AFTER THE PASSING AWAY
SRI RAMAKRISHNA passed away on Sunday, August 15, 1886, plunging his devotees and disciples into a sea of grief. They were like men in a shipwreck. But a strong bond of love held them together, and they found assurance and courage in each other's company. They could not enjoy the friendship of worldly people and would talk only of their Master. "Shall we not behold him again?" -this was the one theme of their thought and the one dream of their sleep. Alone, they wept for him; walking in the streets of Calcutta, they were engrossed in the thought of him. The Master had once said to M., "It becomes difficult for me to give up the body, when I realize that after my death you will wander about weeping for me." Some of them thought : "He is no longer in this world. How surprising that we still enjoy living! We could give up our bodies if we liked, but still we do not." Time and again Sri Ramakrishna had told them that God reveals Himself to His devotees if they yearn for Him and call on Him with whole-souled devotion. He had assured them that God listens to the prayer of a sincere heart.
The young unmarried disciples of the Master, who belonged to his inner circle, had attended on him day and night at the Cossipore garden house. After his passing away most of them returned to their families against their own wills. They had not yet formally renounced the world. For a short while they kept their family names. But Sri Ramakrishna had made them renounce the world mentally. He himself had initiated several of them into the monastic life, giving them the ochre cloths of sannyāsis.
Two or three of the Master's attendants had no place to go. To them the large-hearted Surendra said: "Brothers, where will you go? Let us rent a house. You will live there and make it our Master's shrine; and we house-holders shall come there for consolation. How can we pass all our days and nights with our wives and children in the world? I used to spend a sum of money for the Master at Cossipore. I shall gladly give it now for your expenses." Accordingly he rented a house for them at Baranagore, in the suburbs of Calcutta, and this place became gradually transformed into Math, or, monastery.
For the first few months Surendra contributed thirty rupees a month. As the other members joined the monastery one by one, he doubled his contribution, which he later increased to a hundred rupees. The monthly rent for the house was eleven rupees. The cook received six rupees a month. The rest was spent for food.
The younger Gopal brought the Master's bed and other articles of daily use from the garden house at Cossipore. The brahmin who had been cook at Cossipore was engaged for the new monastery. The first permanent member was the elder Gopal. Sarat spent the nights there. In the beginning Sarat, Śaśi, Baburam, Niranjan, and Kāli used to visit the monastery every now and then, according to their convenience. Tārak, who had gone to Vrindāvan following the Master's death, returned to Calcutta after a few months and soon became a permanent member of the monastery. Rākhāl , Jogin, Lātu, and Kāli were living at Vrindāvan with the Holy Mother when the monastery was started. Kāli returned to Calcutta within a month, Rākhāl after a few months, and Jogin and Lātu after a year. The householder devotees frequently visited the monastic brothers and spent hours with them in meditation and study.
After a short time Narendra, Rākhāl , Niranjan, Sarat, Śaśi, Baburam, Jogin, Tārak, Kāli, and Lātu renounced the world for good. Sarada Prasanna and Subodh joined them some time later. Gangadhar, who was very much attached to Narendra, visited the Math regularly. It was he who taught the brothers the hymn sung at the evening service in the Śiva temple at Benares. He had gone to Tibet to practise austerity; now, having returned, he lived at the monastery. Hari and Tulasi, at first only visitors at the monastery, soon embraced the monastic life and thus completed the list of the Master's sannyāsi disciples.
Surendra was indeed a blessed soul. It was he who laid the foundation of the great Order later associated with Sri Ramakrishna's name. His devotion and sacrifice made it possible for those earnest souls to renounce the world for the realization of God. Through him Sri Ramakrishna made it possible for them to live in the world as embodiments of his teaching, the renunciation of "woman and gold" and the realization of God.
The brothers lived at the Math like orphan boys. Sometimes they would not have the money to pay their house-rent; sometimes they would have no food in the monastery. Surendra would come and settle all these things. He was the big brother of the monks. Later on, when they thought of his genuine love, the members of this first Math shed tears of gratitude.
Ascetic zeal of the young sannyāsis
The new monastery became known among the Master's devotees as the Baranagore Math. Narendra, Rākhāl , and the other young disciples were filled with intense renunciation. One day Rākhāl 's father came to the Math and asked Rākhāl to return home. "Why do you take the trouble to come here?" Rākhāl said to him. "I am very happy here. Pleased pray to God that you may forget me and that I may forget you too." The young disciples said to each other: "We shall never return to the worldly life. The Master enjoined upon us the renunciation of 'woman and gold'. How can we go back to our families?"
Śaśi had taken charge of the daily worship in the Math. The Master's relics had been brought from Balarām's house and Sri Ramakrishna was worshipped daily in the worship hall. Narendra supervised the household. He was the leader of the monastery. He would often tell his brother disciples, "The selfless actions enjoined in the Gitā are worship, japa, meditation, and so on, and not worldly duties." The brothers at the Math depended on him for their spiritual inspiration. He said to them, "We must practise sādhanā; otherwise we shall not be able to realize God."
He and his brother disciples, filled with an ascetic spirit, devoted themselves day and night to the practice of spiritual discipline. Their one goal in life was the realization of God. They followed to their hearts' content the injunctions prescribed in the Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras for an ascetic life. They spent their time in japa and meditation and study of the scriptures. Whenever they would fail to experience the Divine Presence, they would feel as if they were on the rack. They would practise austerity, sometimes alone under trees, sometimes in a cremation ground, sometimes on the bank of the Ganges. Again, sometimes they would spend the entire day in the meditation room of the monastery in japa and contemplation; sometimes they would gather to sing and dance in a rapture of delight. All of them, and Narendra particularly, were consumed with the desire to see God. Now and then they would say to each other, "Shall we not starve ourselves to death to see God?"
Monday, February 21, 1887
Narendra, Rākhāl , Niranjan, Sarat, Śaśi, Kāli, Baburam, Tārak, and Sarada Prasanna were living in the monastery. All day the members had been fasting in observance of the Sivaratri. Sarat, Kāli, Niranjan, and Sarada were planning to go to Puri, the following Saturday, on a pilgrimage to the sacred Jagannath. Jogin and Lātu were at Vrindāvan and had not yet seen the new place.
Narendra had gone to Calcutta that morning to look after a lawsuit in which his family had been involved since the death of his father. At nine o'clock in the morning M. arrived at the Math. Tārak saw him and began to sing in praise of Śiva, Rākhāl joining him:
There Śiva dances, striking both His cheeks; and they resound,
Rākhāl and Tārak danced as they sang. Narendra had recently composed the song.
Śaśi finished the morning worship in the shrine. Sarat then sang about Śiva to the accompaniment of the Tānpura.
Narendra had just arrived from Calcutta. He had not yet taken his bath. Kāli asked him, "What about the lawsuit?" "Why should you bother about it?" Narendra replied sharply.
Renunciation of "woman and gold"
Narendra was smoking and talking to M. and the others. He said: "Nothing can be achieved in spiritual life without the renunciation of 'woman and gold'. 'Woman' is the doorway to hell. All people are under the control of women. The cases of Śiva and Krishna are quite different. Śiva turned His Consort into His servant. Sri Krishna, no doubt, led a house-holder's life. But how unattached He was! How quickly He renounced Vrindāvan and the gopis!"
RĀKHĀL : "And how He renounced Dwaraka, too, where He was king!"
Narendra took his bath in the Ganges and returned to the monastery. He carried his wet cloth and towel in his hand. Sarada prostrated himself before Narendra. He too had been fasting on account of the Sivaratri. He was going to the Ganges for his bath. Narendra entered the worship room and prostrated himself before the picture of Sri Ramakrishna, who was daily worshipped there as the Deity. For a few minutes he was absorbed in meditation.
The devotees assembled in a room and began to converse. The talk turned to Bhavanāth. Narendra said, "People like him live like worms in the world."
Śiva festival at the Math
It was afternoon. Arrangements were being made to worship Śiva in the evening. Leaves of the bel-tree were gathered for the worship. Bel-wood was chopped for the homa.
In the evening Śaśi, who was in charge of the worship at the monastery, burnt incense before the pictures of the various gods and goddesses.
