Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna had been asked to attend the anniversary meeting of the Brahmo-Samaj [at Sinti] [**], which that year was held in the beautiful garden-house of a gentleman named Veni Babu. [*+] The morning service was over when the bhagavan arrived in a carriage with certain of his disciples and took his place on a raised seat set apart for him on the veranda overlooking a large quadrangle. Crowds of devotees, followers and members of the Brahmo-Samaj gathered round him in a circle. The prayers, music and other exercises of a devotional [320} nature then continued. On hearing the music, Sri Ramakrishna went into samâdhi and remained motionless for some time. Then regaining his sense-consciousness, he opened his mouth and in rapt tones began to speak thus:
Psychic powers. The realisation of God is not the same as psychic power. There are many Yoga powers, but do you remember what Krishna said to Arjuna about them? When you see one who exercises any of these powers, you may know that such a one has not realised God, because the exercise of these powers requires egotism (ahamkara), which is an obstacle in the path of supreme realisation.
Danger of psychic powers. There is, indeed, great danger in possessing psychic powers. Totapuri thus taught me this truth: A siddha (a man who had absolute control over psychic phenomena) was sitting on the seashore. Suddenly there arose a violent storm, which caused him great distress. Desiring to stop it, he exclaimed: "Let this storm cease!" His command was instantly fulfilled. A vessel was passing at a distance with all sails set. As the wind suddenly died away, the vessel capsised and all on board were drowned. The siddha was the cause of the disaster and therefore [321} he had to take the sin of killing so many innocent people. As the result of this terrible sin, he lost his power and after death he had to suffer in purgatory.
The siddha and the elephant. There was another siddha, who was very proud of his psychic powers. He was a good man and an ascetic. One day the Lord came to him in the form of a saint and said: "Revered sir, I have heard that you possess wonderful powers." The good man received him kindly and gave him a seat. At this moment an elephant passed by. The saint asked him: "Sir, if you desire, can you kill this elephant?" The siddha replied: "Yes, it is possible"; and taking a handful of dust, he repeated some mantram over it and threw it on the elephant. Immediately the animal roared, fell on the ground in agony and died. Seeing this, the saint exclaimed: "What wonderful power you possess! You have killed such a huge creature in a moment!" The saint then entreated him, saying: "You must also possess the power to bring him back to life." The siddha replied: "Yes, that is also possible." Again he took a handful of dust, chanted a mantram, threw it on the elephant, and lo! the elephant revived and [322} came back to life. The saint was amazed at the sight and again exclaimed: "How wonderful indeed are your powers! But let me ask you one question. You have killed the elephant and brought him back to life; what have you gained? Have you realised God?" Thus saying, the saint disappeared.
Desire for powers prevents realisation. Most subtle is the path of spirituality. God cannot be realised so long as there is the least desire for powers in the heart. You cannot thread a needle so long as there are fibres at the point of the thread. Krishna said to Arjuna: "Brother, if you wish to realise me (God), you must not desire any psychic powers. The possession of psychic power brings pride and egotism; then one easily forgets God. So long as there is egotism, Divine realisation does not come."
Four stages of realisation. There are four different stages in the path of realisation. First, that of a beginner, a pravartaka, or one who has just begun to worship God. Those who belong to this class begin to wear the sign of their creed, such as the rosary or the mark on the forehead, and they are very particular about the external forms of their sect. The second stage is that [323} of the neophyte or sadhaka. Those of this class are farther advanced. They do not parade their beliefs and do not attach so much importance to external signs. Their worship is internal. They repeat the Lord's name - silently, pray without ostentation and feel some longing for God. The third stage is that of siddha. What is a siddha? One who is firmly convinced in his heart and soul that God exists, that he does everything, that he is the Omnipotent Being, and who has obtained a first glimpse of him. The fourth stage is that of the siddha of siddhas. One who has reached this stage has not only seen God but has made acquaintance with him and has established a definite relation with him, either that of a son to his father or that of a mother to her child, or that of friend to friend or of brother to brother, or the relation of husband and wife.
Faith and realisation. To believe that fire is in the wood is faith. This is one thing, but it is another thing to bring that fire out of the wood, to cook something with it, to eat this and to attain peace and happiness afterwards. So to believe that God is in the world and to catch a distant glimpse of him is one thing; but to come into direct communion with him, [324} to enjoy his company and taste Divine Bliss is another. No one can set a limit to the various aspects of God which a bhakta can realise. They rise ever higher and higher.
