CONVERSATIONS WITH SWAMI TURIYANANDA
Witnessed and recorded by Swami Raghavananda.
Swami Raghavananda, a disciple of Swami Brahmananda, first came in contact with many of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna as a college student. After passing his M.A. and law examinations, he joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1913 at the age of twenty-five. He assisted in the preparation of the authorized Life of Swami Vivekananda and later was editor of the journal Prabuddha Bharata. In 1923, he sailed for the United States where he preached Vedanta for four years. On his return to India he spent some time with M., the author of Sri Ramakrishna’s Gospel. The rest of his life was passed mostly in the Himalayas in intense spiritual practices. Swami Raghavananda died on June 10, 1957.
Translated by Swami Prabhavananda
(Jan.-Feb., 1957 issue of Vedanta and the West.)
Almora, 1915 in an ashrama which Swami Turiyananda established with Swami Shivananda.
June 1, 1915. It was morning.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “At one period of my life I used to live continually in an ecstatic state. Then the Lord suppressed this mood.”
DISCIPLE: “Why did He suppress such a wonderful mood?”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “You know that in our country if a young child is very handsome his mother sometimes draws black marks on his cheeks so that people will not be envious of him. Perhaps in the same way the Lord suppressed this ecstatic mood in order to protect me from the envy of others.
“Troubles exist as long as we live in the domain of thought. There is no peace until we transcend thought itself. When one kills the mind, the senses come under control. What does it mean to kill the mind? It is to detach it from sense objects. The enlightened person has their senses under perfect control. ‘The tortoise can draw in his legs: the seer can draw in his senses. I call him illumined.’” The Swami closed his fist to illustrate how the enlightened soul draws in the senses.'
"'Even a mind that knows the path can be dragged from the path; the senses are so unruly. But one who is wise controls the senses; the person recollects the mind and fixes it on Me. I call such a person illumined.’ As long as one expects happiness, one stays restless. But the enlightened soul ‘knows bliss in the Atman [the Self within] and wants nothing else. Cravings torment the heart; he renounces cravings. I call such a person illumined.’ Craving for happiness brings suffering in its wake.
“The illumined soul keeps himself detached from the mind and intellect and directs them to work, whereas the ordinary person identifies himself with the mind and intellect.”
DISCIPLE: “I would like to live a contemplative life.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Everybody works. The important thing is to awaken the Divine Mother within oneself. Of course you must also work. You may even have to go through drudgery if the Lord commands it. But never work for name and fame! You have renounced all that! Ah, what a wonderful spirit of self-surrender Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) had! When he was seriously ill at Rishikesh and we, his brother-disciples, were watching over him, sad at heart, he said: ‘Mother, if it is your will, let me die.’
“Although the Lord made us his instruments and engaged us in his work, at least ninety per cent of our mind dwelled in him.”
June 2, 1915. There was a reading of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Turiyananda remarked: “He who places too much emphasis upon diet is a fanatic. As one grows spiritually, one overcomes this tendency. Is our Lord only the Lord of the Hindus?
“God and mammon cannot be served at the same time. Those who try to compromise are still very much attached to the world. If you want to realize God, renounce all worldliness.
“Why should you care about public opinion? Good people never criticize others. It is only the wicked who speak ill of their fellow men. Ignore them! The idea of doing good to other people! First help yourself! The illumined souls alone are the true benefactors of this world. They know what is good for mankind. Having attained knowledge, they work for others. "You must rub your hands with oil before you break open the jackfruit.”
June 3, 1915. There was a reading of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Turiyananda observed: “The study of the scriptures is important. It engages the mind in holy thoughts. But in a higher state even study is a distraction. When you are established in contemplation, it is best to let the mind be absorbed in a single ideal. At one time, when I was staying in the Himalayas, I used to study the Upanishads for eighteen to nineteen hours a day and to meditate on their truth. Through the grace of the Upanishads I had revelations.
“At the Baranagore Monastery we used to study scriptures and philosophy a lot. Swami Abhedananda particularly engaged himself in much study. Swamiji did too and also meditated many hours. We all practiced great austerities. Sri Ramakrishna made us do it. Then we attained the bliss of liberation while living through the Master’s grace. Free as the air we have lived—depending on none, feeling no lack, without cravings, fearless! Yes, we know the joy of liberation! We used to wander from place to place, depending entirely on the Lord. We would beg for alms when we were very hungry. Wherever it got dark we made our home. What freedom!”
June 7, 1915. SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “A modern commentator on the Vedanta Sutras has made the remark that liberation cannot be attained by worshipping the personal aspect of God, that such worshipers after death only go to higher planes of existence. To realize one’s true nature is to attain liberation. Certainly this realization also comes to the devotees of the personal aspect of God whenever they wish to erase their sense of individuality. However, although they realize their union with the Chosen Ideal, they usually prefer to keep a sense of separation and live as servants of the Lord in order to taste his bliss. God reveals himself to his devotees both as personal and impersonal. Look at our Master. He attained everything by worshipping God as personal. He used to say, ‘He who has perfected himself by worshipping the Lord in one aspect knows all his aspects.’
“You must struggle to meditate and to become deeply absorbed in Him. Try to develop intense devotion to God throughout your life.
“You have to admit this truth: As long as you have physical consciousness, the Lord is the master and you are his servant. When you think of yourself as an individual soul, you are a part of Him. And when you realize that you are the Atman, the Self, you are He. In that state there is no sense of ego.”
There was a reading of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Swami Shivananda remarked: “Ah, those days at Dakshineswar were like heaven itself!” He continued with a description of Sri Ramakrishna‘s daily life:
“From morning till one in the afternoon everyone was busy picking flowers and making other preparations for worship until the poor were fed. In the meantime, Sri Ramakrishna would discuss spiritual subjects and the devotees listened to him with rapt attention. Even fun and jokes were related to God. There was no other topic. Everything culminated in his samadhi [transcendental state of consciousness]. After lunch, Sri Ramakrishna used to rest for a short while. Then again he spoke on spiritual matters. At vesper time he used to go to the temple of Mother Kali and fan her a little. He would become God-intoxicated and return to his room reeling in a state of ecstasy. He used to ask us, who were practicing spiritual disciplines under his guidance, ‘Tell me, do you feel divine inebriation when you mediate mornings and evenings?’ At night, Sri Ramakrishna slept very little. He used to get up and wake those who were sleeping in his room, saying, ‘Don’t sleep too much! Wake up and meditate!’ Again he would lie down a short while, then rise before dawn and chant the sweet name of the Lord. The others would sit and meditate in their own ways.
“May your hearts be filled with devotion for our Lord!”
June 10, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “You have to ascend to the highest peak of renunciation in order to realize the Atman.”
June 11, 1915. It was noontime. Swami Turiyananda observed: “Is it easy to guard the mind from distracting thoughts? It demands heroic effort. Distractions constantly try to enter your mind and to take possession of you. Layers upon layers of rubbish are in the mind. What good is it merely to close eyes and ears?”
In the evening, Swami Shivananda mentioned a devotee. He prayed for him: “Mother, may he not go away empty-handed! Give him a grain of your grace! He came to your devotees.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘I cannot stand anyone calling me guru. It irritates me. Who is the guru? Satchidananda [God] alone is the guru.’ the external guru shows the path; the inner guru quickens the spirit. Ordinary men who pose as gurus do not know this and ruin themselves by feeding their egos.”
June 13, 1915. Upon returning from a walk, Swami Turiyananda said: “A. wants to study raja yoga in a hurry. We have given our life-blood to this task! As long as I can remember, I have devoted myself to nothing else, and yet—how far am I from attaining purity of heart! Still there is anger and envy! Make me, O Lord, thy servant’s servant’s servant!”
Swami Turiyananda was lying down and I [Swami Raghavananda] was fanning him. Swami said: “Never let egotism control you. It ruins a man. He loses all discrimination—just like a drunkard. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Water does not accumulate on high ground.’ An egotistic man holds his head high.” Swami Turiyananda lifted is head to illustrate.
Swami continued: “Strong is the person who is elastic like steel and does not break. Strong is the person who can live in harmony with many people and heed opinions differing from their own.
