At the Star Theatre (II)
Assimilation of spiritual ideas — Master sees a performance — Signs of God-vision — Different moods of liberated souls — The ego of the devotee — Three classes of devotees — Restlessness for God-vision — Worldly man's spiritual discipline — Master and Girish — Master and book-learning — First God and then the world — Master's spiritual experiences — Chaitanya — The Divine Incarnation and the ordinary man — Yoga and God-vision.
Sunday, December 14, 1884
SRI RAMAKRISHNA arrived at the Star Theatre on Beadon Street in Calcutta to see a play about the life of Prahlada. M., Baburam, Narayan, and other devotees were with him. The hall was brightly lighted. The play had not yet begun. The Master was seated in a box, talking with Girish.
Can everyone have the vision of Syama? Is Kali's treasure for everyone?
Yet worthless Kamalakanta yearns for the Mother's blessed feet!
MASTER (to Girish): "One can realize God through intense renunciation. But the soul must be restless for Him, as restless as one feels for a breath of air when one's head is pressed under water.
"A man can see God if he unites in himself the force of these three attractions: the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the husband's attraction for the chaste wife, and the child's attraction for its mother. If you can unite these three forms of love and give it all to God, then you can see Him at once.
Cry to your Mother Syama with a real cry, O mind!
"If a devotee prays to God with real longing, God cannot help revealing Himself to him.
Dive deep, O mind, dive deep in the Ocean of God's Beauty;
MASTER: "You must remember another thing: in the ocean there is danger of alligators, that is to say, of lust and the like."
Meditate on the Lord, the Slayer of hell's dire woes,
MASTER: "'Sails across the sea of life in the twinkling of an eye.' One attains the vision of God if Mahamaya steps aside from the door. Mahamaya's grace is necessary: hence the worship of Sakti. You see, God is near us, but it is not possible to know Him because Mahamaya stands between. Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita were walking along. Rama walked ahead, Sita in the middle, and Lakshmana last. Lakshmana was only two and a half cubits away from Rama, but he couldn't see Rama because Sita — Mahamaya — was in the way.
Once for all, this time, I have thoroughly understood;
Again he sang:
Why should I go to Ganga or Gaya, to Kasi, Kanchi, or Prabhas,
The Master continued, saying, "While praying to the Divine Mother, I said, 'O Mother, I don't seek anything else: give me only pure love for Thee.'"
Saturday, December 27, 1884
It was the Christmas season. Taking advantage of the holiday, many devotees came to the temple garden to visit the Master, some of them arriving in the morning. Among these were Kedar, Ram, Nityagopal, Tarak, Surendra, M., Sarada Prasanna, and a number of young devotees. This was Sarada Prasanna's first visit.
MASTER (to M.): "Where is Bankim? Haven't you brought him with you?"
Bankim was a schoolboy whom Sri Ramakrishna had met in Baghbazar. Noticing him even from a distance, the Master had said that he was a fine boy.
After a while Sri Ramakrishna went to the Panchavati with the devotees. They surrounded him, some sitting and some standing. He was seated on the cement platform around the tree, facing the southwest. He asked M. with a smile, "Have you brought the book?"
M: "Yes, sir."
MASTER: "Read a little to me."
The devotees were eager to know the name of the book. It was called Devi Choudhurani. The Master had heard that the book dealt with motiveless action. He had also heard of the great renown of its author, Bankim Chandra Chatterji, whom he had met some days before, and he wanted to gauge the author's mind from the book.
M. said: "A young girl — the heroine — fell into the hands of a robber named Bhavani Pathak. Her name had been Prafulla, but the robber changed it to 'Devi Choudhurani'. At heart Bhavani was a good man. He made Prafulla go through many spiritual disciplines; he also taught her how to perform selfless action. He robbed wicked people and with that money fed the poor and helpless. He said to Prafulla, 'I chastise the wicked and protect the virtuous.'"
MASTER: "But that is a king's duty."
M: "In one place the author writes of bhakti. Bhavani Pathak sent a girl named Nishi to keep Prafulla company. Nishi was full of piety and looked on Krishna as her husband. Prafulla was already married; she had lost her father and lived with her mother. The neighbours had created a scandal about her character and avoided her, and so her father-in-law had not allowed her to live with his son. Later her husband had married again; but Prafulla was extremely devoted to her husband.
(To Sri Ramakrishna) "Now, sir, you can follow the story."
NISHI: "I am a daughter of Bhavani Pathak. He is my father. He has also, in a way, given me in marriage."
