Day on The River with Keshab Chunder Sen
Ramakrishna goes on board the steamer. It was the day of the festival of Lakshmi [n1] Sri Ramakrishna was seated in his room talking with Bijoy and Haralal, when a gentleman entered and announced that Keshab Sen [n2] had [143} come on board a steamer which had just landed and was lying at anchor before the Ghat. A short while after Keshab's disciples came in and bowed down before the bhagavan, saying: "Keshab Babu has sent us to you with the request that you will kindly join him, if it so please your Holiness." Sri Ramakrishna consented and, accompanied by several of his devotees, was taken by Keshab's disciples to the steamer.
Ramakrishna's ecstasy. As the small boat which carried the bhagavan came alongside, everybody was eager to have a glimpse of the Blessed One and crowded to the gangway. Keshab was anxious to see that he got on board in safety. Mahendra, [**] who had been there for some time, looked at him and noticed that he was in Samâdhi and as motionless as a statue. It was with great difficulty that he was brought back to sense-consciousness once more in order to be taken into the cabin on the upper deck. The state of Divine ecstasy had not entirely left him even then. He leaned on a disciple as he was led to the cabin. His body moved [144} mechanically, but his mind was fixed on God. When he had entered the cabin, Keshab and others bowed at his feet. But what little sense-consciousness remained now began to leave him. Inside the cabin were a bench, a table and a few chairs. The bhagavan was seated on one of the chairs; Keshab also took a chair and Bijoy, another. Other devotees, most of them Brahmos, sat on the bare floor. The cabin being a small one, many remained standing at the door or at the windows looking in eagerly. The bhagavan was absolutely devoid of outer consciousness. Everybody was watching his face. Keshab noticed that so large a number of people had come together in the cabin that the bhagavan was in need of air. The devotees all gazed with fixed eyes. After a time the bhagavan came down from his Samâdhi, but the consciousness of the Divine Presence was as intense as before. He talked to the Mother of the universe in words that were scarcely articulate, saying: "O Mother, why have you brought me here? They are hedged around and are not free! Is it indeed possible for me to save them out of their prison house?"
Powhari Baba of Gazipur. A Brahmo said to the bhagavan: Sir, these [145} gentlemen have been fortunate enough to see Powhari Baba [**] at Gazipur. The baba is another holy man like your revered self.
Sri Ramakrishna had not yet recovered the power of speech. His heart was full and he could not speak, but only smiled on the good man who talked of the Baba. The Brahmo continued: Sir, Powhari Baba has your photograph, which he has put up in his room.
Devotee's heart the temple of the lord. The bhagavan smiled again, pointing to his body with his finger and in a subdued tone said: A pillow-case! It is nothing but a pillow-case. But there is one thing to be borne in mind: the heart of the devotee is the temple of the Lord. It is indeed a fact that the Lord is more or less manifest in all things, but he is manifest in a special sense in the heart of a devotee (bhakta). Thus a Zemindar may be met at any of the houses of which he is the owner; [146} yet people will say that he is usually to be seen in some particular drawing-room. The heart of the devotee is the Lord's drawing-room. If one wishes to meet the Lord, one would better seek an audience in the drawing-room.
Various aspects of the Brahman. The same Being whom the followers of non-dualistic (Advaita) Vedanta call Brahman, the Absolute, is called Atman (Self) by the yogis, and Bhagavan, or the Personal God with Divine attributes, by the devotees, or bhaktas (lovers of God). The high-caste Brahmin is always the same person; but when he worships the Lord, he is called a priest; and when the same man is employed in the kitchen, he is called a cook.
Discrimination of an Advaitin. The follower of monistic (Advaita) Vedanta, who seeks to realise the Absolute Brahman, discriminates, saying: "Not this, not this." That is, the Absolute is not this, not that, not any finite object, not the individual soul, not the external world. When, as the result of this kind of reasoning, the heart ceases to be moved by desires; when, in fact, the mind is merged in superconsciousness, then Brahma-jnana is reached. One who has truly attained to this. Brahma-jnana realizes that Brahman the Absolute alone is real, and the [147} world is unreal, and that all names and forms are like dreams. What Brahman is cannot be described by word of mouth nor can one even say that he is personal. Such is the point of view of a non-dualist.