The worship of Śiva was to take place under the bel-tree in the monastery compound. The Deity was to be worshipped four times, during the four watches of the night. The brothers assembled under the bel-tree. Bhupati and M. were present also. One of the young members of the Math was in charge of the worship. Kāli was reading from the Gitā. Now and then he argued with Narendra.
KĀLI: "I alone am everything. I create, preserve, and destroy."
NARENDRA: "How is it possible for me to create? Another power creates through me. Our various actions-even our thoughts-are caused by that power."
M. (to himself): "The Master used to say: 'As long as a man feels that it is he who meditates, he is under the jurisdiction of the Ādyāśakti. Śakti must be acknowledged.'"
Kāli reflected in silence a few moments and then said: "The actions you are talking about are illusory. There is not even any such thing as thought. The very idea of these things makes me laugh."
NARENDRA: "The 'I' that is implied in 'I am He' is not this ego. It is that which remains after one eliminates mind, body, and so on."
After completing the recital of the Gitā, Kāli chanted, "Śāntih! Śāntih! Śāntih!"
Narendra and the other devotees stood up and circled round and round the tree, singing and dancing. Now and then they chanted in chorus: "Śiva Guru! Śiva Guru!"
It was midnight, the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the moon. Pitch darkness filled all the quarters. Men, birds, and animals were all hushed into silence. The young sannyāsis were clad in Gerruā robes. The words "Śiva Guru", chanted in their full-throated voices, rose into the infinite sky like the rumblings of rain-clouds and disappeared in the Indivisible Satchidananda.
The worship was over. The sun, about to rise, was painting the eastern horizon crimson. In this sacred twilight, the conjunction of night and day, the holy Brahmamuhurta, the young worshippers finished their baths in the Ganges.
It was morning. The devotees went to the shrine room, prostrated themselves before the Deity, and gradually assembled in the big hall. Narendra was clad in a new ochre cloth. The bright orange colour of his apparel blended with the celestial lustre of his face and body, every pore of which radiated a divine light. His countenance was filled with fiery brilliance and yet touched with the tenderness of love. He appeared to all as a bubble that had risen up in the Ocean of Absolute Existence and Bliss and assumed a human body to help in the propagation of his Master's message. All eyes were fixed on him. Narendra was then just twenty-four years old, the very age at which the great Chaitanya had renounced the world.
Balarām had sent fruit and sweets to the monastery for the devotees' breakfast. Rākhāl , Narendra, and a few others partook of the refreshments. After eating one or two morsels some of them cried out, "Blessed indeed is Balarām!" All laughed.
Narendra now began to joke like a child. He was imitating Sri Ramakrishna. He put a sweet into his mouth and stood still, as if in samādhi. His eyes remained unwinking. A devotee stepped forward and pretended to hold him up by the hand lest he should drop to the ground. Narendra closed his eyes. A few minutes later, with the sweetmeat still in his mouth, he opened his eyes and drawled out, "I--am--all--right." All laughed loudly.
Refreshments were now given to everyone. M. looked on at this wonderful mart of happiness.
The devotees shouted joyfully, "Jai Guru Mahārāj" !
Monday, March 25, 1887
M. arrived at the Baranagore Math to visit his brother disciples. Devendra accompanied him. M. had been coming to the monastery very frequently and now and then had spent a day or two. The previous week he had spent three days at the Math. He was very eager to observe the spirit of intense renunciation of these young men.
It was evening. M. intended to spend the night in the monastery. Śaśi lighted the lamp in the worship room and chanted the name of God. Next he burnt incense before all the pictures of gods and goddesses in the various rooms. The evening service began. Śaśi conducted the worship, The members of the Math, with M. and Devendra, stood with folded hands and sang the hymn of the Ārati.
Narendra's reminiscences of the Master
When the worship was over, Narendra and M. became engaged in conversation. Narendra was recalling his various meetings with Sri Ramakrishna.
NARENDRA: "One day, during one of my early visits, the Master in an ecstatic mood said to me, 'You have come!' 'How amazing!' I said to myself. 'It is as if he had known me a long time.' Then he said to me, 'Do you ever see light?' I replied: 'Yes, sir. Before I fall asleep I feel something like a light revolving near my forehead.' "
M: "Do you see it even now?"
NARENDRA :"I used to see it frequently. In Jadu Mallick's garden house the Master one day touched me and muttered something to himself. I became unconscious. The effect of the touch lingered with me a month, like an intoxication.
"When he heard that a proposal had been made about my marriage, he wept, holding the feet of the image of Kāli. With tears in his eyes he prayed to the Divine Mother: 'O Mother, please upset the whole thing! Don't let Narendra be drowned.'
"After my father's death my mother and my brothers were starving. When the Master met Annada Guha one day, he said to him: 'Narendra's father has died. His family is in a state of great privation. It would be good if his friends helped him now with money.'
"After Annada had left I scolded him. I said, 'Why did you say all those things to him?' Thus rebuked, he wept and said, 'Alas! for your sake I could beg from door to door.'
"He tamed us by his love. Don't you think so?"
M: "There is not the slightest doubt about it. His love was utterly unselfish."
NARENDRA: "One day when I was alone with him he said something to me. Nobody else was present. Please don't repeat it to anyone here,"
M: "No, I shall not. What did he say?"
NARENDRA: "He said: 'It is not possible for me to exercise occult powers; but I shall do so through you. What do you say?' 'No,' I replied, 'you can't do that.'
"I used to laugh at his words. You must have heard all these things from him. I told him that his visions of God were all hallucinations of his mind.
"He said to me: 'I used to climb to the roof of the kuthi and cry: "O devotees, where are you all? Come to me, O devotees! I am about to die. I shall certainly die if I do not see you." And the Divine Mother told me, "The devotees will come." You see, everything is turning out to be true.'
"What else could I say? I kept quiet.
"One day he closed the door of his room and said to Devendra Babu and Girish Babu, referring to me, 'He will not keep his body if he is told who he is.'"
M: "Yes, we have heard that. Many a time he repeated the same thing to us, too. Once you came to know about your true Self in nirvikalpa samādhi at the Cossipore garden house. Isn't that true?"
NARENDRA: "Yes. In that experience I felt that I had no body. I could see only my face. The Master was in the upstairs room. I had that experience downstairs. I was weeping. I said, 'What has happened to me?' The elder Gopal went to the Master's room and said, 'Narendra is crying.'
"When I saw the Master he said to me: 'Now you have known. But I am going to keep the key with me.'
"I said to him, 'What is it that happened to me?'
"Turning to the devotees, he said: 'He will not keep his body if he knows who he is. But I have put a veil over his eyes.'
"One day he said to me, 'You can see Krishna in your heart if you want.' I replied, 'I don't believe in Krishna or any such nonsense!' (Both M. and Narendra laugh.)
Narendra's foreknowledge of things
"I have noticed a peculiar thing. Some men, objects, or places make me feel as if I had seen them before, in a previous birth. They appear familiar to me. One day I went to Sarat's house in Calcutta, on Amherst Street. Immediately I said to Sarat: 'This house seems familiar to me. It seems to me that I have known the rooms, the passages, and the rest of the house for many, many days.
"I used to follow my own whims in everything I did. The Master never interfered. You know that I became a member of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj."
M: "Yes, I know that."
NARENDRA: "The Master knew that women attended the meetings of the Brahmo Samaj. A man cannot meditate with women sitting in front of him; therefore he criticized the meditation of the Brahmo Samaj. But he didn't object to my going there. But one day he said to me, 'Don't tell Rākhāl about your being a member of the Brahmo Samaj, or he too will feel like becoming one.'"
M: "You have greater strength of mind. That is why the Master didn't prevent your going to the Samaj."
NARENDRA: "I have attained my present state of mind as a result of much suffering and pain. You have not passed through any such suffering. I now realize that without trials and tribulations one cannot resign oneself to God and depend on Him absolutely.
"Well, X- is so modest and humble! He is totally self-effacing. Can you tell me how I can develop humility?"
M: "Speaking about your ego, the Master said, 'Whose ego is it?'"