A devotee: Bhagavan, why can some attain to realisation more quickly than others?
Ramakrishna: It depends on the samskaras or impressions of previous lives. Nothing happens suddenly or by accident. A certain man drank an ounce of wine in the morning and began to act like a drunkard. People, seeing him, wondered why he should be drunk after taking one small glass of wine. Hearing them, however, another man replied: "Because he has been drinking all night."
Sudden conversion. There have been many instances of sudden conversion. People living in the midst of wealth and luxury have suddenly renounced the world. Such sudden changes are the results of spiritual impressions acquired in the previous life. In the final incarnation of a jiva, sattwa qualities prevail: his heart and soul long for realisation, the mind becomes unattached to worldly pleasures and constantly remains fixed on the Supreme Being.
These people here believe in and worship God without form; that is right. (Addressing the [325} Brahmo devotees)
Firmness of faith necessary for realisation. Be firm only in devotion to one aspect, either in God with form or in God without form. Firmness in faith is the first thing necessary for realisation. Nothing can be achieved without firmness. If you have firm faith in God with form you will attain to him; similarly if you firmly believe in an impersonal and formless Deity, you will reach him. Candy will taste sweet whether you bite it straight or crooked. But you will have to be firm and you will have to call on him with extreme longing. When a worldly man speaks of God, do you know what it seems like to me? It is just like children quarrelling in their play and taking the name of God in vain; or like a fop walking in the garden, stick in hand, who picks a flower and idly exclaims: "What a beautiful flower God has made!" And even this mindfulness of God exists only for a moment, like drops of water on a red-hot iron. Firmness in devotion to one aspect is absolutely necessary. Dive deep. Without diving into the ocean no one can get the treasure. If you float on the surface, you cannot reach it. Learn to love God. Be absorbed in his love. I have heard your prayers and devotional exercises; but why do [326} you speak so much of the phenomena which God has made? "Lord, you have made the sky, the mighty ocean, the moon, the sun, the stars and planets. Lord, you have made all these, and so on." Why do you dwell on these things? Seeing the beautiful garden of a rich man, everyone will exclaim: "What a beautiful tree! What a handsome flower! What a large pond and what fine fish in it! What an artistic building! With what rich paintings is the drawing-room decorated!" At the sight of all this everyone is struck with wonder, but how many seek to know the master of the garden? A few only. Those who seek God with intense longing see him, make acquaintance with him, speak with him, just in the same manner as I am speaking to you. I am telling you the truth when I say that God can be seen. Who will listen to me and who will believe me?
God and the Scriptures. Can God be found in the scriptures? After reading the scriptures, the highest knowledge one can get is about the existence of a God; but God does not appear to him who does not dive below the surface. Until then doubts are not removed and divine knowledge does not come. You may read [327} thousands of volumes, you may repeat verses and hymns by hundreds, but if you cannot dive into the ocean of Divinity with extreme longing of the soul, you cannot reach God. A scholar may delude the people by his knowledge of the scriptures and by his book-learning, but through these he will not attain to God. Scriptures, books, sciences, what good will they do?
Grace of God. Nothing can be acquired without the Grace of the Lord. Yearn after his Grace, devote your energy to obtaining it and by his Grace you will see him and he will be glad to speak to you.
Difference in powers. Sub-judge: Revered Sir, is he more gracious to some than to others? In that case he would be partial and unjust.
Sri Ramakrishna: How is that? Is a horse the same thing as an earthen pot? Vidyasagara asked me the same question. He said to me: "Has God given greater powers to some than to others?" I replied: "God pervades all living creatures equally. He dwells in me in the same way that he dwells in the smallest ant, but there is a difference in powers. If all human beings were equal in powers, then why have we come to see you, after hearing of you? Is it because you have [328} two horns on your head? No, it is because you are kind, charitable, learned and have many other qualities greater than in others. It is for this reason that your fame is so great. Do you not know men who alone can defeat a hundred men, and again a man who will run away from a single person?" If there be no difference in powers, why should people respect Keshab Chunder Sen so much? It is said in the Gita, he whom many people respect and honour either for his knowledge or for his musical gifts or for his oratorical powers or for any other reason, in him, be assured, there is a special manifestation of Divine power.
