Sunday 23 October 2016


2016-43  Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by "M": Master and Disciple

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna is the English translation of the Sri Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita, the conversations of Sri Ramakrishna with his disciples, devotees, and visitors, recorded by Mahendranath Gupta, who wrote the book under the pseudonym of "M." The conversations in Bengali fill five volumes, the first of which was published in 1897 and the last shortly after M.'s death in 1932.

M., one of the intimate disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, was present during all the conversations recorded in the main body of the book and noted them down in his diary. They therefore have the value of almost stenographic records.

Sri Ramakrishna never clothed his thoughts in formal language. His words sought to convey his direct realization of Truth. His conversation was in a village patois. Therein lies its charm. In order to explain to his listeners an abstruse philosophy, he, like Christ before him, used with telling effect homely parables and illustrations, culled from his observation of the daily life around him.

"M" Mahendranath Gupta
The words of Sri Ramakrishna have already exerted a tremendous influence in the land of his birth. Savants of Europe have found in his words the ring of universal truth. But these words were not the product of intellectual cogitation; they were rooted in direct experience.

Within one hundred years of his birth and fifty years of his death his message has spread across land and sea. Romain Rolland has described him as the fulfilment of the spiritual aspirations of the three hundred millions of Hindus for the last two thousand years. Mahatma Gandhi has written: "His life enables us to see God face to face...Ramakrishna was a living embodiment of godliness." 

From The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna  Chapter 1

February 1882
M.'s first visit to the Master

"There is a charming place on the bank of the Ganges where a paramahamsa lives.   Should you like to go there?" said Sidhu. M.  assented and they started immediately for the Dakshineswar temple garden.   They arrived at the main gate at dusk and went straight to Sri Ramakrishna's room.   

And there they found him seated on a wooden couch, facing the east.  With a smile on his face he was talking of God.  The room was full of people, all seated on the floor, drinking in his words in deep silence. M. stood there speechless and looked on.  

It was as if he were standing where all the holy places met and as if Sukadeva himself were speaking the word of God, or as if Sri Chaitanya were singing the name and glories of the Lord in Puri with Ramananda, Swarup, and the other devotees. 

Formalities and essentials of religion

Sri Ramakrishna said: "When, hearing the name of Hari or Rāma once, you shed tears and your hair stands on end, then you may know for certain that you do not have to perform such devotions as the sandhya any more.  Then only will you have a right to renounce rituals; or rather, rituals will drop away of themselves.  

Then it will be enough if you repeat only the name of Rāma or Hari, or even simply Om." Continuing, he said, "The sandhya merges in the Gayatri, and the Gayatri merges in Om."

M. looked around him with wonder and said to himself: "What a beautiful place! What a charming man! How beautiful his words are! I have no wish to move from this spot." After a few minutes he thought, "Let me see the place first; then I'll come back here and sit down."

As he left the room with Sidhu, he heard the sweet music of the evening service arising in the temple from gong, bell, drum, and cymbal.  He could hear music from the nahabat, too, at the south end of the garden.  The sounds travelled over the Ganges, floating away and losing themselves in the distance.

A soft spring wind was blowing, laden with the fragrance of flowers; the moon had just appeared.  It was as if nature and man together were preparing for the evening worship.  M. and Sidhu visited the twelve Siva temples, the Radhakanta temple, and the temple of Bhavatarini.  When they reached Sri Ramakrishna's door again, they found it shut, and Brinde, the Maid, standing outside.  

M., who had been trained in English manners and would not enter a room without permission, asked her, "Is the holy man in?" Brinde replied, "Yes he's in the room."

M: "How long has he lived here?"
Brinde: "Oh, he has been here a long time."

M: "Does he read many books?"
Brinde: "Books? Oh, dear no! They're all on his tongue."