NARENDRA: "What did he mean?"
M: "A friend one day said to Rādhika: 'You are egotistic. That is why you insulted Krishna.' Whereupon another friend said to the first: 'Yes, Rādhika is egotistic, no doubt. But whose ego is it?' What she meant was that Radha was egotistic because she regarded Krishna as her Lord. It was Krishna Himself who kept that ego in Radha.
"What the Master meant was that it is God alone who has kept this ego in you, so that He may accomplish many things through you.
NARENDRA: "But my ego loudly proclaims to all that I have no suffering."
M. (smiling): "You may loudly proclaim it, if that be your sweet will."
The conversation turned to other devotees.
NARENDRA: "The Master said about Vijay Goswami, 'He is knocking at the door.' "
M: "That is to say, he has not yet entered the room. At Syampukur Vijay said to the Master, 'I saw you at Dāccā in this tangible form, in this very body.' You were there too."
NARENDRA: "Devendra Babu and Ram Babu want to renounce the World. They are trying hard. Ram Babu told me privately that he would give up the world after two years."
M: "After two years? After making provision for his children?"
NARENDRA: "Besides, he will rent his present house and buy a small house. Other relatives will arrange his daughter's marriage."
M: "Gopal is in an exalted state of mind, isn't he?"
NARENDRA: "What do you mean?"
M: "So much emotion, so much weeping and such exaltation in the name of God!"
NARENDRA: "Does mere emotion make a man spiritually great? Youngsters like Kāli, Sarat, Śaśi, and Sarada are more spiritual than Gopal. How great their renunciation is! Gopal does not accept the Master, does he?"
M: "That is true. The Master remarked that Gopal did not belong to the circle of his devotees. But I saw him show great reverence for Sri Ramakrishna."
NARENDRA: "What did you see?"
M: "At that time I was just becoming acquainted with Sri Ramakrishna. One day after the meeting of the devotees in his room had broken up, I came out and saw Gopal on the foot-path, kneeling with folded hands before the Master. The moon was shining brightly overhead. It was the red path sprinkled with brick-dust, just outside the long verandah north of the Master's room. Nobody else was there. It appeared to me that Gopal had taken shelter at Sri Ramakrishna's feet and the Master was encouraging him."
NARENDRA: "I didn't see it."
M: "Further, the Master used to say, 'Gopal is in the state of a paramahamsa.' But I also distinctly remember his forbidding Gopal to be intimate with woman devotees. Many a time he warned him about it."
NARENDRA: "Speaking to me about Gopal, the Master asked why, if Gopal was a real Paramahamsa, he should hanker after money. 'He doesn't belong to this place', the Master said. 'Those who are my own will always come here.' He used to be angry with T - because he was Gopal's constant companion and didn't come to the Master more often. 'Gopal has spiritual realizations, no doubt,' the Master said to me, 'but he has attained them all of a sudden, without the necessary preparations. He is not one of my own. If he is, why haven't I wept for him?'
"Some are proclaiming Gopal as the reincarnation of Nityananda. But times without number the Master said to me: 'In me alone are embodied Advaita, Chaitanya, and Nityananda. I am all these three.'"
Friday, April 8, 1887
About eight o'clock in the morning two devotees, one a householder and the other a monk, were conversing in a room in the Barangore monastery, when M. came in. The devotees were of the same age-twenty-four or twenty-five years old. M. intended to spend three days at the monastery. He went to the shrine and saluted the Deity. After visiting Narendra, Rākhāl , and the other brothers, he at last came into the room where the two devotees were engaged in conversation. The householder devotee wanted to renounce the world, The monk was trying to persuade him not to do so.
MONK: "Why don't you finish the few duties you have in the world? Very soon they will be left behind,
"A man was told that he would go to hell. He asked a friend, 'What is hell like?' Thereupon the friend began to draw a picture of hell on the ground with a piece of chalk. No sooner was the picture drawn than the man rolled over it and said, 'Now I have gone through hell!'"
HOUSEHOLDER: "I don't relish worldly life, Ah, how happy you are here!"
MONK: "Why don't you renounce the world, if you want to? Why do you talk about it so much? But I repeat, why don't you enjoy the fun once for all?"
Śaśi finished the regular worship in the worship hall. About eleven the brothers of the Math returned from the Ganges after taking their baths. They put on clean cloths, went to the shrine, prostrated themselves before the Deity, and meditated there a little while.
After the food was offered to the Deity they had their meal. M. ate with them.
It was evening. Incense was burnt before the pictures of gods and goddesses and the evening service was performed. Rākhāl , Śaśi, the elder Gopal, and Harish were seated in the big hall. M. also was there.
Rākhāl 's reminiscences of the Master
Rākhāl warned one of the brothers to be careful about the food to he offered to the Master in the shrine.
RĀKHĀL (to Śaśi and the others): "One day I ate part of his [meaning the Master's] refreshments before he took them. At this he said: 'I cannot look at you. How could you do such a thing?' I burst into tears."
THE ELDER GOPAL: "One day at Cossipore I breathed hard on his food. At this he said, 'Take that food away.' "
M. and Narendra were pacing the verandah and recalling old times.
NARENDRA: "I did not believe in anything."
M:" You mean the forms of God?"
NARENDRA: "At first I did not accept most of what the Master said. One day he asked me, 'Then why do you come here?' I replied, 'I come here to see you, not to listen to you.' "
M: "What did he say to that?"
NARENDRA: "He was very much pleased."
Saturday, April 9, 1887
The Master and Narendra
The member of the Math were resting a little after their meal. Narendra and M. sat under a tree in the garden to the west of the monastery. It was a solitary place and no one else was present. Narendra was recounting to M. his various experiences with Sri Ramakrishna, Narendra was about twenty-four years old, and M. thirty-two.
M: "You must remember vividly your first visit to him."
NARENDRA: "Yes. It was at the temple garden at Dakshineswar, in his own room. That day I sang two songs."
Narendra sang them for M.:
Let us go back once more, O mind, to our own abode!
Ascend the path of Truth, O mind! Unflaggingly climb,
Companionship with holy men will be for you
O Lord, must all my days pass by so utterly in vain?
M: "What did he say after listening to your songs?"
NARENDRA: "He went into samādhi. He said to Ram Babu: 'Who is this boy? How well he sings!' He asked me to come again."
M: "Where did you see him next?"
NARENDRA: "At Rājmohan's house. The third visit was at Dakshineswar again. During that visit he went into samādhi and began to praise me as if I were God. He said to me, 'O Narayana, you have assumed this body for my sake.' But please don't tell this to anybody else."
M: "What else did he say?"
NARENDRA: "He said: 'You have assumed this body for my sake. I asked the Divine Mother, "Mother, unless I enjoy the company of some genuine devotees completely free from 'woman and gold', how shall I live on earth?" '
Then he said to me, 'You came to me at night woke me up, and said, "Here I am!"' But I did not know anything of this. I was sound asleep in our Calcutta house."
M: "In other words, you may be both present and absent at the same time. It is like God, who is both formless and endowed with form."
NARENDRA: "But you must not tell this to anyone else. At Cossipore he transmitted his power to me."
M: "Didn't it happen when you used to meditate before a lighted fire under a tree at the Cossipore garden house?"
NARENDRA: "Yes. One day, while meditating, I asked Kāli to hold my hand. Kāli said to me, 'When I touched your body I felt something like an electric shock coming to my body.'
"But you must not tell this to anybody here. Give me your promise."
M: "There is a special purpose in his transmission of power to you. He will accomplish much work through you. One day the Master, wrote on a piece of paper, 'Naren will teach people.'"
NARENDRA: "But I said to him, 'I won't do any such thing.' Thereupon he said, 'Your very bones will do it.' He has given me charge of Sarat. Sarat is now yearning for God; the Kundalini is awakened in him."
M: "He must be careful that dead leaves do not accumulate there. Perhaps you remember what the Master used to say: 'In a lake the fish make holes so that they may rest there. But if dead leaves accumulate in the holes, the fish do not go there.' "
NARENDRA: "The Master used to call me Narayana."
M: "Yes, I know he did."
