3.3 SRI RAMAKRISHNA AS THE SPIRITUAL TEACHER
Some look upon It as strange,
Others speak of It as strange,
Others again hear of It as strange;
Though hearing (seeing and speaking) no one
Knows It directly.
— Gita II. 29.
Those who have seen the Master but a few times and have not developed intimate relation or have had only a superficial acquaintance with him are amazed to hear from anyone, of his divine sport with the devotees as their spiritual teacher. They think, the man is telling a downright falsehood. Again, when they find that a good many people are speaking in the same strain, they think, “These people have formed a group and hatched a plan to raise Ramakrishna to Godhood. They are going to add one more to the already existing three hundred and thirty three crores of deities! Why, are not so many deities sufficient for you? Why do you not select any one or any number from amongst them? Why increase the number by another? Ah! how strange! these followers do not even consider that if their falsehood is detected, people will lose all respect for such a pure soul. Have we not seen him? How humble he was, how meek, how patient, how devoid of egoism — lowlier than the lowliest! You say, you have also seen that he could not at all put up with being addressed as a spiritual teacher, a father or a patriarch. He would burst out, ‘God is the only spiritual teacher, father and patriarch. I am the lowliest of the lowly, a servant of servants, equal to a hair on your body, a tiny hair at that, by no means a big one.’ And saying so, he would immediately take the dust of your feet and place it on his own head! Has anyone witnessed such a humble attitude? And it is this very person whom they are making into a spiritual Teacher and God — that which he was not.”
It is because of the possibility of such controversies being carried on for an indefinite period that we are prompted to put in a few words about the Master’s mood as the spiritual teacher as we have seen and heard. For, as a matter of fact, the conviction that every being from the highest down to the lowest is God Himself was so firmly ingrained in him that the attitude of a servant not only of men but of all living beings was normal to him. It is, no doubt, a fact that during his normal state of consciousness, he regarded himself as lowlier than the lowliest, humbler than the humblest, and took the dust of the feet of all; and that at that time he could not really endure being addressed as a spiritual teacher, a father or a patriarch. Nevertheless we cannot deny the fact of the Master’s extraordinary exploits in the mood of the spiritual teacher.
Then under the influence of the divine Power manifested in him he became Its instrument and by a mere touch put anyone in Samadhi or deep meditation or in the inebriation1 of divine bliss never felt before. Or, when, in exercise of an unknown spiritual power, he removed so much of the impurity of one’s mind that one felt immediately an undreamt of concentration of mind, purity and bliss and, regarding the end of one’s life as fulfilled, entirely surrendered oneself forever at his feet, then we could not but feel that the Master was not that lowliest of the lowly but a strange divine Power manifesting Itself through him in play (Lila) and making him behave that way. Then we felt that the Master, as the revealer of the supreme abode of the divine Lord, was indeed the spiritual teacher and the saviour of the human beings who, blinded “by the darkness of ignorance, scorched by the three kinds of misery”2 and suffering from the diseases of worldliness had been reduced to utter help lessness. Keeping this divine state of the Master in view, the devotees use the expressions “spiritual teacher”, “the merciful one”, “the Lord”, and so on. We have actually seen it in Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna in this modern age that true humility and the wonderful divine mood of the spiritual teacher, contradictory though they might appear, can coexist in one person. And because we have seen that, we are now trying to present to the reader what little we have understood about how they exist together in the same mind.
We feel diffident to explain correctly even the little we have understood and it goes without saying that it is beyond the power of both the writer and the reader to explain and understand it perfectly, for there was no limit to the moods of the Master who was established in Bhavamukha. The Master used to say, “There is no limit to the divine Lord.” It is within our personal experience that there was also no limit to the moods of this extraordinary personage.
5. Ordinary people thought that the Master was a devotee and not a knower of Brahman. But if one understands what it is to be in Bhavamukha and under what conditions it is possible, one cannot assert that
As soon as people hear that the Master used to dwell incessantly in Bhavamukha, they generally jump to the wrong conclusion that he was not a man of Vedantic knowledge and that he always lived his life in the midst of the emotional surges of pain and pleasure arising from the separation from and union with the divine Lord. But a correct appreciation of the present subject is possible if we have a clear grasp of what it is to be in Bhavamukha and under what conditions it is possible. Therefore, let us here discuss briefly once again the state of being in Bhavamukha from a different3 standpoint. The reader will recall that the Master attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi in one day4 and remained in that state for three days and nights at a stretch.
Question: What is Nirvikalpa Samadhi?
Reply: To bring the mind to the state in which it is completely freed from all mentations.
Question: What are mentations?
Reply: All the mental modifications such as the perception of the objects of the external world consisting of sights, tastes, etc., feelings of pain, pleasure, etc.; imagination, discussion, inference, etc., and desires, such as “I will do this”, “I will understand that”, “I will enjoy this”, “I will renounce this”, and so on.
Question: On what do these modifications depend for their existence?
Reply: On the knowledge of “I”, “I”. If the consciousness of “I” vanishes or is stopped altogether for sometime, there can be no modification in the mind nor can it grip the mind during that period.
