VISIT TO NANDA BOSE′S HOUSE
Tuesday, July 28, 1885
IT WAS ABOUT THREE O'CLOCK in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in Balarām's drawing-room with the devotees. Among others, Binode, Rākhāl, the younger Naren, and M. were present. The Master had come to Balarām's house in the morning and had taken his midday meal there. At Balarām's house the Deity was worshipped as Jagannāth, and the members of the family partook of the food offered to the Deity; Sri Ramakrishna used to say that the food at Balarām's house was very pure.
Pictures at Nanda's house
Narayan and certain other devotees had remarked to the Master that Nanda Bose, an aristocrat of Baghbazar, had many pictures of gods and goddesses in his house. Hence Sri Ramakrishna intended to pay a visit to Nanda's house in the afternoon. A Brahmin woman devoted to the Master lived near by. She often came to see him at Dakshineswar. She was extremely sorrowful over the death of her only daughter, and the Master had agreed to go to her house. She had invited him with great earnestness. From her house the Master was to go to the house of Ganu's mother, another devotee.
The younger Naren had said to Sri Ramakrishna that he would not be able to visit him often on account of his having to prepare for his examinations.
MASTER (to the younger Naren): "I didn't send for you today."
THE YOUNGER NAREN (smiling): "What can be done about it now?"
MASTER: "Well, my
child, I don't want to interfere with your studies. You may visit me
when you have leisure."
They entered the gate of Nanda's house, crossed the spacious square and stopped in front of the building. The members of the family greeted the Master. He asked M. to hand him the slippers and then got out of the palanquin and entered the large hall. It was a very spacious room. Pictures of gods and goddesses were hanging on all sides.
Nanda Bose and his brother Pasupati saluted Sri Ramakrishna. The devotees of the Master also arrived. Girish's brother Atul came, and Prasanna's father, who was a frequent visitor at Nanda's house, was there. Prasanna was a devotee of the Master.
The Master looked at the pictures. M. and a few other devotees stood around him. Pasupati was explaining the pictures to them.
In the second picture Rāma was blessing Hanuman, with His hand on the devotee's head. Hanuman's gaze was fixed on Rāma's Lotus Feet. The Master looked at the picture a long time and exclaimed with great fervour, "Ah me! Ah me!"
The fourth was of
Vāmana, the Dwarf, who was an Incarnation of Vishnu. The Master looked
intently at this picture.
Sri Ramakrishna then saw pictures of Dhumavati, Shorasi, Bhuvanesvari, Tara, and Kāli. He said: "All these portray the terrible aspects of the Divine Mother. If one keeps these pictures, one should worship them. But you must be lucky, to be able to hang them like that on the wall."
At the sight of Annapurna's picture, Sri Ramakrishna exclaimed with great fervour, "Grand! Grand!"
The next picture was one of Rādhika as monarch. She was seated on a throne in the Nikunja grove, surrounded by her woman attendants. Sri Krishna guarded the entrance of the grove as her officer.
Next was Sri Krishna's picture. Then came a picture of Sarasvati, the goddess of learning and music. It was in a glass case. She was in an ecstatic mood, playing melodies on the Vina.
Master praises his host
After seeing the pictures, Sri Ramakrishna went to the master of the house and said: "I am very happy today. It is grand! You are a real Hindu. You have these pictures instead of English ones. I am surprised!"
Nanda Bose was seated. He said to the Master: "Please take a seat. Why are you standing?"
Sri Ramakrishna sat down. He said: "These are very large pictures. You are a real Hindu."
NANDA: "I have European pictures also."
MASTER (smiling): "They are not like these. I am sure you don't pay much attention to them."
A picture of Kasha's Nava-Vishnu hung on the wall. Suresh Mitra, a beloved householder disciple of the Master, had had it painted. In this picture Sri Ramakrishna was pointing out to Keshab that people of different religions proceed to the same goal by different paths.
MASTER: "That was painted for Surendra."
PRASANNA'S FATHER (smiling): "You too are in that picture."
MASTER (smiling): "Yes, it contains everything. This is the ideal of modern times."