NARENDRA: "When he was ill he would not allow me to pour water to wash his hands. At Cossipore he said: 'Now the key is in my hands. He will give up his body when he knows who he is.'"
M; "Didn't he say it when you were in nirvikalpa samādhi?"
NARENDRA: "Yes. At the time it seemed to me I had no body. I felt only my face.
"I was studying law at home to prepare for the examinations. Suddenly I said to myself, 'What am I doing?' "
M: "Didn't it happen when the Master was at Cossipore?"
NARENDRA: "Yes. Like an insane person I ran out of our house. He asked me, 'What do you want?' I replied, 'I want to remain immersed in samādhi.' He said: 'What a small mind you have! Go beyond samādhi! Samādhi is a very trifling thing.' "
M: "Yes, he used to say that vijnāna is the stage after jnāna. It is like going up and down the stairs after reaching the roof."
NARENDRA: "Kāli has a craving for knowledge. I scold him for that. Is knowledge so easy to get? Let his bhakti first mature. The Master told Tārak at Dakshineswar that emotion and bhakti are by no means the last word."
M: "What other things did he say about you?"
NARENDRA: "Once I said to him, The forms of God and things like that, which you see in your visions, are all figments of your imagination.' He had so much faith in my words that he went to the Divine Mother in the temple and told Her what I had said to him. He asked Her, 'Are these hallucinations, then?' Afterwards he said to me, 'Mother told me that all these are real.'
"Perhaps you remember that he said to me, 'When you sing, He who dwells here (touching his heart), like a snake, hisses as it were, and then, spreading His hood, quietly holds Himself steady and listens to your music.'
"He has no doubt said many things about me; but what have I realized?"
M: "Now you have put on the garb of Śiva; you cannot touch money. Do you remember the Master's story?"
NARENDRA: "Please tell it to me."
M: "A Bahurupi disguised himself as Śiva and visited a house. The master of the house wanted to give him a rupee, but he did not accept it. Then the mendicant went home, removed his disguise, came back to the gentleman, and asked for the rupee. 'Why didn't you accept it before?' he was asked. He said: 'I was impersonating Śiva, a sannyāsi. I couldn't touch money that time.' "
When Narendra heard the story he laughed a long while.
M: "You have now put on the garb of a physician, as it were. You have become the guardian of these young men. Yours is the entire responsibility. You have to bring up the brothers of the monastery."
NARENDRA: "Whatever spiritual disciplines we are practising here are in obedience to the Master's command. But it is strange that Ram Babu criticizes us for our spiritual practices. He says: 'We have seen him. What need have we of any such practice?' "
M: "Let people act according to their faith."
NARENDRA: "But the Master asked us to practise sādhanā."
Master's love for Narendra
Narendra was again telling M. about the Master's love for him.
NARENDRA: "How many times he prayed to the Divine Mother for my sake! After my father's death, when I had no food at home and my mother and sisters and brothers were starving too, the Master prayed to the Divine Mother to give me money."
M: "Yes, I know that. You once told me."
NARENDRA: "But I didn't get any money. The Master told me what the Divine Mother had said to him: 'He will get simple food and clothing. He will eat rice and dāl.'
"He loved me so much! But whenever an impure idea crept into my mind he at once knew about it. While going around with Annada, sometime I found myself in the company of evil people. On those occasions the Master could not eat any food from my hands. He could raise his hand only a little, and could not bring it to his mouth. On one such occasion, while he was ill, he brought his hand very close to his mouth, but it did not go in. He said to me, 'You are not yet ready.'
"Now and then I feel great scepticism. At Baburam's house it seemed to me that nothing existed-as if there were no such thing as God."
M: "The Master used to say that he too had passed through that mood."
Both M. and Narendra remained silent. Then M. said: "You are all indeed blessed! You think of the Master day and night."
NARENDRA: "But how little it is! We don't yet feel like giving up the body because we haven't realized God."
It was night. Niranjan had just returned from Puri The members of the Math, and M., greeted him with great joy. Niranjan was telling them his experiences. He was then about twenty-five years old.
The evening worship was over. Some of the brothers were meditating. But many of them assembled in the big hall around Niranjan. They were talking. After nine o'clock Śaśi offered food to the Deity.
The members of the Math finished their supper, which consisted of home-made bread, a little vegetable, and a little hard molasses.
Saturday, May 7, 1887
It was the full-moon day of the month of Vaiśākh. Narendra and M. were seated on a couch in M.'s study in Calcutta. They were talking. Just before Narendra's arrival, M. had been studying The Merchant of Venice, Comus, and Blackie's Self-culture, which he taught at school.
Narendra and the other brothers of the monastery were full of yearning for God-realization. A fire of intense renunciation raged in their hearts.
NARENDRA: "I don't care for anything. You see, I am now talking with you, but I feel like getting up this minute and running away."
Narendra sat in silence a few minutes. Then he said, "I shall fast to death for the realization of God."
M: "That is good. One can do anything for God."
NARENDRA: "But suppose I cannot control my hunger."
M: "Then eat something and begin over again."
Narendra remained silent a few minutes.
NARENDRA: "It seems there is no God. I pray so much, but there is no reply-none whatsoever.
"How many visions I have seen! How many mantrās shining in letters of gold! How many visions of the Goddess Kāli! How many other divine forms! But still I have no peace. "Will you kindly give me six pice?"
Narendra asked for the money to pay his carriage hire to the Barangore Math. Just then Satkari arrived in a carriage. Of the same age as Narendra, he dearly loved the members of the monastery. He lived near the Math and worked in Calcutta. The carriage was his own. Narendra returned the money to M. and said that he would go with Satkari in his carriage. He asked M. to give them some refreshments.
M. accompanied the two friends to the Barangore Math. He wanted to see how the brothers spent their time and practised sādhana. He wanted to see how Sri Ramakrishna, the Master, was reflected in the hearts of the disciples. Niranjan was not at the Math. He had gone home to visit his mother, the only relative he had in the world. Baburam, Sarat, and Kāli had gone to Puri. They intended to spend a few days there.
Prasanna's austere sādhanā
Narendra was in charge of the members of the monastery. Prasanna had been practising austere sādhanā for the past few days. Once Narendra had told him of his desire to fast to death for the realization of God. During Narendra's absence in Calcutta, Prasanna had left the monastery for an unknown destination. When Narendra heard about it, he said to the brothers, "Why did Raja allow him to go?" But Rākhāl had not been in the monastery at the time, having gone to the Dakshineswar temple for a stroll.
NARENDRA: "Just let Raja come back to the monastery! I shall scold him. Why did he allow Prasanna to go away? (To Harish) I am sure you were lecturing him then, standing with your feet apart. Couldn't you prevent his going away?"
Harish replied in a very low voice, "Brother Tārak asked him not to go, but still he went away."
NARENDRA (to M.): "You see what a lot of trouble I am in! Here, too, I am involved in a world of māyā. Who knows where this boy has gone?"
Rākhāl returned from Dakshineswar. Bhavanāth had accompanied him.
Narendra told Rākhāl about Prasanna's going away from the monastery. Prasanna had left a letter for Narendra. This was the substance of the letter: "I am going to Vrindāvan on foot. It is very risky for me to live here. Here my mind is undergoing a change. Formerly I used to dream about my parents and other relatives. Then I dreamt of woman, the embodiment of māyā. I have suffered twice; I had to go back to my relatives at home. Therefore I am going far away from them. The Master once told me, 'Your people at home are apt to do anything; never trust them.' "
Rākhāl said: "These are the reasons for his going away. Once he remarked: 'Narendra often goes home to look after his mother, brothers, and sisters. And he supervises the family's lawsuit. I am afraid that I too may feel like going home, following his example.' "
Narendra remained silent.
Rākhāl was talking to them about making pilgrimages. He said: "We have achieved nothing by staying here. The Master always exhorted us to realize God. Have we succeeded?"
Rākhāl lay down. The other devotees were either lying down or sitting.
RĀKHĀL : "Let us go to the Narmada."
NARENDRA: "What will you achieve by wandering about? Can one ever attain jnāna, that you are talking about it so much?"
A DEVOTEE: "Then why have you renounced the world?"
