SRI RAMAKRISHNA AT SYAMPUKUR
October 18, 1885
THE DOCTORS HAD DEFINITELY diagnosed Sri Ramakrishna's illness as cancer. No proper arrangement for his treatment and nursing could be made at Dakshineswar. He needed the constant attention of a physician, which could not be given at the temple garden. Furthermore, the devotees who lived in Calcutta found it very inconvenient to attend on him daily at Dakshineswar. Therefore the older devotees had rented a small two-storey house in Baghbazar, Calcutta, and had brought the Master there. Sri Ramakrishna, however, had not liked the place and had gone to Balarām's house. In a few days a new house had been engaged in Syampukur, in the northern section of Calcutta, and the Master had been taken there. He had been placed under the treatment of Dr. Mahendra Lal Sarcar. The new building had two large rooms and two smaller ones on the second floor. One of the larger rooms was used as the parlour, and in the other the Master lived. Of the two smaller rooms, one was used as a sleeping-room by the devotees, and the other by the Holy Mother when she came there. Near the exit to the roof was a small, covered, square space, where the Holy Mother stayed during the day and prepared the Master's food.
It was Vijaya day, the fourth day of the worship of Durga, when the image is immersed in water. On that day the Divine Mother returns to Her heavenly abode at Mount Kailas, leaving gloom in the hearts of Her devotees. It was eight o'clock in the morning. The air was chilly. Though ill, Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on his bed. He was like a five year-old child who knows nothing but its mother. NavaGopal, M., and a few other devotees were present.
Master consoles Surendra
Surendra arrived and sat down. The Divine Mother had been worshipped at his house for the past three days. Sri Ramakrishna had not been able to go there on account of his illness, but he had sent some of his disciples. Surendra was in a very unhappy mood because on this day the image of the Mother was to be immersed in the water.
SURENDRA "I had to run away from home."
MASTER (to M.): "What if the image is thrown into the water? May Mother dwell in the heart!"
Surendra was disconsolate. He was crying to the Divine Mother and talking to Her. At this yearning of his beloved disciple Sri Ramakrishna could not control his tears. He looked at M. and said in a choked voice: "What bhakti! Ah, what great love he feels for God!"
MASTER (to Surendra): "Yesterday evening at seven or seven-thirty I saw your worship hall in a vision. I saw the divine image full of effulgence. This place and your hall were joined by a stream of light flowing between them."
SURENDRA "At that time I was crying to the Mother in the worship hall. My elder brothers had gone upstairs. I thought the Mother said, 'I will come again.' " It was about eleven o'clock in the morning. Sri Ramakrishna finished his meal. M. poured water into his hand for him to rinse his mouth.
MASTER (to M.): "Rākhāl has indigestion.
Praising the Gitā
It is best to take only sattvic food. Haven't you read about it in the Gitā? Don't you read the Gitā?"
M: "Yes, sir. The Gitā speak of temperance in eating Sattvic food, rajasic food, tamasic food; sattvic kindness, sattvic ego, and so on-all these are described in the Gitā."
MASTER: "Have you a copy of the book?"
M: "Yes, sir."
MASTER: "It contains the essence of all the scriptures."
M: 'The Gitā describes various ways of realizing God. You too say that God can be reached by various paths: knowledge, devotion, work, and meditation."
Secret of karma-yoga
MASTER: "Do you know the meaning of karma yoga? It is to surrender to God the fruit of all action."
M: "Yes, sir, I have read that in the Gitā. It also says that there are three ways of performing action."
MASTER: "What are they?"
M: "First, one may perform karma to attain Jnāna ; second, to teach others; third, under the impulse of one's nature."
After rinsing his mouth the Master chewed betel-leaf.
M. and Dr. Sarkar
Sri Ramakrishna was talking with M. about Dr. Sarkar. M. had been at the doctor's house the previous day to report the Master's condition.
MASTER: "What did you talk about?"
M: "There are many books in the doctor's room. I took out one to read, and now and then read a passage aloud to Dr. Sarkar. It was a book by Sir Humphry Davy. He wrote about the necessity of Divine Incarnation."
MASTER: "Indeed! What did you say to the doctor?"
M: "There was one passage that stated that Divine Truth must be made human truth to be appreciated by us; therefore Divine Incarnation is necessary."
MASTER: "Splendid! That's very good."
M: "The author gave the illustration of the sun: one cannot look at the sun, but one can look at its reflected rays."
MASTER: "Very fine. Anything else?"
M: "Another passage stated that real knowledge is faith."
MASTER: "That too is very good. If one has faith one has everything."
M: "The author dreamt of the Roman gods and goddesses."
MASTER: "Do such books really exist? Surely the author was inspired by God. Did you talk of anything else?"
M: "People like Dr. Sarkar speak of doing good to the world. So I told him what you had said about it."
MASTER (smiling): "What did I say?"
M: "About Sambhu Mallick. He had said to you: 'It is my desire to devote my money to the building of schools, hospitals, dispensaries, and the like. That will do good to many.' Thereupon you had said to him, 'Suppose God appears before you; will you then ask Him to build schools, hospitals, and dispensaries?' I told the doctor another thing."
MASTER: 'Those who are born to do work belong to a different class. What else did you say?"
M: "I said to the doctor: 'If your aim is to visit the image of Mother Kāli, what will you gain by spending all your time in giving alms to the poor by the roadside? First you had better somehow visit the image. Afterwards you may give alms to your heart's content."
MASTER: "Did you talk about anything else?"
M: "Yes. I told him that many of those who come to you have conquered lust. Thereupon the doctor replied, 'I too have conquered lust.' I said: 'You are a great man. It is no wonder that you have conquered lust. But the amazing thing is that under his influence even insignificant creatures have conquered it.' Afterwards I told him what you had said to Girish."
MASTER (smiling): "What did I say?"
M: "You said to Girish, 'The doctor has not been able to surpass you.' You said that with reference to his calling you a Divine Incarnation."
MASTER: "Discuss the doctrine of Divine Incarnation with Dr. Sarkar. He who liberates others is an Incarnation of God. The scriptures speak of ten, of twenty-four, and also of innumerable Incarnations."
M: "Dr.Sarkar is keenly interested in Girish Ghosh. He always asks me whether Girish has given up drinking. He keeps a sharp eye on him."
