Chapter 23

 

FESTIVAL AT SURENDRA'S HOUSE

Sunday, June 15, 1884

SRI RAMAKRISHNA arrived in the morning at the garden house of Surendra, one of his beloved householder disciples, in the village of Kankurgachi near Calcutta. Surendra had invited him and a large number of the devotees to a religious festival.

Occasions like this were a source of great happiness and rejoicing to the Master's devotees. He was then seen at his best. He joined with the others in devotional music and in chanting the names of God, frequently going into ecstasy. He poured out his entire soul in inspired talk, explaining the various phases of God-Consciousness. The impressions of such a festival lingered in the minds of all for many days.

The devotees stood in rows inside the big hall of the garden house to hear the music sung by the professional singers. The floor of the room was covered with a carpet over which was spread a white sheet; a few bolsters, pillows, and cushions lay here and there.

Krishna and Gopis at Vrindāvan

The musicians were singing of the episodes in the life of Sri Krishna especially associated with His divine love for the gopis of Vrindāvan. This was a theme which always appealed to the Master and would throw him into ecstatic moods.

Krishna, God Incarnate, lived the years of His boyhood in Vrindāvan as a cowherd. He tended His cows on the green meadows along the bank of the Jamuna and played His flute. The milkmaids could not resist the force of His divine attraction. At the sound of His flute they would leave their household duties and go to the bank of the sacred river. Their love for Krishna destroyed their attachment to worldly things. Neither the threats of their relatives nor the criticism of others could make them desist from seeking the company of Krishna. In the love of the gopis for Krishna there was not the slightest trace of worldliness. It was the innate attraction of God for pure souls, as of the magnet for iron. The author of the Bhagavata has compared this love to the all-consuming love of a woman for her beloved. Before the on rush of that love all barriers between man and God are swept away. The devotee surrenders himself completely to his Divine Beloved and in the end becomes one with Him.

Radha was the foremost of the gopis, and Krishna's chief playmate. She felt an indescribable longing for union with Him. A moment's separation from Krishna would rend her heart and soul.

During many a moonlit night Krishna would dance with Radha and the gopis in the sacred groves of Vrindāvan, and on such occasions the gopis would experience the highest religious ecstasy. At the age of eleven Krishna was called to be the king of Mathura. He left the gopis, promising them, however, His divine vision whenever they concentrated on Him in their hearts.

For centuries and centuries the lovers of God in 1ndia have been worshipping the Divine by recreating in themselves the yearning of the gopis for Krishna. Many of the folk-songs of India have as their theme this sweet episode of Krishna's life. Sri Chaitanya revived this phase of Hindu religious life by his spiritual practice and his divine visions. In his ecstatic music Chaitanya assumed the role of Radha and manifested the longing to be united with Krishna. For a long period Sri Ramakrishna also worshipped God as his beloved Krishna, looking on himself as one of the gopis or as God's handmaid.  

At Surendra's garden house the kirtan had begun early in the morning. The musicians were singing about the love of Krishna and Radha for each other. The Master was frequently in samādhi. The room was crowded with devotees, among them Bhavanath, Niranjan, Rākhāl , Surendra, Ram, and M., and many members of the Brahmo Samaj.

In accordance with the custom, the kirtan had begun with, an introductory song about Gaurānga.

Gaurānga embraces monastic life. He is being consumed with longing for a vision of Krishna. He leaves Navadvip and goes away as a wandering monk to seek out his Beloved. His devotees, unable to bear the pangs of separation, weep bitterly and beg Gaurānga to return.

The musician sang:

                                             O Gaur, come back to Nadia!

Master's ecstasy

Next the musician sang about the anguish of Radha at her separation from Krishna. When Sri Ramakrishna heard the song he suddenly stood up. Assuming the mood of Radha, he sang in a voice laden with sorrow, improvising the words: "O friend, either bring my beloved Krishna here or take me to Him." Thus singing, he completely lost himself in Radha and could not continue the song. He became speechless, his body motionless, his eyes half closed, his mind totally unconscious of the outer world. He was in deep samādhi.

 
Radha's anguish at separation from Krishna

After a long time he regained normal consciousness and said in the same heart-rending voice: "O friend, take me to my beloved Krishna and make me your bondslave. I shall be your handmaid for ever. O friend, it was you who taught me how to love Krishna. O Krishna! O Beloved of my soul!"

The professional musicians continued their song. They took the part of Radha and sang as if she were talking to her friend: "O friend, I shall not go again to the Jamuna to draw water. Once I beheld my beloved Friend under the kadamba tree. Whenever I pass it I am overwhelmed."

The Master again became abstracted. Heaving a deep sigh he said, "Ah me! Ah me!"

The song went on. Radha says:

Even the desire for Krishna's presence
Has cooled and refreshed my feverish body.

Now and then, the musicians improvised lines to the music, continuing in the attitude of Radha:

"O friends, you can wait. Show me Krishna, my Beloved."

Again: "Do not bother about my ornaments. I have lost my most precious Ornament."

And again: "Alas! I have fallen on evil days. My happy days are over." And finally: "This unhappy time lingers so long!"

Sri Ramakrishna improvised a line himself: "Are not better times yet in sight for me?" The musicians then improvised: "Such a long time has passed! Are not better times yet in sight for me?"