As he spoke Sri Ramakrishna manifested great spiritual fervour. He was in an ecstatic mood, talking to the Divine Mother. A few minutes later he said, like a drunkard, "I am not unconscious." Looking at the house, he said: "It is a huge mansion. But what does it consist of? Bricks, timber, and clay."
A little later he said, "I am very happy to see these pictures of gods and goddesses." He added: "It is not good to keep pictures of the terrible aspects of the Divine Mother. If one does, one should worship them."
PASUPATI (smiling): "Well, things will go on as long as She keeps them going."
MASTER: "That is true. But one should think of God. It is not good to forget Him."
NANDA: "But how little we think of God!"
MASTER: "One thinks of God through His grace."
NANDA: "But how can we obtain God's grace? Has He really the power to bestow grace?"
MASTER (smiling): "I see. You think as the intellectuals do: one reaps the results of one's actions. Give up these ideas. The effect of karma wears away if one takes refuge in God. I prayed to the Divine Mother with flowers in my hand: 'Here, Mother, take Thy sin; here, take Thy virtue. I don't want either of these; give me only real bhakti. Here, Mother, take Thy good; here, take Thy bad. I don't want any of Thy good or bad; give me only real bhakti. Here, Mother, take Thy dharma; here, take Thy adharma. I don't want any of Thy dharma or adharma; give me only real bhakti. Here, Mother, take Thy knowledge; here, take Thy ignorance. I don't want any of Thy knowledge or ignorance; give me only real bhakti. Here, Mother, take Thy purity; here, take Thy impurity. Give me only real bhakti.' "
NANDA "Can God violate law?"
MASTER: "What do you mean? He is the Lord of all. He can do everything. He who has made the law can also change it.
Nature of worldly enjoyment
"But you may very well talk that way. Perhaps you want to enjoy the world, and that is why you talk that way. There is a view that a man's inner spirit is not awakened unless he is through with enjoyment. But what is there to enjoy? The pleasures of 'woman and gold'? This moment they exist and the next moment they disappear. It is all momentary. And what is there in 'woman and gold'? It is like the hog plum-all stone and skin. If one eats it, one suffers from colic. Or like a sweetmeat. Once you swallow it, it is gone."
Is God partial?
Nanda remained silent a few minutes. Then he said: "Oh, yes. People no doubt talk that way. But is God partial? If things happen through God's grace, then I must say God is partial."
MASTER: "But God Himself has become everything-the universe and its living beings. You will realize it when you have Perfect Knowledge. God Himself has become the twenty-four cosmic principles: the mind, intellect, body, and so forth. Is there anyone but Himself to whom He can show partiality?"
NANDA : "Why has He assumed all these different forms? Why are some wise and some ignorant?"
MASTER: "It is His sweet will."
ATUL: "Kedār Bābu puts it nicely. Once a man asked him, 'Why has God created the world?' He replied, 'I was not present at the conference where God made the plans of His creation.'"
MASTER: "Oh! It is His sweet will"
So saying, the Master sang:
O Mother, all is done after Thine own sweet will:
Liberation for all
He continued: "The Divine Mother is full of bliss. Creation, preservation, and destruction are the waves of Her sportive pleasure. Innumerable are the living beings. Only one or two among them obtain liberation. And that makes Her happy.
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
NANDA: "It may be Her sweet will; but it is death to us."
MASTER: "But who are you? It is the Divine Mother who has become all this. It is only as long as you do not know Her that you say, 'I', 'I'.
"All will surely realize God. All will be liberated. It may be that some get their meal in the morning, some at noon, and some in the evening: but none will go without food. All, without any exception, will certainly know their real Self."
PASUPATI: "True, sir. It seems that it is God alone who has become everything."
Nature of "I"
MASTER: "Try to find out what this 'I' is. Is this 'I' the bones or flesh or blood or intestines? Seeking the 'I', you discover 'Thou'. In other words, nothing exists inside you but the power of God. There is no 'I', but only 'He'. (To Pasupati) You have so much wealth, but you have no egotism. It is not possible to rid oneself altogether of the ego; so, as long as it is there, let the rascal remain as the servant of God. (All laugh.) The ego that makes a man feel he is a devotee of God or a son of God or a servant of God is good. But the ego that makes a man attached to 'woman and gold' is the 'unripe ego'. That ego is to be renounced."
