Ramakrishna: His life and sayings
The Sayings of
300. The new-born calf looks very lively, blithe, and merry. It jumps and runs all day long, and only stops to suck the sweet milk from its darn. But no sooner is the rope placed round its neck than it begins to pine away gradually, and, far from being merry, wears a dejected and sorry appearance, and gets almost reduced to a skeleton. So long as a boy has no concern with the affairs of the world he is as merry as the day is long. But when he once
feels the weight of the responsibilities of a man of family, by binding himself in time to the world by the indissoluble tie of wedlock, then he no longer appears jolly, but wears the look of dejection, care, and anxiety, and is seen to lose the glow of health from his cheeks, while wrinkles gradually make their appearance over the forehead. Blessed is he that remains a boy throughout his life, free as the morning air, fresh as a newly-blown flower, and pure as a dewdrop.
301. A boat may stay in the water, but water should not stay in the boat. An aspirant may live in the world, but the world should not live in him.
302. He who thinks his spiritual guide a mere man, can-not derive any benefit from him.
303. What you think you should say. Let there be a harmony between your thoughts and your words; otherwise, if you merely tell that God is your all in all, while your mind has made the world its all in all, you cannot derive any benefit thereby.
304. A young plant should be always protected by a fence from the mischief of goats and cows and little urchins. But when once it becomes a big tree, a flock of goats or a herd of cows may find shelter under its spreading boughs, and fill their stomachs with its leaves. So when you have but little faith within you, you should protect it from the evil influences of bad company and worldliness. But when once you grow strong in faith, no worldliness or evil inclination will dare approach your holy presence; and many who are wicked will become godly through your holy contact.
305. If you wash the body of an elephant and set him at large, he is sure to get himself dirtied in no time, but if after washing him you tie him down to his own room he will remain clean. So if by the good influences of holy men you once become pure in spirit, and then allow yourself the liberty to mix freely with worldly men, you are sure to lose that purity soon; but if you keep your mind fixed on your God, you will never more get soiled in spirit.
306. Where does the strength of an aspirant lie? It is in his tears. As a mother gives her consent to fulfil the desire of her importunately weeping child, so God vouchsafes to His weeping son whatever he is crying for.
307. Meditate on God either in an unknown corner, or in the solitude of forests, or within your own mind.
308. Chant forth the sweet name of Hari (God), keeping time all the while by clapping your hands, then you will acquire mental concentration. If you clap your hands, sitting under a tree, the birds on the boughs thereof will fly away in all directions, and when you chant forth the name of Hari and clap your hands, all evil thoughts will fly away from your mind.
309, 310. As the same fish is dressed into soup, curry, or cutlet, and each has his own choice dish of it, so the Lord of the Universe, though one, manifests Himself differently according to the different likings of His worshippers, and each of these has his own taste of God, which he values the most. To some He is a kind master or a loving father,
a sweet smiling mother or a devout friend, and to others a faithful husband or a dutiful and obliging son.
311. Bow down and adore where others kneel, for where so many hearts have been paying the tribute of adoration, the kind Lord will manifest Himself, for He is all mercy.
312. There are men, who, although they have nothing to attract them in this world, create some attachments for themselves, and so try to bind themselves to this earth. They do not want and do not like to be free. A man who has no family to care for, no relatives to look after, generally takes a cat, or a monkey, or a dog, or a bird for a pet object and companion; and thus slakes his thirst for milk by drinking mere whey. Such is the power of Mâyâ or Nescience over humanity.
313, 314. A patient, in high fever and excess of thirst, imagines that he can drink away quite a sea of water; but when that fit of fever goes and he regains his normal temperature, he can barely quaff off a single cupful of water, and his thirst is at once appeased with even a very small quantity of it. So a man, being under the feverish excitement of Mâyâ, and forgetful of his own littleness, imagines that he can embrace the whole of Divinity within his own bosom, but when the illusion passes away a single ray of Divine Light is seen to be sufficient to flood him with eternal divine bliss.
