It was the day of the great car festival of Jagannath. The streets of Calcutta were crowded with people. Boys and girls were playing along the way and amusing themselves by blowing horns and pipes made of palm-leaves. A light rain was falling and the roads were wet and muddy.
Abesha of Ramakrishna. About four o'clock in the afternoon the bhagavan came out of Ishan's [**] house and entered a carriage which was waiting for him at the door. Immediately after taking his seat he lost sense-consciousness and went into that state of pure God-consciousness which he had often called his abesha. The disciples followed their Divine [262} Master on foot, for they were eager to be present at this memorable meeting with Pandit Sasadhar, [**] the great preacher of the Vedanta philosophy and religion.
The pandit was visiting a friend in Calcutta. As Sri Ramakrishna's carriage drew up at the entrance-door, he was warmly welcomed by the host and his people. Coming upstairs the bhagavan met Sasadhar advancing towards him. He appeared to be a middle-aged man with a fair complexion and around his neck was thrown a rosary of rudraksha beads. He came forward with a reverential air, saluted the bhagavan, and led him to the parlor which was intended for his reception. The disciples and others went in after him and seated themselves as near him as they could. Among the many disciples present was Narendra. The bhagavan, smiling in his semiconscious state, [263} said: "Very good, very good! Well, what kind of lectures do you give?"
Sasadhar: Revered Sir, I try to explain the truth taught by the Holy Scriptures.
Bhagavan: For this age bhakti yoga, communion with God by love, devotion and self-surrender, as practised by the Rishi Narada, is enjoined. There is hardly time for karma yoga, for doing the works laid on man by the Scriptures. Do you not see that the well-known decoction of the ten medicinal roots (Dasamul Pachan) is not the medicine for fevers of the present day? The patient runs the risk of being carried off before the medicine has had time to take effect. "Fever-mixture" is therefore the order of the day. Teach them karma if you like, but leave aside the head and tail of the fish. I tell people not to bother with the long ritual of Sandhya, but to repeat only the short Gayatri. [**] You are welcome to talk of work to such people if you must. [264}
Effect of lectures on worldly men. Give thousands of lectures, you cannot do anything with worldly men. Can you drive a nail into a stone wall? The head will be broken without making any impression on the wall. Strike the back of an alligator with a sword, it will receive no impression. The mendicant's bowl (of gourd-shell) may have been to the four great holy places of India but still be as bitter as ever. But you will learn this gradually. A calf cannot stand on its legs all at once. It falls down, gets up, falls again, and then it learns to stand and run. You do not know who is a bhakta (godly) and who is worldly; but that is not your fault. When a heavy storm blows, one cannot distinguish Tamarind from Mango-tree.
It is true, however, that no one can absolutely renounce all works without realizing God. The question is, how long should Sandhya (rituals) and other ceremonial works be practised? So long as the Holy Name of the Lord does not bring tears of love to the eyes and produce horripilation in the body. When you are uttering "Om Rama," if tears of love come to your eyes, you will know for certain that the term of your karma (works and duties) is over. You are no longer obliged to perform Sandhya and [265} other works. You have risen above karma. When the fruit appears, the blossom drops off. The true bhakti is the fruit, while work is the blossom.
When the daughter-in-law of the house is with child, she cannot do much work; so the mother-in-law daily reduces the number of her duties. As the time of her delivery draws near, the mother-in-law seldom allows her to do anything; and when the child is born, she fondles and caresses it and ceases altogether to work.
All rituals end in samâdhi. Sandhya merges into Gayatri; Gayatri into Om, and Om ultimately loses itself in samâdhi. As the sound of a bell Ding, dong gradually fades away into the Infinite, so the soul of a yogi gradually rises with the Nada (the sound of Om) and becomes merged in the Absolute Brahman in samâdhi. Into this samâdhi eventually enter all karma, Sandhya, Gayatri and other works. In this manner the jnanis are freed from all rituals and religious exercises.
As the bhagavan was talking of samâdhi, a strange heavenly expression came over his sweet, radiant face. He lost all outward consciousness. [266} After remaining speechless in this state for some time, he came down and like a child said, "Give me a little water." This call for water was the usual sign of his return to the plane of sense-consciousness. Then he murmured: "Mother! The other day you showed me Vidyasagara. Then I desired to see a pandit and you have brought me here."
