Wisdom of the East – 4

Let us follow the stream of the Eastern Wisdom down the ages. Now, Ramakrishna Paramhansa and onward.

The life of Ramakrishna is recorded in his biography penned by Swami Sardananda, one of his disciples thus: “Gadadhar, as Ramakrishna was known in his childhood, was born on February 18th of 1836 in a village called Kamarpukur thirty-two miles south of the town Burdwan in a pious Brahman family of little means but of high devotion to Lord Rama. His father, Kshudiram, would never eat until he had finished his worship of Lord Rama and mother, Chandramani, was likewise simple-hearted and devoted to the service of the gods and holy men.

  “Like Mahavira and Buddha, the birth of Ramakrishna is associated with miraculous events in the life of his parents. Before the birth of Ramakrishna, a certain financial tragedy had befallen his father wherein he was rendered penniless and helpless from any quarter and, in such a state of utter helplessness, he took absolute refuge at the feet of Lord Raghuvir. At that critical moment a help came from an unexpected quarter: his friend Sukhlal Goswami invited him to come to his house, stay with him permanently and made a permanent gift of about 1 bigha of land in his name for his maintenance.

  “Such things make men learn to depend on the Divine and the efficacy of His means. His surrender to Lord Raghuvir became more sincere and complete.”

  Famed Indologist Max Muller has collected the ‘Sayings’ of Ramakrishna by personally interviewing his numerous disciples, including celebrated Swami Vivekananda. These sayings are penetrating to the unfathomed depth of universal mystery in a simple language. Ramakrishna says: “You see many stars at night in the sky, but find them not when the sun rises.  Canst thou say that there are no stars, then, in the heaven of day? So, 0 man, because thou beholdst not the Almighty in the days of thy ignorance, say not that there is no God.

  “As fishes playing in a pond covered over with reeds and scum, cannot be seen from outside, so God plays in the heart of a man invisibly, being screened by Maya from human view.”

  Ramakrishna says:  “As one and the same material, viz. Water, is called by different names by different people – one calling it ‘water’, another ‘vari’, a third ‘aqua’, and another ‘pani’ – so the  one Sat-Chit-Ananda, the Everlasting-Intelligent-Bliss (that is, Truth-Conscious-Bliss), is invoked by some as God, by some as Allah, by some as Hari, and by others as Brahman.

  “As with one gold various ornaments are made, having different forms and names, so one God is worshipped in different countries and ages, and has different forms and names. Though He may be worshipped variously, some loving to call him Father, others mother, &c., yet it is one God that is being worshipped in all these various relations and modes.

  “Question: If the God of every religion is the same, why is it then that the God is painted differently by different religionists?

  “Answer: God is one, but His aspects are different: as one master of the house is father to one, brother to another, and husband to a third, and is called by these different names by those different persons, so one God is described and called in various ways according to the particular aspect in which He appears to His particular worshipper. God is formless, and is with form too, and He is that which transcends both form and formlessness. He alone can say what else He is.”

  Ramakrishna teaches us by employing everyday things. He says:

 “Man is like a pillow-case. The color of one may be red, another blue, another black, but all contain the same cotton. So it is with man – one is beautiful, one is black, another is holy, a fourth wicked; but the Divine dwells in them all.”

  Ramakrishna says: “As many have merely heard of snow but not seen it, so many are the religious preachers who have read only in books about the attributes of God, but have not realized them in their lives. And, as many may have seen but not tasted it, so many are the religious teachers who have got only a glimpse of Divine Glory, but have not understood its real essence. He who has tasted the snow can say what it is like.

  “He who has enjoyed the society of God in different aspects, now as a servant, now as a friend, now as a lover, or as being absorbed in Him &c., he alone can tell what are the attributes of God.

  “Question: What do you say about the method of religious preaching employed now-a-days?

  Answer: It is inviting hundreds of persons to dinner, when the food supply is sufficient for one only.

  “Instead of preaching to others, if one worships God all that time, that is enough preaching. He, who strives to make himself free, is the real preacher. Hundreds come from all sides, no one knows whence, to him who is free, and is taught.

  “When a flower opens the bees come from all sides uninvited and unasked.