Question: It is a fact that in the condition of swoon or deep sleep also the knowledge of “I” vanishes; is Nirvikalpa Samadhi then something like that?
6. Mental modifications depend for their existence on I-conscious ness. There is Savikalpa Samdhi when it disappears partially, and Nirvikalpa Samadhi when it vanishes completely. The difference between Samadhi and deep sleep or swoon
Reply: No, in swoon or deep sleep the consciousness of “I” continues inwardly; but the instrument called the brain with the help of which the mind has the consciousness, becomes inactive and ceases to function for some time; that is, all the modifications continue to crowd at the bottom of the mind. The Master gave the example of “pigeons sitting with inflated throats after eating peas, and cooing; you think there is nothing within their throats; but if you feel them with your hand, you will find peas all crowded there.”
Question: How am I to know that the I-consciousness continues in that way in swoon or deep sleep?
Reply: By observing the result. For example, on those occasions the heart-beat, the pulse, the circulation of blood, etc., are not stopped. All these physical activities too take place centering round the I-consciousness. Moreover although the external signs of swoon or deep sleep are somewhat similar to those of Samadhi, when man returns to the ordinary waking state, the amount of knowledge and bliss continues to exist as before, that is, there is not the least increase or decrease. For example, the lust of the lustful remains as it was, so does the anger of the angry, the greed of the greedy, and so on. But when the state of Nirvikalpa is attained these modifications cannot raise their heads any more; and extraordinary knowledge and infinite bliss fill the mind and doubts, such as whether there is a next world or whether God exists, vanish forever on account of direct realization of God, the cause of the universe.
Question: Yes, I see; the I-consciousness completely vanished for some time when the Master was in Nirvikalpa Samadhi; but what then?
Reply: Then, when the I-consciousness vanished this way, he had for some time the direct vision of the divine Mother, the cause of the universe. Not satisfied with that three-day vision he tried to have it eternally.
Question: What was the state of the Master’s mind as a result, of that attempt and what were the signs manifested in his body indicating that state?
Reply: Sometimes, by the complete merging of I-consciousness externally, the symptoms of death appeared on the body, and internally, the unobstructed vision of the Mother continued. Sometimes again, with the reappearance of a little I-consciousness, symptoms of life returned slightly and the vision of the divine Mother continued, though a little obstructed because of the intervention of the screen of the mind, which was then pure, transparent and holy owing to the preponderance of Sattwa. Thus, sometimes, there was the vanishing of the I-consciousness, the complete cessation of mental modifications and the full direct vision of the divine Mother; again, sometimes, there was the coming into existence of a little I-consciousness, the manifestation to a small extent of the modifications of the mind, and simultaneously a slightly obstructed vision of the divine Mother happened again and again.
Question: How long did he continue to make that attempt?
Reply: Continually for six months.
Question: Six months! How then did his body last? For, a human body cannot last without food for six months and you also say that although the Master’s I-consciousness came into existence now and then during that period, it never manifested itself in his body to such an extent that activities like the taking of food were possible.
Reply: It is true that his body would not have lasted; and there was in his mind not the slightest desire to let the body last for any time; but his body lasted because the Mother of the universe wanted to manifest Her wonderful spiritual powers through his body for the good of the many.
Question: That may be so; but did the Mother assume a form and come to feed the Master by force for those six months?
Reply: Yes, it was somewhat like that; for a holy man came of himself at that time, nobody knows from where. He clearly understood that the Master’s state, which was almost like that of a dead man, was the result of his practice of Yoga, and of his feeling of oneness with the divine Lord. The holy man stayed for those six months at the Kali temple and tried to bring the Master down to a little body-consciousness even by striking his body. And when the holy man saw that a little consciousness was returning, he would immediately thrust a morsel of food or two into the Master’s mouth. We do not know why the holy man felt unusual eagerness and took unusual interest in keeping alive an altogether unknown person who was dead and inert to all appearances; but it is only such events as these that are said to be brought about by the will of God. Therefore, what else shall we say except that such an impossible event became possible by the direct will and power of the divine Mother in order that the Master’s body might be kept alive.
Question: Yes I see; what then?
Reply: Then the Mother of the universe or the divine Lord or the cosmic Consciousness, who is manifested as the universe, pervading in and through all beings scient and nescient and appears as diverse names and forms — commanded the Master, “Remain in Bhavamukha”.
Question: What is that again?
