“Haven’t you seen the game of hide-and-seek? It is the ‘granny’s’ will that the game should continue. If all touch her and are released, then the playing comes to a stop. Therefore it is not her will that all should touch her.
“You see, in big grain stores the merchants keep rice in great heaps that touch the ceiling. Beside them there are heaps of lentils. To protect the grain from the mice, the merchants leave trays of puffed rice and sweetened rice near it. The mice like the smell and the sweet taste of these and so stay around the trays. They don’t find the big heaps of grain. Similarly, men are deluded by ‘woman and gold’; they do not know where God is.
“Rama said to Narada, ‘Ask a boon of Me.’ Narada said: ‘O Rama, is there anything I lack? What shall I ask of Thee? But if Thou must give me a boon, grant that I may have selfless love for Thy Lotus Feet and that I may not be deluded by Thy world-bewitching maya.’ Rama said, ‘Narada, ask something else.’ Narada again replied: ‘O Rama, I don’t want anything else. Be gracious to me and see that I have pure love for Thy Lotus Feet.’
“I prayed to the Divine Mother: ‘O Mother, I don’t want name and fame. I don’t want the eight occult powers. I don’t want a hundred occult powers. O Mother, I have no desire for creature comforts. Please, Mother, grant me the boon that I may have pure love for Thy Lotus Feet.’
“It is written in the Adhyatma Ramayana that Lakshmana asked Rama: ‘Rama, in how many forms and moods do You exist? How shall I be able to recognize You?’ Rama said: ‘Brother, remember this. You may be certain that I exist wherever you find the manifestation of ecstatic love.’ That love makes one laugh and weep and dance and sing. If anyone has developed such love, you may know for certain that God Himself is manifest there. Chaitanyadeva reached that state.”
The devotees listened spellbound to Sri Ramakrishna. His burning words entered their souls, spurring them along the path of renunciation.
Now he spoke to Ishan in a serious voice.
MASTER: “Don’t forget yourself because of what you hear from your flatterers. Flatterers gather around a worldly man. Vultures gather around the carcass of a cow.
“Worldly people have no stuff in them. They are like a heap of cow-dung. Flatterers come to them and say: ‘You are so charitable and wise! You are so pious!’ These are not mere words but pointed bamboos thrust at them. How foolish it is! To be surrounded day and night by a bunch of worldly brahmin pundits and hear their flattery!
“Worldly men are slaves of three things: they are slaves of their wives, slaves of their money, slaves of their masters. Can they have any inner stuff? There is a certain person whom I shall not name; he earns eight hundred rupees a month but is the slave of his wife. He stands up or sits down at her bidding.
“Arbitration and leadership? How trifling these are! Charity and doing good to others? You have had enough of these. Those who are to devote themselves to such things belong to a different class. Now the time is ripe for you to devote your mind to the Lotus Feet of God. If you realize God, you will get everything else. First God, then charity, doing good to others, doing good to the world, and redeeming people. Why need you worry about these things. ‘Ravana died in Lanka and Behula wept for him bitterly!’
“That’s the trouble with you. It will be very good if a world-renouncing sannyasi gives you some spiritual instruction. The advice of the worldly man will not be right, be he a brahmin pundit or anyone else.
“Be mad! Be mad with love of God! Let people know that Ishan has gone mad and cannot perform worldly duties any more. Then people will no longer come to you for leadership and arbitration. Throw aside the kosakusi and justify your name of Ishan.” (An epithet of the all-renouncing Siva.)
O Mother, make me mad with Thy love!
What need have I of knowledge or reason?
MASTER: “Mad! That’s the thing! Shivanath once said that one ‘loses one’s head’ by thinking too much of God. ‘What?’ said I. ‘Can anyone ever become unconscious by thinking of Consciousness? God is of the nature of Eternity, Purity, and Consciousness. Through His Consciousness one becomes conscious of everything; through His Intelligence the whole world appears intelligent.’ Shivanath said that some Europeans had gone insane, that they had lost their heads’, by thinking too much about God. In their case it may be true; for they think of worldly things. There is a line in a song: ‘Divine fervour fills my body and robs me of consciousness.’ The consciousness referred to here is the consciousness of the outer world.”
Ishan was seated touching Sri Ramakrishna’s feet and listening to his words. Now and then he cast a glance at the basalt image of Kali in the shrine. In the light of the lamp She appeared to be smiling. It was as if the living Deity, manifesting Herself through the image, was delighted to hear the Master’s words, holy as the words of the Vedas.
ISHAN (pointing to the image): “Those words from your sacred lips have really come from there.”
