Excerpts from ‘The Gospel
of Sri Ramakrishna’
Translated into English by Swami Nikhilananda,
Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras 600 004.
is the good of Holy Company?
What is Realisation?
How does Kali sport in the world?
What is the nature of life after death?
What is the good of holy company ?
“What is the good of Holy Company ?”
Master: “It begets yearning for God. It begets love of God. Nothing whatsoever is achieved in spiritual life without yearning. By constantly living in the company of holy men, the soul becomes restless for God. This yearning is like the state of mind of man who has someone ill in the family. His mind is in a state of perpetual restlessness, thinking how the sick person may be cured. Or again, one should feel a yearning for God like the yearning of a man who has lost his job and is wandering from one office to another in search of work. If he is rejected at a certain place which has no vacancy, he goes there again the next day and inquires, ‘Is there any vacancy today?”
“There is another way: earnestly praying to God. God is our very own. We should say to Him: ‘O God, what is Thy nature ? Reveal Thyself to me. Thou must show Thyself to me; for why else hast Thou created me ?” Some Sikh devotees once said to me, ‘God is full of compassion.” I said: ‘But why should we call Him compassionate? He is our Creator. What is there to be wondered at if He is kind to us ? Parents bring up their children. Do you call that an act of kindness ? They must act that way’. Therefore, we should force our demands on God. He is our Father and Mother, isn’t He ? If the son demands his patrimony and gives up food and drink in order to enforce his demand, then the parents hand his share over to him three years before the legal time. Or when the child demands some pice from his mother, and says over and over again: ‘Mother, give me a couple of pice. I beg you on my knees!’ – then the mother, seeing his earnestness, and unable to bear it any more, tosses the money to him."
another benefit from holy company. It helps one cultivate discrimination
between the Real and the unreal. God alone is the Real, that is to say,
the Eternal Substance, and the world is unreal, that is to say, transitory.
As soon as a man finds his mind wandering away to the unreal, he should apply
discrimination. The moment an elephant stretches out its trunk to eat
a plantain-tree in a negihbour’s garden, it gets a blow from the iron goad of
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What is Realisation ?
“Sir, what is the meaning of the realisation of God ? What do you mean
by God-vision? How does one attain it ?”
Master: “According to the Vaishnavas the aspirants and the seers of God may be divided into different groups. These are the pravartaka, the sadhaka, the siddha, and the siddha of the siddha. He who has just set foot on the path may be called a pravartaka. He may be called a sadhaka who has for some time been practicing spiritual disciplines, such as worship, japa, meditation, and the chanting of God’s name and glories. He may be called a siddha who has known from his inner experience that God exists. An analogy is given in the Vedanta to explain this. The master of the house is asleep in a dark room. Someone is groping in the darkness to find him. He touches the couch and says, ‘No, it is not he.’ He touches the window and says, ‘No, it is not he.’ He touches the door and says, ‘No, it is not he.’ This is known in the Vedanta as the process of ‘Neti, neti’, ‘Not this, not this’. At last his hand touches the master’s body and he exclaims, ‘Here he is!’ In other words, he is now conscious of the ‘existence’ of the master. He has found him, but he doesn’t yet know him intimately.
“There is another type, known as the siddha of the siddha, the ‘supremely perfect.’ It is quite a different thing when one talks to the master intimately, when one knows God very intimately through love and devotion. A siddha has undoubtedly attained God, but the ‘supremely perfect’ has known God very intimately.
“But in order to realise God, one must assume one of these attitudes: santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, or madhur.
“Santa, the serene attitude. The rishis of olden times had this attitude towards God. They did not desire any worldly enjoyment. It is like the single-minded devotion of a wife to her husband. She knows that her husband is the embodiment of beauty and love, a veritable Madan.
“Dasya, the attitude of a servant toward his master. Hanuman had this attitude toward Rama. He felt the strength of a lion when he worked for Rama. A wife feels this mood also. She serves her husband with all her heart and soul. A mother also has a little of this attitude, as Yasoda had toward Krishna.
“Sakhya, the attitude of friendship. Friends say to one another, ‘Come here and sit near me.’ Sridama and other friends sometimes fed Krishna with fruit, part of which they had already eaten, and sometimes climbed on His shoulders.