The head of the household and the others were very much pleased to hear this interpretation of the ego.
MASTER (to Pasupati): "There are two signs of knowledge: first, absence of pride, and second, a peaceful nature. You have both. Therefore you must have received the grace of God.
"Too much wealth makes one forget God. That is the very nature of wealth. Jadu Mallick has become very rich. Nowadays he doesn't talk of God. Formerly he used to enjoy spiritual talk a great deal.
"'Woman and gold' is a kind of wine. If a man drinks too much wine, he does not show his father and uncle the respect that is due to them. Very often he abuses them. A drunkard cannot distinguish between his superior and his inferior."
NANDA: "That is true, sir."
PASUPATI: "Sir, what do you think of Theosophy and Spiritualism? Are these true? What do you think of the solar plane, the lunar plane, the stellar plane?"
MASTER: "My dear sir, I don't know about these things. Why bother about them so much? You have come to the orchard to eat mangoes. Enjoy them. What is the use of your calculating how many mango-trees there are, how many millions of branches, how many billions of leaves? I have come to the orchard to eat mangoes. Let me enjoy them.
"Once a man's inner spirit is awakened, once he succeeds in knowing God, he doesn't feel the desire even to know about all this rubbish. How incoherently a delirious patient talks: 'I shall eat five seers of rice! I shall drink a whole tank of water!' 'Will you?' says the physician. 'All right! You will have them.' Saying this, the physician goes on with his smoke. But he pays attention to what the patient says when the patient is no longer delirious."
PASUPATI: "Will our delirium last for ever?"
MASTER: "Why should you think so? Fix your mind on God, and spiritual consciousness will be awakened in you."
PASUPATI (smiling): "Our union with God is only momentary. It doesn't last any longer than a pipeful of tobacco." (All Laugh.)
MASTER: "What if that is so? Union with God even for one moment surely gives a man liberation.
"Nārada said to Rāma: 'O Rāma, I want from Thee no other favour. Please give me real love for Thee; and please bless me, that I may not come under the spell of Thy world-bewitching māyā.'
"When a man sincerely prays to God, he is able to fix his mind on God and develop real love for His Lotus Feet.
"Give up all such notions as: 'Shall we be cured of our delirium?', 'What will happen to us?', 'We are sinners!' (To Nanda) One must have this kind of faith: 'What? Once I have uttered the name of Rāma, can I be a sinner any more?'"
NANDA: "Is there no after-life? What about punishment for our sins?"
MASTER: "Why not enjoy your mangoes? What need have you to calculate about the after-life and what happens then, and things like that? Eat your mangoes. You need mangoes. You need devotion to God. "
God, the Wish-fulfilling Tree
NANDA: "But where is the mango-tree? Where do I get mangoes?"
MASTER: "Tree? God is the eternal and infinite Brahman. He does exist; there is no doubt about it. He is eternal. But you must remember this, that He is the Kalpataru.
Come, let us go for a walk, O mind, to Kāli, the Wish-fulfilling Tree,
"You must go to the Kalpataru and pray. Only then will you obtain the fruits. Only then will the fruits fall from the tree. Only then will you be able to gather them. There are four fruits: dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. The jnanis seek the fruit of liberation; and the bhaktas, love of God, love without any motive behind it. They seek neither dharma nor artha nor kama.
About the after-life
"You ask about the after-life. According to the Gitā you will become in the next life what you think of in the hour of death. King Bharata was very much grieved over his pet deer; he died repeating the word 'deer'; therefore he was reborn as a deer. That is why day and night a man should practise worship, japa, meditation, and other spiritual exercises. Only then, by virtue of practice, will he be able to think of God in the hour of death. If one dies thus, thinking of God, one will acquire God's nature.
The master of the house had not yet shown any sign of serving Sri Ramakrishna with refreshments. Sri Ramakrishna himself said to Nanda: "You see, you should offer me something to eat. That is why the other day I said to Jadu's mother: 'Look here. Give me something to eat.' Otherwise it brings harm to the householder."