MASTER: “I am the machine and She is the Operator. I am the house and She is the Indweller. I am the chariot and She is the Charioteer. I move as She moves me; I speak as She speaks through me. In the Kaliyuga one does not hear the voice of God, it is said, except through the mouth of a child or a madman or some such person.
“A man cannot be a guru. Everything happens by the will of God. Heinous sins — the sins of many births — and accumulated ignorance all disappear in the twinkling of an eye, through the grace of God. When light enters a room that has been kept dark a thousand years, does it remove the thousand years’ darkness little by little, or instantly? Of course, at the mere touch of light all the darkness disappears.
“What can a man do? He may speak many words, but after all is said and done everything rests with God. The lawyer says: ‘I have said all that can be said. Now the verdict rests with the judge.’
“Brahman is actionless. When It is engaged in creation, preservation, and dissolution, It is called the Primal Power, Adyasakti. This Power must be propitiated. Don’t you know that it is so written in the Chandi? The gods first sang a hymn to the Adyasakti in order to propitiate Her. Only then did Hari wake up from His yoga sleep.”
ISHAN: “Yes, sir. Brahma and the other gods sang this hymn at the time of the death of the demons Madhu and Kaitabha:Svaha, Vashat, and Svadha art Thou;6 Thou the inner Self of the mantra;
Thou the Nectar of Immortality, O Everlasting One!
Eternal and unutterable art Thou, and yet Thou art manifest
In the three matras7 and the half matra.8
O Goddess, Thou art Savitri;9 Thou art the Ultimate Mother;
All things have their support in Thee, by whom this universe was made.
O Goddess, Thou sustainest all, and all by Thee is devoured!
Thou it is that we call the Creator, when Thou Greatest the world,
O Embodiment of creation!
Thou it is that we call the Preserver, when Thou preservest it;
Thou it is that we call the Destroyer, when Thou destroyest it.”
MASTER: “Yes, but you must assimilate that.”
The Master rose. He mounted the platform in front of the shrine and saluted the Mother, touching the ground with his forehead. The devotees quickly gathered around him and fell at his feet. They all begged his grace. He descended from the platform and started toward his room, conversing with M. First he sang:
I bow my head, says Prasad, before desire and liberation;
Knowing the secret that Kali is one with the highest Brahman,
I have discarded, once for all, both dharma and adharma.
The Master continued: “Do you know the meaning of dharma and adharma? Here dharma means religious acts enjoined by the scriptures, such as charity, sraddha, feeding the poor, and the like.
“The performance of this dharma is called the path of karma. It is an extremely difficult path: it is very hard to act without motive. Therefore one is asked to pursue the path of devotion.
“A man was performing the sraddha ceremony at his house. He was feeding many people. Just then a butcher passed, leading a cow to slaughter. He could not control the animal and became exhausted. He said to himself: ‘Let me go into that house and enjoy the feast of the sraddha ceremony and strengthen my body. Then I shall be able to drag the cow along.’ So he carried out his intention. But when he killed the cow, the sin of the slaughter fell also on the performer of the sraddha. That is why I say the path of devotion is better than the path of action.”
The Master entered his room accompanied by M. He was humming a song. The forceful words of renunciation that he had just spoken to Ishan found expression through its words. He sang the lines:
Mother, take everything else away from me,
But leave me my necklace of bones and my pot of hemp!10
Sri Ramakrishna sat down on the small couch, and Adhar, Kishori, and the other devotees sat on the floor.
MASTER (to the devotees): “I was noticing Ishan. Why, he hasn’t achieved anything! What can be the reason? He practised the purascharana for five months. That would have caused a revolution in any other person.”
ADHAR: “It wasn’t wise of you to say those things to him in front of us.”
MASTER: “How is that? He is so much given to japa! How can words affect him?”
After a while Sri Ramakrishna said to Adhar, “Ishan is very charitable, and he practises japa and austerity a great deal.” The Master remained quiet a few moments. The eyes of the devotees were fixed on him. Suddenly Sri Ramakrishna said to Adhar, “You have both — yoga and bhoga.”
Saturday, October 18, 1884
It was the day of the worship of Kali, the Divine Mother. The worship was to begin at eleven o’clock at night. Several devotees arrived at the temple garden early in the evening. They wanted to visit Sri Ramakrishna during the holy hours of the night of the new moon.
M. came alone to the garden about eight o’clock in the evening. The great religious festival had already begun. Lamps had been lighted here and there in the garden, and the temples were brightly illuminated. Music could be heard in the nahabat. The temple officers were moving about hurriedly. There was to be a theatrical performance in the early hours of the morning. The villagers had heard of the festive occasion, and a large crowd of men and women, young and old, was streaming in.