MASTER: "Did you tell Girish about that?"
M: "Yes, sir, I did. And I also told him about giving up drinking."
MASTER: "What did he say?"
M: "He said: 'Since you all say so, I take your words as the words of the Master himself. But I won't promise anything.' "
MASTER (joyously): "Kalipada told me that he had altogether given up drinking."
It was afternoon. Dr.Sarkar arrived accompanied by his son Amrita and Hem. Narendra and other devotees were present.
Sri Ramakrishna was talking to the devotees.
MASTER (to the doctor): "Your son does not believe in the Incarnation of God. That's all right, It doesn't matter if he does not believe in it.
Master praises doctor's son
"Your son is a nice boy. Why shouldn't he be? Does a mango-tree of the fine 'Bombay' variety ever bear Sour mangoes? How firm his faith in God is! That man is a true man whose mind dwells on God. He alone is a man whose spiritual consciousness has been awakened and who is firmly convinced that God alone is real and all else illusory. He does not believe in Divine Incarnation; but what does that matter? It is enough if he believes that God exists, and that all this universe and its living beings are the manifestations of His Power-like a rich man and his garden.
On Divine Incarnation
"Some say that there are ten Divine Incarnations, some twenty-four, while others say that there are innumerable Incarnations. If you see anywhere a special manifestation of God's Power, you may know that God has incarnated Himself there. That is my opinion.
Absolute and Relative
"There is another view, according to which God has become all that you see. It is like a bel-fruit, which consists of three parts: seeds, shell, and flesh. That which is the Absolute has also its relative aspect, and that which is the Relative has also its absolute aspect. You cannot set aside the Absolute and understand just the Relative. And it is only because there is the Relative that you can transcend it step by step and reach the Absolute.
"So long as 'I-consciousness' exists, a man cannot go beyond the Relative. Through meditation he can negate the phenomena, following the process of 'Neti, neti', and reach the Absolute; but nothing can really be denied, as in the instance of the bel-fruit."
DOCTOR: "Quite true."
MASTER: "Kacha had been immersed in nirvikalpa samādhi. When his mind was coming down to the relative plane, someone asked him, 'What do you see now?' Kacha replied: 'I see that the universe is soaked, as it were, in God. Everything is filled with God. It is God alone who has become all that I see. I do not know what to accept and what to reject.'
"In my opinion one should realize both the Nitya and the Lila and then live in the world as the servant of God. Hanuman saw both the Personal God and the formless Reality. He then lived as a devotee of God, as His servant."
M. (to himself): "So we must accept both-the Absolute and the Relative. Since the introduction of the Vedānta philosophy in Germany, some of the European philosophers, too, have been thinking along that line. But the Master says that one cannot realize both the Nitya and the Lila without complete renunciation, that is to say, without totally giving up 'woman and gold'. Such a person must be a true renouncer; he must be totally detached from the world. Here lies the real difference between him and such European philosophers as Hegel"
Dr. Sarkar on Incarnation
In Dr. Sarkar's opinion, God created men and ordained that every soul should make infinite progress. He would not believe that one man was greater than another. That was why he did not believe in the doctrine of Divine Incarnation.
DOCTOR: "I believe in infinite progress. If that is not so, then what is the use of leading a mere five or six years' existence in the world? I would rather hang myself with a rope round my neck.
"Incarnation! What is that? To cower before a man who excretes filth! It is absurd. But if you speak of a man as the reflection of God's Light-yes, that I admit."
GIRISH (smiling): "But you have not seen God's Light."
Dr. Sarkar was hesitating before giving a reply. A friend who sat near him whispered something into his ear.
DOCTOR (to Girish): "You too have not seen anything but a reflection."
GIRISH: "I see It! I see the Light! I shall prove that Sri Krishna is an Incarnation of God or I shall cut out my tongue!"
Futility of discussion
MASTER: "All this is useless talk. It is like the ravings of a delirious patient. A delirious patient says, 'I shall drink a whole tank of water; I shall eat a whole pot of rice.' The physician says: 'Yes, yes. You will have all these. We shall give you whatever you want when you are convalescent.'
"When butter is heated it sizzles and crackles. But all sound comes to a stop when it is thoroughly boiled. As a man's mind is, so is his conception of God. I have seen in rich men's houses portraits of the Queen and other aristocrats. But the devotees keep in their houses pictures of gods and goddesses.
Go beyond knowledge and ignorance
"Lakshmana said, 'O Rāma, even a sage like Vasishthadeva was overcome with grief on account of the death of his sons!' 'Brother,' replied Rāma, 'whoever has knowledge has ignorance also. Whoever is conscious of light is also conscious of darkness. Therefore go beyond knowledge and ignorance.' One attains that state through an intimate knowledge of God. This knowledge is called vijnāna .
"When a thorn enters the sole of your foot you have to get another thorn. You then remove the first thorn with the help of the second Afterwards you throwaway both. Likewise, after removing the thorn of ignorance with the help of the thorn of knowledge, you should throwaway the thorns of both knowledge and ignorance.
"There are signs of Perfect Knowledge. One is that reasoning comes to an end. As I have just said, the butter sizzles and crackles as long as it is not thoroughly boiled."
Doctor: "But can one retain Perfect Knowledge permanently? You say that all is God. Then why have you taken up this profession of a paramahamsa? And why do these people attend on you? Why don't you keep silent?"
MASTER (smiling): "Water is water whether it is still or moves or breaks into waves.
The story of the "Māhut Narayana"
"I must tell you something else. Why should I not listen to the 'mahut Narayana'? The guru had taught his disciple that everything was Narayana . A mad elephant was coming toward the disciple, but he did not move away since he believed the guru's words. He thought that the elephant was Narayana . The mahut shouted to him: 'Get away! Get away!' But the disciple did not move. The elephant picked him up and threw him to the ground. The disciple was not quite dead; when his face was sprinkled with water he regained consciousness. Being asked why he had not moved away, he said: 'why should I? The guru said, "Everything is Narayana."' 'But, my child,' said the Guru, 'Why didn't you listen to the words of the mahut Narayana ?'
