Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna [2]

THE MASTER'S LOVE FOR HIS DEVOTEES

Narendra's scepticism - Narendra and M. - Devotees about the Master - Bliss of Brahman and bliss of the world - Master on Buddha - On "woman and gold" - Sri Ramakrishna and woman - Encouraging Bhavanath - Hirananda - Narendra argues with Hirananda - Narendra's spirit of renunciation - Master's exalted vision - Master and Hirananda - Girish and M. - Master's kindness to M. and his wife.

Wednesday, April 21, 1886

M AND NARENDRA were strolling in the garden of the house at Cossipore. Narendra was very much worried because he had not yet been able to solve the financial difficulties of his family.

NARENDRA: "I don't care for the job at the Vidyasagar School. I have been thinking of going to Gaya. I have been told that a zemindar there needs the services of a manager for his estate. There is no such thing as God."

M. (smiling): "You may say that now, but later on you will talk differently. Scepticism is a stage in the path of God-realization. One must pass through stages like this and go much farther; only thus can one realize God. That is what the Master says."

NARENDRA: "Has anybody seen God as I see that tree?"

M: "Yes, our Master has seen God that way."

NARENDRA: "It may be his hallucination."

M: "Whatever a person experiences in a particular state is real for him in that state. Suppose you are dreaming that you have gone to a garden. As long as the dream lasts, the garden is real for you. But you think of it as unreal when your mind undergoes a change, as, for instance, when you awake. When your mind attains the state in which one sees God, you will know God to be real."

NARENDRA: "I want truth. The other day I had a great argument with Sri Ramakrishna himself."

M. (smiling): "What happened?"

NARENDRA: "He said to me, 'Some people call me God.' I replied, 'Let a thousand people call you God, but I shall certainly not call you God as long as I do not know it to be true.' He said, 'Whatever many people say is indeed truth; that is dharma.' Thereupon I replied, 'Let others proclaim a thing as truth, but I shall certainly not listen to them unless I myself realize it as truth.'"

M. (smiling): "Your attitude is like that of Western savants - Copernicus and Berkeley, for instance. The whole world said it was the sun that moved, but Copernicus did not listen. Everybody said the external world was real, but Berkeley paid no heed. Therefore Lewis says, 'Why was Berkeley not a philosophical Copernicus?'"

NARENDRA: "Can you give me a History of Philosophy?"

M: "By whom? Lewis?"

NARENDRA: "No, Überweg. I must read a German author."

M: "You just said, 'Has anybody seen God as I see that tree?' Suppose God comes to you as a man and says, 'I am God.' Will you believe it then? You certainly remember the story of Lazarus. After his death, Lazarus said to Abraham, 'Let me go back to the earth and tell my friends and relatives that hell and the after-life exist.' Abraham replied: 'Do you think they will believe you? They will say it is a charlatan who is telling them such things.' The Master says that God cannot be known by reasoning. By faith alone one attains everything - knowledge and super-knowledge. By faith alone one sees God and becomes intimate with Him."

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna was in bed. Ramlal, who had come from Dakshineswar, was massaging his feet. Gopal of Sinthi and M. were in the room.

Sri Ramakrishna asked M. to shut the windows and massage his feet. At the Master's request Purna had come to the Cossipore garden in a hired carriage. M. was to pay the carriage hire. Sri Ramakrishna made a sign to Gopal, asking whether he had obtained the money from M. Gopal answered in the affirmative.

At nine o'clock in the evening Surendra, Ram, and the others were about to return to Calcutta. It was the sultry month of April and Sri Ramakrishna's room became very hot during the day; so Surendra had brought some straw screens to keep the room cool.

SURENDRA: "Why, nobody has hung up these straw screens. Nobody here pays attention to anything."

A DEVOTEE (smiling): "The devotees here are now in the state of Brahmajnana. They feel, 'I am He.' The world is unreal to them. When they come down to a lower plane and regard God as the Master and themselves as His servants, they will pay attention to the service of Sri Ramakrishna." (All laugh.)


Thursday, April 22, 1886

In the evening Rakhal, Sashi, and M. were strolling in the garden at Cossipore.

M: "The Master is like a child - beyond the three gunas."
SASHI AND RAKHAL: "He himself has said that."

RAKHAL: "He sits in a tower, as it were, from which he gets all information and sees everything; but others cannot go there and reach him."

M: "He said, 'In such a state ot mind one sees God constantly.' In him there is not the slightest trace of worldliness. His mind is like dry fuel, which catches fire quickly."

SASHI: "He described the different kinds of intelligence to Charu. The right intelligence is that through which one attains God: but the intelligence that enables one to become a deputy magistrate or a lawyer, or to acquire a house, is a mean intelligence. It is like thin and watery curd, which merely soaks flattened rice but does not add any flavour to it. It is not like thick, superior curd. But the intelligence through which one attains God is like thick curd."

M: "Ah, what wonderful words!"

SASHI: "Kali said to the Master: 'What's the good of having joy? The Bhils are joyous. Savages are always singing and dancing in a frenzy of delight.'"

RAKHAL: "He [meaning the Master] replied to Kali: 'What do you mean? Can the Bliss of Brahman be the same as worldly pleasure? Ordinary men are satisfied with worldly pleasure. One cannot enjoy the Bliss of Brahman unless one completely rids oneself of attachment to worldly things. There is the joy of money and sense experience, and there is the Bliss of God-realization. Can the two ever be the same? The rishis enjoyed the Bliss of Brahman.'"

M: "You see, Kali nowadays meditates on Buddha; that is why he speaks of a state beyond Bliss."

RAKHAL: "Yes, Kali told the Master about Buddha. Sri Ramakrishna said to him: 'Buddha is an Incarnation of God. How can you compare him to anybody else? As he is great, so too is his teaching great.' Kali said to him: 'Everything, indeed, is the manifestation of God's Power. Both worldly pleasure and the Bliss of God are the manifestation of that Power.'"

M: "What did the Master say to that?"

RAKHAL: "He said: 'How can that be? Is the power to beget a child the same as the power through which one realizes God?'"

Sri Ramakrishna was sitting in his room on the second floor. Narendra, Rakhal, Sashi, Surendra, M., Bhavanath, and other devotees were present. Dr. Mahendra Sarkar and Dr. Rajendra Dutta were also there to examine him. His condition was growing worse.

The house-rent was between sixty and sixty-five rupees. Surendra bore most of the expenses and had rented the house in his name. The other householder devotees contributed financial help according to their power. A cook and a maid had been engaged to look after the members of the house-hold.

MASTER (to Dr. Sarkar and the others): "The expenses are mounting."

DR. SARKAR (pointing to the devotees) "But they are ready to bear them. They do not hesitate to spend money. (To Sri Ramakrishna) Now, you see, gold is necessary."

MASTER (to Narendra): "Why don't you answer?"

Narendra remained silent. Dr. Sarkar resumed the conversation.

DR. SARKAR: "Gold is necessary, and also woman."

RAJENDRA: "Yes, his [meaning Sri Ramakrishna's] wife has been cooking his meals."

DR. SARKAR (to the Master): "Do you see?"

MASTER (smiling): "Yes - but very troublesome!"

DR. SARKAR: "If there were no troubles, then all would become paramahamsas."

MASTER: "If a woman touches me I fall ill. That part of my body aches as if stung by a horned fish."

DR. SARKAR: "I believe that. But how can you get along without woman?"

