of a young girl has come to his father-in-law's house and is seated in the drawing-room with other young men of his age. The girl and her friends are looking at them through the window. Her friends do not know her husband and ask her, pointing to one young man, 'Is that your husband?' 'No', she answers, smiling. They point to another young man and ask if he is her husband. Again she answers no. They repeat the question, referring to a third, and she gives the same answer. At last they point to her husband and ask, 'Is he the one?' She says neither yes nor no, but only smiles and keeps quiet. Her friends realize that he is her husband.
"One becomes silent on realizing the true nature of Brahman.
(To M.) "Well, why do I talk so much?"
M: "You talk in order to awaken the spiritual consciousness of the devotees. You once said that when an uncooked luchi is dropped into boiling ghee it makes a sizzling noise."
The Master began to talk to M. about Hazra.
MASTER: "Do you know the nature of a good man? He never troubles others. He doesn't harass people. The nature of some people is such that when they go to a feast they want special seats. A man who has true devotion to God never makes a false step, never gives others trouble for nothing.
"It is not good to live in the company of bad people. A man should stay away from them and thus protect himself. (To M.) Isn't that so?"
M: "Yes, sir. The mind sinks far down in the company of the wicked. But it is quite different with a hero, as you say."
MASTER: "How is that?"
M: "When a fire is feeble it goes out when even a small stick is thrown into it; but a blazing fire is not affected even if a plantain-tree is thrown into it. The tree itself is burnt to ashes."
The Master asked M. about his friend Hari Babu.
M: "He has come here to pay you his respects. He lost his wife long ago."
MASTER (to Hari): "What kind of work do you do?"
M: "Nothing in particular. But at home he takes good care of his parents and his brothers and sisters."
MASTER (with a smile): "How is that? You are like 'Elder, the pumpkin-cutter'. You are neither a man of the world nor a devotee of God. That is not good. You must have seen the sort of elderly man who lives in a family and is always ready, day or night, to entertain the children. He sits in the parlour and smokes the hubble-bubble. With nothing in particular to do, he leads a lazy life. Now and again he goes to the inner court and cuts a pumpkin; for, since women do not cut pumpkins, they send the children to ask him to come and do it. That is the extent of his usefulness-hence his nickname, 'Elder, the pumpkin-cutter'.
"You must do 'this' as well as 'that'. Do your duties in the world, and also fix your mind on the Lotus Feet of the Lord. Read books of devotion like the Bhagavata or the life of Chaitanya when you are alone and have nothing else to do."
It was about ten o'clock. Sri Ramakrishna finished a light supper of farina pudding and one or two luchis. After saluting him, M. and his friend took their leave.
Friday, September 7, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna and M. were talking in the Master's room at half past seven in the evening. No one else was present.
MASTER: "The other day I went to Calcutta. As I drove along the streets in the carriage, I observed that everyone's attention was fixed on low things. Everyone was brooding over his stomach and running after nothing but food. Everyone's mind was turned to 'woman and gold'. I saw only one or two with their attention fixed on higher things, with their minds turned to God."
M: "The present age has aggravated this stomach-worry. Trying to imitate the English, people have turned their attention to more luxuries; therefore their wants have also increased."
MASTER: "What do the English think about God?"
M: "They believe in a formless God."
MASTER: "That is also one of our beliefs."
Master's deep spiritual experiences
For a time Master and disciple remained silent. Then Sri Ramakrishna began to describe his experiences of Brahman.
MASTER: "One day I had the vision of Consciousness, non-dual and indivisible. At first it had been revealed to me that there were innumerable men, animals, and other creatures. Among them there were aristocrats, the English, the Mussalmans, myself, scavengers, dogs, and also a bearded Mussalman with an earthenware tray of rice in his hand. He put a few grains of rice into everybody's mouth. I too tasted a little.
"Another day I saw rice, vegetables, and other food-stuff, and filth and dirt as well, lying around. Suddenly the soul came out of my body and, like a flame, touched everything. It was like a protruding tongue of fire and tasted everything once, even the excreta. It was revealed to me that all these are one Substance, the non-dual and indivisible Consciousness.