"It is God who dwells within as the Pure Mind and Pure Intelligence. I am the machine and He is its Operator. I am the house and He is the Indweller. It is God who is the mahut Narayana."
DOCTOR: "Let me ask you something. Why do you ask me to cure your illness?"
MASTER: "I talk that way as long as I am conscious of the 'jar' of the 'ego'. Think of a vast ocean filled with water on all sides. A jar is immersed in it. There is water both inside and outside the jar; but the water does not become one unless the jar is broken. It is God who has kept this 'jar' of the 'ego' in me."
DOCTOR: "What is the meaning of 'ego' and all that you are talking about? You must explain it to me. Do you mean to say that God is playing tricks on us?"
GIRISH: "Sir, how do you know that He is not playing tricks?"
MASTER (smiling): "It is God who has kept this 'ego' in us. All this is His play, His Lila. A king has four sons. They are all princes; but when they play, one becomes a minister, another a police officer, and so on. Though a prince, he plays as a police officer.
(To the doctor) "Listen. If you realize Ātman you will see the truth of all I have said. All doubts disappear after the vision of God."
DOCTOR: "But is it ever possible to get rid of all doubts?"
MASTER: "Learn from me as much as I have told you. But if you want to know more, you must pray to God in solitude. Ask Him why He has so ordained.
"The son of the house can give a beggar only a small measure of rice. But if the beggar asks for his train fare, then the master of the house must be called."
The doctor remained silent.
Master reasons with Dr. Sarkar
MASTER: "Well, you love reasoning. All right. Let us reason a little. Listen. According to the Jnāni there is no Incarnation of God. Krishna said to Arjuna: 'You speak of Me as an Incarnation of God. Let me show you something. Come with Me.' Arjuna had followed Sri Krishna a short distance, when Sri Krishna asked him, 'What do you see there?' Arjuna replied, 'A big tree with black berries hanging in bunches.' Krishna said, 'Those are not black berries. Go nearer and look at them.' Arjuna went nearer and saw that they were Krishnas hanging in bunches. 'Do you see now', said Krishna, 'how many Krishnas like Me have grown there?'
"Kavirdas said of Krishna, 'He danced like a monkey to the clapping of the gopis!'
"As you go nearer to God you see less and less of His Upādhis, His attributes. A devotee at first may see the Deity as the ten-armed Divine Mother; when he goes nearer he sees Her possessed of six arms; still nearer, he sees the Deity as the two-armed Gopala. The nearer he comes to the Deity, the fewer attributes he sees. At last, when he comes into the presence of the Deity, he sees only Light without any attributes.
"Listen a little to the Vedantic reasoning. A magician came to a king to show his magic. When the magician moved away a little, the king saw a rider on horseback approaching him. He was brilliantly arrayed and had various weapons in his hands. The king and the audience began to reason out what was real in the phenomenon before them. Evidently the horse was not real, nor the robes, nor the armour. At last they found out beyond the shadow of a doubt that the rider alone was there. The significance of this is that Brahman alone is real and the world unreal Nothing whatsoever remains if you analyse."
DOCTOR: "I don't object to this."
MASTER: "But it is not easy to get rid of illusion. It lingers even after the attainment of Knowledge. A man dreamt of a tiger. Then he woke up and his dream vanished. But his heart continued to palpitate.
"Some thieves came to a field. A straw figure resembling a man had been put there to frighten intruders. The thieves were scared by the figure and could not persuade themselves to enter the field. One of them, however, approached and found that it was only a figure made of straw. He came back to his companions and said, 'There is nothing to be afraid of.' But still they refused to go; they said that their hearts were beating fast. Then the daring thief laid the figure on the ground and said, 'It is nothing, it is nothing.' This is the process of 'Neti, neti'."
DOCTOR: "These are fine words."
MASTER (smiling): "What kind of words?"
MASTER: "Then give me a 'Thank you'." [The Master said the words "thank you" in English.]
DOCTOR: "Don't you know what is in my mind? I go to so much trouble to come and visit you!"
MASTER (smiling): "No, it is not that. Say something for the good of the ignorant. After the death of Ravana , his brother Bibhishana refused to be king of Ceylon! He said: 'O Rāma, I have obtained You. What shall I do with kingship?' Rāma said: 'Bibhishana, be king for the sake of the ignorant, for those who might ask what riches you have gained by serving Me so much. Be king to give them a lesson."
DOCTOR: "Are there such ignorant people here?"
MASTER (smiling): "Oh, yes! Here you will find oysters and snails as well as conchs." (All laugh.)
"Oh yes, Purusha and Prakriti are always together. Haven't you observed
pigeons? The male and female cannot live separately. Wherever Purusha
is, there is Prakriti, and wherever Prakriti is, there is Purusha."
DOCTOR (while eating): "Now I say 'Thank you' for the sweets; but it is not for your teachings. Why should I give that 'Thank you' in words?"
MASTER (smiling): "The essential thing is to fix the mind on God and to practise meditation a little. What more shall I say? (Pointing to the younger Naren) Look at him. His mind totally merges in God. Those things I was telling you-"
DOCTOR: "Tell the others also."
MASTER: "No, a man should be given food according to his power of digestion. Can all understand what I told you? I cannot talk to everyone as I talked to you. Suppose a mother has bought a fish for the family. All her children have not the same power of digestion. For some she makes pilau and for others she makes stew. These latter have weak stomachs." (All laugh.)
Dr. Sarkar took his leave. It was Vijaya day, when people show their love and respect to their friends and elders with appropriate greetings. The devotees all prostrated themselves before Sri Ramakrishna and took the dust of his feet. Then they embraced one another. Their joy knew no bounds. The Master was seriously ill, but he made them all forget about his illness. The embracing and exchange of greetings continued a long time. The devotees also took light refreshments. The younger Naren, M., and a few other devotees sat near Sri Ramakrishna. The Master talked to them joyfully. He spoke of Dr.Sarkar.
MASTER: "I shall not have to tell him very much. When the trunk of a tree is cut almost to the other side, the cutter steps aside. A little later the tree falls down of itself."
THE YOUNGER NAREN (smiling): "Here everything is principle!"
MASTER (to M.): "The doctor has already changed a great deal, hasn't he?"
