Sri Ramakrishna was invited by one of his beloved disciples, Surendra [**], a householder, to a feast made in his garden-house at Kankurgachi near Calcutta.
These feasts were invariably occasions for the gathering of his disciples, devotees and admirers. They were times of real festivity and rejoicing, during which the Holy Name of God was chanted to the accompaniment of mridangas [drums] and other musical instruments. All the while the bhagavan could be seen at his best, singing, dancing with the joy of the Lord, and frequently lost in that blessed state of ecstasy or samâdhi. When the singing of devotional [226} hymns and the spiritual excitement which came with it were over, the company present would be treated by the bhagavan to one of those celestial conversations, so laden with sermons for the spiritual welfare of humanity, which will never die in the memory of those who had the rare privilege of listening to him.
Ramakrishna's ecstasy. The first part of the day was given to Sankirtan (singing forth the Name of the Lord). They were singing the songs telling of the separation of the gopis from the Lord Sri Krishna, who had gone to Mathura. In the course of the songs, the bhagavan was frequently in a state of samâdhi. They were singing. Suddenly he rose to his feet, saying: "O my friend, do you bring my beloved Krishna to me or take me over to the place where he is." The bhagavan, it would appear, had merged his personality in that of Radha, [**] the chief of the gopis. He realised that he and Radha were one. With those words he stood speechless and motionless, with fixed half-closed eyes that moved not, evidently having lost all sense-consciousness. Coming to himself, he again, in a voice that [227} drew tears from the eyes of those who heard him, cried out: "O my friend, do me this favor and I shall be your most devoted servant. Remember it was you that taughtest me my love for the Beloved."
The chorus went on singing. Radha was made in the song to say: "O! I will not go to the bank of the Jamuna to draw water, for coming up to the Kadamba tree I am put in mind of my own, my Beloved." Ramakrishna, heaving a sigh, said, "Ah, me!" As the chorus chanted aloud the name of the Lord, the bhagavan was again on his feet and in samâdhi. Recovering his sense-consciousness, he could only repeat inarticulately: "Kitma, Kitma," for "Krishna, Krishna."
The Sankirtan was brought to a close by the bhagavan himself leading the chorus in the well-known piece: "Victory to Radha, Victory to Govinda," and dancing with his disciples, who formed a ring around him.
The madness of love for the Lord. The dancing and singing had all taken place in the reception-hall. The bhagavan then withdrew into one of the adjoining rooms to the west. To a disciple he said, talking of the gopis: How wonderful was their devotion! At the sight of the [228} Tamal tree they were seised with the very madness of love.
Disciple: This was also the case with Chaitanya. Looking at the forest he thought it was Vrindavan, the sacred birthplace of Sri Krishna, that was before him!
Bhagavan: Oh! if anyone is but favored with a single particle of this ecstatic love! What devotion! What intense love! Of this devotion they not only had the full complement (sixteen Annas) but a great deal more than the full complement five Sikas and five Annas! This is called the madness of Divine Love. The chief thing is to have intense love and sincere and earnest longing for God. On whatever path you may travel, whether you believe in the Divinity with or without form, whether you have faith in God-incarnate in a human form or not, if you have intense love and sincere longing for him, you are sure to attain to him. He alone knows what he is like. He himself will make you realise his Divine Nature. Why should you be mad after the things of the world? If you must be mad, be mad for God. There is a madness of Divine Love, a madness of bhakti, or ecstasy, and a madness of jnana. Radha had the madness of [229} Divine Love. Hanuman showed the madness of true devotion. When Sita was forced by Rama to prove her chastity by going through the ordeal of fire, Hanuman, although a devotee of Rama, was so maddened that he wished to kill his Lord, the Divine Incarnation. I saw a true jnani, who wandered like a madman. He came to the temple garden. He had so realised the oneness of the Spirit in every living creature that when he saw a dog eating the remains of a dish, he held him by the ears and said: "Brother, will you eat all?" He then took a portion and ate with the dog. He said to Hridrai: "When the holy waters of the Ganges and the water of the gutter appear the same, then will come the realisation of Divine oneness."