Bhakta's attitude. The dualistic devotees and lovers of the Personal God (bhaktas), on the contrary, accept all states as real. Unlike the non-dualists, they look on the waking state as a reality and they do not hold that the external world is like a dream. They say that the external world is the glory of the Lord. The heavens, stars, moon, mountains, ocean, men, birds and beasts, all these he has created. He manifests his glory by these. He is both within and without. He dwells in our hearts. The most advanced bhaktas say that the Lord himself manifests as the twenty-four categories of the Sankhya philosophy, that he appears as the individual soul and the external world. A bhakta wishes to enjoy communion with his Lord and not to becomeone with him. His desire is not to become sugar, but to taste of it
The innermost feelings of a true bhakta. Do you know what are the innermost thoughts and feelings of a true devotee? he says: "O Lord! You are the master, I am your servant. [148}
Raja yogi. you are my Mother, and I am your child"; or again: "You are my Child and I am your father or your mother"; or thus: "You are the Whole and I am your part." The dualistic devotee does not wish to say, "I am Brahman." A raja yogi also seeks to realise the Universal Being. His object is to bring the finite human soul into communion with the infinite Spirit. He tries first to collect his mind which is scattered in the world of senses, and then seeks to fix it on the Universal Spirit; hence the necessity of meditating on him in solitude and in a posture which causes no distraction.
Different aspects of God. But all these various ideals are of one and the same Brahman, the difference being only in the names. It is the same Being whom men call by the name of the Absolute (Brahman), the Universal Spirit, the Impersonal God, or the Personal God with Divine attributes.
The steamer had already started and was on its way to Calcutta. Many there were who looked on Sri Ramakrishna with eyes that did not move, and who drank the nectar of the words [149} that dropped from his hallowed lips. They did not perceive that the steamer was in motion. The temple garden of Kali had faded from sight. Beneath were the sacred waters which reflected the blue firmament above, but the murmur of the waves fell unheeded on the ears of the devotees. The magic of the blessed vision had thrown a charm over them. They beheld before them a wonderful being, a God-in-man and a man-in-God, with smiles playing on his sweet face, radiant with the joy of the Lord, and with eyes enhanced in beauty by the collyrium of Divine Love. They gazed as if spell-bound, on one who had given up the world and its pleasures, on one intoxicated with the love of the Lord and who looked not for anything except the Lord.
The world as a dream. Sri Ramakrishna: The followers of Advaita Vedanta maintain that creation, preservation, and dissolution, the individual ego, the external world, all these are manifestations of the Eternal Energy (Sakti). They also say that when these are properly analyzed, they appear as dreams, that the Absolute Brahman alone is the Reality, and all else is unreal. Even eternal Energy (Sakti) is like a dream, unreal.
The realm the Divine Energy. However, you may analyze and discriminate [150} of thousands of times, you cannot transcend the realm of Divine Energy (Sakti) unless you have reached the highest state of Samâdhi, superconsciousness. The very thoughts like: "I am meditating," "I am thinking on the Absolute," are within the realm of Sakti. They are the manifested powers of that Eternal Energy. Therefore the Absolute Brahman and the Eternal Energy are inseparable and one. The existence of one implies that of the other; as fire and its burning power. If you admit the existence of fire, how can you deny its burning power?