12. There exist, in the Reality which is “One without a second”, a difference in Itself, consisting of the aspects of saguna and Nirguna and also the Virat “I-ness” pervading the universe. It is this universal “I-ness” that is Isvara or the divine Mother, and by It are brought about the world phenomena
Reply: It shall be narrated. But to comprehend what Bhavamukha is it is necessary to understand, as far as possible with the aid of imagination, the then state of the Master. We have said that at that time the I-consciousness of the Master sometimes vanished altogether and sometimes reappeared just a little. Even when that little of I-consciousness returned, the universe did not appear to him as it appears to us. The world appeared to him as an “immense mind” in which innumerable waves of ideas were rising, surging and merging. The Master’s own body, mind, and I-consciousness, not to speak of those of others, seemed to be but a component wave in that immense mind! In that state the Master had the direct experience and vision of the real nature of that universal consciousness and power as “One without a second”, as living and wide-awake and as the creator of all wills and actions, as the Mother of infinite grace — the same Mother whom the self-styled materialistic scholars of the West, looking through their clouded intellects and the material instruments, view as inert and insentient, though they admit it is one. The Master saw further that the “One without a second” is Itself divided in two aspects of Saguna (with attributes), and Nirguna (without attributes). It is this that is called “a difference in Itself”, Swagatabheda, in the scriptures — that an immense I-ness pervading everything from Brahma down to the lowest created being was manifested in it. He saw that an infinite number of waves of ideas was rising in that cosmic mind; that the limited I-s of men perceived these waves of ideas in parts and mistook them as the external world and its various objects and spoke and thought of them and otherwise dealt with them. He also saw that the limited I-s had their being in, and performed their works with, the strength of that unlimited I; and that because of their inability to grasp and understand the unlimited I, the limited ones regard themselves as possessed of free will and power of action. It is this spiritual blindness that is called in the scriptures Avidya or ignorance.
It is this universal I-ness existing between the aspects of Saguna and Nirguna that is called Bhavamukha; for, infinite ideas owe their manifestations to that all-pervading I-ness. This universal I is the I of Isvara or the Mother. In their attempt to describe the nature of this immense I the Vaishnava teachers of Bengal have called It the divine Sri Krishna, the embodiment of pure consciousness, which is of the nature of an “inconceivable difference in non-difference” (Achintya-bhedabheda).
When the I-consciousness of the Master vanished altogether, he remained in oneness with the unqualified being of the divine Mother beyond the limits of this all-pervading I. And with the vanishing of this ubiquitous I, vanished also the last vestige of the infinite waves of ideas in the I-waves which go by the name of the universe. Again, when a little of I-consciousness manifested itself in him, he saw both the Saguna immense-I and all the ideas in It, united with the Nirguna aspect of the divine Mother. In other words, as soon as he attained the Nirguna state, the existence of the difference-in-itself in that “One without a second” vanished from the Master’s consciousness. And when he was conscious of that Saguna immense I-ness, he felt that that which was then Sakti5 was verily that Brahman. Saguna was indeed that which Nirguna was. Prakriti (the material cause of the universe) was really that which Purusha (pure Consciousness) was. “The snake that was motionless was then moving”; that is, that which was Nirguna in Its own nature was really Saguna in sport. After he had the full direct vision of the nature of the divine Mother in the combined aspects of Nirguna and Saguna, the Master got the command, “Remain in Bhavamukha”, that is, “Do not remain as the Nirguna being by the complete merging of I-ness, but live your life and do good to people, living in constant and full, direct knowledge of the fact that you are none other than that limitless I, from which all kinds of ideas in the universe spring and that your desires and actions are verily Its desires and actions.
Thus, to have the direct experience and conviction or feeling in all respects, at all times and in all states that I am that immense I, that ripe I, is the meaning of remaining in Bhavamukha. When one reaches the state of Bhavamukha, all the ideas, — such as “I am the son of so-and-so”, “I am the father of so-and-so”, “l am a Brahmin”, “l am a Sudra”, and so on — are completely washed off from the mind, and no sign of them is left; and one always feels that one is that immense I pervading the vast inconceivable universe. The Master, therefore, always taught us: “My children, all the I-s, such as ‘I am the son of so-and-so’, ‘I am the father of so-and-so’, ‘I am a Brahmin’, ‘I am a Sudra’, ‘I am a Pandit’, ‘I am rich’, and so on, are ‘unripe I-s’; they bring about bondage. Give up these and think ‘I am His devotee’, ‘I am His son’, and ‘I am a part of Him’. Keep this mood firm in your mind.” Or, he would say, “Tie the non-dual knowledge (Advaita-jnana) in the hem of your cloth and then do whatever you like.”6
The reader will perhaps say: “Was not then the Master a follower of the doctrine of non-dualism? It must be admitted that he did not accept the non-dual doctrine founded by Sankaracharya in which the very existence of the universe has been denied, as the Master upheld a difference in the divine Mother Herself (Swagatabheda) and saw Her existence in two different aspects of Nirguna and Saguna”. It is not so. The Master accepted all the doctrines of non-dualism (Advaita), qualified nondualism (Visishtadvaita) and dualism (Dvaita). But he used to say, “These three doctrines are accepted by the human mind according to the stage of its progress. In one stage of the mind dualism finds acceptance; the other two are then felt to be wrong. In a higher stage of spiritual progress the doctrine of qualified non-dualism is regarded as true; one then feels that the Reality which in Itself is eternally devoid of attributes exists in sport as always possessed of attributes. One then cannot but feel that not only is dualism wrong but there is no truth in non-dualism also. Finally, when man reaches the ultimate limit of spiritual progress with the help of Sadhana, he experiences the Nirguna nature of the divine Mother and remains in oneness with Her. All the ideas, such as I and You, subject and object, bondage and liberation, vice and virtue, merit and demerit, etc., are then all merged in One.”