315. A man, under the influence of very high fever and in excessive thirst, is placed between a row of pitchers
filled with cold water and a set of open-mouthed bottles filled with flavoury sauces. Is it possible for the thirsty and restless patient in such a case to refrain from either drinking the water or from tasting the sauces placed so near him, although thereby his case may become worse? Even such is the case with the man who is under the maddening influence of his ever-active and misleading senses when he is placed between the attractions of woman's charm on the one side and those of wealth on the other. It is then difficult for him to behave properly, and he is liable to deviate often from the true path and thus make his case worse.
316. None ventures to keep milk in a vessel in which curd had formerly formed, lest the milk itself should get curdled. Nor can the vessel be safely used for other working purposes lest it should crack upon the fire. It is therefore almost useless. A good and experienced preceptor does not entrust to a worldly man valuable and exalting precepts, for he is sure to misinterpret and misuse them to suit his own mean designs. Nor will he ask him to do any useful work that may cost a little labour, lest he should think that the preceptor was taking undue advantage of him.
317. When a certain quantity of pure milk is mixed with double the quantity of water, it takes a long time and much labour to thicken it to the consistency of Kshîra (condensed milk). The mind of a worldly man is largely diluted with the filthy water of evil and impure thoughts, and it requires
much time and labour before anything can be done to purify and give the proper consistency to it.
318. The vanities of all others may gradually die out, but the vanity of a saint as regards his sainthood is hard indeed to wear away.
319. Of the grains of paddy which are fried in a frying-pan, the few which leap out of the pan and burst outside are the best fried, being without the slightest mark of any tinge; while every one of the properly-fried grains in the pan itself is sure to have at least a very small charred mark of a burn. So of all good devotees, the few who altogether give up the world and go out of it are perfect without any spot, while even the best of those devotees who are in the world must have at least some small spot of imperfection in their character.
320. We cannot say that God is gracious because He feeds us, for every father is bound to supply his children with food; but when He keeps us from going astray, and holds us back from temptations, then He is truly gracious.
321. If you can detect and find out the universal illusion or Mâyâ, it will fly away from you, just as a thief runs away when found out.
322. Fire itself has no definite shape, but in glowing embers it assumes certain forms, and the formless fire is then endowed with forms. Similarly, the formless God sometimes invests Himself with definite forms.
323. Should we pray aloud unto God? Pray unto Him
in any way you like. He is sure to hear you, for He can hear even the footfall of an ant.
324. He who tries to give one an idea of God by mere book-learning is like the man who tries to give one an idea of Kâsî (Benares) by means of a map or a picture.
325. A man began to sink a well, but having dug down to the depth of twenty cubits he could not find the least trace of the water-spring which was to feed his well. So he desisted from the work and selected another place for the purpose. There he dug deeper than before, but even then he could not find any water. So again he selected another spot and dug still deeper than before, but it was also of no avail. At last in utter disgust he gave up the task altogether. The sum total of the depths of these three wells was little short of a hundred cubits. Had he had the patience to devote even a half of the whole of this labour to his first well, without shifting the site of the well from place to place, he would surely have been successful in getting water. Such is the case with men who continually shift their positions in regard to faith. In order to meet with success we should devote ourselves entirely to a single object of faith, without being doubtful as to its efficacy.
326. Although in a grain of paddy the germ is considered the only necessary thing (for germination and growth), while the husk or chaff is considered to be of no importance, still if the unhusked grain be put into the ground it will not sprout up and grow into a plant and produce rice. To get a crop one must needs sow the grain with the husk on; but
if one wants to get at the germinating matter itself he must first perform the operation of removing the husk from the seed. So rites and ceremonies are necessary for the growth and perpetuation of a religion. They are the receptacles that contain the seeds of truth, and consequently every man must perform them before he reaches the central truth.
327. The pearl-oyster that contains the precious pearl is in itself of very little value, but it is essential for the growth of the pearl. The shell itself is of no use to the man who has got the pearl, neither are ceremonies and rites necessary for him who has attained the Highest Truth --God.