  “Have you got, 0 preacher, the badge of authority? As the humblest subject wearing the badge of the king is heard with respect and awe, and can quell the riot by showing his badge; so must thou, 0 preacher, obtain first the order and inspiration from God. So long as thou hast not this inspiration, thou mayest preach all thy life, but that will be mere waste of breath.

  “Question: Why do religions degenerate?

  Answer: The rainwater is pure, but becomes soiled according to the medium it passes through. If the roof and the pipe be dirty, the discharge is dirty.

  “Be not like the frog in the well. The frog in the well knows nothing bigger and grander than its well. So are all bigots: they do not see anything better than their own creeds.”

Human being and Divine fire:

  Ramakrishna says:  “The human body is like a boiling pot and the mind and the senses are like water, rice or potato etc.  in it. Put the pot with its ingredients on the fire; it will be so hot as to burn your finger when you touch it. But the heat does not belong to the pot, nor anything contained in it, but it is in the fire.

  “So it is the fire of Brahman in man that causes the mind and the senses to perform their functions, and when that fire ceases to act, the senses also, or the organs, stop.

  “Know thyself, and thou shalt then know the non-self and the Lord of all. What is my ego? Is it my hand, or foot, or flesh, or blood, or muscle, or tendon?

  “Ponder deep, and thou shall know that there is no such thing as I. As by continually peeling off the skin of the onion, so by analyzing the ego it will be found that there is not any real entity corresponding to the ego.

  “The ultimate result of all such analysis is God. When egoism drops

away, Divinity manifests itself.”

  Ramakrishna teaches: “Knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously, in whatever state we utter His name and we acquire the merit of such utterance. A man who voluntarily goes into a river and bathes therein gets the benefit of the bath so does likewise he who has been pushed into the river by another, or who while sleeping soundly has water thrown upon him by another.

  “He is truly a pious man who is dead even in life, i.e. whose passions and desires have been all destroyed as in a dead man.

  “So long as the heavenly expanse of the heart is troubled and disturbed by the gusts of desire, there is little chance of our beholding therein the brightness of God.

  “The beatific vision occurs only in the heart which is calm and rapt up in divine communion.

  “Soft clay admits of forms, but the burnt clay does not. So those hearts are consumed with the desire of worldly things cannot realize higher ideas.

  “What you think you should say. Let there be a harmony between your thoughts and your words; otherwise, if you merely tell that God is your all in all, while your mind has made the world its all in all, you cannot derive any benefit thereby.

  “The young of a monkey clasps and clings to its mother. The young kitten cannot clasp its mother, but mews piteously whenever it is near her. If the young monkey lets go its hold on its mother, it falls down and gets hurt. This is because it depends upon its own strength; but the kitten runs no such risk, as the mother herself carries it about from place to place. Such is the difference between self-reliance and entire resignation to the will of God.

  “A man who finds all the hairs of his body standing on end at the bare mention of Sri Hari’s name, through sheer ecstasy, and who sheds tears of love on hearing the name of God, he has reached his last birth (that is, he is just near the point of meeting God).

  “’I must attain perfection in this life, yea, in three days I must find God; nay, with a single utterance of His name I will draw Him to me’. With such a violent love the Lord is attracted soon. The lukewarm lovers take ages to go to him, if at all.

  “Where does the strength of an aspirant lie? It is in his tears. As a mother gives her consent to fulfill the desire of her importunately weeping child, so God vouchsafes to His weeping son whatever he is crying for.

  “Keep thy own sentiments and faith to thyself. Do not talk about them abroad. Otherwise thou wilt be a great loser.

  “If thou art in right earnest to be good and perfect, God will send the true and proper Master (Sad-Guru) to thee.

  “Earnestness is the only thing necessary.

  “Visit not miracle workers. They are wanderers from the path of truth. Their minds have become entangled in the meshes of psychic powers, which lie in the way of the pilgrim towards Brahmn, as temptations. Beware of these powers, and desire them not.

  ‘’Creeds and sects matter nothing. Let every one perform with faith the devotion and practices of his creed. Faith is the only clue to get to God.

  “Every man should follow his own religion. A Christian should follow Christianity; a Mohammedan should follow Mohammedanism, and so on. For the Hindus the ancient path, the path of the Aryan Rishis, is the best.