"Another day it was revealed to me that I had devotees-my intimate companions, my very own. Thereafter I would climb to the roof of the kuthi as soon as the bells and the conch-shells of the evening service sounded in the temples, and cry out with a longing heart: 'Oh, where are you all? Come here! I am dying to see you!'
(ToM.) "Well, what do you think of these visions?"
M: "God sports through you. This I have realized, that you are the instrument and God is the Master. God has created other beings as if with a machine, but yourself with His own hands."
MASTER: "Well, Hazra says that after the vision of God one acquires the six divine powers."
M: "Those who seek pure love don't want powers."
MASTER: "Perhaps Hazra was a poor man in his previous life, and that is why he wants so much to see the manifestation of power. He wants to know what I talk about with the cook. He says to me: 'You don't have to talk to the cook. I shall talk to the manager of the temple myself and see that you get everything you want.' (M. laughs aloud.) He talks to me that way and I say nothing."
M: "Many a time you have said that a devotee, who loves God for the sake of love does not care to see God's powers. A true devotee wants to see God as Gopala. In the beginning God becomes the magnet, and the devotee the needle. But in the end the devotee himself becomes the magnet, and God the needle; that is to say, God becomes small to His devotee."
MASTER: "Yes, it is just like the sun at dawn. You can easily look at that sun. It doesn't dazzle the eyes; rather it satisfies them. God becomes tender for the sake of His devotees. He appears before them, setting aside His powers."
Both remained silent for some time.
M: "Why should your visions not be real? If they are unreal, then the world is still more unreal; for there is only one mind that is the instrument of perception. Your pure mind sees those visions, and our ordinary minds see worldly objects."
MASTER: "I see that you have grasped the idea of unreality. Well, tell me what you think of Hazra."
M: "Oh, I don't know." (The Master laughs.)
MASTER: "Well, do you find me to be like anybody else?"
M: "No, sir."
MASTER: "Like any other paramahamsa?"
M: "No, sir. You can't be compared to anybody else."
MASTER (smiling): "Have you heard of a tree called the 'achina'?"
M: "No, sir."
MASTER: "There is a tree called by that name. But nobody knows what it is."
M: "Likewise, it is not possible to recognize you. The more a man understands you, the more uplifted he will be."
M. was silent. He said to himself: "The Master referred to 'the sun at dawn' and 'the tree unrecognizable by man'. Did he mean an Incarnation of God? Is this the play of God through man? Is the Master himself an Incarnation? Was this why he cried to the devotees from the roof of the kuthi: 'Where are you? Come to me!'?"
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the steps of the southeast verandah of the Kāli temple. Rākhāl , M., and Hazra were with him. He talked light-heartedly about his boyhood days.
When it was dusk he returned to his room and sat down on the small couch. Soon he went into samādhi and in that state began to talk to the Divine Mother. He said: "Mother, what is all this row about? Shall I go there? I shall go if You take me." The Master was to go to a devotee's house. Was it for this that he was asking the Divine Mother's permission?
Again he spoke to Her, perhaps praying about an intimate disciple:
"Mother, please make him stainless. Well, Mother, why have You given him only a particle?" Remaining silent a moment, he said: "Oh, I see. That will be enough for Your work."
Nature of the Divine Incarnation
In the same state he said, addressing the devotees: "That which is Brahman is verily Śakti. I address That, again, as the Mother. I call It Brahman when It is inactive, and Śakti when It creates, preserves, and destroys. It is like water, sometimes still and sometimes covered with waves. The Incarnation of God is a part of the lila of Śakti. The purpose of the Divine Incarnation is to teach man ecstatic love for God. The Incarnation is like the udder of the cow, the only place milk is to be got. God incarnates Himself as man. There is a great accumulation of divinity in an Incarnation, like the accumulation of fish in a deep hollow in a lake."
Some of the devotees wondered, "Is Sri Ramakrishna an Incarnation of God, like Krishna, Chaitanya, and Christ?"
Sunday, September 9, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna had finished his midday meal and was sitting on the small couch. Rākhāl , M., and Ratan were sitting on the floor. Ratan was the steward of Jadu Mallick's garden house and was devoted to the Master. Now and then Ram Chatterji and Hazra passed in or out of the room. It was about two o'clock.