“Swamiji said at one time: ‘As long as you have been born on this earth, leave an impression on it.’ At the Baranagore Math he remarked: ‘Our names will be recorded in history!’ Swami Yogananda and some other brother-disciples made fun of him. Swamiji retorted: ‘You will see if I am right or not! Vedanta is the only religion convincing to all. If you don’t listen to me, I will go to the quarter of the untouchables and teach them Vedanta!’
“To preach religion is to give something tangible. it is not like teaching a class from the pages of a book. Religion is something that is transmitted. Hence, before you can give you have to earn.
“Never take pride in the thought that you have controlled your passions. If you do, they will become active again. Always pray, ‘Lord, protect me from passions!’ As long as you live in a physical body so long passions will exist, but through the Lord’s grace they will remain dormant and won’t overpower you.”
While we were walking, Swami Turiyananda told me a secret of meditation, which is to watch the mind when one passes from the waking state into dream, from dream into deep sleep, and back again from deep sleep to dream and waking. Swami: “I used to try to keep conscious in the dream state. I was able to do so, but I could not watch the mind in deep sleep. I would lose consciousness immediately.
“There are certain obstacles to mediation: laya, vikshep, kashai, rasaswad, and sama. Laya is a state in which the mind is lazy, inert, and goes to sleep. Most people make no effort to progress beyond this state. In vikshep, the mind becomes restless and distracted. Kashai is a state of mind in which the spiritual aspirant finds meditation distasteful; but people should persevere in their practices. In rasaswad, one feels joy in meditation and does not wish to progress to a higher state of consciousness. Sama is a state of equilibrium without any thought of God.”
June 15, 1915. After a reading of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Shivananda told the story of a dying magistrate who kept repeating, “Punish the rascal! Give him twenty lashes!” Even at the last moment the magistrate’s mind was dwelling on his profession instead of God. Then Swami Shivananda remarked: “the last thought determines the next birth.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “How inspiring is the Gospel! It always seems new. As one reads it, one feels like calling on the Lord.”
Later in the day, Swami Turiyananda and I were walking. Swami said: “What good is work if the mind is not united with God? It is simply drudgery! Without devotion to the Lord, life is dry. We read in the Upanishads how one should be absorbed in the consciousness of Brahman [the all-pervading spirit].”
June 16, 1915. During the morning there was a reading of Swamiji’s Raja Yoga. Afterwards, Swami Turiyananda commented: “Raja yoga is a great science—the science of the mind. What a wonderful analysis of the mind it is!”
In The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the Master had remarked that one cannot attain God through work. But he had pointed out that if an aspirant works in the proper spirit an earnest desire arises to find Him, and that when this desire becomes intense he reveals his grace.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Can God be attained by a little cursory study or meditation? One must have intense yearning for the Lord! Life must seem unbearable without his vision! Sri Ramakrishna said to us: ‘Just because I had that yearning, the Divine Mother took care of all my needs and provided this Kali Temple and Mathur Babu [son-in-law of this temple’s founder; a great devotee who provided for the Master and served him].’ The heart must burst with longing for God. Then one attains everything.”
June 18, 1915. We were reading the following aphorism in Raja Yoga: “By giving up even these powers [of omnipotence and omniscience], the seed of evil is destroyed and liberation follows.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “This is devotion, and this will save you! It is the devotee alone who can renounce enjoyment and psychic powers. Other people fall prey to these. There is no other way to liberation but devotion to God. Do you understand?”
SWAMI SHIVANANDA: “What more is needed when the mind becomes absorbed the moment you meditate on the lotus feet of the Lord?” As he uttered these words, his face became flushed with spiritual emotion. When he returned to the normal plane of consciousness, he sang a song of Ramprasad expressing the idea that devotion is the root of all spiritual attainment. He continued: “Sri Ramakrishna prayed at one time, ‘Mother, you revealed yourself to Ramprasad. Why won’t you reveal yourself to me?” All of Sri Ramakrishna’s teachings are of devotion mixed with knowledge.”
June 20, 1915. It was morning. Swami Turiyananda was singing: “Ah, when will dawn that blessed day when tears of joy will flow from my eyes while I chant the name of the Lord?” Then the Swami turned to us: “Do you ever weep for God? How wonderful is the state when the name of the Lord brings tears to the eyes!”
SWAMI SHIVANANDA: “When I first began to visit Sri Ramakrishna, I often felt like crying. One night at Dakshineswar, by the bank of the Ganges, I wept to my heart’s content. In the meantime the Master had been asking for me. When I returned to his room, he said: ‘You know, if you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.’
“Another day I was meditating at the Panchavati. I was absorbed. Sri Ramakrishna was returning from the pine grove. When he looked at me, I began to sob. The Master stood beside me without uttering a word. A thrill went through my heart, and I began to tremble uncontrollably. Later I followed the Master to his room. He remarked to someone about my weeping: ‘These are no ordinary tears; they are tears of ecstasy.’ Then he made me sit near him and gave me something to eat. It was so easy for him to awaken the kundalini [spiritual energy] in us—without even a touch, just by his presence.”
June 21, 1915:
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Whenever Swamiji used the pronoun ‘I,’ he was identified with Brahman and used the word from the nondualistic standpoint.
“You can exercise free will in two ways, either by identifying yourself with him or by surrendering yourself. As long as you keep yourself apart from God, you have no freedom of the will.
“It is harmful to spiritual growth to think that one knows everything. Self-confidence means faith in the Atman.”
In the evening, while taking a walk, Swami Turiyananda said: “Character is the essential thing in spiritual life.”
June 23, 1915. At noontime, after his rest, Swami Turiyananda remarked: “One must have the faculty of love. How intensely I loved when I was a young boy! I had made up my mind to become a monk, but I used to weep at the thought of having to leave my brothers. I was so deeply attached to them. When I came to Sri Ramakrishna, he easily severed all ties of attachment.
“Once the Master asked B.: ‘Whom do you love most of all?’ The answer was: ‘Well, sir, I don’t think I love anyone.’ At this the Master exclaimed: ‘Oh, what a dry rascal! Fall either into one pit or the other—into the pit of filth or into the pit of gold!’ But who is fool enough to want to fall into the pit of filth?
“I never had any doubt about the existence of God.”
June 24, 1915. It was morning. Swami Turiyananda, while taking his bath, talked about the days at the Baranagore Monastery when Sri Ramakrishna’s disciples were still young boys: “Swami Abhedananda used to avoid all types of work. He would shut himself in a room and engage himself in study and meditation. He used to say that he did not wish to work. Sometimes he would observe complete silence and not talk for days on end. Some of us used to be angry with him for that. But Swamiji said: ‘You people are jealous! You can’t bear that somebody is doing something to improve himself. He is not lazily idling his time away. What if he doesn’t work! Never mind, you don’t have to work either! I’ll do everything!’
“The worship of a man as man, without the awareness that he is God, does not lead to liberation any more than the worship of departed ancestors or spirits does. Even if you worship an illumined soul, you do not reach enlightenment unless you are conscious of his divinity, although you will imbibe his characteristics to some extent, such as purity and dispassion.”
SWAMI SHIVANANDA: “That also is no small matter.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “But if you worship a divine incarnation, whether or not you are aware of his divinity, he will reveal his Godhead to you. But remember, this applies only to the divine incarnations.
“The gopis, [shepherdesses of Brindaban], for instance, were transformed and attained liberation although they had approached Sri Krishna with lust. One gopi was locked in a room by her husband. Through her pangs of separation from Sri Krishna she was freed from evil, and through the bliss she received by meditating on him she also went beyond good, and attained liberation.
“There is a state of divine love where you forget the Lord’s power in order to feel greater intimacy with him. That state comes after God-realization. But the gopis were no ordinary human beings. Their bodies were made of spirit.
“Through the grace of Sri Ramakrishna we can understand Jesus and appreciate the teachings of the Bible.
“Continence is the most important practice in spiritual life. One who practices chastity easily attains devotion and knowledge. Lust is born in the mind. One who is freed from passions transcends this world.”
In the afternoon, after a reading of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Turiyananda remarked: “They say that from the Word evolved this universe. But this is only true if by the Word you understand that pure Consciousness whose symbol it is. When we think of the universe, we are awed by its vastness. Yet when we analyze, what is the universe but touch, taste, smell, form, and sound?
“If you say that stubbornness is strength, I cannot agree with you. Stubbornness merely hides one’s weakness. Real strength is the capacity to yield when necessary and to resume one’s position without compromising the ideal.”
