The nineteenth of August, 1883, fell on Sunday and was the first day after the full moon, so the devotees had leisure to come and see their beloved master at Dakshineswara. Everyone had free access. He talked with everybody who came. His visitors were from all classes of people, sannyasins [**] and paramahamsas, [*+] Hindus, Christians and Brahmos, Saktas, Vaishnavas and Shaivas, women as well as men. It was noon. Sri Ramakrishna was seated in his usual place in his room. A disciple came and saluted him, falling at his [180} hallowed feet. The bhagavan made him sit down and kindly inquired after the welfare of himself and of his family. A short while after the bhagavan began to talk to him on the Vedanta. He said:
Non-dualistic Vedantins. The Astavakara Samhita [**] deals with the knowledge of the Atman (Self). The knowers of the Self declare: "I am he, I am that Supreme Self." This is the view of all the sannyasins belonging to the non-dualistic (advaita) school of Vedanta. But it is not meet that a man of the world should hold such a view. He is doing all kinds of work; how at the same time can he be that Highest Self, the Absolute Brahman, who is beyond all actions? The non-dualistic Vedantins hold that the Self has no attachment to anything. Pleasure, pain, virtue, vice, can never affect the Self in any way; but they do affect men who think that their soul is the same as the body. Smoke can blacken only the wall, but not the space through which it moves. There was a certain devotee named Krishna Kisore, who used to say that he was Kha, or empty space. He [181} meant that he was the same as the Highest Self, Brahman the Absolute, who is sometimes likened to [. . .] others; such a sentiment is altogether out of place.
Thought of freedom brings freedom. But it is good for everyone to cherish the idea that he is free. "I am free," "I am free"; if a man constantly says this, he is sure to be free. On the other hand, he who always thinks that he is in bondage brings bondage on himself in the end. The weak-minded man who always says, "I am a sinner," "I am a sinner," is sure to have a fall. A man should rather say: "I repeat the holy name of God; how can there be any sin in me, or bondage of the world?"
Then turning towards the disciple, the bhagavan said:
Maya and Daya. Today my mind is not at ease. I hear from Hridai [**] that he has been ailing much. Is this [182} anxiety due to Maya (attachment) or Daya (compassion) towards him?
The disciple did not know what to reply and remained silent.
Sri Ramakrishna: Do you know what is Maya? Love towards one's own father, brother, sister, wife, child, nephew, niece, is called Maya, and compassion means loving all beings equally. Now what is this, my anxiety, due to Maya or compassion? But Hridai did a great deal for me. He served me much. He never hesitated to do all sorts of menial services for me. My mind will be set at rest if he can get the money he needs. Now whom am I to ask for money? And how can I ask, being a sannyasin?
At two or three o'clock in the afternoon two great devotees, Adhar [**] and Balaram, came and prostrated themselves before him and took their seats. They asked him how he was doing. The bhagavan replied: "Well, my body is all right, but not so is the mind." he did not mention anything about Hridaya's illness. [183}
In the course of the conversation, when the talk was about the Goddess Simhavahini [**] (seated on a lion) belonging to the Mullik family of Barabazar, he said: Once I went to see the Simhavahini. She was then staying in one Mullik's house at Chashadhopapara. The house was almost a deserted one. The family had become very poor. In some places there was filth, in other places mosses were growing undisturbed. The cement on the wall was crumbling down, and brick-dust and sand were slowly falling. Other houses belonging to the Mulliks are very neat and clean, but this was not so. Can you explain why this was the case? The truth is that everyone must reap the fruit of his past actions.
Law of Karma. We should believe in the law of Karma. One thing, however, I saw in that deserted house, that the face of the Goddess was beaming with glory.