MASTER: "My hand gets all twisted up if I hold money in it; my breathing stops. But there is no harm in spending money to lead a spiritual life in the world - if one spends it, for instance, in the worship of God and the service of holy men and devotees.

"A man forgets God if he is entangled in the world of maya through a woman. It is the Mother of the Universe who has assumed the form of maya, the form of woman. One who knows this rightly does not feel like leading the life of maya in the world. But he who truly realizes that all women are manifestations of the Divine Mother may lead a spiritual life in the world. Without realizing God one cannot truly know what a woman is."

Sri Ramakrishna had felt a slight improvement as a result of the homeopathic treatment.

RAJENDRA (to the Master): "After getting rid of this illness you must begin to practise medicine as a homeopath. Otherwise, what's the use of this human life?" (All laugh.)

NARENDRA: "Nothing like leather!" (All laugh.)

A few minutes later the physicians took their leave. Sri Ramakrishna and M. were engaged in conversation. The Master was telling M. how he felt about woman.

MASTER (to M.): "They say I cannot get along without 'woman and gold'. They don't understand the state of my mind.

"If I touch a woman my hand becomes numb; it aches. If in a friendly spirit I approach a woman and begin to talk to her, I feel as if a barrier had been placed between us. It is impossible for me to cross that barrier.

"If a woman enters my room when I am alone, at once I become like a child and regard her as my mother."

As M. listened to these words, he became speechless with wonder at Sri Ramakrishna's exalted state of mind. Bhavanath and Narendra were sitting at a distance, talking together. Bhavanath had married and was trying to find a job; so he could not visit Sri Ramakrishna frequently at Cossipore. He had said to M.: "I understand that Vidyasagar wants to start a new school. I have to earn my livelihood. Will it be possible for me to secure a job in that school?'' The Master was much worried about Bhavanath's being entangled in worldly life. Bhavanath was twenty-three or twenty-four years old.

MASTER (to Narendra): "Give him a lot of courage."

Narendra and Bhavanath smiled. Sri Ramakrishna said to Bhavanath, by signs: "Be a great hero. Don't forget yourself when you see her weeping behind her veil. Oh, women cry so much - even when they blow their noses! (Narendra, Bhavanath, and M. laugh.)

"Keep your mind firm on God. He who is a hero lives with a woman but does not indulge in physical pleasures. Talk to your wife only about God."

A few minutes later Sri Ramakrishna said to Bhavanath, by a sign, "Take your meal here today."

BHAVANATH: "Yes, sir. I am quite all right. Don't worry about me."
Surendra came in and took a seat. The devotees offered garlands of flowers to the Master every evening. Sri Ramakrishna put these garlands around his neck. Surendra sat quietly in the room. Sri Ramakrishna was in a very happy mood and gave him two garlands. Surendra saluted the Master and put them around his neck.

All sat in silence and looked at Sri Ramakrishna. Surendra saluted the Master again and stood up. He was about to leave. He asked Bhavanath to hang the straw screens over the windows.

Hirananda came in with two of his friends. He was a native of Sindh, about twenty-two hundred miles from Calcutta. After finishing his college education in Calcutta in 1883, he had returned to Sindh and taken charge of editing two papers, the Sindh Times and the Sind Sudhar. While studying in Calcutta he had often visited Keshab Chandra Sen and had come to know him intimately. He had met Sri Ramakrishna at the Kali temple at Dakshineswar and had spent an occasional night there with the Master. Hearing of Sri Ramakrishna's illness, he now came to Calcutta from Sindh to see him. The Master himself had been very eager to see Hirananda.

Sri Ramakrishna pointed to Hirananda and said to M., by signs: "A very fine boy. Do you know him?"

M: "Yes, sir."

MASTER (to Hirananda and M.): "Please talk a little. I want to hear you both."

When M. remained silent, Sri Ramakrishna asked him: "Is Narendra here? Call him."

Narendra entered the room and sat near the Master.

MASTER (to Narendra and Hirananda): "I want to hear you two talk."

Hirananda was silent a few moments and then after great hesitation began the conversation.

HIRANANDA (to Narendra): "Why does a devotee of God suffer?"

His words were sweet as nectar. Everyone in the room could feel that his heart was filled with love.

NARENDRA: "The plan of the universe is devilish. I could have created a better world."

HIRANANDA: "Can one feel happiness without misery?"

NARENDRA: "I am not making a plan for a universe, but simply giving my opinion of the present plan.

"But all these problems are solved if we have faith only in one thing, and that is pantheism. All doubts disappear if one believes that everything is God. God alone is responsible for all that happens."

HIRANANDA: "Very easy to say that."

Narendra sang Sankara's Six Stanzas on Nirvana:

Om. I am neither mind, intelligence, ego, nor chitta,
Neither ears nor tongue nor the senses of smell and sight;
Nor am I ether, earth, fire, water, or air:
I am Pure Knowledge and Bliss: I am Siva! I am Siva!
I am neither the prana nor the five vital breaths,
Neither the seven elements of the body nor its five sheaths,
Nor hands nor feet nor tongue, nor the organs of sex and voiding:
I am Pure Knowledge and Bliss: I am Siva! I am Siva!

Neither loathing nor liking have I, neither greed nor delusion;
No sense have I of ego or pride, neither dharma nor moksha;
Neither desire of the mind nor object for its desiring:
I am Pure Knowledge and Bliss: I am Siva! I am Siva!

Neither right nor wrongdoing am I, neither pleasure nor pain,
Nor the mantra, the sacred place, the Vedas, the sacrifice;
Neither the act of eating, the eater, nor the food:
I am Pure Knowledge and Bliss: I am Siva! I am Siva!

Death or fear I have none, nor any distinction of caste;
Neither father nor mother nor even a birth have I;
Neither friend nor comrade, neither disciple nor guru:
I am Pure Knowledge and Bliss: I am Siva! I am Siva!

I have no form or fancy; the All-pervading am I;
Everywhere I exist, yet I am beyond the senses;
Neither salvation am I, nor anything that may be known:
I am Pure Knowledge and Bliss: I am Siva! I am Siva!

HIRANANDA: "Good!"

SRI RAMAKRISHNA (to Hirananda, by a sign): "Give him an answer."

HIRANANDA: "It is all the same, whether you look at a room from a corner or look at it from the middle. It is the same God-Consciousness that one feels, whether one says. 'O God, I am Thy servant', or, 'I am He.' One may enter a room by several doors."

All sat in silence. Hirananda said to Narendra, "Please sing some more." Narendra sang the Five Stanzas on the Kaupin:

Roaming ever in the grove of Vedanta,
Ever pleased with his beggar's morsel,
Ever walking with heart free from sorrow,
Blest indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

Sitting at the foot of a tree for shelter,
Using the palms of his hands for eating,
Wrapped in a garment fine or ugly,
Blest indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

Satisfied fully by the Bliss within him,
Curbing wholly the cravings of his senses,
Contemplating day and night the Absolute Brahman,
Blest indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.
The loin-cloth of the sannyasi; it is an emblem of renunciation.

As Sri Ramakrishna heard the line, "Contemplating day and night the Absolute Brahman", he said in a very low voice, "Ah!" Then, by a sign, he said to the devotees, "This is the characteristic of the yogi."