A Brahmo devotee (to sub-judge): Why do you not accept what he says?
Sri Ramakrishna (to the Brahmo devotee): What kind of man are you? Do you not know that it is hypocrisy to accept an opinion outwardly without believing in it?
Sub-judge: Revered Sir, shall we have to renounce the world?
Worship God in solitude. Sri Ramakrishna: No. Why should you renounce? You can attain to God while living in the world; but at first for a few days you will have to live in solitude and worship him alone. It is necessary to [329} have a quiet place near your house where you can occasionally be alone for hours at a time and yet go home for your meals. Keshab Sen, Mozoomdar, and others have told me that they are like Raja Janaka, who lived in the world and yet attained to the highest realisation. I replied: "It is not an easy thing to be like Raja Janaka. Raja Janaka was at first a great ascetic and practised extreme asceticism for many years. You could be like him if you practised a little. A man who writes English very fluently has not acquired that facility all at once; he has had to practise for a long time." I also said to Keshab Sen: "Without going into solitude, how can one cure so acute a disease as worldliness? It is like the worst form of typhoid fever. If you keep bottles of chutney and jars of water where a patient is suffering from this fever, he will surely be tempted to eat the one and drink the other and then it will be impossible for the best physicians to cure him. Objects of lust are like the bottles of chutney, and desire to enjoy is like the thirst after water. Worldly thirst has no end. And so long as the object of thirst is kept within reach of the patient, how can he be cured? Therefore I say, withdraw from the place where those objects [330} are and remain in solitude for a time. Then when the disease is cured, you may live in the world without being tempted by it. It is then that you will live like Raja Janaka." But in the first stage you must be very watchful. In solitude steadily practise devotional exercises. When a fig-tree is young, it must be protected by a hedge, otherwise it may be eaten up by sheep and cattle; but when the trunk has grown thick, the hedge is no longer necessary. You may tie an elephant to it without hurting it. If after practising in solitude you have acquired true bhakti (devotion to God) and have gained spiritual strength, then you can go home and live in the world; nothing can corrupt you.
Sub-judge (with great delight): Revered Sir, these are most beautiful teachings. We need to practise in solitude, but we always forget it and think that we have at once become Raja Janaka. It has given me great peace and joy to hear that it is not absolutely necessary to leave the world and that God can be realised even at home.
Renunciation and worldly men. Sri Ramakrishna: Renunciation, why should you practise it? When you have to fight, it is better to do so from within the fort. You will [331} have to fight against the senses, against hunger, thirst and other desires. This fight is easier from within the fort of the world. In this age our life depends on material food; if you cannot get anything to eat for a day, your mind will be turned away from God. A man once said to his wife: "I am going to leave the world." The wife was very practical and replied: "Why will you wander from house to house for food? When you are in need of food, is it not better to go to one house than to ten or more?" Why should you renounce? It is so much more convenient to live at home. You do not have to worry about food; then you have your wife with you. Whenever your body needs anything, you will have it right at hand; when you are ill, you will have many to nurse you. Janaka, Vyasa, Vasishta and others first attained God-consciousness and then lived in the world. They had two swords in their hands, the one of wisdom and the other of work.
Sub-judge: Revered Sir, how can we know that true wisdom?
Sri Ramakrishna: When true wisdom comes, God does not appear to be very far. He is no longer there, but here in the heart. He is no [332} longer that but this. He dwells within all. Whoever seeks him finds him.
Sub-judge: I am a sinner; how can I say that God dwells in me?
Sri Ramakrishna: You always talk of sin and sinners; this is the Christian doctrine. Have faith in the holy name of the Lord. By the power of faith all sins will be washed away.
Sub-judge: Revered Sir, how can I have such a faith?
Ramakrishna: First be devoted to God. You have in one of your songs: "Lord, can you be known without devotion, simply by good works and sacrifice?" That which brings true devotion and unselfish love for God you must pray for with earnest longing in silence. Shed tears of repentance until you have acquired these.
A Brahmo devotee: Revered Sir, when will they get time? They have to work in their offices.