At one time I had this madness. I used to walk like a madman, seeing the same Spirit everywhere and recognizing neither high nor low in caste or creed. I could eat even with a Pariah. I had the constant realisation that Brahman is Truth and the world is unreal like a dream. Once Mathura Babu took me in a boat. The Mohammedan crew were cooking and I was about to eat with them, but Mathura Babu would not let me. In that state I used to [230} bow down before everybody and would ask them to repeat the Holy Name of the Lord. As in a violent storm a screen of dust rises, hiding the trees of different kinds and making all trees appear alike, so in that storm of spiritual vision I could not distinguish one man from another as high or low.
A devotee: Bhagavan, how can a man live in the world and experience any of these kinds of madness?
Sri Ramakrishna: These states are not for those who are living in the world and performing the duties of the world, but for those who have absolutely renounced internally and externally. External renunciation is not for those who live in the world. They should practise internal renunciation or mental non-attachment.
(To a disciple) A man brought a bottle of wine; I went to touch it but could not.
Disciple: Why, Bhagavan?
Divine intoxication. Ramakrishna: When Divine bliss is attained, one becomes intoxicated with it, he does not need to drink wine. When I see the feet of my Divine Mother, I feel as intoxicated as if I had drunk five bottles of wine. In this state one cannot eat anything and everything. [231}
Disciple: As regards eating, one should eat what one gets.
Food for a bhakta. Ramakrishna: That depends on the spiritual state. In the path of jnana that produces no harm; when a jnani eats, he pours the food as an offering in the fire of Kundalini. But for a bhakta it is different. A bhakta should eat only pure food, such food as he can freely offer to his Beloved Lord. Animal food is not for a bhakta. But at the same time, I must say, if a man loves God after eating the flesh of a pig, he is blessed, and wretched is the man who lives on milk and rice, but whose mind is absorbed in lust and gold. Once I took as mantram the name of Allah from a Mohammedan teacher and repeated the name for several days and ate their food.
The bhagavan then came back into the hall followed by his disciples and seated himself. A pillow was placed for him to recline on. Before touching it, he said, "Om tat sat" (Brahman is the only Reality). The pillow was, of course, one which had been used by the unholy men of the world, and the bhagavan was purity itself. It was getting late, but no dinner was [232} being served and the bhagavan became a little impatient like a child. Surendra, the host, was a beloved disciple of the Lord. The bhagavan said: Surendra's disposition has grown admirable. He is very generous; those who go to him for help never come away disappointed. Then he is very outspoken. He is bold enough to speak the truth.
Truthfulness. In this age truthfulness is the best of all ascetic practices. He who is firm in truthfulness attains to God. Lack of truthfulness destroys all virtue. For this reason, when I say anything even inadvertently, such as, "I shall go there. I shall do that," I must go, because I have said it. I may lose my firmness in truthfulness if I do not keep my word to the very letter. Openness as opposed to dissimulation is the fruit of the practice of many religious austerities in one's previous incarnations. In a well-known song by Tulsi Das [**] it is said: "Give up dissimulation and [233} cunning." Do you not see that whenever God has taken a human form, this great virtue of guilelessness has never failed to come to view? Look at Dasaratha, the father of Rama, and Nanda Ghosh, the father of Sri Krishna. They were both free from guile. (To a young disciple) Like men of the world, you have accepted a position, but you are working for your mother. Otherwise I should have said: "For shame! For shame! You must serve only the Lord." (To Mani Mullik) This young man is open and guileless to a degree; only nowadays he occasionally tells untruths, that is all. The other day he said that he would come to see me, but he did not. (To Mahendra) You went to see Bhagavan Das; how did you like him?
Mahendra: Yes, Revered Sir, I went to see him. The great Vaishnava sage has become very old. He was lying down when I saw him; a disciple put some food into his mouth. He can hear only when addressed in loud tones. After hearing your name, he said to me: "You need not fear anything. Ramakrishna is a [234} Divine Manifestation. To worship his name is to worship God."
Here Mahima came in and the bhagavan exclaimed: This is a visit quite unexpected! We expect at most a shallop in this poor river of ours, yet here comes a ship! But then it is the rainy season!