Relation between Brahman and Sakti. No one can think of fire without thinking of its burning power. Again, the power of burning cannot be conceived as separate from fire. In the same manner, we cannot think of the rays of the sun, without thinking of the sun himself. Again, we cannot think of the sun without thinking of his rays. Therefore, no one can think of Brahman as apart from Sakti, or Sakti as separate from Brahman. Likewise, no one can conceive of the phenomenal as independent of the Absolute, or of the Absolute as apart from the phenomenal. The same Eternal Energy, the Mother of all phenomena, is creating, preserving, and [151} destroying everything. She is called Kali, the Divine Mother. Kali is Brahman, Brahman is Kali, one and the same Being. I call him Brahman when he is absolutely inactive; that is, when he neither creates, nor preserves, nor destroys phenomena; but when he performs all such actions, I call him Kali, the Eternal Energy, the Divine Mother. They are one and the same Being, the difference is in name and form, just as the same substance water is called by different names in different languages, such as jal, aqua, pani, etc
One God has many names. Yes, the Being is the same, only the names are different under different aspects like the same sub- stance expressed in different languages, such as jal, water and pani. A tank may have four Ghats (landing-places with steps). The Hindus drink at one ghat and call it jal; the Mohammedans drink at another and call it pani; while the English who drink at a third call it water. Similarly, God is One, only his names are different. Some call him by the name of Allah, some God, some Brahman, others Kali, others again Rama, Hari, Jesus, Buddha.
Keshab, smiling: Please tell us once more, Revered Sir, in what different ways Kali, the [152} Mother of the Universe, is making Herself manifest in this world of her sports.
The Mother of the universe and her sports. Sri Ramakrishna, smiling: Oh, the Mother sports with the world, her toy, under various aspects and names. Now she is the God Unconditioned, Absolute, Formless (Maha-Kali): now the Everlasting as distinguished from her works (Nitya-Kali). Under another aspect she is the Goddess of burning ghats or crematories, the dreaded Being who presides over death (Smasan-Kali); now again does she stand before us ready to bless, to preserve her children (Rakshya-Kali); under another aspect she appears pleasing to the eye of her devotees as the Mother with the dark blue colour, Consort of the God of Eternity and infinity. Maha-Kali and Nitya-Kali are described in the sacred books, the Tantras: "When nothing was neither sun, nor moon, nor planets, nothing but Darkness Deep, there was alone my Divine Mother, Formless, the Eternal Consort of the Infinite." As Mother with the dark blue colour (Syama), she is tender and loving. She is the bestower of all blessings and makes her children fearless; she is worshipped in the Hindu household. As Preserver Sshe appears in times of plague, famine, earthquake, [153} drought or flood. At cemeteries, burning ghats or crematories she appears in the form of the Destroyer. The dead body, the jackal, the spirits of destruction are her terrible companions. She lives in the midst of those horrible scenes, of those fearful environments. Streams of blood, a garland of skulls thrown round her neck, a girdle made of the hands of those that are dead, are the symbols that mark her as the dread Mother, as the All-Destroyer.
Creation of the world. Now look at her mode of creation. At the end of a cycle, on the destruction of the world, my Mother, good Matron that she is, puts together the seeds of creation. The mistress of a house has a hodgepodge pot of her own in which to keep sundry things for household use. (Ramakrishna, smiling) Yes, my friends, that is indeed so. The mistress of a house has such a pot in her possession. In it are kept the "sea-foam" in a solid state, small parcels containing seeds of the cucumber, gourd, and so on. She brings them out when wanted. In much the same way my Mother keeps the seeds of creation after the destruction of the world at the end of a cycle. [154}
Divine Mother omnipresent. My Mother, the Primal Divine Energy, is both within and without this phenomenal world. Having given birth to the world, she lives within it. In the Vedas we find the illustration of a spider and its web.
Divine Mother, the material and the instrumental cause. She is the spider and the world is the web that she has woven. The spider brings the phenomenal web out of herself and then lives on it. My Mother is both the Container and the Contained.
Kali, why black? Is Kali, the Divine Mother, black? She looks black from a distance, but when realised, she is not black. The sky looks blue from a distance, but look at it near you, it has no colour. The water of the ocean is blue from a distance. Take a little up in the hand, and it has no colour. Saying this, the bhagavan became intoxicated with Divine Love, and began to sing:
"Is my Divine Mother black?
The Power of the Divine Mother. Bondage and freedom, of both she is the maker. Through her inscrutable power of [155} Maya a man of the world becomes bound by woman and gold. Again, through her grace he becomes free. She breaks all fetters and takes her children across the ocean of the world; and the bhagavan sang in his divine voice:
THE DIVINE MOTHER AND THE LIBERATED SOUL
Divine Mother's will. Sri Ramakrishna continuing: My Divine Mother is playful. The world indeed is her sport. She does what she will and is blissful. It is her pleasure to give freedom to one among a hundred thousand of her children.