Resign all to God. Ramakrishna (to sub-judge): Well, resign yourself to the will of the Lord and draw up a power of attorney in his favor. If anyone depends entirely on some good man, does he do any evil to him? Internally lay on him your whole burden and sit [333} calmly, without anxiety. Whatever he has given you to do, do that. A kitten has no self-reliance. It mews and mews and stays where the mother cat places it. She may put it on a soft bed or on the hard floor of the kitchen; the kitten is always content and depends entirely on the will of the mother.
Householder's duties. Sub-judge: We are householders with certain duties; how long shall we have to perform these?
Ramakrishna: Of course you have your duties. You will have to bring up your children, sustain your wife, save enough to maintain your family after your death. If you did not do this you would be heartless and cruel. Even great sages like Sukadeva practised loving-kindness. He is not a man who has neither heart nor kindness.
Sub-judge: How long shall we maintain our children?
Ramakrishna: Until they have passed the age of minority. When the young bird is able to take care of itself, it pecks at the parent bird, if she tries to come near it.
Sub-judge: What is the duty towards the wife?
Ramakrishna: As long as you live you should [334} give her spiritual advice and sustain and care for her. If she is faithful, save enough to make her comfortable after your death.
God provides for those who have realised him. But when God-consciousness comes, no worldly duties can bind you. Then if you do not think of the morrow, God will think for you. If you attain to God-consciousness. He will provide for the support of your family. When a Zemindar dies, leaving a son under age, a guardian manages the estate for the child. These are legal affairs; you understand them all.
Sub-judge: Yes, Revered Sir.
Bijoy: Oh, how great, how wonderful are these words! He who thinks of the Lord with unwavering mind and a heart overflowing with devotion and love for God, is undoubtedly taken care of by the Lord. The Lord carries everything for him like the guardian of the Zemindar's son. Oh, when shall I reach such a state! How blessed are those who have attained it!
A Brahmo devotee: Revered Sir, can true wisdom be acquired in the world? Can God be realised in the world?
Ramakrishna: You are on the fence; you wish to enjoy both God and the world. Of [335} course God can be realised by one who lives in the world.
Signs of true wisdom. Brahmo devotee: What is the sign of one who has attained true wisdom living in the world?
Ramakrishna: When the repetition of the name of the Lord will bring tears to the eyes, send a thrill through the whole body and make the hair stand on end. The spiritual eye must be opened. It is open when the mind is purified. Then the presence of Divinity will be realised everywhere and every woman will appear as Divine Mother. Everything is in the mind. The impure mind brings attachment to the world, and the purified mind brings the realisation of God. The impure mind of a man becomes attached to a woman. Woman naturally loves man and man naturally loves woman, and from this spring attachment and worldliness.
Divine Mother in all women. Every woman represents Divine Motherhood. The same Divine Mother appears in all women under various forms. It is said the scriptures that Narada in prayer thus addressed Rama: "Rama, you are Purusha, you appear in the form of all men, and Sita, your Prakriti, appears in the form of all women. You are man and Sita is woman. [336} Wherever there is masculine form, it is your manifestation; and wherever there is feminine form, it is the manifestation of Sita, the Divine Mother."
Attachment to the body. So long as there is attachment to worldliness, and thirst for objects of lust, so long there is attachment to the body. As attachment to the world grows less, the mind goes towards the Atman or the true Sett and the attachment to the physical body becomes less. When the attachment to the world has entirely vanished, Self-knowledge comes and the Atman is separated from the physical body. When an ordinary cocoanut is cut into halves, it is very difficult to separate the kernel from the shell; but when it is dried, the kernel becomes separate from the shell by itself. You can feel it by shaking it. A man who has realised God becomes like the dry cocoanut, his soul becomes separate from his body and all attachment to the body leaves him. He is not affected by the pleasure and pain of the body; he does not seek the comforts of the body; he moves from place to place like an emancipated soul. "A true devotee of my Divine Mother attains absolute freedom in this life and is eternally blissful." When you notice that [337} tears flow and the thrill comes at the repetition of the Name of the Lord, then you may know that attachment to sense-objects has become less and the devotee is on the path of realisation. For instance, if the match is dry it will ignite the moment it is struck; but if it be wet, you can strike it fifty times and yet you cannot get a light. Similarly when the mind is soaked in the water of lust and thirst for worldly objects, Divine enlightenment does not come in it, however hard you may try; it is merely a waste of time and labor. But when that water dries up, spiritual illumination comes instantly.
