Ramakrishna Paramhansa

Ramakrishna e1519102439925Both worldliness and liberation depend on God’s will. It is God alone who has kept man in the world in a state of ignorance; and man will be free when God, of His own sweet will, calls him to Himself. It is like the mother calling the child at meal-time, when he is out playing. When the time comes for setting a man free, God makes him seek the company of holy men. Further, it is God who makes him restless for spiritual life.”

A NEIGHBOUR: “What kind of restlessness, sir?”

MASTER: “Like the restlessness of a clerk who has lost his job. He makes the round of the offices daily and asks whether there is any vacancy. When that restlessness comes, man longs for God. A fop, seated comfortably with one leg over the other, chewing betel-leaf and twirling his moustaches — a carefree dandy —, cannot attain God.”

NEIGHBOUR: “Can one get this longing for God through frequenting the company of holy men?”

MASTER: “Yes, it is possible. But not for a confirmed scoundrel. A sannyasi’s kamandalu, made of bitter gourd, travels with him to the four great places of pilgrimage but still does not lose its bitterness.”

The kirtan began. The musician sang of Sri Krishna’s life in Vrindavan:
RADHA: “Friend, I am about to die. Give me back my Krishna.”

FRIEND: “But, Radha, the cloud of Krishna was ready to burst into rain. It was yourself who blew it away with the strong wind of your pique. You are certainly not happy to see Krishna happy; or why were you piqued?”

RADHA: “But this pride was not mine. My pride has gone away with Him who made me proud.”
After the music Sri Ramakrishna conversed with the devotees.

MASTER: “The gopis worshipped Katyayani in order to be united with Sri Krishna. Everyone is under the authority of the Divine Mother, Mahamaya, the Primal Energy. Even the Incarnations of God accept the help of maya to fulfil their mission on earth. Therefore they worship the Primal Energy. Don’t you see how bitterly Rama wept tor Sita? ‘Brahman weeps, ensnared in the meshes of maya.’

“Vishnu incarnated himself as a sow in order to kill the demon Hiranyaksha. After killing the demon, the sow remained quite happy with her young ones. Forgetting her real nature, she was suckling them very contentedly. The gods in heaven could not persuade Vishnu to relinquish His sow’s body and return to the celestial regions. He was absorbed in the happiness of His beast form. After consulting among themselves, the gods sent Siva to the sow. Siva asked the sow, ‘Why have you forgotten yourself?’ Vishnu replied through the sow’s body, ‘Why, I am quite happy here.’ Thereupon with a stroke of his trident Siva destroyed the sow’s body, and Vishnu went back to heaven.”

From Adhar’s house Sri Ramakrishna went to Ram’s house. Ramchandra Dutta, one of the chief householder disciples of the Master, lived in Calcutta. He had been one of the first to announce the Master as an Incarnation of God. The Master had visited his house a number of times and unstintingly praised the devotion and generosity of this beloved disciple. A few of the Master’s disciples made Ram’s house virtually their own dwelling-place.

Ram had arranged a special festival to celebrate the Master’s visit. The small courtyard was nicely decorated. A kathak, seated on a raised platform, was reciting from the Bhagavata when the Master arrived. Ram greeted him respectfully and seated him near the reader. The disciple was extremely happy. The kathak was in the midst of the story of King Harischandra.

The great King Harischandra of the Purana was the embodiment of generosity. No one ever went away from him empty-handed. Now, the sage Viswamitra, wanting to test the extent of the king’s charity, extracted from him a promise to grant any boon that he might ask, Then the sage asked for the gift of the sea-girt world, of which Harischandra was king. Without the slightest hesitation the king gave away his kingdom. Then Viswamitra demanded the auxiliary fee, which alone makes charity valid and meritorious.