Summarizing part of the book, M. said that Bhavani initiated Prafulla into spiritual life.
During the first year Bhavani did not allow any man to enter Prafulla's house nor did he allow her to speak to any man outside the house. During the second year the rule about speaking was withdrawn, but no man was allowed inside her house. In the third year Prafulla shaved her head. Now Bhavani allowed his select disciples to see her. The shaven-headed disciple would converse with them on scriptural topics, keeping her eyes cast on the ground.
M. then read that Prafulla began the study of the scriptures; that she finished grammar and read Raghuvamsa, Kumara Sambhava, Sakuntala, and Naishadha; and that she studied a little of the Samkhya, Vedanta, and Nyaya philosophies.
Prafulla finished her studies and then practised spiritual austerity for many days. Then one day Bhavani visited her; he wanted to instruct her about selfless work. He quoted to her from the Gita: "Therefore do thou always perform obligatory actions without attachment; by performing action without attachment one attains to the highest."
MASTER: "This is fine. These are the words of the Gita; one cannot refute them. But something else must be noted. The author speaks about surrendering the fruit of action to Sri Krishna, but not about cultivating bhakti for Him."
PRAFULLA: "Like my actions, I offer all my wealth to Sri Krishna."
M. (to the Master, smiling): "That is the nature of the calculating mind."
MASTER: "Yes, that is the nature of the calculating mind; that is the way the worldly man thinks. But he who seeks God plunges headlong; he doesn't calculate about how much or how little he needs for the protection of his body."
M: "Next Bhavani asked Prafulla, 'How will you offer all this money to Sri Krishna?' Prafulla said: 'Why, Sri Krishna dwells in all beings. I shall distribute the money among them.' Bhavani answered, 'Good! Good!'
"Quoting from the Gita, Bhavani said: 'He who sees Me in all things and all things in Me, never becomes separated from Me, nor do I become separated from him. That yogi who, established in unity, worships Me dwelling in all beings, abides in Me, whatever his mode of life. O Arjuna, that yogi is regarded as the highest who judges the pleasure and pain of all beings by the same standard that he applies to himself."
MASTER: "These are the characteristics of the highest bhakta."
M. again read from the book:
A man must work hard if he wants to help all beings with charity. Hence it is necessary for him to make a little display of clothes, of pomp and luxury. Therefore Bhavani said, "A little shopkeeping is necessary."
MASTER (sharply): "'A little shopkeeping is necessary'! One speaks as one thinks. If a man thinks of worldly things day and night, and deals with people hypocritically, then his words are coloured by his thoughts. If one eats radish, one belches radish. Instead of talking about 'shopkeeping', he should rather have said, 'A man should act as if he were the doer, knowing very well that he is really not the doer.' The other day a man was singing here. The song contained words like 'profit' and 'loss'. I stopped him. If one contemplates a particular subject day and night, one cannot talk of anything else."
The reading continued. The author was describing the realization of God. Prafulla had become Devi Choudhurani. It was the month of Vaisakh. Devi was seated on the roof of her house-boat talking with Diva and another woman companion. The moon was up. The boat had cast anchor in the Ganges. The conversation turned to the question of whether one could see God. Devi said, "As the aroma of a flower is directly perceived by the nose, so God is directly perceived by the mind."
At this point the Master interrupted and said: "Yes, God is directly perceived by the mind, but not by this ordinary mind. It is the pure mind that perceives God, and at that time this ordinary mind does not function. A mind that has the slightest trace of attachment to the world cannot be called pure. When all the impurities of the mind are removed, you may call that mind Pure Mind or Pure Atman."
M: "The author says a little later that God cannot easily be perceived by the mind. He says that one needs a telescope to have that direct vision. Yoga is the telescope. Yoga, as it is described in the Gita, is of three kinds: jnana, bhakti, and karma. One is able to see God through this telescope of yoga."
MASTER: "That is very good. These are the words of the Gita."
M: "At last Devi Choudhurani met her husband. She showed him great devotion and said to him: 'You are my God. I wanted to learn the worship of another God but I did not succeed. You have taken the place of all gods.'"
MASTER (smiling): "'I did not succeed.' This is the dharma of a woman totally devoted to her husband. This also is a path."
The reading was over. The Master was smiling. The devotees looked at him, eagerly waiting to hear what he would say.