June 26, 1915. At lunchtime Swami Turiyananda observed: “Do not forget the ideal for which you have renounced the world. It is good to analyze occasionally if you are progressing in your spiritual life.”
June 27, 1915. SWAMI SHIVANANDA: “Sri Ramakrishna did not initiate disciples like an ordinary guru. He used to awaken our spiritual consciousness. He would draw something on the tongue and one would immediately have some ecstatic experience. One day, when I returned from prostrating in the Kali Temple, the Master remarked: ‘You belong to that high spiritual realm whence manifest name and form.’”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Whoever approached the Master once could not even think of going to any other holy man.”
Later in the day, Swami Turiyananda remarked: “I had intense longing to attain liberation in this very life. Now of course I do not care whether this body lasts or not.”
June 28, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “We have seen with these eyes. We have heard with these ears. When we came to Sri Ramakrishna he made us feel that God-realization was within our grasp. Yet occasionally we would become discouraged and worry whether our lives would pass without our reaching the goal. Then, in the course of time, the Master did everything for us.”
June 29, 1915. Swami Turiyananda was quoting from a song about Sri Rama: “'There is none second to Him. He is all in all. He is my only refuge.’ When you come to this realization then you will have achieved something. The ordinary person depends on many things—on wealth, on friends, or on their own intelligence. But there is no security in anything but God.”
“Let nothing stand between you and the Lord. The Lord had freed the gopis from all bondages except shyness. Finally he freed them from this last limitation. If the Lord finds that his devotee has difficulty renouncing a certain attachment, he himself takes it away. ‘O Lord, you steal away all that I had hidden deep within my heart.’ ‘If you desire to cross this ocean of worldliness, O man, renounce all cravings.’ ”
While walking, Swami Turiyananda said: “The Master used to tell us: ‘First tie the knot of nondual knowledge in the corner of your cloth; then do as you please. And adore Him.” That is to say, know Him to be your innermost Self—the life of your life, the eye of your eye—and realizing this, devote yourself to Him.
To pray, ‘Lord, give me this, give me that,’ does not lead to liberation. True devotion does not arise so long as the slightest desire is left in the mind.”
My Master [ by Vivekananda] was read.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Can a person rest contented without struggling to know if there is a Reality behind this world appearance, that there is a God, One who never dies, One who is the infinite mine of bliss—a bliss compared to which these sense pleasures are simply playthings?”
“Just see! God to us is merely a word. What will a few minutes of meditation and japam [repetition of the Lord’s name] do? Let your heart burn away with yearning for God! Feel that life is not worth living without him! Then he will reveal himself! As the poor man longs for wealth, as the lustful man longs for a woman, so must the devotee long for the Lord.”
“Surrender yourself to God. You call him omnipotent and omniscient. Why then should you hesitate to take refuge in him? But surrender yourself sincerely. Don’t rely upon your own strength while chanting his name. There is no deceiving God. He knows everything. ‘Thou art the agent, I am the instrument. Thou art the operator, I am the machine.’ To feel this sincerely is the alpha and omega of religion. Swamiji used to quote the Bible: ‘My God is a jealous God.’ If you are attached to anything or anyone else and do not renounce all for him, you cannot find him.”
June 30, 1915. It was morning.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: Who wants God? Practically nobody. Everyone wishes to be free from suffering and to find happiness. Pure devotion without any ulterior motive is very rare.
“I knew a man who used to say he wanted nirvana. One day he asked me if he should marry again. You see, when there is an earnest longing for nirvana, even to be the emperor of emperors is a trifling thing. The very desire for nirvana brings such tranquillity to the mind. How can anybody then think of marriage!”
July 1, 1915. SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Whenever Swamiji used the pronoun ‘I,’ he was referring the universal Self. When we say ‘I,’ we are identified with the little self—with the body, mind, and senses. Hence we should think of ourselves as servants and devotees of the Lord. The very utterance of the word ‘I’ would take Swamiji beyond body, mind, and senses. This was his normal state of consciousness. But this mood, ‘I am he,’ is not possible for us. So we have to say, ‘Thou and Thou alone,’ in order that we may forget the little self and be united with the universal Self.
“The real devotee thinks in terms of ‘Thee’ and ‘Thine.’ The devotee always feels, ‘Lord thou art all in all; everything belongs to thee.’ Where is the difference between his dualism and the nondualistic standpoint? But when a devotee thinks of ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ and separates himself from God, that kind of dualism is harmful to a person’s spiritual growth. Such an aspirant remains deluded. Sri Ramakrishna used to repeat, ‘Not I, not I, O Lord! Thou, thou alone! I am thy servant.’ A devotee must completely renounce the ego.”
DISCIPLE: How can we get rid of anger, jealousy, and other passions?”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Just analyze yourselves—why should you be angry or jealous? Who are you to punish another? Learn to punish yourselves. But never say that you have conquered lust and other passions. If you do, they will be aroused. Pray to God that they may remain dormant.
“Divine love must awaken within your hearts and be intensified and crystallized. Then only the vision of God will open up. Take for instance the life of Gopaler Ma [a woman disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who had the continuous vision of Gopal, Lord Krishna as a child]. She used to see Gopal accompanying her and gathering fuel for her. And Sri Ramakrishna used to have visions of Ramlala [the Child Rama] walking and playing with him.
“Intense devotion to God is the important thing in spiritual life. What does it matter whether you worship him as formless or with form?”
July 2, 1915. SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Eating, sleeping, fear, copulation—these are the common characteristics of man and beast. We differ from the beasts in that we can discriminate between right and wrong. If one lives on a low plane of consciousness, one finds pleasure in the senses. With spiritual growth, one experiences happiness in subtler things. Then the person no longer finds enjoyment in the gross. Most people live the lives of beasts—drinking, hunting, running after a mate. If one cannot rise to a higher plane of consciousness, human birth is wasted.
“Meditate! Meditate! Be absorbed in His consciousness! If you can think single-mindedly of the Master for five years, you will achieve everything. Then it does not matter where you live. East and West will be the same to you. Know that God alone is real. Nothing else matters.”
“There is the ocean of infinite existence, infinite consciousness, and infinite bliss, seemingly divided by the stick of an ego which lies upon it. This ego is the first-begotten son of desire. Our cravings alone keep us separated from God. Sometime or other we must be freed from them. Root out all desires and call on Him! If He wills that the body should die, let it die while chanting His name! By worldly standards a man may be great. But he too in some life or other will have to renounce everything for God.
“An enlightened being, who has seen God and been freed from cravings, again engages in work for the good of others. You also may work, under the direction of illumined souls, because selfless work will help you grow spiritually. Actions performed in the spirit of nonattachment do not create bondage. They stop the wheel of karma. Pray to Him: ‘O Lord, I want you alone. You are my all in all. May I always think of you. Do not engage me in actions that may make me forget you. Wherever you may keep me, may I remember you.’ But if you say ‘Lord, give me this and do not give me that,’ then your prayer is selfish. When you want to do one thing and not another, you permit your ego to control you. Always pray that you may have devotion to the lotus feet of the Lord and that you may have the society of the holy."
July 4, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “One must have the inner conviction that whatever happens in this world happens by His will. Success and failure come by His will. The achievements of so many clever people in this world have come to naught! Everything is His will! Do you think the Ramakrishna Mission will last forever? It will degenerate in time, and the Lord will have to incarnate again.
“Sri Ramakrishna did not have much regard for people who were immersed in sex. He used to say that they had lost all substance.The Master used to keep everything in his room in perfect order. Every object had its proper place so that even in darkness he could find what he wanted. An orderly mind is as necessary as external order.”
“Prejudiced people will listen only to one side of a story. Swamiji had an open mind. He would take every point of view into account. He had a generous and forgiving heart.”
July 5, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Repression is bad. Let the mind wander wherever it pleases. Let it experience. At long last it will tire and return to God. If you repress it, its cravings will grow strong. But keep watch over your mind and intellect. Try to unite them with the Lord.”
DISCIPLE: “Why doesn’t the mind have a natural tendency toward the divine?”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Everybody wants this to happen spontaneously. The mind will long for God in time. But first struggle; be watchful. Later on your mind will become your guru.