Narendra finished the hymn:

Witnessing the changes of mind and body,
Naught but the Self within him beholding,
Thinking not of outer, of inner, or of middle,
Blest indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

Chanting "Brahman", the Word of redemption,
Meditating only on "I am Brahman",
Living on alms and wandering freely,
Blest indeed is the wearer of the loin-cloth.

Again Narendra sang:

Meditate on Him, the Perfect, the Embodiment of Bliss;
Meditate on Him, the Formless, the Root of the Universe,
The Hearer behind the ear, the Thinker behind the mind,
The Speaker behind the tongue, Himself beyond all words:
He is the Life of life, the Ultimate, the Adorable!

MASTER (to Narendra): "And that one - 'All that exists art Thou.'"

Narendra sang:

I have joined my heart to Thee: all that exists art Thou;
Thee only have I found, for Thou art all that exists.
O Lord, Beloved of my heart! Thou art the Home of all;
Where indeed is the heart in which Thou dost not dwell?
Thou hast entered every heart: all that exists art Thou.
Whether sage or fool, whether Hindu or Mussalman,
Thou makest them as Thou wilt: all that exists art Thou.

Thy presence is everywhere, whether in heaven or in Kaaba;
Before Thee all must bow, for Thou art all that exists.
From earth below to the highest heaven, from heaven to deepest earth,
I see Thee wherever I look: all that exists art Thou.
Pondering, I have understood; I have seen it beyond a doubt;
I find not a single thing that may be compared to Thee.
To Jafar it has been revealed that Thou art all that exists.

As the Master listened to the line, "Thou hast entered every heart", he said by a sign: "God dwells in everybody's heart. He is the Inner Guide."

As Narendra sang the line, "I see Thee wherever I look: all that exists art Thou", Hirananda said to-him: "Yes, 'All that exists art Thou.' Now you say: 'Thou! Thou! Not I, but Thou!'"

NARENDRA: "Give me a one and I'll give you a million. Thou art I; I am Thou. Nothing exists but I."

Narendra recited a few verses from the Ashtavakra Samhita. The room again became silent.

MASTER (to Hirananda, pointing to Narendra): "He seems to be walking with an unsheathed sword in his hand. (To M., pointing to Hirananda) How quiet! Like a cobra, quiet before charmer, with its hood spread."

Sri Ramakrishna fell into an inward mood. Hirananda and M. were seated near him. There was complete silence in the room. The Master's body was being racked with indescribable pain. The devotees could not bear the sight of this illness; but somehow the Master made them forget his suffering. He sat there, his face beaming as if there were no trace of illness in his throat.

The devotees had placed flowers and garlands before him as their loving offerings. He picked up a flower and touched with it first his head, then his throat, heart, and navel. To the devotees he seemed a child playing with flowers.

Sri Ramakrishna used to tell the devotees that his divine visions and moods were accompanied by the rising of a spritual currrent inside his body.

Now he talked to M.

MASTER: "I don't remember when the current went up. Now I am in the mood of a child. That is why I am playing with the flowers this way. Do you know what I see now? I see my body as a frame made of bamboo strips and covered with a cloth. The frame moves. And it moves because someone dwells inside it.

"Again, I see the body to be like a pumpkin with the seeds scooped out. Inside this body there is no trace of passion or worldly attachment. It is all very clean inside, and -" It became very painful for Sri Ramakrishna to talk further. He felt very weak. M. quickly guessed what the Master wanted to tell the devotees, and said, "And you are seeing God inside yourself "
MASTER: "Both inside and outside. The Indivisible Satchidananda - I see It both inside and outside. It has merely assumed this sheath [meaning his body] for a support and exists both inside and outside. I clearly perceive this.

M. and Hirananda listened intently to these words about his exalted state of God-Consciousness. A few momrnts later, Sri Ramakrishna looked at them and resumed the conversation.

MASTER: "You all seem to me to be my kinsmen. I do not look on any of you as a stranger.

"I see you all as so many sheaths, (Referring to their bodies.) and the heads are moving. I notice that when my mind is united with God the suffering of the body is left aside.

"Now I perceive only this: this indivisible Satchidananda is covered with skin, and this sore in the throat is on one side of it."

The Master again fell silent. A few minutes later he said: "The attributes of matter are superimposed on Spirit, and the attributes of Spirit are superimposed on matter. Therefore when the body is ill a man says, 'I am ill.'"

Hirananda wanted to understandd what the Master had just said; so M. told him, "When hot water scalds the hand, people say that the water scalds; but the truth is that it is the heat that scalds."

HIRANANDA (to the Master): "Please tell us why a devotee of God suffers."

MASTER: "It is the body that suffers."

Sri Ramakrishna seemed about to say something more. Hirananda and M. eagerly awaited his words.

Sri Ramakrishna said, "Do you understand?"

M. said to Hirananda, in a whisper: "The body suffers for the purpose of teaching men. His life is like a book of reference. In spite of so much physical suffering, his mind is one hundred per cent united with God."

HIRANANDA: "Yes, it is like Christ's crucifixion. But still the mystery remains - why should he, of all people, suffer like this?"

M: "The Master says it is the will of the Divine Mother. This is how She is sporting through his body."

The two devotees were talking in whispers. Sri Ramakrishna asked Hirananda, by a sign, what M. was talking about. Since Hirananda could not understand the sign, Sri Ramakrishna repeated it.

HIRANANDA: "He says that your illness is for the teaching of men."

MASTER: "But that's only his guess.

(To M. and Hirananda) "My mood is changing. I think that I should not say to everyone, 'May your spiritual consciousness be awakened.' People are so sinful in the Kaliyuga; if I awaken their spiritual consciousness I shall have to accept the burden of their sins."

M. (to Hirananda): "He will not awaken people's spiritual consciousness except at the right time. When a person is ready, he will awaken his spiritual consciousness."

Friday, April 23, 1886

It was-Good Friday. Hirananda had taken his midday meal at the Cossipore garden house. About one o'clock in the afternoon he was stroking Sri Ramakrishna's feet. M. sat near by. Latu and one or two other devotees were going in and out of the room. It was the Master's earnest desire that Hirananda should stay for some time at the Cossipore garden house.

While massaging the Master's feet, Hirananda conversed with him. He spoke in a very sweet voice, as if trying to console a child.

HIRANANDA: "Why should you worry so much? You can enjoy peace of mind if you have faith in the physician. You are a child."

MASTER (to M.): "How can I have faith in the doctor? Dr. Sarkar said that I would not recover."

HIRANANDA: "But why should you worry so much about that? What is to happen must happen."

M. (to Hirananda, aside): "He is not worrying about himself. The preservation of his body is for the welfare of the devotees."

It was a sultry day and the room became very hot at noontime. The straw screens had been hung over the windows. Hirananda adjusted them. The Master looked at him.

MASTER (to Hirananda): "Please don't forget to send the pajamas."

Hirananda had told Sri Ramakrishna that he would feel more comfortable if he wore the pajamas used in Sindh. Sri Ramakrishna was reminding him of them.

Hirananda had not eaten well. The rice had not been well cooked. The Master felt very sorry about it and asked him again and again whether he would have some refreshments. On account of his illness he could hardly talk; but still he repeated the question. He said to Latu, "Did you too eat that rice?"

Sri Ramakrishna could hardly keep the cloth on his body. He was almost always naked, like a child. Hirananda had brought with him one or two of his Brahmo friends. Therefore every now and then the Master pulled the cloth to his waist.

MASTER (to Hirananda): "Will you take me for an uncivilized person if I don't cover my body with my cloth?"