MASTER (to the devotees, smiling): "This is not so bad; it is called the dharma of chastity, the single-minded devotion of a wife to her husband. If God can be worshipped through an image, why shouldn't it be possible to worship Him through a living person? It is God Himself who sports in the world as men.
"Oh, what a state I passed through! I passed some days absorbed in Siva and Durga, some days absorbed in Radha and Krishna, and some days absorbed in Sita and Rama. Assuming Radha's attitude, I would cry for Krishna, and assuming Sita's attitude, I would cry for Rama.
"But lila is by no means the last word. Passing through all these states, I said to the Divine Mother: 'Mother, in these states there is separation. Give me a state where there is no separation.' Then I remained for some time absorbed in the Indivisible Satchidananda. I removed the pictures of the gods and goddesses from my room. I began to perceive God in all beings. Formal worship dropped away. You see that bel-tree. I used to go there to pluck its leaves. One day, as I plucked a leaf, a bit of the bark came off. I round the tree full of Consciousness. I felt grieved because I had hurt the tree. One day I tried to pluck some durva grass, but I found I couldn't do it very well. Then I forced myself to pluck it.
"I cannot cut a lemon. The other day I managed to cut one only with great difficulty; I chanted the name of Kali and cut the fruit as they slaughter an animal before the Goddess. One day I was about to gather some flowers. They were everywhere on the trees. At once I had a vision of Virat; it appeared that His worship was just over. The flowers looked like a bouquet placed on the head of the Deity. I could not pluck them.
"God sports through man as well. I see man as the embodiment of Narayana. As fire is kindled when you rub two pieces of wood together, so God can be seen in man if you have intense devotion. If there is suitable bait, big fish like carp gulp it down at once. When one is intoxicated with prema, one sees God in all beings. The gopis saw Krishna in everything; to them the whole world was filled with Krishna. They said that they themselves were Krishna. They were then in a God-intoxicated state. Looking at the trees, they said, These are hermits absorbed in meditation on Krishna.' Looking at the grass they said, The hair of the earth is standing on end at the touch of Krishna.'
"Devotion to the husband is also a dharma. The husband is God. Why shouldn't it be so? If God can be worshipped through an image, why not also through a living man? But three things are necessary in order to feel the presence of God in an image: first, the devotion of the priest; second, a beautiful image; and third, the devotion of the householder. Vaishnavcharan once said that in the end the mind of the devotee is absorbed in the human manifestation of God.
"But you must remember one thing. One cannot see God sporting as man unless one has had the vision of Him. Do you know the sign of one who has God-vision? Such a man acquires the nature of a child. Why a child? Because God is like a child. So he who sees God becomes like a child.
"God-vision is necessary. Now the question is, how can one get it? Intense renunciation is the means. A man should have such intense yearning for God that he can say, 'O Father of the universe, am I outside Your universe? Won't You be kind to me, You wretch?'
"You partake of the nature of him on whom you meditate. By worshipping Siva you acquire the nature of Siva. A devotee of Rama meditated on Hanuman day and night. He used to think he had become Hanuman. In the end he was firmly convinced that he had even grown a little tail. Jnana is the characteristic of Siva, and bhakti of Vishnu. One who partakes of Siva's nature becomes a jnani, and one who partakes of Vishnu's nature becomes a bhakta."
M: "But what about Chaitanyadeva? You said he had both knowledge and devotion."
MASTER (sharply): "His case was different. He was an Incarnation of God. There is a great difference between him and an ordinary man. The fire of Chaitanya's renunciation was so great that when Sarvabhauma poured sugar on his tongue, instead of melting, it evaporated into air. He was always absorbed in samadhi. How great was his conquest of lust! To compare him with a man! A lion eats meat and yet it mates only once in twelve years; but a sparrow eats grain and it indulges in sex-life day and night. Such is the difference between a Divine Incarnation and an ordinary human being. An ordinary man renounces lust; but once in a while he forgets his vow. He cannot control himself.
(To M.) "He who has realized God looks on man as a mere worm. 'One cannot succeed in religious life if one has shame, hatred, or fear.' These are fetters. Haven't you heard of the eight fetters?
"How can one who is eternally perfect be afraid of the world? He knows how to play his game. An eternally perfect soul can even lead a worldly life if he desires. There are people who can fence with two swords at the same time; they are such expert fencers that, if stones are thrown at them, the stones hit the swords and come back."
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, how can one see God?"
MASTER: "Can you ever see God if you do not direct your whole mind toward Him? The Bhagavata speaks about Sukadeva. When he walked about he looked like a soldier with fixed bayonet. His gaze did not wander; it had only one goal and that was God. This is the meaning of yoga.