The musicians sang Radha's words to a friend:

O friend, I am dying! Surely I die.
The anguish of being kept apart
From Krishna is more than I can bear.
Alas! to whom then shall I leave.
My priceless Treasure? When I am dead,
I beg you, do not burn my body;
Do not cast it into the river.
See that it is not given to the flames;
Do not cast it into the water.
In this body I played with Krishna.
Bind my lifeless form, I beg you,
To the black tamala's branches;
Tie it to the tamala tree.
Touching tamala it touches black.
Krishna is black, and black is tamala;
Black is the colour that I love.
From earliest childhood I have loved it.
To the black Krishna my body belongs;
Let it not lie apart from black!

Radha reaches her last extremity. She faints away.

Radha has fallen to the ground;
She lies there lost to outward sense,
Repeating her precious Krishna's name,
And straightway doses both her eyes.
Ah, has the drama reached its end?
What ails you, O delight of Krishna?
Only a moment ago you spoke.
Her friends, anointing Radha's form
With cool and soothing sandal-paste, 
Attempt to bring her back to earth. 
Some of them weep in bitter grief;
They cannot bear to see her die.
Some sprinkle water on her face;
Perhaps she will revive again!
But, oh, can water give back life
To one who dies of Krishna's love?

Radha's friends chant Krishna's sweet name in her ears. This brings her back to partial consciousness. She looks at the black tamala tree and thinks that Krishna stands before her.

Krishna's name restores her life;
Once more her two eyes gaze around,
But Krishna's face she cannot see.
Alas, how bitterly she weeps!
"Where is my Krishna? Where is He
Whose name you chanted in my ears?
Bring Him but once before me here!"
Seeing the black tamala tree,
She stares at it and cries aloud:
"There is His crest! I see it clearly!
There is my "Krishna's lovely crest!"
But only a peacock did she see,
Whose glistening feathers she mistook
For the gay feather on Krishna's crest.

Krishna has gone to Mathura to assume His royal duties. He has discarded His cowherd's dress and flute and put on the royal regalia. Radha's friends, after a hurried consultation, send a gopi to Mathura as messenger. She meets a woman of that city, of her own age, who asks her where she comes from.

Radha's friend says: "I don't have to call Krishna. He Himself will come to me." But none the less, she follows the woman of Mathura and goes to Krishna's palace. In the street she weeps overcome with grief, and prays to Krishna: "O Hari, where are You? O Life of the gopis! O Enchanter of our hearts! O Beloved of Radha! O Hari, Remover of Your devotees' shame! Come to us once more! With great pride I said to the people of Mathura that You Yourself would come to me. Please do not humiliate me."

In scorn says the woman of Mathura:

"Oh, you are only a simple milkmaid!
How can you go to see our King,
Our Krishna, in your beggar's rags?
Behind seven doors His chamber stands.
You cannot enter. How can you go?
I die of shame to see your boldness.
Tell me, how  will you manage to enter?"

Says the gopi:

"Krishna! Beloved!
Soul of the gopis! Oh, where are You?
Come to me here and save my life.
Where are You, adorable Soul of the gopis?
Come to me, Lord of Mathura!
And save the life of Your sorrowing handmaid.
Ah, where are You, Beloved of Radha?
Lord of our hearts and Friend of our souls!
O Hari, Destroyer of our shame!
O priceless Treasure of the gopis!
Come to Your handmaid and save her honour."

Thus the messenger weeps and cries out for Krishna.

When the musicians sang, "Where are You, adorable Soul of the gopis?" the Master went into samādhi. As the music neared its end the musicians sang louder. Sri Ramakrishna was on his feet, again in deep samādhi. Regaining partial consciousness, he said in a half articulate voice, "Kitna! Kitna!" He was too much overwhelmed to utter Krishna's name distinctly.

The kirtan was coming to a close. At the reunion of Radha and Krishna the Master sang with the musicians, composing the lines himself:

Behold, there Radha stands by Krishna;
On His bosom she reclines.
Behold her standing at His left,
Like a golden creeper twining
Round a black tamala tree!

As the music came to a close the Master led the chorus. All chanted together, to the accompaniment of drums and cymbals: "Victory to Radha and Krishna! Hallowed be the names of Radha and Krishna!" The devotees felt a surge of divine emotion and danced around the Master. He too danced in an ecstasy of joy. The names of God echoed and reechoed in the house and garden.


Master's praise of Niranjan

After the music the Master sat with the devotees. Just then Niranjan arrived and prostrated himself before him. At the very sight of this beloved disciple the Master stood up; with beaming eyes and smiling face, and said: "You have come too! (To M.) You see, this boy is absolutely guileless. One cannot be guileless without a great deal of spiritual discipline in previous births. A hypocritical and calculating mind can never attain God.

"Don't you see that God incarnates Himself only in a family where innocence exists? How guileless Dasaratha was! So was Nanda, Krishna's father. There is a saying: 'Ah, how innocent a man he is!

He is just like Nanda.'

(To Niranjan) "I feel as if a dark veil has covered your face. It is because you have accepted a job in an office. One must keep accounts there. Besides, one must attend to many other things, and that always keeps the mind in a state of worry. You are serving in an office like other worldly people; but there is a slight difference, in that you are earning money for the sake of your mother. One must show the highest respect to one's mother, for she is the very embodiment of the Blissful Mother of the Universe. If you had accepted the job for the sake of wife and children, I should have said: 'Fie upon you! Shame! A thousand shames!'