The necessity of practice. Turning to Sasadhar, the bhagavan said: My son, add to your spiritual strength, go through devotional exercises a little longer. You have hardly got up into the tree, how can you expect to lay your hand on its fruit? But you are doing all this for the good of others. Saying this the bhagavan bowed to Sasadhar and continued: When I first heard your name, I inquired whether this pandit was merely an ordinary pandit or one who had attained right discrimination (viveka) and dispassion (vairagya). He is not a true pandit who does not possess right discrimination.
The Divinely-commissioned teacher. If there has been a commission (adesha) from the Supreme, then there is no harm in teaching others. Such a divinely-commissioned-teacher is invincible. No one can defeat him. If one single ray from the Goddess of Wisdom falls on a man, [267} it brings to him such power that before him the greatest pandits become like worms of the earth. When a lamp is lighted, swarms of moths rush of themselves towards it without waiting to be called. So he who has received a Divine commission, for him there is no need to seek followers or to make known the time of his lectures. His own power of attraction is so great that people of their own accord crowd around him. Then kings and nobles flock to him saying: "We have brought mangoes, sweets, money, jewels and shawls; of these what will you accept?" To such people I say: "Take them away, I do not want any of them."
Does a magnet ever say to the iron, "Come to me?" No; drawn by the magnet, it goes of itself. Such a man may not be a pandit, still do not think for a moment that he lacks in knowledge. Is true wisdom acquired by reading books? There is no end to the wisdom of one who has received a Divine commission. That wisdom comes from God and therefore it is endless. In our country in measuring grain, one man weighs and the other pushes small heaps of grain on to him. In like manner when the Divinely-commissioned teacher gives instruction, my Mother, standing behind, pushes [268} toward him the heaps of Divine wisdom and the supply is never exhausted. When the gracious look of the Divine Mother falls on one, can there be any lack of wisdom? Therefore I ask whether you have received any commission (Adesha) from the Lord?
Hazra (to the pandit): Oh! I dare say he must have received something of that kind. Is it not so?
Sasadhar's host: he has not obtained adesha, but he is lecturing only from a sense of duty.
Value of lectures without divine commission. Bhagavan: If a man has received no divine commission, what good will his lectures do? In the course of his lecture a Brahmo said: "Brethren, I used to drink, I used to do this and that." Hearing this the people began to talk: "What does this fellow say? He used to drink!" Thus this statement produced just the opposite effect in the minds of the audience. Unless the speaker be a good spiritual man, his lectures do not help mankind in any way. A subjudge once said to me: "Sir, you begin to preach, then I will also be ready." I answered: "My friend, listen. There was a large pond in a certain village. Some people used to throw dirt around the water's edge and otherwise defile the pond. Good [269} men of the village spoke to the offenders axed entreated them, but could not produce the slightest impression on their minds. The offenders continued to violate the, sanitary laws. Every morning abuses were showered on their heads, but all in vain. At last when the municipal authorities put up a notice forbidding everyone to commit such acts and sent a peon with their badge to punish the offenders, from that moment nobody dared throw dirt near the pond."
Badge of authority. Therefore I say a badge of authority is necessary; otherwise no one will listen to your words. A true speaker is one who is authorised by the Supreme and who holds the badge of sivine commission. Every man and woman must obey and bow down to him.
A true teacher of mankind must possess great spiritual power (Sakti). In Calcutta there are many veteran wrestlers. One must try one's strength on such men and not on novices in wrestling. Chaitanya Deva was an Avatara. Tell me how much of that which he did is now preserved? What good will be done by the lectures of one who does not hold the badge of divine authority? Therefore I say: "You must first be absorbed in the Holy feet of the Almighty." [270}
There are infinite ways which lead to the sea of immortality. The main thing is to fall into that sea; it does not matter how one gets there. Suppose there is a reservoir of nectar, a single drop of which falling into the mouth will make one immortal. You may drink of it either by jumping into the reservoir or by slowly walking down along its slope. The result will be the same even if you are pushed or thrown into it by another. Taste a little of that nectar and become immortal.
