IT WAS ABOUT ELEVEN O’CLOCK. The Master was sitting in his room at Dakshineswar. He had not yet taken his midday meal.
Arrangements had been made with the musician Shyamdas to entertain the Master and the devotees with his kirtan. Baburam, M., Manomohan, Bhavanath, Kishori, Chunilal, Haripada, the Mukherji brothers, Ram, Surendra, Tarak, Niranjan, and others arrived at the temple garden. Latu, Harish, and Hazra were staying with the Master.
When M. saluted Sri Ramakrishna, the Master asked: “Where is Narendra? Isn’t he coming?” M. told him that Narendra could not come.
A brahmin devotee was reading to the Master from a book of devotional songs by Ramprasad. Sri Ramakrishna asked him to continue. The brahmin read a song, the first line of which was: “O Mother, put on Thy clothes.”
MASTER: “Stop, please! These ideas are outlandish and bizarre.’ Read something that will awaken bhakti.”
The brahmin read:
Who is there that can understand what Mother Kali is?
Even the six darsanas are powerless to reveal Her. . . .
MASTER (to M.): “I got a pain because I lay too long on one side while in samadhi yesterday at Adhar’s house; so now I’ll take Baburam with me when I visit the houses of the devotees. He is a sympathetic soul.”
With these words the Master sang:
How shall I open my heart, O friend?
It is forbidden me to speak.
I am about to die, for lack of a kindred soul
To understand my misery.
Simply by looking in his eyes,
I find the beloved of my heart;
But rare is such a soul, who swims in ecstatic bliss
On the high tide of heavenly love.
MASTER: “The Bauls sing songs like that. They also sing another kind of song:
Stay your steps, O wandering monk!
Stand there with begging-bowl in hand,
And let me behold your radiant face.
“According to the Sakti cult the siddha is called a koul, and according to the Vedanta, a paramahamsa. The Bauls call him a sai. They say, ‘No one is greater than a sai.’ The sai is a man of supreme perfection. He doesn’t see any differentiation in the world. He wears a necklace, one half made of cow bones and the other of the sacred tulsi-plant. He calls the Ultimate Truth ‘Alekh’, the ‘Incomprehensible One’. The Vedas call It ‘Brahman’. About the jivas the Bauls say, ‘They come from Alekh and they go unto Alekh.’ That is to say, the individual soul has come from the Unmanifest and goes back to the Unmanifest. The Bauls will ask you, ‘Do you know about the wind?’ The ‘wind’ means the great current that one feels in the subtle nerves, Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna, when the Kundalini is awakened. They will ask you further, ‘In which station are you dwelling?’ According to them there are six ‘stations’, corresponding to the six psychic centres of Yoga. If they say that a man dwells in the ‘fifth station’, it means that his mind has climbed to the fifth centre, known as the Visuddha chakra. (To M.) At that time he sees the Formless.”
Saying this the Master sang:
Within the petals of this flower there lies concealed a subtle space,
Transcending which, one sees at length the universe in Space dissolve.
“Once a Baul came here. I asked him, ‘Have you finished the task of “refining the syrup”? Have you taken the pot off the stove?’ The more you boil the juice of sugar-cane, the more it is refined. In the first stage of boiling it is simply the juice of the sugar-cane. Next it is molasses, then sugar, then sugar candy, and so on. As it goes on boiling, the substances you get are more and more refined.
“When does a man take the pot oft the stove? That is, when does a man come to the end of his sadhana? He comes to the end when he has acquired complete mastery over his sense-organs. His sense-organs become loosened and powerless, as the leech is loosened from the body when you put lime on its mouth. In that state a man may live with a woman, but he does not feel any lust for her.
“Many of the Bauls follow a ‘dirty’ method of spiritual discipline. It is like entering a house through the back door by which the scavengers come.
“One day I was taking my meal when a Baul devotee arrived. He asked me, ‘Are you yourself eating, or are you feeding someone else?’ The meaning of his words was that the siddha sees God dwelling within a man. The siddhas among the Bauls will not talk to persons of another sect; they call them ‘strangers’.