“Vatsalya, the attitude of a mother toward her child. This was Yasoda’s attitude toward Krishna. The wife, too, has a little of this. She feeds her husband with her very life-blood, as it were. The mother feels happy only when the child has eaten to his heart’s content. Yasoda would roam about with butter in her hand, in order to feed Krishna.
attitude of a woman toward her paramour. Radha had this attitude toward
Krishna. The wife also feels it for her husband. This attitude includes
all the other four.”
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How does Kali sport in the world ?
(with a smile): “Describe to us, sir, in how many ways Kali, the Divine
Mother, sports in this world.”
Master (with a smile): “Oh, She plays in different ways. It is She alone who is known as Maha-Kali, Nitya-Kali, Smasana-Kali, Raksha-Kali, and Syama-Kali. Maha-Kali and Nitya-Kali are mentioned in the Tantra philosophy. When there were neither the creation, nor the sun, the moon, the planets, and the earth, and when darkness was enveloped in darkness, then the Mother, the Formless One, Maha-Kali, the Great Power, was one with Maha-Kali, the Absolute.
“Syama-Kali has a somewhat tender aspect and is worshipped in the Hindu households. She is the Dispenser of boons and the Dispeller of fear. People worship Raksha-Kali, the Protectress, in times of epidemic, famine, earthquake, drought, and flood. Smasana-Kali is the embodiment of the power of destruction. She resides in the cremation ground, surrounded by corpses, jackals, and terrible female spirits. From Her mouth flows a stream of blood, from Her neck hangs a garland of human heads, and around Her waist is a girdle made of human hands.
“After the destruction of the universe, at the end of a great cycle, the Divine Mother garners the seeds for the next creation. She is like the elderly mistress of the house, who has a hotchpotch-pot in which she keeps different articles for household use. (All laugh).
“Oh, yes! Housewives have pots like that, where they keep ‘sea-foam’, blue pills, small bundles of seeds of cucumber, pumpkin, and gourd, and so on. They take them out when they want them. In the same way, after the destruction of the universe, my Divine Mother, the Embodiment of Brahman, gathers together the seeds for the next creation. After the creation the Primal Power dwells in the universe itself. She brings forth this phenomenal world and then pervades it. In the Vedas creation is likened to the spider and its web. The spider brings the web out of itself and then remains in it. God is the container of the universe and also what is contained in it.
“Is Kali, my Divine Mother, of a black complexion ? She appears black because She is viewed from a distance; but when intimately known She is no longer so. The sky appears blue at a distance; but look at it close by and you will find that it has no colour. The water of the ocean looks blue at a distance but when you go near and take it in your hand, you find that it is colourless.”
became intoxicated with divine love and sang:
Is Kali, my Mother, really black ?
The Naked One, of blackest hue,
Lights the Lotus of the Heart ...
The Master continued: “Bondage and liberation are both of Her making. By Her maya worldly people become entangled in ‘woman and gold’, and again, through Her grace they attain their liberation. She is called the Saviour, and the Remover of the bondage that binds one to the world.”
Then the Master
sang the following song in his melodious voice:
In the world’s busy market-place, O Syama, Thou art flying kites;
High up they soar on the wind of hope, held fast by maya's string.
Their frames are human skeletons, their sails of the three gunas made;
But all their curious workmanship is merely for ornament.
Upon the kite-strings Thou hast rubbed the manja-paste of worldliness.
So as to make each straining strand all the more sharp and strong.
Out of a hundred thousand kites, at best but one or two break free;
And Thou dost laugh and clap Thy hands, O Mother, watching them!
On favouring winds, says Ramprasad, the kites set loose will speedily
Be borne away to the Infinite, across the sea of the world.
said: “The Divine Mother is always playful and sportive. This universe
is Her play. She is self-willed and must always have Her own way.
She is full of bliss. She gives freedom to one out of a hundred thousand.”
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What is the nature of life after death ?
“Sir, what is the nature of the life after death?”
Master: “Keshab Sen also asked that question. As long as a man remains ignorant, that is to say, as long as he has not realised God, so long will he be born. But after attaining knowledge he will not have to come back to this earth or to any other plane of existence."
“The potter puts his pots in the sun to dry. Haven’t you noticed that among them there are both baked and unbaked ones? When a cow happens to walk over them, some of the pots get broken to pieces. The broken pots that are already baked, the potter throws away, since they are of no more use to him. But the soft ones, though broken, he gathers up. He makes them into a lump and out of this forms new pots. In the same way, so long as a man has not realized God, he will have to come back to the potter’s hand, That is, he will have to be born again and again. “What is the use of sowing a boiled paddy grain? It will never bring forth a shoot. Likewise, if a man is boiled in the fire of Knowledge, he will not be used for new creation. He is liberated."