Different paths to God. Innumerable are the paths. jnana, karma, bhakti are all paths which lead to the same goal. If you have intense longing you will surely reach God. Yoga (communion with God) is of four kinds: jnana yoga, karma yoga, raja yoga, and bhakti yoga.
Jnana yoga. jnana yoga is communion with God by means of right discrimination and knowledge in its highest sense. The object of a jnani is to know and realise the Absolute. He discriminates between the Absolute Reality and the unreal phenomena by saying: "Not this," "Not this," until he comes to a point [271} where all discrimination between the Real and the unreal ceases and the Absolute Brahman is realised in samâdhi.
Karma yoga. Karma yoga is communion with God by means of work. It is what you are teaching. The performance of duties by house-holders not for the sake of obtaining their results but for glorifying the Supreme is that which is meant by this method of yoga. Again, worship, repetition of the name of the Lord, and other devotional exercises are also included in it, if they are done without attachment to their fruits and for the glorification of God. The end of karma yoga is the same as the realisation of the Impersonal Absolute or the Personal God or both.
Raja yoga. Raja yoga leads to this communion through concentration and meditation. It has eight steps. The first is yama, which consists in non-injuring, truthfulness, non-covetousness, chastity, and the non-receiving of gifts. The second is niyama, which includes austerities, forbearance, contentment, faith in the Supreme Being, charity, study, and self-surrender to the Supreme Will. The practice of various physical postures is comprised in asana, the third; while pranayama or breathing [272} exercises constitute the fourth step. The fifth is pratyahara and consists in making the mind introspective and one-pointed. Concentration or dharana is the next; dhyana or meditation is the seventh, and samâdhi or the state of superconsciousness the eighth.
Bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga is communion by means of love, devotion, and self-surrender (bhakti), It is especially adapted to this age.
The path of absolute knowledge is exceedingly difficult. The term of human life at the present day is short and entirely dependent on material food. Moreover, it is almost impossible to get rid of the idea that the soul is one with the body. Now a jnani or philosopher may declare: "I am not this body, gross or subtle; I am one with Brahman, the Absolute. I am not subject to the necessities and conditions of the body, hunger, thirst, birth, death, disease, grief, pleasure, pain." Such assertions, however, will not make him free from these bodily conditions so long as he is on the plane of relativity. He may be compared to a person who is suffering from the intense pain of a wound but who is trying to deny it by mere words of mouth.
When the Kundalini is awakened, true [273} bhakti, divine love and ecstasy are attained. Through karma yoga one can easily attain to various psychic powers. But when karma yoga leads to bhakti yoga, divine realisation comes. Then all duties, rituals, ceremonials, drop off like the petals of a flower when the fruit has grown. When a child is born, the young mother does not discharge any other duties, but fondles the child the whole day. As she is free from all household duties, so a bhakta becomes free from the bondage of work after realizing God. The true bhakta says: "Mother, karma with attachment I fear, for it proceeds from selfish motives, and as a man soweth so shall he reap. I see again that work without attachment is exceedingly difficult. If I work through attachment I shall forget you; therefore I do not desire such karma. Grant that my work may become less and less so long as I do not attain to you. Till then may I have strength to do unattached the little work that is left for me, and may I be blessed with unselfish love and devotion to you! Mother, so long as I do not realise you may my mind be not attached to new works and new desires! But when you will command me to work I shall do it not for myself but only for you." [274}
A devotee: Revered Sir, what is Hatha yoga?
Hatha yoga. Ramakrishna: Hatha yoga deals entirely with the physical body. It describes the methods by which the internal organs can be purified and perfect health can be acquired. It teaches how to conquer the various powers of prana and the muscles, organs and nerves of the body. But in hatha yoga the mind must always be concentrated on the physical body. A hatha yogi possesses many powers, such as the power of levitation; but all these powers are only the manifestations of physical prana. There was a juggler who in the midst of his tricks suddenly turned his tongue upward and drew it back into the post-nasal canal, stopping respiration. Instantly all the activities of his body were suspended. People thought that he was dead, so they buried him. For several years he remained buried in that state. In some way the grave was opened and he regained consciousness. At once he began to repeat the same conjuring words with which he had been casting the spell before he lost consciousness. So the practice of hatha yoga will bring one control over the body, but it will carry one only so far. Raja yoga, on the contrary, deals with [275} the mind and leads to spiritual results through discrimination, concentration and meditation.