“The Bauls designate the state of perfection as the ‘sahaja’, the ‘natural’ state. There are two signs of this state. First, a perfect man will not ‘smell of Krishna’. Second, he is like the bee that lights on the lotus but does not sip the honey. The first means that he keeps all his spiritual feelings within himself. He doesn’t show outwardly any sign of spirituality. He doesn’t even utter the name of Hari. The second means that he is not attached to woman. He has completely mastered his senses.
“The Bauls do not like the worship of an image. They want a living man. That is why one of their sects is called the Kartabhaja. They worship the karta, that is to say, the guru, as God.
“You see how many opinions there are about God. Each opinion is a path. There are innumerable opinions and innumerable paths leading to God.”
BHAVANATH: “Then what should we do?”
MASTER: “You must stick to one path with all your strength. A man can reach the roof of a house by stone stairs or a ladder or a rope-ladder or a rope or even by a bamboo pole. But he cannot reach the roof if he sets foot now on one and now on another. He should firmly follow one path. Likewise, in order to realize God a man must follow one path with all his strength.
“But you must regard other views as so many paths leading to God. You should not feel that your path is the only right path and that other paths are wrong. You mustn’t bear malice toward others.
“Well, to what path do I belong? Keshab Sen, used to say to me: ‘You belong to our path. You are gradually accepting the ideal of the formless God.’ Shashadhar says that I belong to his path. Vijay, too, says that I belong to his — Vijay’s — path.”
Sri Ramakrishna walked toward the Panchavati with M. and a few other devotees. It was midday and time for the flood-tide in the Ganges.
They waited in the Panchavati to see the bore of the tide.
MASTER (to the devotees): “The ebb-tide and flood-tide are indeed amazing. But notice one thing. Near the sea you see ebb-tide and flood-tide in a river, but far away from the sea the river flows in one direction only. What does this mean? Try to apply its significance to your spiritual life. Those who live very near God feel within them the currents of bhakti, bhava, and the like. In the case of a few — the Isvarakotis, for instance — one sees even mahabhava and prema.
(To M.) “What is the explanation of the ebb-tide and flood-tide?”
M: “According to Western astronomy, they are due to the attraction of the sun and the moon.”
In order to explain it, M. drew figures on the earth and began to show the Master the movement of the earth, the sun, and the moon. The Master looked at the figures for a minute and said: “Stop, please! It gives me a headache.”
Presently the tide came up the Ganges. They heard the sound of the rushing water. The tide struck the bank of the river and flowed toward the north. Sri Ramakrishna looked at it intently and exclaimed like a child:
“Look at that boat! I wonder what is going to happen to it.”
The Master and M. sat down for a while in the Panchavati, Sri Ramakrishna placing his umbrella on the cement platform. The conversation turned to Narayan. The boy was a student Sri Ramakrishna looked upon him as Narayana, God Himself, and was very fond of him.
MASTER: “Have you noticed Naran’s1 nature? He can mix with all, old and young. One cannot do this without a special power. Besides, all love him. Is he really artless?”
M: “I think so.”
MASTER: “I understand that he goes to your place. Is that so?”
M: “Yes, sir. He has visited me once or twice.”
MASTER: “Will you give him a rupee? Or shall I ask Kali (A devotee of the Master.) about it?”
M: “Very well, sir. I shall give him the money.”
MASTER: “That’s fine. It is good to help those who yearn for God. Thus one makes good use of one’s money. What will you gain by spending everything on your family?”
Kishori had several children. His salary was too small to support his family. Sri Ramakrishna said to M.: “Naran said he would get a job for Kishori. Please remind him of it.”
The Master walked away in the direction of the pine-grove. Returning to the Panchavati, he said to M.: “Please ask someone to spread a mat outside my room. I shall lie down a few minutes. I am coming presently.”
When the Master returned to his room, he could not find his umbrella and exclaimed: “You have all forgotten the umbrella! The busybody doesn’t see a thing even when it is very near him. A man went to a friend’s house to light the charcoal for his smoke, though all the time he had a lighted lantern in his hand. Another man looked everywhere for his towel. Finally he discovered that it had been on his shoulder all the time.”
It was about one o’clock in the afternoon. The Master ate the prasad from the Kali temple. Then he wanted to rest awhile, but the devotees were still sitting in his room. They were asked to go out, and then the Master lay down. He said to Baburam, “Come here; sit near me.” Baburam answered, “I am preparing betel-leaf.” The Master said, “Put your betel-leaf aside.”
