Sri Ramakrishna arrived from Dakshineswara at the house of his disciple Balaram [**] about ten in the morning and had his breakfast there. It was this house which the bhagavan chose to make his chief "vineyard" on that day. Here he had bound devotee after devotee by the tie of divine love. It was here that he had so often sung the name of the Lord and danced at the head of his disciples. It seemed as if another Gouranga [*+] had set up in the house of his disciple Srivash a fair for the "buying and selling of divine love."
How great was the master's love for his disciples! There in the temple of Kali alone by [348} himself he often cried like a child, he so longed to see them. Sleepless at night he would say to the Divine Mother: "Mother! Deign to draw them into the fold! They are so devoted to you! Oh, how I long to see them! Mother, bring them to me or take me to them." Was this the secret of his coming to Balaram's house so frequently? He declared, indeed, to everyone: "Balaram is a true bhakta, he daily worships the Lord of the universe. His offerings are therefore always acceptable." But whenever he came to his house, he would say: "Go and invite my Narendra and other disciples. Offering food to them is the same as offering it to God himself. These, indeed, are not ordinary men. They are parts of Divinity manifest in the flesh." And many a time had the devotees met there "at the Durbar of God's love."
Mahendra, [**] who taught in a neighbouring school, had heard that Sri Ramakrishna was visiting at Balaram's house, so having a little leisure he came about noon to see him. The mid-day dinner was over and the bhagavan was in the drawing-room resting. His young disciples [349} were seated round him. From time to time he was taking out spices from a small pouch. Mahendra, entering, bowed down and saluted his feet.
Sri Ramakrishna (affectionately): Mahendra! You here! Is there no school today?
Mahendra: I have come directly from school. I had just now nothing of importance to attend to there.
A devotee: No, Revered Sir, he is playing the truant.
Mahendra (to himself): Ah me! It is as if some Invisible Force had drawn me to this place.
The bhagavan then grew more serious and bade them take their seats. He said: For some time past I have not been able to touch any metal. Can you tell me why it is? Once when I put my hand on a metal cup, it was hurt as if stung by a horned fish and the pain lasted for a long while. I had to use a metal pitcher and I thought that I should be able to carry it by covering it with a towel; but no sooner did I touch it than I had excruciating pain in my hand. Then I prayed to my Divine Mother: "Mother! I shall never touch metal again. Forgive me this time." [350}
In the afternoon Sri Ramakrishna was still seated in Balaram's drawing-room. On his face was a sweet smile, the reflection of which was caught by the faces of the disciples. Girish Ghosh, [**] Suresh Mittra, [*+] Balaram, Latoo, [*++] Chunilall [* section] and many other disciples were present.
Ramakrishna (to Girish): You would better argue the point with Narendra (Vivekananda) and see what he has to say.
Girish: Narendra says: "God is Infinite. [351} We cannot even say that all that we hear or see be it an object or a person is a part of God. Infinity is one; how can it have parts? It cannot be divided."
Divine Incarnation. Ramakrishna: God may be Infinite or even greater than Infinite; but by his omnipotent will he can manifest his essence through human form and incarnate himself among us. Indeed he does incarnate himself as a human being. How he incarnates we cannot explain by words. One must feel it and realise it. By analogy we can get only a faint idea of it. For instance, if you have touched the horn, leg or udder of a cow, have you not touched the whole cow? But for us human beings the milk is the most important thing and that you can get only from the udder, not from any other part of the body. The Incarnation of God is like the udder, through which flows the milk of Divine Love. In order to give mankind his essence of Divine Love and bhakti the Lord incarnates from time to time in a human form.
Girish: Narendra says: "Is it possible to fully comprehend God? He is Infinite."
Ramakrishna: That is true. Who can fully comprehend God or even any of his attributes, [352} great or small? Why is it necessary for us to know all his attributes? It is enough if we can see him and realise him. Moreover, he who has seen his Divine Incarnation has seen God. Suppose a man goes to the banks of the holy river Ganges and touches the water. He will say: "I have seen and touched the holy river." It will not be necessary for him to touch the whole river from its source to its mouth. If I touch your feet, then I have touched you. If you go to the ocean and touch the water, you have touched the whole ocean. As fire is all-pervading but is more manifest in burning wood, so God, although he is all-pervading, is more manifest in his Incarnation.