  “As one can ascend to the top of a house by means of a ladder or a bamboo or a staircase or a rope, so diverse also are the ways and means to approach God, and every religion in the world shows one of these ways.

  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that he who yearns for God, finds Him.

  “The God with form is visible, nay, we can touch Him face to face, as with one’s dearest friend.

  “Little children play with dolls in a room apart just as they like, but as soon as their mother comes in they throw aside the dolls and run to her crying, ‘Mamma, Mamma!’. You also are now playing in this world deeply absorbed with the dolls of wealth, honor, and fame, and have no fear or anxiety. But if you once see the Divine Mother entering in, you will not find pleasure any more in wealth, honor, and fame. Leaving off all these you will run to her.

  “The Knowledge of God may be likened to a man, while the Love of God is like a woman. Knowledge has entry only up to the outer rooms of God, but no one can enter into the inner mysteries of God save a lover, for a woman has access even into the harem of the Almighty.

  “As a king, before going to the house of his servant, sends from his own stores the necessary seats, ornaments, food, &c., to his servant, so that the later may properly receive him; so before the Lord cometh, He sends love, reverence, faith, yearning, &c., into the heart of the devotee. So long

as one does not become simple like a child, one does not get Divine illumination.

  “Forget all the worldly knowledge that thou hast acquired, and become as ignorant about it as a child, and then thou will get the knowledge of the True.”

Reasons, arguments and Divine:

  Ramakrishna further says:  “So long as a man is far from the market, he hears a loud and indistinct buzzing only, something like ‘Ho! Ho!’ But when he enters the market he no longer hears the uproar, but perceives distinctly that someone is bargaining for potatoes, another for brinjal, and so on. As long as a man is far away from God, he is in the midst of the noise and confusion of reason, argument, and discussion; but when once a person approaches the Almighty, all reasoning, arguments, and discussions cease, and he understands the mysteries of God with vivid and clear perception.

  “So long as a man calls aloud, ‘Allah Ho! Allah Ho!’ (0 God! 0 God!)’, be sure that he has not found God, for he who has found Him becomes still.

  “So long as the bee is outside the petals of the lotus, and has not tasted its honey, it hovers around the flower, emitting its buzzing sound; but when it is inside the flower, it drinks its nectar noiselessly. So long as a man quarrels and disputes about doctrines and dogmas, he has not tasted the nectar of the true faith; when he has tasted it he becomes still.”

  Ramakrishna says: “A spring cushion is squeezed down when one sits upon it, but it soon resumes its original shape when the pressure is removed. So it is with worldly men. They are full of religious sentiments, so long as they hear religious talks; but no sooner do they enter into the daily routine of the world, than they forget all those high and noble thoughts, and become as impure as before.

  “As the fly sits, now on the unclean sore of the human body, and now on the offerings dedicated to the gods, so mind of the worldly man sits at one time deeply engaged in religious topics and at the next moment loses itself in the pleasures of wealth and lust.

  “Worldly persons perform many pious and charitable acts with a hope of

worldly rewards, but when misfortune, sorrow, and poverty approach them, they forget them all. They are like the parrot that repeats the Divine name ‘Radha-Krishna, Radha-Krishna’ the livelong day, but cries, ‘Kaw, Kaw’ when caught by a cat, forgetting the Divine name.

  “A worldly man may be endowed with intellect as great as that of Janaka, may take as much pains and trouble as a Yogin, and make as great sacrifices as an ascetic; but all these he makes and does, not for God, but for worldliness, honor, and wealth.

  “The vulture soars high up in the air, but all the while he is looking down into the charnel-pits in search of putrid carcasses. So the book-read pandits speak glibly and volubly about Divine Knowledge, but it is all mere talk, for all the while their mind is thinking about how to get money, respect, honor, power, &c., the vain guerdon of their learning. A worldly man is best known by his antipathy to whatever savours of religion. He does not like to hear any sacred music or psalm, or to utter the holy name of God, and even dissuades others from doing the same. He scoffs at prayers, and pours down a volley of abuse upon all religious societies and men.”

  In the biography of Ramakrishna, the disciple chronicles some of the events connected with the life of the Great Master thus:   “Once, a man suffering from leucoderma came and pleaded to the Master that if he would only pass his hand over it, he would be cured of the disease. The Master had compassion on him and said, “Well, I know nothing, but as you desire, I shall pass my hand. It will be cured if Mother wills.” And he passed his hand over it.