Concentration. Perfect concentration of the mind is necessary in the path of raja yoga. Mind is like the flame of a lamp. When the wind of desire blows, it is restless; when there is no wind, it is steady. The latter is the state of mind in yoga. Ordinarily the mind is scattered, one portion here, another portion there. It is necessary to collect the scattered mind and direct it towards one point. If you want a whole piece of cloth, you will have to pay the full price for it. Yoga is not possible if there be the least obstacle in the way. If there be a small break in the telegraphic wire, the message will not reach its destination. A yogi controls his mind, the mind does not control him. When the mind is absolutely concentrated, the breath stops, and the soul enters into samâdhi.
Kumbhaka. This state of breathlessness is called kumbhaka. It can be attained through bhakti yoga also. When the emotion (bhakti) reaches its climax, the breath stops and the mind becomes fixed. If a man is sweeping and someone comes and tells him: "Mr. So and So is dead; have you heard?" [276} The sweeper, if the dead man be not his relation, will exclaim unconcernedly: "Is that so? Is he dead? He was a good man. I am sorry"; but he goes on sweeping. If, however, he hears of the death of a dear relative, he is so stunned that the broom drops from his hand and he sinks to the ground crying out, "God help me!" At this time his breath stops, his mind is fixed on his grief and he cannot think of anything else. Again, have you not seen among women how, when one of them is struck with wonder either by seeing or hearing something unexpectedly, her breath will stop, her mind become fixed and the body remain so motionless that the other women will exclaim: "What is the matter? Have you lost your senses?"
Meditation. At the time of true meditation the body and senses become absolutely still like a piece of wood. When I first saw Keshab Sen in the Adi (original) Brahmo-Samaj, I saw him sitting in meditation with other members; his mind was entirely withdrawn from the external world and his body was perfectly motionless like a wooden stump; then I said to Mathura Babu: "This man has hooked the fish." Meditation is possible even with eyes wide open, [277} even when one is conversing with another. Suppose you have a toothache. You may perform all works, but your mind will remain concentrated on the spot where the pain is. Similarly, if you have true concentration on God, your mind will remain fixed even when your body is moving or your mouth is speaking. I used to close my eyes at the time of meditation. Then I thought: "If God exists after closing the eyes. why should he not exist while the eyes are open?" I opened my eyes and saw the Divine Being everywhere. Man, animals, insects, trees, creepers, moon, sun, water, earth, in and through all these the Infinite Being is manifesting himself. He who thinks on God for a long time possesses Divine Substance within him. Through him flow divine powers. A great singer, or one who is perfect in instrumental music or in any other art or science, also possesses a portion of divine power. This is the doctrine of the Bhagavad Gita, "Wherever there are signs of greatness, there is the manifestation of divine power."
A devotee: Revered Sir, what happens after death?
What happens after death. Ramakrishna: Keshab Sen asked me the same question. So long as a man remains in [278} ignorance, in other words, so long as he has not realised God, he will be subject to rebirth; but after divine realisation one does not come back to this earth, nor is he born in any other world. Potters after making earthen pots dry them in the sun. Have you not seen that there are pots which are baked in fire and others that are unbaked? When a pot of unbaked clay is broken, the potter uses the same clay to make a new pot; but if a baked pot is broken, the pieces are of no further use and he throws them away. Similarly, when the ego is not baked in the fire of wisdom, after death it will appear in another form and be born again and again. If a fried grain is planted it will not germinate; in the same manner, he whose inner nature is fried in the fire of wisdom is no longer subject to evolution, but attains to absolute freedom from rebirth.