Girish (smiling). I, for my part, am searching after fire. I am eagerly looking for the place where I shall find it.
Seek God in Man. Ramakrishna (smiling): The element fire is more manifest in the wood. If you seek the divine element, you must seek it in man, for divinity is more manifest in a human being than elsewhere. Again, if you see a man who is overflowing with divine love, who is mad after God, who is intoxicated by the wine of divine love, in that man you must know, I assure you, that the Lord has [353} manifested himself. It is true that God dwells everywhere, but his divine power (sakti) is more manifest in some places than in others. In the avatara (God-Incarnate) the manifestation of sakti is very great. Sometimes the manifestation of this divine power is complete and perfect. In fact avatara means the incarnation of sakti, the divine power.
Girish: Narendra says: "He is beyond the reach of mind, words and senses."
Ramakrishna: No, he is beyond the reach of impure mind only, but not of the purified mind (Manas). He cannot be apprehended by ordinary intellect, but purified intellect (buddhi) can comprehend him. Mind and intellect become purified when they are absolutely free from attachment to lust and wealth (kamini and kanchan). Then purified mind and purified intellect becomeone. Indeed God can be realised by the purified mind. Is it not true that the sages and saints have realised him? They realised the Supreme Spirit in the Self by their true Self.
Girish (smiling): Narendra has been defeated by me in the discussion!
Ramakrishna: Oh no! On the contrary he says: "Girish has such firm faith in the avatara [354} in a human form that I feel that I should say nothing against it."
The bhagavan then expressed a desire to listen to the chanting of hymns. Balaram's drawing-room was filled with visitors. Everyone watched the bhagavan, eager to hear what fell from his lips and to mark what he would do next. Tarapada was invited to sing, and sang a song describing the sports of the shepherd of men, Sri Krishna.
Suresh Mittra, another disciple, was seated at some distance from the bhagavan. Sri Ramakrishna smiled on him affectionately and pointing to Girish, said to him: Do you talk of the wild life that you lived at one time? Here is one very much more than your match.
Suresh (laughing): That is indeed true, Revered Sir. He is my dada (respected elder brother) in this regard.
Girish (to the bhagavan): I never paid attention to my studies in my boyhood. How is it, Revered Sir, that people insist on calling me learned?
Scriptures and realisation. Ramakrishna: Do you know what I think about learning and the reading of the scriptures? Books and sacred scriptures all point the way to God. Once you know the way, what [355} is the use of books? Now the time comes for devotional practices in solitude. A person had received a letter in which he was asked to send certain articles to his kinsmen. He was about to order the purchase of those things, when, looking for the letter, he found it was missing. He searched for a long time. His people also joined him in his search. At last the letter was found and his joy knew no bounds. With great eagerness he took it up and went through its contents. But after knowing what things were wanted, he threw the letter aside and set forth to collect the desired articles. How long does one care for such a letter? So long as one does not know its contents. The next step is to put forth one's effort to procure the things. Similarly the sacred books only tell us the means for the realisation of God. Having once known them, you should struggle hard to acquire them and reach the goal. What is the use of mere book-learning? A pandit may know many sacred texts and sciences, but if his mind is attached to the world, if he enjoys the pleasures of the senses, he has not realised the spirit of the scriptures; he has studied them in vain.
Ramakrishna then said to Girish: Narendra [356} is a young man of very high order. He is interested in everything, singing, playing on musical instruments, on the one hand, and in the study of the various branches of knowledge on the other. He possesses the virtues of self-mastery, right discrimination, dispassion and many other qualities. (Aside to a disciple) Just look at Girish's devotion to the Lord and his faith in him.
Naran, [**] to the bhagavan: Revered Sir, shall we not have the pleasure of hearing you sing?
On this the bhagavan chanted the name of the Divine Mother of the universe.
THE BELOVED MOTHER OF THE UNIVERSE
The bhagavan then sang another song in which he placed himself in the position of the weary and heavy-laden men of the world, bending under the weight of their trials and sufferings:
THE MOTHER AND HER WEARY CHILDREN
The bhagavan next sang about the joy of the Divine Mother:
THE GREAT MYSTERY
The disciples listened to the songs in deep silence. What struck them was the change that had come over the bhagavan. He was beside himself with the joy of the Lord intoxicated with that unbounded bliss.