M: "Yes, sir. When he comes here he loses his wits. He never talks about medicine. When we remind him of it, he says: 'Oh, yes, yes! I shall have to give the medicine.' "
Some of the devotees were singing in the parlour. They returned to the Master's room. Sri Ramakrishna said: "I heard your music; but why did you make mistakes in the rhythm? I once heard of a man who was an adept in discord. You sang like him." (All laugh.)
A young man, a relative of the younger Naren, arrived. He was bespectacled and foppishly dressed. Sri Ramakrishna spoke to the younger Naren.
MASTER: "You see, a young man was going along the road. He had put on a pleated shirt. And how he strutted! Now and again he would display the shirt by removing his scarf, and then look around to see if anyone was admiring him. But when he walked you could see that he was knock-kneed. (All laugh.) The peacock displays its feathers; but its feet are very dirty. (All laugh.) The camel is very ugly. Everything about it is ugly."
YOUNG MAN: "But it acts well."
MASTER: "Yes. But it browses on briars. It will continue to eat thorns though its mouth bleeds. The worldly man loses his children and still clamours for more."
October 22, 1885
It was Thursday evening, a few days after the Durga Puja. Sri Ramakrishna sat on his bed in his room on the second floor, with Dr.Sarkar, Ishan, and other devotees. Although Dr.Sarkar was a very busy physician, he would spend a long time-sometimes six or seven hours-in Sri Ramakrishna's company. He had great love for the Master and looked on the devotees as his own kith and kin. A lamp was burning in the room. Moonlight illumined the outside world.
Master praises the true householder
Addressing Ishan, a householder devotee, the Master said: Blessed indeed is the householder who performs his duties in the world, at the same time cherishing love for the Lotus Feet of God. He is indeed a hero. He is like a man who carries a heavy load of two maunds on his head and at the same time watches a bridal procession. One cannot lead such a life without great spiritual power. Again, such a man is like the mudfish, which lives in the mud but is not stained by it. Further, such a householder may be compared to a waterfowl. It is constantly diving under water; yet, by fluttering its wings only once, it shakes off all trace of wet.
Advice to householders & Necessity of solitude
"But a man must practise some spiritual discipline in order to be able to lead a detached life in the world. It is necessary for him to spend some time in solitude-be it a year, six months, three months, or even one month. In that solitude he should fix his mind on God and pray with a longing heart for love of God. He should also say to himself: 'There is nobody in this world who is my own. Those whom I call my own are here only for two days. God alone is my own. He alone is my all in all. Alas, how shall I realize Him?'
"One can live in the world after acquiring love of God. It is like breaking the jack-fruit after rubbing your hands with oil; the sticky juice of the fruit will not smear them. The world is like water and the mind like milk. If you put milk in water it will mix with the water. But first keep the milk in a quiet place and let it turn into curd. Then from the curd extract butter. That butter you may keep in water; it will not mix with the water, but will float on it.
Example of Janaka
"Some members of the Brahmo Samaj said to me: 'Sir, our attitude toward the world is that of King Janaka. Like him, we want to enjoy the world in a detached spirit.' I said to them: 'To live in the world in a detached spirit is very difficult. By merely saying so you cannot be a King Janaka. How much austerity Janaka practised! How long he remained in one posture, with head down and feet up! You don't have to practise these extreme disciplines. But you need sādhanā, you should live in solitude. You may lead the life of a householder after having attained divine knowledge and love in solitude. Milk turns into curd only when it is not disturbed. The curd does not set if the milk is often moved from place to place or is too much disturbed.'
"On account of his
detachment from the world Janaka was also known as the 'Videha', that
is, one free from consciousness of the body. Though living in the world,
he moved about as a jivanmukta, a free soul living in a body. But for
most people freedom from body-consciousness is something very far off.
Intense spiritual discipline is necessary.
The householder Jnāni and the monk Jnāni
"You may ask, 'Is there any difference between the realizations of two jnanis, one a householder and the other a monk?' The reply is that the two belong to one class. Both of them are jnanis; they have the same experience. But a householder Jnāni has reason to fear. He cannot altogether get rid of his fear as long as he is to live in the midst of 'woman and gold'. If you constantly live in a room full of soot, you are sure to soil your body, be it ever so little, no matter how clever you may be.
"After extracting the butter, if you keep it in a new pot, then there is no chance of its getting spoiled. But if you keep the butter in a pot where curd has been kept, well, then it is doubtful whether it will keep its flavour. (Laughter.)
"When they parch rice, a few grains jump out of the frying-pan to the ground. These are white, like mallika flowers, without the slightest stain on them. But the grains that remain in the pan are also good, though not as immaculate as the fresh mallika flower. They are a little stained. In the same way, if a monk who has renounced the world attains divine wisdom, he appears as spotless as the white flower; but one who stays in the frying-pan of the world after attaining Knowledge may get a little blemish. (All laugh.)
"Once a bhairavi came to King Janaka's court. At the sight of the woman, the king bent his head and cast his eyes to the ground. At this the bhairavi said, 'O Janaka, even now you are afraid of a woman!' Through Perfect Knowledge a man becomes like a child five years old; he does not know the distinction between a man and a woman.
"Although a Jnāni living in the world may have a little blemish, yet this does not injure him. The moon undoubtedly has dark spots, but these do not obstruct its light.
Teaching others after realizing God
"After realizing God, some souls perform work in order to teach men. Janaka, Nārada, and others like them, belong to this group. But one must possess power in order to be able to teach others. The sages of old were busy attaining knowledge for themselves. But teachers like Nārada went about doing good to others. They were real heroes.
"A worthless stick floating on the water sinks under the weight of a bird; but a heavy and substantial log floating on the water can support a cow, a man, or even an elephant. A steamboat not only crosses the water itself but carries many human beings with it. Teachers like Nārada may be compared to the heavy log of wood or the steamboat.
"One man, after eating a tasty morsel, removes every trace of it by wiping his face carefully with a towel, lest anyone should know. (All laugh.) Another, again, having got a mango, not only enjoys it himself but shares it with others.
Knowledge and love of God
"Even after having attained Perfect Knowledge, teachers like Nārada retained love of God in their minds for the welfare of others."
DOCTOR: "Jnāna makes a man speechless. He closes his eyes and sheds tears. Then he needs bhakti."
