The Swami and the people he knew
'‘Be a devotee, but don’t be a fool!’ You must be alert in everything. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Look at me! The Divine Mother has placed me in such a state that I can hardly keep clothes on my body, and yet I am not forgetful.’ The Master told us: ‘He who is careless is foolish.’ In our scriptures too we read that a careless person gradually degrades himself. Always be on your toes!”
To be a man is to be alert, conscious. If you become unconscious, then be unconscious with full consciousness [in samadhi]—like Sri Ramakrishna. He used to loose external consciousness in ecstasy when someone sang a devotional song. But even a slight mistake in the music would cause him pain and bring him back to ordinary consciousness.”
Sri Ramakrishna’s life had two aspects. You must try to understand both. If you accept only one aspect there will be misunderstanding and confusion. For instance: The Master used to give presents to musicians who played for him. When he had nothing else to offer them he gave away the very cloth he was wearing. Was not that an example of supreme renunciation? On the other hand, when that same Ramakrishna did not receive the customary food offering from the temple, he anxiously inquired about it and asked Swami Yogananda to go and get it.”
How can you reconcile these contradictory attitudes? One time Sri Ramakrishna apparently behaves like any other worldly man, carefully calculating about everything. Then again he exemplifies the ideal of renunciation. You see, he was a man of principle. He represented an ideal [householder or monastic] in whatever he did. And this is what I would call a perfect soul.
“When the Marwari devotee Lakshminarayan offered Sri Ramakrishna ten thousand rupees, the Master fell unconscious. Regaining consciousness, he told the devotee to get away from him. When Lakshminarayan suggested giving the money to Hriday [Sri Ramakrishna’s nephew, for the Master’s use] instead, the Master exclaimed: ‘Oh no! He will accept it in my name, and I can’t bear the thought of possessing money!’”
“Once a singer came to Sri Ramakrishna. He sang one song about Shiva after another. The Master went into samadhi at the very first song and remained in that state of consciousness for a long time. Seeing him absorbed like this, we thought we should ask the singer to stop. Suddenly the Master woke up form his samadhi, and said to the singer: ‘Oh, I can’t stand any more! Sing songs of the Divine Mother!’ As the Master listened to the songs about the Mother, his mind returned to the relative plane. Later he remarked that he had been in a very high state of consciousness.”
“Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘When I see a man and his wife seated together, sometimes I feel, “Ah, how deluded they are!” At other times I think, “There is Lord Shiva with Mother Parvati.’”
“When I first met Sri Ramakrishna and saw his spiritual moods—his devotion and his samadhi—I knew I had found someone who lived the ideal. I felt as if I had come home at last, and I thought, ‘If there is anything to be attained in life, it is God.’ We must attain to such love for the Lord that there is not even any consciousness of one’s body left."
One day I saw Sri Ramakrishna wave a fan before Mother Kali in her temple. He was singing:
Thou who art purest consciousness.
Sri Ramakrishna used to scold anybody who was careless. Carelessness is a defect of character. The Master was never slow in anything, but at the same time he did not like to hurry or bustle.
Sri Ramakrishna used to tell a parable about a man who had received a letter from his village home asking him to send certain things to his kinsmen. ‘How long does one care for such a letter? So long as one does not know the contents. Once he knows the contents, the next step is to put forth the necessary effort to procure the articles. Then the letter can be thrown away. Similarly, the sacred books tell us only the way to God, the means for the realization of God. That being known, the next step is to work one’s way to the goal. Realization is the goal.’ How the Master in the deepest way solved the problems of spiritual life!
Sri Ramakrishna did not have much regard for people who were immersed in sex. He used to say that they had lost all substance. The Master used to keep everything in his room in perfect order. Every object had its proper place so that even in darkness he could find what he wanted. An orderly mind is as necessary as external order.
Sri Ramakrishna used to say that those who accept only the impersonal aspect are very one-sided.
Sri Ramakrishna taught us the truth which we later experienced for ourselves in a burst of realization. Now we are established in it.”
When we studied the scriptures we thought that the attainment of nirvana was the supreme ideal. Afterwards, when we came to Sri Ramakrishna, I was struck dumb when I heard the Master chastise us for holding this ideal. He called it low. But I had great faith in his words. So I proceeded and later realized the truth of his teaching.
Sri Ramakrishna’s life is an example for us. The Master had the vision of the living Mother of the Universe and entered into an intimate relationship with her. He surrendered himself to her. But once the Master told us, like a child, that he did not always obey her.
Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Struggle a little! Then the guru will help you further.’ From our own experience we can confirm that if you move one step toward God, he will take ten steps toward you.
The first thing we learned from Sri Ramakrishna was to pay no attention to the opinion of others. He used to say: ‘Spit on public opinion! Look toward God and try to please him!’ Swamiji was like that.
When I was a young boy, I noticed how my older brothers changed in character after they married. They lost their nobility. Women make men worldly; that is why I hated them. When I came to Sri Ramakrishna, he helped me overcome that feeling.
Remember how Sri Ramakrishna took a rupee in one hand and mud in the other, and then threw both away! Isn’t that a unique example? Think of the effect! The action immediately created a permanent impression in his mind.
When I was your age, I was an extreme Vedantist. My one idea at that time was to attain nirvana. I used to consider that the supreme goal. But Sri Ramakrishna scolded me again and again, and gave me another ideal. He pointed out that the path of knowledge was not my way. He made me a devotee instead. But if I wish I can reach the Absolute. I still remember the occasion when the Master disciplined me.
Sri Ramakrishna said about me that I was a monk according to the precepts of the Gita.
Sri Ramakrishna used to say, ‘God in the lustful, God in the hypocrite,’—and he would see God in everybody.
Prana is the first cause of person's downfall from the Truth. It is breathing that makes the mind restless. We have seen that when the mind has become calm after some time a subconscious impression suddenly rises to the surface; the mind comes down from its stillness with a breath, and one regains consciousness of the external world. But Sri Ramakrishna could rise above the vital energy in his meditation. His breathing would cease. One must rise above the vital energy.
When I used to meditate in Sri Ramakrishna’s presence, I experienced a sensation in my spine and would feel an energy rising. The body was like a desert land. The guru gave the holy name of God, and through its power the desert was transformed into a beautiful flower garden. Life was aimless. Since the guru touched me I have had an ideal to live for.
Sri Ramakrishna used to pray: ‘Mother, may these children of mine surpass me in spirituality.’ There is a saying: ‘Welcome defeat at the hands of the son or disciple.’
When I was twelve or thirteen years old I saw Sri Ramakrishna, my guru and Chosen Ideal, getting down from a carriage. He was reeling in divine intoxication. He reminded me of what I had read about Sukadeva—how some worshipped him with flowers and he was smiling, while others threw stones at him and he was smiling.
- www.vivekananda.net edited by Frank Parlato Jr.