The Divine Presence in images. We should believe in the Divine Presence infilling the images of the Deity. [184} I went to Vishnupura. [**] The Raja has several good temples. In one of the temples there is the image of a Goddess named Mrinmayi. A big tank is before the temple. But how was it that I smelled in the tank the spices that women use to perfume their hair? I did not know that they offered such spices to the Goddess when they went to worship her. I had not seen her image near the tank, but in Samâdhi I saw her Divine form down to her waist. The Divine Mother of the universe appeared to me in the form of Mrinmayi.
By this time other devotees had arrived. The talk then turned on the Kabul war and the civil war that came after. One gave the news that Yakub Khan [*+] had been deposed from his throne, adding: Sir, Yakub Khan is a great devotee.
Trials of a devotee. Sri Ramakrishna: Well, pleasure and pain, happiness and misery, are things one cannot separate from the body. We read in Kavi Kankana's [*++] "Chandi" that Kaluvira, a great devotee, was shut up in prison. [185} They placed a heavy stone on his breast. Yet Kalu was the favourite child of the Mother of the universe. Pleasure and pain, happiness and misery, come with the body. How great a devotee was Srimanta! How fondly the goddess loved his mother Khullana! But what an amount of trouble he had to go through! They took him to the scaffold to be executed. A certain woodman, a great devotee, was fortunate enough to see the goddess, and the goddess loved him very much and showed her kindness towards him; but he had to go on with the trade of woodcutter all the same. He had to sell firewood to get his livelihood. It does not follow that a devoted lover of God must be very well off in the world.
A devotee is rich in spirit. But he is rich in spirit, though he may be poor in worldly things. Devaki in prison saw God in the form of a human being holding the conch-shell, discus, mace and lotus in his four hands; but she could not get out of the prison for all her God-vision.
Disciple: But she should have got rid, not only of imprisonment, but of her body, that being the source of all her troubles. [186}
Body result of past actions. Bhagavan: One's body is the result of one's past actions. Therefore one must bear with it so long as the past actions are not cleared up. A blind man taking a bath in the holy water of the Ganges has his sins washed off, but his blindness continues all the same. It is the result of the actions of his previous life. But however the body may be under the influence of pleasure and pain, however the body may be happy or miserable, the true devotee is all the same rich in spirit, rich in knowledge (jnana) and the love of God (bhakti). Take for instance the Pandavas. How many dangers and difficulties they had to face! What wants and miseries to bear! But amidst all these they never lost their wisdom. Can you find others equally wise and devoted to God?
At this time Narendra (Swami Vivekananda) and Visvanatha Upadhyaya, [**] the Nepaulese Resident in Calcutta, entered. Bowing down to Sri Ramakrishna, they took their seats. Sri Ramakrishna asked Narendra to sing. There [187} was hanging on the western wall of the room a Tanpura (a stringed musical instrument). Narendra took it down and began to tune it. Everyone was intently looking on his face, eager to listen to his songs.
Bhagavan to Narendra: This instrument no longer sounds as before.
Visvanatha: It is filled, therefore there is no sound, as with a vessel filled with water.
Sri Ramakrishna: But how do you explain the life of Narada and of other Divine Teachers? They had realised God, but still spoke. They were filled, but they gave forth sounds.
Visvanatha: They spoke for the good of mankind.
Bhagavan: Yes, Narada and Sukadeva came down from the highest state of Samâdhi. Their hearts went out to those who were weary and heavy-laden and knew not God. They spoke for the good of others.
Narendra began to sing:
1. In the temple of the heart dwells the Eternal Truth.
Samâdhi of Ramakrishna. Sri Ramakrishna had lost himself in deep Samâdhi as soon as he had heard the words "Immortal bliss like embodied nectar." There he sat with clasped hands, turning his face toward the East. He was diving deep into the Ocean of Beauty of the All-Blissful One. No external consciousness, no sign of breathing, no motion in any of his limbs, no quiver of the eye like one drawn in a picture! He had gone away somewhere from this kingdom, from this world of the senses.
