Archives for posts with tag: the gospel of sri ramakrishna

When the flowers bloom the bees come to them for honey of their own accord.

A lake has several ghāts. At one the Hindus take water in pitchers and call it ‘jal’; at another the Mussalmāns take water in leather bags and call it ‘pāni.’ At a third the Christians call it ‘water.’ Can we imagine that it is not ‘jal,’ but only ‘pāni’ or ‘water’? How ridiculous!

The substance is one under different names, and everyone is seeking the same substance; only climate, temperament, and name create differences. Let each man follow his own path. If he sincerely and ardently wishes to know God, peace be unto him! He will surely realize Him.

Love on the physical level never lasts. He is indeed blessed who can give his love to God with his whole heart. Even a little attachment to the body endures for several births. So do not be attached to this cag eof bone and flesh. Take shelter at the feet of the Mother and think of Her alone. Thus your life here and hereafter will be ennobled. -Nag Mahāshay

The Master knew that mere words could not induce a man to break deep-rooted habits, but that the silent influence of love worked miracles.

You man of poor understanding! You dare to slight in these terms renunciation and piety, which our scriptures describe as the greatest of all virtues! After reading two pages of English you think you have come to know the world! You appear to think you are omniscient. Well have you seen those tiny crabs that are born in the Ganges just when the rains set in? In this big universe you are even less significant than one of those small creatures.

How dare you talk of helping the world? The Lord will look to that. You haven’t the power in you to do it.

Can you explain to me how you can work for others? I know what you mean by helping them. To feed a number of persons, to treat them when they are sick, to construct a road or dig a well–isn’t that all? These are good deeds, no doubt, but how trifling in comparison with the vastness of the universe! How far can a man advance in this line? How many people can you save from famine? Malaria has ruined a whole province; what could you do to stop its onslaught?

God alone looks after the world. Let a man first realize Him. Let a man get the authority from God and be endowed with His power; then, and then alone, may he think of doing good to others. A man should first be purged of all egotism. Then alone will the Blissful Mother ask him to work for the world.

Yes, I have seen God. I have seen Him more intimately than I am talking to you. But, my child, who wants to see God? People shed jugs of tears for money, wife and children. But if they would weep for God for only one day they would see Him.

A stick floating in the Ganges seems to divide the water; but in reality the water is one.

The snake had become righteous; it could not be angry with anyone. It had totally forgotten that the cowherd boys had almost killed i.

The brahmachāri said: ‘It can’t be mere want of food that has reduced you to this state. There must be some other reason. Think a little.’ Then the snake remembered that the boys had dashed it against the ground. It said: ‘Yes, revered sir, now I remember. The boys one day dashed me violently against the ground. They are ignorant, after all. They didn’t realize what a great change had come over my mind. How could they know I wouldn’t bite or harm anyone?’

The brahmachāri exclaimed: ‘What a shame! You are such a fool! You don’t know how to protect yourself. I asked you not to bite, but I didn’t forbid you to hiss. Why didn’t you scare them by hissing?’

So you must hiss at wicked people. You must frighten them lest they should do you harm. But never inject your venom into them. One must not injure others.

Men may be divided into four classes: those bound by the fetters of the world, the seekers after liberation, the liberated, and the ever-free.

Among the ever-free we may count sages like Nārada. They live in the world for the good of others, to teach men spiritual truths.

Those in bondage are sunk in wordliness and forgetful of God. Not even by mistake do they think of God.

The seekers after liberation want to free themselves from attachment to the world. Some of them succeed and some do not.

The liberated souls, such as the sādhus and mahātmās, are not entangled in the world, in ‘woman’ and ‘gold.’ Their minds are free from wordliness. Besides, they always meditate on the Lotus Feet of God.

Suppose a net has been cast into a lake to catch fish. Some fish are so clever that they are never caught. They are like the ever-free. But most of the fish are entangled in the net. Some of them try to free themselves from it; they are like those who seek liberation. But not all the fish that struggle succeed. A very few do jump out of the net, making a big splash in the water. Then the fishermen shout, ‘Look! There goes a big one!’ But most of the fish caught in the net cannot escape, nor do they make any effort to get out. On the contrary, they burrow into the mud, net and all, and lie there quietly, thinking, ‘We need not fear any more; we are quite safe here.’ But the poor things do not know that the fishermen will drag them out with the net. These are like the men bound to the world.

