Once a young sannyasi went to a householder to beg his food. He had lived as a monk from his very birth; he knew nothing of worldly matters. A young daughter of the householder came out to give him alms. He turned to her mother and said, Mother, has this girl abscesses on her chest?’ The mother said: ‘No, my child. God has given her breasts to nurse her child when she becomes a mother. Thereupon the sannyasi said: “Then why should I worry about myself? Why should I beg my food? He who has created me will certainly feed me.

“Listen If a woman renounces everything for her paramour, she can say to him, if need be, You wretch! I shall sit on your chest and devour you.’

Nangta told me of a certain king who gave a feast to the sadhus, using plates and tumblers of gold. I noticed in the monasteries at Benares with what great respect the abbots were treated. Many wealthy up-country people stood before them with folded hands, ready to obey their commands. But a true sadhu, a man who has really renounced everything, seeks neither a gold plate nor honour. God sees that he lacks nothing. God gives the devotee everything that is needed for realizing Him.

(To Adhar) “You are an executive officer. What shall I say to you? Do whatever you think best. I am an illiterate person.”

Adhar (smiling, to the devotees): “Now he is examining me.”

MASTER (smiling). “Dispassion alone is good. Do you see, I didn’t sign the receipt tor my salary? God alone is real and all else is illusory.”

Hazra entered the room and sat with the devotees on the floor. Hazra repeated now and then, “Soham! Soham!, I am He! I am He!” To Latu and other devotees he often said: “What does one gain by worshipping God with offerings? That is merely giving Him things that are His already.” He had said this once to Narendra.

The Master spoke to him.

MASTER: “I explained to Latu who the object of the devotee’s worship is.”

HAZRA: “The devotee really prays to his own Self.”

MASTER: “What you say is a very lofty thought. The aim of spiritual discipline, of chanting Gods name and glories, is to realize just that. A man attains everything when he discovers his true Self in himself. The object of sadhana is to realize that. That also is the purpose of assuming a human body. One needs the clay mould as long as the gold image has not been cast; but when the image is made, the mould is thrown away. The body may be given up after the realization of God.

“God is not only inside us; He is both inside and outside. The Divine Mother showed me in the Kali temple that everything is Chinmaya, the Embodiment of Spirit; that it is She who has become all this — the image, myself, the utensils of worship, the door-sill, the marble floor. Everything is indeed Chinmaya.

“The aim of prayer, of spiritual discipline, of chanting the name and glories of God, is to realize just that. For that alone a devotee loves God. These youngsters (Referring to Latu and the others.) are on a lower level; they haven’t reached a high spiritual state. They are following the path of bhakti. Please don’t tell them such things as ‘I am He’.”

Like the mother bird brooding over her chicks, Sri Ramakrishna was alert to protect his devotees.

Adhar and Niranjan went out on the porch to take refreshments. Presently they returned to the room.

ADHAR (smiling): “We talked about so many things. (Pointing to M.) But he didn’t utter a word.”

MASTER: “In Keshab’s organization there was a young man with four university degrees. He laughed when he saw people arguing with me. He said: ‘To argue with him! How silly!’ I saw him again, later on, at one of Keshab’s meetings. But then he did not have the same bright complexion.”

Sri Ramakrishna sat on the floor for his supper. It was a light meal of a little farina pudding and one or two luchis that had been offered in the Kali temple. M. and Latu were in the room. The devotees had brought various sweets for the Master. He touched a sandesh and asked Latu, “Who is the rascal that brought this?” He took it out of the cup and left it on the ground. He said to Latu and M.: “I know all about him. He is immoral.”

LATU: “Shall I give you this sweet?”

MASTER: “Kishori brought it.”

LATU: “Will it suit you?”

MASTER (smiling): “Yes.”

M. had received an English education. Sri Ramakrishna said to him: “It is not possible for me to eat things offered by anyone and everyone. Do you believe this?”

M: “Gradually I shall have to believe all these things.”

MASTER: “Yes, that is so.”

After finishing the meal Sri Ramakrishna washed his mouth. He said to M., “Then will you give the rupee to Naran?” “Yes,” said M., “certainly I will.”

The moon rose in ‘the clear autumn sky and was reflected in the river. It was ebb-tide in the Ganges and the river flowed south toward the sea.