Ratan told the Master that a yatra performance by Nilkantha had been arranged in Jadu Mallick's house in Calcutta.
RATAN (to the Master): "You must go. The date has been set."
MASTER: "That's good, I want to go. Nilkantha sings with great devotion."
A DEVOTEE: "That is true, sir."
MASTER: "Tears flow from his eyes as he sings. (To Ratan) I am thinking of spending the night in Calcutta when I go to see the yatra."
RATAN: "That will be fine."
Ram Chatterji and the other devotees asked Ratan about a theft in Jadu Mallick's house.
RATAN: "Yes, the golden sandals of the Deity were stolen from the shrine room in Jadu Babu's house. It has created an uproar. They are going to try to discover the thief by means of a 'charmed plate'. Everybody will sit in one room, and the plate will move in the direction of the man who stole the sandals."
MASTER (with a smile): "How does the plate move? By itself?"
RATAN: "No. A man presses it to the ground."
A DEVOTEE: "It is a kind of sleight of hand. It is a clever trick."
MASTER: "The real cleverness is the cleverness by which one realizes God. That trick is the best of all tricks."
As the conversation went on, several Bengali gentlemen entered the room and, after saluting the Master, sat down. One of them was already known to Sri Ramakrishna. These gentlemen followed the cult of Tantra. The Master knew that one of them indulged in immoral acts in the name of religion. The Tantra rituals, under certain conditions, allow the mixing of men and women devotees. But Sri Ramakrishna regarded all women, even prostitutes, as manifestations of the Divine Mother. He addressed them all as "Mother".
MASTER (with a smile): "Where is Achalananda? My ideal is different from that of Achalananda and his disciples. As for myself, I look on all women as my mother."
The visiting gentlemen sat silent.
Master's attitude toward women
MASTER: "Every woman is a mother to me. Achalananda used to stay here now and then. He would drink a great deal of consecrated wine. Hearing about my attitude toward women, he stubbornly justified his own views. He insisted again and again: 'Why should you not recognize the attitude of a "hero" toward women? Won't you admit the injunctions of Śiva? Śiva Himself is the author of the Tantra, which prescribes various disciplines, including the "heroic".' I said to him: 'But, my dear sir, I don't know. I don't like these ideas. To me every woman is a mother.'
"Achalananda did not support his own children. He said to me, 'God will support them.' I said nothing. But this is the way I felt about it: 'Who will support your children? I hope your renunciation of wife and children is not a way of earning money. People will think you are a holy man because you have renounced everything: so they will give you money. In that way you will earn plenty of money.'
"Spiritual practice with a view to winning a lawsuit and earning money, or to helping others win in court and acquire property, shows a very mean understanding.
Good use of money
"Money enables a man to get food and drink, build a house, worship the Deity, serve devotees and holy men, and help the poor when he happens to meet them. These are the good uses of money. Money is not meant for luxuries or creature comforts or for buying a position in society.
"People practise various Tantrik disciplines to acquire supernatural powers. How mean such people are! Krishna said to Arjuna, 'Friend, by acquiring one of the eight siddhis you may add a little to your power, but you will not be able to realize Me.' One cannot get rid of maya as long as one exercises supernatural powers. And maya begets egotism.
"Body and wealth are impermanent. Why go to so much trouble for their sakes? Just think of the plight of the hathayogis. Their attention is fixed on one ideal only-longevity. They do not aim at the realization of God at all. They practise such exercises as washing out the intestines, drinking milk through a tube, and the like, with that one aim in view.
"There was once a goldsmith whose tongue suddenly turned up and stuck to his palate. He looked like a man in samādhi. He became completely inert and remained so a long time. People came to worship him. After several years, his tongue suddenly returned to its natural position, and he became conscious of things as before. So he went back to his work as a goldsmith.(All laugh.)
"These are physical things and have nothing to do with God. There was a man who knew eighty-two postures and talked big about yoga-samādhi. But inwardly he was drawn to 'woman and gold'. Once he found a bank-note worth several thousand rupees. He could not resist the temptation, and swallowed it, thinking he would get it out somehow later on. The note was got out of him all right, but he was sent to jail for three years. In my guilelessness I used to think that the man had made great spiritual progress. Really, I say it upon my word!