“That which is good and pure in you is God. That which is evil in you is your ego. The more you think of him, the more he will increase and you will decrease. Some people are secretive. They raise a wall around themselves. That is bad. Without being sincere and open-hearted nobody can find God.”
July 6, 1915. It was morning. A devotee had written a letter asking the following question: “Is it possible for a person in the world to attain samadhi?”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “The worldly man engages himself in sexual intercourse. That, indeed, is his bliss of samadhi! If he doesn’t, his wife thinks she is losing her husband. Such is the world! She will beat the children and go around with a long face. Seeing all this disturbance, what can the poor man do?
“What a troublesome world this is! How sex creates one bondage after another! But again, there are women who are aids to their husbands’ spiritual progress. Such women are born as parts of the Divine Mother.
“There are spiritual families in this world although they are very rare—the family of Balaram Bose, for instance. Every one of his people is conscious that God comes first. What is worldly life? To be attached to the world and its objects. Spiritual life in the world means keeping the mind in God and performing one’s duties without attachment.”
July 7, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “ ‘He is the doer, I am His instrument.’ The more you become established in this idea and renounce the thought of ‘me’ and ‘mine,’ the greater will be your attainment of peace.”
July 9, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “The personal God, that is to say, God with attributes, through his maya [power] first created Brahma. From this first-begotten son down to the stone, all are within maya, although the expression of power differs. The personal God and the impersonal Brahman are not two but present different aspects of one and the same Reality, just as a snake presents different aspects when lying still or crawling.”
“Some Vedantists consider the personal God also within maya. They do not believe in worshipping him or in his saving power. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that those who accept only the impersonal aspect are very one-sided.”
DISCIPLE: “My concept of God is very vague.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “It is not possible to have a clear conception of God all at once. Listen to our words. Reflect on them. Then one day in a flash of illumination you will realize for yourself the truth you have been hearing about. We also had to pass through some doubts regarding our ideas of God. Studying the scriptures, we became more confused. Then Sri Ramakrishna taught us the truth which we later experienced for ourselves in a burst of realization. Now we are established in it.”
“When we studied the scriptures we thought that the attainment of nirvana was the supreme ideal. Afterwards, when we came to Sri Ramakrishna, I was struck dumb when I heard the Master chastise us for holding this ideal. He called it low. But I had great faith in his words. So I proceeded and later realized the truth of his teaching.”
“The love of God that comes after samadhi, after realizing God’s true nature, is devotion mixed with knowledge. There is a higher state than this in which pure devotion and true faith arise spontaneously. This state is beyond the faculty of reasoning.”
July 18, 1915. During the reading of a lecture by Swamiji I was watching Swami Turiyananda. Tears of ecstasy were rolling down his cheeks. After a while he began to talk: “You are all highly educated boys. You have renounced the world. But what are you doing? Days, months, and years pass by, while you are idling away your time. Where is that yearning for God? Don’t you remember how Sri Ramakrishna used to weep, ‘O Mother, another day is gone and still I have not seen you’? You have become dry! You have lost your spirit! ‘Who is dead-while-living? One who does not long for the truth of God.’ Swamiji once said ‘At the age of twenty-nine I finished everything.’”
“But why should I blame you? You follow our example. We are not struggling hard. We say that we have become old and diabetic. Nonsense! These are our excuses. What we have seen in Swamiji! During his last days, when he was hardly able to breathe, he would still roar: “Arise! Awake!’ But we are giving excuses.”
“The body will surely die. Let it die while working for the good of mankind. What is the truth? Rousing the divinity within yourselves and in others. Knowing that to be true, wake up, struggle, forget everything else! Struggle now or never! But I can see that you have a desire for name and fame. That won’t do. Because you have university degrees you want to be somebody in the Order. You have not yet learned to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. Do you think everybody can be a Vivekananda?”
July 24, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “C. is restless. Why doesn’t he go to Maharaj [Swami Brahmananda] in Bhadrak? It seems he is waiting for Maharaj’s return to the monastery. Maharaj hides his spiritual power. He won’t let himself be caught easily. But if you surrender yourself completely to him surely he will reveal God to you. He has that power. He is the embodiment of devotion. Since his boyhood his life was molded by Sri Ramakrishna himself. He is his eternal companion. You have read that in M.’s Gospel. C. should go to Maharaj and open his heart to him. Then Maharaj would be interested in him. But C. stays away. What can anybody do about it? If he really longs for the truth of God, let him have the benefit of Maharaj’s holy company for some time. Then he may go wherever he pleases and pray and meditate.”
DISCIPLE: “C. wanted to know if he should go and practice austerities in Uttarkasi.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Yes, that’s good! I give him permission. If you wish, you also may go. Live by the bank of the Ganges and weep for the Divine Mother. Pray to her: ‘Mother, I don’t want anything but you.’ Prepare your mind now to live a contemplative life. Work and preaching will come later.”
July 25, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Has it been revealed to you what the purpose of this human birth is? Sri Ramakrishna’s life is an example for us. The Master had the vision of the living Mother of the Universe and entered into an intimate relationship with her. He surrendered himself to her. But once the Master told us, like a child, that he did not always obey her.”
“If you want to catch fish, first you must throw bait into the water. Then you will see the tail of a fish, the fish will swallow the bait, and gradually you will haul it in. Afterwards you make fish curry, eat, and are satisfied.”
“D. has written that he is unhappy. You see, he wants to be somebody. He doesn’t want to work under another’s direction. But let him first be worthy of leadership. Why is he unhappy? It’s his own fault. Why doesn’t he struggle to follow the ideal? He has read the teachings. Let him practice them. What else? What is spiritual attainment—growing two horns and a tail? No, no! We understand the whole situation. He is unhappy because he does not want to work under somebody else.”
DISCIPLE: “No, sir, he is just asking your help because he has not had any spiritual experiences.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “What kind of help does he want? There must be self-effort. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Struggle a little! Then the guru will help you further.’ From our own experience we can confirm that if you move one step toward God, he will take ten steps toward you.”
DISCIPLE: “But if the Master wished, couldn’t he transform and elevate anyone’s consciousness?”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Yes, he could, but only of those who had some substance in them. The Master used to say about some people, ‘They won’t achieve much in this life.’ Unless there is self-effort, nothing can be accomplished. The illumined souls show us the path. Isn’t that a great help? But we have to walk it. If you open your hearts to us we can show you the path, because we have walked the path.”
DISCIPLE: “We don’t understand our own minds.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “We can help you there. But you must have the desire to control your minds.”
“Once a king came to a holy man and said: ‘Holy sir, please help me control my mind. I am so immersed in worldliness!’ The holy man replied: ‘Know this world to be ephemeral. See its worthlessness, and your mind will become detached from it.’ Then the holy man held on to a pillar and asked the king to release him. The king answered: ‘Why don’t you just let it go?’ Then he understood.”
“The plate of food is set before you, but you keep your mouth closed. Do we have to force the food down your throats? This lethargy is a disease of the mind! You may ask, ‘Does not the Lord do everything for his devotee?’ The point is, first become a devotee, then he will do everything for you. But devotion is not to be had so easily. You have to surrender yourself completely to him. If you can’t do that, weep before him and say, ‘Lord, I have no devotion. I have not found you.’ People shed jugfuls of tears for riches. Learn to weep for him! Unless you do, why should God do anything for you? He does not care if you don’t care. If you can feel restless for God, know that he is very near. Then you don’t have to wait long for his vision. Analyze your mind! Find out if you really want him!”
“E. has some self-control. He controls his lust. But he does not spend his time in prayer and meditation. He does not direct his mind toward God. Therefore his passions found expression in other channels.”
“Sri Ramakrishna once told me to increase my lust. I was shocked. Then the Master explained: ‘What is lust? It the desire for fulfillment. Desire fulfillment in Him and intensify that desire!’ Then the lust for flesh left me.”
“F. did not practice meditation or japam. He believed only in work. Yes, he gave me personal service. But what of that? You may be sure that through the Lord’s grace I can take care of myself. I don’t need anyone to serve me. But what could I do? Kedar Baba left him with me. I often told F.: ‘Why do you live like this? Work, any servant can do for four rupees a month!’ At first I tried my best to bring him out, but I failed. He did not open his heart to me and continued to live within his own shell.”
“Generally, the tendency of people is to try to display their good side and to hide their shortcomings. Those who can confess their faults openly before others overcome them quickly. But it is not so easy to admit one’s defects. Know that those who do so have some substance in them. G. was very frank. He used to speak openly of his faults and so got rid of them.”