MASTER: "Bhakti may be likened to a woman who has access to the inner court of a house. Jnāna can go only as far as the outer rooms."
DOCTOR: "All women are not allowed to enter the inner court, for instance, prostitutes. Hence the need of Jnāna."
MASTER: "A man may not know the right path, but if he has bhakti and the desire to know God, then he attains Him through the force of sheer bhakti. Once a sincere devotee set out on a pilgrimage to the temple of Jagannath in Puri. He did not know the way; he went west instead of south. He no doubt strayed from the right path, but he always eagerly asked people the way, and they gave him the right directions, saying, 'This is not the path; follow that one.' At last the devotee was able to get to Puri and worship the Deity. So you see, even if you are ignorant, someone will tell you the way if you are earnest."
DOCTOR: "But the devotee in his ignorance did lose his way."
MASTER: "Yes, such a thing happens, no doubt. But a man reaches the goal in the end."
A DEVOTEE: "Has God a form or is He formless?"
MASTER: "God has form and, again, He is formless. Once upon a time a sannyāsi entered the temple of Jagannath . As he looked at the holy image he debated within himself whether God had a form or was formless. He passed his staff from left to right to feel whether it touched the image. The staff touched nothing. He understood that there was no image before him; he concluded that God was formless. Next he passed the staff from right to left. It touched the image. The sannyāsi understood that God had form. Thus he realized that God has form and, again, is formless.
"But it is extremely difficult to understand this. Naturally the doubt arises in the mind: if God is formless, how then can He have form? Further, if He has a form, why does He have so many forms?"
DOCTOR: "God has created all these forms in the world; therefore He Himself has a form. Again, He has created the mind; therefore He is formless. It is possible for God to be everything."
Personal God and Impersonal Truth
MASTER: "These things do not become clear until one has realized God. He assumes different forms and reveals Himself in different ways for the sake of His devotees. A man kept a solution of dye in a tub. Many people came to him to have their clothes dyed. He would ask a customer, 'What colour should you like to have your cloth dyed?' If the customer wanted red, then the man would dip the cloth in the tub and say, 'Here is your cloth dyed red.' If another customer wanted his cloth dyed yellow, the man would dip his cloth in the same tub and say, 'Here is your cloth dyed yellow.' If a customer wanted his cloth dyed blue, the man would dip it in the same tub and say, 'Here is your cloth dyed blue.' Thus he would dye the clothes of his customers different colours, dipping them all in the same solution. One of the customers watched all this with amazement. The man asked him, 'Well? What colour do you want for your cloth?' The customer said, 'Brother, dye my cloth the colour of the dye in your tub.' (Laughter.)
Illustration of the chameleon
"Once a man went into a wood and saw a beautiful creature on a tree. Later he told a friend about it and said, 'Brother, on a certain tree in the wood I saw a red-coloured creature.' The friend answered: 'I have seen it too. Why do you call it red? It is green.' A third man said: 'Oh, no, no! Why do you call it green? It is yellow.' Then other persons began to describe the animal variously as violet, blue, or black. Soon they were quarrelling about the colour. At last they went to the tree and found a man sitting under it. In answer to their questions he said: 'I live under this tree and know the creature very well. What each of you has said about it is true. Sometimes it is red, sometimes green, sometimes yellow, sometimes blue, and so forth and so on. Again, sometimes I see that it has no colour whatsoever.'
"Only he who constantly thinks of God can know His real nature. He alone knows that God reveals Himself in different forms and different ways that He has attributes and, again, has none. Only the man who lives under the tree knows that the chameleon can assume various colours and that sometimes it remains colourless. Others, not knowing the whole truth, quarrel among themselves and suffer.
Illustration of ice and water
"Yes, God has form and, again, He has none. Do you know how it is? Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, is like a shoreless ocean. In the ocean visible blocks of ice are formed here and there by intense cold. Similarly, under the cooling influence, so to speak, of the bhakti of Its worshippers, the Infinite transforms Itself into the finite and appears before the worshipper as God with form. That is to say, God reveals Himself to His bhaktas as an embodied Person. Again, as, on the rising of the sun, the ice in the ocean melts away, so, on the awakening of Jnāna, the embodied God melts back into the infinite and formless Brahman."
DOCTOR: "Yes. When the sun is up, the ice melts; and what is more, the heat of the sun turns the water into invisible vapour."
MASTER: "Yes, that is true. As a result of the discrimination that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory, the aspirant goes into samādhi. Then, for him, the forms or attributes of God disappear altogether. Then he does not feel God to be a Person. Then he cannot describe in words what God is. And who will describe it? He who is to describe does not exist at all; he no longer finds his 'I'. To such a person Brahman is attributeless. In that state God is experienced only as Consciousness, by man's inmost consciousness. He cannot be comprehended by the mind and intelligence.
"Therefore people compare bhakti, love of God, to the cooling light of the moon, and janana, knowledge, to the burning rays of the sun. I have heard that there are oceans in the extreme north and extreme south where the air is so cold that it freezes the water into huge blocks of ice here and there. Ships cannot move there; They are stopped by the ice."
DOCTOR: "Then in the path of bhakti the aspirant meets with obstacles."
MASTER: "Yes, that is true. But it does not cause the devotee any harm. After all, it is the water of the Ocean of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, that is frozen into ice. It will not injure you if you continue to reason, saying, for instance, that Brahman alone is real and the world illusory. This reasoning will awaken in you Jnāna, which, like the sun, will melt the ice of divine forms back into the infinite Ocean of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.
"In the samādhi that comes at the end of reasoning and discrimination, no such thing as 'I' exists. But it is extremely difficult to attain it; 'I-consciousness' lingers so persistently. That is why a man is born again and again in this world.
Parable of the cow
"The cow suffers so much because she says, 'Hamba! Hamba!', that is, 'I! I!' She is yoked to the plough all day long, rain or shine. Or she is slaughtered by the butcher. But even that doesn't put an end to her misery. The cobbler tans her hide to make shoes from it. At last the carder makes a string for his bow from her entrails and uses the string in carding; then it says, 'Tuhu! Tuhu!', that is, 'Thou! Thou!' Only then does the cow's suffering come to an end.