NARENDRA: "Must we live with Shyam because we have not seen Ram? Must we go on begetting children because we have not realized God? What are you talking about?"
Narendra went out, returning after a few minutes. Rākhāl was still lying down.
A member of the monastery who was also lying down said teasingly, feigning great suffering on account of his separation from God: "Ah! Please get me a knife. I have no more use for this life. I can't stand this pain any more!"
NARENDRA (feigning seriousness): "It is there. Stretch out your hand and take it."
The conversation again turned to Prasanna.
NARENDRA: "Even here we are involved in māyā. Why have we become sannyāsis, I wonder?"
RĀKHĀL : "I have read in a book that sannyāsis should not live together. The author has described a city of sannyāsis."
ŚAŚI: "I don't care
about sannyās or any such thing. There is no place where I cannot live."
Narendra said to Rākhāl : "I understand that his wife has been snatched from the jaws of death. Is that why he went to Dakshineswar to enjoy the fresh air?"
Ram Babu intended to build a temple in the garden at Kankurgachi, where some of Sri Ramakrishna's ashes were buried.
NARENDRA (to Rākhāl ): "Ram Babu has made M. one of the trustees of the garden."
M. (to Rākhāl ): "But I don't know anything about it."
It was dusk. Śaśi burnt incense before the picture of Sri Ramakrishna in the worship room and then before the pictures of gods and goddesses in the other rooms.
The evening worship began. The members of the Math and the other devotees stood with folded hands near the door of the shrine and witnessed the Ārati. Then they all sang in chorus the following hymn to Śiva, to the accompaniment of bell and gong:
Jaya Śiva Omkara, Bhaja Śiva Omkara,
Narendra had introduced this song for the evening worship. It is sung in the temple of Śiva in Benares.
It was eleven o'clock at night when their supper was over. The brothers prepared a bed for M., and all went to sleep.
It was midnight. M. was wide awake. He said to himself: "Everything is as it was before. The same Ayodhya only Rāmā is not there." M. silently left his bed. It was the full-moon night of Vaiśākh, the thrice-blessed day of the Buddhists, associated with Buddha's birth, realization, and passing away. M. was walking alone on the bank of the Ganges, contemplating the Master.
The Yoga-vāsishta was being studied and explained. M. had heard a little about the teachings of this book from Sri Ramakrishna. It taught the absolute identity of Brahman and the soul, and the unreality of the world. The Master had forbidden him and the other householder devotees to practise spiritual discipline following the method of the Advaita Vedānta, since the attitude of the oneness of the soul and God is harmful for one still identified with the body. For such a devotee, the Master used to say, it was better to look on God as the Lord and oneself as His servant.
The conversation turned to the Yoga-vāsishta.
M: "Well, how is Brahmajnana described in the Yoga-vāsishta?"
RĀKHĀL : "Hunger, thirst, pain, pleasure, and so on, are all māyā. The annihilation of the mind is the only means to the realization of Brahman."
M: "What remains after the annihilation of the mind is Brahman. Is that not true?"
RĀKHĀL : "Yes."
M: "Sri Ramakrishna used to say that Nangta taught him that way. Have you found in the book that Vasishtha asked Rāma to lead a householder's life?"
RĀKHĀL : "I haven't yet found anything like that in the book. Rāma is not even admitted by the author to be an Incarnation of God."
Presently Narendra, Tārak, and another devotee returned from the bank of the Ganges. They had intended to go to Konnagar, on the other side of the river, but had been unable to find a ferry-boat. They sat down. The conversation about the Yoga-vāsishta went on.
NARENDRA (to M.): "There are many nice stories in the book. Do you know the incident of Lila?"
M: "Yes, I have read the book here and there. Lila had attained Brahmajnana."
NARENDRA: "Yes. Do you remember the story of Indra and Ahalyā, and the story of how King Viduratha became a chandala?"
M: "Yes, I remember."
NARENDRA: "What a wonderful description of the forest!"
Narendra and the other devotees were going to the Ganges to bathe. M. accompanied them. The sun was very hot; so M. took his umbrella. Sarat, a devotee from Barangore, was going with them to take his bath. He often visited the monastery.
M. (to Sarat): "It is very hot."
NARENDRA: "Is that your excuse for taking the umbrella?"
The members of the monastery were clad in Gerruā.
M. (to Narendra): "It is really very hot. One is liable to get a sunstroke."
NARENDRA: "I see that your body is the obstacle in your path of renunciation. Isn't that so? I mean you, Devendra Babu-"
M. laughed and said to himself, "Is it merely the body?"
After bathing, the devotees returned to the monastery. They washed their feet and entered the worship room. Saluting the Deity, they offered flowers.
Narendra was a little late in coming to the worship room. He found that there was no flower on the tray. There were only a few bel-leaves. He sprinkled the leaves with sandal-paste and offered them to Sri Ramakrishna. He rang the bell, saluted the Deity again, and joined the other brothers in the big hall, which was known as the room of the "Dānās".
The members of the Math called themselves the "Dānās" and the "Daityās", which mean the "ghosts" and the "demons", the companions of Śiva. They took these names because of their utter indifference to worldly pleasures and relationships.
The southernmost room of the second floor was used for meditation, contemplation, and study, and was known as Kāli Tapasvi's room, since Kāli used to shut himself in there most of the day. North of this room was the worship room, and north of that, again, was the room where the offerings for the worship were prepared. From this room the devotees used to watch the evening worship. North of the "offering room" was the room of the "Dānās", a very long hall where the members of the Math used to assemble. Here the householder devotees and visitors were received. North of this hall was a small room where the devotees took their meals. East of the worship room and of Kāli Tapasvi's room ran a long verandah, at the south-west corner of which was the library of a society of Barangore. Between Kāli Tapasvi's room and this library was a staircase; and north of the dining room was another staircase, leading to the roof.
Narendra and the other members of the Math often spent their evenings on this roof. There they devoted a great deal of time to discussion of the teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, Sankaracharya, Ramanuja, and Jesus Christ, and of Hindu philosophy, European philosophy, the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Tantras.
Narendra, who had a beautiful voice, used to sing in the room of the "Dānās" and teach music to Sarat and a few others. Kāli used to take lessons on the instruments. Many, many happy hours they spent together in that hall, dancing and singing.
Narendra was sitting with the devotees in the room of the "Dānās". The conversation turned to religious preaching.
Vidyāsāgar's reluctance about preaching
M. (to Narendra): "Vidyāsāgar says that he does not speak about God to anyone for fear of being caned."
NARENDRA: "For fear of being caned? What does he mean?"
M: "This is what
Vidyāsāgar says: 'Suppose that after death we all go to God. The
emissaries of Death will have sent Keshab Sen there too. Keshab Sen, no
doubt, committed sins while he lived on earth. When that is proved,
perhaps God will say, "Give him twenty-five stripes." Then suppose I am
taken to God. I used to go to Keshab Sen's Brahmo Samaj in my earthly
life. I too have committed many sins; so I too am ordered to be caned.
Then suppose I say to God that I acted in that sinful way because I
listened to Keshab's preaching. Thereupon God will ask His emissaries to
bring Keshab back. When he is brought, the Almighty Lord will say to
him: "Did you really preach that way? You yourself knew nothing about
spiritual matters and yet you had the hardihood to teach others about
God! Emissaries! Give him twenty-five stripes more." ' "
M: "Therefore Vidyāsāgar says: 'I cannot take care of my own self, should I be foolish enough to get an additional caning for misleading others? I myself do not understand God. How shall I lecture to others about Him?' "
NARENDRA: "How has he-who could not understand God-understood other things?"
M: "What other things?"
NARENDRA: "He says that he has not understood God. But how, then, can he understand charity and doing good to others? How can he understand about the school? How can he understand about educating boys by establishing schools? How can he understand that it is right to enter the world, marry, and beget children?
"He who rightly understands one thing understands everything else."
M. (to himself): "Yes, Sri Ramakrishna, too, said that he who knows God knows everything else. Further, he said to Vidyāsāgar that leading a worldly life, establishing schools, and so on are the outcome of rajas. The Master also said that Vidyāsāgar's philanthropy was due to the influence of sattva on rajas. Such rajas is not harmful."