The kathak continued his recitation:
Viswamitra said to the king; “O King, you have given away the entire world, which was your kingdom. It now belongs to me; you cannot claim any place here. But you may live in Benares, which belongs to Siva, I shall lead you there with your wife Saibya, and Rohitasva, your son. There you can procure the auxiliary fee that you owe me.” The royal family, accompanied by the sage, reached Benares and visited the temple of Siva.
At the very mention of Siva, the Master went into spiritual mood and repeated the holy name several times indistinctly.

The kathak continued:
The king could not procure the fee and was compelled to sell Saibya, his royal consort, to a brahmin. With her went Prince Rohitasva. But since even that was not enough to redeem his pledge to the sage, Harischandra sold himself to an untouchable who kept a cremation ground. He was ordered to supervise the cremations.

One day, while plucking flowers for his brahmin master. Prince Rohitasva was bitten by a venomous snake and that very night died. The cruel brahmin would not leave his bed to help the poor mother cremate the body. The night was dark and stormy. Lightning rent the black clouds. Saibya started for the cremation ground alone, carrying the body of her son in her arms. Smitten with fear and overpowered with grief, the queen filled heaven and earth with her wailing. Arriving at the cremation ground, she did not recognize her husband, who demanded the usual fee for the cremation. Saibya was penniless and wept bitterly at her unending misfortunes. The impenetrable darkness was illumined only by the terrible flames of the cremation pyres. Above her the thunder roared, and before her the uncouth guardian of the cremation ground demanded his fee. She who had once been queen of the world sat there with her only child dead and cold on her lap.
The devotees burst into tears and loudly lamented this tragic episode of a royal life. And what was the Master doing? He was listening to the recital with rapt attention. Tear-drops appeared in his eyes and he wiped them away.

The kathak continued:
When the queen, wailing bitterly, uttered the name of her husband, Harischandra at once recognized his wife and son. Then the two wept for the dead prince. Yet in all these misfortunes the king never once uttered a word of regret for his charity.

Finally the sage Viswamitra appeared and told them that he had only wanted to put the king’s charitable impulses to a crucial test. Then, through his spiritual power, the sage brought the prince back to life and returned to the king his lost kingdom.
Sri Ramakrishna asked the kathak to recite the episode of Uddhava, the friend and devotee of Krishna.

At the request of Krishna, Uddhava had gone to Vrindavan to console the cowherds and the gopis, who were sore at heart because of their separation from their beloved Krishna.
The kathak said:
When Uddhava arrived at Vrindavan, the gopis and cowherd boys ran to him eagerly and asked him; “How is our Krishna? Has He forgotten us altogether? Doesn’t He even speak our names?” So saying, some of them wept. Others accompanied him to various places in Vrindavan still filled with Krishna’s sweet memory. They said; “Here it was that Krishna lifted up Mount Govardhan, and here He killed the demons sent by the evil-minded Kamsa. In this meadow He tended His cows; here on the bank of the Jamuna He sported with the gopis. Here He played with the cowherd boys, and here in these groves He met the gopis secretly.” Uddhava said to them: “Why are you so grief-stricken at Krishna’s absence? He resides in all beings as their indwelling Spirit. He is God Himself, and nothing can exist without God.” “But”, said the gopis, “we do not understand all that. We can neither read nor write. We know only our Krishna of Vrindavan, who played with us here in so many ways.” Uddhava said: “Krishna is God Himself. By meditating on Him, man escapes from birth and death in the world and attains liberation.” The gopis said: “We do not understand big words like ‘liberation’. We want to see the Krishna of our hearts.”
The Master listened to the story from the Bhagavata with great attention and said at last, “Yes, the gopis were right.”

Then he sang:
Though I3 am never loath to grant salvation,
I hesitate indeed to grant pure love.
Whoever wins pure love surpasses all;
He is adored by men;
He triumphs over the three worlds.