The bound souls are tied to the world by the fetters of lust and greed. They are bound hand and foot. They think that ‘woman’ and ‘gold’ will make them happy and give them security; they do not realize that these will lead them to annihilation.

The bound souls never think of God. If they get any leisure they indulge in idle gossip and foolish talk, or they engage in fruitless work. If you ask one of them the reason, he answers, ‘Oh, I cannot keep still; so I am making a fence.’ When time hangs heavy on their hands they perhaps start playing cards.

There was a deep silence in the room.

A devotee: “Sir, is there no help, then, for such a worldly person?”

Certainly there is. From time to time he should live in the company of holy men, and also go into solitude to meditate on God. Furthermore, he should practice discrimination and pray to God for faith and devotion. When a person has faith he has achieved everything. There is nothing greater than faith.

Men often thing they have understood Brahman fuilly. Once an ant went to a hill of sugar. One grain filled its stomach. Taking another grain in its mouth, it started homeward. On its way it thought, ‘Next time I shall carry home the whole hill.’ That is the way shallow minds think. They don’t know that Brahman is beyond one’s words and thought. However great a man may be, how much can he know of Brahman?

The bee buzzes as long as it is not sitting on a flower. It becomes silent when it begins to sip the honey. But sometimes, intoxicated with the honey, it buzzes again.

An empty pitcher makes a gurgling sound when it is dipped in water. When it fills up it becomes silent. But if the water is poured from it into another empty pitcher, then you will hear the sound again.

Unless the mind becomes steady there cannot be yoga. It is the wind of wordliness that always disturbs the mind, which may be likened to a candle flame. If that flame doesn’t flicker at all, then one is said to have attained yoga.

What can you achieve by mere lecturing and scholarship if you have no discrimination and dispassion? God alone is real, and all else is unreal. God alone is subtance, and all else is nonentity. That is discrimination.

First of all invoke the Deity, and then give lectures to your heart’s content. First of all dive deep. Plunge to the bottom and gather up the gems. Then you may do other things.

But nobody wants to plunge. People are without spiritual discipline and prayer, without renunciation and dispassion. They learn a few words and immediately start to deliver lectures. It is difficult  to teach others. Only if a man gets a command from God, after realizing Him, is he entitled to teach.

The jnānis, who adhere to Non-dualistic Vedānta, say that the acts of creation, preservation and destruction, the universe itself and all its living beings, are the manifestations of Śakti, the Divine Power. (Known as māyā in the Vedānta philosophy.) If you reason it out, you will realize that all these are as illusory as a dream. Brahman alone is the Reality, and all else is unreal. Even this very Śakti is unsubstantial, like a dream.

The Primordial Power is ever at play. She is creating, preserving, and destroying in play, as it were. This Power is called Kāli. Kāli is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kāli. It is one and the same Reality. When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation and destruction, then we call It Brahman. But when It engages in these activities, then we call It Kāli or Śakti. The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form.

‘How, sir, may I fix my mind on God?’

Repeat God’s name and sing His glories, and now and then visit God’s devotees and holy men. The mind cannot dwell on God if it is immersed day and night in wordliness, in wordly duties and responsibilities; it is most necessary to go into solitude now and then and think of God. T o fix the mind on God is very difficult, in the beginning, unless one practices meditation in solitude. When a tree is young it should be fenced all around; otherwise it may be destroyed by cattle.

There are three ways of meditating: think of God while doing your duties, or meditate on Him in a secluded corner of your house, or contemplate Him in a wood. And you should always discriminate between the Real and the unreal: God alone is real, the Eternal Substance; all else is unreal, that is, impermanent. By discriminating thus, one should shake off impermanent objects from the mind.

‘How ought we to live in the world?’

Do all your duties, but keep your mind on God. Live with all–with wife and children, father and mother–and serve them. Treat them as if they were very dear to you, but know in your heart of hearts that they do not belong to you.