A Brahmo: Sir, she can, if she pleases, set everybody free. Why is it then that she has bound us hand and foot with the chains of the world?
Sri Ramakrishna: Well, I suppose it is her will. Her will is to play with all these things. In the game of Hide-and-Seek, whoever touches the grand-dame is out. He no longer runs about. If all the players touch the grand-dame at the same time, how can there be any game? The grand-dame would not like it; for she is pleased to have the play go on.
And the bhagavan, placing himself in the position of a man of the world laying the trouble of his heart before the Mother, sang:
THE DIVINE MOTHER AND HER CHILDREN
Delusive power of Maya. Man has forgotten his true Self and has become worldly by the delusive power of Maya. Therefore Prasad says: "You have given me a mind, but by a glance of your eye you have so bent it that [158} I roam through this world, your creation, seeking joy but mistaking bitter for sweet."
A Brahmo: Revered Sir, is it true that God cannot be realised without giving up the world?
Renunciation not necessary for all. The bhagavan, smiling: Oh no! You do not have to give up everything. You are better off where you are. By living in the world you are enjoying the taste both of the pure crystallised sugar and of the molasses with all its impurities. You are indeed better off. Verily I say to you, you are living in the world, there is no harm in that; but you will have to fix your mind on God, otherwise you cannot realise him. Work with one hand and hold the Feet of the Lord with the other. When you have finished your work, fold his feet to your heart with both your hands.
Power of the mind. Everything is in the mind. Bondage and freedom are in the mind. You can dye the mind with any colour you wish. It is like a piece of clean white linen; dip it in red and it will be red, in blue it will be blue, in green it will be green, or any other colour. Do you not see that if you study English, English words will come readily to you? Again, [159} if a pandit studies Sanskrit, he will readily quote verses from Sacred Books. If you keep your mind in evil company, your thoughts, ideas and words will be coloured with evil; but keep in the company of bhaktas, then your thoughts, ideas and words will be of God. The mind is everything. On one side is the wife, on the other side is the child; it loves the wife in one way and the child in another way, yet the mind is the same.
By the mind one is bound; by the mind one is freed. If I think I am absolutely free, whether I live in the world or in the forest, where is my bondage? I am the child of God, the son of the King of kings; who can bind me? When bitten by a snake, if you assert with firmness, "There is no venom in me," you will be cured. In the same way, he who asserts with strong conviction "I am not bound, I am free," becomes free.
Sense of sin. Someone gave me a book of the Christians. I asked him to read it to me. In it there was only one theme sin and sin, from the beginning to the end. (To Keshab:) In your Brahmo-Samaj the main topic is also sin. The fool who repeats again and again, "I am bound, I am bound," remains in bondage. [160} He who repeats day and night, "I am a sinner, I am a sinner," becomes a sinner indeed.
Saving power of God's name. It is necessary to have absolute faith in the Name of the Lord. "What! I have uttered his Holy Name, can there still be sin in me? Can I still be in bondage?" Kristo Kishore was a pious Hindu, a Brahmin of Brahmins, who worshipped the Lord with single-minded devotion. He went to Vrindavan. One day, while visiting the shrines, he felt very thirsty. He went to a well, and finding a man standing there, he asked him: "My man, can you draw some water for me?" The man replied: "O holy sir, I belong to a low class, that of a cobbler." Kristo Kishore thereupon said to him: "It does not matter.. You say 'Shiva' (the Holy Name of the Lord) and draw the water for me."
By repeating the blessed Name of God, man's body, mind and soul become absolutely pure. Why talk of sin and hell-fire? Repeat but once, "I shall never again do the evil deeds that I have committed in the past," and by your faith in his Hallowed Name you shall be freed from all sins.
