The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna-2

Chapter 52

Surendra’s magnanimity

Surendra was indeed a blessed soul. It was he who laid the foundation of the great Order later associated with Sri Ramakrishna’s name. His devotion and sacrifice made it possible for those earnest souls to renounce the world for the realization of God. Through him Sri Ramakrishna made it possible for them to live in the world as embodiments of his teaching, the renunciation of “woman and gold” and the realization of God.

The brothers lived at the Math like orphan boys. Sometimes they would not have the money to pay their house-rent; sometimes they would have no food in the monastery. Surendra would come and settle all these things. He was the big brother of the monks. Later on, when they thought of his genuine love, the members of this first Math shed tears of gratitude.

Ascetic zeal of the young sannyāsis

The new monastery became known among the Master’s devotees as the Baranagore Math. Narendra, Rākhāl , and the other young disciples were filled with intense renunciation. One day Rākhāl’s father came to the Math and asked Rākhāl  to return home. “Why do you take the trouble to come here?” Rākhāl  said to him. “I am very happy here. Pleased pray to God that you may forget me and that I may forget you too.” The young disciples said to each other: “We shall never return to the worldly life. The Master enjoined upon us the renunciation of ‘woman and gold’. How can we go back to our families?”

Śaśi had taken charge of the daily worship in the Math. The Master’s relics had been brought from Balarām’s house and Sri Ramakrishna was worshipped daily in the worship hall. Narendra supervised the household. He was the leader of the monastery. He would often tell his brother disciples, “The selfless actions enjoined in the Gitā are worship, japa, meditation, and so on, and not worldly duties.” The brothers at the Math depended on him for their spiritual inspiration. He said to them, “We must practise sādhanā; otherwise we shall not be able to realize God.”

He and his brother disciples, filled with an ascetic spirit, devoted themselves day and night to the practice of spiritual discipline. Their one goal in life was the realization of God. They followed to their hearts’ content the injunctions prescribed in the Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras for an ascetic life. They spent their time in japa and meditation and study of the scriptures. Whenever they would fail to experience the Divine Presence, they would feel as if they were on the rack. They would practise austerity, sometimes alone under trees, sometimes in a cremation ground, sometimes on the bank of the Ganges. Again, sometimes they would spend the entire day in the meditation room of the monastery in japa and contemplation; sometimes they would gather to sing and dance in a rapture of delight. All of them, and Narendra particularly, were consumed with the desire to see God. Now and then they would say to each other, “Shall we not starve ourselves to death to see God?”

Monday, February 21, 1887

Narendra, Rākhāl , Niranjan, Sarat, Śaśi, Kāli, Baburam, Tārak, and Sarada Prasanna were living in the monastery. All day the members had been fasting in observance of the Sivaratri. Sarat, Kāli, Niranjan, and Sarada were planning to go to Puri, the following Saturday, on a pilgrimage to the sacred Jagannath. Jogin and Lātu were at Vrindāvan and had not yet seen the new place.

Narendra had gone to Calcutta that morning to look after a lawsuit in which his family had been involved since the death of his father. At nine o’clock in the morning M. arrived at the Math. Tārak saw him and began to sing in praise of Śiva, Rākhāl  joining him:

There Śiva dances, striking both His cheeks; and they resound, Ba-ba-bom!
Dimi-dimi-dimi! sounds His drum; a garland of skulls from His neck is hanging!
In His matted locks the Ganges hisses; fire shoots from His mighty trident!
Round His waist a serpent glitters, and on His brow the moon Is shining!

Rākhāl  and Tārak danced as they sang. Narendra had recently composed the song.

Śaśi finished the morning worship in the shrine. Sarat then sang about Śiva to the accompaniment of the Tānpura.

