Two days after the worship of Kali, the Marwaris of the Burrabazar section of Calcutta were celebrating the Annakuta4 festival. Sri Ramakrishna had been invited by the Marwari devotees to the ceremony at 12 Mallick Street. It was the second day of the bright fortnight of the moon. The festival connected with the worship of Kali, known as the “Festival of Light”, still going on at Burrabazar.
About three o’clock in the afternoon M. and the younger Gopal came to Burrabazar. M. had in his hand a bundle of cloths he had purchased for Sri Ramakrishna. Mallick Street was jammed with people, bullock-carts, and carriages. As M. and Gopal approached 12 Mallick Street they noticed Sri Ramakrishna in a carriage, which could hardly move because of the jam. Baburam and Ram Chakravarty were with the Master. He smiled at M. and Gopal.
Sri Ramakrishna alighted from the carriage. With Baburam he proceeded on foot to the house of his host, M. leading the way. They saw the courtyard of the house filled with big bales of clothes which were being loaded into bullock-carts for shipment. The Marwari host greeted the Master and led him to the third floor of the house. A painting of Kali hung on the wall. Sri Ramakrishna bowed before it. He sat down and became engaged in conversation with the devotees. One of the Marwaris began to stroke his feet. The Master asked him to stop. After reflecting a minute he said, “All right, you can stroke them a little.” His words were full of compassion.
MASTER (to M.): “What about your school?”
M: “Today is a holiday, sir.”
MASTER (smiling): “Tomorrow there will be a musical recital of the Chandi at Adhar’s house.”
The host sent a pundit to Sri Ramakrishna. He saluted the Master and took a seat. Soon they were engaged in conversation. They talked about spiritual things.
MASTER: “God incarnates Himself for the bhakta and not for the jnani.”
PUNDIT: “‘I incarnate Myself in every age for the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of dharma.’ (Bhagavad Gita, IV, 8.) God becomes man, first, for the joy of the bhakta, and secondly, for the destruction of the wicked. The jnani has no desire.”
MASTER (smiling): “But I have not got rid of all desires. I have the desire for love of God.”
The pundit’s son entered the room. He saluted the Master and took a seat.
MASTER (to the pundit): “Well, what is bhava and what is bhakti?”
PUNDIT: “Meditation on God mellows the mind. This mellowness is called bhava. It is like the thawing of ice when the sun rises.”
MASTER: “Well, what is prema?”
The pundit and Sri Ramakrishna were talking in Hindusthani. The former gave some sort of explanation of prema.
MASTER (to the pundit): “No! No! That is not the meaning. Prema means such love for God that it makes a man forget the world and also his body, which is so dear to him. Chaitanyadeva had prema.”
PUNDIT: “Yes, sir. One behaves like a drunkard.”
MASTER: “Some people develop bhakti and others do not; how do you explain that, sir?”
PUNDIT: “There is no partiality in God. He is the Wish-fulfilling Tree. Whatever a man asks of God he gets. But he must go near the Tree to ask the boon.”
The pundit said all this in Hindusthani. The Master explained it to M. in Bengali.
MASTER: “Sir, please describe samadhi to us.”
PUNDIT: “There are two kinds of samadhi: savikalpa and nirvikalpa. In nirvikalpa samadhi the functioning of the mind stops altogether.”
MASTER: “Yes. ‘The mind completely takes the form of Reality.’ The distinction between the meditator and the object of meditation does not exist. There are two other kinds of samadhi: chetana and jada. Narada and Sukadeva attained chetana samadhi. Isn’t that true, sir?”
PUNDIT: “Yes, sir, that is so.”
MASTER: “Further, there are the unmana samadhi and the sthita samadhi. Isn’t that true, sir?”
The pundit remained silent. He did not venture an opinion.
MASTER: “Well, sir, through the practice of japa and austerity one can get occult powers, such as walking on the water of the Ganges. Isn’t that true?”
PUNDIT: “Yes, one can. But a devotee doesn’t want them.”
The conversation continued for some time. The pundit said he would visit the Master at Dakshineswar the next ekadasi day.
MASTER: “Ah! Your boy is very nice.”
PUNDIT: “Well, revered sir, all this is transitory. It is like the waves in a river — one goes down and another comes up.”
MASTER: “You have substance in you.”