In connection with this topic, the Master mentioned the experience of Hanuman, who was a bright example of the Dasya attitude of devotion. He said, “At one time Ramachandra asked Hanuman, his servant, ‘What is your attitude towards me? How do you look upon, think of and worship me?’ ‘When, O Rama,’ replied Hanuman, ‘I am conscious of my body, in other words, when I feel I am this visible body, I have the conviction that Thou art the Lord and I am Thy servant, Thou art One to be served and I am one to serve, Thou art One to be worshipped and I am one to worship. When I am conscious of myself as the individual self, one with the mind, the intellect and the soul, I have the conviction that Thou art the whole and I am a part. And when, again, I remain in Samadhi, in the mood that I am the pure Self devoid of all qualifying adjuncts, I have the conviction that I am also verily that which Thou art, Thou and I are one, there is no difference whatsoever.’”
18. The state of non-duality is beyond speech, thought and imagination. As long as the functions of body and mind continue, one has to accept in practice both the aspects of God, the absolute (Nitya) and the relative (Lila)
The Master said, “One who has realized the non-dual state becomes silent! Non-dualism is not a matter to be described. As soon as one tries to speak or say anything, dualism becomes inevitable. As long as there are thought, imagination, etc., there is also dualism within the mind; non-dual knowledge has not yet been attained. It is only the reality of Brahman, in other words, the Nirguna aspect of the divine Mother alone, that has not come out of man’s mouth, and thus it has not been defiled.” That is, It has not been expressed by human speech. For this Truth is beyond human mind and intellect; how can It be spoken or explained by words? This is why the Master said about the non-dual Truth, “My children, it is the ultimate Truth to be realized.” It is therefore clear, as the Master used to say, that as long as the ideas of I, You, and bodily functions like speaking, walking, etc., are there, one must accept in practice both the aspects, Nirguna and Saguna or, as they are called, the absolute and the relative, and that during that time you must remain in practice a qualified non-dualist, though you may talk of non-dualism. Many were the examples that the Master gave on that matter.
He said, “Take, for example, the natural and the reverse orders of the musical scale. You raise the pitch of your voice in the natural order of ‘do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si, do’ (sa re ga ma Pa dha ni sa) and lower it in the reverse order of ‘do, si, la, Sol, fa, mi, re, do’. Similarly you realize the knowledge of non-duality in Samadhi, come down again and then remain in the I-consciousness.
(2) Vilva fruit
“Again take a Vilva fruit in your hand and try to ascertain which of the three, the outer shell, seeds or the pulp, is the fruit. At first you discard the shell as not being the substance; and do the same with the seeds; and then, on isolating the pulp, say that that is the real Vilva fruit. Then comes the decision that the shell, like the seeds, belongs to what the pulp is made of — it is the shell, seeds and the pulp that together make the Vilva fruit. Similarly, after directly knowing the Absolute, comes the conclusion that that which is the Absolute, is in sport the relative, the universe.”
(3) the pith of a plantain plant
“By removing the sheaths of the stem of a plantain plant, you reach the pith and think that to be the essence. Then comes the realisation that it is to the sheaths that the pith belongs and it is to the pith that the sheaths belong — it is both these together that make the stem.”
(4) coats of an onion
“And just as when one goes on removing the coats of an onion nothing is left over; so, in order to ascertain the self, when one goes on eliminating the body, the mind, the intellect, etc., and makes sure that none of these is the self, one finds that there is nothing separate called ‘I’ but everything is He and nothing but He—It is like saying ‘It is my Ganga’ by putting a fence round a part of the water of the Ganga.” Now to come back to our main topic again.
20. Although the state of Bhavamukha is a few steps below the Nirguna, there is a plenitude of the knowledge of the non-dual reality in that state, How one feels in that state. The Master is an example
It is needless to say that the Master dwelt in the realm of Vidya Maya (the Maya leading Godward), a few steps below the attributeless being of the divine Mother, when he was having the full knowledge of the universal I in Bhavamukha and was seeing the manifestation of the “many” from the “One”. But even in that state the manifestation and knowledge of that One is so great that the Master felt quite fully that it was He who was doing, thinking and saying whatever anyone in the world was doing, thinking and saying. Even a glimpse of this state is very wonderful. The Master said that when one day a man was walking upon grass, he was feeling very much hurt in his chest, as if it was on his chest that the man was walking. In fact, the blood in his chest coagulated to produce black marks and he was extremely fidgeting on account of pain.
The mood “I am the servant of the divine Mother”, “I am Her devotee”, “l am Her child” or “1 am a part of Her” was always there in the Master’s mind when he came further down to the lower state of the realm of Maya. And still further down is the realm of the Avidya Maya (the Maya leading away from God) or that of lust, anger, worldly attachment. By constant practice, his mind never descended there, or, to put it in another way, the divine Mother prevented its descent to that realm, as the Master used to say, “Mother prevents one who has taken complete refuge in Her from taking a wrong step.”