Twilight had fallen. The disciples would not [359} leave their seats. With heads upraised and eager ears they listened to the sweet name of the Lord chanted by the bhagavan, sweeter as repeated by him than by any whom they had ever heard before. Yes, they had never heard another child calling out so sweetly to its mother, saying, "Mother, Mother!" It seemed as if drops of nectar fell from the lips of the bhagavan. The infinite sky, the heaven-kissing mountain, the deep blue ocean, the boundless expanse, the deep dense wilderness what was the use now of going to them in quest of the Divine Father and Mother of the universe? What was the use of fixing one's attention on the "cow's horn" or her feet or any other part of her body? The master had spoken today of the udder of the cow from which to draw the milk of divine love. Was it indeed given to those present to behold the vision of God-Incarnate in that very room? What else could have brought into the hearts of the disciples of those that were weary and heavy-laden the perfect peace and the joy that are of the Lord? What else could have made this vale of tears overflow with joy? Was it possible that the Man before them was God-Incarnate? Whether he was or not their minds and hearts [360} and souls were his own to deal with just as he pleased! He was already to them the polestar of this enigmatical life. It was for them now to watch how in his great Soul the Supreme Being, the Cause of causes, was reflected. Thus some of the disciples thought within themselves. They felt that they were truly blessed as they heard the bhagavan chant the name of the Divine Mother and of Hari, the Lord God who takes away all trouble, all sin and iniquity.
The chanting of the names being over, the bhagavan prayed to the Mother. It seemed as if the God of Love had taken a human form in order to teach man how to pray. He said:
Prayer to the Divine mother. Mother, I throw myself on your mercy. May the Lotus of your Feet ever keep me from whatever leads your children away from you! I do not seek, good Mother, the pleasures of the senses; I do not seek fame. Nor do I long for those siddhis (yoga powers) which enable one to perform miracles. What I pray for, Good Mother, is pure love for you, love untainted by desires, love without alloy, love which seeketh not the things of this world, love for you that welleth up unbidden from the depths of the immortal soul. Grant likewise, [361} Mother, that your child, bewitched by the fascinations of your enchanting powers (maya) may not forget you; yes, forget you, entangled in the charming net of samsara that you have woven. Grant that he may never be charmed into loving these! Good Mother, don't you see that your child has none else in the world but you? I don't know how to chant your name out of deep devotion. I am devoid of knowledge that leads to you devoid of genuine love (bhakti) for you! O, vouchsafe to me that love out of your Infinite Mercy!
This evening prayer was it called for in the case of this God-Man, for him who chanted the name of the Lord day and night, for him out of whose hallowed mouth there flowed a never-ceasing stream of prayers to the Most High? Was it then that the master observed these forms in order to teach mankind how to live and pray?
Girish had invited Sri Ramakrishna to his house. He must come that very night. The bhagavan said to him: Don't you think it will be too late?
Girish: No, Revered Sir; you shall come away as early as you please. [362} It was about nine in the evening. Balaram had made his offerings ready for Sri Ramakrishna's supper. The gracious bhagavan would not wound his feelings. He said to Balaram: "Send over to Girish's house the food that you have prepared for me." Saying this, he set out, followed by his disciples. Going downstairs from the first floor, he became like another being; he looked as if he was lost in the thought of God as if he had drunk deep! It seemed as if sense-consciousness was beginning to leave him. A disciple went forward to hold him by the hand so that he should not miss his footing. The bhagavan said to him with great tenderness: "If you hold me by the hand, people will say, 'he is a drunkard.' Let me walk alone without any help." He crossed the next turning just a little way from Girish's house. What made him walk so fast? The disciples were left behind. No one knew what Divine idea had found its way into his heart. What made him walk like a madman? Was it because he was thinking of that Being who in the Vedanta is said to be beyond the reach of word and thought?
Ramakrishna's ecstasy. Here was Narendra coming! Many a day had the bhagavan cried, calling "Narendra, [363} Narendra," like one gone mad. But now Narendra was there before him and yet he exchanged no word with him. Was this what people called bhava (ecstasy), a state into which Chaitanya is said to have been constantly thrown? Who was there to penetrate the mystery of this divine ecstasy?