(To Mani Mallick, pointing to Niranjan) "Look at this boy. He is absolutely guileless. But he has one fault: he is slightly untruthful nowadays. The other day he said that he would visit me again very soon, but he didn't come. (To Niranjan) That is why Rākhāl  asked you why you didn't come to see me while you were at Ariadaha, so near Dakshineswar."

NIRANJAN: "I was there only a couple of days."

MASTER (to Niranjan, pointing to M.) "He is the headmaster of a school. At my bidding he went to see you. (To M.) Did you send Baburam to me the other day?"

The Master went to an adjoining room and began to talk with some devotees there.

Be mad for God alone

MASTER (to M.): "Ah! How wonderful was the yearning of the gopis for Krishna! They were seized with divine madness at the very sight of the black tamala tree. Separation from Krishna created such a fire of anguish in Radha's heart that it dried up even the tears in her eyes! Her tears would disappear in steam. There were other times when nobody could notice the depth of her feeling. People do not notice the plunge of an elephant in a big lake."

M: "Yes, sir, that is true. Chaitanya, too, experienced a similar feeling. He mistook a forest for the sacred grove of Vrindāvan, and the dark water of the ocean for the blue Jamuna"

MASTER: "Ah! If anyone has but a particle of such prema! What yearning! What love! Radha possessed not only one hundred per cent of divine love, but one hundred and twenty-five per cent.

This is what it means to be intoxicated with ecstatic love of God. The sum and substance of the whole matter is that a man must love God, must be restless for Him. It doesn't matter whether you believe in God with form or in God without form. You may or may not believe that God incarnates Himself as man. But you will realize Him if you have that yearning. Then He Himself will let you know what He is like. If you must be mad, why should you be mad for the things of the world? If you must be mad, be mad for God alone."

Presently Sri Ramakrishna returned to the main hall of the house. A big pillow was placed near him for his use. Before touching it he said, "Om Tat Sat" Perhaps the pillow had been used by many worldly people, and that was why he purified it in this way. Bhavanath, M., and other devotees sat near him. It was getting late, but there was no indication that the meal was going to be served. The Master became impatient, like a child, and said: "I don't see any sign of food.

What's the matter? Where is Narendra?"

A DEVOTEE (with a smile): "Sir, Ram Babu is the manager of the feast. He is superintending everything."

MASTER (laughing): "Oh, Ram is the manager! Then we know what to expect."

A DEVOTEE: "Things like this always happen when he is the supervisor." (All laugh.)

MASTER (to the devotees): "Where is Surendra? What a nice disposition he has now! He is very outspoken; he isn't afraid to speak the truth. He is unstinting in his liberality. No one that goes to him for help comes away empty-handed. (To M.) You went to Bhagavan Das. What sort of man is he?"

M: "He is very old now. I saw him at Kalna. It was night. He lay on a carpet and a devotee fed him with food that had been offered to God. He can hear only if one speaks loudly into his ear.

Hearing me mention your name he said, 'You have nothing to worry about.'"

BHAVANATH (to M.): "You haven't been to Dakshineswar for a long time. The Master asked me about you and said one day, 'Has M. lost all taste for this place?' "

Bhavanath laughed as he said these words. The Master heard their conversation and said to M. in a loving voice: "Yes, that is true. Why haven't you been to Dakshineswar for such a long time?"

M. could  only stammer some lame excuses.

Just then Mahimacharan arrived. He lived at Cossipore near Calcutta. Mahimacharan held the Master in great respect and was a frequent visitor at the temple garden. He was a man of independent means, having inherited some ancestral property. He devoted his time to religious thought and to the study of the scriptures.  He was a man of some scholarship, having studied many books, both Sanskrit and English.

MASTER (to Mahima): "What is this? I see a steamship here. (All laugh.) We expect here a small boat at the most, but a real steamship has arrived.  But  then I know. It's the rainy season!" (Laughter.)

The Master was conversing with Mahimacharan. He asked him: "Isn't feeding people a kind of service to God? God exists in all beings as fire. To feed people is to offer oblations to that Indwelling Spirit. But then one shouldn't feed the wicked, I mean people who are entangled in gross worldliness or who have committed heinous crimes like adultery. Even the ground where such people sit becomes impure to a depth of seven cubits. Once Hriday fed a number of people at his native place. A good many of them were wicked. I said to Hriday: 'Look here. If you feed such people I shall leave your house at once.' (To Mahima) I hear that you used to feed people; but now you don't give any such feasts. Is it because your expenses have gone up?" (Laughter.)

The meal was to be served on the south verandah of the house. Leaf-plates were being placed on the floor. The Master said to Mahimacharan: "Please go there and see what they are doing. You may help them a little in serving the food. But I shouldn't ask you." Mahimacharan said: "Let them bring in the food. I shall see." Hemming and hawing, he went toward the kitchen, but presently he came back.

Sri Ramakrishna and the devotees enjoyed the meal greatly. Afterwards he rested awhile. About two o'clock in the afternoon Pratap Chandra Mazumdar of the Brahmo Samaj arrived. He was a co-worker of Keshab Chandra Sen and had been to Europe and America in connection with the Brahmo missionary work. He greeted Sri Ramakrishna, and the Master, too, bowed before him with his usual modesty.

They were soon engaged in conversation.

PRATAP: "I have been to Darjeeling recently for a change of air."

MASTER: "But your health hasn't much improved. What are you suffering from?"

PRATAP: "The same-illness that Keshab died of."