In the afternoon there had been a musical recital of the Chandi by Rajnarayan. Sri Ramakrishna had been present with the devotees and had enjoyed the recital immensely. As the time for the worship approached, he was overwhelmed with ecstasy.
M. found Sri Ramakrishna seated on the small couch in his room. Baburam, the younger Gopal, Haripada, Kishori, a relative of Niranjan, a young man from Ariadaha, and other devotees were seated on the floor facing him. Ramlal and Hazra were in the room part of the time. Niranjan’s young relative was meditating in front of Sri Ramakrishna, as the Master had bidden.
M. saluted the Master and took a seat. After a while Niranjan’s relative bowed low before Sri Ramakrishna and was about to depart. The young man from Ariadaha also wished to leave. The Master said to Niranjan’s relative, “When will you come again?”
DEVOTEE: “Perhaps next Monday.”
MASTER (eagerly): “Do you want a lantern to take with you?”
DEVOTEE: “No, sir, I live next to this garden. I don’t need a lantern.”
MASTER (to the young man from Ariadaha): “Are you going too?”
YOUNG MAN: “Yes, sir, I have a slight cold.”
MASTER: “All right. Cover your head.”
They again saluted the Master and took their leave.
It was the awe-inspiring night of the new moon. The worship of the Divine Mother added to its solemnity. Sri Ramakrishna was seated on the couch, leaning against a pillow. His mind was indrawn. Now and then he exchanged a word or two with the devotees. Suddenly he looked at M. and the other devotees and said: “Ah, how deep the young man’s meditation was! (To Haripada) Wasn’t it deep?”
HARIPADA: “Yes, sir, he was motionless as a log.”
MASTER (to Kishori): “Do you know that boy? He is a cousin of Niranjan.”
Again there was silence in the room. Haripada was gently stroking the Master’s feet. The Master was humming some of the songs he had heard that evening during the recital of the Chandi. He sang softly:
Who is there that can understand what Mother Kali is?
Even the six darsanas are powerless to reveal Her. . . .
Sri Ramakrishna sat up. With intense fervour he began to sing about the Divine Mother:
All creation is the sport of my mad Mother Kali;
By Her maya the three worlds are bewitched.
Mad is She and mad is Her Husband; mad are Her two disciples!
None can describe Her loveliness, Her glories, gestures, moods;
Siva, with the agony of the poison in His throat,
Chants Her name again and again.
The Personal does She oppose to the Impersonal,
Breaking one stone with another;
Though to all else She is agreeable,
Where duties are concerned She will not yield.
Keep your raft, says Ramprasad, afloat on the sea of life,
Drifting up with the flood-tide, drifting down with the ebb.
The Master was quite overwhelmed with the song. He said that songs like these denoted a state of divine inebriation. He sang one after another:
This time I shall devour Thee utterly, Mother Kali!
For I was born under an evil star,
And one so born becomes, they say, the eater of his mother. . . .
O Kali, my Mother full of Bliss! Enchantress of the almighty Siva!
In Thy delirious joy Thou dancest, clapping Thy hands together! . . .
If at the last my life-breath leaves me as I repeat the name of Kali,
I shall attain the realm of Siva. What does Benares mean to me?
Infinite are my Mother’s glories; who can find the end of Her virtues?
Siva, beholding their smallest part, lies prostrate at Her Lotus Feet.
The singing was over. Two sons of Rajnarayan entered the room and bowed low before the Master. In the afternoon they had sung with their father the glories of the Divine Mother. The Master sang again with them:
All creation is the sport of my mad Mother Kali . . .
The younger brother requested Sri Ramakrishna to sing a certain song about Sri Gauranga. The Master sang:
Gaur and Nitai, ye blessed brothers!
I have heard how kind you are,
And therefore I have come to you. . . .
Ramlal entered the room. The Master said to him: “Please sing something about the Divine Mother. It is the day of Her worship.”
Who is the Woman yonder who lights the field of battle?
Darker Her body gleams even than the darkest storm-cloud,
And from Her teeth there flash the lightning’s blinding flames!
Dishevelled Her hair is flying behind as She rushes about,
Undaunted in this war between the gods and the demons.
Laughing Her terrible laugh. She slays the fleeing asuras,
And with Her dazzling flashes She bares the horror of war. . . .
Again Ramlal sang:
Who is this terrible Woman, dark as the sky at midnight?
Who is this Woman dancing over the field of battle? . . .
Sri Ramakrishna began to dance to the song. Then he himself sang:
The black bee of my mind is drawn in sheer delight
To the blue lotus flower of Mother Syama’s feet,
The blue flower of the feet of Kali, Siva’s Consort.
Tasteless, to the bee, are the blossoms of desire.
My Mother’s feet are black, and black, too, is the bee;
Black is made one with black! This much of the mystery
These mortal eyes behold, then hastily retreat.