Listen, Chandravali!4 I shall tell you of love:
Mukti a man may gain, but rare is bhakti.
Solely for pure love’s sake did I become
King Vali’s door-keeper
Down in his realm in the nether world. 5

Alone in Vrindavan can pure love be found;
Its secret none but the gopas and gopis know.
For pure love’s sake I dwelt in Nanda’s house;
Taking him as My father,
I carried his burdens on My head.
The Master said to the kathak: “The gopis had ecstatic love, unswerving and single-minded devotion to one ideal. Do you know the meaning of devotion that is not loyal to one ideal? It is devotion tinged with intellectual knowledge. It makes one feel: ‘Krishna has become all these. He alone is the Supreme Brahman. He is Rama, Siva, and Sakti.’ But this element of knowledge is not present in ecstatic love of God. Once Hanuman came to Dwaraka and wanted to see Sita and Rama. Krishna said to Rukmini, His queen, ‘You had better assume the form of Sita; otherwise there will be no escape from the hands of Hanuman.'(Because Rama and Sita were Hanuman’s Chosen Ideals.) “Once the Pandava brothers performed the Rajasuya sacrifice. All the kings placed Yudhisthira on the royal throne and bowed low before him in homage. But Bibhishana, the King of Ceylon, said, ‘I bow down to Narayana and to none else.’ At these words the Lord Krishna bowed down to Yudhisthira. Only then did Bibhishana prostrate himself, crown and all, before him.

220px Ramakrishna Marble Statue“Do you know what devotion to one ideal is like? It is like the attitude of a daughter-in-law in the family. She serves all the members of the family — her brothers-in-law, father-in-law, husband, and so forth —, bringing them water to wash their feet, fetching their towels, arranging their seats, and the like; but with her husband she has a special relationship.

“There are two elements in this ecstatic love: ‘I-ness’ and ‘my-ness’. Yasoda used to think: ‘Who would look after Gopala if I did not? He will fall ill if I do not serve Him.’ She did not look on Krishna as God. The other element is ‘my-ness’. It means to look on God as one’s own —’my Gopala’. Uddhava said to Yasoda: ‘Mother, your Krishna is God Himself. He is the Lord of the Universe and not a common human being.’ ‘Oh!’ exclaimed Yasoda. ‘I am not asking you about your Lord of the Universe. I want to know how my Gopala fares. Not the Lord of the Universe, but my Gopala.’

“How faithful to Krishna the gopis were! After many entreaties to the door-keeper, the gopis entered the royal court in Mathura, where Krishna was seated as king. The door-keeper took them to Him; but at the sight of King Krishna wearing the royal turban, the gopis bent down their heads and said among themselves: ‘Who is this man with a turban on his head? Should we violate our chaste love for Krishna by talking to him? Where is our beloved Krishna with the yellow robe and the bewitching crest with the peacock feather?’

“Did you observe the single-minded love of the gopis for Krishna? The ideal of Vrindavan is unique. I am told that the people of Dwaraka worship Krishna, the companion of Arjuna, but reject Radha.”

A DEVOTEE: “Which is the better, ecstatic love or love mixed with knowledge?”

MASTER: “It is not possible to develop ecstatic love of God unless you love Him very deeply and regard Him as your very own.

“Listen to a story. Once three friends were going through a forest, when a tiger suddenly appeared before them. ‘Brothers,’ one of them exclaimed, ‘we are lost!’ ‘Why should you say that?’ said the second friend. ‘Why should we be lost? Come, let us pray to God.’ The third friend said: ‘No. Why should we trouble God about it? Come, let us climb this tree.’

“The friend who said, ‘We are lost!’ did not know that there is a God who is our Protector. The friend who asked the others to pray to God was a jnani. He was aware that God is the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the world. The third friend, who didn’t want to trouble God with prayers and suggested climbing the tree, had ecstatic love of God. It is the very nature of such love that it makes a man think himself stronger than his Beloved. He is always alert lest his Beloved should suffer. The one desire of his life is to keep his Beloved from even being pricked in the foot by a thorn.”

Ram served the Master and the devotees with delicious sweets.

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