22. The Master dwelt for the rest of his life in the consciousness of the universal ripe I after his unripe I had been destroyed altogether. It is in this state that the mood of the spiritual teacher was manifested in him. It is therefore not impossible that the mood of the spiritual teacher and humility should be found in the same person in different states
Therefore, it is clear that after he attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the limited or the unripe I in him vanished completely. And the little of I that was left over saw itself united for all eternity with the immense or the ripe I. That I sometimes used to feel that it was a part or limb of the universal I and again approaching nearer and nearer to that all-pervading I used to merge in It. It was through this process that he came to know all the ideas of all minds. For, it is this immense I that is the source from which all the ideas of all the minds of the world spring. The Master was able to know and understand all the waves of ideas rising in all the minds of the universe, only because he could always remain identified with that all-pervading I. In that high state, the Master’s mood, “l am a part of the divine Lord” also gradually vanished and the universal I or what may be called the I of the divine Mother manifested Itself through him as the spiritual teacher, possessing the power of bestowing grace and inflicting punishment. Therefore, the Master did not then appear to be the “humblest of the humble” but all his actions, such as, his movements, behaviour with others, etc., assumed a different form He, like the mythical wish-fulfilling tree, then asked the devotee what he want. We saw the Master at Dakshineswar daily assume that mood in order to bestow his grace on especial devotees. And again we saw him in that mood on Jaunary 1, 1886. On that day he was in that mood and by his touch transmitted spirituality to or awakened the dormant spiritual power in the devotees present there. That is a wonderful story. It will not be out of place to narrate it here.
It was the first day of January 1886. It was a little more than two weeks since the devotees had brought the Master, according to the advice of Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar, to the garden house of Gopal Babu, the son-in-law of Rani Katyayani, at Kasipur in the north of Calcutta. The doctor had said that the air in the garden quarters was purer than in Calcutta proper and that it was possible that the Master’s disease in the throat would be cured or alleviated if he could breathe as much of pure air as could be had. It was a few days after he had come to the garden that Dr. Rajendralal Datta came to see him and administered Lycopodium 200. And it appeared that there was also a little alleviation of the disease. But since his coming there the Master had never got down from the first floor of the house to the ground floor or taken a walk in the garden. He felt much better that day and in the afternoon expressed a desire to have a walk. The devotees were therefore very happy on that day.
Swami Vivekananda was then feeling an intense detachment and had given up all desires for worldly prosperity. He was then living in the company of the Master and in order to realize the divine Lord was practising various spiritual exercises according to his instruction. He used to kindle a holy fire under a tree and pass nights in meditation, Japa, reading and other devotional exercises. A few other devotees also such as the junior Gopal, Kali and others brought the necessary articles for helping him in Sadhana and they themselves practised it according to their capacity. The lay devotees could not always remain with the Master on account of their various worldly affairs. But whenever they had an opportunity they came to the Master, made all arrangements about the food and other necessaries for those who always remained busy in the service of the Master, and sometimes stayed there for a day or so. As it was the New Year’s day, offices remained closed, and many devotees came to the garden.
It was 3 p.m. Dressed in a red-bordered cloth, a shirt, a thick wrapper also with red border, a cap covering the ears and a pair of slippers, the Master came down slowly from the first floor with Swami Adbhutananda and entered the hall downstairs, observed it closely, came out of the western door and started for a walk in the garden. Some of the lay devotees saw him thus going for a walk and followed him with great joy. The young devotees like Narendra were then sleeping in the small room adjacent to the hall as they were fatigued on account of keeping vigil the previous night. When he saw that the lay devotees were going with the Master, Adbhutananda thought it unnecessary for him to go farther with the Master and returned from the southern bank of the small pond in front of the hall, called and took with him another young devotee and both busied themselves in sweeping and cleaning the Master’s room upstairs and sunning the Master’s bedding and clothings.
Of all the lay devotees, Girish was then feeling the greatest attachment to God. At one time the Master highly praised his wonderful faith and said to other devotees, “Girish has more than a hundred per cent faith. People will hereafter be surprised to see his spiritual progress.” On account of the great surge of faith and devotion Girish always looked upon the Master as the divine Lord Himself, incarnated through His grace to liberate souls from the bondage of the world and, although forbidden by the Master, he expressed publicly that conviction of his, to one and all. Girish was also present in the garden on that day, and was sitting and conversing under a mango tree with Ram and a few other lay devotees.
Surrounded by the devotees, the Master was slowly proceeding by the broad path in the garden towards the gate and came to the middle of that path near the mango tree where he saw Ram and Girish under its shade. He then addressed Girish and said, “Girish, what have you seen (in me) on account of which you say publicly so many things (that I am an incarnation and so on) to one and all?”
Although Girish was so abruptly questioned, his faith remained unshaken. Hurriedly and with overflowing adoration he stood up, came to the path, knelt down at the feet of the Master and with folded hands said in a choked voice, “What more can I say about Him whose glory even Vyasa and Valmiki (in their immortal epics and Puranas) failed miserably to express, even a fraction of it.”