M. had just finished his studies in college.  It amazed him to hear that Sri Ramakrishna read no books.  

M: "Perhaps it is time for his evening worship.  May we go into the room? Will you tell him we are anxious to see him?"
Brinde: "Go right in, children.  Go in and sit down."

Entering the room, they found Sri Ramakrishna alone, seated on the wooden couch.  Incense had just been burnt and all the doors were shut.  As he entered, M. with folded hands saluted the Master.  Then, at the Master's bidding, he and Sidhu sat on the floor.  After a little conversation M. saluted the Master and took his leave.  "Come again", Sri Ramakrishna said. 

On his way home M. began to wonder: "Who is this serene-looking man who is drawing me back to him? Is it possible for a man to be great without being a scholar? How wonderful it is! I should like to see him again.  He himself said, 'Come again.' I shall go tomorrow or the day after."
Second Visit
MASTER: "Well, do you believe in God with form or without form?"
M., rather surprised, said to himself: "How can one believe in God without form when one believes in God with form? And if one believes in God without form, how can one believe that God has a form? Can these two contradictory ideas be true at the same time? Can a white liquid like milk be black?"

M: "Sir, I like to think of God as formless."
MASTER: "Very good.  It is enough to have faith in either aspect.  You believe in God without form; that is quite all right.  But never for a moment think that this alone is true and all else false.  Remember that God with form is just as true as God without form.  But hold fast to your own conviction."

God the only real teacher
MASTER: "That's one hobby of you Calcutta people - giving lectures and bringing others to the light! Nobody ever stops to consider how to get the light himself.  Who are you to teach others? 

"He who is the Lord of the Universe will teach everyone.  He alone teaches us, who has created this universe; who has made the sun and moon, men and beasts, and all other beings; who has provided means for their sustenance; who has given children parents and endowed them with love to bring them up.  The Lord has done so many things - will He not show people the way to worship Him? If they need teaching, then He will be the Teacher.  He is our Inner Guide.  

"Suppose there is an error in worshiping the clay image; doesn't God know that through it He alone is being invoked? He will he pleased with that very worship.  Why should you get a headache over it? You had better try for knowledge and devotion yourself."

This time M. felt that his ego was completely crushed.  He now said to himself: "Yes, he has spoken the truth.  What need is there for me to teach others? Have I known God? Do I really love Him? 'I haven't room enough for myself in my bed, and I am inviting my friend to share it with me!' I know nothing about God, yet I am trying to teach others.  What a shame! How foolish I am! This is not mathematics or history or literature, that one can teach it to others.  No, this is the deep mystery of God.  What he says appeals to me."

MASTER: "You were talking of worshiping the clay image.  Even if the image is made of clay, there is need for that sort of worship.  God Himself has provided different forms of worship.  He who is the Lord of the Universe has arranged all these forms to suit different men in different stages of knowledge. 

"The mother cooks different dishes to suit the stomachs of her different children.  Suppose she has five children.  If there is a fish to cook, she prepares various dishes from it - pilau, pickled fish, fried fish, and so on - to suit their different tastes and powers of digestion. "Do you understand me?"

Need of holy company & Meditation in solitude

M. (humbly): "Yes, sir.  How, sir, may we fix our minds on God?"

MASTER: "Repeat God's name and sing His glories, and keep holy company; and now and then visit God's devotees and holy men.  The mind cannot dwell on God if it is immersed day and night in worldliness, in worldly duties and responsibilities; it is most necessary to go into solitude now and then and think of God.  To fix the mind on God is very difficult, in the beginning, unless one practises meditation in solitude.  When a tree is young it should be fenced all around; otherwise it may be destroyed by cattle. 

"To meditate, you should withdraw within yourself or retire to a secluded corner or to the forest.  And you should always discriminate between the Real and the unreal.  God alone is real, the Eternal Substance; all else is unreal, that is, impermanent.  By discriminating thus, one should shake off impermanent objects from the mind."
God and worldly duties
M. (humbly):"How ought we to live in the world?"