328. A woodcutter led a very miserable life with the small means he could procure by daily selling the load of wood brought from a neighbouring forest. Once a Samnyâsin, who was wending his way through the forest, saw him at work, and advised him to proceed onward into the interior recesses of the forest, intimating to him that he would be a gainer thereby. The woodcutter obeyed the injunction and proceeded onward till he came to a sandal-wood tree, and being much pleased he took away with him as many sandal-logs as he could carry, and sold them in the market and derived much profit. Then he began to think within himself why the good Samnyâsin did not tell him anything about the wood of the sandal-trees, but simply advised him to proceed onward into the interior of the forest. So the next day he went on even beyond the place of the sandal-wood, and at last
came upon a copper-mine, and he took with him as much copper as he could carry, and selling it in the market got much money by it. Next day, without stopping at the copper-mine, he proceeded further still, as the Sâdhu had advised him to do, and came upon a silver-mine, and took with him as much of it as he could carry, and sold it all and got even more money; and so daily proceeding further and further he got at gold-mines and diamond-mines, and at last became exceedingly rich. Such is also the case with the man who aspires after true knowledge. If he does not stop in his progress after attaining a few extraordinary and supernatural powers, he at last becomes really rich in the eternal knowledge of truth.
329. If you first smear the palms of your hands with oil and then break open the jack-fruit, the sticky milky exudation of the fruit will not stick to your hands and trouble you. So if you first fortify yourself with the true knowledge of the Universal Self, and then live in the midst of wealth and women, they will affect you in no way.
330. He who would learn to swim must attempt swimming for some days. No one can venture to swim in the sea after a single day's practice. So if you want to swim in the sea of Brahman, you must make many ineffectual attempts at first, before you can successfully swim therein.
331. When does a man get his salvation? When his egoism dies.
332. When a sharp thorn finds its way into the sole of one's foot, one takes another thorn to get the former out,
and then casts both of them away. So relative knowledge alone can remove the relative ignorance which blinds the eye of the Self. As both such knowledge and ignorance are comprised truly under Nescience, the man who attains the highest Gñâna, or knowledge of the Absolute, does away with both knowledge and ignorance in the end, being himself free from all duality.
333. To drink pure water from a shallow pond, one should gently take the water from the surface, and not disturb it. If it is disturbed the sediments will rise up from the bottom and make the whole water muddy. If you desire to be pure, have firm faith and slowly go on with your devotional practices, and waste not your energies in useless scriptural discussions and arguments. The little brain will otherwise be muddled.
334. If this body is worthless and transitory, why do pious and devout men take care of it? No one takes care of an empty box. All protect with care a chest full of precious jewels, gold, and costly articles. The pious soul cannot help taking care of the body in which the Divine one dwells, for all our bodies form the playground of the Deity.
335. The tender bamboo can be easily bent, but the full-grown bamboo breaks when an attempt is made to bend it. It is easy to bend young hearts towards good, but the heart of the old escapes the hold when so drawn.
338. The locomotive engine easily drags along a train of
heavily-laden carriages. So the loving children of God, firm in their faith and devotion to Him, feel no trouble in passing through all the worries and anxieties of life, and leading many men along with them to God.
337. Every man should follow his own religion. A Christian should follow Christianity, a Mohammedan should follow Mohammedanism, and so on. For the Hindus the ancient path, the path of the Aryan Rishis, is the best.
338, 339. He alone is the true man who is illumined with the light of true knowledge. Others are men in name only.
340. The magnetic needle always points towards the North, and hence it is that the sailing-vessel does not lose her course. So long as the heart of man is directed towards God he cannot be lost in the ocean of worldliness.
341. As the village maidens in India carry four or five pots of water placed one over the other upon their heads, talking all the way with one another about their own joys and sorrows, and yet do not allow one drop of water to be spilt, so must the traveller in the path of virtue walk along. In whatever circumstances he may be placed, let him always take heed that his heart does not swerve from the true path.