Hearing Girish’s words of such wonderful faith, the Master had horripilation all over the body, his mind ascended to a high plane and he was in Samadhi. Then seeing the Master’s face illumined with a divine halo, Girish cried out in great joy, “Glory to Ramakrishna, glory to Ramakrishna”, and took the dust of his feet again and again.
In the meanwhile in a state of divine semi-consciousness the Master looked at all present and said smilingly, “What more shall I say to you? May all of you be spiritually awakened.” When the devotees heard those words of blessing destroying their fear of the world, they raised with great joy repeated cries of “Glory to Ramakrishna” Some of them saluted him, some showered flowers, some again came and touched his feet. No sooner had the first devotee touched his feet and stood up than the Master in that state of divine semi-consciousness touched the devotee’s breast and, passing his hand in the upward direction, said, “Awake”. As soon as the second person came and saluted him and stood up, he did the same thing to him; so also to the third and to the fourth. In this way he touched one after another, all of those who approached him thus. And there arose by that marvellous touch a wonderful mood in the mind of each; some of them began to laugh, some to weep, some to meditate, and some again to call aloud all others in order that they might also be blessed by receiving the grace of the Master, the sea of gratuitous mercy, and share the bliss that was overflowing. The noise and cries were so great that some of the devotees who afterwards became monks got up from their sleep and others gave up the work they were engaged in. They came running and saw that all the devotees stood surrounding the Master and were behaving like madmen, on the path in the garden. And as soon as they saw it, they knew that it was the same divine play of the Master, which, under the influence of the divine mood, he had enacted for his especial devotees at Dakshineswar in order to bestow grace on them, that was now being manifested and enacted for the good of all on that occasion, so that all might receive divine grace. Hardly had the devotees who were monks-in-the-making come when that state of the Master changed and he was in normal condition again.
It was known on enquiry that the devotees had wonderful experiences and visions. One felt bliss, and a sort of intoxication such as is produced by smoking hemp; another, an unknown power creeping up within his body with accompanying bliss; others saw ecstatic visions the moment they shut their eyes: one of light, another of the shining form of God he had been meditating upon but had not been able to see — all hitherto unseen, unheard of and unfelt experiences! It was, however, clear that although each had a different vision and experience, the feeling of being filled with an extraordinary divine bliss was common to all. More than this, each felt that the extraordinary mental change or experience was brought about by the transmission of a superhuman power by the Master. There were only two of the devotees present whom the Master did not touch, saying “not now”. And it was those two only that considered themselves unfortunate and felt dejected on that happy occasion.7
Another fact stands out from this, that it was not at all certain when that divine Power would graciously manifest Itself through the Master to any one. It is also doubtful whether the Master himself could have known or understood this, his normal consciousness.
But it is important to note that the Master could become a great instrument of the universal I or the divine Mother in manifesting power, only because he could give up completely the unripe or limited I. And that wonderful manifestation through him of the aspect of the divine Mother as the spiritual teacher of the people and of the world became a fact because he completely gave up that unripe I and converted himself into the humblest of the humble. The history of the religions of the world is an eternal witness to the fact that it was only by the merging of the limited I-ness in this way that the mood or the power of the spiritual teacher became manifest in the lives of all incarnations of all religions.
We have been hearing it from time immemorial that one cannot realize spirituality or God if one has the belief that the spiral teacher is a mere human being. We have always been repeating with or without faith the hymn, “The spiritual teacher is Brahma, the spiritual teacher is Vishnu, the spiritual teacher is the divine Maheswara” with reference to the teacher who initiates us in Mantras. Many who, under the spell of a foreign education, gave up their own national culture and education, which are based on religion, regarded it to be a great sin to use such words with reference to a particular human being and were not slow to indulge in noisy controversy. For, who then knew that though It manifested Itself through the personalities of some human beings, the mood of the spiritual teacher was not anything within the realm of human consciousness? Who then knew that it was the divine Mother who had manifested Herself fully in the mood or power of a spiritual teacher through his body and mind, made wholly pure, awakened and free, from the tinge of egoism, for the purpose of bestowing peace by the removal of the three kinds of miseries8 that were continually scorching, like fires, the human minds bound tightly by the chains of Maya; even as She manifested Herself as water, air, food and other material articles, for the up-keep and maintenance of the bodies of all beings? And who then knew that one became the instrument for the manifestation of that mood or power in exact proportion to one’s capacity to give up one’s egoism or the unripe I? Ordinarily a very little, a drop or two, so to speak, of this divine power is manifest in the minds of persons “liberated in life”; this is why it eludes our understanding. But when, through an abundance of good fortune, one witnesses the wonderful Lila of that divine power in Krishna, Buddha, Chaitanya, Sankara, Jesus and other incarnations of the past and in Ramakrishna in the present age, one feels in one’s heart of hearts that such manifestation of power does not belong to any mortal man but to God Himself. Then alone do the scales of dross and delusion fall off from the eyes of those who suffer from this world-disease and seek the Truth wrongly; then they cry out in an outburst of joy, “O Master, thou never art a man — thou art He.” Therefore we see that the universal Mother who manifested Herself as the exalted divine power, removing all kinds of impurities due to spiritual ignorance from the human mind, is what is called the mood or power of the spiritual teacher (the Guru-bhava or the Guru-sakti).