The conversation next turned on the spiritual aspect of feasts and the bhagavan said to Mahima: Why is it that people are fed at a feast? Do you not think that it is the same as offering a sacrifice to God who is the Living Fire in all creatures? But bad men, not God-fearing, guilty of adultery and fornication, should on no account be entertained at a feast. Their sins are so great that several cubits of earth beneath the place where they eat become polluted.
Protap Chunder Mozoomdar [**], a member of the Brahmo-Samaj, entered and saluted Sri [235} Ramakrishna. The bhagavan, as usual, returned his salutation with his well-known modesty, bowing very low. Mozoomdar said: Revered Sir, I have recently been to Darjeeling.
Sri Ramakrishna: But you do not appear to be much the better for the change. What is the matter with you?
Mozoomdar: The same complaint to which Keshab Chunder Sen succumbed.
Egotism rises from ignorance. A certain Mahratta lady was then spoken of. Mozoomdar said that she had been to England and had embraced Christianity. He asked the bhagavan whether he had ever heard of the woman. The bhagavan replied: No, but from what I hear from you, I should think she must be a person who wishes to make a name for herself. Egotism of this kind is not good. Those who seek for fame are under a delusion. "I do this or that," this sense arises from ignorance. But "Lord, you are doing everything" is true [236} knowledge. God is the real Actor, others are actors in name only.
The ego of a calf. The calf says, "Hamma" or "Aham" ("I"). Now look at the troubles caused by the self which says "I, I." In the first place, the calf is sometimes taken into the field where it is yoked to the plough. It is there made to work on from morning till evening, alike in the sun and in the rain. Its troubles are not yet over. It is very often killed by the butcher. Its flesh is eaten as meat. Its skin is tanned into hides which are then made into shoes. The sufferings of the calf in this state know no bounds. But that is not all. Drums are made with the skin which is thus mercilessly beaten, sometimes with the hand and sometimes with the drumstick. It is only when out of its entrails are made strings for the bows used for carding cotton that the troubles of the poor creature are over. And that is because it no longer says, "Hamma, Hamma" (I, I), but "Tuhum, Tuhum" (It is you, Lord! It is you!). Similarly, when Jiva (ego) says, "Lord! Not I but you are the doer and actor, I am merely an instrument in your hand," it becomes free from all the world's troubles and attains to absolute freedom from birth and [237} rebirth in this world of sorrow and suffering.
A devotee: How can jiva become free from egoism (ahamkara)?
Bhagavan: Egoism does not leave until one has realised God. If anyone has become absolutely free from egoism (Ahamkara) you must know that that person has seen and realised Divinity.
Devotee: Revered Sir, what are the signs of one who has seen and realised God?
Signs of one who has realised God. Bhagavan: The signs of one who has seen God are thus described in Bhagavatam. There are four kinds. First, his conduct is like that of a child. A truly wise man who has seen the Lord becomes like a child. A child has no real egoism. He is not bound by any custom. The self of the child is nothing at all like the self of the grownup man. The second sign is that one who has seen God does not care for his body or his dress. Purity and impurity seem to him the same. Third, Such an one sometimes acts like a madman, now laughing, now weeping, and the next moment talking to himself; now dressed like a Babu (gentleman) and now taking his one garment under his arm and going quite naked like [238} a child. Lastly, he may remain inert and motionless for a long time in the state of samâdhi.
Devotee: After God-vision does egoism (ahamkara) disappear entirely?
Bhagavan: Sometimes the Lord wipes out the last stain of egoism, as in the state of samâdhi. Again, sometimes he leaves a faint trace of egoism, but that is harmless. It is like that of an innocent child, who knows not the doing of injury to anyone. The steel sword is turned into gold by the touch of the Philosopher's Stone. It still retains its shape but it does not injure anyone.
Bhagavan to Mozoomdar: You have been to England and America. Tell me all about what you saw there.
Mozoomdar: Sir, people in England mostly worship what you call Kanchan (gold), but there are some good men and women who are not so attached to worldliness. Generally speaking, one sees nothing but worldly activity (rajas) everywhere from beginning to end.