"Likewise, only when a man says: 'Not I! Not I! I am nobody. O Lord, Thou art the Doer and I am Thy servant; Thou art the Master', is he freed from all sufferings; only then is he liberated."
DOCTOR: "But one must fall into the hands of the carder." (All laugh.)
MASTER: "If this ego cannot be got rid of, then let the rascal remain as the servant of God. (All laugh.)
Harmless and injurious ego & "Ripe ego" and "unripe ego"
"A man may keep this ego even after attaining samādhi. Such a man feels either that he is a servant of God or that he is a lover of God. Sankaracharya retained the 'ego of Knowledge' to teach men spiritual life. The 'servant-ego', the 'Knowledge ego', or the 'devotee ego' may be called the 'ripe ego'. It is different from the 'unripe ego', which makes one feel: 'I am the doer. I am the son of a wealthy man. I am learned. I am rich. How dare anyone slight me?' A man with and 'unripe ego' cherishes such ideas. Suppose a thief has entered such a man's house and stolen some of his belongings. If the thief is caught, all the articles will be snatched away from him. Then he will be beaten. At last he will be handed over to the police. The owner of the stolen goods will say: 'what! This rogue doesn't know whose house he has entered!'
Childlike nature of perfect souls
"After realizing God, a man becomes like a child five years old. The ego of such a man may be called the 'ego of a child', the 'ripe ego'. The child is not under the control of any of the Gunās. He is beyond the three Gunās. He is not under the control of any of the Gunās-sattva, rajas, or tamas. Just watch a child and you will find that he is not under the influence of tamas. One moment he quarrels with his chum or even fights with him, and the next moment he hugs him, shows him much affection, and plays with him again. He is not even under the control of rajas. Now he builds his play house and makes all kinds of plans to make it beautiful, and the next moment he leaves everything behind and runs to his mother. Again, you see him wearing a beautiful piece of cloth worth five rupees. After a few moments the cloth lies on the ground; he forgets all about it. Or he may carry it under his arm. If you say to the child: 'That's a beautiful piece of cloth. Whose is it?', he answers: 'Why, it is mine. My daddy gave it to me.' You may say, 'My darling, won't you give it to me?' and he will reply: 'Oh no, it is mine. My daddy gave it to me. I won't give it to you.' Some minutes later you may coax him with a toy or a music-box worth a penny, and he will give you the cloth. Again, a child five years old is not attached even to sattva. You may find him today very fond of his playmates in the neighbourhood; he doesn't feel happy for a moment without seeing them; but tomorrow, when he goes to another place with his parents, he finds new playmates; all his love is now directed to his new friends, and he almost forgets about his old ones. Further, a child has no pride of caste or family. If his mother says to him about a certain person, 'This man is your elder brother', he believes this to be one hundred per cent true. One of the two may have been born in a brahmin family and the other may belong to a low caste, say that of the blacksmiths, but they will take their meal from the same plate. A child is beyond all ideas of purity and impurity. He is not bound by social conventions. He doesn't hesitate to come out naked before others.
"Ego of old age"
"Then there is an 'ego of old age'. (Dr. Sarkar laughs.) An old man has many shackles: caste, pride, shame, hatred, and fear. Furthermore, he is bound by the ideas of worldly cleverness, calculating intelligence, and deceit. If he is angry with anybody, he cannot shake it off easily; perhaps he keeps the feeling as long as he lives. Again, there is the 'ego of scholarship' and the 'ego of wealth'. The 'ego of old age' is an 'unripe ego'.
Characteristics of tamas
(To the doctor) "There are a few men who cannot attain knowledge of God: men proud of their scholarship, proud of their education, or proud of their wealth. If you speak to such people about a holy man and ask them to visit him, they make all kinds of excuses and will not go. But in their heart of hearts they think: 'Why, we are big people ourselves. Must we go and visit someone else?'
"A characteristic of tamas is pride. Pride and delusion come from tamas.
"It is said in the Purana that Ravana had an excess of rajas, Kumbhakarna of tamas, and Bibhishana of sattva. That is why Bibhishana was able to receive the grace of Rāma. Another characteristic of tamas is anger. Through anger one loses one's wits and cannot distinguish between right and wrong. In a fit of anger Hanuman set fire to Lanka, without thinking for a moment that the fire might also burn down the hut where Sita lived.
"Still another feature of tamas is lust.
Turn your passions to God
Girindra Ghosh of PathuriaGhata once remarked, 'Since you cannot get rid of your passions-your lust, your anger, and so on-give them a new direction. Instead of desiring worldly pleasures, desire God. Have intercourse with Brahman. If you cannot get rid of anger, then change its direction. Assume the tamasic attitude of bhakti, and say: 'What? I have repeated the hallowed name of Durga, and shall I not be liberated? How can I be a sinner any more? How can I be bound any more?' If you cannot get rid of temptation, direct it toward God. Be infatuated with God's beauty. If you cannot get rid of pride, then be proud to say that you are the servant of God, you are the child of God. Thus turn the six passions toward God."
DOCTOR: "It is very hard to control the sense-organs. They are like restive horses, whose eyes must be covered with blinkers. In the case of some horses it is necessary to prevent them from seeing at all."
MASTER: "A man need not fear anything if but once he receives the grace of God, if but once he obtains the vision of God, if but once he attains Self-Knowledge. Then the six passions cannot do him any harm.
"Eternally perfect souls like Nārada and Prahlada did not have to take the trouble to put blinkers on their eyes. The child who holds his father's hand, while walking along the narrow balk in the paddy-field, may loosen his hold in a moment of carelessness and slip into the ditch. But it is quite different if the father holds the child's hand. Then the child never falls into the ditch."
DOCTOR: "But it is not proper for a father to hold his child by the hand."
MASTER: "It is not quite like that. Great sages have childlike natures. Before God they are always like children. They have no pride. Their strength is the strength of God, the strength of their Father. They have nothing to call their own. They are firmly convinced of that."
DOCTOR: "Can you make a horse move forward without first covering his eyes with blinkers? Can one realize God without first controlling the passions?"
Paths of knowledge and devotion
MASTER: "What you say is according to the path of discrimination. It is known as Jnāna yoga. Through that path, too, one attains God. The jnanis say that an aspirant must first of all purify his heart. First he needs spiritual exercises; then he will attain Knowledge.