Master's renunciation of money
"Mahendra Pal of Sinthi once gave Ramlal five rupees. Ramlal told me about it after he had gone. I asked him what the gift was for, and Ramlal said that it was meant for me. I thought it might enable me to payoff some of my debt for milk. That night I went to bed and, if you will believe me, I suddenly woke up with a pain. I felt as if a cat were scratching inside my chest. I at once went to Ramlal and asked him: 'For whom did Mahendra give this money? Was it for your aunt?'7 'No,' said Ramlal, 'it is meant for you.' I said to him, 'Go and return the money at once, or I shall have no peace of mind.' Ramlal returned the money early in the morning and I felt relieved.
"Once a rich man came here and said to me: 'Sir, you must do something so that I may win my lawsuit. I have heard of your reputation and so I have come here.' 'My dear sir,' I said to him, 'you have made a mistake. I am not the person you are looking for; Achalananda is your man.'
"A true devotee of God does not care for such things as wealth or health. He thinks: 'Why should I practise spiritual austerities for creature comforts, money, or name and fame? These are all impermanent. They last only a day or two.' "
The visiting gentlemen took leave of the Master after saluting him. When they had departed, Sri Ramakrishna smiled and said to M., "You can never make a thief listen to religion. (All laugh.)
"Well, what do you think of Narendra?"
M: "He is splendid."
MASTER: "Yes. His intelligence is as great as his learning. Besides, he is gifted in music, both as a singer and player. Then too, he has control over his passions. He says he will never marry."
M: "You once said that one who constantly talks of his sin really becomes a sinner; he cannot extricate himself from sin. But if a man has firm faith that he is the son of God, then he makes rapid strides in spiritual life."
MASTER: "Yes, faith. What tremendous faith Krishnakishore had! He used to say: 'I have spoken the name of God once. That is enough. How can I remain a sinner? I have become pure and stainless.' One day Haladhāri said: 'Even Ajamila had to perform austerities to gratify God. Can one receive the grace of God without austerities? What will one gain by speaking the name of Narayana only once?' At these remarks Krishnakishore's anger knew no bounds. The next time he came to this garden to pick flowers he wouldn't even look at Haladhāri.
"Haladhāri's father was a great devotee. At bathing-time he would stand waist-deep in the water and meditate on God, uttering the sacred mantra; then the tears would flow from his eyes.
Krishnakishore's faith in God
"One day a holy man came to the bathing-place on the Ganges at Ariadaha. We talked about seeing him. Haladhāri said, 'What shall we gain by seeing the body of a man, a mere cage made of the five elements?' Krishnakishore heard about it and said: 'What? Did Haladhāri ask what would be gained by visiting a holy man? By repeating the name of Krishna or Rāma a man transforms his physical body into a spiritual body. To such a man everything is the embodiment of Spirit. To him Krishna is the embodiment of Spirit, and His sacred Abode is the embodiment of Spirit.' He also said, 'A man who utters the name of Krishna or Rāma even once reaps the result of a hundred sandhyas.'
"One of his sons chanted the name of Rāma on his death-bed. Krishnakishore said, 'He has nothing to worry about; he has chanted the name of Rāma.' But now and then he wept. After all, it was the death of his own son.
Nothing whatsoever is achieved by the performance of worship, japa, and devotions, without faith. Isn't that so?"
M: "Yes, sir. That is true."
MASTER: "I see people coming to the Ganges to bathe. They talk their heads off about everything under the sun. The widowed aunt says: 'Without me they cannot perform the Durga Puja. I have to look after even the smallest detail. Again, I have to supervise everything when there is a marriage festiva1 in the family, even the bed of the bride and groom.'"
M: "Why should we blame them? How else will they pass the time?"
MASTER (with a smile): "Some people have their shrine rooms in their attics. The women arrange the offerings and flowers and make the sandal-paste. But, while doing so, they never say a word about God. The burden of the conversation is: 'What shall we cook today? I couldn't get good vegetables in the market. That curry was delicious yesterday. That boy is my cousin. Hello there! Have you that job still? Don't ask me how I am. My Hari is no more.' Just fancy! They talk of such things in the shrine room at the time of worship!"