They began to talk about Keshab. Pratap said: "Even in boyhood he showed non-attachment to worldly things, seldom making merry with other boys. He was a student in the Hindu College. At that time he became friendly with Satyendra and through him made the acquaintance of his father, Devendranath Tagore. Keshab cultivated bhakti and at the same time practised meditation. At times he would be so much overcome with divine love that he would become unconscious. The main purpose of his  life was to introduce religion among householders.

The conversation next turned to a certain Marhatta lady.

PRATAP: "Some women of our country have been to England. This Marhatta lady, who is very scholarly, also visited England. Later she embraced Christianity. Have you heard her name, sir?"

Egotism brings calamity

MASTER: "No. But from what you say it seems to me that she has a desire for name and fame. That kind of egotism is not good. The feeling 'I am the doer' is the outcome of ignorance. But the feeling that God does everything is due to knowledge. God alone is the Doer; all others are mere instruments in His hands.

Parable of the calf

"The misfortune that befalls a man on account of his egotism can be realized if you only think of the condition of the calf. The calf says, 'Hamma! Hamma!' that is, 'I! I!' And just look at its misfortune! At times it is yoked to the plough and made to work in the field from sunup to sundown, rain or shine. Again, it may be slaughtered by the butcher. In that case the flesh is eaten and the skin tanned into hide. From the hide shoes are made. People put on these shoes and walk on the rough ground. Still that is not the end of its misfortunes. Drums are made from its skin and mercilessly beaten with sticks. At last its entrails are made into strings for the bow used in carding cotton. When used by the carder the string gives the sound 'Tuhu! Tuhu!', 'Thou! Thou!'-that is, 'It is Thou, O Lord! It is Thou!' It no longer says, 'Hamma! Hamma!', 'I! I!' Only then does the calf's trouble come to an end, and it is liberated. It doesn't return to the world of action.

"Likewise, when the embodied soul says: 'O God, I am not the doer; Thou art the Doer. I am the machine and Thou art its Operator', only then does its suffering of worldly life come to an end; only then does it obtain liberation. It no longer has to be reborn in this world of action."

A DEVOTEE: "How can a man get rid of his ego?"

MASTER: "You cannot get rid of it until you have realized God. If you find a person free from ego, then know for certain that he has seen God."

Signs of God-vision

DEVOTEE: "What, sir, are the signs of God-vision?"

 

MASTER: "Yes, there are such signs. It is said in the Bhagavata that a man who has seen God behaves sometimes like a child, sometimes like a ghoul, sometimes like an inert thing, and sometimes like a madman.

"The man who has seen God becomes like a child. He is beyond the three gunas; he is unattached to any of them. He behaves like a ghoul, for he maintains the same attitude toward things holy and unholy. Again, like a madman, he sometimes laughs and sometimes weeps. Now he dresses himself like a dandy and the next moment he goes entirely naked and roams about with his cloth under his arm. Therefore he seems to be a lunatic. Again, at times he sits motionless like an inert thing."

Harmless ego

DEVOTEE: "Does the ego disappear altogether after the realization of God?"

 

MASTER: "Yes, sometimes God totally effaces the ego of His devotee, as in the state of samādhi.

But in many cases He keeps a trace of ego. But that doesn't injure anybody. It is like the ego of a child. A five-year-old child no doubt says 'I', but that ego doesn't harm anybody. At the touch of the philosopher's stone, steel is turned into gold; the steel sword becomes a sword of gold.

The gold sword has the form of a sword, no doubt, but it cannot injure anybody. One cannot cut anything with a gold sword.

(To Pratap) "You have been to England. Tell us what you saw there."  

PRATAP: "The English people worship what you call 'gold'. Of course, there are also some good people in England, those who live an unattached life. But generally one finds there a great display of rajas in everything. I saw the same thing in America."

Secret of work

MASTER (to Pratap): "It is not in England alone that one sees attachment to worldly things. You see it everywhere. But remember that work is only the first step in spiritual life. God cannot be realized without sattva-love, discrimination, kindness, and so on. It is the very nature of rajas to involve a man in many worldly activities. That is why rajas degenerates into tamas. If a man is entangled in too many activities he surely forgets God. He becomes more and more attached to 'woman and gold'.

"But it is not possible for you to give up work altogether. Your very nature will lead you to it whether you like it or not. Therefore the scriptures ask you to work in a detached spirit, that is to say, not to crave the work's results. For example, you may perform devotions and worship, and practise austerities, but your aim is not to earn people's recognition or to increase your merit.

"To work in such a spirit of detachment is known as karmayoga. But it is very difficult. We are living in the Kaliyuga, when one easily becomes attached to one's actions. You may think you are working in a detached spirit, but attachment creeps into the mind from nobody knows where. You may worship in the temple or arrange a grand religious festival or feed many poor and starving people. You may think you have done all this without hankering after the results. But unknown to yourself the desire for name and fame has somehow crept into your mind. Complete detachment from the results of action is possible only for one who has seen God."

The path of bhakti for this age

A DEVOTEE: "Then what is the way for those who have not seen God? Must they give up all the duties of the world?"

MASTER: "The best path for this age is bhaktiyoga, the path of bhakti prescribed by Nārada: to sing the name and glories of God and pray to Him with a longing heart, 'O God, give me knowledge, give me devotion, and reveal Thyself to me!' The path of karma is extremely difficult. Therefore one should pray: 'O God, make my duties fewer and fewer; and may I, through Thy grace, do the few duties that Thou givest me without any attachment to their results! May I have no desire to be involved in many activities!'