The devotees sat under the bakul-tree in the Panchavati. Tarak, who had just returned from Vrindavan, told them stories of his visit.
A little later Sri Ramakrishna was seated again on his couch, the devotees sitting on the floor. Shyamdas was singing with his party. He sang of the gopis’ grief at their separation from Sri Krishna:
Dry as a desert seemed the happy lake to them:
The chatak died of thirst, gazing toward the clouds.
The Master became somewhat abstracted, but the musician could not create a spiritual atmosphere. Sri Ramakrishna asked Nabai of Konnagar to sing a kirtan. Nabai was Manomohan’s uncle. He lived on the bank of the Ganges, devoting his time to prayer and meditation, and was a frequent visitor of Sri Ramakrishna at Dakshineswar.
Nabai began the kirtan in a loud voice. The Master left the couch and began to dance. Immediately Nabai and other devotees began to dance around him. The atmosphere became intense with spiritual fervour.
After the kirtan, Sri Ramakrishna resumed his seat. With great feeling he began to sing of the Divine Mother, his eyes turned upward:
O Mother, ever blissful as Thou art,
Do not deprive Thy worthless child of bliss!
My mind knows nothing but Thy Lotus Feet.
The King of Death scowls at me terribly;
Tell me, Mother, what shall I say to him? . . .
He sang again:
As is a man’s meditation, so is his feeling of love;
As is a man’s feeling of love, so is his gain;
And faith is the root of all. . . .
This world, O Mother, is Thy madhouse! What can I say of all Thy virtues?
Setting aside Thine elephant, Thou roamest about on foot;
Putting off Thy gems and pearls, O Self-willed Mother,
Thou dost adorn Thy comely neck with a garland of human heads.
Now Thou must rescue Ramprasad out of the forest of this world.
Again he sang:
Why should I go to Ganga or Gaya, to Kasi, Kanchi, or Prabhas,
So long as I can breathe my last with Kali’s name upon my lips? . . .
Dwell, O mind, within yourself;
Enter no other’s home.
If you but seek there, you will find
All you are searching for. . . .
The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Syama’s feet. . . .
Cherish my precious Mother Syama
Tenderly within, O mind;
May you and I alone behold Her,
Letting no one else intrude. . . .
As the Master sang this last song he stood up. He was almost intoxicated with divine love. Again and again he said to the devotees, “Cherish my precious Mother Syama tenderly within.” Then he danced and sang;
Is Kali, my Mother, really black?
The Naked One, of blackest hue,
Lights the Lotus of the Heart. . . .
The Master reeled as he sang. Niranjan came forward to hold him. The Master said to him softly, “Don’t touch me, you rascal!” Seeing the Master dance, the devotees stood up. He caught hold of M.’s hand and said: “Don’t be foolish! Dance!”
Sri Ramakrishna resumed his seat, still charged with divine ecstasy. Coming down a little to the normal state, he said: “Om! Om! Om! Om! Om! Om Kali!” Again he said, “Let me have a smoke.” Many of the devotees stood around. Mahimacharan was fanning him. The Master asked him to sit down and recite from the scriptures. Mahimacharan recited from the Mahanirvana Tantra:
Om. I bow to Thee, the Everlasting Cause of the world;
I bow to Thee, Pure Consciousness, the Soul that sustains the whole universe.
I bow to Thee, who art One without duality, who dost bestow liberation;
I bow to Thee, Brahman, the all-pervading Attributeless Reality.
Thou alone art the Refuge, the only Object of adoration;
Thou art the only Cause of the universe, the Soul of everything that is;
Thou alone art the world’s Creator, Thou its Preserver and Destroyer;
Thou art the immutable Supreme Lord, the Absolute; Thou art unchanging Consciousness.
Dread of the dreadful! Terror of the terrible!
Refuge of all beings! Purity of purifiers!
Thou alone dost rule over those in the high places,
Supreme over the supreme, the Protector of protectors.
Almighty Lord, who art made manifest as the Form of all, yet art
Thyself unmanifest and indestructible;
Thou who art imperceptible to the senses, yet art the very Truth;
Incomprehensible, imperishable, all-pervading, hidden, and without form;
O Lord! O Light of the Universe! Protect us from harm.