The tortoise moves about in the water. But can you guess where her thoughts are? There on the bank, where her eggs are lying. Do all your duties in the world, but keep your mind on God.

If you enter the world without first cultivating love for God, you will be entangled more and more. You will be overwhelmed with its danger, its grief, its sorrows. And the more you think of wordly things, the more you will be attached to them.

But one must go into solitude to attain this divine love. To get butter from milk you must let it set into curd in a secluded spot: if it is too much disturbed, milk won’t turn into curd. Next, you must put aside all other duties, sit in a quiet spot, and churn the curd. Only then do you get butter.

Further, by meditating on God in solitude the mind acquires knowledge, dispassion and devotion. But the very same mind goes downward if it dwells in the world. In the world one only thinks of ‘woman’ and ‘gold.’

The world is water and the mind milk. If you pour milk into water they become one; you cannot find the pure milk any more. But turn the milk into curd and churn it into butter. Then, when that butter is placed in water, it will float. So practice spiritual discipline in solitude and obtain the butter of knowledge and love. Even if you keep that butter in the water of the world the two will not mix. The butter will float.

Together with this you must practice discrimination. ‘Woman’ and ‘gold’ are impermanent. God is the only Eternal Substance. What does a man get with money? Food, clothes, and a dwelling-place–nothing more. You cannot realize God with its help. Therefore money can never be the goal of life.

That is the process of discrimination. Do you understand?

Consider: what is there in money or in a beautiful body? Discriminate and you will find that even the body of the most beautiful woman consists of bones, flesh, fat and other disagreeable things. Why should a man give up God and direct his attention to such things? Why should he forget God for their sake?

‘Is it possible to see God?’

Yes, certainly. Living in solitude now and then, repeating God’s name and singing His glories, and discriminating between the Real and the unreal–these are the means to employ to see Him.

‘Under what conditions does one see God?’

Cry to the Lord with an intensely yearning heart and you will certainly see Him. People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children. They swim in tears for money. But who weeps for God? Cry to Him with a real cry.

Longing is like the rosy dawn. After the danw out comes the sun. Longing is followed by the vision of God.

God reveals Himself to a devotee who feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions: the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the child’s attraction for its mother, and the husband’s attraction for the chaste wife. If one feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions, then one can attain Him.

It is necessary to pray to Him with a longing heart. The kitten knows only how to call its mother, crying, ‘Mew, mew!’ It remains satisfied wherever its mother puts it. And the mother cat puts the kitten sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes on the floor, and sometimes on the bed. When it suffers it cries only, ‘Mew, mew!’ That’s all it knows. But as soon as the mother hears this cry, wherever she may be, she comes to the kitten.

To the young men destined to be monks the Master pointed out the steep path of renunciation, both external and internal. They must take the vow of absolute continence and eschew all thought of greed and lust. By the practice of continence, aspirants develop a subtle power through which they understand the deeper mysteries of God. For them self-control is final, imperative, and absolute. The sannāsis are teachers of men and their lives should be totally free from blemish. They must not even look at a picture which may awaken their carnal passions.

God, according to Vaishnavism, cannot be realized through logic or reason; and without bhakti all penances, austerities, and rites are futile. Man cannot realize God by self-exertion alone; for such realization His grace is necessary, and this grace is felt by the pure in heart. The mind is to be purified through bhakti. The pure mind then remains forever immersed in the ecstasy of God-vision. It is the cultivation of this divine love that is the chief concern of the Vaishnava religion.

There are three kinds of devotion: tāmasic, rājasic, and sāttvic. If a person, in his devotion to God, is actuated by malevolence, arrogance, jealousy, or anger, then his devotion is tāmasic, since it is influenced by tamas, the quality of inertia and darkness. If he worships God from a desire for fame or wealth, or from any other worldly ambition, then his devotion is rājasic, since it is influenced by rajas, the quality of activity.

But if a person loves God without any thought of material gain, if he performs his duties to please God alone and maintains toward all created beings the attitude of friendship, then his devotion is called sāttvic, since it is influenced by sattva, the quality of harmony.