Nanda Bose ordered some sweets. Sri Ramakrishna began to eat them. Nanda and the others were watching the Master and his actions. After eating the sweets, Sri Ramakrishna wanted to wash his hands. The plate on which the sweets were served had been placed on the sheet covering the carpet; so the Master could not wash his hands in the plate. A servant brought a brass bowl for him to use. But Sri Ramakrishna would not use it, since only rajasic people used such things. He asked the servant to take it away. The master of the house said to him, "Please wash your hands." Absent-mindedly Sri Ramakrishna said: "What? Shall I wash my hands?"
The Master walked to the south verandah. He asked M. to pour water into his hands. M. poured water from a jug. The Master dried his hands with his cloth and returned to the room; Then he was offered betel-leaf on a tray. But the other guests had already taken some from the same tray; the Master did not accept any.
NANDA (to the Master): "May I say something?"
MASTER (smiling): "What?"
NANDA: "Why didn't you eat any betel-leaf? Everything else you did was proper; this alone seems to be otherwise."
MASTER: "Before I eat anything I offer it to God. It is a notion of mine."
NANDA :"But the betel-leaf would have gone to God all the same."
MASTER: "There is the path of Jnāna , and there is also the path of bhakti. According to the Jnāni everything can be eaten by applying the Knowledge of Brahman; but the follower of bhakti keeps a little distinction."
NANDA: "But I still maintain that you did not act rightly."
MASTER (smiling): "It is just a notion of mine. What you say is also right. That too is supported by the scriptures."
Sri Ramakrishna was warning Nanda of flatterers.
MASTER: "Beware of flatterers. They are after their own selfish purpose.(To Prasanna's father) Do you live in this house?"
PRASANNA'S FATHER: "No, sir, I am a neighbour. Won't you have a smoke?"
MASTER (very humbly): "No, please enjoy yourself. I don't feel like smoking now."
Nanda's house was like a palace. Sri Ramakrishna said to him: "Jadu hasn't such a big house. I told him so the other day."
NANDA :"He has built a new house at Jorashanko."
Sri Ramakrishna was encouraging Nanda.
MASTER (to Nanda): "Though you are a householder, still you have kept your mind on God. Is that a small thing? The man who has renounced the world will pray to Him as a matter of course. Is there any credit in that? But blessed indeed is he who, while leading a householder's life, prays to God. He is like a man who finds an object after removing a stone weighing twenty maunds.
Nārada and Hanuman
"One should pray to God, establishing with Him an appropriate relationship. Hanuman's love for God was mixed with knowledge; but Nārada's love for God was pure and unadulterated.
"Rāma asked Hanuman, 'Hanuman, what attitude do you cherish toward Me when you worship Me?' Hanuman answered: 'Sometimes I see that You are the whole and I am a part; sometimes I see that You are the Master and I am Your servant. But Rāma, when I have the Knowledge of Reality, then I find that You are I and I am You.'
"Rāma said to Nārada, 'Ask a favour of Me.' Nārada said, 'O Rāma, grant me the boon that I may have genuine love for Thy Lotus Feet and that I may not come under the spell of Thy world-bewitching māyā!'"
Sri Ramakrishna was about to take his leave.
MASTER (to Nanda): "According to the Gitā a man who is honoured and respected by many people possesses a special power of God. You have divine power."
NANDA: "All men have the same power."
Different degrees of divine manifestation
MASTER (sharply): "You all say the same thing. Can all men ever possess power to the same degree? God no doubt dwells in all beings as the all-pervading Spirit, but the manifestations of His Power are different in different beings.
"Vidyāsāgar, too, said the same thing. He said, 'Has God given some more power and some less?' Thereupon I said to him: 'If there are not different manifestations of His Power, then why have we come to see you? Have you grown two horns on your head?'"
Sri Ramakrishna rose. The devotees followed him. Pasupati accompanied them to the door.
Visit to the Brahmani's house
The Master arrived at the house of the brahmin lady who was grief-stricken on account of her daughter's death. It was an old brick house. Entering the house, the Master passed the cowshed on his left. He and the devotees went to the roof, where they took seats. People were standing there in rows. Others were seated. They were all eager to get a glimpse of Sri Ramakrishna.
Sri Ramakrishna was seated on a carpet. M., Narayan, Jogin, Devendra, and others were seated on a mat. A few minutes later the Younger Naren and some other devotees arrived. The brahmani's sister came to the Master and saluted him. She said, "Sister has just gone to Nanda Bose's house to inquire the reason for your delay in coming here. She will return presently."