MASTER: "Do all your duties, but keep your mind on God.  Live with all - with wife and children, father and mother - and serve them.  Treat them as if they were very dear to you, but know in your heart of hearts that they do not belong to you. 
"A maidservant in the house of a rich man performs all the household duties, but her thoughts are fixed on her own home in her native village.  She brings up her Master's children as if they were her own.  She even speaks of them as 'my Rāma' or 'my Hari'.  But in her own mind she knows very well that they do not belong to her at all. 

"The tortoise moves about in the water.  But can you guess where her thoughts are? There on the bank, where her eggs are lying.  Do all your duties in the world, but keep your mind on God. 

"If you enter the world without first cultivating love for God, you will be entangled more and more.  You will be overwhelmed with its danger, its grief, its sorrows.  And the more you think of worldly things, the more you will be attached to them. 

"First rub your hands with oil and then break open the jack-fruit; otherwise they will be smeared with its sticky milk.  First secure the oil of divine love, and then set your hands to the duties of the world. 

"But one must go into solitude to attain this divine love.  To get butter from milk you must let it set into curd in a secluded spot; if it is too much disturbed, milk won't turn into curd.  Next, you must put aside all other duties, sit in a quiet spot, and churn the curd.  Only then do you get butter.

"Further, by meditating on God in solitude the mind acquires knowledge, dispassion, and devotion.  But the very same mind goes downward if it dwells in the world.  In the world there is only one thought: 'woman and gold'.

"The world is water and the mind milk.  If you pour milk into water they become one; you cannot find the pure milk any more.  But turn the milk into curd and churn it into butter.  Then, when that butter is placed in water, it will float.  So, practise spiritual discipline in solitude and obtain the butter of knowledge and love.  Even if you keep that butter in the water of the world the two will not mix.  The butter will float. 
Practice of discrimination
"Together with this, you must practise discrimination.  'Woman and gold' is impermanent.  God is the only Eternal Substance.  What does a man get with money? Food, clothes, and a dwelling-place - nothing more.  You cannot realize God with its help.  Therefore money can never be the goal of life.  That is the process of discrimination.  Do you understand?"

M: "Yes, sir.  I recently read a Sanskrit play called Prabodha Chandrodaya.  It deals with discrimination."

MASTER: "Yes, discrimination about objects.  Consider - what is there in money or in a beautiful body? Discriminate and you will find that even the body of a beautiful woman consists of bones, flesh, fat, and other disagreeable things.  Why should a man give up God and direct his attention to such things? Why should a man forget God for their sake?"
How to see God
M: "Is it possible to see God?"
MASTER: "Yes, certainly.  Living in solitude now and then, repeating God's name and singing His glories, and discriminating between the Real and the unreal - these are the means to employ to see Him."
Longing and yearning
M: "Under what conditions does one see God?"
MASTER: "Cry to the Lord with an intensely yearning heart and you will certainly see Him.  People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children.  They swim in tears for money.  But who weeps for God? Cry to Him with a real cry."

"God reveals Himself to a devotee who feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions: the attraction of worldly possessions for the worldly man, the child's attraction for its mother, and the husband's attraction for the chaste wife.  If one feels drawn to Him by the combined force of these three attractions, then through it one can attain Him. 

"The point is, to love God even as the mother loves her child, the chaste wife her husband, and the worldly man his wealth.  Add together these three forces of love, these three powers of attraction, and give it all to God.  Then you will certainly see Him. 

"It is necessary to pray to Him with a longing heart.  The kitten knows only how to call its mother, crying, 'Mew, mew!' It remains satisfied wherever its mother puts it.  And the mother cat puts the kitten sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes on the floor, and sometimes on the bed.  When it suffers it cries only, 'Mew, mew!' That's all it knows.  But as soon as the mother hears this cry, wherever she may be; she comes to the kitten."

YouTube Audio: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by "M": [Click Here]

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