"But God can also be realized through the path of devotion. Once the devotee develops love for the Lotus Feet of God and enjoys the singing of His name and attributes, he does not have to make a special effort to restrain his senses. For such a devotee the sense-organs come under control of themselves.
"Suppose a man has just lost his son and is mourning his death. Can he be in a mood to quarrel with others that very day, or enjoy a feast in the house of a friend? Can he, that very day, show his pride before others or enjoy sense pleasures?
"If the moth discovers light, can it remain in darkness any longer?"
DOCTOR (with a smile): "Of course it cannot. It would rather fly into the flame and perish."
MASTER: "Oh no, that's not so. A lover of God does not burn himself to death, like a moth. The light to which he rushes is like the light of a gem. That light is brilliant, no doubt, but it is also cooling and soothing. That light does not scorch his body; it gives him joy and peace.
Difficulty of path of knowledge
"One realizes God by following the path of discrimination and knowledge. But this is an extremely difficult path. It is easy enough to say such things as, 'I am not the body, mind, or intellect; I am beyond grief, disease, and sorrow; I am the embodiment of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute; I am beyond pain and pleasure; I am not under the control of the sense-organs', but it is very hard to assimilate these ideas and practise them. Suppose I see, my hand cut by a thorn and blood gushing out; then it is not right for me to say: 'Why, my hand is not cut by the thorn! I am all right.' In order to be able to say that, I must first of all burn the thorn itself in the fire of Knowledge.
"Many people think they cannot have knowledge or understanding of God without reading books. But hearing is better than reading, and seeing is better than hearing. Hearing about Benares is different from reading about it; but seeing Benares is different from either hearing or reading.
"Those actually engaged in a game of chess do not always judge the moves on the board correctly. The onlookers often judge the moves better than the players. Worldly people often think themselves very intelligent, but they are attached to the things of the world. They are the actual players and cannot understand their own moves correctly. But holy men, who have renounced everything, are unattached to the world; they are really more intelligent than worldly people. Since they do not take any part in worldly life, their position is that of onlookers, and so they see things more clearly."
DOCTOR (to the devotees): "If he [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] had studied books he could not have acquired so much knowledge. Faraday communed with nature; that is why he was able to discover many scientific truths. He could not have known so much from the mere study of books. Mathematical formulas only throw the brain into confusion and bar the path of original inquiry."
MASTER: "There was a time when I lay on the ground in the Panchavati and prayed to the Divine Mother, 'O Mother, reveal to me what the karmis have realized through their ritualistic worship, what the yogis have realized through yoga, and what the jnanis have realized through discrimination.' How much I communed with the Divine Mother! How can I describe it all?
"Ah, what a state I passed through! Sleep left me completely."
My sleep is broken; how can I slumber any more?
He continued: "I have not read books. But people show me respect because I chant the name of the Divine Mother. Sambhu Mallick said about me, 'Here is a great hero without a sword or shield!'" (Laughter.)
The conversation turned to the performance of a drama by Girish Ghosh called The Life of Buddha. The doctor had seen the play and been much pleased with it.
DOCTOR (to Girish): "You are a very bad man. Must I go to the theatre every day?"
MASTER (to M.): "What does he say? I don't quite understand."
M: "The doctor liked the play very much."
Discussion about Divine Incarnation
MASTER (to Ishan): "Why don't you say something? (Pointing to the doctor) He does not believe that god can incarnate Himself in a human form."
ISHAN: "What shall I say, sir? I don't like to argue any more."
MASTER (sharply): "Why? Won't you say the right thing?"
ISHAN (to the doctor): "Our faith is shallow on account of our pride. It is said in the Ramayana that a crow named Bhushandi did not at first accept Rāma as an Incarnation of God. Once it incurred Rāma's displeasure. It travelled through the different worlds-the lunar, solar, and so forth-and through Mount Kailas, to escape Rāma's wrath. But it found that it could not escape. Then it surrendered itself to Him and took refuge at His feet. Rāma took the crow in His hand and swallowed it. Thereupon the crow found that it was seated in it's own nest in a tree. After its pride had thus been crushed, the bird came to realize that though Rāma looked like any other man, yet He contained in His stomach the entire universe-sky, moon, sun, stars, oceans, rivers, men, animals, and trees."
MASTER (to the doctor): "It is very difficult to understand that God can be a finite human being and at the same time the all-pervading Soul of the universe. The Absolute and the Relative are His two aspects. How can we say emphatically with our small intelligence that God cannot assume a human form? Can we ever understand all these ideas with our little intellect? Can a one-seer pot hold four seers of milk?
DOCTOR: "I accept as much as I want to. All difficulties come to an end if only God reveals His true nature to the seeker. Then there can be no confusion. How can I accept Rāma as an Incarnation of God? Take the example of His killing Vali, the monkey chieftain. He hid Himself behind a tree, like a thief, and murdered Vali. This is how a man acts, and not God."
GIRISH: "But, sir, such an action is possible only for God."
DOCTOR: "Then take the example of His sending Sita into exile."
GIRISH: "This too, sir, is possible only for God, not for man."
ISHAN (to the doctor): "Why don't you believe in the Incarnation of God? Just now you said that God has form since He has created all these forms, and that God is formless since He has created the mind, which is without form. A moment ago you said that everything is possible for God."
"It is not mentioned in his 'science' that God can take human form; so
how can he believe it? (All laugh.)
GIRISH (to the doctor): "You must admit that Krishna is God. I will not let you look on Him as a mere man. You must admit that He is either God or a demon."
MASTER: "Unless a man is guileless, he cannot so easily have faith in God. God is far, far away from the mind steeped in worldliness. Worldly intelligence creates many doubts and many forms of pride-pride of learning, wealth, and the rest. (Pointing to the doctor) But he is guileless.
"How guileless Keshab Sen was! One day he visited the Kāli temple at Dakshineswar. At about four in the afternoon he went around to the guesthouse, where the poor are fed, and asked when the beggars would be fed. He didn't know that it was too late in the day for the feeding of the poor. As a man's faith increases, so does his knowledge of God. The cow that discriminates too much about food gives milk in dribblets. But the cow that gulps down everything-herbs, leaves, grass, husks, straw-gives milk in torrents. (All laugh.)
