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Some Incidents in the Life of Sri Ramakrishna (as Told by Himself)

i

Days of struggle. I practised austerities for a long time. I cared very little for the body. My longing for the Divine Mother was so great that I would not eat or sleep. I would lie on the bare ground, placing my head on a lump of earth, and cry out loudly: "Mother, Mother, why don't you come to me?" I did not know how the days and nights passed away. I used to have ecstasy all the time. I saw my disciples as my own people, like children and relations, long before they came to me. I used to cry before my Mother, saying: "O Mother! I am dying for my beloved ones (bhaktas); bring them to me as quickly as possible." [208}

All desires fulfilled. At that time whatever I desired came to pass. Once I desired to build a small hut in the Panchavati [**] for meditation and to put a fence around it. Immediately after I saw a huge bundle of bamboo sticks, rope, strings and even a knife, all brought by the tide in front of the Panchavati. A servant of the temple, seeing these things, ran to me with great delight and told me of them. There was the exact quantity of material necessary for the hut and the fence. When they were built, nothing remained over. Everyone was amazed to see this wonderful sight.

When I reached the state of continuous ecstasy, I gave up all external forms of worship; I could no longer perform them. Then I prayed to my Divine Mother: "Mother, who will now take care of me? I have no power to take care of myself. I like to hear your name and feed your bhaktas and help the poor. Who will make it possible for me to do these things? Send me someone who will be able to do these for me." As the answer to this prayer came Mathura Babu, [*+] who served me so long and [209} with such intense devotion and faith! Again at another time I said to the Mother: "I shall have no child of my own, but I wish to have as my child a pitre bhakta, who will stay with me all the time. Send me such an one." Then came Rakhal (Brahmananda).

Those who are my own are parts of my very Self.

ii

Visit to Zoological Garden. In referring to the time of joyous illumination which at once followed his enlightenment, he exclaimed:

What a state it was! The slightest cause aroused in me the thought of the Divine Ideal. One day I went to the Zoological Garden in Calcutta. I desired especially to see the lion, but when I beheld him, I lost all sense-consciousness and went into Samâdhi. Those who were with me wished to show me the other animals, but I replied: "I saw everything when I saw the king of beasts. Take me home." The strength of the lion had aroused in me the consciousness of the [210} omnipotence of God and had lifted me above the world of phenomena.

Divinity everywhere. Another day I went to the parade-ground to see the ascension of a balloon. Suddenly my eyes fell on a young English boy leaning against a tree. The very posture of his body brought before me the vision of the form of Krishna and I went into samâdhi.

Again I saw a woman wearing a blue garment under a tree. She was a harlot. As I looked at her, instantly the ideal of Sita [**] appeared before me! I forgot the existence of the harlot, but saw before me pure and spotless Sita, approaching Rama, the Incarnation of Divinity, and for a long time I remained motionless. I worshipped all women as representatives of the Divine Mother. I realised the Mother of the universe in every woman's form.

Mathura Babu, the son-in-law of Rashmoni, invited me to stay in his house for a few days. At that time I felt so strongly that I was the maid-servant of my Divine Mother that I thought of myself as a woman. The ladies of the house had the same feeling; they did not [211} look on me as a man. As women are free before a young girl, so were they before me. My mind was above the consciousness of sex.

What a Divine state it was! I could not eat here in the temple. I would walk from place to place and enter into the house of strangers after their meal hour. I would sit there quietly, without uttering a word. When questioned, I would say, "I wish to eat here." Immediately they would feed me with the best things they had.

iii

Visit to a poor Brahmin. Once I heard of a poor Brahmin who was a true devotee and who lived in a small hut in Baghbazar. I desired to see him, so I asked Mathura Babu to take me to him. He consented, at once ordered a large carriage and drove me there. The Brahmin's house was so small that he scarcely had room to receive us, and he was much surprised to see me coming with such a rich man in such carriage!