“Try to make everyone your own, and they will be your own. Be like a little child. If someone tells a child that a certain person is his brother, he will believe it. The more you approach the Lord, the more sincere and openhearted you will be. Our Master was the embodiment of frankness.”
Swami Turiyananda wrote to the boy who had complained that he was unhappy. The substance of his letter follows: “If you are unhappy because you have not found God, then the more you intensify this unhappiness the more grace you will find descending upon you. But if you are sad for any other reason, shun that unhappiness with great care because it will be an obstacle in your path."
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Those who worship the Lord only in a picture are just ordinary devotees. But those who see him in all beings are the best of devotees.”
“Sri Ramakrishna once told Swami Abhedananda: ‘There is a class of holy men who meditate in a cave. When they have realized their true nature, they give up their bodies.’ But that kind of ideal is not of this place. Such holy men consider everything as maya and completely renounce it, even the vidyamaya [that which leads toward God]. One who has realized the personal God can also realize the impersonal if he or she chooses. For that person also the ‘knots of the heart are rent asunder’ and he or she knows the true nature of the Atman. But the devotees of the personal God do not want nirvana. They are not afraid of living in the world for the good of others.”
“In the dice game of pasha the inferior players protect their pieces and try to end the game quickly. But the experienced players are not afraid. When they are in a position to win, they hold back for the fun of prolonging the game. The Master considered nirvana a lower ideal. He made us realize that there is a higher goal than gaining salvation for oneself.”
Swami Turiyananda mentioned a certain individual who used to criticize the conduct of others. He remarked “Always finding fault! He never sees the good in anyone, which shows that his mind is very impure.”
“A devotee feels sometimes that the Lord is pleased with him and at other times that he is displeased with him.”
“Sri Ramakrishna used to say that he could not even look at an egotistic man.”
July 29, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Why should you not attain God? Surely you will, else why did you come here? Weep before him! Don’t let him rest! Pray to him: ‘You are the Inner Ruler, and you know my heart. Don’t you see that I want you? Reveal yourself to me!’ But how many can do that?”
July 30, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “One day Sri Ramakrishna talked about his disease. He was asked if he felt pain in his throat. The Master answered: ‘What foolishness! The body does not become spiritual. It is the mind that becomes holy!’”
“One may have Spartan fortitude, be able to bear physical suffering patiently, and may hide their suffering. That is nothing. But when one knows that the pain is of the body, not of the Atman, ‘then he keeps his mind detached from disease and suffering and he lives immersed in the consciousness of God.’”
“Repression of passions is bad. Unless the mind is directed toward a high ideal, they will find expression through other channels. Place your mind in God, then all evil will fall away by itself. That is what is meant by self-control; it arises from devotion to the Lord. Feel that you are a child of God! Why should his child be lustful? Or take the attitude: ‘I am pure! I am awakened! I am free!’”
“To stand on your own feet means to stand in union with God, to find your strength in Him—not in the little self who is a university graduate!”
“Ishwarakotis or ever-free souls are those who do not merge in nirvana but live as eternal companions of God. Generally, people try to exhibit their good side. They want to made a good impression instead of trying to be good themselves. The first thing we learned from Sri Ramakrishna was to pay no attention to the opinion of others. He used to say: ‘Spit on public opinion! Look toward God and try to please him!’ Swamiji was like that.”
While he was cutting up vegetables, Swami Turiyananda remarked: “Work is worship. Every action must be done perfectly like a sacrificial rite. It is only when actions are performed in this spirit that character is formed. But is it so easy to build character?”
“When I was a young boy, I noticed how my older brothers changed in character after they married. They lost their nobility. Women make men worldly; that is why I hated them. When I came to Sri Ramakrishna, he helped me overcome that feeling.”
“Vishnu [a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna] used to meditate very deeply, but as soon as the Master touched him, he would wake up and gaze at him. Nityagopal [a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna] used to live in ecstasy all the time. The Master used to tell him: ‘Don’t be so intense! You have to keep your mind down enough to live with other people.’ Nityagopal attained a very high state. His body would become luminous. It seemed that he had no tamas [lethargy] in him. In his company I learned forbearance. We used to pass the whole night meditating and chanting the Lord’s name—sometimes in Beadon Square Gardens, in the College Square, in some other park of Calcutta, or at Kalighat. The Master used to say that Nityagopal had attained the state of paramahamsa [the highest state of consciousness]. I tell you frankly that at any time I can raise myself to that state and forget the world.”
“People are always seeking advantages for themselves. For hundreds of births they look for their own comfort. What is liberation? It is to be free from this self-seeking.”
“Is it so easy to live a pure life in God? One has to live very carefully. Keep your eyes wide open! Learn forbearance! If somebody harms you, do not retaliate or hold any resentment. You are saved if only you can keep your mind engaged in lofty thought.”
We read some portions from the life of Sri Chaitanya [great Bengali saint of the 16th century]. Swami Turiyananda commented on his intense longing for Sri Krishna and his attainment of union with him: “That kind of madness for God is possible only in a divine incarnation, not in an ordinary man. What pangs of separation from him, what yearning Sri Chaitanya suffered! As if he would die without the vision of God! Sri Chaitanya is the full incarnation of divine love. Ah, Sri Chaitanya! Lord! Lord!”
August 20, 1915.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Mind, intellect, and ego are in flux. One must learn to transcend them. Go beyond, and live as the witness! In the relative plane, one who has knowledge also has ignorance, one who is good also is evil. One must transcend both ignorance and knowledge.”
“Meditation begins when the meditator, the process of meditation, and the object of meditation have become one. When japam has become automatic, that is to say, when a part of the mind continually repeats His name, then you are progressing in japam. The important thing is to forget the ego.”
“The mind that becomes elated also is subject to depression. Don’t identify yourself with either! Go beyond! In the game of hide-and-seek the children are ‘safe’ when they touch the granny. Touch the granny—that is to say, somehow touch the feet of the Lord. Then you are no longer subject to the opposites of life”
“One by one a man adds adjuncts to himself. He becomes the father of a son. The son grows up, marries, and the man has a daughter-in-law, and so forth. He forgets what he really is. There is a saying that with seven imitations the original is lost. When you free yourselves from all adjuncts and meditate on your true nature, then you realize that you have always been Brahman. This world, this maya, is created by the waves of your own mind.”
“At one time I had the vivid and direct experience that every footstep of mine was taken through the power of the Lord and that I had no ego left. I lived in that state for some time.”
“Don’t expect anything from anyone! Learn to be the giver! Otherwise you will become self-centered. That is the teaching in the family of Ramakrishna. I have seen so-called holy men who thought that they had become detached from the world and would have nothing to do with others. They were dry.”
“‘O my mind, dwell within yourself! Do not roam without!’ Assimilate this spirit! Give your mind to God alone! That is why you have become monks. Weep before Him and pray: ‘Lord, may I love you wholeheartedly!’ Sri Ramakrishna used to teach us: ‘Work with your hands, but let your mind remain at His feet.’”
SWAMI SHIVANANDA: “Organized group living usually fosters tendencies toward sectarianism, institutionalism, and rivalry in leadership. Then all spirituality is lost. But where a strong spiritual current flows, such tendencies of degeneration cannot develop any more than scum can grow on a flowing river. You see, we keep ourselves aloof from everything. Maharaj [Swami Brahmananda] also keeps himself detached.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Do you know why I was so successful in America? Swamiji spoke highly of me to some of the people there, and so naturally they had faith in me. When someone believes in you, you must live in such a way as to increase that person’s faith. Otherwise, disastrous results may follow.”
“You have to transcend both good and evil. However pure the mind becomes, you are not safe until you have transcended the mind itself. The sword must touch the touchstone before it turns into gold. Know that your true nature is beyond both good and evil.”
“The personal God is not the end. He is still an aspect. One has to go beyond all aspects. True devotion comes after union with God. In the plane of relativity, one who is pure in heart is also impure.”
“The Lord is not partial. His grace falls equally upon saint and sinner just as rain falls equally on all the land. But only the ground which is cultivated reaps a good harvest. If you ask why some feel His grace and others do not, the only answer is ignorance. And there is no answer to the why of ignorance.”