"It is not possible to give up work altogether. Even to think or to meditate is a kind of work.

As you develop love for God, your worldly activities become fewer and fewer of themselves. And you lose all interest in them. Can one who has tasted a drink made of sugar candy enjoy a drink made of ordinary molasses?"

First God and then worldly duties

A DEVOTEE: "The English people always exhort us to be active. Isn't action the aim of life then?"

 

MASTER: "The aim of life is the attainment of God. Work is only a preliminary step; it can never be the end. Even unselfish work is only a means; it is not the end.

"Sambhu Mallick once said to me, 'Please bless me, sir, that I may spend all my money for good purposes, such as building hospitals and dispensaries; making roads, and digging wells.' I said to him: 'It will be good if you can do these things in a spirit of detachment. But that is very difficult. Whatever you may do, you must always remember that the aim of this life of yours is the attainment of God and not the building of hospitals and dispensaries. Suppose God appeared before you and said to you, "Accept a boon from Me." Would you then ask Him, "O God, build me some hospitals and dispensaries"? Or would you not rather pray to Him: "O God, may I have pure love at Your Lotus Feet! May I have Your uninterrupted vision!"? Hospitals, dispensaries, and all such things are unreal. God alone is real and all else unreal. Furthermore, after realizing God one feels that He alone is the Doer and we are but His instruments. Then why should we forget Him and destroy ourselves by being involved in too many activities? After realizing Him, one may, through His grace, become His instrument in building many hospitals and dispensaries.'

"Therefore I say again that work is only the first step. It can never be the goal of life. Devote yourself to spiritual practice and go forward. Through practice you will advance more and more in the path of God. At last you will come to know that God alone is real and all else is illusory, and that the goal of life is the attainment of God.

The story of the wood-cutter

"Once upon a time a wood-cutter went into a forest to chop wood. There suddenly he met a brahmachari. The holy man said to him, 'My good man, go forward.' On returning home the wood-cutter asked himself, 'Why did the brahmachari tell me to go forward?' Some time passed. One day he remembered the brahmachari's words. He said to himself, 'Today I shall go deeper into the forest.' Going deep into the forest, he discovered innumerable sandal-wood trees. He was very happy and returned with cart-loads of sandal-wood. He sold them in the market and became very rich.

"A few days later he again remembered the words of the holy man to go forward. He went deeper into the forest and discovered a silver-mine near a river. This was even beyond his dreams. He dug out silver from the mine and sold it in the market. He got so much money that he didn't even know how much he had.

"A few more days passed. One day he thought: 'The brahmachari didn't ask me to stop at the silver-mine; he told me to go forward.' This time he went to the other side of the river and found a gold-mine. Then he exclaimed: 'Ah, just see! This is why he asked me to go forward.'

"Again, a few days afterwards, he went still deeper into the forest and found heaps of diamonds and other precious gems. He took these also and became as rich as the god of wealth himself.

Go forward

"Therefore I say that, whatever you may do, you will find better and better things if only you go forward. You may feel a little ecstasy as the result of japa, but don't conclude from this that you have achieved everything in spiritual life. Work is by no means the goal of life. Go forward, and then you will be able to perform unselfish work. But again I say that it is most difficult to perform unselfish work. Therefore with love and longing in your heart pray to God: 'O God, grant me devotion at Thy Lotus Feet and reduce my worldly duties. Please grant me the boon that the few duties I must do may be done in a detached spirit.' If you go still farther you will realize God.

You will see Him. In time you will converse with Him."

Next the conversation turned to the quarrels among the members of the Brahmo Samaj. They had had a misunderstanding about the right to preach in the temple after Keshab's death.

MASTER (to Pratap): "I hear that some members of the Samaj have quarrelled with you about the altar. But they are most insignificant persons-mere nobodies.

(To the devotees): "People like Pratap and Amrita are like good conchshells, which give out a loud sound. And the rest, about whom you hear so much, don't give out any sound at all." (All laugh.)

PRATAP: "Speaking of sounds, even such a worthless thing as a mangostone makes a sound!"

MASTER (to Pratap): "One can very well understand the inner feeling of a teacher of your Brahmo Samaj by hearing his preaching. Once I went to a meeting of a Hari Sabha. The preacher of the day was a pundit named Samadhyayi. And can you imagine what he said? He said in the course of his sermon: 'God is dry. We must make Him sweet and fresh with our love and devotion.' I was stunned to hear these words. Then I was reminded of a story. A boy once said: 'At  my uncle's house there are many horses. Oh, yes! His whole cow-shed is full of them.' Now if it was really a cow-shed, then horses could not be kept there. Possibly he had only cows. What did people think on hearing such an incoherent statement? They believed that there were surely no such animals as horses in the shed." (Laughter.)

A DEVOTEE: "True, sir, there were not only no horses, but possibly there were also no cows!"

(Laughter.)

MASTER: "Just fancy, to describe God, who is of the very nature of Love and Bliss, as dry! It only proves that the man has never experienced what God is like.

Master's advice to Pratap

(To Pratap) "Let me tell you something. You are a learned and intelligent and serious-minded soul. Keshab and you were like the two brothers, Gaur and Nitai. You have had enough of lectures, arguments, quarrels,discussions, and dissensions. Can such things interest you any more? Now gather your whole mind and direct it to God. Plunge deep into God."

PRATAP: "Yes, sir, you are right. That is surely my only duty now. But I am doing all these things only to perpetuate Keshab's name."