Sri Ramakrishna sat there smiling, surrounded by devotees.
M. (to Devendra): "What a grand sight! All these people-young and old, men and women-standing in lines, eager to have a glimpse of him and hear his words."
DEVENDRA (to the
Master): "M. says that this place is better than Nanda's. The devotion
of these people is amazing."
The brahmani's sister exclaimed, "Here comes sister!"
Brahmani's indescribable joy
The brahmani came and saluted the Master. She was beside herself with joy. She did not know what to say. In a half-choked voice she said: "This joy is too much for me. Perhaps I shall die of it. Tell me, friends, how shall I be able to live? I did not feel such a thrill even when Chandi, my daughter, used to visit the house accompanied by liveried footmen, with armed guards lining both sides of the street. Oh! Now I have no trace of my grief at her death. I was afraid he would not come. Then I thought that, if that happened, I should throw into the Ganges all the things I had arranged for his reception and entertainment. I should not speak to him any more. If he visited a place, I should go there, look at him from a distance, and then come away.
"Let me go and tell everybody how happy I am. Let me go and tell Yogin of my good luck."
Still overwhelmed with joy she said: "A labourer won a hundred thousand rupees in a lottery. The moment he heard the news he died of joy. Yes, he really and truly died. I am afraid the same thing is going to happen to me. Please bless me, friends, or else I shall certainly die."
M. was amazed to see the brahmani's sincere joy and her ecstatic mood. He was about to take the dust of her feet.
"What are you doing?" she exclaimed and saluted M.
The brahmani was extremely happy at the sight of the devotees. She said: "I am so happy to see you all here. I have brought the younger Naren; without him, who would there be to make us laugh?"
She was talking like this when her sister came up and said: "Come down, sister! How can I manage things if you stay here? Can I do it all by myself?"
But the brahmani was overwhelmed with joy. She could not take her eyes from the Master and the devotees.
After a while she very respectfully took Sri Ramakrishna to another room and offered him sweets and other refreshments. The devotees were entertained on the roof.
It was about eight o'clock in the evening. Sri Ramakrishna was ready to leave. When he came to the door, the brahmani asked her sister-in-law to salute the Master. Next, one of her brothers took the dust of the Master's feet. Referring to him, she said: "He is one of my brothers. He is a fool" "No, no!" said the Master. "They are all good." A man showed the way with a light. At places it was dark. Sri Ramakrishna stood in front of the cow-shed. The devotees gathered around him. M. saluted the Master, who was about to go to the house of Ganu's mother.
Master's visit to Ganu's mother
Sri Ramakrishna was seated in the drawing-room of Ganu's mother's house. It was on the Street floor. The room was used by a concert party. Several young men played on their instruments now and then for the pleasure of the Master.
It was eight-thirty
in the evening. Moonlight flooded the streets, the houses, and the sky.
It was the first day after the full moon.
The younger Naren saw the boys in the street climbing the windows. He said to them: "Why are you here? Get away! Go home!" The Master said tenderly, "Let them stay." Every now and then he chanted: "Hari Om! Hari Om!"
The floor of the drawing-room was covered with a carpet. The young musicians sat on it and sang:
O Kesava, bestow Thy grace
Master praises the music.
MASTER: "Ah, how sweet the music is! How melodious the violin is! How good the accompaniments are! (Pointing to a boy) He and the flutist seem to be a nice pair."
The orchestra went on playing. After it was over, Sri Ramakrishna said joyfully, "It is very fine indeed." Pointing to a young man, he said, "He seems to know how to play every instrument." He said to M., "They are all good people."
After the concert the young musician said to the devotees, "We should like to hear some of you sing." The brahmani stood near the door. She said: "None of them knows how to sing. Perhaps Mohin Babu can sing. But he will not sing before the Master."
A YOUNG MAN: "Why? I can sing even before my father."
THE YOUNGER NAREN (laughing): "But he has not yet advanced that far."
All laughed. A few minutes later the brahmani said to Sri Ramakrishna, "Please come inside."
BRAHMANI: "The refreshments are served there. Please come."
MASTER: "Why not bring them here?"