Returning from Samâdhi, the bhagavan murmured in an indistinct voice: "You are I, I am you. You eat, you and I eat. What is this? Have I jaundiced eyes? I see you everywhere. Wherever I cast my eyes, I see your form." Then he repeated the holy name of Krishna: "Friend of the meek and gentle! Lord of my heart! Divine Shepherd!" After repeating this a few times, he again went into Samâdhi. Coming back to sense-consciousness, he opened his eyes and found that the room was full of people of every [190} class. Narendra, seeing that the bhagavan was in Samâdhi, had left the room and gone to the eastern veranda, where Hazra [**] was seated on a blanket telling his beads. Narendra began to talk with him. In the meanwhile the bhagavan looked for Narendra in the room, but he was not there. The tanpura (musical instrument) was lying on the ground. The devotees all had their eyes fixed on the bhagavan, who began thus, referring to Narendra: he has lighted the fire. It does not matter whether he remains in the room or leaves it!
Bliss comes in [sound] meditation. Then turning towards Visvanatha and his numerous devotees, he said: Meditate on God, the sole Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Eternal, and you also shall have bliss. That Being of Knowledge and Bliss is always here and everywhere, only It is covered and obscured by ignorance. The less is your attachment towards the senses, the more will be your love for God.
Visvanatha: The more we near our home at Calcutta, the farther we are from Benares, and the more we near Benares, the farther we are away from our home. [191}
Lover of God. Bhagavan: As Srimati (Radha) [**] neared Sri Krishna, she perceived more and more the charming fragrance of his sweet person. The more one approaches God, the more does one's love toward him increase. The more the river nears the sea, the more it is subject to ebb and flow. The Ganges of knowledge flowing in the soul of a wise man runs only in one direction. To him the whole universe is a dream. He always lives in his own True Self (Atman). But the Ganges of love in a devotee's heart does not run in one direction. It has its ebb and flow. A devotee laughs, weeps, dances, sings. He wants sometimes to enjoy his Beloved, to merge into his Beloved! He swims in him, dives, rises up in his joy as merrily as a lump of ice floats on the water
God the Absolute and God the Creator one. But in fact God the Absolute and God the Creator are one and the same Being. The Absolute Existence-Intelligence-Bliss is the All-knowing, All-intelligent and All-blissful Mother of the Universe. The precious stone (Mani) and its brightness cannot be separated in thought, for [192} we cannot think of the stone without its brightness, nor can we think of the brightness apart from the stone. The Absolute Existence-Intelligence-Bliss, the Undifferentiated, appears as differentiated into many. He has various names applied to him according to the various powers manifested. That is the reason of his having many forms. Hence a devotee has sung: "O my Mother Tara, [**] you are even all that." Wherever there is action, such as creation, preservation and destruction, there is Sakti or Intelligent Energy. But water is water whether it is calm or disturbed. That One Absolute Existence-Intelligence-Bliss is also the eternally Intelligent Energy which creates, preserves and destroys the universe. Thus it is the same Visvanatha whether he does nothing or performs his worship or visits the Governor-General. In all cases it is the same Visvanatha, only these are his different Upadhis or states.
Visvanatha: Yes, Sir, that is so.
Bhagavan: I said this to Keshab Chandra Sen. [193}
Visvanatha: Well, Sir, Keshab Chandra Sen does not respect our orthodox Hindu manners, customs and laws. How can he be a real saint?
The bhagavan (turning towards his devotees): Visvanatha never wants me to go to see Keshab Sen.
Visvanatha: But your Holiness will go. What can I do?
Bhagavan: You go to see the Governor-General, who according to your Shastras [**] is a Mleccha (unclean), and for money, too; and may I not go to see Keshab Sen? It does not become you to speak in this way. You often say: "It is God who has manifested himself as the human soul and the world itself." What you say you must mean; what you mean you must say!
After this Ramakrishna abruptly left the room and went to the north-eastern veranda. Visvanatha and other devotees remained waiting for him in the room. Narendra was found talking with Hazra on the veranda. Sri Ramakrishna knew that Hazra was an out-and-out non-dualist and a dry logician. He upheld that all the universe was a mere dream; that all [194} kinds of worship and offerings were mental delusions; that God was the one changeless Entity; and that a man should only meditate on his Atman (Self), and do nothing else.