It is this divine power (Sakti) which the scriptures speak of as the spiritual teacher and call upon man to pour out his heart’s faith, reverence and adoration at Her feet. But the human mind that is conversant with the gross world only and is just learning the first lesson in devotion and reverence cannot of course love a bodiless intangible power; and it is for this reason that the scriptures advise us to look upon the person who initiates us into this life divine as the Guru and to have a devotion for his personality which is induced by the real divine Guru. Therefore, to those who say that they may have reverence and adoration for the power manifesting as the spiritual teacher but that they refuse to bow their heads in reverence and devotion to the body through which that power manifests itself — to those, thus making a distinction between the power and the medium of its manifestation — our reply is a grave warning that they should not fall a prey to self-deception by discriminating between the unseen power and its seen medium of manifestation and by paying homage to the unseen to the neglect of the seen. The difference itself is as difficult as that between fire and its burning power; and as to the act of adoration of the unseen and the unknown the least said the best How can one of the two be adored and the other rejected? A man who loves or admires somebody feels special attachment for even a trifling thing used by his beloved. He considers even a flower touched by him or a piece of cloth worn or a small thing used by him as sacred. The very ground he treads is regarded by him to be very dear and precious. Does it need to be explained that he will have a natural reverence for the body through which he accepts his worship and bestows grace on him? Those who say so do not understand at all what is meant by the mood of the spiritual teacher. Again, one who has true devotion to that power cannot but have devotion to the body, the receptacle of that power.
The Master used to illustrate this point by citing the example of Vibhishana. He said, “At one time, long after Sri Ramachandra passed away, a boat sank and a man was thrown by the waves on the coast of Lanka. Vibhishana is immortal and has been ruling over Lanka through the three cycles of time, since Ravana’s death.9 The news reached him The mouths of many of the Rakshasas in the assembly began to water at the news of the coming of a dainty morsel, the human body. But this brought about an extraordinary mood in Vibhishana, the king. He began to say again and again with tears in his eyes, and voice choked with devotion, ‘O the luck! O the accumulation of good fortunes!’ The Rakshasas could not understand his feeling and were dumb-founded. Vibhishana then explained, ‘Is it a matter of little fortune that after a very long time I shall get today the opportunity of seeing a human body such as the one in which my Ramachandra set His foot on Lanka and blessed me? It seems to me that Ramachandra Himself is coming in that manner.’ Saying so, the king came to the coast with all his ministers, courtiers and other nobles and took the man to the palace with great love and reverence. Then the king seated him on the throne and together with his family began to serve and worship him like an obedient servant. He kept him there at Lanka for sometime, made presents of jewels and other precious articles, bade him goodbye and sent him home escorted by his servants.”
Finishing the story, the Master remarked, “This happens when there is true devotion. One then remembers God through the association of even a trifling thing and becomes filled with love and devotion, Haven’t you heard that Sri Chaitanya was in ecstasy saying, ‘Drums are made of this earth’. One day, while he was passing through a certain place, he was told that the people of that village maintained themselves by making and selling the drums that were played at the time of singing the Lord’s name. As soon as he heard it he exclaimed, ‘Ah, drums are made of this earth!’ and saying so he immediately passed into ecstasy and lost normal consciousness. For, there was the association: Of this earth drums are made, the drums are played at the time of singing the name of Hari, that Hari is the life of the lives of all, more beautiful than the most. All these thoughts at once passed through his mind, which became completely concentrated in Hari. A man who has such devotion to his Guru cannot but remember him through association, not only when he sees his relatives but also when he sees an ordinary man of the Guru’s native village; and out of his respect for the Guru he salutes the villager, takes the dust of his feet, feeds him, and serves him in every other way. When this state is reached, one does not see any shortcomings in one’s spiritual teacher. Then the truth of the proverb, ‘My spiritual teacher is Nityananda10 even if he frequents a tavern’ applies to him; otherwise a human being cannot but have good and bad qualities. But just as everything looks yellow to a jaundiced eye, so he, owing to his overflowing devotion to the Lord, sees God and not man in the Guru. His devotion then shows him that it is God who has become the whole universe. It is He alone who has become the spiritual teacher, father, mother, man, cattle, everything, sentient or insentient.”