Sunday, September 14, 1884

Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in his room with Narendra, Bhavanath, the Mukherji brothers, and other devotees. Rakhal was staying with Balaram at Vrindavan and was laid up with an attack of fever. Narendra was preparing himself for his coming law examination.

About eleven o’clock Jnan Babu arrived. He was a government official and had received four university degrees.

MASTER (at the sight of Jnan Babu): “Well! Well! This sudden awakening of ‘knowledge’! (“Jnan Means knowledge)

JNAN (smiling): “You must admit, sir, that one sees the awakening of knowledge as a result of very good fortune.”

MASTER (smiling): “You are Jnan. Then why should you have ajnan, ignorance? Oh, I understand. Where there is knowledge there is also ignorance. The sage Vasishtha was endowed with great knowledge and still he wept at the death of his sons. Therefore I ask you to go beyond both knowledge and ignorance. The thorn of ignorance has pierced the sole of a man’s foot. He needs the thorn of knowledge to take it out. Afterwards he throws away both thorns. The jnani says, ‘This world is a “framework of illusion”.’ But he who is beyond both knowledge and ignorance describes it as a ‘mansion of mirth’. He sees that it is God Himself who has become the universe, all living beings, and the twenty-four cosmic principles.

“A man can live in the world after attaining God. Then he can lead the life of detachment. In the country I have seen the women of the carpenter families making flattened rice with a husking-machine. With one hand one of them turns the paddy in the hole and with the other she holds a nursing child. At the same time she talks with the buyer. She says to him: ‘You owe me two annas. Pay it before you go.’ But seventy-five per cent of the woman’s mind is on her hand lest it should be crushed by the pestle of the husking-machine.

“A man should do his worldly duties with only twenty-five per cent of his mind, devoting the rest to God.”

Referring to Pundit Shashadhar, the Master said to the devotees, “I found him monotonous — engaged in the dry discussion of philosophy.

“He alone who, after reaching the Nitya, the Absolute, can dwell in the Lila, the Relative, and again climb from the Lila to the Nitya, has ripe knowledge and devotion. Sages like Narada cherished love of God after attaining the Knowledge of Brahman. This is called vijnana.

“Mere dry knowledge is like an ordinary rocket: it bursts into a few sparks and then dies out. But the Knowledge of sages like Narada and Sukadeva is like a good rocket: for a while it showers balls of different colours, and then it stops; again it throws out new balls, and again it stops; and thus it goes on. Those sages had prema for God. Prema is the rope by which one can reach Satchidananda.”

The Master finished his midday meal and rested a few minutes. Bhavanath, M., the Mukherji brothers, Hazra, and several other devotees sat down under the bakul-tree and began to converse. The Master stopped there awhile on his way to the pine-grove.

HAZRA (to the younger Gopal): “Please prepare a smoke for him [meaning the Master].”

MASTER (smiling): “Why don’t you admit that you want it?” (All laugh.)

MUKHERJI (to Hazra): “You must have learnt much wisdom from him [meaning the Master].”

MASTER (smiling): “No, he has been wise like this from his boyhood.” (All laugh.)

Presently Sri Ramakrishna returned from the pine-grove. The devotees noticed that he was in an ecstatic mood and was reeling like a drunkard. After reaching his room he regained the normal state.

Many devotees gathered in the room. Among them was a new-comer, a sadhaka from Konnagar, who looked over fifty years of age and seemed to have great vanity of scholarship.

The Master stood in the middle of the room and suddenly said to M., “He came here — Naran.”

Narendra was engaged in a discussion with Hazra and a few others on the verandah. They could be heard from the room.

MASTER (referring to Narendra): “The chatterbox! But he is now much worried about his family.”

M: “Yes, sir, it is true.”

MASTER: “Once he said that he would look upon adversity as his good fortune. Isn’t that so?”

M: “He has great strength of mind.”

A DEVOTEE: “Does he lack strength in anything?”

Pointing to the sadhaka from Konnagar, a devotee said to the Master: “Sir, he has come to visit you. He has some questions to ask.” The sadhaka was seated erect, his chin up.

SADHAKA: “Sir, what is the way?”

MASTER: “Faith in the guru’s words. One attains God by following the guru’s instructions step by step. It is like reaching an object by following the trail of a thread.”