Bhagavan (laughing): What are you talking about?
Narendra: We are discussing themes all too big for ordinary mortals.
Pure bhakti and pure jnana one. Bhagavan. (laughing): But however you may talk, know that pure selfless devotion (bhakti) and pure selfless knowledge (jnana) are both one; their goal is the same. Smooth and easy is the path of devotion leading to God.
Narendra: There is no use in reasoning like a philosopher; make me, O Mother, mad with your love. I have been reading Hamilton's Philosophy, and he writes: "A learned ignorance is the end of philosophy and the beginning of religion."
Bhagavan: What does that mean?
Narendra explained it in Bengali. Sri Ramakrishna laughed and thanked him in English, saying, "Thank you!" Everyone laughed at this, for the bhagavan's knowledge of English was confined to a few such expressions. [195}
Soon twilight began to fall. The devotees one after another took leave of the bhagavan, and so did Narendra.
Evening at the temple. The day was drawing to a close. The temple-servant was arranging the lights. The priests were busy saying their prayers as they stood waist-deep in the sacred waters of the Ganges, purifying themselves body and soul. They were shortly to go to their respective temples to perform the Arati, the evening ceremony. The young men of Dakshineswara had come with their friends to take a walk in the garden. They were strolling about the rampart, enjoying the sweet evening breeze made fragrant by the flowers and watching the slightly undulating breast of the swiftly-flowing Ganges. Some of them, perhaps the more thoughtful, could be found going about by themselves in the solitude of the sacred trees called the Panchavati.
Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna also looked at the Ganges for some time from the western veranda.
It was evening. The lamp-lighter had lighted all the lamps of the big temple. The old maid-servant [196} came and lit the lamp in the bhagavan's room and burned incense there. In the meantime the Arati ceremony had begun in the twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva. It began soon after in the temples of Kali, Mother of the Universe, and of Sri Vishnu. The united and solemn sound of gongs, bells, cymbals, grew more solemn and sweet as it was echoed back by the murmuring Ganges below.
It was the first lunar day after the full moon. A short while after nightfall the moon rose. Gradually the tops of the trees in the garden, as well as the big temple compound, were bathed in her balmy light. At the magic touch of her radiance the waters of the Ganges shone bright like silver and flowed on dancing with great joy.
When at nightfall Sri Ramakrishna bowed down to the Divine Mother, he repeated the Holy Names of God, keeping time all the while by clapping his hands. In his room there were pictures of various Incarnations of God. He bowed before each picture, repeating the Holy Name of each. He also repeated his favourite mantrams, each having some lofty, unifying principle running through it, such as:
(1) Brahma-Atma-Bhagavan. (The Absolute Brahman of the Vedanta, True Self and the [197} Personal God of the bhakta are three in one and one in three.)
(2) Bhagavata-bhakta-Bhagavan. (The Word, the devotee and the Personal God are three in one and one in three.)
(3) Brahma-Sakti, Sakti-Brahma. (God the Absolute and the Creative Energy are one and the same.)
(4) Veda-Purana-Tantra-Gita-Gayatri. (God of the Scriptures and holy texts.)
(5) Saranagata, Saranagata. (I take refuge in you. I am your, I am your.)
(6) Naham-Naham, Tuhu-Tuhu. (Not I, not I, but you, but you.)
(7) Ami Yantra, tumi yantri. (I am the machine; you are the One who runs the machine.)
After all these repetitions were ended, he meditated on the Mother Divine with clasped hands.
A few of the devotees had been walking about in the garden during the evening. When the Arati ceremonies were over in the temples, one after another they came together in Sri Ramakrishna's room.