“If somebody claims that he is God’s favorite, he bases this attitude on his perception of the Lord’s grace. But that is not the universal experience.”
“There is also the theory that the Lord keeps some in bondage and gives liberation to others. Who can understand the mystery? Only those who see the one Brahman everywhere, they also sees his grace in everything, even in great disaster.”
“Another theory maintains that all blessings come from God, and all evil and suffering are the results of one's karma. This attitude is helpful in ultimately freeing oneself from ego.”
“Don’t hide anything from us! Know that just by being clever you cannot find the truth of God. The crow thinks he is very clever, but he eats worms. We see everything so clearly that sometimes we shrink from our own insight.”
“Don’t you see how rotten this world is! How rare is selflessness! Selfishness and self-advertisement are rampant everywhere! How little of the mind is given to God and how much of it to the world and its objects! Unless you have dispassion toward the world, you cannot attain knowledge or devotion. But remember, it is also true that the world is real because God is real.”
“If somebody hurts you and you retaliate, you hurt yourself more. You become as evil as that person. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘He who curses another and holds resentments cannot attain liberation.’”
DISCIPLE: “Some people believe that unless you live in a group, envy, anger and jealousy remain hidden within you. One realizes that one has these passions when one lives in a group.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Why so? Why analyze and see the evil? Move toward the Lord! Through his grace you will be freed from all passions.”
“See the attitude of man! How he looks upon woman. He sees in her only an object to gratify his lust. He wants to possess here completely—body, mind, and heart. What ignorance! Man does not realize that the woman also is an individual just as he is. She also has a right to her own free will. It is gross selfishness to want to possess her and to think of her as an object of enjoyment. It brings great suffering in its wake. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Lust and greed are at the root of worldliness.’”
The following probably took place in Almora or in Benares between 1915 and 1917.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “The wise do not teach spiritual precepts unless they are asked to do so; they hide their wisdom. They impart knowledge only when there is genuine earnestness in the seeker. They do not enter into arguments. Spiritual teachers are like physicians: First, they have to diagnose at the disease of the patient, then they administer the medicine.”
“You think it is enough to understand intellectually that the world is unreal. That is not right. Once you have accepted this truth mentally, you must actually apply it in your life. Then only will you get immediate results.”
“You feel that living on alms is not important for a monk. But remember, it is great training to free a person from pride or egotism.”
“Remember how Sri Ramakrishna took a rupee in one hand and mud in the other, and then threw both away! Isn’t that a unique example? Think of the effect! The action immediately created a permanent impression in his mind. He was not satisfied with practicing discrimination only mentally. In the Upanishads we read: ‘Perform austerity only after formal initiation.” The commentator explains that spiritual disciplines are not effective unless formal vows are taken by the religious aspirant.”
“Therefore I say: First detach yourselves completely from all worldly things. A piece of gold remains gold, whether it lies in mud or anywhere else. Similarly, once you have realized God, it does not matter where you live. But if anybody claims that one can be transformed without total renunciation, that person is a liar. ‘By renunciation alone one attains immortality.’ Know this: ‘You cannot find the All unless you give up all.’ With firm determination, like Nachiketa, you have to face death itself.”
“Keep watch over yourselves! Struggle to improve yourselves and do not try to reform others. Stick to your own ideal!”
“At one time I felt so near to realization of the Absolute that with a little more struggle, perhaps for a year or so, I would have attained that Reality. But then a great desire arose in me to cultivate the devotee’s attitude toward the personal aspect of God, so I went to Vrindaban. I used to ask the religious aspirants in that city about their visions and spiritual experiences. Only Gangamata satisfied me. She taught me this truth: Associate with holy people, and never give expression to your own spiritual mood.”
“When I was your age, I was an extreme Vedantist. My one idea at that time was to attain nirvana. I used to consider that the supreme goal. But Sri Ramakrishna scolded me again and again, and gave me another ideal. He pointed out that the path of knowledge was not my way. He made me a devotee instead. But if I wish I can reach the Absolute. I still remember the occasion when the Master disciplined me.”
November 20. The conversation turned to Nag Mahasay [a household-disciple of Ramakrishna, whom Swami Saradananda had visited on his deathbed].
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Swami Saradananda wrote to me: ‘Nag Mahasay was greater than any of us monks. I saw him go into nirvikalpa samadhi again and again. Signs of ecstasy were visible on his body. He came back from nirvikalpa to normal consciousness, and then finally gave up in body in samadhi.’”
“Mr. X has a very suspicious mind. He never sees good in anyone.”
“Give up the idea that you are a man or a woman. Think of yourself as the Atman [God immanent]. While I was in the West, the idea of sex was completely erased from my mind. I did not see any difference between men and women.”
“Nothing matters as long as your conscience is clear. We know that there is a Being above us who knows the truth from the untruth.”
“I spit on name and fame! What good are they? In a few days you are dead and gone!”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “I don’t think I ever slept longer than three or four hours a night. The first part of the night I used to pass in meditation. Then I decided that sleep was a great obstacle. So I used to sit up and watch my train of thought. As a result, my mind began to discriminate continuously between the Eternal and the non-eternal. And then I could not sleep any more. I thought to myself: Am I losing my mind? I began to pray that I might sleep. But within me there was a current of joy as if someone was saying, But didn’t you want to discriminate like this? Then, for about a year, I regularly sang the following song: ‘O Mother, make me mad with love for Thee. What shall I do with reasoning or knowledge?’ This soothed my mind and brought me back from the realm of the Absolute to the personal aspect of God. If I had had a little more patience, I would have been merged in the Absolute.”
“You see, I took a vow that I would not lie down on my bed. Whenever I felt very sleepy, I used to keep on sitting and doze a little. Others thought I went to bed and slept all night, but I sat up and meditated.”
“From my early boyhood days I never could stay in bed when there was a little light in the sky. There is no doubt that I was a yogi in my past birth.”
“When I was a boy I believed only in self-effort. My attitude was: It is I who have created this world. By my own will I was born, and by my own will I shall go beyond birth and death. This was my firm belief. In those days I would not have listened even if Brahma and Vishnu had told me otherwise.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “I have meditated much on the teachings of the Gita, which contains the essence of all scriptures. Sri Ramakrishna said about me that I was a monk according to the precepts of the Gita.
“This world is a slippery place. Unless one is careful one is apt to fall. If you control the tongue and the sexual instinct, you will live happily wherever you may be. How often one sees that people cannot live together in peace! They speak ill of one another or quarrel. And how many control the sex instinct?”
November 24. His life in the Shanti Ashrama, near San Francisco.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “While I was in the West, the Lord made me do his work. I felt that I was but an instrument in his hands. Whenever an inquirer came and asked a question, I used to see the face of the Lord, and the answer seemed to come directly from him through my lips. And the seeker would leave satisfied.”
“I taught a class on the Gita there with great enthusiasm. At the Belur Math I also used to teach the Gita. I would explain one verse and remain absorbed in its meaning for a long time. Once a well-known scholar came and asked me many difficult questions about Vedanta, and through the Lord’s grace he received simple solutions to his problems."
“At the Shanti Ashrama, people with strong individualities and different natures lived together harmoniously. I had to look after them for almost twenty-four hours a day. They had regular work to do, study class twice each day, four times meditation, and the rest of the time I used to converse with them on God. Early in the morning I would go to each cottage and wake everyone by chanting OM, OM. I gave impartial love to all.”
“Have confidence in yourself! The mind must be made steady. Analyze it and find out if it wants what is right or if it is only trying to deceive you. As you continue to analyze in this manner, you will gain confidence in yourself. But remember, you cannot really do the Lord’s work unless you control your senses.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “During meditation some try to make their minds a blank. But how is that possible? The mind is teeming with desires and cravings. As soon as you drive one thought out, many other thoughts crowd in. Only people who are inclined toward atheism follow such a course. The best way is to develop love for God by meditating on him constantly. In this way the mind is purified of all cravings.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA to a monastic disciple: “You are living within your shell. Expand! See yourself ‘in all beings and all beings in your Self.’ Expand until you reach the goal, which is to see the Self in all.”
“You must feel that the person who blames you is yourself and the person who praises you is also yourself. You won’t lose your good qualities just because somebody speaks ill of you. So let them criticize. ‘This truth I have learned, to remain undisturbed by the praise or blame of others. I shall remain undisturbed by the praise or blame of others. I shall gaze at your face, O Lord, and try to walk the path of righteousness.’”