Sri Ramakrishna had come to the end of the lane leading to Girish's house. The disciples were all following. He now spoke to Narendra, saying: "Is it well with you, my child? I had not the power then to talk to you." Every word that fell from his lips was marked by tenderness. He had not as yet come to the door of the house, but all at once he stopped short. He looked at Narendra and said: "This is one of the two, the human soul, and the other is the cosmos." Was he indeed looking at the soul and the world? If so, in what light? He was gazing on Indescribable Brahman! One or two words had dropped from his hallowed lips, like some solemn texts from inspired scriptures. Or was it that he had gone to the edge of the Infinite Ocean and stood there speechless, looking on the Boundless Expanse, and had heard one or two echoes reverberating [364} from the never-ceasing voice that comes up from the Eternal Deep?
Girish stood at the door of his house. He had come to receive the bhagavan. Sri Ramakrishna came up with his disciples. At the blessed sight Girish fell at his feet prostrate. The sight was indeed a blessed one and the disciples looked on with awe and admiration. Girish received on his head the dust of his hallowed feet and rose at the master's bidding. He led the way to the drawing-room, where the bhagavan and his disciples took their seats. They longed to drink the nectar of his words which brought everlasting life.
He was about to take his seat when he found a newspaper lying by his side. As newspapers had to do with worldly-minded men, with worldly matters, with gossip and scandal, they were unholy objects in his eyes. He made a sign and the paper was put away. Thereupon he took his seat. Nityagopal [**] bowed down and saluted his feet. [365}
Bhagavan (to Nitya): Well! and why didn't you go there?
Nitya: Revered Sir, I was unable to go to Dakshineswara. I was out of sorts. There were pains all over my body.
Bhagavan: Are you keeping well now?
Nitya: Not very well, I am sorry to say.
Bhagavan: You would better remain one or two notes below the highest in the scale.
Nitya: Company does not suit me. They say all manner of things of me. That puts me into a fright. At times I am quite free from fear and I feel the spirit within me.
Bhagavan: That is only natural. Who is your constant companion?
Nitya: Tarak. At times he does not suit the state of my mind.
Bhagavan: Nangta [**] (Tota Puri) used to say [366} that they had at their Math a siddha who had acquired some miraculous powers. He used to go about with his eyes fixed on the sky, not caring for his companion Ganesh Gorgy, yet when he left him, he became disconsolate.
By this time a change had come over the bhagavan. He remained speechless for a while. Returning to consciousness, he said: "You have come, have you? Well, I am here too." Who was there to fathom the mystery of these divine words! [367}
Among the disciples who sat at the feet of Ramakrishna, Narendra did not believe in the Incarnation of God, while Girish had a burning faith that God incarnated himself from age to age in this world of ours. The bhagavan wished them to discuss the matter before him.
Sri Ramakrishna (to Girish): I should like to hear you both talk over the matter in English.
The discussion was commenced. It was, however, carried on not in English but in Bengali, with here and there an English word.
God manifest. Narendra: God is Infinite; it is beyond our power to conceive him by means of our poor intellect. God is in every human being, but he is not manifest in one particular individual.
The bhagavan (affectionately): I quite concur. He is in every object, in every human being; only there is a difference in the manifestation of Divine Energy in those objects. The Divine Energy manifest in some objects leads one away from God and is then called avidya (ignorance). When it leads Godward it is called vidya. Again, the manifested [368} energy is greater in some vessels and less in, others. Thus it is that all men are not equal.
A disciple: What is the use of all this idle talk?
Bhagavan: There is a great deal of use in it.
Girish (to Narendra): How do you know that God does not take a human body, does not incarnate himself?
Narendra: Oh! God is surely beyond the reach of words and the finite mind!
God realised by purified soul. Ramakrishna: Quite so; beyond the finite impure mind. But he can be realised by the purified intellect (buddhi). Purified= intellect and purified soul are one The holy sages (rishis) realised the pure universal Spirit by their purified intellect and purified soul.
Girish (to Narendra): If God does not incarnate himself in a human form, who will explain these difficult problems? He assumes human form to teach mankind Divine Wisdom and Divine Love. Who else has the power to teach in the same manner?