HIRANANDA: "What difference does that make with you? You are but a child."

MASTER (pointing to a Brahmo devotee): "But he feels that way "

Hirananda was about to take his leave. In a very few days he was going to start for Sindh.

MASTER (to Hirananda): "Suppose you don't go to Sindh."

HIRANANDA (smiling): "But there is nobody there to do my work. I have my duties."

MASTER: "How much do you earn?"

HIRANANDA (smiling): "My work doesn't bring me a large salary."

MASTER: "Still, how much?"

Hirananda laughed.

MASTER: "Why don't you live here?"

Hirananda did not reply.

MASTER: "Suppose you give up the job."

Hirananda said nothing. He was ready to take his leave.

MASTER: "When will you see me again?"

HIRANANDA: "I shall leave for Sindh on Monday, the day after tomorrow. I shall see you that morning."
Hirananda left.

M. was seated by the Master's side.

MASTER (to M.): "He is a fine young man, isn't he?"

M: "Yes, sir. He has a very sweet nature."

MASTER: "He said that Sindh is twenty-two hundred miles from Calcutta; and he has come all that way to see me."

M: "True, sir. That would be impossible without real love."

MASTER: "He wants very much to take me to Sindh."

M: "The journey is very painful. It takes four or five days by train."

MASTER: "He has three university degrees."

M: "Yes, sir."

Sri Ramakrishna was tired. He wanted to take a little rest. He asked M. to open the shutters of the windows and spread the straw mat over his bed. M. was fanning him. Sri Ramakrishna became drowsy.

After a short nap Sri Ramakrishna said to M., "Did I sleep?"

M: "A little."

Narendra, Sarat, and M. were talking downstairs.

NARENDRA: "How amazing it is! One learns hardly anything though one reads books for many years. How can a man realize God by practising sadhana for two or three days? Is it so easy to realize God? (To Sarat) You have obtained peace. M., too, has obtained it. But I have no peace."

It was afternoon. Many devotees were sitting in the Master's room. Narendra, Sarat, Sashi, Latu, Nityagopal, Girish, Ram, M., and Suresh were present.

Kedar came in. This was his first visit to the Master for some time. While staying in Dacca, in connection with his official duties, he had heard of Sri Ramakrishna's illness. On entering Sri Ramakrishna's room he took the dust of the Master's feet on his head and then joyously gave it to the others. The devotees accepted it with bowed heads. As he offered it to Sarat, the latter himself took the dust of Sri Ramakrishna's feet. M. smiled. The Master also smiled, looking at M. The devotees sat without uttering a word. Sri Ramakrishna seemed about to go into an ecstatic mood. Now and then he breathed heavily as if trying to suppress his emotion. He said to Kedar, by a sign, "Argue with Girish."
Girish said to Kedar: "Sir, I beg your pardon. At first I did not know who you were. That is why I argued with you. But now it is quite different."

Sri Ramakrishna smiled.
The Master drew Kedar's attention to Narendra and said: "He has renounced everything. (To the devotees) Kedar once said to Narendra, 'You may reason and argue now, but in the end you will roll on the ground, chanting Hari's name.' (To Narendra) Take the dust of Kedar's feet."

KEDAR (to Narendra): "Take the dust of his [meaning the Master's] feet. That will do."

Surendra was seated behind the other devotees. The Master looked at him with a smile and said to Kedar, "Ah, how sweet his nature is!" Kedar understood the Master's hint and went toward Surendra.

Surendra was very sensitive. Some of the devotees had been collecting funds from the householder devotees to meet the expenses of the Cossipore garden house. Surendra felt piqued at this. He was bearing most of the expenses himself.

SURENDRA (to Kedar): "How can I sit near all these holy people? A few days ago some of them [referring to Narendra] put on the ochre robe of the sannyasi and went on a pilgrimage to Buddha-Gaya. They wanted to see bigger sadhus there."

Sri Ramakrishna was trying to console Surendra. He said: "You are right. They are mere children. They don't know what is good."

SURENDRA (to Kedar): "Doesn't our gurudeva (Referring to Sri Ramakrishna) know our inner feelings? He does not care for money. It is our inner attitude that pleases him."

Sri Ramakrishna with a nod of his head approved Surendra's words.

The devotees had brought various food offerings for the Master and placed them in front of him. Sri Ramakrishna put a grain on his tongue and gave the plate to Surendra. He asked Surendra to distribute the prasad to the devotees. Surendra went downstairs with the offerings.

MASTER (to Kedar): "You had better go downstairs and explain it all to Surendra. See that they don't get into any hot arguments."

M. was fanning Sri Ramakrishna. The Master said to him, "Won't you eat anything?" He sent M. downstairs.

It was about dusk. Girish and M. were strolling near the small reservoir in the garden.

GIRISH: "I understand that you are writing something about the Master. Is it true?"

M: "Who told you that?"

GIRISH: "I have heard about it. Will you give it to me?"

M: "No, I won't part with it unless I feel it is right to do so. I am writing it for myself, not for others."

GIRISH: "What do you mean?"

M: "You may get it when I die."

It was evening. A lamp was lighted in the Master's room. Amrita Basu, a Brahmo devotee, came in. Sri Ramakrishna had expressed his eagerness to see him. M. and a few other devotees were there. A garland of jasmine lay in front of the Master on a plantain-leaf. There was perfect silence in the room. A great yogi seemed to be silently communing with God. Every now and then the Master lifted the garland a little, as if he wanted to put it around his neck.

AMRITA (tenderly): "Shall I put it around your neck?"

Sri Ramakrishna accepted the garland. He had a long conversation with Amrita. When the latter was about to take his leave, the Master said, "Come again."

AMRITA: "Yes, sir. I like to come very much. But I live at a great distance; so I cannot always come."

MASTER: "Do come, and take the carriage hire from here."

The devotees were amazed at the Master's tender love for Amrita.

The next day M. came to the garden house accompanied by his wife and a son. The boy was seven years old. It was at the Master's request that he brought his wife, who was almost mad with grief owing to the death of one of her sons.

That day the Master several times allowed M.'s wife the privilege of waiting on him. Her welfare seemed to occupy his attention a great deal. In the evening the Holy Mother came to the Master's room to feed him. M.'s wife accompanied her with a lamp. The Master tenderly asked her many questions about her household. He requested her to come again to the garden house and spend a few days with the Holy Mother, not forgetting to ask her to bring her baby daughter. When the Master had finished his meal M.'s wife removed the plates. He chatted with her a few minutes.

About nine o'clock in the evening Sri Ramakrishna was seated in his room with the devotees. He had a garland of flowers around his neck. He told M. that he had requested his wife to spend a few days at the garden house with the Holy Mother. His kindness touched M.'s heart.

M. was fanning him. The Master took the garland from his neck and said something to himself. Then in a very benign mood he gave the garland to M.
 

AFTER THE PASSING AWAY

Baranagore Monastery - First members - Surendra's magnanimity - Ascetic zeal of the young sannyasis - Renunciation of "woman and gold" - Siva festival at the math - Narendra's reminiscences of the Master - Narendra's foreknowledge of things - Narendra's ego - About Nityagopal - Rakhal's reminiscences of the Master - The Master and Narendra - Master's love for Narendra - Prasanna's austere sadhana - Vidyasagar's reluctance about preaching - About Sashi - Rakhal's yearning for God - Tarak and Prasanna - Narendra asks Prasanna to practise self-surrender - Narendra's longing for God-vision - About Rabindra.