M: "Yes, sir, it is so in the majority of cases. As you say, can one who has passionate yearning for God continue formal worship and devotions for long?"
Sri Ramakrishna and M. were now conversing alone.
M: "Sir, if it is God Himself who has become everything, then why do people have so many different feelings?"
MASTER: "Undoubtedly God exists in all beings as the All-pervading Spirit, but the manifestations of His Power are different in different beings. In some places there is a manifestation of the power of Knowledge; in others, of the power of ignorance. In some places there is a greater manifestation of power than in others. Don't you see that among human beings there are cheats and gamblers, to say nothing of men who are like tigers. I think of them as the 'cheat God', the 'tiger God'."
M. (with a smile): "We should salute them from a distance. If we go near the 'tiger God' and embrace him, he may devour us."
MASTER: "He and His Power, Brahman and Its Power-nothing else exists but this. In a hymn to Rāma, Nārada said: 'O Rāma, You are Śiva, and Sita is Bhagavati; You are Brahma, and Sita is Brahmani; You are Indra, and Sita is Indrani; You are Narayana, and Sita is Lakshmi. O Rāma, You are the symbol of all that is masculine, and Sita of all that is feminine.' "
M: "Sir, what is the Spirit-form of God like?"
Sri Ramakrishna reflected a moment and said softly: "Shall I tell you what it is like? It is like water. . . . One understands all this through spiritual discipline.
"Believe in the form of God. It is only after attaining Brahmajnana that one sees non-duality, the oneness of Brahman and Its Śakti. Brahman and Śakti are identical, like fire and its power to burn. When a man thinks of fire, he must also think of its power to burn. Again, when he thinks of the power to burn, he must also think of fire. Further, Brahman and Śakti are like milk and its whiteness, water and its wetness.
Vijnāna or Transcendental Knowledge
"But there is a stage beyond even Brahmajnana. After jnāna comes vijnāna. He who is aware of knowledge is also aware of ignorance. The sage Vasishtha was stricken with grief at the death of his hundred sons. Asked by Lakshmana why a man of knowledge should grieve for such a reason, Rāma said, 'Brother, go beyond both knowledge and ignorance.' He who has knowledge has ignorance also. If a thorn has entered your foot, get another thorn and with its help take out the first; then throwaway the second also."
M: "Should one throwaway both knowledge and ignorance?"
MASTER: "Yes. That is why one should acquire vijnāna. You see, he who is aware of light is also aware of darkness. He who is aware of happiness is also aware of suffering. He who is aware of virtue is also aware of vice. He who is aware of good is also aware of evil. He who is aware of holiness is also aware of unholiness. He who is aware of 'I' is also aware of 'you'.
"What is vijnāna? It is knowing God in a special way. The awareness and conviction that fire exists in wood is jnāna, knowledge. But to cook rice on that fire, eat the rice, and get nourishment from it is vijnāna. To know by one's inner experience that God exists is jnāna. But to talk to Him, to enjoy Him as Child, as Friend, as Master, as Beloved, is vijnāna. The realization that God alone has become the universe and all living beings is vijnāna.
"According to one school of thought, God cannot be seen. Who sees whom? Is God outside you, that you can see Him? One sees only oneself. Having once entered the 'black waters' of the ocean, the ship does not come back and so cannot describe what it experiences."
M: "It is true, sir. As you say, having climbed to the top of the monument, one becomes unaware of what is below: horses and carriages, men and women, houses, shops and offices, and so on."
MASTER: "I don't go to the Kāli temple nowadays. Is that an offence? At one time Narendra used to say, 'What? He still goes to the Kāli temple!' "
M: "Every day you are in a new state of mind. How can you ever offend God?"
MASTER: "Someone said to Sen, about Hriday: 'He is very ill. Please bring two pieces of cloth and a couple of shirts for him. We will send them to his village.' Sen offered only two rupees. How do you explain that? He has so much money, and yet he is so miserly! What do you say to that?"
M: "Those who seek God cannot behave that way-I mean those whose goal is the attainment of Knowledge."
MASTER: "God alone is the Reality and all else is unreal."