  “For the whole of that day, the Master felt so much pain in his hand that he became restless and said to the Mother of the universe, “I will never do such a thing again, Mother”. The Master used to say later, “He was cured of the disease but the suffering was experienced here (showing his body).”

  “When the Master came and lived at Shyampukur in Calcutta for treatment (of cancer of his throat), he had one day a vision that his subtle body came out of his gross one and was walking up and down. Regarding this vision the Master said, “I saw that it had sores all over its back. I was wondering why they were there, and the Mother showed that it was because people came and touched my body after committing all kinds of sins – because out of compassion for their sufferings, I had to take upon myself the results of the evil deeds. That is why this (showing his throat) is there. Why, otherwise, should there be so much suffering, though this body never did any wrong?”

Vision of Jesus Christ:

  Ramakrishna’s biography further records thus:  “The garden house of Jadunath Mallik is situated to the south of the Kali temple at Dakshineshwar. The Master used to go there now and then for a walk. Jadunath and his mother had great devotion to the Master from the time they had seen him first. Therefore, even if they were not present in the garden at the time of the Master’s walk there, the officers would open the door of the parlor and ask him to sit and rest there for some time.

  “There were some good pictures hanging on the walls of that room. One of those pictures was that of the child Jesus in his Mother’s lap. The Master used to say that he sat one day in that parlor and was looking intently at that picture and thinking of the extraordinary life of Jesus, when he felt that the picture came to life, and that effulgent rays of light, coming out from the bodies of the Mother and the child, entered into his heart and changed radically all the ideas of his mind!

  “On finding that all the inborn Hindu impressions were disappearing into a secluded corner of his mind and that different ones were arising, he tried in various ways to control himself and prayed earnestly to the Divine Mother, “What strange changes art Thou bringing about in me, Mother?” But nothing availed. Rising with a great force, the waves of those impressions completely submerged the Hindu ideas in his mind. His love and devotion to the Devas and Devis vanished, and in their stead, a great faith in, and reverence for Jesus and his religion occupied his mind.

  He began to see Christian worshippers offering incense and light before the image of Jesus in the Church, and his mind entered into the spirit of their longing for the Lord as expressed through their earnest prayers.

  “The Master came back to Dakshineshwar temple and remained constantly absorbed in the meditation of those inner happenings. He forgot altogether to go to the temple of the Divine Mother and pay obeisance to Her.

  “The waves of those ideas had a mastery over his mind in that manner for three days.

  At last when the third day was about to close, the Master saw, while walking under the Panchvati, that a marvelous god-man of very fair complexion was coming towards him, looking steadfastly at him. As soon as the Master saw that person, he knew that he was a foreigner. He saw that his long eyes gave a wonderful beauty to his face, and that the tip of his nose, though a little flat, did not at all impair that beauty. The Master was charmed to see the extraordinary divine expression of that handsome face, and wondered who he was. Very soon the person approached him, and thereupon from the depth of the Master’s pure heart came out with a ringing sound, the words, “Jesus the Christ!

  “The great Yogi, the loving Son of God, one with the Father, who gave his heart’s blood and put up with endless tortures in order to deliver man from sorrow and misery!” Jesus, the god-man, then embraced the Master and disappeared into his body and the Master entered into ecstasy, lost normal consciousness and remained identified for sometime with the omnipresent Brahman with attributes.

  “Having attained the vision of Jesus thus, the Master became free from the slightest doubt about Christ’s having been an incarnation of God.

  “When we were visiting the Master long after this event, one day he raised the topic of Jesus and said, “Well, boys, you have read the Bible; can you tell me what is written in it about the physical features of Jesus? How did he look?”

  ‘’We said, “Sir, we have not seen this mentioned anywhere in the Bible; but as he was born a Jew, he must have been very fair in complexion, with long eyes and an aquiline nose, to be sure.”

  “When told so, the Master said, “But I saw that the tip of his nose was a little flat; I don’t know why I saw him like that.” Though we did not then say anything about what the Master said, we thought, “How could the form seen by him in ecstasy tally with the actual form of Jesus? Like all the Jews he too must have had an aquiline nose.” But we came to know, shortly after the Master passed away, that there were three different descriptions of Jesus’ physical features; and according to one of them the tip of his nose was a little flat.”