MASTER (with a smile): "No doubt you say now that you are doing all this to keep his name alive; but in a few days you won't feel that way. Listen to a story. A man had built a house on a hill.

It was only a mud hut, but he had built it with great labour. A few days after, there came a violent storm and the hut began to rock. The man became very anxious to save it and prayed to the god of the winds,'O god of the winds, please don't wreck the house!' But the god of the winds paid no heed to his prayer. The house was about to crash. Then he thought of a trick. He remembered that Hanuman was the son of the god of the winds. At once he cried out with great earnestness: 'O revered sir, please don't pull down the house. It belongs to Hanuman. I beseech you to protect it.' But still the house continued to shake violently. Nobody seemed to listen to his prayer. He repeated many times, 'Oh, this house belongs to Hanuman!' But the fury of the wind did not abate. Then he remembered that Hanuman was the devoted servant of Rāma, whose younger brother was Lakshmana. Desperately the man prayed, crying aloud, 'Oh, this house belongs to Lakshmana!' But that also failed to help matters. So the man cried out as a last resort: 'This is Rāma's house. Don't break it down, O god of the winds! I beseech you most humbly.' But this too proved futile, and the house began to crash down. Whereupon the man, who now had to save his own life, rushed out of it with the curse: 'Let it go! This is the devil's own hut!'

(To Pratap): "You don't have to perpetuate Keshab's name. Remember that he achieved all his success through the will of God. Through the divine will his work was established, and through the divine will it is disintegrating. What can you do about it? Now it is your bounden duty to give your entire mind to God, to plunge deep into the Ocean of His Love."

Saying these words the Master sang in his sweet voice:

Dive deep, O mind, dive deep in the Ocean of God's Beauty;
If you descend to the uttermost depths,
There you will find the gem of Love.

Go seek, O mind, go seek Vrindāvan in your heart,
Where with His loving devotees
Sri Krishna sports eternally.

Light up, O mind, light up true wisdom's shining lamp,
And let it burn with steady flame
Unceasingly within your heart.

Who is it that steers your boat across the solid earth?
It is your guru, says Kubir;
Meditate on his holy feet.

The Master continued, addressing Pratap: "Did you listen to the song? You have had enough of lectures and quarrels. Now dive deep into the Ocean of God. There is no fear of death from plunging into this Ocean, for this is the Ocean of Immortality. Don't think that this will make you lose your head. Never for a moment harbour the idea that by thinking too much of God one becomes insane. Once I said to Narendra"

PRATAP: "Who is Narendra, sir?"

MASTER: "Oh, never mind. There is a young man of that name. I said to Narendra: 'Look here, my boy. God is the Ocean of Bliss; Don't you want to plunge into this Ocean? Suppose there is a cup of syrup and you are a fly. Where will you sit to sip the syrup?' Narendra said, 'I will sit on the edge of the cup and stick my head out to drink it.' 'Why?' said I. 'Why should you sit on the edge?' He replied, 'If I go far into the syrup, I shall be drowned and lose my life.' Then I said

to him: 'But, my child, there is no such fear in the Ocean of Satchidananda. It is the Ocean of Immortality. By plunging into it a man does not die; he becomes immortal. Man does not lose his consciousness by being mad about God.

Knowledge and ignorance

(To the devotees) "The feeling of 'I ' and 'mine' is ignorance. People say that Rani Rasmani built the Kāli temple; but nobody says it was the work of God. They say that such and such a person established the Brahmo Samaj; but nobody says it was founded through the will of God. This feeling, 'I am the doer', is ignorance. On the contrary, the idea, 'O God, Thou art the Doer and I am only an instrument; Thou art the Operator and I am the machine', is Knowledge. After attaining Knowledge a man says: 'O God, nothing belongs to me-neither this house of worship nor this Kāli temple nor this Brahmo Samaj. These are all Thine. Wife, son, and family do not belong to me. They are all Thine.'

"To love these objects, regarding them as one's own, is māyā. But to love all things is daya, compassion. To love only the members of the Brahmo Samaj or of one's own family is māyā; to love one's own countrymen is māyā. But to love the people of all countries, to love the members of all religions, is daya. Such love comes from love of God, from daya.

"Māyā entangles a man and turns him away from God. But through daya one realizes God. Sages like Sukadeva and Nārada always cherished daya in their hearts."

PRATAP: "Revered sir, are those who live with you making progress in spiritual life?"

MASTER: "I tell people that there is nothing wrong in the life of the world. But they must live in the world as a maidservant lives in her master's house.'

Referring to her master's house, she says, 'That is our house.' But her real home is perhaps in a far-away village. Pointing out her master's house to others, she says, no doubt, 'This is our house', but in her heart she knows very well that it doesn't belong to her and that her own house is in a faraway village. She brings up her master's son and says, 'My Hari has grown very naughty', or 'My Hari doesn't like sweets.' Though she repeats, 'My Hari' with her lips, yet she knows in her heart that Hari doesn't belong to her, that he is her master's son.

"Thus I say to those who visit me: 'Why don't you live in the world? There is no harm in that.

But always keep your mind, on God. Know for certain that house, family and property are not yours. They are God's. Your real  home is in God.' Also I ask them to pray always with a longing heart for love of God's Lotus Feet."

Again the conversation turned to the English people. A devotee said, "Sir, I understand that nowadays the pundits of England do not believe in the existence of God."

PRATAP: "However they may talk, I don't believe that any of them is a real atheist. Many of them have had to admit that there is a great power behind the activities of the universe."