Prayer to the Divine Mother. I used to pray to my Divine Mother for true [161} devotion (bhakti) alone. With flowers in my clasped hands, I prayed: "Grant me, Mother, that I may have pure and unalloyed devotion. Here is sin, here again is virtue; I lay them at your feet; oh take them both. Here is knowledge (of many things), here again is ignorance; oh take them both and grant that I may have devotion alone. Here is purity and here again is impurity; I desire neither of them. Here are good works, here are bad; both I lay at your feet; oh grant that I may have devotion alone and love for you."
Example of Janaka. One living in the world may also see God. It was the case with Raja Janaka, the great royal devotee, who realised while on the throne that the world was a structure of dreams. For a lover of God, however, such is not the feeling. And the bhagavan sang:
He who has attained to bhakti or true devotion to the Lord says:
Value of solitude. No one can suddenly become like Janaka. Raja Janaka performed great penances and austerities in solitude for many long years. Even when living in the world one should occasionally go into solitude. It will bring great good to one who can sincerely and earnestly cry for God three days and three nights in solitude, alone. Indeed, one day passed in that way would be a great gain. People will shed a jarful of tears for wives and children, but who weeps one tear for the Lord? It is necessary to practise every now and then devotional exercises in solitude. A worldly-minded aspirant absorbed in various works and duties finds in the first stage of his spiritual life a great number of obstacles in the path of self-control and devotion. As a young tree planted on the foot-path needs a fence around it that it may not be eaten up by sheep and cattle, so in the first stage of a spiritual aspirant, a fence is necessary, but when the tree grows large and the trunk and roots are thicker and stronger. no fence is required. Then it is not injured even if an elephant be tied to it.
Solitude a remedy for worldliness. The disease of a worldly man is of a serious type; his organs with their functions are entirely out of order. Would you keep a large [163} water-jar and savoury pickles in the same room in which a patient with typhoid fever was lying? If you wish to cure such a patient, you must have him removed from that room, in case it is impossible to send away the jar and the pickles. A man of the world is like to such a thirsty patient; worldly attractions are like the jar of water; sense objects are like the savory pickles; desire to enjoy those things is the patient's thirst. The mouth waters at the mere thought of the pickles. We should not therefore remain near them all the time. Hence solitude is the best remedy for worldliness. First acquire right discrimination and true dispassion and then live in the world. In the sea of the world there are crocodiles of passions and desires. Rub the body with turmeric-paste if you wish to bathe in the sea, for then crocodiles will do no harm to you. The turmeric is discrimination (of the Real from the unreal) and true dispassion. God is the only Reality, the phenomenal universe is unreal.
Intense devotion necessary. Along with this another thing is needed, that is intense devotion to God. The gopis [**] of [164} Vrindavan had such devotion. They had an intense love for Sri Krishna, God Incarnate.
The bhagavan then said to Keshab and other devotees with great feeling: You are Brahmos; you believe that God is formless and you do not believe in God Incarnate. Well, it matters not. You need not accept Radha and Sri Krishna as Incarnations of the Supreme Being; hut the intense love and yearning which the gopis felt for Sri Krishna is a thing which you may well make your own, for yearning is the next step leading to God-vision.
It was ebb-tide. The steamer was going fast down-stream towards Calcutta. It had got to the other side of the Howrah Bridge within sight of the Botanical Gardens. The Captain had orders to go a little farther down. How [165} far the steamer had actually proceeded was not known to those who were listening to Sri Ramakrishna and watching his movements. They listened with such rapt attention that they had no idea either of time or of distance.