He was sitting on his seat with devotees before him on the floor. He said: Narendra, [198} Rakhal and Bhavanatha these are Nityasiddhas (perfect even from their birth). They need no training. What training they go through is more than they need. You see that Narendra never cares for anyone. He was with me in Visvanatha's carriage the other day. When he was requested to sit on the better seat, he paid no heed at all. Moreover, he never shows to me that he knows anything, lest I praise him before men. He has no Maya, no attachment. He looks as if he were free from all bondage. For a single individual he has many gifts and many noble qualities. He is also very courteous in his manners. He knows how to control his senses; he has said that he will not marry, but will live a pure life. That is good. I always go into Samâdhi when I see him.
Character and associations. We mould our character according to the company we keep; and we keep such company as is in harmony with our character. For this reason the Paramahamsas (perfected souls) like to keep the company of innocent children because their minds are pure, simple and unstained by worldliness.
As Sri Ramakrishna was speaking these words, a worthy Brahmin entered the room and bowed [199} down at his feet. The bhagavan had known him before and loved him because he was sincere and simple. He had studied Vedanta in Benares, the seat of great learning. Ramakrishna said to him: Well, you have not been here for a long time. How are you?
The Brahmin, smiling, replied: "Revered Sir, the duties of the world, as you knowest, take most of my time."
He then took his seat and Ramakrishna continued: You remained in Benares for a long time. Tell us what you saw there. Let us hear something about Dayananda. [**} Brahmin: Yes, I met Dayananda. You have also seen him.
Ramakrishna: Yes, I went to see him once. He was staying in a garden-house not very far from here. That day he had an appointment with Keshab Sen. He was a great scholar; he also believed in the Devas (perfected spirits), but Keshab did not, whereupon he said: "If [200} God created all these phenomena, could he not create Devas?" He believed in one God, but without form. Visvanatha was repeating the Holy Name of the Lord, "Rama, Rama"; at this he said: "Better repeat the name 'Sandesha, Sandesha' (sweetmeat, sweetmeat)."
Brahmin: In Benares, Dayananda had long theological discussions with the other pandits. In the end all the pandits unanimously stood on one side, while he stood alone on the other; and then the pandits drove him from the city by raising the outcry: "Dayananda's position is false and must not be accepted!" I also saw Colonel Olcott, the Theosophist. The theosophists believe in the existence of the Mahatmas, the realm of the moon, the realm of the sun and the astral realms. They believe that the astral bodies go to these places and so on. Revered Sir, what do you think of Theosophy?
Devotion to the Supreme. Ramakrishna: bhakti, devotion to the Supreme, is the only thing worth having. Do they seek bhakti? Then it is good. If their aim be the realisation of God, then they are all right; but by simply dwelling on these realms and Mahatmas one cannot search after God. One should practise Sadhana (devotional exercises) to attain true bhakti. [201} One should have extreme longing for realisation. One should gather up all the mental activities and concentrate them on him. Realisation of God does not come so easily; it requires a great deal of Sadhana. A man asked: "Why can I not see God?" I replied: "If you wish to catch a big fish, which lives in deep water, you will have to make many preparations to attract him. You must get the line, rod, hook and float; you must put on savory bait; then when you see bubbles in the water, you may know that he has come near. Similarly, if you wish to see God, devote yourself to the practice of true bhakti."
Bhakti and jnana. A devotee: Which is better, bhakti or jnana?
Ramakrishna: The highest form of bhakti comes through extreme love for God. Three friends were walking through a forest. A tiger appeared. One of them cried out: "Brother, we shall be devoured by the tiger"; the second said: "Why shall we be devoured? Come, let us pray to the Lord." Hearing this, the third one replied: "Oh no, why trouble the Lord? Let us climb this tree." The man who said, "We shall be devoured," did not know that the Lord is the protector of all; he who wished to pray to the Lord [202} was a jnani; he knew that the Lord is the Creator, Protector and Destroyer of all phenomena; but the third man, who said, "Why trouble the Lord, let us climb the tree," was a true lover of God. He had had the taste of Divine Love, the highest form of bhakti. In one aspect of Divine Love (Prema) the lover thinks of himself as greater than the object of love; he has the constant desire to protect the Beloved and make him happy by removing all troubles and anxieties. The gopis had true Prema, or Divine Love.
