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Ramakrishna Visits the Scholar Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar

Sri Ramakrishna had long wanted to visit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, and the pundit gladly agreed to a meeting, asking the messenger what kind of paramahamsa Ramakrishna was, saying, "Does he wear an ochre cloth?" The messenger answered: "No, sir. He wears a red-bordered cloth and polished slippers. He has no outer indication of holiness."

One afternoon Ramakrishna left for Vidiyasagar's home. As the carriage neared Vidyasagar's house Ramakrishna was overpowered with divine ecstasy, going into an ecstatic state.

The carriage stopped in front of Vidyasagar's house. In the courtyard were many flowering plants. As Ramakrishna walked to the house he said to a friend like a child, pointing to his shirt-button: "My shirt is unbuttoned. Will that offend Vidyasagar?"

"Oh, no!" said his friend. "Don't be anxious about it. You don't have to button your shirt."

Ramakrishna accepted the assurance like a child.

After climbing the stairs to the second floor, Sri Ramakrishna and his devotees entered a room where Vidyasagar was seated. He rose to receive Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna stood with one hand resting on a table. He smiled in an ecstatic mood. In that mood he remained standing a few minutes. To bring his mind back to normal consciousness, he said several times, "I shall have a drink of water."

Vidyasagar told someone to bring water, and himself brought some sweets. They were placed before Ramakrishna

"Ah! Today, at last, I have come to the ocean," said Ramakrishna. "You are the ocean of condensed milk."

Vidyasagar: "Well, you may put it that way."

Ramakrishna, laughing: "When potatoes and other vegetables are well cooked, they become soft and tender. And you possess such a tender nature! You are so compassionate!"

He went on, "Mere pundits are like diseased fruit that becomes hard and will not ripen at all. Vultures soar very high in the sky, but their eyes are fixed on rotten carrion on the ground. The book-learned are reputed to be wise, but like the vultures, they are in search of carrion."

Vidyasagar listened to these words in silence.

Ramakrishna, "Brahman is beyond knowledge and ignorance. Good and evil apply to the individual soul, the jiva.

"One man may read the Bhagavata by the light of a lamp, and another may commit a forgery by that very light. The sun sheds its light on the wicked as well as on the virtuous.

"What Brahman is cannot he described. A father sent his two sons to learn the Knowledge of Brahman. After a few years they returned. The father said to the oldest boy, "My child," he said, "Now tell me, how is Brahman?"

The boy began to explain. Then the father asked the younger son the same question. But no word escaped that son's lips. The father was pleased: "My child, you have understood a little of Brahman."

"Suppose a man has seen the ocean, and somebody asks him, "Well, what is the ocean like?" The first man opens his mouth as wide as he can and says: "What a sight! What tremendous waves and sounds!" The description of Brahman in the sacred books is like that. Sages stood on the shore of this Ocean of Brahman and saw and touched the water."

A devotee, "Suppose a man has obtained the Knowledge of Brahman in samadhi. Doesn't he speak any more?"

Ramakrishna, "A man reasons about Brahman as long as he has not realized It. Yet a man established in samadhi comes down to the relative plane of consciousness in order to teach others, and then he talks about God.

"The bee buzzes as long as it is not sitting on a flower. It becomes silent when it begins to sip the honey. But sometimes, intoxicated with the honey, it buzzes again."

[Retold. Abridged from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna]

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Ramakrishna Visits Vidyasagar, Literature  

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1942.

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