But the highest devotion transcends the three gunas, or qualities, being a spontaneous, uninterrupted inclination of the mind toward God, the Inner Soul of all beings. It wells up in the heart of a true devotee as soon as he hears the name of God or mention of God’s attributes. A devotee possessed of this love would not accept even the joy of heaven if it were offered to him. His one desire is to love God under all conditions–in pleasure and pain, life and death, honour and dishonour, propserity and adversity.

And, indeed, Sri Ramakrishna soon discovered what a strange Goddess he had chosen to serve. He became gradually enmeshed in the web of Her all-pervading presence. To the ignorant She is, to be sure, the image of destruction; but he found in Her the benign, all-loving Mother. Her neck is encircled with a garland of heads, and Her waist with a garland of fire, but, strangely enough, Ramakrishna felt in Her breath the soothing touch of tender love and saw in Her the Seed of Immortality. She stands on the bosom of Her Consort, Śiva; it is because She is the Śakti, the Power, inseparable from the Absolute.

She is surrounded by jackals and other unholy creatures, the denizens of the cremation ground. But is not the Ultimate Reality above holiness and unholiness? She appears to be reeling under the spell of wine. But who would create this inscrutable mad world under the influence of a divine drunkenness? Is not disorder the very foundation of our seemingly ordered universe?

Kāli is the highest symbol of all the forces of Nature, the synthesis of their antinomies, the Ultimate Divine in the form of Woman. She now became to Sri Ramakrishna the only Reality, and the world became an unsubstantial shadow. Into Her worship he poured his soul. Before him She stood as the transparent portal to the shrine of the ineffable Brahman.

The worship in the temple intensified Sri Ramakrishna’s yearning for a living vision of the Mother of the Universe. He began to spend in meditation the time not actually employed in the temple service; and for this purpose he selected an extremely solitary place.

A deep jungle, thick with underbrush and prickly plants, lay to the north of the temples. Used at one time as a burial ground, it was shunned by people even during the daytime for fear of evil spirits. There Sri Ramakrishna began to spend the whole night in meditation, returning to his room only in the morning with eyes swollen as though from much weeping.

While meditating he would lay aside his cloth and his brāhminical thread. Explaining this strange conduct, he once said to Hriday: “Don’t you know that when one thinks of God one should be freed from all ties? From our very birth we have the eight fetters of hatred, shame, lineage, pride of good conduct, fear, secretiveness, caste and grief. The sacred thread reminds me that I am a brāhmin and therefore superior to all. When calling on the Mother one has to set aside all such ideas.”

Hriday thought his uncle was becoming insane.

As his love for God deepened, he began to either forget or drop the formalities of worship. Sitting before the image, he would spend hours singing the devotional songs of great devotees of the Mother. Those rhapsodical songs, describing the direct vision of God, only intensified Sri Ramakrishna’s longing.

He felt the pangs of a child separated from its mother. Sometimes, in agony, he would rub his face against the ground and weep so bitterly that people, thinking he had lost his Earthly mother, would sympathize with him in his grief. S

ometimes, in moments of skepticism, he would cry: “Art Thou real, Mother, or is it all fiction–mere poetry without any reality? If Thou dost exist, why do I not see Thee? Is religion a mere fantasy and art Thou only a figment of man’s imagination?”

Sometimes he would sit on the prayer carpet for two hours like an inert object. He began to behave in an abnormal manner, most of the time unconscious of the world. He almost gave up food; and sleep left him altogether.

But he did not have to wait very long. He has thus described his first vision of the Mother: “I felt as if my heart were being squeezed like a wet towel. I was overpowered with a great restlessness and a fear that it might not be my lot to realize Her in this life. I could not bear the separation from Her any longer. Life seemed to be not worth living. Suddenly my glance fell on the sword that was kept in the Mother’s temple, and I determined to put an end to my life. I jumped up like a madman and seized it, when suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself.”

“O Mother,” he would constantly pray, “I have taken refuge in Thee. Teach me what to do and what to say. Thy will is paramount everywhere and is for the good of Thy children. Merge my will in Thy will and make me Thy instrument.”

His visions became deeper and more intimate. He no longer had to meditate to behold the Divine Mother. Even while retaining consciousness of the outer world, he would see Her as tangibly as the temples, the trees, the river, and the men around him.