Dualistic and monistic Vedanta. In the Puranas the doctrine of dualistic Vedanta prevails, which teaches that the Jiva (the individual soul) is one thing and God is another: "I am distinct and separate from you." This body is like a bowl; mind, intellect and egoism are like water within it, while the Personal God is the sun which is reflected in the water; and this [279} reflection or image of the Divine Being can be perceived by the Jiva in ecstasy. In monistic Vedanta, however, Brahman, the Absolute, is the Reality and all else is unreal like a dream. Egoism is like a stick which lies on the waters of the infinite ocean of Existence-Intelligence-Bliss Absolute, and makes it appear as divided; but when the stick is removed, the apparent division ceases and the waters of the ocean remain undivided. The knowledge of this indivisible oneness brings the highest state of samâdhi, where this egoism is entirely obliterated. But the great spiritual teachers like Sankaracharya [**] kept a little egoism of knowledge to teach mankind. [280}
The signs of a true jnani. A true jnani, or knower of the Absolute, may be recognised by certain signs. A real jnani does harm to no one. His nature becomes like that of an innocent child. As a burnt rope retains its shape and appears from a distance like a real rope, but in truth a breath can blow it away, so the egoism of a jnani is merely apparent. A child has no attachment for anything. It may build a toy house; if anyone touches it, it cries; but the next moment it will itself break it to pieces. So a true jnani lives in the world, but unattached. He may possess things of great value, but he has no attachment for them. In monistic Vedanta the waking state is no more real than the dream state
Parable of a wood-cutter and his dream. A wood-cutter was dreaming a happy dream, but being suddenly awakened by someone, he exclaimed with annoyance: "Why did you awaken me? I was a king and the father of seven children. My children were all receiving education in the various sciences. I was seated on the throne and ruling over my country. Why did you destroy so happy and [281} delightful a state?" The man replied: "Oh! It was only a dream. What does it matter?" The wood-cutter said: "Get away, you fool! You do not understand that my being a king was as real as my wood-cutting. If it be true that I am a wood-cutter, then it is equally true that I was a king."
Jnana and vijnana. Jnana is to know the Atman through the path of discrimination: "Not this, not this." When this discrimination leads to samâdhi, then the Atman can be apprehended. But vijnana is complete knowledge or realisation. Some have heard of milk, some have seen it, but others have tasted it. So with God. Those who have heard of him are still in ignorance; those who have seen him are jnanis; but those who have tasted or realised him are vijnanis. After seeing God, when one makes acquaintance with him and realizes him as the nearest and dearest of all, that is vijnana. At first it is necessary to discriminate "Not this, not this," that is, God is not the elements of nature, he is not the senses or sense-powers, he is not this mind, not this intellect, not this egoism; he is beyond all the categories of nature. To go to the roof, one must climb step by step, leaving one step after another. The staircase [282} is not the same as the roof. After coming out on the roof, however, one can easily see that both roof and staircase are of the same material. The same Infinite Brahman appears as the Personal God, Jiva, and the twenty-four categories of nature. You may ask why this earth is so hard and solid, if it has come out of Brahman? His omnipotence can make everything possible.
Ramakrishna (to old Gopal, Swami Advaitananda): What! Do you still wish to visit holy places?
Gopal: Yes, Bhagavan, I would like to travel a little more.
Parable of the bird on the mast. Ram Babu (to Gopal): The bhagavan says, after travelling to many places one should settle of down in one spot. This he explains by the parable of the bird on a ship's mast. A bird was sitting on the mast of a vessel as it sailed out to sea. After a long time the bird realised that there were no trees around or land in sight. He flew towards the north to find land, but being disappointed, he returned to the mast, rested a while and flew towards the south. Still finding no shore, he came back again, tired and exhausted. In the [283} same manner he went in all directions, but finding nothing but water and water everywhere, he at last rested on the mast and became content.
Ramakrishna: So long as God seems to be outside, in different places, so long there is ignorance. But when God is realised within, that is true knowledge
Parable of a man seeking a light. A man woke up at midnight and desired to smoke. He wanted a light, so he went to a neighbour's house and knocked at the door. Someone opened the door and asked him what he wanted. The man said: "I wish to smoke. Can you give me a light?" The neighbour replied: "What is the matter with you? You have taken so much trouble and awakened us at this hour, when in your hand you have a lighted lantern." What a man wants is already with him; but he still wanders here and there in search of it.
Ram Babu: Bhagavan, now I have understood why a guru asks his disciple to visit holy places, to give him experience and to increase his faith in his teachings.
Pilgrimages. Pandit: Revered Sir, how far did your Holiness go on pilgrimages?