After a few minutes the pundit saluted Sri Ramakrishna. He said: “I shall have to perform my daily devotions. Please let me go.”
MASTER: “Oh, sit down! Sit down!”
The pundit sat down again. The conversation turned to hathayoga. The pundit discussed the subject with the Master in Hindusthani. Sri Ramakrishna said: “Yes, that is also a form of austerity. But the hathayogi identifies himself with his body. His mind dwells on his body alone.” The pundit took leave of the Master. Sri Ramakrishna conversed with the pundit’s son.
MASTER: “One can understand the Bhagavata well if one has already studied the Nyaya, the Vedanta, and the other systems of philosophy. Isn’t that so?”
PUNDIT’S SON: “Yes, sir. It is very necessary to study the Samkhya philosophy.”
The conversation went on. Sri Ramakrishna was leaning against a big pillow; the devotees were sitting on the floor. Lying in that position, the Master began to sing:Brother, joyfully cling to God;
Thus striving, some day you may attain Him.
Their host entered the room and saluted Sri Ramakrishna. He was a pious man and devoted to the Master. The pundit’s son was still there. The Master asked if the Panini, the Sanskrit grammar, was taught in the schools. He further asked about the Nyaya and the Vedanta philosophies. The host did not show much interest in the discussion and changed the subject.
HOST: “Revered sir, what is the way for us?”
MASTER: “Chanting the name and glories of God, living in the company of holy men, and earnestly praying to God.”
HOST: “Please bless me, sir, that I may pay less and less attention to worldly things.”
MASTER (smiling): “How much attention do you give to the world? Fifty per cent?” (Laughter.)
HOST: “You know that, sir. We cannot achieve anything without the grace of a holy person like yourself.”
MASTER: “If you please God, everyone will be pleased. It is God alone that exists in the heart of the holy man.”
HOST: “Nothing, of course, remains unrealized when one attains God. If a man attains God, he can give up everything else. If a man gets a rupee, he gives up the joy of a penny.”
MASTER: “A little spiritual discipline is necessary. Through the practice of discipline one gradually obtains divine joy. Suppose a jar with money inside is hidden deep under the earth and someone wants to possess it. In that case he must take the trouble of digging for it. As he digs, he perspires. After much digging the spade strikes the metal jar. He feels a thrill at the sound. The more sound the spade makes, striking against the jar, the more joy he feels.
“Pray to Rama. Meditate on Him. He will certainly provide you with everything.”
HOST: “Revered sir, you are Rama Himself.”
MASTER: “How is that? The waves belong to the river; does the river belong to the waves?”
HOST: “Rama dwells only in the hearts of holy men. He cannot be seen in any other way. There is no Incarnation of God at the present time.”
MASTER (smiling): “How do you know there is no Divine Incarnation?”
The host remained silent.
MASTER: “All cannot recognize an Incarnation. When Narada visited Rama, Rama prostrated Himself before Narada and said: ‘We are worldly creatures. How can we be sanctified unless holy men like you visit us?’ Further, Rama went into exile in the forest to redeem His father’s pledges. He saw that, since hearing of His exile, the rishis of the forest had been fasting. Many of them did not know that Rama was none other than the Supreme Brahman.”
HOST: “You too are that same Rama.”
MASTER: “For heaven’s sake! Never say that.”
As Sri Ramakrishna spoke these words, he bowed down to the host and said, with folded hands: “‘That Rama dwells in all beings; He exists everywhere in the universe.’ I am your servant. It is Rama Himself who has become all men, animals, and other living beings.”
HOST: “But sir, we do not know that.”
MASTER: “Whether you know it or not, you are Rama.”
HOST: “You are free from love and hatred.”
MASTER: “How so? I engaged a carriage to bring me to Calcutta and advanced the coachman three annas. But he didn’t turn up. I became very angry with him. He is a very wicked man. He made me suffer a lot.”
Sri Ramakrishna was resting. The Marwari devotees had been singing bhajan on the roof. They were celebrating the Krishna festival. Arrangements had been made for worship and food offering. At the host’s request the Master went to see the image. He bowed down before the Deity.
Sri Ramakrishna was profoundly moved as he stood before the image. With folded hands he said: “O Govinda, Thou art my soul! Thou art mv life! Victory to Govinda! Hallowed be the name of Govinda! Thou art the Embodiment of Satchidananda! Oh, Krishna! Ah, Krishna! Krishna is knowledge. Krishna is mind. Krishna is life. Krishna is soul. Krishna is body. Krishna is caste. Krishna is family. O Govinda, my life and soul!” Uttering these words, Sri Ramakrishna went into samadhi. He remained standing. Ram Chatterji supported him.