SADHAKA: “Is it possible to see God?”

MASTER: “He is unknowable by the mind engrossed in worldliness. One cannot attain God if one has even a trace of attachment to ‘woman and gold’. But He is knowable by the pure mind and the pure intelligence — the mind and intelligence that have not the slightest trace of attachment. Pure Mind, Pure Intelligence, Pure Atman, are one and the same thing.”

SADHAKA: “But the scriptures say, ‘From Him words and mind return baffled.’ He is unknowable by mind and words.”

MASTER: “Oh, stop! One cannot understand the meaning of the scriptures without practising spiritual discipline. What will you gain by merely uttering the word ‘siddhi’? (Indian hemp.) The pundits glibly quote the scriptures; but what will that accomplish? A man does not become intoxicated even by rubbing siddhi on his body; he must swallow it. What is the use of merely repeating, There is butter in the milk’? Turn the milk into curd and churn it. Only then will you get butter.”

SADHAKA: “You talk about churning butter. But you too. are quoting the scriptures.”

MASTER : “What will one gain by merely quoting or hearing the scriptures? One must assimilate them. The almanac makes a forecast of the rainfall for the year, but you won’t get a drop by squeezing its pages.”

SADHAKA: “You talk about churning butter. Have you done it yourself?”

MASTER: “You don’t have to bother about what I have or haven’t done. Besides, it is very difficult to explain these things to others. Suppose someone asks you, ‘What does ghee taste like?’ Your answer will be, ‘Ghee tastes like ghee.’

“To understand these things one needs to live with holy men, just as to understand the pulse of bile,4 of phlegm, and so on, one needs to live with a physician.”

SADHAKA: “There are some people who are irritated by others’ company.”

MASTER: “That happens only after the attainment of Knowledge, after the realization of God. Shouldn’t a beginner live in the company of holy men?”

The sadhaka sat in silence a few moments. Then he said with some irritation: “Please tell me whether you have realized God either directly or intuitively. You may answer me if you are able, or you may keep silent if you wish.” The Master said with a smile: “What shall I say? One can only give a hint.”

SADHAKA: “Then tell us that much.”

Narendra was going to sing. He said, “No one has brought a pakhoaj.”

THE YOUNGER GOPAL: “Mahimacharan has one.”

MASTER (interrupting): “No, we don’t want anything of his here.”

A devotee from Konnagar sang a song. Every now and then Sri Ramakrishna glanced at the sadhaka. The singer and Narendra became engaged in a furious discussion about musical technique. The sadhaka said to the singer, “What is the use of such discussions?” Referring to another man who had joined in the discussion, Sri Ramakrishna said to the sadhaka, “Why didn’t you scold him, too?” It could be seen that the sadhaka was not on friendly terms with his companions from Konnagar.

Narendra sang:

O Lord, must all my days pass by so utterly in vain?
Down the path of hope I gaze with longing, day and night. . . .

The sadhaka closed his eyes in meditation as he listened to the song. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. The rays of the setting sun fell on his body. Sri Ramakrishna quickly opened an umbrella and placed it near the door so that the sun might not disturb the sadhaka.

Narendra sang again:

How shall I call on Thee, O Lord, with such a stained and worldly mind?
Can a straw remain unharmed, cast in a pit of flaming coals?
Thou, all goodness, art the fire, and I, all sin, am but a straw:
How shall I ever worship Thee?

The glory of Thy name, they say, redeems those even past redeeming;
Yet, when I chant Thy sacred name, alas! my poor heart quakes with fright.
I spend my life a slave to sin; how can I find a refuge, then,
O Lord, within Thy holy way?

In Thine abounding kindliness, rescue Thou this sinful wretch;
Drag me off by the hair of my head and give me shelter at Thy feet.

Again he sang:

Sweet is Thy name, O Refuge of the humble!
It falls like sweetest nectar on our ears
And comforts us, Beloved of our souls!
The priceless treasure of Thy name alone
Is the abode of Immortality,
And he who chants Thy name becomes immortal.
Falling upon our ears, Thy holy name
Instantly slays the anguish of our hearts,
Thou Soul of our souls, and fills our hearts with bliss!