The main temple is dedicated to Kāli, the Divine Mother, here  worshipped as Bhavatārini, the Saviour of the Universe. The floor of this temple is also paved with marble.

The basalt image of the Mother, dressed in gorgeous gold brocade, stands on a white marble image of the prostrate body of Her Divine Consort, Śiva, the symbol of the Absolute. On the feet of the Goddess are, among other ornaments, anklets of gold. Her arms are decked with jewelled ornaments of gold. She wears necklaces of gold and pearls, a golden garland of human heads, and a girdle of human arms. She wears a golden crown, golden earrings and a golden nose-ring with a pearl-drop.

She has four arms. The lower left hand holds a severed human head and the upper grips a bloodstained sabre. One right hand offers boons to Her children; the other allays their fear. T he majesty of Her posture can hardly be described. It combines the terror of destruction with the reassurance of motherly tenderness. For She is the Cosmic Power, the totality of the universe, a glorious harmony of the pairs of opposites. She deals out death, as She creates and preserves. She has three eyes, the third being the eye of Divine Wisdom; they strike dismay into the wicked, yet pour out affection for Her devotees.

The whole symbolic world is represented in the temple garden–the Trinity of the Nature Mother (Kāli), the Absolute (Siva), and Love (Rādhākānte), the Arch spanning heaven and Earth. The terrific Goddess of Tantra, the soul-enthralling Flute-player of the Bhāgavata, and the Self-absorbed Absolute of the Vedas live together, creating the greatest synthesis of religions. All aspects of Reality are represented there.

But of this divine household, Kāli is the pivot, the sovereign Mistress. She is Pakriti, the Procreatrix, Nature, the Destroyer, the Creator. Nay, She is something greater and deeper still for those who have eyes to see. She is the Universal Mother, “my Mother,” as Ramakrishna would say, the All-powerful, who reveals Herself to Her children under different aspects and Divine Incarnations, the Visible God, who leads the elect to the Invisible Reality; and if it so pleases her, She takes away the last trace of ego from created beings and merges it in the consciousness of the Absolute, the undifferentiated Godhead. Through Her grace the finite ego loses itself in the illimitable Ego–Ātman–Brahman.

Introduction

But his boyhood friends did not interest him any more. A divine fever was consuming him. He spent a great part of the day and night in one of the cremation grounds, in meditation. The place reminded him of the impermanence of the human body, of human hopes and achievements. It also reminded him of Kāli, the Goddess of destruction.

To Sri Ramakrishna’s remark that Vaishnavcharan had declared him to be an Avatār, Gauri replied: “Is that all he has to say about you? Then he has said very little. I am fully ocnvinced that you are that fountain of spiritual power, only a small fraction of which descends on Earth, from time to time, in the form of an Incarnation.

“Ah!” said Sri Ramakrishna with a smile. “You seem to have quite outbid Vaishnavcharan in this matter. What have you found in me that makes you entertain such an idea?”

Gauri said: “I feel it in my heart and I have the scriptures on my side. I am ready to prove it to anybody who challenges me.”

“Well,” Sri Ramakrishna said, “it is you who say so; but, believe me, I know nothing about it.”

Thus the insane priest was, by verdict of the great scholars of the day, proclaimed a Divine Incarnation. His visions were not the result of an overheated brain; they had precedents in spiritual history. And how did the proclamation affect Sri Ramakrishna himself? He remained the simple child of the Mother that he had been since the first day of his life. Years later, when two of his householder disciplines openly spoke of him as a Divine Incarnation and the matter was reported to him, he said with a touch of sarcasm:

“Do they think they will enhance my glory that way? One of them is an actor on the stage and the other a physician. What do they know about Incarnations? Why, years ago pundits like Gauri and Vaishnavcharan declared me to be an Avatār. They were great scholars and knew what they were saying. But that did not cause a ripple in my mind.”

Sri Ramakrishna was a learner all his life. He often used to quote a proverb to his disciples: “Friend, the longer I live the more I learn.” When the excitement created by the Brāhmani’s declaration was over, he set himself to the task of practicing spiritual disciplines according to the traditional methods laid down in the Tantra and Vaishnavcharan scriptures.

