SRI RAMAKRISHNA was sitting in his room in the temple garden at Dakshineswar after his midday meal. A party of Bauls from Shibpur, several devotees from Bhawanipur, Balaram, and M. were in the room. Rakhal, Latu, and Harish were then living with the Master. They too were present.
The Master began the conversation by addressing the Baul musicians from Shibpur.
MASTER: “Yoga is not possible if the mind dwells on ‘woman and gold’. The mind of a worldly man generally moves among the three lower centres: those at the navel, at the sexual organ, and at the organ of evacuation. After great effort and spiritual practice the Kundalini is awakened. According to the yogis there are three nerves in the spinal column: Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. Along the Sushumna are six lotuses, or centres, the lowest being known as the Muladhara. Then come successively Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha, and Ajna. These are the six centres. The Kundalini, when awakened, passes through the lower centres and comes to the Anahata, which is at the heart. It stays there. At that time the mind of the aspirant is withdrawn from the three lower centres. He feels the awakening of Divine Consciousness and sees Light. In mute wonder he sees that radiance and cries out: ‘What is this? What is this?’
“After passing through the six centres, the Kundalini reaches the thousand-petalled lotus known as the Sahasrara, and the aspirant goes into samadhi.
“According to the Vedas these centres are called ‘bhumi’, ‘planes’. There are seven such planes. The centre at the heart corresponds to the fourth plane of the Vedas. According to the Tantra there is in this centre a lotus called Anahata, with twelve petals.
“The centre known as Visuddha is the fifth plane. This centre is at the throat and has a lotus with sixteen petals. When the Kundalini reaches this plane, the devotee longs to talk and hear only about God. Conversation on worldly subjects, on ‘woman and gold’, causes him great pain. He leaves a place where people talk of these matters.
“Then comes the sixth plane, corresponding to the centre known as Ajna. This centre is located between the eyebrows and it has a lotus with two petals. When the Kundalini reaches it, the aspirant sees the form of God. But still there remains a slight barrier between the devotee and God. It is like a light inside a lantern. You may think you have touched the light, but in reality you cannot because of the barrier of glass.
“And last of all is the seventh plane, which, according to Tantra, is the centre of the thousand-petalled lotus. When the Kundalini arrives there, the aspirant goes into samadhi. In that lotus dwells Satchidananda Siva, the Absolute. There Kundalini, the awakened Power, unites with Siva. This is known as the union of Siva and Sakti.
“When the Kundalini rises to the Sahasrara and the mind goes into samadhi, the aspirant loses all consciousness of the outer world. He can no longer retain his physical body. If milk is poured into his mouth, it runs out again. In that state the life-breath lingers for twenty-one days and then passes out. Entering the ‘black waters’ of the ocean, the ship never comes back. But the Isvarakotis, such as the Incarnations of God, can come down from this state of samadhi. They can descend from this exalted state because they like to live in the company of devotees and enjoy the love of God. God retains in them the ‘ego of Knowledge’ or the ‘ego of Devotion’ so that they may teach men. Their minds move between the sixth and the seventh planes. They run a boat-race back and forth, as it were, between these two planes.
“After attaining samadhi some souls of their own accord keep the ‘ego of Knowledge’. But that ego does not create any attachment. It is like a line drawn on the water.
“Hanuman kept the ‘servant ego’ after realizing God in both His Personal and His Impersonal aspects. He thought of himself as the servant of God. The great sages, such as Narada, Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatana, and Sanatkumara, after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman, kept the ‘servant ego’ and the ‘ego of Devotion’. They are like big steamships, which not only cross the ocean themselves but carry many passengers to the other shore.
“There are two classes of paramahamsas, one affirming the formless Reality and the other affirming God with form. Trailanga Swami believed in the formless Reality. Paramahamsas like him care for their own good alone; they feel satisfied if they themselves attain the goal.
“But those paramahamsas who believe in God with form. keep the love of God even after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman, so that they may teach spiritual truth to others. They are like a pitcher brimful of water. Part of the water may be poured into another pitcher. These perfected souls describe to others the various spiritual disciplines by which they have realized God. They do this only to teach others and to help them in spiritual life. With great effort men dig a well for drinking-water, using spades and baskets for the purpose. After the digging is over, some throw the spades and other implements into the well, not needing them any more. But some put them away near the well, so that others may use them.