After their meal the brothers of the monastery rested. M. and Chunilal were conversing. Chunilal told M. of his first visit to Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar. He also told him how at one time he had felt disgusted with the world, had renounced it, and had wandered about in holy places. A few minutes later Narendra came and sat by them. He asked the younger Gopal to prepare a smoke for him. The latter had been meditating. Narendra said to him: "I say! Prepare a smoke. What do you mean by this meditation?
First of all prepare yourself for spiritual life by serving God and holy men; then you will be able to meditate. First of all karma, and then meditation." Everybody laughed.
There was a big plot of wooded land to the west of the monastery compound. M. was seated alone under a tree, when suddenly Prasanna appeared. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon.
M: "Where have you been all these days? Everyone has been so worried about you. Have you seen the brothers? When did you arrive?"
PRASANNA: "Just now. Yes, I have seen them."
M: "You left a note saying that you were going to Vrindāvan. We were terribly worried about you. How far did you go?"
PRASANNA: "Only as far as Konnagar."
Both of them laughed.
M: "Sit down. Tell me all about it. Where did you stop first?"
PRASANNA: "At the Dakshineswar temple garden. I spent one night there."
M. (smiling): "What is Hazra's present mood?"
PRASANNA: "Hazra asked me, 'What do you think of me?'"
M. (smiling): "What did you say?"
PRASANNA: "I said nothing."
PRASANNA: "Then he asked me whether I had brought tobacco for him."
PRASANNA: "He wanted me to wait on him." (Laughter.)
M: "Where did you go next?"
PRASANNA; "By degrees I got to Konnagar. I spent the night in the open. I intended to proceed farther and asked some gentlemen whether I could procure enough money there for a railway ticket to the up-country."
M: "What did they say?"
PRASANNA: "They said, 'You may get a rupee or so; but who will give you the whole fare?'"
M: "What did you take with you?"
PRASANNA: "Oh, one or two pieces of cloth and a picture of the Master. I didn't show the picture to anybody."
Śaśi's father came to the Math. He wanted to take his son home. During Sri Ramakrishna's illness Śaśi had nursed the Master for nine months with unswerving zeal. He had won a scholarship in the Entrance Examination for his academic ability and had studied up to the B.A., but he had not appeared at the examination. His father, a poor brahmin, was a devout Hindu and spent much of his time in spiritual practice. Śaśi was his eldest son. His parents had hoped that, after completing his education, he would earn money and remove the family's financial difficulties. But Śaśi had renounced the world for the realization of God. Whenever he thought of his father and mother he felt great anguish of heart. Many a time he said to his friends, with tears in his eyes: "I am at a loss as to my duty. Alas, I could not serve my parents; I could not be of any use to them. What great hope they placed in me! On account of our poverty my mother did not have any jewelry. I cherished the desire to buy some for her. But now all my hopes are frustrated; it is impossible for me to return home. My Master asked me to renounce 'woman and gold'. I simply cannot return home."
After Sri Ramakrishna's passing away Śaśi's father had hoped that his son would come back to his family. The boy had spent a few days at home, but immediately after the establishment of the new monastery he had begun to frequent it and, after a few days, had decided to remain there as one of the members. Every now and then his father came to the monastery to persuade him to come home; but he had not succeeded.
This day, on learning that his father had come, Śaśi fled the monastery by another door. He did not want to meet him.
Śaśi's father knew M. They paced the upper verandah together and talked.
ŚAŚI'S FATHER: "Who
is in charge of this place? Narendra alone is the cause of all the
mischief. For a while all these young men returned home and devoted
themselves to their studies."
ŚAŚI'S FATHER: "You are doing the right thing. You are serving both the world and God. Can't one practise religion after your method? That is exactly what we want Śaśi to do. Let him live at home and come here too. You have no idea how much his mother weeps for him."
M. became sad and said nothing.
ŚAŚI'S FATHER: "And if you speak of searching for holy men, I know where to find a good one. Let Śaśi go to him."
Rākhāl 's yearning for God
Rākhāl and M. were walking on the verandah to the east of Kāli Tapasvi's room.
RĀKHĀL (earnestly): "M., let us practise sādhanā! We have renounced home for good. When someone says, 'You have not realized God by renouncing home; then why all this fuss?', Narendra gives a good retort. He says, 'Because we could not attain Ram, must we live with Shyam and beget children?' Ah! Every now and then Narendra says nice things. You had better ask him."
M: "What you say is right. I see that you too have become restless for God."
RĀKHĀL : "M., how can I describe the state of my mind? Today at noontime I felt great yearning for the Narmada. M., please practise sādhanā; otherwise you will not succeed. Even Sukadeva was afraid of this world. That is why immediately after his birth he fled the world. His father asked him to wait, but he ran straight away."
M: "Yes, the Yogopanishad describes how Sukadeva fled this world of māyā. It also describes Vyāsa's conversation with Suka. Vyāsa asked his son to practise religion in the world. But Suka said that the one essential thing is the Lotus Feet of God. He also expressed his disgust with worldly men for getting married and living with women."
RĀKHĀL : "Many people think that it is enough not to look at the face of a woman. But what will you gain merely by turning your eyes to the ground at the sight of a woman? Narendra put it very well last night, when he said: 'Woman exists for a man as long as he has lust. Free from lust, one sees no difference between man and woman.' "
M: "How true it is! Children do not see the difference between man and woman."
RĀKHĀL : "Therefore I say that we must practise spiritual discipline. How can one attain Knowledge without going beyond māyā?
"Let's go to the big hall. Some gentlemen have come from Barangore. Narendra is talking with them. Let's go and listen to him."
M. did not enter the room. As he was pacing outside he overheard some of the conversation.
NARENDRA: "There is no fixed time or place for the Sandhya and other devotions."
GENTLEMAN: "Sir, can one realize God through spiritual practice alone?"
NARENDRA: "Realization depends on God's grace. Sri Krishna says in the Gitā: The Lord, O Arjuna, dwells in the hearts of all beings, causing them, by His māyā, to revolve as if mounted on a machine. Take refuge in Him with all thy heart, O Bharata. By His grace wilt thou attain Supreme Peace and the Eternal Abode.
"Without the grace of God mere worship and prayer do not help at all. Therefore one should take refuge in Him."
GENTLEMAN: "May we come now and then and disturb you?"
NARENDRA: "Please come whenever you like. We take our baths in the Ganges at your ghat."
GENTLEMAN: "I don't mind that. But please see that others don't use it."
NARENDRA: "We shall not use your ghat, if that is what you mean"
GENTLEMAN: "No, I don't mean exactly that. But if you see other people using it, then you had better not go."
It was dusk. The evening worship was over. The devotees, as usual, sang in chorus, "Jaya Śiva Omkara". Afterwards they assembled in the room of the "Dānās". M., too, was seated there. Prasanna was reading from the Guru Gitā.
I salute the Eternal Teacher, who is the Embodiment of the Bliss of
Narendra sang again:
There is none, higher than the Guru, none better than the Guru;
As Narendra sang these verses from the Guru Gitā in his melodious voice, the minds of the devotees became steady, like a candle-flame in a windless place.
Rākhāl was seated in Kāli Tapasvi's room. Prasanna sat near him. M., too, was there.
Rākhāl had renounced the world, leaving behind his wife and child. A fire of intense renunciation burnt day and night in his heart. He was thinking seriously of going away, by himself, to the bank of the Narmada or some other holy place. Still, he was trying to persuade Prasanna not to run away from the monastery.
RĀKHĀL (to Prasanna): "Where do you want to go, running away from here? Here you are in the company of holy men. Wouldn't it be foolish to run away from this? Where will you find another like Narendra?"
PRASANNA: "My parents live in Calcutta. I am afraid of being drawn by their love: That is why I want to flee to a distant place."
RĀKHĀL : "Can our parents love us as intensely as Gurumaharaj [meaning Sri Ramakrishna] did? What have we done for him, to deserve all this love? Why was he so eager for our welfare in body, mind, and soul? What have we done for him, to deserve all this?"