The average man wishes to enjoy the material objects of the world. Tantra bids him enjoy these, but at the same time discover in them the presence of God. Mystical rites are prescribed by which, slowly, the sense-objects become spiritualized and sense attraction is transformed into love of God. So the very “bonds” of man are turned into “releasers.” The very poison that kills is transmuted into the elixir of life. Outward renunciation is not necesary. Thus, the aim of Tantra is to sublimate bhoga, or enjoyment, into yoga, or union with Consciousness. For, according to this philosophy, the world with all its manifestations is nothing but the sport of Śiva and Śakti, the Absolute and Its inscrutable Power.

One of the results of his practice of Tantra was the deepening of his respect for womanhood. To him every woman was the embodiment of the Divine Śakti, and he could not, even in a dream, regard a woman in any other way. His relationship with his own wife was entirely on the spiritual plane. He taught that the most effective way for a man to overcome carnal desire was to regard woman as the manifestation of the Divine Mother.

Bhakti: Love of God

Bhakta: Follower of path of bhakti

Bhaktiyoga: The path of devotion

Brahmā: God of Creation

Vishnu: God of Preservation

Śiva: God of Destruction

Brahmāchari: a religious student devoted to the practice of spiritual discipline (celibate)

Chit: consciousness

Chitta: mind-stuff

Deva: (Lit: shining one) A god

Dharma: Righteousness; loosely used to mean “duty”

“Englishman”: Referring to men educated in English schools or influenced by European ideas

Moksha: liberation

Sannyās: The monastic life

Guna: Samkhya philosophy; Prakriti (Nature or matter) consists of 3 gunas (qualities) known as sattva, rajas and tamas.

Tamas: inertia or dullness

Rajas: activity or restlessness

Sattva: balance or righteousness

Jiva: an ordinary man

Jivanmukti: One liberated from maya while living in the body

Jñāna: Knowledge of God arrived at through reasoning and discrimination

Jñānayoga: Path of knowledge, consisting of discrimination, renunciation and other disciplines

Jñāni:  One who follows path of knowledge & discrimination to realize God

Kālī:  A name of the Divine Mother

Kaliyuga: (Not to be confused with Kālī) One of the four cycles the world goes through; Lit: “age of the demon/vice”

Kāminikānchan:  Women and gold

Kapila: Sage; author of Samkhya philosophy

Karmayoga: Union with God through action

Kirtan: Devotional music

Lilā: The divine play; the Relative

Mahāmāyā: The Great Illusionist; a name of Kālī

Mahānirvana: A standard book on Tantra philosophy

Narendra(nath): Swami Vivekananda, The Master’s chief disciple

Nyāya: Indian Logic; one of the six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy, founded by Gautama

Paramahamsa: One belonging to the highest order of sannyāsis

Patanjala: One of six systems of Orthodox Hindu philosophy

Pāvhāri Bābā: An ascetic & yogi of great distinction

Purāna: Books of Hindu mythology

Rāga-bhakti: Supreme love, making one attached only to God

Rāmāyana: Famous Indian epic

Rishi: a seer of truth

Sādhaka: Aspirant devoted to practice of spiritual discipline

Sādhanā: Spiritual discipline

Sādhu: Holy man (monk)

Sāmkhya: One of six systems of Orthodox Hindu philosophy

Śankarāchārya: Great Indian philosopher

Śantih: Peace

Sat: Reality, Being

Satchidānanda: A name of Brahman

Swami: (Lit: Lord) Title of monks belonging to Vedanta school

Tapasyā: Religious austerity

Vedānta: (Lit: the conclusion or the essence of the Vedas) System of philosophy described mainly in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita & Brahma Sutras

Vedas: Most sacred scriptures of the Hindus

Viveka: Discrimination

Vyāsa: Compiler of Vedas

Yoga: Union of the individual soul and the Universal Soul; also the method by which to realize this union

Yogavāistha: Well-known book on Vedanta

Yuga: A cycle or world period. Hindu mythology: 4 yuga: Satya, Tretā, Dwāpara, Kali.