342. In our theatrical exhibitions wherein the life and exploits of Krishna are exhibited, the performance commences with the beating of drums and the singing aloud of 'O Krishna, come; come, O dear one.' But the person who plays the part of Krishna pays no heed to this noise and turmoil, and goes on complacently chatting and smoking
in the green-room behind the stage. But as soon as the noise ceases, and the pious sage Nârada enters on the stage with sweet and soft music and calls upon Krishna to come out with a heart overflowing with love, Krishna finds that he can no longer remain indifferent, and hurriedly comes on to the stage. So long as the religious devotee cries, 'Come, O Lord; come, O Lord,' with lip-prayers only, verily the Lord will never come; when the Lord does come, the heart of the devotee will melt in divine emotion, and his loud utterances will all cease for ever. The Lord cannot delay in coming when man calls upon Him from the depths of his heart overflowing with deep love and devotion.
343. There is no Path safer and smoother than that of ba-kalamâ (sic). Ba-kalamâ means resigning the self to the will of the Almighty, to have no consciousness that anything is 'mine.'
344. What is the nature of absolute reliance? It is that happy state of comfort felt by a fatigued worker, when reclining on a pillow he smokes at leisure after a hard day's toil: it is a cessation of all anxieties and worries.
345. As dry leaves are blown about here and there by the wind, and have no choice of their own, and make no exertion: so those who depend upon God move in harmony with His will, and can have no will, and put forth no effort, of their own.
346, 347. What do you think of the man who is a good orator and preacher, but whose spirituality is undeveloped? He is like a person who squanders another's property left in
trust with him. He can easily advise others, for it costs him nothing, as the ideas he expresses are not his own, but borrowed.
348. A worldly man is best known by his antipathy to whatever savours of religion. He does not like to hear any sacred music or psalm, or to utter the holy name of God, and even dissuades others from doing the same. He scoffs at prayers, and pours down a volley of abuse upon all religious societies and men.
349. As a boy holding on to a post or a pillar gyrates round it with headlong speed without fear of a fall, so, fixing thy hold firmly on God, perform thy worldly duties, and thou shalt be free from all dangers.
350. As an unchaste woman, busily engaged in household affairs, is all the while thinking of her secret lover, even so, O thou man of the world, do thy round of worldly duties, but fix thy heart always on the Lord.
351. As a wet-nurse in a rich family brings up the child of her master, loving the baby as if it were her own, but knows well that she has no claim upon it; so think ye also that you are but trustees and guardians of your children whose real father is the Lord God in Heaven.
352. It is useless to pore over holy scriptures and sacred Shastras without a discriminating and dispassionate mind. No spiritual progress can be made without discrimination (Viveka) and dispassion (Vairâgya).
353. Know thyself, and thou shalt then know the non-self
and the Lord of all. What is my ego? Is it my hand, or foot, or flesh, or blood, or muscle, or tendon? Ponder deep, and thou shalt know that there is no such thing as I. As by continually peeling off the skin of the onion, so by analysing the ego it will be found that there is not any real entity corresponding to the ego. The ultimate result of all such analysis is God. When egoism drops away, Divinity manifests itself.
354. The truly devotional and spiritual practice suited for this Iron-age (Kâlî-yuga) is the constant repetition of the name of the Lord of Love.
355. If thou wishest to see God, have firm faith in the efficacy of repeating the name of Hari, and try to discriminate the real from the unreal.
356. When an elephant is let loose, it goes about uprooting trees and shrubs, but as soon as the driver pricks him on the head with the goad he becomes quiet; so the mind when unrestrained wantons in the luxuriance of idle thoughts, but becomes calm at once when struck with the goad of discrimination.
357. Devotional practices are necessary only so long as tears of ecstasy do not flow at hearing the name of Hari. He needs no devotional practices whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention of the name of Hari.