As Narendra sang the line, “And he who chants Thy name becomes immortal”, the Master went into samadhi. At first his fingers, especially the thumbs, began to tremble. The devotees from Konnagar had never seen the Master in samadhi. Seeing him silent, they were about to leave the room. Bhavanath said to them: “Why are you going away? This is his samadhi.” The devotees resumed their places.

Narendra sang:

I have laboured day and night
To make Thy seat within my heart;
Wilt Thou not be kind to me,
O Lord of the World, and enter there?

Sri Ramakrishna, still in the ecstatic mood, came down from his couch to the floor and sat by Narendra. The beloved disciple sang again:

In Wisdom’s firmament the moon of Love is rising full,
And Love’s flood-tide, in surging waves, is flowing everywhere.
O Lord, how full of bliss Thou art! Victory unto Thee! . . .

As Narendra sang the last line, Sri Ramakrishna stood up, still absorbed in samadhi.

After a long time the Master regained partial consciousness of the world and sat down on the mat. Narendra finished his singing, and the tanpura was put back in its place. The Master was still in a spiritual mood and said: “Mother, tell me what this is. They want someone to extract the butter for them and hold it to their mouths. They won’t throw the spiced bait into the lake. They won’t even hold the fishing-rod. Someone must catch the fish and put it into their hands! How troublesome! Mother, I won’t listen to any more argument. The rogues force it on me. What a bother! I shall shake it off. God is beyond the Vedas and their injunctions. Can one realize Him by studying the scriptures, the Vedas, and the Vedanta? (To Narendra) Do you understand this? The Vedas give only a hint.”

Narendra wanted the tanpura again. The Master said, “I want to sing.” He was still in an ecstatic mood and sang:

Mother, this is the grief that sorely grieves my heart,
That even with Thee for Mother, and though I am wide awake,
There should be robbery in my house. . . .

The Master said, “Mother, why do You make me argue?” He sang again:

Once for all, this time, I have thoroughly understood;
From One who knows it well, I have learnt the secret of bhava. . . .

The Master said, “I am quite conscious.” But he was still groggy with divine fervour. He sang once more:

I drink no ordinary wine, but Wine of Everlasting Bliss,
As I repeat my Mother Kali’s name;
It so intoxicates my mind that people take me to be drunk! . . .

Sri Ramakrishna had said, “Mother, I won’t listen to any more argument.” Narendra sang:

O Mother, make me mad with Thy love!
What need have I of knowledge or reason? . . .

Sri Ramakrishna said with a smile: “O Mother, make me mad! God cannot be realized through knowledge and reasoning, through the arguments in the scriptures.” He had been pleased with the singing of the musician from Konnagar and said to him humbly: “Please sing about the Divine Mother. Please — one song.”

MUSICIAN: “You must excuse me, sir.”

MASTER (bowing with folded hands): “No, sir. I can enforce this demand.”

Saying this, Sri Ramakrishna sang a few lines from a kirtan, assuming the attitude of a gopi:

Radha has every right to say it;
She has kept awake for Krishna.
She has stayed awake all night,
And she has every right to be piqued.

Then he said to the musician: “My dear sir, you are a child of the Divine Mother. She dwells in all beings. Therefore I have every right to enforce my demand. A farmer said to his guru, ‘I shall get my mantra from you by beating you, if I have to.'”

MUSICIAN (smiling): “By a shoe-beating?’

MASTER (smiling): “No! I won’t go that far.” Again in an abstracted mood Sri Ramakrishna said: “The beginner, the struggling, the perfect, and the supremely perfect. Which are you — perfect or supremely perfect? Come along! Sing for us.”

The musician complied. He sang just a melody.

MASTER: “My dear sir, that too makes me happy.”

The musician then sang a song. When the music was over, the devotees from Konnagar saluted the Master and took their leave. The sadhaka bowed before him with folded hands and said, “Holy man, let me say good-bye.”

Sri Ramakrishna, still in an ecstatic mood, was talking to the Divine Mother.

MASTER: “Mother, is it You or I? Do I do anything? No. no! It is You. Was it You who heard the arguments all this time, or was it I? No, not I. It was You.”

Sri Ramakrishna became conscious of the outer world and began to converse with Narendra, Bhavanath, and the other devotees. They were talking about the sadhaka.