SRI RAMAKRISHNA passed away on Sunday, August 15, 1886, plunging his devotees and disciples into a sea of grief. They were like men in a shipwreck. But a strong bond of love held them together, and they found assurance and courage in each other's company. They could not enjoy the friendship of worldly people and would talk only of their Master. "Shall we not behold him again?" - this was the one theme of their thought and the one dream of their sleep. Alone, they wept for him; walking in the streets of Calcutta, they were engrossed in the thought of him. The Master had once said to M., "It becomes difficult for me to give up the body, when I realize that after my death you will wander about weeping for me." Some of them thought: "He is no longer in this world. How surprising that we still enjoy living! We could give up our bodies if we liked, but still we do not." Time and again Sri Ramakrishna had told them that God reveals Himself to His devotees if they yearn for Him and call on Him with whole-souled devotion. He had assured them that God listens to the prayer of a sincere heart.

The young unmarried disciples of the Master, who belonged to his inner circle, had attended on him day and night at the Cossipore garden house. After his passing away most of them returned to their families against their own wills. They had not yet formally renounced the world. For a short while they kept their family names. But Sri Ramakrishna had made them renounce the world mentally. He himself had initiated several of them into the monastic life, giving them the ochre cloths of sannyasis.

Two or three of the Master's attendants had no place to go. To them the large-hearted Surendra said: "Brothers, where will you go? Let us rent a house. You will live there and make it our Master's shrine; and we householders shall come there for consolation. How can we pass all our days and nights with our wives and children in the world? I used to spend a sum of money for the Master at Cossipore. I shall gladly give it now for your expenses." Accordingly he rented a house for them at Baranagore, in the suburbs of Calcutta, and this place became gradually transformed into a math, or monastery.

For the first few months Surendra contributed thirty rupees'a month. As the other members joined the monastery one by one, he doubled his contribution, which he later increased to a hundred rupees. The monthly rent for the house was eleven rupees. The cook received six rupees a month. The rest was spent for food.

The younger Gopal brought the Master's bed and other articles of daily use from the garden house at Cossipore. The brahmin who had been cook at Cossipore was engaged for the new monastery. The first permanent member was the elder Gopal. Sarat spent the nights there. In the beginning Sarat, Sashi, Baburam, Niranjan, and Kali used to visit the monastery every now and then, according to their convenience, Tarak, who had gone to Vrindavan following the Master's death, returned to Calcutta after a few months and soon became a permanent member of the monastery. Rakhal, Jogin, Latu, and Kali were living at Vrindavan with the Holy Mother when the monastery was started. Kali returned to Calcutta within a month, Rakhal after a few months, and Jogin and Latu after a year. The householder devotees frequently visited the monastic brothers and spent hours with them in meditation and study.

After a short time Narendra, Rakhal, Niranjan, Sarat, Sashi, Baburam, Jogin, Tarak, Kali, and Latu renounced the world for good. Sarada Prasanna and Subodh joined them some time later. Gangadhar, who was very much attached to Narendra, visited the math regularly. It was he who taught the brothers the hymn sung at the evening service in the Siva temple at Benares. He had gone to Tibet to practise austerity; now, having returned, he lived at the monastery. Hari and Tulasi, at first only visitors at the monastery, soon embraced the monastic life and thus completed the list of the Master's sannyasi disciples.

Surendra was indeed a blessed soul. It was he who laid the foundation of the great Order later associated with Sri Ramakrishna's name. His devotion and sacrifice made it possible for those earnest souls to renounce the world for the realization of God. Through him Sri Ramakrishna made it possible for them to live in the world as embodiments of his teaching, the renunciation of "woman and gold" and the realization of God.

The brothers lived at the math like orphan boys. Sometimes they would not have the money to pay their house-rent; sometimes they would have no food in the monastery. Surendra would come and settle all these things. He was the big brother of the monks. Later on, when they thought of his genuine love, the members of this first math shed tears of gratitude.

The new monastery became known among the Master's devotees as the Baranagore Math. Narendra, Rakhal, and the other young disciples were filled with intense renunciation. One day Rakhal's father came to the math and asked Rakhal to return home. "Why do you take the trouble to come here?" Rakhal said to him. "I am very happy here. Please pray to God that you may forget me and that I may forget you too." The young disciples said to each other: "We shall never return to the worldly life. The Master enjoined upon us the renunciation of 'woman and gold'. How can we go back to our families?"

Sashi had taken charge of the daily worship in the math. The Master's relics had been brought from Balaram's house and Sri Ramakrishna was worshipped daily in the worship hall. Narendra supervised the household. He was the leader of the monastery. He would often tell his brother disciples, "The selfless actions enjoined in the Gita are worship, japa, meditation, and so on, and not worldly duties." The brothers at the math depended on him tor their spiritual inspiration. He said to them, "We must practise sadhana; otherwise we shall not be able to realize God."

He and his brother disciples, filled with an ascetic spirit, devoted themselves day and night to the practice of spiritual discipline. Their one goal in life was the realization of God. They followed to their hearts' content the injunctions prescribed in the Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras for an ascetic life. They spent their time in japa and meditation and study of the scriptures. Whenever they would fail to experience the Divine Presence, they would feel as if they were on the rack. They would practise austerity, sometimes alone under trees, sometimes in a cremation ground, sometimes on the bank of the Ganges. Again, sometimes they would spend the entire day in the meditation room of the monastery in japa and contemplation; sometimes they would gather to sing and dance in a rapture of delight. All of them, and Narendra particularly, were consumed with the desire to see God. Now and then they would say to each other, "Shall we not starve ourselves to death to see God?"

Monday, February 21, 1887

Narendra, Rakhal, Niranjan, Sarat, Sashi, Kali, Baburam, Tarak, and Sarada Prasanna were living in the monastery. All day the members had been fasting in observance of the Sivaratri. Sarat, Kali, Niranjan, and Sarada were planning to go to Puri, the following Saturday, on a pilgrimage to the sacred Jagannath. Jogin and Latu were at Vrindavan and had not yet seen the new place.

Narendra had gone to Calcutta that morning to look after a lawsuit in which his family had been involved since the death of his father. At nine o'clock in the morning M. arrived at the math. Tarak saw him and began to sing in praise of Siva, Rakhal joining him:

There Siva dances, striking both His cheeks; and they resound, Ba-ba-bom!
Dimi-dimi-dimi! sounds His drum; a garland of skulls from His neck is hanging!
In His matted locks the Ganges hisses; fire shoots from His mighty trident!
Round His waist a serpent glitters, and on His brow the moon is shining!

Rakhal and Tarak danced as they sang. Narendra had recently composed the song.

Sashi finished the morning worship in the shrine. Sarat then sang about Siva to the accompaniment of the tanpura.

Narendra had just arrived from Calcutta. He had not yet taken his bath. Kali asked him, "What about the lawsuit?" "Why should you bother about it?" Narendra replied sharply.

Narendra was smoking and talking to M. and the others. He said; "Nothing can be achieved in spiritual life without the renunciation of 'woman and gold'. 'Woman' is the doorway to hell. All people are under the control of women. The cases of Siva and Krishna are quite different. Siva turned His Consort into His servant. Sri Krishna, no doubt, led a householder's life. But how unattached He was! How quickly He renounced Vrindavan and the gopis!"