Keshab now offered the bhagavan puffed rice with the kernel of the cocoanut. All present were invited to partake of these. They took them in the folds of their cloth, ate and were very happy. It seemed as if a festival were being held on board the steamer. The bhagavan noticed that Bijoy and Keshab were not quite at home in each other's pretence. He wished to see them make up their difference, for was not his mission to bring peace and goodwill among men? he said to Keshab:
Look, my dear sir, here is Bijoy. As to your quarrels, well, do not worry yourselves on their account. There was fighting even between Shiva and Rama. Shiva was Rama's spiritual Guru. After a little fighting, they made it up and became once more as good friends as ever. But the fighting went on among their followers. The gibbering of the ghosts and the chattering of the monkeys could not so easily be quieted down. You too will be very good friends, once again. But your followers, [166} I dare say, will follow your example. These differences, you know, are things that. cannot be avoided. There was the tug of war even between father and son. Take the case of Rama and his sons Laba and Kusha. Take another case: The mother fasts on Tuesday for the welfare of her daughter, but the daughter, quarrelling with the mother, fasts on Tuesday for her own welfare, as if her welfare were different from that gained by her mother's fasting. In the same way, you, Keshab, have a religious society (Samaj) of your own, and Bijoy, too, must have a separate society of his own. Well, there is room for all kinds of things under Providence even for quarrels and differences. When God-Incarnate (Krishna) himself appeared at Vrindavan, the question may well be asked: Why did Jatilla and Kutilla stand in the way of his mission of love? I suppose his sport as a Divine Lover would have died a natural death from want of nourishment but for these obstructions, the Jatillas and Kutillas. Opposition adds zest to a thing. Ramanuja [**] held the doctrine of Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism). his Guru (spiritual guide), however, [167} was an Advaitist (non-dualist without any qualification). They had their differences. Master and disciple disputed and refuted each other's opinions. This is natural. Be it so; still to the master the disciple is always his own.
The nature of disciples must be examined. They all rejoiced. Sri Ramakrishna said to Keshab: You do not study and examine the nature of your disciples. For that reason they drop away. All men look alike, but they differ in their nature. In some the Sattwa quality is predominant, in others Rajas, and in the rest Tamas. Pooli (cakes) all look alike on the outside, but the contents vary; some may contain sweet thickened cream, others cocoanut sweetened with sugar, while others may have boiled Kalai (pulse) with no sweetening.
God the one master. Do you know how I feel about it? Like a child I eat, drink and play, depending on my Divine Mother, who knows everything. These three words prick me: Guru (spiritual master), Karta (the Lord), and Baba (father). I cannot bear them. The infinite Existence-Intelligence-Bliss is the one Guru for all. He will teach everybody. I am only his child.
Who is a true spiritual teacher? It is a difficult task to teach others. One [168} can become a true spiritual teacher only when one has realised God and received a Divine commission from him. So commissioned were Narada, [**] Sukadeva and Sankaracharya: [*+] If you are not commissioned, who will listen to you? You know Calcutta and her fondness for the latest sensation. Milk puffs up so long as it is over burning wood; but when the wood is withdrawn, the puffing ceases instantly. The people of Calcutta are fond of new sensations. They say they want water and they begin to dig a well at one place; but they give it up as soon as they find that the earth is hard and stony. They then set to work to dig at another place. Suppose the soil is sandy there; they will as readily give up digging at that spot. They will look about for another locality. That is the way with these people. Their good opinion is by no means worth having. [169}
Divine commission. Divine commission cannot be obtained by mere imagination. Verily I say, the Lord can be realised and he will speak to you. Then you may receive his commission. What great power lies in such Divine command! By it mountains may be shaken to their foundation. What can a mere ordinary lecture do? People may listen to it for a time, but they will soon forget it. It will not produce a lasting impression and they will not live according to it.
Ordinary spiritual teachers are blind. For the teaching of Divine truths a badge of authority is indispensable. A man who tries to teach others without it will be laughed at. He cannot get realisation himself and he tries to show the way to others. It is like the blind leading the blind. In this way more harm is done than good. When God is realised the inner spiritual sight opens and it is then that the true teacher can perceive the sickness of the soul and can prescribe the proper remedy. Without God's command a man easily becomes egotistic and thinks, "I have the power to teach others." Such egotism is the result of ignorance. In ignorance one feels, "I am the doer;" but when one realizes that "God is the Lord and doer of all, I cannot [170} do anything," then one becomes absolutely free even in this life. All misery and restlessness proceed from the sense of "I" and "me," "I am the doer," "I am the actor."
First see God, then help the world. You talk glibly of doing good to the world. Is the world contained in a nutshell? Besides, who are you to do good to the world? First practice devotional exercises and realise God. Attain to him. If he graciously gives you his powers (Sakti), then you can help others, and not till then.