358. The companionship of the holy and wise is one of the main elements of spiritual progress.
359. The soul reincarnates in a body of which it was
thinking just before its last departure from this world. Devotional practices may therefore be seen to be very necessary. When, by constant practice, no worldly ideas arise in the mind, then the god-idea alone fills the soul, and does not leave it even when on the brink of eternity.
360. How should one love God? As the true and chaste wife loves her husband and the niggardly miser loves his hoarded wealth, so the devotee should love the Lord with all his heart and soul.
361. How may we conquer the old Adam in us? When the fruit grows out of the flower, the petals of the flower drop off of themselves. So, when the divinity in thee increases, the weaknesses of thy human nature will all vanish of their own accord.
362, 363. When does the attraction of sensual and worldly pleasures die away? In God, who is Indivisible Ever-Existing Bliss, there is a consolidation of all happiness and of all pleasures. They who enjoy Him can find no attraction in the cheap and worthless pleasures of the world.
364. In what condition of the mind does God-vision take place? God is seen when the mind is tranquil. When the mental sea is agitated by the wind of desires, it cannot reflect God, and then God-vision is impossible.
365. How may we find our God? The angler, anxious to hook a big and beautiful Rohitta-fish, waits calmly for hours together, having thrown the bait and the hook into the water, watching patiently until the bait is caught by the
fish. Similarly, the devotee who patiently goes on with his devotions is sure at last to find his God.
386. The heart of a sinner is like a curled hair. You may pull it ever so long, but will not succeed in making it straight. So also the heart of the wicked cannot be easily changed.
367. Knowledge leads to unity, and Ignorance to diversity.
368, 369. The society of pious men is like the water in which rice is washed. The rice-water dissipates intoxication. So doth the society of the pious relieve worldly men, intoxicated with the wine of desires, from their intoxication.
370. The agent of a rich Zemindar, when he goes into the mofussil or interior, tyrannises in various ways over the tenants. But when he comes back to the head-quarters under the eyes of his master, he changes his ways, becomes very pious, treats the tenants kindly, inquires fully into all their grievances, and tries to mete out impartial justice to all. The tyrannical agent even becomes good through the fear of the landlord, and by the effect of his society. Similarly doth the society of the pious make even the wicked righteous, awakening awe and reverence within them.
371. Moist wood placed upon a fire soon becomes dry, and ultimately begins to burn. Similarly, the society of the pious drives away the moisture of greed and lust from the hearts of worldly men and women, and then the fire of Viveka (Discrimination) burns in them.
372. How should one pass his or her life? As the fire on the hearth is stirred from time to time with a poker to make it burn brightly and prevent it from going out, so the mind should be invigorated occasionally by the society of the pious.
373. As the blacksmith keeps alive the fire of his furnace by the occasional blowing of his bellows, so the mind should be kept a-burning by the society of the pious.
374. Throw an unbaked cake of flour into hot ghee, it will make a sort of boiling noise. But the more it is fried, the less becomes the noise; and when it is fully fried the bubbling ceases altogether. So long as a man has little knowledge, he goes about lecturing and preaching, but when the perfection of knowledge is obtained, he ceases to make vain displays.
375. That man who, living in the midst of the temptations of the world, attains perfection, is the true hero.
376. We must dive deep into the ocean of the Eternal-Intelligent-Bliss. Fear not the deep-sea monsters, Avarice and Anger. Coat thyself with the turmeric of Discrimination and Dispassion (Viveka and Vairâgya) and those alligators will not approach thee, as the scent of this turmeric is too much for them.
377. When unavoidably entering into places where there may be temptation, carry always with thee the thought of thy Divine Mother. She will protect thee from the many evils that may be lurking even in thy heart. Cannot the
presence of thy mother shame thee away from evil deeds and evil thoughts?
378. How may we conquer the love of life? The human frame is made up of decaying things; of flesh and blood and bone. It is a collection of flesh, bone, marrow, blood, and other filthy substances subject to putrefaction. By thus analysing the body, our love thereof vanishes.