"The chatak bird drinks only rain-water. Though the Ganges, the Jamuna, the Godavari, and all other rivers are full of water, and though the seven oceans are full to the brim, still the chatak will not touch them. It will drink only the water that falls from the clouds.
"He who has developed such yoga can see God. In the theatre the audience remains engaged in all kinds of conversation, about home, office, and school, till the curtain goes up; but no sooner does it go up than all conversation comes to a stop, and the people watch the play with fixed attention. If after a long while someone utters a word or two, it is about the play.
"After a drunkard has drunk his liquor he talks only about the joy of drunkenness."
Nityagopal was seated in front of Sri Ramakrishna. He was always in ecstasy. He sat there in silence.
MASTER (to Nityagoyal, smiling): "Gopal! Why are you always silent?" Nityagopal answered like a child, "I — do — not — know."
MASTER: "I understand why you don't say anything, perhaps you are afraid of committing a transgression. You are right. Jaya and Vijaya were gate-keepers for Narayana. They refused Sanaka, Sanatana, and other rishis admission into His palace. For this transgression Jaya and Vijaya had to be born three times on earth.
"Again, there is the instance of Sridama; he was Viraja's (A woman companion of Krishna) gate-keeper in Goloka. Sri Krishna was in Viraja's house. Radhika went there to surprise Krishna and wanted to enter the house. Sridama would not admit her, and so Radhika cursed him to be bom as a demon on earth. But Sridama, too cursed her.
But there is one thing you should remember. When a boy walks holding his father's hand, he may fall into the gutter; but what has he to fear if the father holds him by the hand?"
The story of Sridama is narrated in the Brahmavaivarta Purana.
Kedar, who was a government official, had been living at Dacca for some time. He had been transferred there from Calcutta. He was a devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and had gathered together at Dacca many devotees, who came to him regularly for spiritual instruction. As one should not come empty-handed to a religious man, the devotees would bring Kedar sweets and other offerings.
KEDAR (to the Master, humbly): "Should I eat those offerings?"
MASTER: "It won't injure you it the offerings are given out of love for God. But they are harmful if they are given with any selfish motive."
KEDAR: "I have explained everything to the devotees and now I feel relieved. I have told them that he (Sri Ramkrishna) who has given me his blessing knows all."
MASTER (smiling): "That is true. You see, people of all sorts come here. So they find here different things."
KEDAR: "I do not need to know different things."
MASTER (smiling): "Why not? One should know a little of everything. If a man starts a grocery-shop, he keeps all kinds of articles there, including a little lentil and tamarind. An expert musician knows how to play a little on all instruments."
Sri Ramakrishna left the room and went toward the pine-grove. The devotees began to walk about in the garden. Several went to the Panchavati. Sri Ramakrishna met them there and said: "I have indigestion. I took a meal' at the Mallicks'. They are very worldly people."
A few of the Master's personal things lay scattered on the cement platform of the Panchavati, and he asked M. to bring them. He proceeded to his room and the devotees followed.
In the afternoon the Master rested awhile. Afterwards a few devotees arrived. The Master sat on the small couch reclining against a pillow.
A DEVOTEE: "Sir, can one know God's attributes through the intellect?"
MASTER: "Certainly not by this ordinary intellect. Can one know God so easily? One must practise sadhana. One must also adopt a particular attitude toward God, for instance, the attitude of a servant toward his master. The. rishis of old had the attitude of santa. Do you know the attitude of the jnanis? It is to meditate on one's own Self. (To a devotee, with a smile) What is your attitude?"
The devotee gave no answer.
MASTER (smiling): "You have two attitudes: you meditate on your own Self and also cherish toward God the attitude of a servant. Am I not right?"
DEVOTEE (hesitating and smiling): "Yes, sir."
MASTER (smiling): "You see, as Hazra says, I can read people's thoughts.
"One can maintain those two attitudes only at a very advanced stage. Prahlada maintained them. But one must work hard in order to practise this ideal.
"Let me give an illustration. Suppose a man is grasping the thorny branch of a plum-tree. His hand bleeds profusely; but he says, There is nothing the matter with me; I am not hurt.' If you ask him about his wound, he will say, 'It's all right; I am quite well.' Now is there any meaning in the mere utterance of these words? One must practise discipline in keeping with this ideal."
The devotees were giving their whole attention to what the Master was saying.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.