MASTER: "Well, that is enough. They believe in Śakti, don't they? Then why should they be atheists?"

PRATAP: "They also believe in the moral government of the universe."

Pratap was now about to take leave of the Master.

MASTER (to Pratap): "What more shall I say to you? My only request is that you do not involve yourself in quarrels and dissensions any more. Another  thing. It is 'woman and gold' that keeps men away from God. That is the barrier. Don't you find that everyone has nothing but praise for his own wife? (All laugh.) A wife may be good or bad; but if you ask her husband about her he will always say, 'Oh, she is very good-'"

At this point Pratap bade the Master good-bye. He did not wait to hear the end of Sri Ramakrishna's words about the renunciation of "woman and gold". Those burning words touched the hearts of the devotees and were carried away on the wind through the gently rustling leaves in the garden.

A few minutes later Mani Mallick said to Sri Ramakrishna: "Sir, it is time for you to leave for Dakshineswar. Today Keshab's mother and the other ladies of his family are going to the temple garden to visit you. They will be hurt if they do not find you there."

Keshab had passed away only a few months before. His old mother and his other relatives wanted to visit the Master.

MASTER (to Mani Mallick): "Don't hurry me, please. I didn't sleep well. I can't rush. They are going to Dakshineswar. What am I to do about it? They will stroll in the garden and enjoy it thoroughly."

After resting a little the Master was ready to leave for Dakshineswar. He was thinking of Surendra's welfare. He visited the different rooms, softly chanting the holy name of God.

Suddenly he stood still and said: "I didn't eat any luchi at meal time. Bring me a little now."

He ate only a crumb and said: "There is much meaning in my asking for the luchi. If I should remember that I hadn't eaten any at Surendra's house, then I should want to come back for it."

(All laugh.)

MANI MALLICK: "That would have been nice. Then we too should have come with you." 

The devotees laughed.

Friday, June 20, 1884

It was dusk. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in his room, absorbed in contemplation of the Divine Mother. Now and then he was chanting Her name. Rākhāl , Adhar, M., and several other devotees were with him.

After a while the evening worship began in the temples. Adhar left the room to see the worship.

Sri Ramakrishna and M. conversed.

MASTER: "Tell me, does Baburam intend to continue his studies? I said to him, 'Continue your studies to set an example to others.' After Sita had been set free, Bibhishana refused to become king of Ceylon. Rāma said to him: 'You should become king to open the eyes of the ignorant.

Otherwise they will ask you what you have gained as a result of serving Me. They will be pleased to see you acquire the kingdom.'

Baburam's spiritual nature

"I noticed the other day that Baburam, Bhavanath, and Harish have a feminine nature. In a vision I saw Baburam as a goddess with a necklace around her neck and with woman companions about her.

He has received something in a dream. His body is pure. Only a very little effort will awaken his spiritual consciousness.

Concerning Rākhāl

"You see, I am having some difficulty about my physical needs. It will be nice if Baburam lives with me. The nature of these attendants of mine is undergoing a change. Lātu is always tense with spiritual emotion. He is about to merge himself in God. Rākhāl  is getting into such a spiritual mood that he can't do anything even for himself. I have to get water for him. He isn't of much service to me.

"Among the youngsters Baburam and Niranjan are rather exceptional. If other boys come in the future, they will, it seems to me, receive instruction and then go away.

"But I don't want Baburam to tear himself away from his family. It may make trouble at home.

(Smiling) When I ask him, 'Why don't you come?' he says, 'Why not make me come?' He looks at Rākhāl  and weeps. He says, 'Rākhāl  is very happy here.'

"Rākhāl  now lives here as one of the family. I know that he will never again be attached to the world. He says that worldly enjoyments have become tasteless to him. His wife came here on her way to Konnagar. She is fourteen. He too was asked to go to Konnagar, but he didn't go. He said,

'I don't like merriment and gaiety.'

"What do you think of Niranjan?" M: "He is very handsome."

Niranjan's guilelessness

MASTER: "No, I am not asking about his looks. He is guileless. One can easily realize God if one is free from guile. Spiritual instruction produces quick results in a guileless heart. Such a heart is like well cultivated land from which all the stones have been removed.  No sooner is the seed sown than it germinates. The fruit also appears quickly.

"Niranjan will not marry. It is 'woman and gold' that causes entanglement. Isn't that so?"

M: "Yes, sir."

MASTER: "What will one gain by renouncing betel-leaf and tobacco? The real renunciation is the renunciation of 'woman and gold.'

"I came to know in an ecstatic mood that, though Niranjan had accepted a job in an office, he would not be stained by it. He is earning money for his mother. There is no harm in that.

"The work you are doing won't injure you either. What you are doing

is good. Suppose a clerk is sent to jail; he is shut up there and chained, and at last he is released. Does he cut capers after his release?  Of course not. He works again as a clerk. It is not your intention to accumulate money. You only want to support your family. Otherwise, where will they go?"

M: "I shall be relieved if someone takes charge of them."

MASTER: "That is true. But now do 'this' as well as 'that' "

M: "It is great luck to be able to renounce everything."

MASTER: "That is true. But people act according to their  inherent tendencies. You have a few more duties to perform. After these are over you will have peace. Then you will be released. A man cannot easily get out of the hospital once his name is registered there. He is discharged only when he is completely cured.