BRAHMANI: "Ganu's mother requests you to bless the room with the dust of your feet. Then the room will be turned into Benares, and anyone dying in it will have no trouble hereafter."
Sri Ramakrishna went inside accompanied by the brahmani and the young men of the family. The devotees were strolling outside in the moonlight. M. and Binode were pacing the street south of the house and recalling the various incidents in the life of their beloved Master.
Sri Ramakrishna had returned to Balarām's house. He was resting in the small room to the west of the drawing-room. It was quite late, almost a quarter to eleven.
Sri Ramakrishna said to Jogin, "Please rub my feet gently." M. was sitting near by. While Jogin was rubbing his feet the Master said suddenly: "I feel hungry. I shall eat some farina pudding."
The brahmani had accompanied the Master and the devotees to Balarām's house. Her brother knew how to play the drums. Sri Ramakrishna said, "It will serve our purpose to send for her brother when Narendra or some other singer wants to sing."
Sri Ramakrishna ate a little pudding. Jogin and the other devotees left the room. M. was stroking the Master's feet. They talked together.
MASTER (referring to the brahmani and her relatives): "Ah! How happy they were!"
Martha and Mary
M: "How amazing! A similar thing happened with two women at the time of Jesus. They too were sisters, and devoted to Christ. Martha and Mary."
MASTER (eagerly); "Tell me the story."
M: "Jesus Christ, like you, went to their house with His devotees. At the sight of Him one of the sisters was filled with ecstatic happiness. It reminds me of a song about Gaurānga:
My two eyes sank in the sea of Gora's heavenly beauty
"The other sister, all by herself, was arranging the food to entertain Jesus. She complained to the Master, saying: 'Lord, please judge for Yourself-how wrong my sister is! She is sitting in Your room and I am doing all these things by myself.' Jesus said: 'Your sister indeed' is blessed. She has developed the only thing needful in human life: love of God."
MASTER: "Well, after seeing all this, What do you feel?"
Master about himself
M: "I feel that Christ, Chaitanyadeva, and yourself-all three are one and the same. It is the same Person that has become all these three."
MASTER: "Yes, yes! One! One! It is indeed one. Don't you see that it is He alone who dwells here in this way."
As he said this, Sri Ramakrishna pointed with his finger to his own body.
M: "You explained clearly, the other day, how God incarnates Himself on earth."
MASTER: "Tell me what I said."
M: "You told us to imagine a field extending to the horizon and beyond. It extends without any obstruction; but we cannot see it on account of a wall in front of us. In that wall there is a round hole. Through the hole we see a part of that infinite field."
MASTER: "Tell me what that hole is."
M: "You are that hole. Through you can be seen everything-that Infinite Meadow without any end."
Sri Ramakrishna was very much pleased. Patting M.'s back, he said: "I see you have understood that. That's fine!"
M: "It is indeed difficult to understand that. One cannot quite grasp how God, Perfect Brahman that He is, can dwell in that small body."
The Master quoted from a song:
one at all has found out who He is;
Master and Jesus
M: "You also told us about Jesus."
MASTER: "What did I say?"
M: "You went into samādhi at the sight of Jesus Christ's picture in Jadu Mallick's garden house. You saw Jesus come down from the picture and merge in your body."
Sri Ramakrishna was silent a few moments. Then he said to M.: "Perhaps there is a meaning in what has happened to my throat [referring to the sore in his throat]. This has happened lest I should make myself light before all; lest I should go to all sorts of places and sing and dance."
Sri Ramakrishna began to talk about Dwija.
MASTER: "He didn't come today. Why?"
M: "I asked him to come. He said he would. I don't know why he didn't."
MASTER: "He has great yearning. Well, he must be someone belonging to this. Isn't that so?"
M: "Yes, sir, it must be so. Otherwise, how could he have such yearning?"
Sri Ramakrishna lay down inside the mosquito curtain. M. fanned him. The Master turned on his side. He told M. how God incarnates Himself in a human body. He told him, further, about his, M.'s, spiritual ideal.
MASTER: "At the beginning I too passed through such states that I did not see divine forms. Even now I don't see them often."
M: "Among all the forms God chooses for His Lila , I like best His play as a human being."
MASTER: "That is enough. And you are seeing me."