"God cannot be realized without childlike faith. The mother says to her child, pointing to a boy, 'He is your elder brother.' And the child at once believes that the boy is one hundred per cent his brother. Again, the mother says that a bogy man lives in a certain room, and the child believes one hundred per cent that the bogy man lives in the room. God bestows His grace on the devotee who has this faith of a child. God cannot be realized by the mind steeped in worldliness."
DOCTOR (to the devotees): "It is not right, however, to make the cow yield milk by feeding her all sorts of things. One of my cows was fed that way. I drank its milk and the result was that I became seriously ill. At first I was at a loss to know the cause. After much inquiry I found out that the cow had been given the wrong things to eat, I was in a great fix. I had to go to Lucknow for a change to get rid of the illness. I spent twelve thousand rupees. (Roars of laughter.)
"It is very difficult always to find out the precise relationship between cause and effect. A child of seven months, in a wealthy family, had an attack of whooping-cough. I was called in for consultation. Even after much effort I could not find out the cause of the illness. At last I learnt that the child had been given the milk of an ass that had been drenched in the rain." (All laugh.)
MASTER (to the devotees): "How strange! It is like saying that a man has an acid stomach because he passed, in his coach, under a tamarind tree." (All laugh.)
DOCTOR (with a smile): "Let me tell you another. The captain of a ship had a bad headache. After consultation, the doctors on board had a blister applied to the side of the boat." (All laugh.)
MASTER (to the doctor): "For the seekers of God the constant company of holy men is necessary. The disease of worldly people has become chronic, as it were. They should carry out the instruction of holy men. What will they gain by merely listening to their advice? They must not only take the prescribed medicine, but also follow a strict diet. Diet is important."
DOCTOR: "Yes, it is the diet, more than anything else, that causes the cure.
MASTER: "There are three classes of physicians: superior, mediocre, and inferior. The inferior physician feels the patient's pulse, merely asks him to take medicine, and then goes away. He doesn't bother to find out whether the patient has followed his directions. The mediocre physician gently tries to persuade the patient to take the medicine. He says: 'Look here. How can you get well without medicine? Take the medicine, my dear. I am preparing It with my own hands.' But the superior physician follows a different method. If he finds the patient stubbornly refusing to swallow the medicine, he presses the patient's chest with his knee and forces the medicine down his throat."
DOCTOR: "There is a form of treatment that does not require the physician to press the patient's chest with his knee. For instance, homeopathy."
MASTER: "There is no fear if a good physician presses the patient's chest with his knee.
Three classes of teachers
"Like the physicians, there are three classes of religious teachers. The inferior teacher is content with merely giving spiritual instruction; he doesn't bother about the student after that. The mediocre teacher explains the teaching again and again for the good of the student, that he may assimilate it; he persuades the student through love and kindness to follow it. But the superior teacher uses force, if necessary, on the stubborn student.
(To the doctor) "The renunciation of 'woman and gold' is meant for the sannyāsi. He must not look even at the picture of a woman. Do you know what a woman is to a man? She is like spiced pickle. The very thought of pickle brings water to the tongue; it doesn't have to be brought near the tongue.
Advice to householders
"But this renunciation is not meant for householders like you. It is meant only for sannyāsis. You may live among women, as far as possible in a spirit of detachment. Now and then you must retire into solitude and think of God. Women must not be allowed there. You can lead an unattached life to a great extent if you have faith in God and love for Him. After the birth of one or two children a married couple should live as brother and sister. They should then constantly pray to God that their minds may not run after sense pleasures any more and that they may not have any more children."
GIRISH (to the doctor, with a smile): "You have already spent three or four hours here. What about your patients?"
DOCTOR: "Well, my practice and patients! I shall lose everything on account of your paramahamsa!" (All laugh.)
MASTER: "There is a river called the 'Karmanasa'. It is very dangerous to dive into that river. If a man plunges into its waters he cannot perform any more action. It puts an end to his duties." (All laugh.) .
DOCTOR (to Girish, M., and the other devotees): "My friends, consider me as one of you. I am not saying this as a physician. But if you think of me as your own, then I am yours."
MASTER (to the doctor): "There is such a thing as love for love's sake. It is very good if one can grow such love. Prahlada loved God for the sake of love. A devotee like Prahlada says: 'O God, I do not want wealth, fame, creature comforts, or any such thing. Please grant me the boon that I may have genuine love for Thy Lotus Feet."
DOCTOR: "You are right, sir. I have seen people bowing down before the image of Kāli They seek worldly objects from the Goddess, such as a job, the healing of disease, and so forth.
(To the Master) "The illness you are suffering from does not permit the patient to talk with people. But my case is an exception. You may talk with me when I am here." (All laugh.)
MASTER; "Please cure my illness. I cannot chant the name and glories of God."
DOCTOR; "Meditation is enough."
MASTER: "What do you mean? Why should I lead a monotonous life? I enjoy my fish in a variety of dishes: curried fish, fried fish, pickled fish, and so forth! Sometimes I worship God with rituals, sometimes I repeat His name, sometimes I meditate on Him, sometimes I sing His name and glories, sometime I dance in His name."
DOCTOR: "Neither am I monotonous."
MASTER: "Your son Amrita does not believe in the Incarnation of God. What is the harm in that? One realizes God even if one believes Him to be formless. One also realizes God if one believes that God has form.
Faith and self-surrender
Two things are necessary for the realization of God; faith and self-surrender. Man is ignorant by nature. Errors are natural to him. Can a one-seer pot hold four seers of milk? Whatever path you may follow, you must pray to God with a restless heart. He is the Ruler of the soul within. He will surely listen to your prayer if it is sincere. Whether you follow the ideal of the Personal God or that of the Impersonal Truth, you will realize God alone, provided you are restless for Him. A cake with icing tastes sweet whether you eat it straight or sidewise.
"Your son Amrita is a nice boy."
DOCTOR: "He is your disciple."
MASTER (with a smile): "There is not a fellow under the sun who is my disciple. On the contrary, I am everybody's disciple. All are the children of God. All are His servants. I too am a child of God. I too am His servant. 'Uncle Moon' is every child's uncle!"