M. (to himself): "Ah! Rākhāl is right. Therefore a person like Sri Ramakrishna is described as the 'Ocean of Mercy without any reason'."
PRASANNA (to Rākhāl ): "Don't you yourself feel like running away from here?"
RĀKHĀL : "Yes, now and then I have a fancy to spend a few days on the bank of the Narmada. I say to myself, 'Let me go to a place like that and practise sādhanā in a garden.' Again, I feel a strong desire to practise the Panchatapa for three days. But I hesitate to live in a garden that belongs to worldly people."
Tārak and Prasanna
Tārak and Prasanna were talking in the room of the "Dānās". Tārak had lost his mother. His father, like Rākhāl 's father, had married a second time. Tārak himself had married but had lost his wife. Now the monastery was his home. He too was trying to persuade Prasanna to live there.
PRASANNA: "I have neither jnāna nor prema. What have I in the world for a support?"
TĀRAK: "It is no doubt difficult to attain jnāna; but how can you say you have no prema?"
PRASANNA: "I have not yet wept for God. How can I say I have prema? What have I realized in all these days?"
TĀRAK: "But you have seen the Master. And why do you say that you have no jnāna?"
PRASANNA: "What sort of jnāna are you talking about? Jnāna means Knowledge. Knowledge of what? Certainly of God. But I am not even sure of the existence of God."
TĀRAK: "Yes, that's true. According to the Jnāni, there is no God."
M. (to himself): "Ah! The Master used to say that those who seek God pass through the state that Prasanna is now experiencing. In that state sometimes one doubts the very existence of God. I understand that Tārak is now reading Buddhistic philosophy. That is why he says that according to the Jnāni God does not exist. But Sri Ramakrishna used to say that the Jnāni and the bhakta will ultimately arrive at the same destination."
Narendra asks Prasanna to practise self-surrender
Narendra and Prasanna were talking in the meditation room. Rākhāl , Harish, and the younger Gopal were seated in another part of the room. After a while the elder Gopal came in. Narendra was reading from the Gitā and explaining the verses to Prasanna:
The Lord, O Arjuna, dwells in the hearts of all beings, causing them, by His māyā, to revolve as if mounted on a machine. Take refuge in Him with all thy heart, O Bharata. By His grace wilt thou attain Supreme Peace and the take refuge in Me alone. I shall liberate thee from all sins. Eternal Abode. Relinquishing all dharmas, Grieve not.
NARENDRA: "Did you notice what Krishna said? 'Mounted on a machine.' The Lord, by His māyā, causes all beings to revolve as if mounted on a machine. To seek to know God? You are but a worm among worms-and you to know God? Just reflect a moment: what is a man? It is said that each one of the myriads of stars that shine overhead represents a solar system. This earth of ours is a part of only one solar system, and even that is too big for us. Like an insect man walks about on this earth, which, compared to the sun, is only a tiny ball."
We are born, O Lord, in the dust of earth,
Wilt Thou cast us out of Thy lap, O Lord,
Mere babes are we, Father, with baby minds;
Small are we-oh, do not be angry with us,
Then he said to Prasanna: "Surrender yourself at His feet. Resign your self completely to His will."
Narendra sang again in an ecstatic mood:
O Lord, I am Thy servant, I am Thy servant! Thy servant am I!
Narendra said to Prasanna: "Don't you remember Sri Ramakrishna's words? God is the hill of sugar and you are but an ant. One grain is enough to fill your stomach, and you think of bringing home the entire hill! Don't you remember what the Master said about Sukadeva? Even Sukadeva was a big ant at the most. That is why I scolded Kāli, saying: 'You fool! Do you want to measure God with your tape and foot-rule?'
"God is the Ocean of Mercy. Be His slave and take refuge in Him. He will show compassion. Pray to Him: 'Protect me always with Thy compassionate face. Lead me from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, from death to Immortality. Reveal Thyself to me and protect me always with Thy compassionate face.' "
PRASANNA: "What kind of spiritual discipline should one practise?"
NARENDRA: "Repeat His name. That's enough. Don't you remember Sri Ramakrishna's song?"
O Syama, my only hope is in Thy hallowed name!
He sang again:
Mere babes are we, Father, with baby minds;
PRASANNA: "Now you are saying that there is a God. Again, it is you who say that according to Chārvāka and many other thinkers the world was self-created."
NARENDRA: "Haven't you studied chemistry? Who combines the different elements? It is a human hand that combines hydrogen, oxygen, and electricity to prepare water. Everybody admits the existence of an Intelligent Force-a Force that is the essence of Knowledge and that guides all these phenomena."
PRASANNA: "How are we to know that God is kind?"
NARENDRA: "The Vedas say, 'That which is Thy compassionate face.' John Stuart Mill said the same thing. He said, 'How much kindness must He have, who has implanted kindness in the hearts of men.' The Master used to say: 'Faith is the one essential thing. God exists. He is very near us. Through faith alone one sees Him.' "
Where are you seeking Me, My servant? I am very close to you.
PRASANNA: "Sometimes you say that God does not exist, and now you are saying all these things! You are not consistent. You keep changing your opinions."
NARENDRA: "All right! I shall never change what I have just said. As long as one has desires and cravings, so long one doubts the existence of God. A man cherishes some desire or other. Perhaps he has the desire to study or pass the university examination or become a scholar, and so forth and so on."
Narendra sang again, in a voice choked with emotion:
Hail to Thee, our God and Lord! Hail, Giver of every blessing!
Unfathomable and infinite, immeasurable, beyond compare,
O Thou, the All-compassionate One, adored by the whole universe,
This is our only prayer, O Lord! What other boon can we implore?
Again Narendra sang, describing how very near God is to us-as near as the musk to the deer-and exhorting his brother disciples to drink deep from the cup of Divine Bliss:
Drinking the Bliss of Hari from the cup of prema,
Within the musk-deer's navel the fragrant musk is found;
M. heard all this from the verandah.
Narendra got up. As he left the room he remarked, "My brain is heated by talking to these youngsters."
He met M. on the verandah and said, "Please, let us have a drink of water."
One of the members of the Math said to Narendra, "Why, then, do you say that God does not exist?"
Monday, May 9, 1887
The next morning M. was sitting alone under a tree in the garden. He said to himself: "Sri Ramakrishna has made the brothers of the monastery renounce 'woman and gold'. Ah, how eager they are to realize God! This place has become a veritable Vaikuntha, and the brothers living here are embodiments of Narayana. It is not many days since the Master passed away; that is why all the ideas and ideals he stood for are there, almost intact. 'The same Ayodhya-only Rāma is not there.' The Master has made these brothers renounce their homes. Why has he kept a few in the world? Is there no way of liberation for them?"
Narendra's longing for God-vision
From a room upstairs Narendra saw M. sitting alone under the tree. He came down and said with a smile, "Hello, M.! What are you doing?"
After a little conversation M. said to him: "Ah, you have such a sweet voice. Please sing a hymn."
Narendra sang the following hymn to Śiva, in which the devotee prays for forgiveness for his sins:
Even before I saw
the light of this world, my sins from previous births,
In childhood my
suffering never came to an end;
In youth the
venomous snakes of sound, sight, taste, touch, and smell,
Now in old age my
senses have lost the power of proper judging and acting;
The duties laid
down in the smriti-perilous and abstruse-are now beyond me;
Not even once have
I finished my bath before sunrise and brought from the Ganges
I have not bathed
Thine image with milk and honey, with butter and other oblations;
I have not made
rich gifts to the brahmins, cherishing in my heart,
I have not sat in
the lotus posture, nor have I ever controlled
Never, O Śiva! have
I seen Thee, the Pure, the Unattached, the Naked One,
O mind, to gain
liberation, concentrate wholly on Śiva,
O mind, of what
avail are wealth or horses, elephants or a kingdom?
Day by day does man
come nearer to death;
I salute the ever
auspicious Śiva, the Home of Peace,
I salute the
self-effulgent Guru of the gods, the Lord of Uma;
O Śiva! White is
Thy body, covered with ashes; white shine Thy teeth when Thou
O Śiva, forgive all
the sins that I have committed
After the hymn Narendra and M. talked again.