“Some eat mangoes secretly and remove all trace of them by wiping their mouths with a towel. But some share the fruit with others. There are sages who, even after attaining Knowledge, work to help others and also to enjoy the Bliss of God in the company of devotees. ‘I’ want to eat sugar. I don’t want to be sugar.’
“The gopis of Vrindavan, too, attained the Knowledge of Brahman; but they were not seeking It. They wanted to enjoy God, looking on themselves as His mother, His friend, His handmaid, or His lover.”
The Bauls from Shibpur began to sing to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. A line in the first song was:
We are sinners: redeem us, O merciful Lord!
MASTER (to the devotees): “It is the attitude of a beginner to worship God out of fear. Please sing about God-realization — songs expressing divine joy.
(To Rakhal) “How well they sang that song the other day at Nabin Niyogi’s house: ‘Be drunk, O mind, be drunk with the Wine of Heavenly Bliss’! While singing religious songs one should not constantly refer to one’s worries. One should rather feel joyous and ecstatic as one chants God’s name.”
A DEVOTEE: “Sir, won’t you sing?”
MASTER : “What shall I sing? Well, I may sing when the spirit moves me.”
After a few minutes the Master began to sing. His eyes were turned upward. He sang:
Behold the waves of Gora’s ecstatic love;
Under them all the universe lies submerged!
And in his love I, too, long to be drowned.
O friend, Gauranga’s love has swallowed me;
Who else feels for our misery like Gauranga,
Dragging us from the mire of worldliness?
He sang again:
Dive deep, O mind, dive deep in the Ocean of God’s-Beauty;
If you descend to the uttermost depths,
There you will find the gem of Love. . . .
Then he sang about the Divine-Mother:
Can everyone have the vision of Syama? Is Kali’s treasure for everyone?
Oh, what a pity my foolish mind will not see what is true! . . .
The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Syama’s feet. . . .
O Mother, what a machine (The human body) is this that Thou hast made!
What pranks Thou playest with this toy
Three and a half cubits high! . . .
As Sri Ramakrishna sang the last song he went into samadhi. The devotees sat speechless, gazing at his radiant figure. After some time he regained partial consciousness of the world and began to talk to the Divine Mother.
The Master said, “Mother, please come down from up there.” Did he feel his mind still lingering in the seventh plane of consciousness, the thousand-petalled lotus of the Sahasrara?
“Please do come down”, he said. “Don’t torment me that way. Be still, Mother, and sit down.
“O Mother, everybody’s future is determined by the tendencies of his previous births. What shall I say to these people? Nothing can be achieved without discrimination and renunciation.”
Sri Ramakrishna had now regained full consciousness of the world, and he continued: “There are many kinds of renunciation. One of them may be called ‘markatavairagya’, ‘monkey renunciation’. It is a false renunciation stimulated by the afflictions of the world. That renunciation doesn’t last long. Then there is real renunciation. A man with everything in the world, lacking nothing, feels all to be unreal.
“It is not possible to acquire renunciation all at once. The time factor must be taken into account. But it is also true that a man should hear about it. When the right time comes, he will say to himself, ‘Oh yes, I heard about this.’
“You must also remember another thing. By constantly hearing about renunciation one’s desire for worldly objects gradually wears away. One should take rice-water in small doses to get rid of the intoxication of liquor. Then one gradually becomes normal.
“An aspirant entitled to the Knowledge of God is very rare. It is said in the Gita that one in thousands desires to know God, and again that among thousands who have such a desire, only one is able to know God.”
A devotee quoted the text from the Gita.
MASTER: “As your attachment to the world diminishes your spiritual knowledge will increase. Attachment to the world means attachment to ‘woman and gold’.
“It is not given to everybody to feel prema, ecstatic love of God. Chaitanya experienced it. An ordinary man can at the most experience bhava. Only the Isvarakotis, such as Divine Incarnations, experience prema. When prema is awakened the devotee not only feels the world to be unreal forgets even the body, which everyone loves so intensely.