Saturday, September 22, 1883
Sri Ramakrishna was seated in the drawing-room of Adhar's house in Calcutta, with Rākhāl , Adhar, M., Ishan, and other devotees. Many gentlemen of the neighbourhood were also present. It was afternoon.
The Master was very fond of Ishan. He had been a superintendent in the Accountant General's office, and later on his children also occupied high government positions. One of them was a class-mate of Narendra. Ishan's purse was always open for the poor and needy. When he retired from service, he devoted his time to spiritual practices and charity. He often visited Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar.
MASTER (to Ishan): "Please tell us the story of the boy who posted the letter."
ISHAN (with a smile): "A boy once heard that God is our Creator. So he wrote a letter to God, setting forth his prayers, and posted it. The address he put on the envelope was 'Heaven'."
MASTER (with a smile): "Did you hear that story? One succeeds in spiritual life when one develops a faith like that boy's. (To Ishan) Tell us about the renunciation of activities."
ISHAN: "After the attainment of God, religious duties such as the sandyha drop away. One day some people were sitting on the bank of the Ganges performing the sandyha. But one of them abstained from it. On being asked the reason, he said: 'I am observing asoucha. I cannot perform the sandyha ceremony.8 In my case the defilement is due to both a birth and a death. My mother, Ignorance, is dead, and my son, Self-Knowledge, has been born.'"
MASTER: "Tell us, also, how caste distinctions drop away when one attains Self-Knowledge."
ISHAN: "Sankaracharya was once climbing the steps after finishing his bath in the Ganges, when he saw just in front of him an untouchable who had a pack of dogs with him. 'You have touched me!' said Sankara. 'Revered sir,' said the pariah, 'I have not touched you, nor have you touched me. The Self is the Inner Ruler of all beings and cannot be contaminated. Is there any difference between the sun's reflection in wine and its reflection in the Ganges?' "
MASTER (with a smile): "And about harmony: how one can realize God through all paths."
Ishan (smiling): "Both Hari and Hara are derived from the same root. The difference is only in the pratyaya. In reality, He who is Hari is also Hara. If a man has faith in God, then it doesn't matter whom he worships."
MASTER: "And please tell us also how the heart of the sādhu is the greatest of all."
ISHAN: "This earth is the largest thing we see anywhere around us. But larger than the earth is the ocean, and larger than the ocean is the sky. But Vishnu, the Godhead, has covered earth, sky, and the nether world with one of His feet. And that foot of Vishnu is enshrined in the sādhu's heart. Therefore the heart of a holy man is the greatest of all."
The devotees were delighted with Ishan's words.
Ishan intended to retire to a solitary place and practise a special discipline of the Gayatri, through which Brahman is invoked. But the Master said that the Knowledge of Brahman was not possible without the complete destruction of worldliness. Further, he said that it was impossible for a man totally to withdraw his mind from the objects of the senses in the Kaliyuga, when his life was dependent on food. That is why the Master discouraged people from attempting the Vedic worship of Brahman and asked them to worship Śakti, the Divine Mother, who is identical with Brahman.
MASTER (to Ishan): "Why do you waste your time simply repeating 'Neti, neti'? Nothing whatsoever can be specified about Brahman, except that It exists.
"Whatever we see or think about is the manifestation of the glory of the Primordial Energy, the Primal Consciousness. Creation, preservation, and destruction, living beings and the universe, and further, meditation and the meditator, bhakti and prema-all these are manifestations of the glory of that Power.
"But Brahman is identical with Its Power. On returning from Ceylon, Hanuman praised Rāma, saying: 'O Rāma, You are the Supreme Brahman, and Sita is Your Śakti. You and She are identical' Brahman and Śakti are like the snake and. its wriggling motion. Thinking of the snake, one must think of its wriggling motion, and thinking of its wriggling motion, one must think of the snake. Or they are like milk and its whiteness. Thinking of milk, one has to think of its colour, that is, whiteness, and thinking of the whiteness of milk, one has to think of milk itself. Or they are like water and its wetness. Thinking of water, one has to think of its wetness, and thinking of the wetness of water, one has to think of water.
"This Primal Power, Mahamaya, has covered Brahman. As soon as the covering is withdrawn, one realizes: 'I am what I was before', 'I am Thou; Thou art I'.