A Brahmo devotee: Revered Sir, are we to give up all works until we have seen God?
Sri Ramakrishna: No, why will you give up all works? Meditation on God, chanting his Holy Name, and other devotional exercises are daily works which you should have to perform.
The devotee: But what about household works and business affairs?
Pray that worldly work may grow less. Sri Ramakrishna: Oh! you will also perform those, but only so far as is absolutely necessary for living in the world; and you should at the same time pray in solitude to the Lord with tears in your eyes for his grace, and for strength to do your duties without seeking any reward. Say when you pray: "Lord, grant that my work in [171} the world and for the world may grow less and less day by day, for I see that my work growing manifold only makes me lose sight of you. Sometimes I think that I do my duties unattached to the world, but I know not how I deceive myself and do them through attachment instead. I give alms to the poor, and behold, I seek for fame, oh, I don't know how!"
Shambhu (Mullik) [**] talked of founding hospitals and dispensaries, schools and colleges, of God-vision and building roads, sinking wells and philanthropic digging tanks for the good of all. I works. said to him: "Yes, whatever comes in your way and is absolutely necessary you will do; even that, without seeking any reward. Do not seek more work than you can well perform. If you do you will forget the Lord. A man desired to see the shrine of the Divine Mother. On his way he stopped and spent all [172} the day in distributing alms to the poor. When he went to the shrine, the door was closed and he could not see the Holy of Holies. The wise ones should first see the Holy Mother, by pushing their way through the crowd assembled at the gate of the Temple, and after seeing her, they may then turn their attention to alms-giving and other good works, if they so desire." All good works are for the realisation of God. Works are the means and God-vision is the end.
God-vision the end of all performance of duty. Therefore I said to Shambhu: "Suppose you see God, or that God manifests himself to you, will you say to him: 'Lord, do you grant that I may have lots of dispensaries and hospitals, schools and colleges!'" A true devotee shall rather pray in this wise: "Grant, good Lord, that I may have a niche in the lotus of your Feet, that it may be my privilege to live always in your Holy Presence and that I may have deep and unalloyed devotion to you."
Path of bhakti yoga best for us in this age. Karma yoga is very difficult. It is difficult in this materialistic age (Kali-yuga) to get through all the works, all the duties laid on by the Sacred Books. Verily this age, earthly life depends entirely on material food. Works and duties, there is [173} scarcely time enough for them. It will be all over with the patient suffering from the burning fever of this world if he is allowed to go through the slow process of treatment practised by the old-fashioned Hindu physicians. People are short-lived and the malaria carries one off in a few days. The specific for the present day is Dr. D. Gupta's patent fever mixture, which produces a miraculous effect at once. Yes, in this age the one means of realizing God is bhakti or sincere devotion and love for him, and earnest prayer and the chanting of his Holy Name and Divine attributes. (To Keshab and other devotees) Your path, too, lies through devotion and self-surrender to the Lord (bhakti yoga). Blessed are you who sing the name of Hari and chant the praises of my Divine Mother. Your path is right. Unlike the non-dualists, you do not believe that this world is only a dream. You are not jnanis, but bhaktas; you believe in a Personal God, that is good. You are bhaktas. If you can sincerely and earnestly cry for him, you will surely obtain him.
(To Keshab) You talk against child marriage and the caste system, about female emancipation and female education. I say one thing is needful, the realisation of God and devotion [174} to him. First realise God and all other things shall be added to you. Jadu Mullik is a rich man. If you wish to cultivate his acquaintance, do not trouble yourself as to how much wealth he has, how many houses he owns, how many country-houses and gardens. First, be introduced to him and he will furnish you with all the necessary information afterwards.