On that One alone we meditate; that One is the sole object of our worship;
To That alone, the non-dual Witness of the Universe, we bow.
In that One who alone exists and who is our sole eternal Support, we seek refuge,
The self-dependent Lord, the Vessel of Safety in the ocean of existence.
Sri Ramakrishna listened to the hymn with folded hands. After it was sung he saluted Brahman. The devotees did likewise.
Adhar arrived from Calcutta and bowed down before the Master.
MASTER (to M.): “We have had such joy today! How much joy Hari’s name creates! Is it not so?”
M: “Yes, sir.”
Mahimacharan was a student of philosophy. That day he too had chanted the name of Hari and danced during the kirtan. This made the Master very happy.
It was about dusk. Many of the devotees took their leave. A lamp was lighted in Sri Ramakrishna’s room and incense was burnt. After some time the moon came out, flooding the sky with its light.
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on his couch. He was in a spiritual mood, absorbed in contemplation of the Divine Mother. Now and then he chanted Her hallowed name. Adhar was sitting on the floor. M. and Niranjan, too, were there. Sri Ramakrishna began to talk to Adhar.
MASTER: “What! You have come just now! We have had so much kirtan and dancing. Shyamdas began the kirtan. He is Ram’s music teacher. But I didn’t enjoy his singing very much; I didn’t feel like dancing. Later I heard about his character. I was told that he had as many mistresses as there are hairs on a man’s head.
“Didn’t you get the job?”
Adhar held the post of deputy magistrate, a government post that carried with it great prestige. He earned three hundred rupees a month. He had applied for the office of vice-chairman of the Calcutta Municipality. The salary attached to this office was one thousand rupees. In order to secure it, Adhar had interviewed many influential people in Calcutta.
MASTER (to M. and Niranjan): “Hazra said to me, ‘Please pray to the Divine Mother for Adhar, that he may secure the job.’ Adhar made the same request to me. I said to the Mother: ‘O Mother, Adhar has been visiting You. May he get the job if it pleases You.’ But at the same time I said to Her: ‘How small-minded he is! He is praying to You for things like that and not for Knowledge and Devotion.’
(To Adhar) “Why did you dance attendance on all those small-minded people? You have seen so much; you have heard so much! ‘After reading the entire Ramayana, to ask whose wife Sita is!'”
ADHAR: “A man cannot but do these things if he wants to lead a house-holder’s life. You haven’t forbidden us to, have you?”
MASTER: “Nivritti alone is good, and not pravritti.2 Once, when I was in a God-intoxicated state, I was asked to go to the manager of the Kali temple to sign the receipt for my salary.3 They all do it here. But I said to the manager: ‘I cannot do that. I am not asking for any salary. You may give it to someone else if you want.’ I am the servant of God alone. Whom else shall I serve? Mallick noticed the late hours of my meals and arranged for a cook. He gave me one rupee for a month’s expenses. That embarrassed me. I had to run to him whenever he sent for me. It would have been quite a different thing if I had gone to him of my own accord.
“In leading the worldly life one has to humour mean-minded people and do many such things. After the attainment of my exalted state, I noticed how things were around me and said to the Divine Mother, ‘O Mother, please change the direction of my mind right now, so that I may not have to flatter rich people.’
(To Adhar) “Be satisfied with the job you have. People hanker after a post paying fifty or a hundred rupees, and you are earning three hundred rupees! You are a deputy magistrate. I saw a deputy magistrate at Kamarpukur. His name was Ishwar Ghoshal. He had a turban on his head. Men’s very bones trembled before him. I remember having seen him during my boyhood. Is a deputy magistrate a person to be trifled with?
“Serve him whom you are already serving. The mind becomes soiled by serving but one master. And to serve five masters!
“Once a woman became attached to a Mussalman and invited him to her room. But he was a righteous person; he said to her that he wanted to use the toilet and must go home to get his water-jar for water. The woman offered him her own, but he said: ‘No, that will not do. I shall use the jar to which I have already exposed myself. I cannot expose myself before a new one.’ With these words he went away. That brought the woman to her senses. She understood that a new water-jar, in her case, signified a paramour.”