Brahmo devotee: By what method can that water be dried up?
The Divine Mother will cure worldly attachment. Ramakrishna: Pray to the Divine Mother with an earnest and sincere heart; when you see her, the water of worldly attachment will dry up. Attachment to lust and wealth will drop away from you. If you can feel her as your own mother, it will come to you at that very moment. She is not like a godmother, but she is your own Mother. Go to her and importunately ask for what you want. An importunate child hangs on its mother's gown and begs a penny to buy a paper kite. The mother [338} may be engaged in talking to other girls and at first she may not wish to give it, saying: "No, your father has forbidden it. I'll speak to him when he comes home. You will spoil everything if you get a paper kite." But when the child begins to cry and will not give in, then the mother says to her companions: "Just wait a minute, let me quiet the child"; she then gets the key to her drawer, opens the money-box, and gives him what he is crying for. Similarly you cry to your Mother and pray to her, she will surely come to you.
Pride and egotism. (Ramakrishna turning to sub-judge) What is the cause of pride and egotism? Do they arise from knowledge or ignorance? Egotism is the quality of tamas arising from ignorance. It is a barrier which prevents the soul from seeing God. When it dies, all troubles cease. Of what avail is it to be egotistic? This body with all its comforts and luxuries will not last long. A drunkard, after seeing an image at the Durga festival beautifully decorated with jewels and costly ornaments, exclaimed: "Mother, you may decorate yourself with all these valuable things, but after three days they will take you out and throw you in the Ganges." So I say to you all, whether you be a judge or any great personage, [339} it is only for a few days. Therefore you must not be proud or egotistic about anything.
Three classes of characters. People's characters can be divided into three classes, tamas, rajas and sattwa. Those who belong to the first class are egotistic; they sleep too much, eat too much, and passion and anger prevail in them. Those who belong to the second class are too much attached to work. They love nice, well-fitting clothes and are very neat; they care for a luxurious, richly furnished house; when they sit and worship God, they love to wear costly garments; when they give anything to charity they parade it. Those who belong to the third class are very quiet, peaceful, unostentatious; they are not particular about their dress, they lead a simple life and earn a modest living, because their needs are small; they do not flatter for selfish ends; their dwelling is modest; they do not worry about their children's dress; they are not anxious for fame, nor do they care for the admiration or adulation of others; they worship God, give charity and meditate silently and in secret. This sattwa quality is the last step of the ladder which leads to the roof of Divinity. A person reaching this state does not have to wait long for God-consciousness. [340} (To sub-judge) You said a little while ago that all men were equal, but now you see how characters vary.
Music for a time interrupted the teaching and Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, on hearing it, again went into samâdhi. The Brahmo devotees sang the Sankirtan, and when they had finished, all those present resumed their seats, Bijoy taking his place just before Sri Ramakrishna. It was the hour for another Brahmo service at which Bijoy, who was the leader of the Brahmo-Samaj, was to read from the Vedas and give an address. Before going to the platform, he asked Sri Ramakrishna's permission, saying: "Bhagavan, grant me your blessing, then I shall begin the service."
Egotism and knowledge. Ramakrishna: When egotism is gone, everything is accomplished. "I am lecturing and you are listening;" this sense of egotism you must not have. Egotism proceeds from ignorance and not from knowledge. He who is free from egotism attains knowledge. The rain-water gathers in a low place, it runs off from a high place; similarly the water of wisdom gathers in the humble [341} heart. It is very difficult to be a spiritual leader (acharya). One easily loses a great deal by it. When many people show honour and respect, ordinary preachers become egotistic and are easily spoiled. They cannot go further. They merely gain a little fame. Perhaps people will say: "Oh! Bijoy Babu is a good speaker or he is very wise," that is all. Never think, "I am speaking." I tell my Divine Mother: "Mother, I am merely an instrument in your hands. You do everything. As you guide me and make me speak, so shall I speak."
Bijoy (very humbly): Please give me your permission. Without your permission I cannot begin the service.
Ramakrishna (smiling): Who am I to permit you? Ask the permission of the Lord. When genuine humility comes, there is no fear.