Attachment to work. Bhagavan: I have seen the same thing too. Why in England and America alone? Attachment to work is to be found in every country. That worldly activity is the first chapter of life. So long [239} as the rajas quality predominates, attachment to work increases. One cares more for one's own worldly good, riches, honour, fame. It gradually leads to ignorance which makes one forget God, the Reality of the universe. God cannot be realised until the sattwa qualities, such as devotion, right discrimination, dispassion and compassion for all, prevail. All attachment to lust and gold proceeds from rajas and tamas qualities, but work cannot be renounced entirely. Propelled by nature (prakriti) you plunge into work even against your wish. Therefore I say you should work with non-attachment; in other words, you should work without seeking the fruit.
❖ Alas, that is seeking a fruit too, in its way. To develop, one may take a good look at the small children instead. How are they? - TK.
In a great religious ceremony we give alms to the poor and do various other charitable works and may think that we are absolutely unattached to the results of such works, but in the end we find that the desire for name and fame has crept up in the heart, we do not know how. But he alone who has seen and realised God can become absolutely unattached to work and its result.
A devotee: What is the path for those who have not realised God? Is it necessary for them to give up all work and worldly activity? [240}
Path of devotion. Ramakrishna: In this age (Kali-yuga) the path of devotion and love (bhakti-yoga) is easy for all. The practice of Narada's bhakti is better adapted to this yuga. One should repeat the Holy Name of the Lord and chant his praises and with earnest and sincere heart, pray to him, saying: "Lord, grant me your divine Wisdom, your divine Love. Open my eyes and make me realise you."
When karma yoga is so difficult to practice, one should pray to the Lord in this manner: "Lord, reduce our karma to a minimum, and the little work that we daily perform, may we do it with non-attachment by your grace. Lord! Do not let our desire for work increase in number and bind us to worldliness."
Is work the aim of life? Devotee: People of the West (in England and America) always say, "Work, work, work." Is not work (karma) then the end and aim of life?
Ramakrishna: The end and aim of life is the attainment of God. Work (karma) is nothing but the first chapter of life; how can it be its end and aim? But work, without seeking the result, is a means, not the end. [241} No one, however, can avoid work (Karma). Every mental action is a karma. "I am thinking," "I meditate," "I feel," each of these is a karma. The more one attains to true devotion the less becomes one's worldly work. The pleasures of the world do not satisfy such a soul. They lose their charm. How can one who has tasted the Sherbet made with pure crystallised sugar be pleased with the taste of a drink made with molasses or treacle? On one occasion a karma yogi (Sambhu) said to me: "May your blessing be that my wealth be spent in building hospitals and dispensaries, in making roads, in sinking wells for travellers, in establishing schools, colleges, and in other good works." Whereupon I replied: "Sambhu, all these works are good when they are performed with non-attachment. But that is very difficult. In any case you should always keep in mind that the end and aim of your human existence is the attainment of God and not hospitals and dispensaries. Suppose the Lord appears before you and graciously offers to fulfill your desires. Will you then pray for dispensaries and hospitals, tanks and wells, roads and serais, or will you say: 'Lord! Grant that I may have pure and unalloyed [242}
Attainment of God-vision. love for you and unswerving devotion to your feet, that I may always feel your presence and realise you under all conditions'?" Hospitals, dispensaries and all these things are transitory; God alone is the Reality, all else is unreal. Once placed face to face with the Vision Divine, we see them as no better than dreams and then we pray for more light, more wisdom, more Divine Love, the love which lifts a man to God, the love which makes us realise that we are really sons of the Supreme Being, of whom all that can be said is that he exists, that he is Knowledge itself in the highest sense, and that he is the Eternal Fountain of Love and Bliss. Again, when one attains to God-vision, one feels that God alone is the real Actor in the universe, the Doer of all things, and that we can do nothing. If God does everything, then why, instead of realizing him, shall we get entangled in the meshes of worldly works? First realise God; then, if it be his will, many hospitals and dispensaries may be established. Therefore, I say, never lose sight of this goal of life that I have pointed out for you, but move onward through the practices of devotion and love. When you have advanced far enough you will know that God alone is the Reality, [243} that all the things of the world are unreal and that the highest end and aim of life is the attainment of God.