Divine Love and its various aspects. In Divine Love the sense of "I" and "mine" exists, as was shown by the mother of the Divine Incarnation, Krishna. For her, Krishna was only a son and not the Lord of the universe. She loved to nurse him and take care of him, always calling him "my Krishna," and feeling the same anxiety about him that an earthly mother would feel about her son. When a certain saint spoke to her, saying: "Your Krishna is the absolute Master of the world; he is not human"; Yasoda, the mother of Krishna, replied: "Oh no, he is not the Lord of the universe; he is my child. I cannot think of him as other than my child." Divine Love is manifested [203} by various relations; the closer the relation, the stronger the tie of love. The relation of a servant to his master was manifested by Hanuman; the relation of a friend to his friend was shown by Arjuna to Krishna; while the gopis were devoted to the Lord as their divine husband.
Some people think that they are bound (baddha), that they will never attain to Divine Wisdom, or to Divine Love. But all this fear vanishes from the heart of a true disciple if his Guru, or spiritual guide, be gracious to him
Parable of the tiger. There was a flock of sheep in the woods; suddenly a tigress jumped into their midst. At that moment she gave birth to a cub and died on the spot. The kindhearted sheep took care of the cub, and brought it up among them. They ate grass, the cub followed their example; they bleated, the cub also learned to bleat. In this manner the cub grew up not as a young tiger but like a sheep. One day a full-grown tiger came that way and watched with wonder the grass-eating tiger. The real tiger drew nearer, but the cub began to bleat. Then the real tiger dragged him to the edge of a lake and said: "Look here! Compare your face with mine. Is there any [204} difference? You are a tiger like me; grass is not your food; your food is animal flesh." But the grass-eating tiger could not believe it. After a long time the real tiger convinced him that he was of the same species. Then he gave him a piece of flesh to eat, but he would not touch it; 'he began once more to bleat and to seek for grass. At last, however, the real tiger forced him to eat animal flesh; at once he liked the taste of the blood, gave up his grass-eating and bleating, and realised that he was not a sheep but a tiger. He then followed the real tiger and became like him.
Human soul, the child of God. The human soul is the child of God, but it does not know it, and therefore it lives like an ordinary mortal (sheep); but when, by the grace of the Guru, he realizes his true nature, he becomes free from all fear and attains to perfection. Therefore I say, when the grace of the Guru comes, all fear vanishes. He will make you know who you are and what you are in reality. You will have to do very little for yourself after you have received that grace. You will then be able to distinguish between the Real and the unreal and to realise that God is Truth and the world is unreal. [205}
Parable of the false sadhu. A fisherman came to a garden at night and threw his net in the pond to catch some fish. Hearing the noise, the owner sent his men to capture him. The men came with torches in their hands to discover the thief. In the meantime the fisherman dropped his net, covered his face with ashes and sat under a tree, pretending to be a holy man absorbed in meditation. The men could not find the thief; they simply noticed that a holy man was meditating under a tree, so they returned to the owner and told him what they had seen. Everybody then brought flowers, fruits, and sweets to the holy man and paid him great honour and respect. Next morning crowds of people came to see the sadhu and offered to him money and various other things. The fisherman thought: "How strange it is! I am not a holy man, still people have so much respect for me and I have received so many gifts. If I become a genuine sadhu (anchorite), how much more I shall get! Undoubtedly I shall see God." If merely feigning to be a holy man could so far awaken him, what can be said of him who has practised all virtues in order to become a true holy man! He will realise what is real and what is [206} unreal, that God is Truth and the world is unreal.
A devotee: Where shall I meditate on God? Ramakrishna: The heart is the best place. Meditate on him in your heart.