Narendra: Why, he will certainly teach me within the heart. [369}
Bhagavan (affectionately): That is indeed so. He will teach as internal Ruler of the heart (Antaryamin).
The discussion grew warm. It turned on matters too high for ordinary comprehension: Was Infinity indivisible? What did Hamilton say as to the limit of human knowledge; and Herbert Spencer, Tyndall and Huxley?
Ramakrishna: I for my part do not like these things. God is beyond the power of reasoning; he is something more. I see that whatever is, is God. What then is the necessity of reasoning about him? I do actually see that whatever is, is God. It is he who has become all these things. This is a stage at which the mind and the intellect (buddhi) are lost in the Absolute and Indivisible Being. At the sight of Narendra my mind becomes merged in the Indivisible Absolute. What, pray, do you say to this?
Girish (smiling): Surely, Revered Sir, we do not pretend that we understand everything except this.
Ramakrishna: Thereupon at the end of samâdhi I must come down two notes at least below the highest note in the scale before I can utter a word. Vedanta has been explained by [370} Sankara. [**] Another point of view is that of Ramanuja, [*+] who has put forward the doctrine of qualified non-dualism.
Narendra (to the bhagavan): Sir, may I ask what is meant by Visishtadvaitavada (qualified non-dualism)?
Qualified non-dualism. Ramakrishna: There is a doctrine called Visishtadvaitavada, the view of Ramanuja; that is, the Absolute (Brahman) must not be considered apart from the world and the soul. The three form one: three in one and one in three. Let us take a bel-fruit. Let the shell, the seeds and the kernel be kept separate. Now suppose someone wished to know the weight of the fruit. Surely [371} it would not do to weigh the kernel alone. The shell, the seeds and the kernel are all weighed with a view to knowing the real weight of the fruit. No doubt we reason at the outset that the all-important thing is the kernel not either the shell or the seeds. In the next place, we go on reasoning that the shell and the seeds belong to the same substance to which the kernel belongs. At the first stage of the reasoning we say, "Not this, not this." Thus the Absolute (Brahman) is not the individual soul. Again, it is not the phenomenal world. The Absolute (Brahman) is the only Reality, all else is unreal. At the next stage we go a little farther. We see that the kernel belongs to the same substance as that to which the shell and the seeds belong; hence the Substance from which we derive our negative conception of the Absolute Brahman is the identical Substance from which we derive our negative conceptions of the finite soul and the phenomenal world. Our relative phenomena (lila) must be traced to that eternal Being which is also called the Absolute. Hence, says Ramanuja, the Absolute (Brahman) is qualified by the finite soul and the phenomenal world. This is the doctrine of the qualified non-dualistic Vedanta. [372}
Spiritual awakening necessary to see the Reality. I see that Being as a Reality before my very eyes! Why should I reason? I do actually see that the Absolute has become all things about us. It appears as the individual soul and the phenomenal world. One must have an awakening of the spirit within to see the Reality. How long must one reason and discriminate, saying, "Not this, not this"? So long as one has not realised the Absolute Reality. It is not in mere words such as "I see that God has become everything"; mere saying is not enough. By the Lord's grace the spirit must be quickened. Spiritual awakening is followed by samâdhi. In this state one forgets that one has a body; one loses all attachment to things of this world; one likes no other words than those relating to God; one is sorely troubled if called on to listen to worldly matters. The spirit within being awakened, the next step is the realisation of the Universal Spirit. It is the spirit that can realise the Spirit.
Intellectual apprehension and realisation. After the discussion was over the bhagavan said: I have observed that discrimination brings only intellectual apprehension of the Absolute, which is far from true realisation. The latter can be acquired by meditation (dhyana) in solitude [373}; but it is very different from realisation through his grace. If he, out of his Grace, makes us realise what is God-Incarnate and how he manifests through a human form, then it is no longer necessary to reason or explain. Do you know how it is? As in a dark room someone rubs a match on the side of the box and all at once a light is struck. So, if the Lord is gracious enough to strike the light for us, the darkness of ignorance will be dispelled and all doubts will cease forever. Can he be realised by such discussions?
The bhagavan then invited Narendra to be seated by his side. He made many loving inquiries about him and caressed him.
Narendra: Why, Revered Sir, I have meditated in solitude on the Divine Mother for three and four days together, but nothing has come of it.