Parable of a wood-cutter. There was a wood-cutter who led a very miserable life with the small means he could procure by daily selling a load of wood brought from a neighbouring forest. Once a sannyasin, who was passing that way, saw him at work and advised him to go further into the forest, saying: "Move onward, my child, move onward." The woodcutter obeyed the injunction and proceeded onward until he came to a sandalwood-tree, and being much pleased, he took away with him as many sandal logs as he could carry, sold them in the market and derived much profit. Then he began to wonder within himself why the good sannyasin had not told him anything about the wood of the sandal-tree, but had simply advised him to move onward. So the next day he went on beyond the place of the sandalwood until he came on a copper-mine, and he took with him all the copper that he could carry, and selling it in the market, got more money by it. Next day, without stopping at the copper-mine, he proceeded further still, as the Sadhu had advised him to do, and he [244} came on a silver-mine and took with him as much of it as he could carry, sold it and got even more money, and so daily proceeding further and further, he found gold-mines and diamond-mines and at last became exceedingly rich. Such is also the case with the man who aspires after true Knowledge. If he does not stop in his progress after attaining a few extraordinary and supernatural powers, he at last becomes really rich in the eternal knowledge of Truth.
So go on, my children, and never lose sight of your ideal! Go onward and never stop until you have reached the goal. Arriving at a particular stage, do not get the idea that you have reached your journey's end. Work is only the first stage of the journey. Bear in mind that doing works unattached is exceedingly difficult, that therefore bhakti Yoga, the path of love, is better suited to this age, and that work, even if unattached, is not the end of your life, but only a means to an end. So march on and never halt till you have come up to the great Ideal of your life the realisation of God.
Lectures and sermons of preachers. Referring to lectures given by members of religious bodies like the Brahmo Samaj and [245} Harisabha, [**] the bhagavan said: One can form an estimate of a man from the lectures he delivers. A pandit was lecturing as the preceptor (Acharya) of a certain Harisabha. In the course of his sermon he said: "The Lord has not Rasa (sweetness). Let us make him sweet by giving him our love and devotion." By sweetness he meant love and tenderness.
Story of a boy and the cow-house. It reminded me of the story in which a boy was trying to convince his friends that his uncle had a great many horses by saying he had a whole cow-house full of horses. Of course any intelligent person could at once see that a cow-house was not the same as a stable and that horses are never kept in a cow-house. What would people think after hearing such absurd statements? They would laugh and come to the conclusion that the uncle had no horses at all. See how absurd it is to say that God is devoid of sweetness, God I who is the fountain-head of all sweet and tender qualities!
Then turning to Mozoomdar the bhagavan said: You are an educated and intelligent man, [246} you are a deep thinker. Keshab and yourself were like the brothers Gour [**] (Chaitanya) and Netai. [*+] You have had enough of this world enough of lectures, controversies, schisms and the rest. Do you still care for them? Now, it is high time for you to collect your scattered mind and turn towards God. Plunge into the ocean of Divinity.
Mozoomdar: Yes, Revered Sir, that I ought to do. There is no doubt about it. But all this I do simply to preserve Keshab's name and reputation.
Story of a man and his cottage. Ramakrishna (smiling): You believe that you are doing all this, as you say, for Keshab, but after a while this idea will change and you will think differently, Let me tell you a story. A man built a cottage on a mountain-top. It cost him hard labor and much money. After a few days there arose a cyclone and the cottage began to rock to and fro. He was very anxious to save [247} it, so he prayed to the Wind-god, saying: "Lord, I beseech you, do not destroy this cottage"; but the Wind-god did not listen. He prayed again, but the cottage kept on rocking. Then he thought out a plan to save it. He remembered that in the mythology Hanuman was the son of the Wind-god. Instantly he cried out: "Lord, I beg of you, spare this cottage, for it belongs to Hanuman, your son." But the Wind-god did not listen. Then he said, "Lord, I pray you, spare this cottage, for it belongs to Hanuman's Lord, Rama." Still the Wind-god did not listen. Then, as the cottage was about to topple over, the man, to save his life, ran out of it and began to swear, saying: "Let it go to destruction! What is that to me?" You may now be anxious to preserve Keshab's name; but console yourself with the thought that it was after all owing to God's will that the religious movement connected with his name was set on foot, and that if the movement has had its day, it is also owing to that same Divine will. Therefore dive deep into the sea. And the bhagavan sang:
1. Dive deep, dive deep, dive deep, my mind! into the sea of Beauty. [248}
Do you hear the song? You have finished your lectures, quarrels and fights. Now dive in this ocean. There is no fear of death in this sea. It is the sea of immortality. Do not fear that one becomes unbalanced by meditating on God. I once said to Narendra (Vivekananda)
Mozoomdar (interrupting): Who is this Narendra?