Two classes of Master's devotees

"The devotees who come here may be divided into two groups. One group says, 'O God, give me liberation.' Another group, belonging to the inner circle, doesn't talk that way. They are satisfied if they can know two things: first, who I6 am; second, who they are and what their relationship to me is. You belong to this second group;  otherwise. . .

"Bhavanath, Baburam, and a few others have a feminine nature. Harish sleeps in a woman's cloth.

Baburam says that he too likes the womanly attitude. So I am right. Bhavanath also is like that.

But Narendra, Rākhāl , and Niranjan have a masculine nature.

Significance of the Master's injuring his arm

"Please tell me one thing. What is the significance of my having hurt my arm? Once my teeth were broken while I was in a state of ecstasy. It is the arm this time."

Seeing M. silent, the Master himself continued the conversation.

MASTER: "My arm was broken in order to destroy my ego to its very root. Now I cannot find my ego within myself any more. When I search for it I see God alone. One can never attain God without completely getting rid of the ego. You must have noticed that the chatak bird has its nest on the ground but soars up very high.

"Captain says I haven't acquired any occult powers because I eat fish. I tremble with fear lest I should acquire those powers. If I should have them, then this place would be turned into a hospital or a dispensary. People would flock here and ask me to cure their illness. Is it good to have occult powers?"

M: "No, sir. You have said to us that a man cannot realize God if he possesses even one of the eight occult powers."

MASTER: "Right you are. Only the small-minded seek them. If one asks something of a rich man, one no longer receives any favour from him. The rich man doesn't allow such a person to ride in the same carriage with him. Even if he does, he doesn't allow the man to sit near him. Therefore love without any selfish motive is best.

"God with form and the formless God are both equally true. What do you say? One cannot keep one's mind on the formless God a long time. That is why God assumes form for His devotees.

"Captain makes a nice remark in this connexion. He says that when a bird gets tired of soaring very high it perches on a tree and rests. First is the formless God, and then comes God with form.

"I shall have to go to your house once. I saw in a vision that the houses of Adhar, Balarām, and Surendra were so many places for our forgathering. But it makes no difference to me whether they come here or not."

M: "That's right. Why shouldn't it be so? One must feel misery if one feels happiness. But you are beyond both."

MASTER: "Yes. Further, I think of the magician and his magic. The magician alone is real. His magic is illusory, like a dream. I realized this when I heard the Chandi recited. Sumbha and Nisumbha  were scarcely born when I learnt that they both were dead."

M: "Yes, sir. Once I was going to Kalna with Gangadhar in a steamer. A country boat struck our ship and sank with twenty or twenty-five passengers. They all disappeared in the water, like foam churned up by the steamer.

"May I ask you one thing? Does a man watching magic really feel compassion when he sees suffering in the performance? Does he feel, at that time, any sense of responsibility? One thinks of compassion only when one feels responsibility. Isn't that so?"

How a Jnāni looks on the illusory world

MASTER: "A Jnāni sees everything at once-God, māyā, the universe, and living beings. He sees that Vidyā-māyā, Avidyā-māyā, the universe, and all living beings exist and at the same time do not exist. As long as he is conscious of 'I', he is conscious of 'others' too. Nothing whatsoever exists after he cuts through the whole thing with the sword of jnāna. Then even his 'I' becomes as unreal as the magic of the magician."

M. was  reflecting on these words, when the Master said: "Do you know what it is like? It is as if there were a flower with twenty-five layers of petals, and you cut them all with one stroke.

"The idea of responsibility! Goodness gracious! Men like Sankaracharya and Sukadeva kept the 'ego of Knowledge'. It is not for man to show compassion, but for God. One feels compassion as long as one has the 'ego of Knowledge'. And it is God Himself who has become the 'ego of Knowledge'.

Supreme power of Ādyāśakti in the relative world

"You may feel a thousand times that it is all magic; but you are still under the control of the Divine Mother. You cannot escape Her. You are not free. You must do what She makes you do. A man attains Brahmajnana only when it is given to him by the Ādyāśakti, the Divine Mother. Then alone does he see the whole thing as magic; otherwise not.

"As long as the slightest trace of ego remains, one lives within the jurisdiction of the Ādyāśakti. One is under Her sway. One cannot go beyond Her.

"With the help of the Ādyāśakti, God sports as an Incarnation. God, through His Śakti, incarnates Himself as man. Then alone does it become possible for the Incarnation to carry on His work.

Everything is due to the Śakti of the Divine Mother.

"When anyone asked the former manager of the temple garden a great favour, the manager would say, 'Come after two or three days.' He must ask the proprietor's permission.

"God will incarnate Himself as Kalki at the end of the Kaliyuga. He will be born as the son of a brahmin. Suddenly and unexpectedly a sword and horse will come to him. . . ."

Adhar returned to the Master's room after watching the evening worship in the temples.

MASTER (to Adhar and the others): "Bhuvan was here and brought me twenty-five Bombay mangoes and some sweets.  She said to me, 'Will you eat a mango?' I said, 'My stomach is heavy today.' And to tell you the truth, I am feeling uncomfortable after eating a few of the sweets."

Bhuvanmohini was a nurse who used to visit Sri Ramakrishna now and then.

The Master could not eat the food offerings of everyone, especially of physicians and nurses. It was because they accepted money from the sick in spite of the suffering of these people.

MASTER: "Keshab Sen's mother, sisters, and other relatives came here; so I had to dance a little.

I had to entertain them. What else could I do? They were so grief-stricken!"

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