Bhagavan: All in time; do not be impatient. Mother is no other than Brahman the Absolute. Divine Mother is the primeval energy, when that is without activity I call it Brahman. But when it creates, preserves and destroys the phenomenal world I call it Sakti (energy), or [374} Divine Mother. That which you call Brahman is the same as my Divine Mother. (To Girish) It is getting late.
Girish: I am afraid I shall have to leave you, Revered Sir, and go to my work, unfortunate that I am!
Bhagavan: No, you must serve both parties. Janaka served God unattached to the world and thus looked to the interests of both this world and the next; he drank the cup of milk but did not forget the soul.
Girish: I am thinking, Revered Sir, of giving up my profession.
Bhagavan: No, no; you need not do any such thing. It is all right as it is. You are doing good to many.
Narendra (softly): Just a moment ago he was addressing him as Lord, God-Incarnate, yet he still has such strong attachment to his professional work.
The bhagavan had Narendra seated by his side. He fixed his eyes on him. He moved down to sit closer to him. Narendra did not believe that God incarnated himself, but what did that signify? His love for him was still as great as ever. Touching his person the bhagavan said to him: Are your feelings wounded? [375} Never mind; we, too, are of the same mind with you and feel for you.
Disputations prevent realisation of God. Bhagavan continued: So long as one reasons and argues about God, one has not realised him. You both were engaged in discussion. I did not like it. How long does the noise continue at a feast to which many are bidden? So long as the guests have not begun to eat. As soon as the viands are served and they begin to partake of them, three-fourths of the noise is gone. Then the more the sweetmeats are passed around, the more the noise subsides. The nearer you come to God, the less you are disposed to argue. When you come up to him, when you behold him as the Reality, then all noise, all disputations are at an end. Then is the time for the enjoyment which comes in samâdhi.
Saying this, the bhagavan gently moved his hand over Narendra's sweet face and caressed him, repeating, "Hari Om, Hari Om, Hari Om."
Then what a miracle passed before the eyes of the disciples! Looking at the bhagavan, they saw his sense-consciousness beginning to leave him. Looking again, they saw that it had left him altogether. In this half-conscious state the hand of the Incarnation of Divine [376} Love continued to rest on Narendra's body. Was he breathing into him the inspiration, the power that comes from above? Then yet other changes came over the bhagavan. He said to Narendra, with folded hands: Do sing a song; then I shall get well. How else shall I be able to stand on my feet. "My Nitai! Oh! He is deep drunk, intoxicated with the wine of Divine Love, the love for Gouranga (God-Incarnate)."
A short while and he was speechless again, speechless like a figure cut in marble. Drunk with the joy of the Lord, the bhagavan went on, saying: "Take care of Radha, so that you don't fall into the Jamuna. O you, mad with ecstatic love for him who incarnated himself at Brindavan, the Lord Sri Krishna!" Once more he was in deep samâdhi! Coming back into sense-consciousness he repeated portions of a well-known song: "My friend, how far is that blessed woodland, the land where is to be seen my own Beloved One? Look! Here comes the fragrance from the blessed person of my Beloved! I am unable to take a step forward, my friend!"
Now the bhagavan had lost all consciousness of the world. He was not mindful of anything [377} or any person in this state. Narendra was seated before him, but apparently he did not see him. He had lost all sense of time and place. The mind, the heart and the soul had all become absorbed in God. Suddenly he stood up, saying: "Deep drunk with the wine of divine love, with love for Gour (God-Incarnate)." A few moments after he took his seat and said: "Over there is a light coming this way, but I cannot even now say from which way the light comes." It was then that Narendra began to sing:
Listening to the song the bhagavan had once more lost all consciousness of the outer world. His eyes were closed. His body and limbs moved not he was in deep samâdhi. When [378} the samâdhi was over he asked: "Who will take me home to the temple?" A child looking for a companion! Left alone, he saw nothing but darkness about. It was getting late and it was the night of the tenth day of the dark fortnight. Sri Ramakrishna wished to go back to the temple at Dakshineswara. He seated himself in the carriage which was to take him there. The disciples stood on either side of the carriage to see him off. Even now was he deep drunk with the joy of the Lord! The carriage rolled away. The disciples looked after it for a few moments, then dispersed each to his own home.