“It is no good making a show of humility in order to impress other people. Some persons externally appear very humble, but inside they compare themselves with others and feel superior. This is another form of egotism. They are only concerned about the good opinion of other people.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “The bank of the river Narmada is a peaceful place where many yogis live. They are genuine holy men and live in great austerity. When I was staying there I used to practice breathing exercises, because I had heard from Sri Ramakrishna that one should perform such practices while living on the bank of the Narmada. I used to do these exercises three times a day. My health was better there."
"At one time I thought I would spend the rest of my days by the Narmada, but then I decided to go to Rishikesh. First I went to Ujjain. I became sick and was unconscious for three days. When I regained consciousness, I saw a doctor sitting at my bedside. From Ujjain I went to Ajmir, than to Pushkar, and finally reached Vrindaban, where I stayed for six months. From Brindaban on my way to Hardwar and Rishikesh, I saw the Ganges at Roorkee. I was so attracted by the river that I felt like diving into it. I accompanied several holy men on this trip—men of great renunciation. After I reached Rishikesh, I went on a pilgrimage to Badrinath.”
“The practice of excessive physical mortification and of harming the body in any way stems from tamas [delusion]. People may point out that Sri Ramakrishna used to rub his face against the ground and thus mortified his body; but he was in an ecstatic state at that time. His yearning for God was so intense that he completely forgot the world and his own ego.”
“To practice spiritual disciplines in a haphazard, lazy way means that there is not that earnest desire to attain God. Practice must be performed with eagerness, in a systematic, orderly manner. One must not be guided by mere emotion but use one’s intellect as well.”
“While I was traveling, many a time I saw wild animals on the road. They would notice me and then walk away. This is how the Lord protects his children.”
“When we took sannyas [the final monastic vows of renunciation] and uttered the prayer ‘Free from ignorance, the root of all evil, may I realize myself as the light of pure consciousness, the self-luminous Brahman,’ how our minds were exalted! All physical consciousness had vanished. The body was inert. But, you see, one must first have that inner renunciation before one takes the formal vows. Sannyas does not mean just wearing an ocher cloth.”
“The more dispassionate you become, the happier your life will be. That is to say, with dispassion comes immediate peace. Cravings only lead you to sorrow and misery.”
“There is nothing worse than a guilty conscience. What relief and what peace there are in the knowledge that one is free from guilt!”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “From my boyhood on I had a longing for freedom. I used to feel that I must not depend on anyone for anything, that to depend on others is misery. I told myself: ‘Why should I depend on others? I am neither blind nor lame.’ Sometimes we saw Swamiji [Swami Vivekananda] doing every detail for himself. But there are others who only talk about such things; they never lift a finger. How difficult it is to recognize the ego and to control it!”
“Keep holy company! It does not matter if you get specific instructions or not. A casual remark from the lips of a holy man can drive away your ignorance.”
“I am telling you the truth when I say that I am in my own element when I live on alms, having only one piece of cloth, and passing my days meditating and singing the praises of the Lord. I don’t care for comfort and luxury. The greatest joy is experienced when the mind is completely absorbed in the Lord. You see, my wants are few, so I am not dependent on anybody. I lived that kind of austere life for many years, and I experienced supreme bliss.”
“Learn to grow love for God. Take delight in thinking of Him. Then dispassion, discrimination—all the virtues—will come to you naturally. Let the current of your thought go to Him always. Feel that you have no other refuge but God. I spent much time alone, practicing spiritual disciplines day and night. I used to chant prayers, meditate, and study. In the mornings I used to study the Upanishads, in the afternoons the Bhagavatam. Without such practices the character is not molded.”
“When I returned from the West, the news of Swamiji’s death was such a great shock that I felt I should also die. I left everything, went straight to Vrindaban, and stayed there for three years. Krishnalal [Swami Dhirananda] was with me. I disciplined him a lot, which directed his mind toward worship and meditation. What is meditation? It is to erase all cravings from the heart. Generally, people seek their own advantage—what they can get out of life. To renounce that is liberation.”
“A real scholar is he who has all kinds of information but interprets his knowledge in a new light. He has an opinion of his own.”
“‘O Lord, thou the supreme goal of all, I have no other support. Thou art my only refuge!’ God does not reveal himself until we take complete refuge in Him. As long as you have any other hope, you have no need of God, so he keeps away from you.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Always be sincere and speak the truth frankly. In order to save their skin some people don’t tell the truth. But that is not right. Those who plan and scheme get caught in their own net.”
“Forgiveness is a great virtue. Learn to make everybody your own. Look upon all with an equal eye. Sri Ramakrishna used to say, ‘God in the lustful, God in the hypocrite,’—and he would see God in everybody.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “To seek one’s own advantage is not sattva [purity]. SattVic people are above thoughts of advantage and disadvantage. They keep their equanimity in the midst of happiness and sorrow.”
“A person who fears that work may create difficulties and involve him or her in discord with others, and therefore tries to avoid work, is tamasic.”
“I used to have one fault: When I met people I would first see their weaknesses. From the standpoint of a spiritual aspirant this is wrong, although from a worldly point of view it may be all right. I used to meet many strangers, and there was no opportunity to associate with them intimately. But from a single clue I could read the character of an individual, good or bad; and I was usually correct in my judgment. Later I overcame this fault. It was my habit from childhood to analyze my mind and study its weaknesses.”
“Swamiji at one time told me: ‘Live the ideal life. The Divine Mother has shown me that by doing so you will accomplish a hundred times more good than I.’ I didn’t believe it. But then in all seriousness I plunged into the Lord’s work and the work succeeded. If I had not associated with great souls like Swamiji and others, what would I have been but perhaps a wandering monk? I would have had some sort of realization, no doubt, but not what I have today.”
DISCIPLE: “But, sir, isn’t realization the supreme goal? Is there anything beyond it? You seem to make a difference between realization and your state of attainment.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Yes, there is a difference. There are degrees of realization. A rose is a rose, but there are four-petaled and hundred-petaled roses. Is there no difference? Swamiji gave us a higher ideal than realization for oneself; it is to expand the consciousness until you see yourself in all beings, and all beings in yourself.”
“’His heart is with Brahman, his eye in all things sees only Brahman equally present, knows his own Atman in every creature and all creation within that Atman. that yogi sees Me in all things, and all things within Me. He never loses sight of Me, nor I of him. He is established in union with Me, and worships Me devoutly in all beings. That yogi abides in Me, no matter what his mode of life. Who burns with the bliss and suffers the sorrow of every creature within his own heart, making his own each bliss and each sorrow: him I hold highest of all the yogis.’”
“Your idea of spiritual life is to meditate all the time with closed eyes: ‘Keep away from me! I want to meditate! No, no, no! that is not the ideal. Meditate with eyes closed and also meditate with eyes open. See Him everywhere! Your idea stems from selfishness. You are retiring more and more into your shell and becoming increasingly self-centered. You are afraid of failure and criticism. That is not right. You have to expand. You won’t sacrifice yourself for anything and yet you expect to have spiritual realization. Is that possible? Engage yourself now in the Lord’s work. Sacrifice yourself! Then divine visions will come to you, and you will reach the ultimate goal.”
November 6 or 8.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Prana [the vital energy, of which breath is a manifestation] is the first cause of person's downfall from the Truth. It is breathing that makes the mind restless. We have seen that when the mind has become calm after some time a subconscious impression suddenly rises to the surface; the mind comes down from its stillness with a breath, and one regains consciousness of the external world. But Sri Ramakrishna could rise above the vital energy in his meditation. His breathing would cease. One must rise above the vital energy.”
“It is better to be deceived by others and yet to remain unsuspicious of people. If one suspects others, one loses strength of character. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘When the goal of spiritual life is reached, there remains only compassion in the heart.’ The illumined soul has compassion for every creature.”
The Swami spoke of Swami Brahmananda’s intense dispassion.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘Know that Rakhal [Swami Brahmananda] has intense renunciation. His father is rich; he does not go to him. He lives here, gathers fuel from the woods, and cooks his simple food.’”