“In a Persian book it is said that inside the skin is the flesh, inside the flesh the bone, inside the bone, the marrow and so on but that prema is the innermost of all. One becomes soft and tender through prema. On account of this prema, Krishna became Tribhanga.1
“Prema is the rope by which you can tether God, as it were. Whenever you want to see Him you have merely to pull the rope. Whenever you call Him, He will appear before you.
“The mature stage of bhakti is bhava. When one attains it one remains speechless, thinking of Satchidananda. The feeling of an ordinary man can go only that far. When bhava ripens it becomes mahabhava. Prema is the last. You know the difference between a green mango and a ripe one. Unalloyed love of God is the essential thing. All else is unreal.
“Once Rama was pleased with the prayer of Narada and told him to ask for a boon. Narada prayed for pure love and said further, ‘O Rama, please grant that I may not be deluded by Thy world-bewitching maya.’ Rama said: ‘That is all right. But ask for something else.’ Narada replied: ‘I don’t want anything else. I pray only for pure love.’
“How can a devotee attain such love? First, the company of holy men. That awakens sraddha, faith in God. Then comes nishtha, single-minded devotion to the Ideal. In that stage the devotee does not like to hear anything thing but talk about God. He performs only those acts that please God. After nishtha comes bhakti, devotion to God; then comes bhava. Next mahabhava, then prema, and last of all the attainment of God Himself. Only for Isvarakotis, such as the Incarnations, is it possible to have mahabhava or prema.
“The knowledge of a worldly person, the knowledge of a devotee, and the Knowledge of an Incarnation are by no means of the same degree. The knowledge of a worldly person is like the light of an oil lamp, which shows only the inside of a room. Through such knowledge he eats and drinks, attends to household duties, protects his body, brings up his children, and so on.
‘The knowledge of a devotee is like the light of the moon, which illumines mines objects both inside and outside a room. But such light does not enable him to see a distant or a very minute object.
“The Knowledge of an Incarnation of God is like the light of the sun. Through that light the Incarnation sees everything, inside and outside, big and small.
“The mind of a worldly person is, no doubt, like muddy water; but it can be made clear by a purifying agent. Discrimination and renunciation are the purifying agent.”
The Master spoke to the devotees from Shibpur.
MASTER: “Have you any questions to ask?”
A DEVOTEE: “We have listened to your words.”
MASTER: “Yes, it is good to listen to these things. But nothing will happen except at the right time. What can quinine do for a fever patient when he runs a high temperature? Only when his temperature comes down through the use of ‘fever mixture’ or a purgative should quinine be prescribed. There are patients who get rid of their fever even without quinine. A child said to his mother, when he was put to bed, ‘Mother, please wake me up when I feel the call of nature.’ The mother said: ‘My child, I shall not have to wake you. The urge itself will wake you.’
“Different kinds of people come here. Some come by boat with the devotees. But they do not enjoy spiritual talk. They keep nudging their friends and whispering: ‘When shall we leave here? When are we going?’ If the friends show no ‘sign of getting up, they say, ‘We would rather wait for you in the boat.’
“Those who have a human body for the first time need the experience of sense enjoyments. Spiritual consciousness is not awakened unless certain duties have been performed.”
The Master was going to the pine-grove. With a smile he said to M., on the semicircular porch, “Well, what do you think of my state of mind?”
M. (smiling): “On the surface you are very simple, but inwardly very deep. It is extremely difficult to understand you.”
MASTER (smiling): “True. It is like the cement floor of a house. People see only the outer surface and do not know how many materials there are under it.”
It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. Balaram and several other devotees got into a country boat to return to Calcutta. It was ebb-tide in the Ganges. A gentle breeze was blowing from the south, covering the bosom of the sacred river with ripples. M. looked at the scene a long time. As the boat disappeared in the direction of Calcutta, he came back to the Master.
Sri Ramakrishna was going to the pine-grove. A beautiful, dark rain-cloud was to be seen in the northwest. The Master asked M.: “Do you think it will rain? Please bring my umbrella.” M. brought the umbrella. Reaching the Panchavati, the Master said to Latu, who also accompanied him, “Why do you look so sickly?”
LATU: “I can hardly eat anything.”