“According to the Vedanta, Brahman alone is real and all else is maya, dreamlike and unsubstantial. The ego, like a stick, lies across the Ocean of Satchidananda. (To M.) Listen to what I am saying. When this ego is taken away, there remains only one undivided Ocean of Satchidananda. But as long as the stick of ego remains, there is an appearance of two: here is one part of the water and there another part. Attaining the Knowledge of Brahman one is established in samadhi. Then the ego is effaced."
“But Sankaracharya retained the ‘ego of Knowledge’ in order to teach men. (To Prankrishna). But there are signs that distinguish the man of Knowledge. Some people think they have Knowledge. What are the characteristics of Knowledge ? A jnani cannot injure anybody. He becomes like a child. If a steel sword touches the philosopher’s stone, it is transformed into gold. Gold can never cut. It may seem from the outside that a jnani also has anger or egotism, but in reality he has no such thing."
“From a distance a burnt string lying on the ground may look like a real one; but if you come near and blow at it, it disappears altogether. The anger and egotism of a jnani are mere appearances; they are not real."
“A child has no attachment. He makes a play house, and if anyone touches it, he will jump about and cry. The next moment he himself will break it. This moment he may be very attached to his cloth. He says: ‘My daddy has given it to me. I won’t part with it’. But the next moment you can cajole him away from it with a toy. He will go away with you, leaving the cloth behind."
“These are the characteristics of a jnani. Perhaps he has many luxuries at home - couch, chairs, paintings, and equipage. But any day he may leave all these and go off to Benares."
“According to Vedanta the waking state, too, is unreal. Once a wood-cutter lay dreaming, when someone woke him up. Greatly annoyed, he said: ‘Why have you disturbed my sleep ? I was dreaming that I was a king and the father of seven children. The princes were becoming well versed in letters and military arts. I was secure on my throne and ruled over my subjects. Why have you demolished my world of joy ? ‘But that was a mere dream’, said the other man. ‘Why should that bother you?’ ‘Fool!’ said the wood-cutter. ‘You don’t understand. My becoming a king in the dream was just as real as is my being a wood-cutter. If being a wood-cutter is real, then being a king in a dream is real also.’”
Prankrishna always talked about jnana. Was this why the Master described the state of the jnani? Now he proceeded to describe the state of the vijnani.
Master: “Jnana is the realization of Self through the process of ‘Neti, neti’, ‘Not this, not this’. One goes into samadhi through this process of elimination and realises the Atman."
“But vijnana means Knowledge with a greater fullness. Some have heard of milk, some have seen milk, and some have drunk milk. He who has merely heard of it is ‘ignorant’. He who has seen it is a jnani. But he who has drunk it has vijnana, that is to say, a fuller knowledge of it. After having the vision of God one talks to Him as if He were an intimate relative. That is vijnana."
“First of all you must discriminate, following the method of ‘Neti, neti’: ‘He is not the five elements, nor the sense-organs, nor the mind, nor the intelligence, nor the ego. He is beyond all these cosmic principles.’ You want to climb to the roof; then you must eliminate and leave behind all the steps, one by one. The steps are by no means the roof. But after reaching the roof you find that the steps are made of the same materials–brick, lime, and brick-dust–as the roof. It is the Supreme Brahman that has become the universe and its living beings and the twenty-four cosmic principles. That which is Atman has become the five elements. You may ask why the earth is so hard, if it has come out of Atman? All is possible through the will of God. Don’t you see that bone and flesh are made from blood and semen? How hard ‘sea-foam’ becomes!"
“After attaining vijnana one can live in the world as well. Then one clearly realises that God Himself has become the universe and all living beings, that He is not outside the world."
(To Prankrishna) “The fact is that one must have the ‘spiritual eye’. You will develop that eye as soon as your mind becomes pure. Take for instance the Kumari Puja. I worshipped a virgin. The girl, to be sure, had all her human imperfections; still I regarded her as the Divine Mother Herself.
“Oh one side
is the wife and on the other the son. Love is bestowed on both, but in
different ways. Therefore it comes to this, that everything depends upon
the mind. The pure mind acquires a new attitude. Through that mind
one sees God in this world. Therefore, one needs spiritual discipline."
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