One day at Dakshineswar, an arrogant but sincere young devotee11 was raising objections against what the Master was telling him. He continued arguing even when the Master had repeated his statement several times, at which he gave him a mild rebuke and said, “What sort of a man are you? I say it again and again and you don’t accept it.” The heart of the young man was touched and he said, “When you say it, I accept it of course. It was for the sake of argument that I spoke thus.” On hearing it the Master smilingly said with an expression of delight in his face, “Do you know what devotion to the spiritual teacher is like? One is certain to perceive immediately whatever the spiritual teacher mentions. Arjuna had that devotion. One day while driving with Arjuna in a chariot Krishna looked at the sky and said, ‘See, friend, how beautiful is the flock of pigeons flying there!’ Arjuna saw it and immediately said, ‘Yes, friend, very beautiful pigeons indeed.’ The very next moment Sri Krishna looked again and said, ‘How strange, friend! They are by no means pigeons.’ Arjuna saw them and said,’ Quite so, friend, they are not pigeons at all.’ Now try to understand the matter; Arjuna’s truthfulness was unquestionable, he never could have flattered Krishna when he said so. But he had such great devotion to him and faith in his words that he actually saw with his eyes whatever Krishna described to him, right or wrong.”
If, as the scriptures point out, the spiritual teacher’s power to remove the darkness of ignorance is understood in the manner spoken of above, viz., to be a particular power of God, another fact must simultaneously be admitted to be true. And that is this: the spiritual teacher is one and not many. Although the receptacles of this power or the bodies through which it is manifested are different, your spiritual teacher and mine are not different but one only, that one being none else but that power. As an example of this may be quoted the story in the Mahabharata of Ekalavya, who accepted as his teacher an earthen statue of Dronacharya and worshipped him in it with devotion and thereby acquired proficiency in archery. Reasonable as this fact is, it requires a great deal of time and Sadhana for a man to accept it whole-heartedly; and when once he accepts it, he has no alternative but to worship the spiritual teacher in the body through which that divine Power has bestowed grace on him The Master used to tell us, as an instance of this, what Hanuman, a bright example of steadfast devotion, said. The Master said, “At one time during the battle of Lanka, Ramachandra and Lakshmana were bound with a noose made of snakes by the great hero Meghanada. Then they remembered Garuda, the eternal enemy of the race of snakes, and called him there. As soon as the snakes saw Garuda, they became frightened and fled in whatever directions they could. Pleased with his devotee Garuda, Ramachandra appeared before him in the form of Vishnu, who was the eternal object of worship of Garuda, and explained to him that Vishnu had thus incarnated Himself as Rama. But Hanuman did not like to see Ramachandra assume the form of Vishnu; and the only thought he had in his mind was how soon he would re-assume the form of Rama. Ramachandra did not take long to know that sentiment of Hanuman. Immediately after bidding good-bye to Garuda he assumed the form of Rama and asked Hanuman, ‘Why were you restless, my child, to see me in the form of Vishnu? You are possessed of the great knowledge absolute and it is of course not beyond your knowledge and understanding that one who is Rama is Vishnu’. Hanuman replied humbly, ‘It is true that the same supreme Self has assumed both the forms and therefore there is no difference between the consort of Sri (i.e., Vishnu) and that of Janaki (i.e., Rama); but my mind is always anxious to see the feet of the lotus-eyed consort of Janaki only, he is my all in all. It is through that form that I saw the manifestation of the divine Lord and have my life’s aim fulfilled’.”
Thus it is evident that the power of the spiritual teacher is a power of the universal Mother and that power is either lying dormant or is awake in all men. This is why the aspirant highly devoted to the spiritual teacher, reaches at last a spiritual state when that power manifesting through the aspirant himself goes on explaining to him the hidden complex truths of spirituality. The aspirant has then no more need to ask any outside agent to have any doubt removed. The divine Lord said to Arjuna in the Gita12: “When your intellect is freed from the delusion due to ignorance there will be no necessity on your part to have anything to do with the teachings of the scriptures, such as ‘this should be heard’, ‘that is in the scriptures’ and so on; you will go beyond all this and will be able to understand everything yourself.” Such is the state the aspirant attains then.
The Master said with reference to this state, “It is the mind that becomes at last the spiritual teacher and acts as such, ‘A human teacher imparts a Mantra to the ear; the divine Teacher imparts it to the soul.’” But there is a gulf of difference between that mind and this. At that time the mind assumes the nature of pure Sattva and gets purified and so becomes a conduit for manifesting the higher power of God; but at this time it wants to be engrossed in the enjoyment of pleasures, in lust, anger, etc., by turning away from God.
The Master used to say, “The spiritual teacher is, as it were, a woman-friend; until Radha is united with Krishna, there is no end to her love-errands. Even so, as long as the Sadhaka is not united with the chosen Ideal, the work of the spiritual teacher does not come to an end.” It is thus that the supremely glorious spiritual teacher takes hold of the hand of the disciple, who is burning to know the truth, ascends to higher and higher regions of spirituality and bringing him at last before his chosen Ideal, says, ‘Boy, look there!’ and disappears at once.”
Hearing the Master say so, one day a devotee thought, “Then some day the separation from the spiritual teacher is inevitable” and with a painful heart he asked, “Sir, where does he go then?” The Master said in reply, “The teacher then merges in the chosen Ideal. The three viz., the teacher, Krishna (the chosen Ideal) and Vaishnava (the devotee) are One, and the One is the three.”