NARENDRA: "You may speak of leading a detached life in the world, and all that, but you will not attain anything unless you renounce 'woman and gold'. Don't you feel disgusted with your wife's body?
Fools enjoy the contact of the body, filled with filth, peopled with worms, foul of smell by nature, made of flesh, blood, bone, and marrow; but the wise shun it.
"Vain is the life of a person who does not take delight in the teachings of Vedānta and drink the Nectar of Divine Bliss. Listen to a song."
O man, abandon your delusion! Cast aside your wicked counsels!
"No liberation is possible for a man unless he puts on the loin-cloth of a sannyāsi. The world must be renounced."
Narendra sang from the Five Stanzas on the glory of the monk's loin cloth:
Roaming ever in the grove of Vedānta,
Continuing, Narendra said: "Why should a man be entangled in worldliness? Why should he be ensnared by māyā? What is man's real nature? He is the blessed Śiva, the Embodiment of Bliss and Spirit."
He sang Sankaracharya's Six Stanzas on Nirvāna:
Om. I am neither mind, intelligence, ego, nor chitta,
Narendra recited another hymn, the Eight Stanzas on the glory of Krishna:
I am consumed with false desires and wrapped in the sleep of lust: Save
me, O Madhusudana!
I am ensnared in the net of love for children, wife, and home:
Lord, I have neither master nor place of shelter to call my own: Save
me, O Madhusudana!
From this hard and unavailing journey through life and death,
To Thee I come for salvation out of the cycle of existence:
For I am terrified alike of old age and of death:
Never a good deed have I done, but many have been my sins:
Headlong have I fallen into the mire of worldliness;
I have lorded it over men but happiness is not there:
What my words have promised, my deeds have never carried out;
If as a man or a woman I must be born again and again-
May my devotion be unswerving to Thy feet, O Lord!
M. remained spellbound as he listened to these hymns sung by Narendra. He said to himself: "How intense Narendra's dispassion is! This is how he has infused the spirit of dispassion into the hearts of the other brothers of the monastery. The very contact with them awakens in the hearts of the Master's householder devotees the desire for renunciation of 'woman and gold'. Ah, how blessed are these all-renouncing brothers! Why has the Master kept us few in the world? Will he show us a way? Will he give us the spirit of renunciation, or will he delude us with worldliness?"
After the meal all were resting. The elder Gopal was copying some songs. Niranjan was on a visit to his mother. Sarat, Baburam, and Kāli were in Puri.
Narendra, with one or two brothers, left for Calcutta. He had to see to his lawsuit. He was going to return in the evening; the brothers could not bear his absence.
In the afternoon Rabindra arrived, looking like a mad person. He was barefoot and had only half of his black-bordered cloth round his waist. His eyeballs were rolling like a madman's. All asked him anxiously what the matter was.
"Let me recover my breath!" he said. "I shall tell you everything presently. I am certainly not going back home; I shall stay at this very place with you all. She is certainly a traitor! Let me tell you something, friends. For her sake I gave up my habit of drinking, which I had indulged for five years. I have not taken a drop for the last eight months. And she is a traitor!" The brothers of the Math said: "Be calm, please! How did you come?"
RABINDRA: "I have come barefoot all the way from Calcutta."
The brothers asked him where he had lost the other half of his cloth.
RABINDRA: "When I was leaving her place she began to pull at my cloth. That is how half of it was torn off."
The brothers told him to bathe in the Ganges and cool off; then they would hear his story.
Rabindra belonged to a respectable kayastha family of Calcutta. He was twenty or twenty-two years old. He had first met Sri Ramakrishna at the Dakshineswar temple and had received his special blessing. On one occasion he had spent three nights with the Master. His disposition was very sweet and tender, and the Master had loved him dearly. Once he had said to Rabindra: "You will have to wait some time; you have to go through a few more experiences. Nothing can be done now. You see, the police can't do much just when the robbers attack a house. When the plundering is almost over, the police make their arrests."
Rabindra had many virtues. He was devoted to God and to service of the poor. He had many spiritual qualities. But he had walked into the snare of a prostitute. Now, suddenly, he had discovered that the woman was being unfaithful to him. Therefore he had come to the Math in this dishevelled state, resolved not to go back to the world.
A devotee accompanied Rabindra to the Ganges. It was his inmost desire that Rabindra's spiritual consciousness should be awakened in the company of these holy men. When Rabindra finished his bath, the devotee took him to the adjacent cremation ground, showed him the corpses lying about, and said: "The brothers of the Math come here every now and then to meditate on God. It is a good place for meditation. Here one sees clearly that the world is impermanent."
Rabindra sat down in the cremation ground to meditate. But he could not meditate long; his mind was restless.
Rabindra and the devotee returned to the Math. They went to the worship room to salute the Deity. The devotee said to him, "The brothers of the Math meditate in this room." Rabindra sat there to meditate, but could not meditate long there either.
DEVOTEE: "How do you feel? Is your mind very restless? Is that why you have got up from your seat? Perhaps you could not concentrate well."
RABINDRA: "I am sure I shall not go back to the world. But the mind is restless."
M. and Rabindra were talking. No one else was present. M. was telling him stories from the life of Buddha. At that time, the members of the Math regularly read the lives of Buddha and Chaitanya. M. said to Rabindra that Buddha's spiritual consciousness was first awakened by hearing a song of some heavenly maidens.
M. sang the song:
We moan for rest, alas! but rest can never find;
That night Narendra, Tārak, and Harish returned from Calcutta. They said, "Oh, what a big meal we had!" They had been entertained by a devotee in Calcutta.
The members of the monastery assembled in the room of the "Dānās". Narendra heard Rabindra's story. He sang by way of giving instruction to him:
O man, abandon your delusion! Cast aside your wicked counsels!
Narendra sang again:
Drinking the Bliss of Hari from the cup of prema,
A few minutes later the brothers went to Kāli Tapasvi's room. Girish Ghosh had just sent two of his new books to the monastery: the Life of Buddha and the Life of Chaitanya.
Since the founding of the new Math Śaśi had devoted himself heart and soul to the worship and service of the Master. All were amazed at his devotion. Just as he had tended Sri Ramakrishna's physical body during his illness, so now, with the same unswerving zeal, he worshipped the Master in the shrine room.
A member of the monastery was reading aloud from the lives of Buddha and Chaitanya. He was a little sarcastic while reading Chaitanya's life. Narendra snatched the book from his hand and said, "That is how you spoil a good thing!"
Narendra read the chapter describing how Chaitanya gave his love to all, from the brahmin to the pariah.
A BROTHER: "I say that one person cannot give love to another person."
NARENDRA: "But the Master gave it to me."
BROTHER: "Well, are you sure you have it?"
NARENDRA: "What can you understand about love? You belong to the servant class. All of you must serve me and massage my feet. Don't flatter yourselves by thinking you have understood everything. Now go and prepare a smoke for me."
THE BROTHER: "I surely will not."
M. (to himself): "Sri Ramakrishna has transmitted mettle to all the brothers of the Math. It is no monopoly of Narendra's. Is it possible to renounce 'woman and gold' without this inner fire?"
May 10, 1887
It was Tuesday, a very auspicious day for the worship of the Divine the Mother. Arrangements were being made for Her special worship at the monastery.
M. was going to the Ganges to take his bath. Rabindra was walking alone on the roof. He heard Narendra singing the Six Stanzas on Nirvāna:
Death or fear I have none, nor any distinction of caste;
Rabindra went to the Ganges to take his bath. Presently he returned to the monastery clad in his wet cloth.
Narendra said to M. in a whisper: "He has bathed in the Ganges. It would be good to initiate him now into sannyās."
Both Narendra and M. smiled.
Prasanna asked Rabindra to change his wet cloth and gave him a dry Gerruā cloth. Narendra said to M., "Now he is going to put on the cloth of renunciation."
M. (with a smile): "What kind of renunciation?"
NARENDRA: "Why, the renunciation of 'woman and gold'."
Rabindra put on the ochre cloth and entered Kāli Tapasvi's room to meditate.