After a long time the Master regained consciousness of the world. The Marwari devotees were about to take out the image. The offering of food was to take place outside the room. The Master joined the procession of devotees. The food was offered with arati and music. Sri Ramakrishna fanned the image.
Then began the ceremony of feeding the brahmins. They were seated on the roof. The Master and his devotees also partook of the prasad.
Sri Ramakrishna took leave of the host. It was evening and the street was jammed as before with people and vehicles. He said: “Let us get out of the carriage. It can go by a back street.” Proceeding on foot, he found that a betel-leaf seller had opened his stall in front of a small room that looked like a hole. One could not possibly enter it without bending one’s head. The Master said: “How painful it is to be shut in such a small space! That is the way of worldly people. And they are happy in such a life.”
The carriage came up after making the detour. The Master entered it with Baburam, M., and Ram Chatterji. The younger Copal sat on the roof of the carriage.
A beggar woman with a baby on her arm stood in front of the carriage waiting for alms. The Master said to M., “Have you any money?” Gopal gave her something.
The carriage rolled along Burrabazar. Everywhere there were signs of great festivity. The night was dark but illuminated with myriads of lights. The carriage came to the Chitpur road, which was also brightly lighted. The people moved in lines like ants. The crowd looked at the gaily decorated stores and stalls on both sides of the road. There were sweetmeat stores and perfume stalls. Pictures, beautiful and gaudy, hung from the walls. Well-dressed shopkeepers sprayed the visitors with rose-water. The carriage stopped in front of a perfume stall. The Master looked at the pictures and lights and felt happy as a child. People were talking loudly. He cried out: “Go forward! Move on!” He laughed. He said to Baburam with a loud laugh: “Move on! What are you doing?” The devotees laughed too. They understood that the Master wanted them to move forward to God and not to be satisfied with their present state.
The carriage drove on. The Master noticed that M. had brought some cloths for him. M. had with him two pieces of unbleached and two pieces of washed cloth. But the Master had asked him only for the unbleached ones. He said to M.: “Give me the unbleached ones. You may keep the others. All right. You may give me one of them.”
M: “Then shall I take back one piece?”
MASTER: “Then take both.”
M; “As you please, sir.”
MASTER: “You can give me those when I need them. You see, yesterday Beni Pal wanted me to carry away some food for Ramlal. I told him I couldn’t. It is impossible for me to lay up for the future.”
M: “That’s all right, sir. I shall take back the two pieces of washed cloth.”
MASTER (tenderly): “Don’t you see, if any desire arises in my mind, it is for the good of you all? You are my own. I shall tell you if I need anything.”
M. (humbly): “Yes, sir.”
Referring to a devotee, Sri Ramakrishna said: “I said to him yesterday, ‘Tomorrow I shall go to Burrabazar; please meet me there.’ Do you know what he said? He said: ‘The tram fare will be one anna. Where shall I get it?’ He had been to Beni Pal’s garden yesterday and had officiated there as priest. No one had asked him to do it. He had put on the show himself. He wanted people to know that he was a member of the Brahmo Samaj. (To M.) Can you tell me what he meant when he said that the tram would cost him one anna?”
The conversation turned to the Annakuta festival of the Marwaris.
MASTER (to the devotees): “What you have seen here one sees at Vrindavan too. Rakhal has been seeing the same thing there. But the mound of food at Vrindavan is higher, and more people gather there. There you also see the Govardhan hill. That’s the only difference.
“Did you notice the Marwaris’ devotion? That is the real Hindu ideal. That is the Sanatana Dharma. Did you notice their joy when they carried the image in procession? They were happy to think that they bore the throne of God on their shoulders.
“The Hindu religion alone is the Sanatana Dharma. The various creeds you hear of nowadays have come into existence through the will of God and will disappear again through His will. They will not last forever. Therefore I say, ‘I bow down at the feet of even the modern devotees.’ The Hindu religion has always existed and will always exist,”
M. was going home. He saluted the Master and got out of the carriage near Sobhabazar. Sri Ramakrishna proceeded to Dakshineswar in a happy mood.