"As long as that covering remains, the Vedantic formula 'I am He', that is, man is the Supreme Brahman, does not rightly apply. The wave is part of the water, but the water is not part of the wave. As long as that covering remains, one should call on God as Mother. Addressing God, the devotee should say, 'Thou art the Mother and I am Thy child; Thou art the Master and I am Thy servant.' It is good to have the attitude of the servant toward the master. From this relationship of master and servant spring up other attitudes: the attitude of serene love for God, the attitude of friend toward friend, and so forth. When the master loves his servant, he may say to him, 'Come, sit by my side; there is no difference between you and me.' But if the servant comes forward of his own will to sit by the master, will not the master be angry?
"God's play on earth as an Incarnation is the manifestation of the glory of the ChitŚakti, the Divine Power. That which is Brahman is also Rāma, Krishna, and Śiva."
ISHAN: "Yes, sir. Both Hari and Hara are derived from the same root. The difference lies only in the pratyaya."
MASTER: "Yes, there is only One without a second. The Vedas speak of It as 'Om Satchidananda Brahma', the Puranas as 'Om Satchidananda Krishna,' and the Tantra as 'Om Satchidananda Śiva'.
"The ChitŚakti, as Mahamaya, has deluded all with ignorance. It is said in the Adhyātma Rāmāyana that when the rishis saw Rāma, they prayed to Him in these words only: 'O Rāma, please do not delude us with Your world-bewitching maya.' "
ISHAN: "What is this maya?"
MASTER: "Whatever you see, think, or hear is maya. In a word, 'woman and gold' is the covering of maya.
"There is no harm in chewing betel-leaf, eating fish, smoking, or rubbing the body with oil. What will one achieve by renouncing only these things? The one thing needful is the renunciation of 'woman and gold'. That renunciation is the real and supreme renunciation. Householders should go into solitude now and then, to practise spiritual discipline in order to cultivate devotion to God; they should renounce mentally. But the sannyasi should renounce both mentally and physically.
"I once said to Keshab, 'How can a typhoid patient be cured if he remains in a room where a pitcher of water and a jar of pickles are kept?' Now and then one should live in solitude ".
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, what do you think of the Navavidhan? It seems to me like a hotchpotch of everything."
MASTER: "Some say it is a modern thing. That sets me wondering: 'Then is the God of the Brahmo Samaj a new God?' The Brahmos speak of their cult as the Navavidhan, as a New Dispensation. Well, it may be so. Who knows? There are six systems of philosophy; so perhaps it is like one of these.
"But do you know where those who speak of the formless God make their mistake? It is where they say that God is formless only, and that those who differ with them are wrong.
"But I know that God is both with and without form. And He may have many more aspects. It is possible for Him to be everything.
(To Ishan) "The ChitŚakti, Mahamaya, has become the twenty-four cosmic principles. One day as I was meditating, my mind wandered away to Rashke's house. He is a scavenger. I said to my mind, 'Stay there, you rogue!' The Divine Mother revealed to me that the men and women in this house were mere masks; inside them was the same Divine Power, Kundalini, that rises up through the six spiritual centres of the body.
"Is the Primal Energy man or woman? Once at Kamarpukur I saw the worship of Kāli in the house of the Lahas. They put a sacred thread.11 on the image of the Divine Mother. One man asked, 'Why have they put the sacred thread on the Mother's person?' The master of the house said: 'Brother, I see that you have rightly understood the Mother. But I do not yet know whether the Divine Mother is male or female.'
"It is said that Mahamaya swallowed Śiva. When the six centres in Her were awakened, Śiva came out through Her thigh. Then Śiva created the Tantra philosophy.
"Take refuge in the ChitŚakti, the Mahamaya."
ISHAN: "Please bestow your grace on me."
MASTER: "Say to God
with a guileless heart, 'O God, reveal Thyself to
Faith in the guru
"One must get instruction from a guru. Once a man was looking for a stone image of Śiva. Someone said to him: 'Go to a certain river. There you will find a tree. Near it is a whirlpool. Dive into the water there, and you will find the image of Śiva.' So I say that one must get instruction from a teacher."
ISHAN: "That is true, sir."