RAKHAL: "And how He renounced Dwaraka, too, where He was king!"

Narendra took his bath in the Ganges and returned to the monastery. He carried his wet cloth and towel in his hand. Sarada prostrated himself before Narendra. He too had been fasting on account of the Sivaratri. He was going to the Ganges for his bath. Narendra entered the worship room and prostrated himself before the picture of Sri Ramakrishna, who was daily worshipped there as the Deity. For a few minutes he was absorbed in meditation.

The devotees assembled in a room and began to converse. The talk turned to Bhavanath. Narendra said, "People like him live like worms in the world."

It was afternoon. Arrangements were being made to worship Siva in the evening. Leaves of the bel-tree were gathered for the worship. Bel-wood was chopped for the homa.

In the evening Sashi, who was in charge of the worship at the monastery, burnt incense before the pictures of the various gods and goddesses.

The worship of Siva was to take place under the bel-tree in the monastery compound. The Deity was to be worshipped four times, during the four watches of the night. The brothers assembled under the bel-tree. Bhupati and M. were present also. One of the young members of the math was in charge of the worship. Kali was reading from the Gita. Now and then he argued with Narendra.

KALI: "I alone am everything. I create, preserve, and destroy."

NARENDRA: "How is it possible for me to create? Another power creates through me. Our various actions - even our thoughts - are caused by that power."

M. (to himself): "The Master used to say: 'As long as a man feels that it is he who meditates, he is under the jurisdiction of the Adyasakti. Sakti must be acknowledged.'"

Kali reflected in silence a few moments and then said: "The actions you are talking about are illusory. There is not even any such thing as thought. The very idea of these things makes me laugh."

NARENDRA: "The 'I' that is implied in 'I am He' is not this ego. It is that which remains after one eliminates mind, body, and so on."

After completing the recital of the Gita, Kali chanted: "Santih! Santih! Santih!"

Narendra and the other devotees stood up and circled round and round the tree, singing and dancing. Now and then they chanted in chorus: "Siva Guru! Siva Guru!"

It was midnight, the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the moon. Pitch darkness filled all the quarters. Men, birds, and animals were all hushed into silence. The young sannyasis were clad in gerrua robes. The words "Siva Guru", chanted in their full-throated voices, rose into the infinite sky like the rumblings of rain-clouds and disappeared in the Indivisible Satchidananda.

The worship was over. The sun, about to rise, was painting the eastern horizon crimson. In this sacred twilight, the conjunction of night and day, the holy Brahmamuhurta, the young worshippers finished their baths in the Ganges.

It was morning. The devotees went to the shrine room, prostrated themselves before the Deity, and gradually assembled in the big hall. Narendra was clad in a new ochre cloth. The bright orange colour of his apparel blended with the celestial lustre of his face and body, every pore of which radiated a divine light. His countenance was filled with fiery brilliance and yet touched with the tenderness of love. He appeared to all as a bubble that had risen up in the Ocean of Absolute Existence and Bliss and assumed a human body to help in the propagation of his Master's message. All eyes were fixed on him. Narendra was then just twenty-four years old, the very age at which the great Chaitanya had renounced the world.

Balaram had sent fruit and sweets to the monastery for the devotees' breakfast. Rakhal, Narendra, and a few others partook of the refreshments. After eating one or two morsels some of them cried out, "Blessed indeed is Balaram!" All laughed.

Narendra now began to joke like a child. He was imitating Sri Ramakrishna. He put a sweet into his mouth and stood still, as if in samadhi. His eyes remained unwinking. A devotee stepped forward and pretended to hold him up by the hand lest he should drop to the ground. Narendra closed his eyes. A few minutes later, with the sweetmeat still in his mouth, he opened his eyes and drawled out, "I - am - all - right." All laughed loudly.

Refreshments were now given to everyone. M. looked on at this wonderful mart of happiness. The devotees shouted joyfully, "Jai Gurumaharaj!" (Victory to the Guru.)

Monday, March 25, 1887

M. arrived at the Baranagore Math to visit his brother disciples. Devendra accompanied him. M. had been coming to the monastery very frequently and now and then had spent a day or two. The previous week he had spent three days at the math. He was very eager to observe the spirit of intense renunciation of these young men.

It was evening. M. intended to spend the night in the monastery. Sashi lighted the lamp in the worship room and chanted the name of God. Next he burnt incense before all the pictures of gods and goddesses in the various rooms. The evening service began. Sashi conducted the worship. The members of the math, with M. and Devendra, stood with folded hands and sang the hymn of the arati.

When the worship was over, Narendra and M. became engaged in conversation. Narendra was recalling his various meetings with Sri Ramakrishna.

NARENDRA: "One day, during one of my early visits, the Master in an ecstatic mood said to me, 'You have come!' 'How amazing!' I said to myself. 'It is as if he had known me a long time.' Then he said to me, 'Do you ever see light?' I replied: 'Yes, sir. Before I fall asleep I feel something like a light revolving near my forehead.'"

M: "Do you see it even now?"

NARENDRA: "I used to see it frequently. In Jadu Mallick's garden house the Master one day touched me and muttered something to himself. I became unconscious. The effect of the touch lingered with me a month, like an intoxication.

"When he heard that a proposal had been made about my marriage, he wept, holding the feet of the image of Kali. With tears in his eyes he prayed to the Divine Mother: 'O Mother, please upset the whole thing! Don't let Narendra be drowned.'

"After my father's death my mother and my brothers were starving. When the Master met Annada Guha one day, he said to him: 'Narendra's father has died. His family is in a state of great privation. It would be good if his friends helped him now with money.'

"After Annada had left I scolded him. I said, 'Why did you say all those things to him?' Thus rebuked, he wept and said, 'Alas! for your sake I could beg from door to door.'

"He tamed us by his love. Don't you think so?"

M; "There is not the slightest doubt about it. His love was utterly unselfish."

NARENDRA: "One day when I was alone with him he said something to me. Nobody else was present. Please don't repeat it to anyone here."

M: "No, I shall not. What did he say?"

NARENDRA: "He said: 'It is not possible for me to exercise occult powers; but I shall do so through you. What do you say?' 'No,' I replied, you can't do that.'

"I used to laugh at his words. You must have heard all these things from him. I told him that his visions of God were all hallucinations of his mind.

"He said to me: 'I used to climb to the roof of the kuthi and cry: "O devotees, where are you all? Come to me, O devotees! I am about to die. I shall certainly die if I do not see you." And the Divine Mother told me, "The devotees will come." You see, everything is turning out to be true.'

"What else could I say? I kept quiet.

"One day he closed the door of his room and said to Devendra Babu and Girish Babu, referring to me, 'He will not keep his body if he is told who he is.'"

M: "Yes, we have heard that. Many a time he repeated the same thing to us, too. Once you came to know about your true Self in nirvikalpa samadhi at the Cossipore garden house. Isn't that true?"

NARENDRA: "Yes. In that experience I felt that I had no body. I could see only my face. The Master was in the upstairs room. I had that experience downstairs. I was weeping. I said, 'What has happened to me?' The elder Gopal went to the Master's room and said, 'Narendra is crying.'

"When I saw the Master he said to me: 'Now you have known. But I am going to keep the key with me.'

"I said to him, 'What is it that happened to me?'

"Turning to the devotees, he said: 'He will not keep his body if he knows who he is. But I have put a veil over his eyes.'