BHAVANATH (smiling): “What kind of man is he?”

MASTER: “He is a tamasic devotee.”

BHAVANATH: “He can certainly recite Sanskrit verses.”

MASTER: “Once I said to a man about a sadhu: “He is a rajasic sadhu. Why should one give him food and other presents?’ At this another sadhu taught me a lesson by saying to me: ‘Don’t say that. There are three classes of holy men: sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic.’ Since that day I have respected holy men of all classes.”

NARENDRA (smiling): “What? Is it like the elephant God’? All, indeed are God.”

MASTER (smiling): “It is God Himself who sports in the world as both vidya and avidya. Therefore I salute both. It is written in the Chandi: The Divine Mother is the good fortune of the blessed and the ill fortune of the unlucky.’ (To Bhavanath) Is that mentioned in the Vishnu Purana?”

BHAVANATH (smiling): “I don’t know, sir. The devotees from Konnagar did not understand your samadhi and were about to leave the room.”

MASTER: “Who was it that asked them to remain?”

BHAVANATH (smiling): “It was I.”

MASTER: “My child, you are equally good in bringing people here and in driving them away.”

The conversation turned to the argument that Narendra had had with the musician from Konnagar.

MUKHERJI: “Narendra didn’t spare him.”

MASTER: “That’s right. One needs such grit. This is called the influence of tamas on sattva. Must a man listen to everything another man says? Should one say to a prostitute, ‘All right, you may do whatever you like’? Must one listen to her? At one time Radha was piqued. A friend said, ‘Her ego has been roused.’ Brinde, another friend, said: ‘Whose is this ego? Her ego belongs to Krishna alone. She is proud in the pride of Krishna.'”

The conversation turned to the glory of God’s name.

BHAVANATH: “I feel such relief while chanting the name of Hari.”

MASTER: “He who relieves us of sin is Hari. He relieves us of our three afflictions in the world. Chaitanya preached the glory of Hari’s name; so it must be good. You see, he was such a great scholar, and an Incarnation too. Since he preached that name, it must be good. (Smiling) Once some peasants were invited to a feast. They were asked if they would eat a preparation of hog plum. They answered: ‘You may give it to us if the gentlemen have eaten it. If they enjoyed it, then it must be good.’ (All laugh.)

(To the Mukherji brothers) “I should like to visit Shivanath. I won’t have to hire a carriage if you take me in yours.”

MUKHERJI: “All right, sir, we shall set a day.”

MASTER (to the devotees): “Do you think the Brahmos will like me? They criticize those who believe in God with form.”

Mahendra Mukherji wanted to go on a pilgrimage. He told Sri Ramakrishna so.

MASTER (smiling): “How is that? Do you want to go when the sprout of divine love has hardly come up? First comes the sprout, then the tree, then the fruit. We are so happy to have you here to talk to.”

MAHENDRA: “I feel like visiting the holy places a little. I shall return soon.”

It was about five o’clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna left his room. The devotees were walking in the garden. Many of them were about to leave.

The Master was conversing with Hazra on the north verandah. They were talking of Narendra’s frequent visits to Annada, the eldest son of the Guhas.

HAZRA: “I hear that Annada is now practising austerity. He lives on very little food and eats rice once every four days.”

MASTER: “Is that so? ‘Who knows? One may realize God even by means of a religious garb.'”

HAZRA: “Narendra sang the agamani.”5

MASTER (eagerly): “How did he sing it?”

Kishori stood close by. The Master said to him, “Are you well?”

A little later the Master was standing on the west porch. Since it was autumn, he had put on a flannel shirt dyed with ochre. He asked Narendra, “Is it true that you6 sang the agamani?”

Accompanied by Narendra and M., Sri Ramakrishna walked to the embankment of the Ganges.

Narendra sang the agamani:

Tell me, my Uma, how have you fared, alone in the Stranger’s (Siva, Uma’s Husband.) house?
People speak so much ill of us! Alas, I die of shame!’
My Son-in-law smears His body with ashes from the funeral pyre
And roams about in great delight;
You too, along with Him, cover with ash your golden skin.
He begs the food that He eats! How can I bear it, being your mother?
This time, when He returns to claim you, I shall say to Him,
“My daughter Uma is not at home.”