“When Maharaj [Swami Brahmananda] and I were in Vrindaban, he had only coarse bread to eat. He would dance in ecstasy, and say: ‘How can I express my joy to you?’ I used to think that he was suffering from want of good food.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Continence is the essence of spiritual life. ‘Of all austerities, the practice of continence is supreme. He who practices it is verily a god, not a man.’ The illumined knowledge of Brahman comes naturally to a person who practices continence for thirty-two years. He who wastes this energy falls from the spiritual path and becomes dissipated.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “Don’t fritter your days away without an ideal. Always keep your ideal before your mind’s eye and analyze how far you are progressing towards it.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “I never depend on any human being. My only refuge is the Lord. If I were to depend on anyone, I would have to be afraid of him. I would rather put a knife to my throat than be afraid of a person. But the Lord always protects me; he does not let me depend on anyone but himself.”
“How to reach union with God? It becomes possible if for some time one can keep the mind absorbed in him. This is to say, your mind has to be raised to the plane where God dwells; then you will see him. Don’t let your mind think of anything but God. If you don’t talk, don’t stu dy any books, but keep your mind continuously in the Lord, then very soon you will be united with him. But every individual’s spiritual realizations are limited by his capacity. He can go so far in one life and no farther.”
The Swami mentioned a boy whom he had seen only for a short time, and said that it would not be possible for him to progress any more in this life.
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “It is not so easy to become a holy person. The ego must be annihilated. When it comes to receiving, be the last; but when it comes to giving, be the first.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “You must love the Lord. You may say, I don’t know how to love Him. But surely we know how to love! We love objects; we love riches; we love honor—all these things we know how to love.”
“If your mind dwells in God, He dwells in your mind. If you are indifferent to Him, He also will be indifferent to you. If you call on Him, he will remove all the obstacles in your path.”’
“Devotees do not pray for the vision of God. They only ask for devotion; they want to love Him. Whether He reveals Himself or not they leave to His sweet will. Arjuna prayed to Sri Krishna: ‘If you find me worthy of that vision, then reveal to me, O Master of yogis, your changeless Atman.’”
“Do we really want God? We may think so, but our minds are somewhere else. Yet sometimes God awakens that desire for Him in us. Have you ever become absorbed in meditation, forgetful of everything else, even of yourself? As long as you are not able to become absorbed in God, find out what the obstacles or distractions are. Struggle against them, and no matter where your mind wanders, keep watch over it. Do we really want God? You have renounced the world, no doubt. But why? Because you felt that there was suffering in the world. We are just seeking our own comfort. Where is that yearning? ‘If my mind does not become absorbed in the lotus feet of the guru, life itself is in vain.’”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “There is a type of nondualism which does not believe that the creation is real. According to this school of thought the universe never has existed, does not now exist, and never will exist. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that this kind of philosophy can only be practiced in a mountain cave. It is to meditate on the true nature of the Atman.”
“Sri Ramakrishna did not allow everybody to practice the nondual aspect of meditation. What good is it to proclaim that you are one with the Absolute unless the universe has vanished from your consciousness? Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘You may say that there is no thorn, but put your hand out—the thorn will prick, and your hand will bleed.’ But with regard to Swamiji, Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘If Naren says that there is no thorn, there is no thorn; and if he puts out his hand no thorn would prick it, because he has experienced his unity with Brahman.” When Swamiji used to say, ‘I am He,’ he said so from his direct perception of the Absolute. His mind was not identified with his physical self.”
“Generally, people are fully convinced of the reality of this world only with their lips they assert that it is unreal. The owner and his garden, the Creator and his creation—thus should they look upon God and his universe with the attitude of devotees.”
“But there are some individuals who practice the ideal of union with Brahman and don’t talk about it. A gentleman does not go about announcing that he is a gentleman.”
“There is a state of attainment which we find mentioned in the Gita: ‘He knows bliss in the Atman and wants nothing else.” How can there be any pride when one has experienced the illumined knowledge of God? A spiritual aspirant should try to feel that he is already liberated.”
“’I have no other refuge but God.’ This must be our attitude. But how difficult it is! The rascal ego keeps cropping up. Only when we have received blow after blow, the ego perhaps loses its hold on us.”
“The control of the passions is a necessary practice of austerity, but genuine control does not come until one has the knowledge of God. When one has attained union with Him, the mind no longer runs after flesh; the craving has completely disappeared. ‘The abstinent run away from what they desire. They carry their desires with them. When a person enters Reality, that person leaves desires behind them.’
“The root of religion is to have firm faith that there is a Reality behind this world appearance. As long as a person is in ignorance and still asserts that or he or she is one with the Absolute, they actually identify themselves with their own ego, not with Brahman. They do not know that there is a Reality beyond their little selves. They are really a kind of atheist.”
“In spiritual life, through the practice of meditation and prayer there comes first a feeling of the presence of God. Then arises the struggle to reach Him.”
“All people are slaves to nature. Some have a natural tendency toward inertia, others toward activity. Nature makes us helpless, and helplessly under her rule we sometimes act, sometimes become silent and lazy, and sometimes go to sleep. Nature controls us instead of our controlling nature. It is just as if a minister had usurped the king’s throne. I used to weep and pray that I would not remain under the control of nature. First be a witness to the workings of nature. Then try to realize the Reality that is beyond nature.”
“From my boyhood on I used to feel that a power was always protecting me, just as a child, learning to walk, is protected by its mother. I felt that I would fall if it were not for that protection behind me.”
“What people call conscience or the voice of God is the power of the guru. As a general rule, people make the mistake of killing their conscience, otherwise this power would guide everybody.”
“Be true to yourself, then you will attain everything. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Make your lips and your heart the same.’ That is to say, be sincere in every way. It is difficult to be sincere, but people think it is very easy.”
SWAMI TURIYANANDA: “When I used to meditate in Sri Ramakrishna’s presence, I experienced a sensation in my spine and would feel an energy rising. The body was like a desert land. The guru gave the holy name of God, and through its power the desert was transformed into a beautiful flower garden. Life was aimless. Since the guru touched me I have had an ideal to live for.”
“As long as your mind dwells on anything other than God, you cannot become a knower of Brahman. ‘Realize that pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat—all are one and the same. Then go into battle. Do this, and you cannot commit sin.’ Do you know why people commit sin? A worldly person won’t stop at anything in order to gain some selfish end. But when they become selfless, they remain unchanged in pleasure and in pain. If we can renounce the sense of ego, then only do we overcome misery. Blessed is one who is happy in his renunciation. He or she finds joy in doing things for others.”
“The householder also has to renounce eventually. ‘By renunciation alone immortality is attained.’ The object of passing through married life is gradually to learn self-control, then to renounce altogether.”
“Sri Ramakrishna used to pray: ‘Mother, may these children of mine surpass me in spirituality.’ There is a saying: ‘Welcome defeat at the hands of the son or disciple.’”
“When I was twelve or thirteen years old I saw Sri Ramakrishna, my guru and Chosen Ideal, getting down from a carriage. He was reeling in divine intoxication. He reminded me of what I had read about Sukadeva—how some worshipped him with flowers and he was smiling, while others threw stones at him and he was smiling.”
“When I was practicing austerities at Langal, I became very ill. I was suffering from the last stages of anemia. But I was not anxious whether the body would survive or not. My mind was so absorbed in God that I did not care. Through the Lord’s grace I experienced many spiritual truths. Now, it seems, they are hidden.”
“Try to surrender yourselves to God, and he will do everything for you. God and humanity—there is a separation. Let your tears wipe out that separation. He will take you to himself. He is like a magnet drawing iron filings. People do not feel God’s attraction because of their evil deeds. ‘How hard to break through is this My Maya, made of the gunas. But one who takes refuge within Me only shall pass beyond Maya.’ So you see, everybody can take refuge in God and attain supreme illumination. Then why don‘t people do it? ‘The evil-doers turn not toward Me. These are deluded. . . . .’”
“What is samadhi? It is to raise the vital energy [prana] upward.”
“There are some great souls who are not concerned with their own happiness or suffering, but keep themselves busy doing good to others.”
“Meditation has to become natural. This means that the presence of the Lord is immediately felt in the mind, and he appears living, speaking.”
“Swamiji was an example of loyalty to his guru. There was power in Swamiji’s words because his heart and lips were one. He always held firmly to the truth.”
“Craving for enjoyment has to be fulfilled, otherwise seeds of desire remain.”
Conversations with Swami Turiyananda Part 2