God, the sea of Immortality. Bhagavan: Oh, there is a young man of that [249} name. Well, I said to Narendra: "God is like a sea of immortal syrup. Would you not dive deep into this sea? Suppose, my boy, there is a basin containing the syrup of sugar and that you are a fly anxious to drink of the sweet liquid. Where would you sit and drink?" Narendra said in reply: "Why! from the edge of the basin! If I go far from the edge I may be drowned and lose my life." Thereupon I said to him: "My boy, in the sea of Divinity there is no fear of that kind. Do you not know that it is the sea of Immortality? Whosoever dives into this sea does not die but obtains everlasting life." He who is mad after God can never become unbalanced or insane. (To the bhaktas)
Work without devotion. Work without devotion (bhakti) to God has in this age no ground to stand on. First cultivate devotion (bhakti); all other things schools, dispensaries, and charitable works shall, if you wish, be added to you. First devotion, then work. Work, apart from devotion or love of God, is helpless and cannot stand.
Ideal of a wet-nurse. Mozoomdar made inquiries about the disciples. He asked whether those who came to the bhagavan were getting better in the spirit [250} day by day. The bhagavan said: I place before them the ideal of a wet-nurse as teaching them how to live in this world. The maid-servant referring to her master's house says, "This is our house." All the while she knows that her home is far away in a distant village, to which her thoughts are all sent forth. Again, referring to the master's child in her arms, she will say: "My Hari has grown very wicked," or "My Hari likes to eat this or that," and so on. But all the while she knows that Hari is not her own. I tell those who come to me to live a life unattached like this maid-servant. I tell them to live unattached to this world, to be in the world but not of the world, and at the same time to have their mind directed to God, the heavenly home from whence all come. I tell them to pray for love of God (bhakti), which will help them so to live.
Agnosticism in Europe and America. After a short time the conversation turned on the agnosticism of Europe and America, and Mozoomdar said: Whatever people in the West may profess to be, none of them, as it seems to me, is an atheist at heart. The European thinkers all admit an unknown Power behind the universe. [251}
Bhagavan: How can they be atheists when they believe in Sakti, the Eternal Energy?
Mozoomdar: They also admit the moral government of the universe.
As Mozoomdar rose to take leave, the bhagavan said to him: What shall I say? It is better that you cease to have anything to do with all those things schisms, controversies, etc. All quarrels and disputes spring from egotism and attachment to the world. These keep men away from God. Therefore abandon all earthly attachment and fix your mind on the Almighty.
Mozoomdar then saluted the bhagavan and withdrew. After he had gone, a devotee asked: Revered Sir, you did go to see Vidyasagara, what do you think of him?
Ramakrishna: Vidyasagara is a very learned scholar. He is kind and charitable, but he has no spiritual consciousness. There is gold inside; if he had been aware of it, he could not have devoted so much of his time to external work. Eventually his work would have been finished. If he knew that God was dwelling within his heart, his mind would have been fixed in [252} thinking and meditating on him. Some people have to perform work without attachment for a long time before true dispassion for the world comes; then the mind runs towards God and becomes absorbed in him. Whatever work Vidyasagara has done for others has been very good and helpful
Compassion and attachment. To be kind and compassionate is also good; but there is a difference between compassion and attachment. Compassion is good, but attachment is not. Attachment is love for wife, children, brother, sister, father, mother and other relatives, while true compassion is equal love for all living creatures.