MASTER: "It is Satchidananda that comes to us in the form of the guru. If a man is initiated by a human guru, he will not achieve anything if he regards his guru as a mere man. The guru should be regarded as the direct manifestation of God. Only then can the disciple have faith in the mantra given by the guru. Once a man has faith he, achieves all. The sudra Ekalavya learnt archery in the forest before a clay image of Drona; He worshipped the image as the living Drona; that by itself enabled him to attain mastery in archery.
"Don't mix intimately with brahmin pundits. Their only concern is to earn money. I have seen brahmin priests reciting the Chandi while performing the swastyayana. It is hard to tell whether they are reading the sacred book or something else. They turn half the pages without reading them. (All laugh.)
"A nail-knife suffices to kill oneself. One needs sword and shield to kill others. That is the purpose of the sastras.
"One doesn't really need to study the different scriptures. If one has no discrimination, one doesn't achieve anything through mere scholarship, even though one studies all the six systems of philosophy. Call on God, crying to Him secretly in solitude. He will give all that you need."
Sri Ramakrishna had heard that Ishan was building a house on the bank of the Ganges for the practice of spiritual discipline. He asked Ishan eagerly: "Has the house been built? Let me tell you that the less people know of your spiritual life, the better it will be for you. Devotees endowed with sattva meditate in a secluded corner or in a forest, or withdraw into the mind. Sometimes they meditate inside the mosquito net."
Now and then Ishan invited Hazra to his house. Hazra had a craze for outward purity. Sri Ramakrishna often discouraged him in this.
MASTER (to Ishan): "Let me tell you another thing. Don't be over-fastidious about outward purity. Once a sādhu felt very thirsty. A water-carrier was carrying water in his skin water-bag, and offered the water to the holy man. The sādhu asked if the skin was clean. The carrier said: 'Revered sir; my skin bag is perfectly clean. But inside your skin are all sorts of filthy things. That is why I can ask you to drink water from my skin. It won't injure you.' By 'your skin', the carrier meant the body, the belly, and so forth.
"Have faith in the
name of God. Then you won't need even to go to holy places."
Why should I go to Ganga or Gaya, to Kasi, Kanchi, or Prabhas,
So long as I can breathe my last with Kāli's name upon my lips?
Ishan remained silent.
MASTER (to Ishan): "Tell me if you have any more doubts."
ISHAN: "You said everything when you spoke of faith."
MASTER: "God can be realized by true faith alone. And the realization is hastened if you believe everything about God. The cow that picks and chooses its food gives milk only in dribblets, but if she eats all kinds of plants, then her milk flows in torrents.
"Once I heard a story. A man heard the command of God that he should see his Ideal Deity in a ram. He at once believed it. It is God who exists in all beings.
"A guru said to his disciple, 'It is Rāma alone who resides in all bodies.' The disciple was a man of great faith. One day a dog snatched a piece of bread from him and started to run away. He ran after the dog, with a jar of butter in his hand, and cried again and again: 'O Rāma, stand still a minute. That bread hasn't been buttered.'
"What tremendous faith Krishnakishore had! He used to say, 'By chanting "Om Krishna, Om Rāma", one gets the result of a million sandhyas.' Once he said to me secretly, 'I don't like the sandhya and other devotions any more; but don't tell anyone.'
"Sometimes I too feel that way. The Mother reveals to me that She Herself has become everything. One day I was coming from the pine-grove toward the Panchavati. A dog followed me. I stood still for a while near the Panchavati. The thought came to my mind that the Mother might say something to me through that dog.
"You were absolutely right when you said that through faith alone one achieves all."
ISHAN: "But we are householders."
MASTER: "What if you are? Through His grace even the impossible becomes possible. Ramprasad sang, 'This world is a mere framework of illusion.' Another man composed a song by way of reply:
This very world is a mansion of mirth;
"One should first realize God through spiritual discipline in solitude, and then live in the world. Only then can one be a King Janaka. What can you achieve otherwise?
"Further, take the case of Śiva. He has everything-Kartika, Ganesa, Lakshmi, and Sarasvati. Still, sometimes He dances in a state of divine fervour, chanting the name of Rāma, and sometimes He is absorbed in samādhi."