Bijoy repeated his request and Sri Ramakrishna then said: "You can go and begin according to your custom, but keep your mind on God."
Bijoy began the service with a prayer to the Divine Mother. After the service was over, he came down from the platform and again sat near Sri Ramakrishna. The bhagavan said to [342} him: You prayed to Divine Mother; that was very good. They say that the mother's attraction towards her child is greater than the father's. You can urge your mother more strongly than you can your father. You have a stronger claim on anything that belongs to your mother than on anything of the father.
Absolute Brahman and Divine Mother. Bijoy: If Brahman the Absolute be the Divine Mother, then is she with form or without form?
Ramakrishna: The Absolute Brahman and the Mother of the universe are one and the same. Where there is no activity of any kind, that is the state of Absolute Brahman, but where there is evolution and destruction, there is the manifestation of the Divine Mother. When the water of the ocean is calm, without a wave or ripple, that is like the state of the Absolute. When the water is in motion and with waves, it is the state of the Creative Energy or Divine Mother. Divine Mother is both with form and without form. You have faith in formless Divinity, therefore you can think of my Mother as formless. When your faith is firm, the Divine Mother will show you how she is. Then you will know that it is not that she is mere [343} Absolute existence; she will come to you and speak to you. Have faith and you will get everything. If you have faith in the formless Divinity, you must make that faith as firm as a rock. But do not be dogmatic; you must never dogmatize about God. You must not say that he is like this and not like anything else. You may say: "I believe in a formless Divinity, but what else he is, is known to him. I do not know, I cannot understand." The small intellect of man cannot grasp the whole. nature of God. A vessel which can hold a pound only, how can it contain four pounds? If God reveals himself to one by his Grace and makes one understand his nature, then one realizes him and not until then. The Absolute and the Divine Mother are one.
Bijoy: How can we attain to the vision of the Divine Mother and the realisation of the Absolute?
Vision of the Divine Mother and the Absolute. Ramakrishna. With earnest longing and sincerity pray and cry. When the heart will be purified, then you will see the vision as in pure water you can see the reflection of the sun. On the mirror of the ego of the devotee is to be seen the reflection of the Absolute Mother of the [344} universe with form. But the mirror should be thoroughly polished; if there be a speck of dirt the reflection will not be perfect. When the sun is to be seen on the water of the ego and when there is no other means of getting a view of the real Sun, so long the reflected image of the sun should be considered as absolutely real. As long as the ego is real, so long the reflected image of the sun is real, not partially but absolutely. That reflected image of the sun is the Divine Mother. If you wish to reach the Absolute Brahman, which is impersonal and without attributes, then start from that reflected image and march towards the real Sun. The Personal God or Brahman with attributes is the one who listens to prayers. Pray to him and he will grant the highest wisdom, because the same Personal God has the Impersonal aspect also, which is the Absolute Brahman. Divine Energy, which is the Mother of the universe, is another aspect of the same Brahman. All these merge into absolute oneness. The Mother can give Brahma-jnana, the knowledge of the Absolute, as also true devotion and absolute love. God is the internal ruler of all. Forsaking egotism, resign your will to his will; you will get everything you desire.
Become one with all. When you mix [345} with other people, you should love them all, become absolutely one with them. Do not hate anyone. Do not recognize caste or creed. Do not say that this man believes in a Personal God, that man believes in an Impersonal God; this man worships God with form, that man worships God without form; this man is a Hindu, that one is a Christian or a Mohammedan. Saying this, do not condemn one another. These distinctions exist because God has made different people understand him in different ways. The difference lies in the nature of the individuals. Knowing this you will mix with all as closely as possible and love them as dearly as you can. Then when you go home, you will enjoy blissful happiness in your soul. Light the candle of wisdom in the secret chamber of your heart. By that light see the face of my Absolute Mother, and by that light you will also see the true nature of your real Self
All sects of one family. When cowherds drive the cattle to a pasture from different quarters, the cows form themselves into one herd as if of the same family; but when they return at night, they separate, each going to its own home. So the bhaktas of different sects and creeds, when they [346} meet, are like members of one family, but when they are by themselves, they show their peculiar beliefs and different creeds.
It was late in the evening, and Ramakrishna, entering the carriage accompanied by a few devotees, returned to Dakshineswara.