MASTER: “Is that the only reason? It is also a bad time of the year. Are you meditating too much? (To M.) I have a request to make of you. Please tell Baburam to stay with me a day or two during Rakhal’s absence. Otherwise I shall feel very unhappy.”
M: “Yes, sir. I shall tell him.”
Sri Ramakrishna asked M. whether he thought that Baburam was guileless.
Presently the Master left them, going in the direction of the pine-trees. After a few minutes M. and Latu, standing in the Panchavati, saw the Master coming back toward them. Behind him the sky was black with the rain-cloud. Its reflection in the Ganges made the water darker. The disciples felt that the Master was God Incarnate, a Divine Child five years old, radiant with the smile of innocence and purity. Around him were the sacred trees of the Panchavati under which he had practised spiritual discipline and had beheld visions of God. At his feet flowed the sacred river Ganges, the destroyer of man’s sins. The presence of this God-man charged the trees, shrubs, flowers, plants, and temples with spiritual fervour and divine joy.
Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room and sat on the small couch. He began to praise a medicine that a certain brahmachari had prepared for him. Referring to this man, Hazra said: “He is now entangled in many worldly anxieties. What a shame! Look at Nabai Chaitanya of Konnagar. Though a householder, he has put on a red cloth.”
MASTER: “What shall I say? I clearly see that it is God Himself who has assumed all these human forms. Therefore I cannot take anybody to task.”
HAZRA: “Narendra is again involved in a lawsuit.”
MASTER: “He doesn’t believe in Sakti, the Divine Mother. If one assumes a human body, one must recognize Her.”
HAZRA: “Narendra says: ‘If I believed in Sakti, all would follow me. Therefore I cannot.'”
MASTER: “But it is not good for him to go to the extreme of denying the Divine Mother. He is now under Sakti’s jurisdiction. Even a judge, while giving evidence in a case, comes down and stands in the witness-box.
(To M.) “Have you seen Narendra lately?”
M: “Not during the last few days.”
MASTER: “See him and bring him here in a carriage.
(To Hazra) “Well, what is his relation to this [meaning himself]?”
HAZRA: “He expects help from you.”
MASTER: “And what about Bhavanath? Would he come here so frequently if he didn’t have good tendencies? What about Harish and Latu? They always meditate. Why is that?”
HAZRA: “That’s right. Why should they devote all their time to meditation? It is quite a different thing for them to stay here to attend to your personal needs.”
MASTER: “Possibly you are right. Perhaps others may take their place now.
Hazra left the room, leaving the Master alone with M.
MASTER: “Does what I say in the state of ecstasy attract people?”
M: “Oh, yes. Very much.”
MASTER: “What do people think of me? Do they think anything in particular about me when they see me in that condition?”
M: “We feel in you a wonderful synthesis of knowledge, love, and renunciation, and on the surface a natural spontaneity. Many divine experiences have passed, like huge steamboats, through the deep of your inner consciousness; still you maintain outwardly this utter simplicity. Many cannot understand it, but a few are attracted by this state alone.”
MASTER: “There is a sect of Vaishnavas known as the Ghoshpara, who describe God as the ‘Sahaja’, the ‘Simple One’. They say further that a man cannot recognize this ‘Simple One’ unless he too is simple. (To M.) Have I any ego?”
M: “Yes, sir. A little. You have kept it to preserve your body, and to enjoy divine love in the company of the devotees and impart spiritual knowledge to them. Further, you have kept this trace of ego by praying to the Divine Mother for it.”
MASTER: “No. I have not kept it. It is God Himself who has left it in me. Can you tell me how I appear in the state of samadhi?”
M: “As you said a little while ago, you see the form of God when your mind rises to the ‘sixth plane’. When you speak after that, your mind comes down to the ‘fifth plane’.”
MASTER: “It is God who does all these things. I do not know anything.”
M: “That is why you attract people so much. Sir, I have a question to ask. There are two opinions in the scriptures. According to one Purana, Krishna is Chidatma, the Absolute, and Radha is Chitsakti, Its Divine Power; but according to another, Krishna Himself is Kali, the Primordial Energy.”
MASTER: “This second view is held in the Devi Purana. According to it, Kali Herself has become Krishna. But what difference does it make? God is infinite, and infinite are the ways to reach Him.”