Visit to Devendra Nath Tagore. At another time I wished to meet Devendra Nath Tagore [**]. He is a very rich man, but in [212} spite of his enormous wealth he is devoted to God and repeats his Holy Name. For this reason I desired to know him. I spoke about him to Mathura Babu. He replied: "Very well, Baba, I will take you to him; he was my classmate." So he took me and introduced me to him, saying: "This holy man has come to see you. He is mad after God." I saw in him a little pride and egotism. It is natural for a man who has so much wealth, culture, fame and social position. I said to Mathura Babu: "Tell me, does pride spring from true wisdom or from ignorance? He who has attained to the highest knowledge of Brahman cannot possess pride or egotism, such as 'I am learned,' 'I am wise,' 'I am rich,' and so on." While I was speaking with Devendra Nath Tagore, I went into a state from where I could see the true character of every individual. In this state the most [213} learned pandits and scholars appear to me like blades of grass. When I see that scholars have neither true discrimination nor dispassion, then I feel that they are like straws; or they seem like vultures who soar high in the heavens, but keep their minds on the charnel-pits below on the earth. In Devendra I found both spiritual knowledge and worldly desire. He has a number of children, some of whom are quite young. A doctor was present. I said: "When you have so much spiritual knowledge, how can you live constantly in the midst of so much worldliness? You are like Raja Janaka; you can keep your mind on God, remaining amid worldly pleasures and luxury. Therefore I have come to see you. Tell me something of the Divine Being." Devendra then read some passages from the Vedas and said: "This world is like a chandelier, and each Jiva (individual soul) is like a light in it." Long ago, when I spent nearly all my time meditating at the Panchavati, I saw the same thing. When Devendra's words harmonised with my experience, I knew that he must have attained to some true knowledge. I asked him to explain. He said: "Who would have known this world? God has created man to manifest his glory. If there [214} were no light in the chandelier, it would be all dark. The chandelier itself would not be visible." After a long conversation Devendra Nath Tagore begged me to come to the anniversary of the Brahmo-Samaj. I answered: "If it be the will of the Lord. I go wherever he takes me."

iv

Visit to Padmalochana. Padmalochana was the most eminent scholar in the court of the Raja of Burdwan. He came to a garden-house near Dakshineswara, and as I had a desire to meet him, I sent Hridai to find out whether he had pride or not. I learned that he was simple and absolutely free from scholarly pride, so I went to see him. He was indeed a great scholar and a true jnani. He defeated all the great pandits and theologians. He said that when he was in the court of the Raja a theological discussion arose regarding the Hindu Trinity, – whether the first person of the Trinity, Brahma, was greater than the third person of the Trinity, Shiva. The pandits referred to him for the final decision and Padmalochana replied: "I have seen neither Brahma nor Shiva; how can I decide?" he wished to hear me sing the [215} praises of my Divine Mother. I had a long conversation with him. He became truly devoted to me and said: "I have never found so much happiness anywhere." he revered me although I used to cry for my Divine Mother like a child.

v

Distaste for Worldly conversation. Nothing but discourses on God appealed to me at this period. If I heard worldly conversation, I would sit in a corner and weep bitterly. When I went with Mathura Babu to Varanasi, I was sitting with him in the drawing-room when some friends came in to see him and began to discuss worldly affairs. "So much we have gained, so much we have lost." Hearing this I was in tears and cried aloud: "Mother, why have you brought me here? I was much better off in the temple. I have come to the Holy City to hear only of lust and gold; but there in the temple I did not have to listen to such conversation."

Longing to hear about the Supreme. I was at this time like a young boy and so Mathura Babu fulfilled all the desires that arose in my mind. My heart and soul, however, were constantly longing to hear about the [216} Supreme Being. I searched for the places where the Holy Scriptures were expounded. There was a Brahmin in the neighbourhood who was a great pandit and who had true faith. I used to go to hear him very often. A saint lived near by on the bank of the Ganges and I wished to go with this Brahmin to see him; but a priest who looked on the world as a dream discouraged me by saying: "The body of a saint is an earthly cage; what good can one obtain by visiting such a cage?" I spoke of this to the Brahmin and he replied: "He who thinks of God, he who repeats his Holy Name and has renounced everything for the sake of the Lord, must not be regarded as an earthly cage. The priest does not know that the form of a devotee is a spiritual form full of Divine intelligence." This Brahmin once asked me why I had thrown away my Brahminical thread. I replied: "When the storm of Divine ecstasy overtook my heart and soul, it blew away all signs of caste and creed. If you once become mad after God, then you will understand me." But after some time this Brahmin himself caught the madness of Divine ecstasy. He would utter nothing but "Om, Om," and sit in silence in his own room. He [217} would not mix with or speak to anyone. His friends and relatives called in physicians. He told one of them: "You can cure my disease, but do not take my 'Om' from me." Once I went to see him when he was in this state. I asked him what was the matter and he answered: "The tax-collectors have been here and I am wondering what I shall do. They said that they would seize my belongings." I replied: "What will you gain by thinking in this way? Let them sell your belongings. If they put you in jail, they cannot harm you, because you say that you are nothing but (Kha) infinite space." I would often repeat this, his own statement, to him and say: "As you are infinite space, no tax can be drawn out of you."