Parable of the deserted temple. There was a young man named Podo in a certain village. In that village was an old dilapidated temple. The holy image of God once worshipped there had disappeared and it was now the home of small bats. One day at nightfall the villagers were surprised to hear the sound of bells, gongs, and conch-shells issuing from the deserted temple. Men, women and children all flocked to the place. They thought that some devotee must be worshipping some image of God newly set up within the temple by performing the Arati, the evening ceremony of waving the lights and offering flowers, fruits and holy water. With folded hands they all stood listening to the sacred sounds before the temple. One of them, more curious than the rest, had the courage to go inside. To his surprise he saw that Podo was ringing the bell and blowing [175} the shell; but the floor was as dirty as before with impurities of all kinds and there was no image of God on the altar! he then called out, saying: "Podo, you have no Madhava (Sri Krishna, God-Incarnate) in the temple; how is it, then, that you have raised all this clamour by blowing the conch-shell? And behold! You have not even taken the trouble to cleanse the temple by removing the impurities and dirt of years and washing the floor with the holy water of the Ganges!"
First cleanse the heart. First realise God in the temple of your heart. With that in view, you must cleanse it of all impurities, all sin and iniquity, all attachment to the world caused by the power of the senses. It is then that the time comes for blowing the shell, if need be. Talk of social reforms! You may well do so after realizing God. Remember, the rishis [seers] of old gave up the world in order to attain to God. This is the one thing needful. All other things shall be granted to you.
The steamer had come back to Koylaghat (Calcutta). All on board held themselves in readiness to land. As they came out of the [176} cabin they saw that the full moon had bathed the bosom of the holy Ganges and the adjoining banks with her mellow light. The bhagavan with two or three disciples got into a cab which had been kept waiting for him on the shore. Nandalal, Keshab's nephew, also got in. He wished to go with the bhagavan for some distance. When all had seated themselves in the cab, Sri Ramakrishna asked: "Where is Keshab?" In a few moments Keshab came up smiling and inquired who were going with him. Being satisfied with the answer, he bowed down to the ground before the bhagavan, who affectionately bade him adieu.
The cab set out. The bhagavan was filled with supreme joy as the carriage drove along. Suddenly he said: "I am thirsty; what is to be done?" Nandalal stopped the carriage before the gates of the India Club and went upstairs to bring water. It was brought in a glass tumbler. The bhagavan, smiling, asked, "Is the glass well washed?" Nandalal replied, "Yes." The bhagavan drank the water. He was childlike in his simplicity. He put forward his face to look at the various objects on both sides. His joy knew no bounds as he saw men, animals, carriages, houses, the moonlight, the lighted streets! [177} Nandalal got out at Colutola. The cab came to a stop before the door of Suresh Mitra's [**] house. Suresh was very much attached to the bhagavan, but he was not at home. He had gone to visit a newly-purchased garden at Kankurgachi. His people opened a room on the ground floor and invited the party to be seated there. The cab-fare was to be paid. Who was there to pay it? Had Suresh been at home, he would have done so. The bhagavan said to a disciple: "Ask the ladies of the house for the fare. I suppose they know well enough that their husbands are in the habit of coming to our place."
Narendra (Vivekananda) lived in the same neighbourhood, so the bhagavan sent for him. Meanwhile the inmates of the house led him upstairs into the drawing-room. The matting of the floor was covered with a carpet and a white sheet. Three or four pillows were lying about. On the walls there hung a beautiful oil-painting which Suresh intended to be a representation of the harmony of all religions. [178} In the painting Sri Ramakrishna was represented as pointing to Keshab that all religions lead to one goal be it Hinduism, Mahometanism, Buddhism, Christianity, or their various sects.
The bhagavan was conversing with smiles on his lips when Narendra carne up. His joy redoubled. He said to Narendra as he talked: We enjoyed such a pleasant trip on board the steamer with Keshab Sen. Bijoy also was there, and many of those present here. You may ask Mahendra how I talked to Keshab and Bijoy about the mother and her daughter both observing fast on Tuesday each for her own welfare, and how God's Sports in this world would suffer for want of nourishment in the absence of obstructions like Jatilla and Kutilla.
It was getting late. But Suresh had not come home as yet. The bhagavan asked to go back to the temple at Dakshineswara. It was about half-past ten and he wished to leave for the garden. The streets were flooded with moonlight. The cab was at the door. The bhagavan got in. Narendra and Mahendra bowed low to the master and started for their homes.