379. Should the devotee adopt any particular costume? The adoption of a suitable costume is good. Dressed in the Samnyâsin's orange robes, or carrying the religious mendicant's tambourine and cymbals, a man can never utter light and profane things, or sing profane songs. But a man dressed in the smart style of a beau will naturally have his heart inclined to think low thoughts and sing low songs.
380. Sometimes peace reigns in the heart, but why does it not always last long? The fire made by the burning of the bamboo is soon extinguished unless kept alive by constant blowing. Continual devotion is necessary to keep alive the fire of spirituality.
381. Those who live in the world and try to find salvation are like soldiers that fight protected by the breast-work of a fort, while the ascetics who renounce the world in search of God are like soldiers fighting in the open field. To fight from within the fort is safer than to fight in the open field. (Is this right or should it be transposed?)
382. Pray to the Divine Mother in this wise. Give me,
[paragraph continues] O Mother! love that knows no incontinence, and faith adamantine that cannot be shaken.
383. As persons living in a house infested by venomous snakes are always alert and cautious, so should men living in the world be always on their guard against the allurements of lust and greed.
384. If there is a small hole in the bottom of a jar of water, the whole water flows out of it by that small aperture. Similarly, if there be the smallest tinge of worldliness in the neophyte, all his exertions come to naught.
385. When the butter is produced by churning the whey, it should not be kept in the same vessel containing the remaining whey, for then it will lose something of its sweetness and cohesion. It should be kept in pure water and in a different vessel. So after attaining some partial perfection in the world, if one still continues to mix with the worldly, and remains in the midst of the world, it is likely that he will be tainted; but he will remain pure if he lives out of it.
386. You cannot live in a sooty room without blackening your body to some extent, however small it may be, with all your caution. So, if a man or a woman lives in the company of one of his or her opposite sex of the same age, with the greatest circumspection and control over his or her passion, still some carnal thought, however small, is sure to arise in his or her mind.
387. Two persons, it is said, began together the rite of
invoking the Goddess Kâlî by the terrible process called 'Savasâdhana.' (This Tantrik invocation is performed in the cemetery yard, the invoker sitting on the body of a corpse in a dark night.) One invoker was frightened to insanity by the horrors of the earlier portion of the night; the other was favoured with the vision of the Divine Mother at the end of the night. Then he asked her, 'Mother! why did the other man become mad?' The Deity answered, Thou too, O child! didst become mad many times in thy various previous births, and now at last thou seest me.'
388. There are various sects among the Hindus; which sect or which creed should we then adopt? Pârvatî once asked Mahâdeva, 'O Lord! what is the root of the Eternal, Everlasting, All-embracing Bliss?' To her Mahâdeva thus replied, 'The root is faith.' The peculiarities of creeds and sects matter little or nothing. Let every one perform with faith the devotions and the duties of his own creed.
389. As a little boy or a girl can have no idea of conjugal affection, even so a worldly man cannot at all comprehend the ecstasy of Divine communion.
390. The body is transient and unimportant. Why then is it so much looked after? No one cares for an empty box. But people carefully preserve the box that contains money and other valuable property. The virtuous cannot but take care of the body, the temple of the soul in which God has manifested Himself or which has been blessed by God's advent.
391. How long does godliness remain in man? The iron is red so long as it is in fire. It is black the moment it is removed from fire. So the human being is godly so long as he is in communion with God.
392. Soft clay admits of forms, but the burnt clay does not. So those whose hearts are consumed with the desire of worldly things cannot realise higher ideas.
393. As the water and its bubbles are one, and as the bubbles have their birth in the water, float on the water, and ultimately are resolved into water; so the Gîvâtman and the Paramâtman are one and the same: the difference is in degrees--the one is finite and small, the other is infinite; the one is dependent, the other independent.
394, 395. When the tail of the tadpole drops off, it can live both in water and on land. When the tail of ignorance drops off, man becomes free. He can then live both in God and in the world equally well.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.