Narendra was in straitened circumstances on account of his father’s unexpected death. He had been seeking a job to maintain his mother, brothers, and sisters. He had served a few days as headmaster of the Vidyasagar School at Bowbazar.
ADHAR: “May I ask if Narendra would accept a job?”
MASTER: “Yes, he would. He has his mother, brothers, and sisters to support.”
ADHAR: “Well, Narendra can support his family with fifty or with a hundred rupees. Will he try for a hundred?”
MASTER: “Worldly people think highly of their wealth. They feel that there is nothing like it. Sambhu said, ‘It is my desire to leave all my property at the Lotus Feet of God.’ But does God care for money? He wants from His devotees knowledge, devotion, discrimination, and renunciation.
“After the theft of the jewelry from the temple of Radhakanta, Mathur Babu said: ‘O God, You could not protect Your own jewelry! What a shame!’ Once he wanted to give me an estate and consulted Hriday about it. I overheard the whole thing from the Kali temple and said to him: ‘Please don’t harbour any such thought. It will injure me greatly.'”
ADHAR: “I can tell you truthfully, sir, that not more than six or seven persons like you have been born since the creation of the world.”
MASTER: “How so? There certainly are people who have given up everything for God. As soon as a man gives up his wealth, people come to know about him. But it is also true that there are others unknown to people. Are there not such holy men in upper India?”
ADHAR: “I know of at least one such person in Calcutta. He is Devendranath Tagore.”
MASTER: “What did you say? Who has enjoyed the world as much as he? Once I visited him at his house with Mathur Babu. I saw that he had many young children. The family physician was there writing out prescriptions.
If, after having eight children, a man doesn’t think of God, then who will? If, after enjoying so much wealth, Devendranath hadn’t thought of God, then people would have cried shame upon him.”
NIRANJAN: “But he paid off all his father’s debts.”
MASTER: “Keep quiet! Don’t torment me any more. Do you call anyone a man who doesn’t pay off his father’s debts if he is able to? But I admit that Devendranath is infinitely greater than other worldly men, who are sunk in their worldliness. They can learn much from him.
“There is an ocean of difference between a real all-renouncing devotee of God and a householder devotee. A real sannyasi, a real devotee who has renounced the world, is like a bee. The bee will not light on anything but a flower. It will not drink anything but honey. But a devotee leading the worldly life is like a fly. The fly sits on a festering sore as well as on a sweet-meat. One moment he enjoys a spiritual mood, and the next moment he is beside himself with the pleasure of ‘woman and gold’.
“A devotee who has really and truly renounced all for God is like the chatak bird. It will drink only the rain-water that falls when the star Svati is in the ascendant. It will rather die of thirst than touch any other water, though all around there may lie seven oceans and rivers full to the brim with water. An all-renouncing devotee will not touch ‘woman and gold’. He will not keep ‘woman and gold’ near him lest he should feel attached.”
ADHAR: “But Chaitanya, too, enjoyed the world.”
MASTER (amazed): “What? What did he enjoy in the world?”
ADHAR: “Scholarship! Honour!”
MASTER: “It was honour in the sight of others, but nothing to him. Whether you — a deputy magistrate — or this youngster Niranjan honours me, it is all the same to me. And I tell you this truthfully: the idea of controlling a wealthy man never enters my mind. Surendra once said, rather condescendingly, that Rakhal’s father could sue me for letting Rakhal (Rakhal then was a minor.) stay with me. When I heard this from Manomohan, I said: ‘Who is this Surendra? How does he dare make a remark like that? He keeps a carpet and pillow here and gives me some money. Is that his excuse for daring to make such an impudent remark?'”
ADHAR: “I understand that he gives ten rupees a month. Isn’t that so?”
MASTER: “That covers two months’ expenses. The devotees stay here and he gives the money for their service. It is he who earns the merit. What is that to me? Is it for my personal gain that I love Narendra, Rakhal, and the others?”
M: “Your love for them is like a mother’s for her children.”
MASTER: “But even behind the mother’s love lies her hope that the children will support her later on. But I love these youngsters because I see in them Narayana Himself. These are not mere words.
(To Adhar) “Listen. There is no scarcity of moths when the lamp is lighted. When God is realized, He Himself provides everything for His devotees. He sees that they do not lack anything. When God is enshrined in the heart, many people come forward to offer their services.