Sri Ramakrishna stood listening to the song and went into samadhi. The sun was still above the horizon as the Master stood on the embankment in the ecstatic mood. On one side of him was the Ganges, flowing north with the flood-tide. Behind him was the flower garden. To his right one could see the nahabat and the Panchavati. Narendra stood by his side and sang. Gradually the darkness of evening fell upon the earth.

After Narendra and several other devotees had saluted the Master and left for Calcutta, Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room. He was absorbed in meditation on the Divine Mother and was chanting Her holy name.

Jadu Mallick had arrived at his garden house next to the Kali temple. He sent for the Master. Adhar, too, had arrived from Calcutta, and he saluted Sri Ramakrishna. The Master asked Latu to light the lantern and accompany him to Jadu’s garden.

MASTER (to M.): “Why didn’t you bring Naran with you?”

M: “Shall I come with you?”

MASTER: “Do you want to come? Adhar and the others are here. All right, you may come. Will the Mukherjis also come with us? (To the Mukherjis) Come along. Then we can leave Jadu Mallick quickly.”

The Master went to Jadu’s drawing-room. It was a well furnished room, with everything spick and span. The lamps were lighted. Jadu was sitting with his friends and was playing with the children. Servants were in attendance. Smiling, Jadu welcomed Sri Ramakrishna, but he did not get up. He treated the Master as a friend of long acquaintance.

Jadu was a devotee of Gauranga. He had just seen a performance of Gauranga’s life at the Star Theatre and told the Master about it. The Master listened to his account joyfully and played with the children. M. and the Mukherji brothers sat near him. In the course of the conversation Sri Ramakrishna told Jadu that Adhar had not been able to secure the post of vice-chairman the Calcutta Municipality. Jadu said that Adhar was still young and could try for it again. At his request the Master sang a few songs about Gauranga.

After the music was over, the Mukherjis were about to take their leave. The Master, too, was ready to go, but he was in an ecstatic mood. On coming to the porch he went into samadhi. The gate-keeper of the garden house was a pious man. Now and then he invited the Master to his house and fed him. Sri Ramakrishna stood there in samadhi, and the gate-keeper fanned him with a large fan. Ratan, the manager of the garden house, saluted the Master, and Sri Ramakrishna, returning to the consciousness of the relative world, greeted the manager and the gate-keeper, saying, “Narayana”. Then, accompanied by the devotees, he went back to the temple garden through the main gate.

MASTER (to the Mukherjis, pointing to M.): “Please visit him often.”

MUKHERJI (smiling): “Yes, henceforth he will be our teacher,”

MASTER: “It is the nature of the hemp-smoker to make merry in the company of another hemp-smoker. He will not talk even to an amir, but he will embrace a wretched hemp-smoker if he happens to meet one.” (All laugh.)

It was about nine o’clock. The Mukherji brothers saluted the Master and went away, Adhar and M. sat on the floor in the Master’s room while he talked to Adhar about Rakhal.

Rakhal was staying in Vrindavan with Balaram. The Master had learnt from a letter about Rakhal’s illness. He was so worried about him that two or three days earlier he had wept before Hazra like a child. Adhar had sent a registered letter to Rakhal but had received no reply.

MASTER (to Adhar): “Naran has received a letter from Vrindavan. Why haven’t you received a reply to yours?”

ADHAR: “I haven’t yet heard from Vrindavan.”

MASTER: “M. has also received a letter from Vrindavan.”

They began to talk of Sri Ramakrishna’s seeing a play, at the Star Theatre, about the life of Gauranga.

MASTER (smiling): “Jadu told me that one could see the play very well from a one-rupee seat.7 Very cheap! Once we were talking about going to Panihati. Jadu wanted me to go in a country boat with a whole crowd of passengers. (All laugh.)

“Formerly he liked to hear a little about God. But I don’t see Jadu much nowadays. He is always surrounded by flatterers. They have spoiled him. He is a man of a very calculating nature. I would no sooner set foot in his house than he would ask me, “How much is the carriage hire?’8 I would say: You don’t have to bother about it. You may give two and a halt rupees.’ That would keep him quiet.” (All laugh.)

It was late. Adhar was about to depart. The Master asked M. to bring Naran with him.