M. remained speechless with wonder for a few moments and then said: “Oh, now I understand. As you say, the important thing is to climb to the roof. Our goal will be achieved if we can accomplish it by following any of the means — a rope or a pole.”
MASTER: “It is through the grace of God that you have understood that. Without His grace doubt is never cleared up.
“The important thing is somehow to cultivate devotion to God and love for Him. What is the use of knowing many things? It is enough to cultivate love of God by following any of the paths. When you have this love, you are sure to attain God. Afterwards, if it is necessary, God will explain everything to you and tell you about the other paths as well. It is enough for you to develop love of God. You have no need of many opinions and discussions. You have come to the orchard to eat mangoes. Enjoy them to your heart’s content. You don’t need to count the branches and leaves on the trees. It is wise to follow the attitude of Hanuman: ‘I do not know the day of the week, the phase of the moon, or the position of the stars; I only contemplate Rama.'”
M: “I now desire that my activities may be much reduced and that I may devote myself greatly to God.”
MASTER: “Ah! Certainly your desire will be fulfilled. But a jnani can live unattached in the world.”
M: “True, sir. But one needs special power to lead an unattached life.”
MASTER: “That is also true. But perhaps you wanted the worldly life. Krishna had been enshrined in Radha’s heart; but Radha wanted to sport with Him in human form. Hence all the episodes of Vrindavan. Now you should pray to God that your worldly duties may be reduced. And you will achieve the goal if you renounce mentally.”
M: “But mental renunciation is prescribed for those who cannot give up the world outwardly. For superior devotees total renunciation is enjoined — both outer and inner.”
Sri Ramakrishna was silent a few minutes and then resumed the conversation.
MASTER: “How did you like what I said about renunciation a little while ago?”
M: “Very much, sir.”
MASTER: “Tell me, what is the meaning of renunciation?”
M: “Renunciation does not mean simply dispassion for the world. It means dispassion for the world and also longing for God.”
MASTER: “You are right. You no doubt need money for your worldly life; but don’t worry too much about it. The wise course is to accept what comes of its own accord. Don’t take too much trouble to save money. Those who surrender their hearts and souls to God, those who are devoted to Him and have taken refuge in Him, do not worry much about money. As they earn; so they spend. The money comes in one way and goes out the other. This is what the Gita describes as ‘accepting what comes of its own accord’.”
The Master referred to Haripada and said, “He came here the other day.”
M: “He knows how to sing the stories of the Purana, He sings melodiously about the life of Prahlada and the nativity of Sri Krishna.”
MASTER : “Is that so? That day I looked into his eyes. They had an inward look. I asked him whether he meditated a great deal, but he sat with his eyes cast down and didn’t answer. Then I said to him, ‘Look here, don’t strain yourself too much.'”
It was now dusk. Sri Ramakrishna, as was usual with him during this part of the day, chanted the names of God and turned his mind to contemplation Soon the moon rose in the sky. The temples, courtyards, and trees were bathed in its silvery light, and millions of broken moons played on the rippling surface of the Ganges. Rakhal and M. were with the Master in his room.
MASTER (to M.): “Baburam says, ‘Oh, the worldly life! God forbid!'”
M: “His opinion is based on mere hearsay. What does he know of the world? He is a mere child.”
MASTER: “Yes, that is true. Have you noticed Niranjan? He is utterly artless.”
M: “Yes, sir. His very appearance attracts people. How expressive his eyes are!”
MASTER: “Not only his eyes, but his entire person. His relatives proposed that he marry. At this he said, ‘Why are you going to drown me?’ (With a smile) Tell me this. People say that a man finds great pleasure in the company of his wife after the hard work of the day.”
M: “That is no doubt true of those who think that way. (To Rakhal, with a smile) We are now being examined. This is a leading question.”
Both Rakhal and M. were married.
MASTER (with a smile): “A mother says, ‘I shall heave a sigh of relief if I can procure a “shade-tree” (The word means “wife”) for my son. He will rest in its shade when scorched by the heat of the world.'”
M: “True, sir. But there are parents and parents. A father who is spiritually illumined doesn’t give his children in marriage. If he does, his is a fine spirituality!”