"One day he said to me, 'You can see Krishna in your heart if you want.' I replied, 'I don't believe in Krishna or any such nonsense!' (Both M. and Narendra laugh.)

"I have noticed a peculiar thing. Some men, objects, or places make me feel as if I had seen them before, in a previous birth. They appear familiar to me. One day I went to Sarat's house in Calcutta, on Amherst Street. Immediately I said to Sarat: This house seems familiar to me. It seems to me that I have known the rooms, the passages, and the rest of the house for many, many days.

"I used to follow my own whims in everything I did. The Master never interfered. You know that I became a member of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj."

M: "Yes, I know that."

NARENDRA: "The Master knew that women attended the meetings of the Brahmo Samaj. A man cannot meditate with women sitting in front of him; therefore he criticized the meditation of the Brahmo Samaj. But he didn't object to my going there. But one day he said to me, 'Don't tell Rakhal about your being a member of the Brahmo Samaj, or he too will feel like becoming one.'"

M: "You have greater strength of mind. That is why the Master didn't prevent your going to the Samaj."

NARENDRA: "I have attained my present state of mind as a result of much suffering and pain. You have not passed through any such suffering. I now realize that without trials and tribulations one cannot resign oneself to God and depend on Him absolutely.

"Well, X- is so modest and humble! He is totally self-effacing. Can you tell me how I can develop humility?"

M: "Speaking about your ego, the Master said, 'Whose ego is it?'"

NARENDRA: "What did he mean?"

M: "A friend one day said to Radhika: 'You are egotistic. That is why you insulted Krishna.' Whereupon another friend said to the first: 'Yes, Radhika is egotistic, no doubt. But whose ego is it?' What she meant was that Radha was egotistic because she regarded Krishna as her Lord. It was Krishna Himself who kept that ego in Radha.

"What the Master meant was that it is God alone who has kept this ego in you, so that He may accomplish many things through you."

NARENDRA: "But my ego loudly proclaims to all that I have no suffering."

M. (smiling): "You may loudly proclaim it, if that be your sweet will."

The conversation turned to other devotees.

NARENDRA: "The Master said about Vijay Goswami, 'He is knocking at the door.'"

M: "That is to say, he has not yet entered the room. At Syampukur Vijay said to the Master, 'I saw you at Dacca in this tangible form, in this very body.' You were there too."

NARENDRA: "Devendra Babu and Ram Babu want to renounce the world. They are trying hard. Ram Babu told me privately that he would give up the world after two years."

M: "After two years? After making provision for his children?"

NARENDRA: "Besides, he will rent his present house and buy a small house. Other relatives will arrange his daughter's marriage."

M: "Gopal (Referring to Nityagopal.) is in an exalted state of mind, isn't he?"

NARENDRA: "What do you mean?"

M: "So much emotion, so much weeping and such exaltation in the name of God!"

NARENDRA: "Does mere emotion make a man spiritually great? Youngsters like Kali, Sarat, Sashi, and Sarada are more spiritual than Gopal. How great their renunciation is! Gopal does not accept the Master, does he?"

M: "That is true. The Master remarked that Gopal did not belong to the circle of his devotees. But I saw him show great reverence for Sri Ramakrishna."

NARENDRA: "What did you see?"

M: "At that time I was just becoming acquainted with Sri Ramakrishna. One day, after the meeting of the devotees in his room had broken up, I came out and saw Gopal on the foot-path, kneeling with folded hands before the Master. The moon was shining brightly overhead. It was the red path sprinkled with brick-dust, just outside the long verandah north of the Master's room. Nobody else was there. It appeared to me that Gopal had taken shelter at Sri Ramakrishna's feet and the Master was encouraging him."

NARENDRA: "I didn't see it."

M; "Further, the Master used to say, 'Gopal is in the state of a paramahamsa.' But I also distinctly remember his forbidding Gopal to be intimate with woman devotees. Many a time he warned him about it."

NARENDRA: "Speaking to me about Gopal, the Master asked why, if Gopal was a real paramahamsa, he should hanker after money. 'He doesn't belong to this place', the Master said. 'Those who are my own will always come here.' He used to be angry with T- because he was Gopal's constant companion and didn't come to the Master more often. 'Gopal has spiritual realizations, no doubt,' the Master said to me, 'but he has attained them all of a sudden, without the necessary preparations. He is not one of my own. If he is, why haven't I wept for him?'

"Some are proclaiming Gopal as the reincarnation of Nityananda. But times without number the Master said to me: 'In me alone are embodied Advaita, Chaitanya, and Nityananda. I am all these three.'"

Friday, April 8, 1887

About eight o'clock in the morning two devotees, one a householder and the other a monk, were conversing in a room in the Baranagore monastery, when M. came in. The devotees were of the same age - twenty-four or twenty-five years old. M. intended to spend three days at the monastery. He went to the shrine and saluted the Deity. After visiting Narendra, Rakhal, and the other brothers, he at last came into the room where the two devotees were engaged in conversation. The householder devotee wanted to renounce the world. The monk was trying to persuade him not to do so.

MONK: "Why don't you finish the few duties you have in the world? Very soon they will be left behind.

"A man was told that he would go to hell. He asked a friend, 'What is hell like?' Thereupon the friend began to draw a picture of hell on the ground with a piece of chalk. No sooner was the picture drawn than the man rolled over it and said, 'Now I have gone through hell!'"

HOUSEHOLDER: "I don't relish worldly life. Ah, how happy you are here!"

MONK: "Why don't you renounce the world, if you want to? Why do you talk about it so much? But I repeat, why don't you enjoy the fun once for all?"

Sashi finished the regular worship in the worship hall. About eleven the brothers of the math returned from the Ganges after taking their baths. They put on clean cloths, went to the shrine, prostrated themselves before the Deity, and meditated there a little while.

After the food was offered to the Deity they had their meal. M. ate with them.

It was evening. Incense was burnt before the pictures of gods and goddesses and the evening service was performed. Rakhal, Sashi, the elder Gopal, and Harish were seated in the big hall. M. also was there. Rakhal warned one of the brothers to be careful about the food to be offered to the Master in the shrine.

RAKHAL (to Sashi and the others): "One day I ate part of his [meaning the Master's] refreshments before he took them. At this he said: 'I cannot look at you. How could you do such a thing?' I burst into tears."

THE ELDER GOPAL: "One day at Cossipore I breathed hard on his food. At this he said, 'Take that food away.'"

M. and Narendra were pacing the verandah and recalling old times.

NARENDRA: "I did not believe in anything."

M: "You mean the forms of God?"

NARENDRA: "At first I did not accept most of what the Master said. One day he asked me. Then why do you come here?' I replied, 'I come here to see you, not to listen to you.'"

M: "What did he say to that?"

NARENDRA: "He was very much pleased."

Saturday, April 9, 1887

The members of the math were resting a little after their meal. Narendra and M. sat under a tree in the garden to the west of the monastery. It was a solitary place and no one else was present. Narendra was recounting to M. his various experiences with Sri Ramakrishna. Narendra was about twenty-four years old, and M. thirty-two.

M: "You must remember vividly your first visit to him."

NARENDRA: "Yes. It was at the temple garden at Dakshineswar, in his own room. That day I sang two songs."