Divine experience through Mohammedan way:

  Ramakrishna’s biography states:  “(A) n ardent spiritual aspirant named Govinda Ray, who must have been in search of God for a long time, arrived at Dashineshwar. Hriday told us that he was a Kshatriya by birth. He was perhaps learned in Persian and Arabic. Having studied various religious doctrines and come in contact with different religious communities, he was at last attracted by the liberal doctrine of Islam and was formally initiated into it. Govinda, thirsting for truth, accepted the Islamic faith, but we cannot say how far he followed its social manners and customs. But since he became initiated, he, we were told, engaged himself earnestly in the reading of the Koran and in the religious practices prescribed by that scripture.

  ‘’Govinda was an ardent lover of God. The method of worshipping God according to the teaching and mental attitude prevalent amongst the Sufis, followers of a sect of Islam, seems to have captivated his mind; for he now became engaged day and night in practicing devotional moods like the Derveshes, the devotees belonging to that sect.

  “Somehow or other Govinda now came to the Kali temple at Dakshineswar and began to spend his time there with his ‘seat’ spread under the peaceful shade of the Panchwati, which he thought, was a place favorable to religious practices. Just like Hindu Sanyasins, Muslim Fakirs too were welcome at Rasmani’s Kali temple, and the hospitality. ….

  “The Master was attracted towards the devout Govinda’s sincere faith and his love of God. Thus was the Master’s mind, now attracted towards the Islamic religion. He thought, This also is a path to the realization of God, the sportive Mother, the source of infinite Lila, has been blessing many people with the attainment of Her lotus feet through this path also. I must see how people taking refuge in Her are led along this path to the fulfillment of their spiritual aspirations. I shall be initiated by Govinda and shall engage myself in the practice of that spiritual mood”.

  “Thought was immediately followed by action. The Master expressed his desire to Govinda, and became initiated. He engaged himself in practicing Islam according to its prescribed rules. The Master said, “I then repeated the holy syllable ‘Allah’ with great devotion, wore cloth like the Muslims, and Namaz thrice daily, and felt disinclined even to see Hindu deities, not to speak of saluting them, inasmuch as the Hindu mode of thought vanished altogether from my mind. I spent three days in that mood, and had the full realization of the result of the practices according to that faith.

  “At the time of practicing Islam, the Master at first had the vision of an effulgent, impressive personage with a long beard; afterwards he attained the knowledge of the all-pervading Brahmn with attributes, and then merged finally in the attribute less Brahmn, the Absolute.

  “At the time of practicing Islam, the Master wanted, according to Hriday, to take Muslim type of food. It was Mathur’s solicitous request alone that made him refrain from doing so. Knowing that the childlike Master would not abstain from it if that desire of his were not at least partially fulfilled, Mathur had a cook brought, under whose instructions a Brahman cook prepared food for the Master in the Muslim style.

  “The Master did not even once enter the inner courtyard of the Kali temple while practicing Islam, but remained in the mansion of Mathur situated outside.”

  The biography of Ramakrishna further says:   “When the powerful waves of Western education and civilization came to India and began to bring about a radical change in people’s spiritual and social outlook, every talented man of this country began to look for harmony between the culture and civilization of the East and those of the West.

  “Just as in the province of Bengal, Rammohan Roy, Maharshi Devendranath, Brahmananda Kesav and others devoted their lives for that purpose, even so, in other parts of the country too, many great souls are known to have appeared and carried on the same work; but none of them could perfectly tackle it before the advent of the Master. The Master duly went through the disciplines of all the religions of India in his own life, and attaining to the results of the Sadhana prescribed by each of them, showed that the religion of this country was not the cause of its degradation and that the cause must be sought elsewhere. … Living the ideal life himself, the Master showed further how religion could broaden the outlook of man. … Just as he established spiritual harmony among the religions of the world by demonstrating the truth of them all by actually following the spiritual practices advocated by them, he has stopped the wrangling between the various sects of Hinduism by following the orthodox practices of each of them and demonstrating their perfection in himself. He has thereby demonstrated to us the true bases of our nationality in the past and what they should be in the future.”

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