But Kamalakanta’s hopes are answered in the end;
He swims in the Sea of Bliss, unmoved by joy or pain.
After the music and dancing Sri Ramakrishna sat on the couch and the devotees sat on the floor. He said to M.: “It is a pity you weren’t here in the afternoon. The musical recital of the Chandi was very fine.”
Some of the devotees went to the temple to salute the image of the Divine Mother. Others sat quietly performing japa on the steps leading to the Ganges. It was about eleven o’clock, the most auspicious time for contemplation of the Divine Mother. The flood-tide was rising in the Ganges, and the lights on its banks were reflected here and there in its dark waters.
From outside the shrine M. was looking wistfully at the image. Ramlal came to the temple with a book in his hand containing the rules of the worship. He asked M. if he wanted to come in. M. felt highly favoured and entered the shrine. He saw that the Divine Mother was profusely decorated. The room was brilliantly illuminated by a large chandelier that hung from the ceiling. Two candles were burning in front of the image. On the floor were trays full of offerings. Red hibiscus flowers and bel-leaves adorned Her feet. She wore garlands round Her neck M.’s eyes fell on the chamara. Suddenly he remembered that Sri Ramakrishna often fanned the Divine Mother with it. With some hesitation he asked Ramlal if he might fan the image. The priest gave his permission. M. joyously fanned the image. The regular worship had not yet begun.
The devotees again entered the Master’s room. Beni Pal had invited Sri Ramakrishna to visit the Sinthi Brahmo Samaj the next day, but had made a mistake in his letter with regard to the date.
MASTER (to M.): “Beni Pal has sent me an invitation. But why has he put the wrong date?”
M: “The date was not written correctly. He wrote the letter carelessly.”
As Sri Ramakrishna spoke, he was standing in the middle of the room with Baburam by his side. He leaned toward the disciple, touching his body.
Suddenly he went into samadhi. The devotees stood around with their eyes fixed on him. The Master’s left foot was advanced a little; the shoulder was slightly inclined to one side; his arm rested on Baburam’s neck near the ear. After a while he came down from the ecstatic state. As he stood there he put one hand to his cheek and appeared to be brooding over something. Then, smiling, he addressed the devotees.
MASTER: “I saw everything — how far the devotees had advanced. I saw Rakhal, him (pointing to M.), Surendra, Baburam, and many others.”
HAZRA: “Many more obstacles?”
HAZRA: “What about Narendra?”
MASTER: “I didn’t see him. But I can tell about him. He is a little entangled. But I saw that everyone will succeed. (To M.) I saw that all are in hiding.”
The devotees listened to these words with great wonder. It seemed to them that they were hearing an oracle.
MASTER: “But I got into that mood by touching Baburam.”
HAZRA: “Who is first?”
Sri Ramakrishna was quiet for a time. Then he said, “I wish I had a few like Nityagopal.” Again he appeared thoughtful. He remained standing. He said: “I wish Adhar Sen’s duties would become fewer. But I am afraid the English officer will scold him. He may say, ‘What is all this nonsense?'” (All smile.)
Sri Ramakrishna sat on the small couch, and the devotees on the floor. Baburam and Kishori came quickly to the Master and began to stroke his feet gently.
MASTER (to Kishori): “What’s the matter? Why so much service today?”
Ramlal entered the room and saluted Sri Ramakrishna, touching the ground with his forehead. Then with great respect he touched the Master’s feet. He was ready to worship the Divine Mother in the temple.
RAMLAL: “Please permit me to go to the shrine.”
The Master twice uttered the words “Om Kali” and said: “Perform the worship carefully. There is also a sheep to be slaughtered.”
It was midnight. The worship began in the Kali temple. The Master went to watch the ceremony. During the worship he stood near the image. Now the sheep was going to be slaughtered. The animal was consecrated before the Deity. People stood in lines watching the ceremony. While the sheep was being taken to the block Sri Ramakrishna returned to his room. He could not bear the sight.
Several devotees remained in the temple till two o’clock in the morning. Haripada came and asked them to take the prasad to the Master’s room. After finishing their meal they lay down wherever they could for the remainder of the night.
It was morning. The dawn service in the temples was over and the theatrical performance was going on in the open hall in front of the shrine. M. was coming through the courtyard with Sri Ramakrishna. He wanted to take leave of the Master.
MASTER: “Why should you go now?”
M: “You are going to Sinthi in the afternoon. I too intend to be there. So I should like to go home for a few hours.”
They came to the Kali temple. At the foot of the steps M. saluted the Master.
MASTER: “You are going? All right. Please bring two pieces of cheap cloth for me. I shall use them while taking my bath.”