Mahendra: Is compassion also a bondage?
Sattwa, rajas, and tamas. Ramakrishna: This question is not for ordinary mortals. Compassion is the result of the sattwa quality. The sattwa quality is protective, the rajas quality is creative, and tamas is destructive: but Brahman the Absolute is beyond these three qualities, sattwa, rajas, and tamas. It is also beyond prakriti or nature. Where there is absolute Reality, no quality of nature can reach. As a thief cannot go to the exact spot where the treasure is, because he is afraid of being caught, so sattwa, rajas, and tamas, like [253} thieves, cannot go to the realm where is the treasure of the Absolute.
Parable of the three robbers. A man was going through the woods. On his way he was caught by a band of three robbers. They took away everything he had. Then the first robber asked: "What is the use of keeping this man alive?" And drawing his sword, he was about to kill him, when the second robber stopped him, saying: "What good will be done by killing him? Tie his hands and feet and throw him to one side." So they bound his hands and feet and went away leaving him by the roadside. After they had been gone for a while, the third robber returned and said to him: "Ah! are you hurt? Come, let me untie the cords and release you." Then when he had removed the cords, he said: "Now come with me. I will show you the road." After walking for a long distance, they found the road, and then the robber said: "Look, there is your home. Follow the road and you will soon reach it." The man, thanking him, replied: "Sir, you have done me a great service. I am greatly obliged to you. Will you not come with me to my house?" The robber answered: "No, I cannot go there; the guard would find me out." [254}
Three gunas of nature. This world is the wilderness. The three robbers are the three gunas of nature, sattwa, rajas, and tamas. Jiva or the individual soul is the traveller; self-knowledge is his treasure. The tamas quality tries to destroy the Jiva, the rajas quality binds him with the fetters of the world, but the sattwa quality protects him from the actions of rajas and tamas. By taking refuge with the sattwa quality, Jiva becomes free from lust and anger, which are effects of tamas; the sattwa quality also emancipates the Jiva or the individual soul from the bondage of the world. But sattwa quality itself is also a robber. It cannot give Divine wisdom or the knowledge of the Absolute. It leads one, however, up to the path of the Supreme Abode and then it says: "Behold, there is your home!" Then it disappears. Even the sattwa quality cannot go near the abode of the Absolute.
About the Absolute nothing can be told. What the Absolute is no one can tell. He who has attained the Absolute can not give any information about it.
Parable of the four travellers. Four travellers discovered a place enclosed by a high wall, with no opening anywhere. They were very anxious to see what [255} was inside. So one of them climbed to the top of the wall and as he looked in, he shouted with amazement and joy, "Ha! Ha! Ha!" and without giving any information to his fellow-travellers, he jumped inside. The others did likewise. Whoever climbs to the top of the wall jumps inside with extreme joy and never comes back to give the news of what he has found. Such is the realm of the Absolute. The great souls who have realised the Absolute have not come back, because after attaining the highest knowledge of Brahman, one absolutely loses the sense of "I." The mind ceases to be active, and all sense-consciousness vanishes. This state is called Brahma-jnana or Divine wisdom.
A devotee: Revered Sir, did not the perfected soul Sukadeva attain to Brahma-jnana, the Knowledge of the Absolute?
Ramakrishna: Some say that Sukadeva saw the ocean of the Absolute Brahman and touched its waters, but he did not go into the water; therefore he was able to come back and teach mankind. Others believe that he attained to the Absolute Brahman and then returned to help humanity.
Devotee: Does sectarianism exist after the [256} knowledge of the Absolute (Brahma-jnana) has been attained?
Sectarianism and Brahma-jnana. Ramakrishna: I was talking with Keshab Sen of this Brahma-jnana. Keshab asked me to say more about the Absolute. I replied: "If I say more, your sect and creed will vanish." Keshab answered: "Revered Sir, then I do not wish to hear more." Still, I said to Keshab: "'I, me, mine,' this is ignorance; 'I am the doer,' 'I am the actor,' 'This is my wife, these are my children, my property, wealth, fame,' all these arise from ignorance." Keshab replied: "Revered Sir, nothing will be left, if the sense of 'I' be abandoned."