vi

Absolute frankness. During this period I was absolutely outspoken. I observed no formality or etiquette; I was fearless. Once I met a rich Zemindar and asked him: "What is our highest duty? Is not the attainment of God our highest duty?" he replied: "We are men of the world; salvation is not for us. When [218} even Yudhisthira [**], the purest and most perfect of mortals, had to see purgatory in a vision because he had once wavered for half a second from absolute Truth, what can we expect for ourselves?" I could not bear his words and rebuked him sharply, saying: "What kind of man are you, that you think of the momentary vision of purgatory? You must not think of that, but of Yudhisthira's truthfulness, forgiveness, patience, right discrimination, renunciation, devotion and love for God."

At another time I went to see a Zemindar who had the title of Raja, and I told him plainly that I could not call him Raja because he was not really one.

One day I saw a pious Brahmin who was counting his beads on the bank of the Ganges. I stood near him and knew that his mind was not fixed on God but on earthly things. Immediately I roused him by striking him on the shoulder. At another time Rashmoni, the founder of the temple, was praying in the temple while I was singing the holy song of the Divine Mother. I perceived that her mind was [219} on worldly objects and instantly I roused her in the same manner. In amazement she folded her hands and remained motionless before me.

vii

Visit to Keshab Sen. Keshab Chunder Sen was suffering from a serious illness. Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna was very anxious to see him, so he came one day with a few of his disciples to Keshab's home, where he was received by some of Keshab's disciples. They led him to the drawing-room and seated him on a couch. The room was fitted up with modern furniture. The bhagavan looked at it for a moment; then his mind turned within and he went into samâdhi. After recovering sense-consciousness, he spoke thus:

Body and Atman. There are two, the physical body and the Atman; the body is born, so it must die, but Atman is deathless. It is separate from the body, like a nut in the shell; but when the nut is unripe, it is difficult to separate the kernel from the shell; so it is with worldly people who have not realised God. Their Atman remains attached to the body; but in true knowledge the Atman appears as separate from the body. [220} At this moment Keshab entered the room. He was extremely thin and looked almost like a skeleton. He could hardly stand on his feet. With great difficulty he walked to the couch and sat at the feet of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna. The bhagavan came down from the couch and sat on the floor. Keshab touched his forehead to the floor and remained prostrate before him for some time. Ramakrishna held Keshab's hand and said:

Perfect knowledge brings realisation of oneness. So long as there is knowledge of variety, so long there is bondage. When perfect knowledge comes, man realizes one Spirit in all. In that state he also sees that the same One has become the individual soul, and the phenomenal world with its various states and elements. It is true that the Universal Spirit dwells everywhere, but his manifestation varies. In some places there is greater manifestation and in others less. Wherever there is greater manifestation of the Spirit, there is also greater manifestation of Divine Powers.

Unity and variety. First you will have to realise unity by discrimination: "Not this, not this." Then after reaching this state of realisation, when you come down to phenomena, you will discover that [221} variety has come from unity and the same unity is the goal of variety. The difference in the manifestation of Sakti or power makes the variety. When the flood of spiritual realisation comes in the soul, like a sheet of water the Universal Spirit covers everything. All distinctions vanish. Then a boat can pass over a field and the way from one place to another becomes straight across the water.