Narendra sang them for M.:

Let us go back once more, O mind. to our own abode!
Here in this foreign land of earth
Why should we wander aimlessly in stranger's guise?
These living beings round about, and the five elements,
Are strangers to you, all of them; none is your own.
Why do you thus forget yourself,
In love with strangers, O my mind?
Why do you thus forget your own?
Ascend the path of Truth, O mind! Unflaggingly climb,
With Love as the lamp to light your way.
As your provision for the journey, bring with you
The virtues, carefully concealed; for, like two highwaymen,
Greed and delusion wait to rob you of your wealth.
And keep beside you constantly,
As guards to shelter you from harm,
Calmness of mind and self-control.

Companionship with holy men will be for you
A welcome rest-house by the road;
There rest your weary limbs awhile, asking your way,
If ever you should be in doubt, of him who watches there.
If anything along the path should frighten you,
Then loudly shout the name of the Lord;
For He is Ruler of that road,
And even Death must bow to Him.

*   *   *

O Lord, must all my days pass by so utterly in vain?
Down the path of hope I gaze with longing, day and night.
Thou art the Lord of all the worlds, and I but a beggar here;
How can I ask of Thee to come and dwell within my heart?
My poor heart's humble cottage door is standing open wide;
Be gracious, Lord, and enter there but once, and quench its thirst!

M: "What did he say after listening to your songs?"

NARENDRA: "He went into samadhi. He said to Ram Babu: "Who is this boy? How well he sings!' He asked me to come again."

M: "Where did you see him next?"

NARENDRA: "At Rajmohan's house. The third visit was at Dakshineswar again. During that visit he went into samadhi and began to praise me as if I were God. He said to me, 'O Narayana, you have assumed this body for my sake.' But please don't tell this to anybody else."

M: "What else did he say?"

NARENDRA: "He said: 'You have assumed this body for my sake. I asked the Divine Mother, "Mother, unless I enjoy the company of some genuine devotees completely free from 'woman and gold', how shall I live on earth?"' Then he said to me, 'You came to me at night, woke me up, and said, "Here I am!"' But I did not know anything of this. I was sound asleep in our Calcutta house."

M: "In other words, you may be both present and absent at the same time. It is like God, who is both formless and endowed with form."

NARENDRA: "But you must not tell this to anyone else. At Cossipore he transmitted his power to me."

M: "Didn't it happen when you used to meditate before a lighted fire under a tree at the Cossipore garden house?"

NARENDRA: "Yes. One day, while meditating, I asked Kali to hold my hand. Kali said to me, 'When I touched your body I felt something like an electric shock coming to my body.'

"But you must not tell this to anybody here. Give me your promise."

M: "There is a special purpose in his transmission of power to you. He will accomplish much work through you. One day the Master wrote on a piece of paper, 'Naren will teach people.'"

NARENDRA: "But I said to him, 'I won't do any such thing.' Thereupon he said, 'Your very bones will do it.' He has given me charge of Sarat. Sarat is now yearning for God"; the Kundalini is awakened in him."

M: "He must be careful that dead leaves do not accumulate there. Perhaps you remember what the Master used to say: 'In a lake the fish make holes so that they may rest there. But if dead leaves accumulate in the holes the fish do not go there.'"

NARENDRA: "The Master used to call me Narayana."

M: "Yes, I know he did."

NARENDRA: "When he was ill he would not allow me to pour water to wash his hands. At Cossipore he said: 'Now the key is in my hands. He will give up his body when he knows who he is.'"

M: "Didn't he say it when you were in nirvikalpa samadhi?"

NARENDRA: "Yes. At the time it seemed to me I had no body. I felt only my face.

"I was studying law at home to prepare for the examinations. Suddenly I said to myself, 'What am I doing?'"

M: "Didn't it happen when the Master was at Cossipore?"

NARENDRA: "Yes. Like an insane person I ran out of our house. He asked me, 'What do you want?' I replied, 'I want to remain immersed in samadhi.' He said: 'What a small mind you have! Go beyond samadhi! Samadhi is a very trifling thing.'"

M: "Yes, he used to say that vijnana is the stage after jnana. It is like going up and down the stairs after reaching the roof."

NARENDRA: "Kali has a craving for knowledge. I scold him for that. Is knowledge so easy to get? Let his bhakti first mature. The Master told Tarak at Dakshineswar that emotion and bhakti are by no means the last word."

M: "What other things did he say about you?"

NARENDRA: "Once I said to him, The forms of God and things like that, which you see in your visions, are all figments of your imagination.' He had so much faith in my words that he went to the Divine Mother in the temple and told Her what I had said to him. He asked Her, 'Are these hallucinations, then?' Afterwards he said to me, 'Mother told me that all these are real.'

"Perhaps you remember that he said to me, 'When you sing, He who dwells here (touching his heart), like a snake, hisses as it were, and then, spreading His hood, quietly holds Himself steady and listens to your music.'

"He has no doubt said many things about me; but what have I realized?"

M: "Now you have put on the garb of Siva; you cannot touch money. Do you remember the Master's story?"

NARENDRA: "Please tell it to me."

M: "A vahurupi (A professional impersantor.) disguised himself as Siva and visited a house. The master of the house wanted to give him a rupee, but he did not accept it. Then the mendicant went home, removed his disguise, came back to the gentleman, and asked for the rupee. 'Why didn't you accept it before?' he was asked. He said: 'I was impersonating Siva, a sannyasi. I couldn't touch money at that time.'"

When Narendra heard the story he laughed a long while.

M: "You have now put on the garb of a physician, as it were. You have become the guardian of these young men. Yours is the entire responsibility. You have to bring up the brothers of the monastery."

NARENDRA: "Whatever spiritual disciplines we are practising here are in obedience to the Master's command. But it is strange that Ram Babu criticizes us for our spiritual practices. He says: 'We have seen him. (Sri Ramakrishna) What need have we of any such practice?'"

M: "Let people act according to their faith."

NARENDRA: "But the Master asked us to practise sadhana."

Narendra was again telling M. about the Master's love for him.

NARENDRA: "How many times he prayed to the Divine Mother for my sake! After my father's death, when I had no food at home and my mother and sisters and brothers were starving too, the Master prayed to the Divine Mother to give me money."

M: "Yes, I know that. You once told me."

NARENDRA: "But I didn't get any money. The Master told me what the Divine Mother had said to him: 'He will get simple food and clothing. He will eat rice and dal.'

"He loved me so much! But whenever an impure idea crept into my mind he at once knew about it. While going around with, Annada, sometimes I found myself in the company of evil people. On those occasions the Master could not eat any food from my hands. He could raise his hand only a little, and could not bring it to his mouth. On one such occasion, while he was ill, he brought his hand very close to his mouth, but it did not go in. He said to me, 'You are not yet ready.'

"Now and then I feel great scepticism. At Baburam's house it seemed to me that nothing existed - as if there were no such thing as God."

M: "The Master used to say that he too had passed through that mood."

Both M. and Narendra remained silent. Then M. said: "You are all indeed blessed! You think of the Master day and night."

NARENDRA: "But how little it is! We don't yet feel like giving up the body because we haven't realized God."

It was night. Niranjan had just returned from Puri. The members of the math, and M., greeted him with great joy. Niranjan was telling them his experiences. He was then about twenty-five years old.

The evening worship was over. Some of the brothers were meditating. But many of them assembled in the big hall around Niranjan. They were talking. After nine o'clock Sashi offered food to the Deity.

The members of the math finished their supper, which consisted of homemade bread, a little vegetable, and a little hard molasses.

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