The unripe and ripe "I." I answered: "Keshab, I do not ask you to abandon the whole of the sense of 'I'; but leave out the unripe 'I' 'I am the doer,' 'my wife, my children, I am the teacher,' abandoning this sense of 'I,' retain the ripe 'I' 'I am his servant, I am his devotee,' 'I am not the doer, but he is the Actor.'"
Devotee: Can the ripe "I" make a sect?
Keshab and his disciples. Ramakrishna: I said to Keshab: "I am the leader of a sect, I have founded a sect, I am teaching others, all these proceed from the sense of the unripe 'I.'" Therefore I asked [257} Keshab to abandon this "I." I also said to him: "You talk of your sect, many members of your sect have resigned." Keshab replied: "Revered Sir, after remaining for three years under my instructions, they have now joined another sect, and at the time of leaving, they criticised and slandered me." I said to him: "You do not understand the inner nature of your disciples. You must study their predominant traits and you must not make disciples indiscriminately."
Ram Babu [**]: Bhagavan, I do not see what good has been done by the New Dispensation of Keshab Sen. If Keshab himself had realised God, the condition of his disciples and followers would have been different. In my opinion he has had no realisation.
Sri Ramakrishna: Oh yes, he must have some realisation; otherwise why should so many people honour and respect him? Why do they not honour and respect the leaders of other branches of the Brahmo-Samaj in the same [258} way? Without Divine will no one can command such respect from the masses
A spiritual leader must renounce the world. A man cannot become a true spiritual leader unless he practises absolute renunciation. Without this people will have no faith in him. They will say: "This man is worldly. He himself enjoys the pleasures of the flesh and wealth, yet he tells us that God is Truth while the world is unreal like a dream." The world will not receive his teachings unless he has renounced everything. A few people may listen to him and follow him. Keshab Sen was in the world and had his mind on worldly things. He tried to support his family by giving lectures and by marrying his daughter to a prince, thus protecting his worldly relations and social position
Why God cannot be seen. Once Keshab asked me: "Why can I not see God?" I answered: "Because you have absorbed yourself in seeking the honour and respect of people, in education and so on. So long as the child is absorbed in playing with its dolls, the mother does not come. But when the child throws away the doll and cries for the mother, the mother cannot stay away. You think that you are a leader, but the Divine Mother thinks: 'My child believes that he has become a leader [259} and is happy; let him enjoy his belief.'"
The Absolute and the Divine Mother. I also told him to believe in the Divine Mother, that the Absolute and the Divine Mother are one. The Divine Mother is the eternal Energy. They are inseparable. They appear as separate so long as we are conscious of the body and as we try to describe them by words. Eventually Keshab believed in the Divine Mother. Once he came with his disciples to see me. I asked him to give a lecture, so he delivered his lecture and after it I had a long talk with him
God, his devotee and his word one. I said: he who is the Personal God manifests in one form as his devotee and in another form as his word." Then I went on to say to him: "You are living in the realm of Maya (worldliness). This Maya does not let anyone know God. It keeps all in ignorance."
Delusive power of Maya. How wonderful is its power! It entangles even a Divine Incarnation and makes him suffer from hunger, thirst, sorrow, misery, like an ordinary mortal. Do you not see how Rama, the Divine Incarnation, suffered for Sita? How with great sorrow, he wept bitterly when Sita was stolen away from him?
Vishnu as a boar. In the Hindu mythology there is a story [260} that Vishnu incarnated in the form of a boar to destroy the demons; but after destroying the demons, he did not care to return to his Heaven, he wanted to live as a boar. He had some little ones and he was happy with them. The Devas of the heaven thought: "How is it that our Lord does not come back? What has happened?" Then they went to Shiva and asked him to persuade Vishnu to return to his heaven. Shiva came and entreated him, but he was taking care of his young ones and paid no heed. Then Shiva tore open his body with his triad and freed him from his self-delusion. Vishnu then laughed and returned to his heavenly abode. Such is the power of Maya! To go beyond its realm and rise above the gunas (qualities) is extremely difficult. He who has attained to God has transcended Maya with its qualities.