Keshab was listening with rapt attention. Although the room was crowded, absolute silence prevailed. The bhagavan, looking at Keshab, then asked:

Meaning of Keshab's illness. How are you? How do you feel? You are suffering; but your illness has a deep meaning. In this body you have gone through various stages of spiritual development; the body is now suffering from the reaction. When the spiritual waves arise, the consciousness of the body vanishes; but it tells on the body in the end. When a big steamer plies in the waters of the Ganges, I have seen the waves dash against the shore for some time after; the larger the boat, the stronger the waves; sometimes they break down the banks. If an elephant enters a small hut, [222} it shakes it and breaks it to pieces; so when the elephant of the spiritual Ideal enters into the body, it shakes and sometimes shatters it. What happens; do you know? If there be a fire in the house, it burns up many things. Similarly, the fire of Divine Wisdom burns all passion, anger and other enemies, and in the end destroys the sense of "I, me and mine." The body is then wrenched and shattered. You may think that everything is finished, but so long as there is the least sign of illness, so long Re will not make you free. If you enroll yourself as a patient in a hospital, you cannot come out before you are absolutely cured.

Keshab began to smile. The bhagavan continued: Hridai used to say, after seeing the condition of my body: "I have never seen so much spirituality with such a state of body!" But although my body was weak, still I never stopped talking of God with others. At one time, I remember, I was thin like a skeleton, yet I would continue discussions on spiritual subjects for hours.

Everything the will of God. Then shedding tears of sympathy for Keshab, the bhagavan said: It is his will. Everything happens by your will Lord! You do your [223} work; by mistake people say, "I do." The gardener sometimes uncovers the of roots rose-bushes that the dew may fall on them. Sometimes he trims off some of the roots so that the flowers will become larger. Perhaps the Lord is preparing you to do greater work. But I feel very unhappy when you are ill. Last time when you were ill, I was so anxious about you that I would cry at night and pray to my Divine Mother for your recovery. Sometimes I said to my Mother: "If Keshab passes away, with whom shall I talk about God?" But this time I do not feel the same way.

At this moment Keshab's aged mother came near the door and addressed the bhagavan, saying: "May Keshab be cured of his illness?"

The bhagavan replied: Pray to my blissful Divine Mother. She will remove all pain and trouble. (To Keshab) Do not spend so much time with your family and children. Their company will drag you to worldliness. You will feel better if you think of God and talk about him.

Keshab's mother said: Do bless my Keshab.

Ramakrishna: What power have I? God [224} will bless him. You do your work, Divine Mother! People say by mistake, "I do it." Two are the occasions when the Lord smiles. First, when brothers remove the chains which partition off the family property, saying: "This is mine and that is thine"; and secondly, when the physician of a dying patient declares: "I shall make him live."

Keshab then began to cough and could not remain longer, so he bowed down before the bhagavan, saluted him, and with great difficulty walked out of the room. Keshab's eldest son was there. A Brahmo devotee said: Bhagavan, lay your hand on his head and bless him.

Ramakrishna replied: It is not for me to bless anyone.

He then gently touched him on his arm and said to the Brahmo devotee: I cannot say to anyone, "Be cured." I never asked my Divine Mother for that power. I simply ask for pure love and nothing else.

Sri Ramakrishna then rose to leave. Keshab's disciples accompanied him to the door with great reverence, and he passed from the house with his disciples.

Footnotes

  • 208:* Five sacred trees planted together to form a grove to be used for contemplation.

  • 208:+ Mathura Babu was the son-in-law of Rani Rashmoni, [209] the founder of the temple garden at Dakshineswara. He recognised the Divine powers and superhuman character of Sri Ramakrishna and became his devoted disciple.

  • 210:* Sita was the consort of Rama, the Divine Incarnation and the Hero of Ramayana. She was the perfect type of womanhood according to the Hindus.

  • 211:* Devendra Nath Tagore was a Hindu multimillionaire of Calcutta. He was born in 1818 AD In 1841 he became [212] a follower of Raja Rammohun Roy, the founder of the Adi Brahmo Samaj, and in 1844 he became the Acharya, or the spiritual leader of this Theistic Hindu Church. During the latter part of his life he retired from the world and devoted his time entirely to spiritual studies. He was regarded by the Hindus as the "Maharshi," or the holy man of his age.

  • 218:* Yudhisthira was the Hero of the Mahabharata and the Hindu emperor of ancient India.

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