Ramakrishna (smiling): Well, I went to [284} some places. Hazra went farther and higher up, to Hrishikesha [**] in the Himalayas. I did not go so far or so high up. The vulture and the kite soar very high, but their eyes are all the while directed to the charnel-pits below. Do you know what the charnel-pits are? Lust and gold. If in going on a pilgrimage a man does not acquire bhakti, then his pilgrimage is fruitless; for bhakti is the end of all; it is the one thing needful.
Do you know what the vulture and the kite are? They are those who talk on lofty subjects and say: "We have performed most of the works enjoined in the Holy Scriptures," but whose minds are immersed in worldliness and strongly attached to wealth, name, fame, and sense-pleasures.
Pandit: Yes, Revered Sir, that is true. Going on a pilgrimage is like casting aside the precious stone worn on the breast of Vishnu and wandering about in search of other jewels.
Ramakrishna: Again, you should know that although you may give thousands of instructions, still they will not produce results until [285} the time is ripe. A child before going to sleep says to its mother: "Mamma dear, awaken me when I shall feel hungry." The mother replies: "Do not worry about that, my child; your hunger will awaken you." In the same manner one yearns after God when the proper time comes for it.
Three classes of religious teachers. Physicians can be divided into three classes. First, those who, when called in, look at the patient, feel his pulse, prescribe the necessary medicines and then ask the patient to take them. If the patient declines to do so, they do not care. This is the lowest class. Similarly there are spiritual teachers who do not care to know whether their instructions have been practised or whether they have produced good results in their disciples. There are other physicians who not only ask the patient to take the prescribed drug but who reason with him if he refuses to take it. These belong to the medium class. Similarly those spiritual teachers who not only instruct their pupils but reason with them and gently persuade them to follow their teachings, are better than those of the first class. But the best physicians, who belong to the highest class, use force on the patient if he does not listen to their gentle persuasions. [286} They may go so far as to make him swallow the medicine by force if necessary. Similarly the best spiritual masters use force on their disciples to bring them into the path of the Lord. These teachers belong to the highest class.
Pandit: Revered Sir, if there are such spiritual teachers, like the physicians of the highest class, then why do you say that the spiritual awakening cannot come before the time is ripe?
Bhagavan: Yes, it is true; but suppose the medicine does not get into the stomach? What will the physician do then? Even the best of them are quite helpless
Fit vessels. To give proper instruction one must first choose fit vessels. You do not examine the capabilities of your pupils. But I ask those who come to me: "Whom have you to care for you?" Suppose a young man has no father or that his father has left him with debts; how is it possible for him to give his heart and soul to God? Do you hear, my child?
Pandit: Yes, Bhagavan, I am all attention.
Grace of God. The conversation then passed to another subject, the grace of God. The bhagavan said: Once a number of Shikh soldiers came to the temple. I met them before the temple of the Divine Mother. One [287} of them said: "God is all-merciful." I asked: "Indeed, is it so? How did you come to know it?" "Why, Sir, is not the Lord feeding and taking care of us?" I said: "Is that so extraordinary? God is the Father of us all. If the father does not look after his own children, who will? Shall outsiders from another neighbourhood come and take care of them?"
Narendra: Then we should not call him merciful?
Bhagavan: Am I forbidding you to call him all-merciful? What I mean is that the Lord is our nearest and dearest and not like a stranger.
Pandit: Priceless are these words!
The bhagavan here asked for a fresh glass of water. He would not take the one already offered and it was therefore carried away. It appeared that he looked on it as unfit to be offered to the God in him, being made impure by the "feverish" touch of some wicked men.
Pandit (to Hazra): You who live with the bhagavan day and night must enjoy the highest bliss.
Bhagavan (smiling): This day I have had the rare pleasure of looking at the moon of the second lunar day. Do you know why I say the moon [288} of the second lunar day? Sita [**] said to Ravana: "You are the full moon, and my Rama Chandra is the moon of the second lunar day." Ravana was highly pleased, for he did not understand the meaning. Sita meant to say that the fortune of Ravana had reached its climax like the full moon and that now it must be on the wane; but the fortune of Rama Chandra is like the moon of the second lunar day, which will increase day by day.
Here the bhagavan rising to take leave, the pandit and his friends bowed down before him with great reverence and devotion. He then departed, followed by his disciples.