Narendra had just arrived from Calcutta. He had not yet taken his bath. Kāli asked him, “What about the lawsuit?” “Why should you bother about it?” Narendra replied sharply.

to be contd.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna-1

Chapter 52

AFTER THE PASSING AWAY

SRI RAMAKRISHNA passed away on Sunday, August 15, 1886, plunging his devotees and disciples into a sea of grief. They were like men in a shipwreck. But a strong bond of love held them together, and they found assurance and courage in each other’s company. They could not enjoy the friendship of worldly people and would talk only of their Master. “Shall we not behold him again?” -this was the one theme of their thought and the one dream of their sleep. Alone, they wept for him; walking in the streets of Calcutta, they were engrossed in the thought of him. The Master had once said to M., “It becomes difficult for me to give up the body, when I realize that after my death you will wander about weeping for me.” Some of them thought : “He is no longer in this world. How surprising that we still enjoy living! We could give up our bodies if we liked, but still we do not.” Time and again Sri Ramakrishna had told them that God reveals Himself to His devotees if they yearn for Him and call on Him with whole-souled devotion. He had assured them that God listens to the prayer of a sincere heart. 

The young unmarried disciples of the Master, who belonged to his inner circle, had attended on him day and night at the Cossipore garden house. After his passing away most of them returned to their families against their own wills. They had not yet formally renounced the world. For a short while they kept their family names. But Sri Ramakrishna had made them renounce the world mentally. He himself had initiated several of them into the monastic life, giving them the ochre cloths of sannyāsis.

Baranagore Monastery

Two or three of the Master’s attendants had no place to go. To them the large-hearted Surendra said: “Brothers, where will you go? Let us rent a house. You will live there and make it our Master’s shrine; and we house-holders shall come there for consolation. How can we pass all our days and nights with our wives and children in the world? I used to spend a sum of money for the Master at Cossipore. I shall gladly give it now for your expenses.” Accordingly he rented a house for them at Baranagore, in the suburbs of Calcutta, and this place became gradually transformed into  Math, or, monastery.

For the first few months Surendra contributed thirty rupees a month. As the other members joined the monastery one by one, he doubled his contribution, which he later increased to a hundred rupees. The monthly rent for the house was eleven rupees. The cook received six rupees a month. The rest was spent for food.

First members

The younger Gopal brought the Master’s bed and other articles of daily use from the garden house at Cossipore. The brahmin who had been a cook at Cossipore was engaged for the new monastery. The first permanent member was the elder Gopal. Sarat spent the nights there. In the beginning Sarat, Śaśi, Baburam, Niranjan, and Kāli used to visit the monastery every now and then, according to their convenience. Tārak, who had gone to Vrindāvan following the Master’s death, returned to Calcutta after a few months and soon became a permanent member of the monastery. Rākhāl , Jogin, Lātu, and Kāli were living at Vrindāvan with the Holy Mother when the monastery was started. Kāli returned to Calcutta within a month, Rākhāl  after a few months, and Jogin and Lātu after a year. The householder devotees frequently visited the monastic brothers and spent hours with them in meditation and study.

After a short time Narendra, Rākhāl , Niranjan, Sarat, Śaśi, Baburam, Jogin, Tārak, Kāli, and Lātu renounced the world for good. Sarada Prasanna and Subodh joined them some time later. Gangadhar, who was very much attached to Narendra, visited the Math regularly. It was he who taught the brothers the hymn sung at the evening service in the Śiva temple at Benares. He had gone to Tibet to practise austerity; now, having returned, he lived at the monastery. Hari and Tulasi, at first only visitors at the monastery, soon embraced the monastic life and thus completed the list of the Master’s sannyāsi disciples.

Om Namah Shivay

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Always Speak the Truth Because It Takes Us Directly to God-Realization

“The world contains a mixture of truth and untruth. Discard the untruth and take the truth. Even those engaged in worldly activities, such as office work or business, should hold to the truth. Truthfulness alone is the spiritual discipline in the Kaliyuga. Dwell in the truth and you will certainly realize God.”
– Sri Ramakrishna

The Mundaka Upanishad boldly proclaims: Satyameva Jayate – Truth alone Triumphs and not Untruth. This is because only by being truthful with ourselves and with others, can we clear away the scum of the ego-driven imperfections that cloud our mind; and when the mind is thus purified, our soul can see its reflection clearly and realize its True Self, its Infinite Divine Svarupa in Samadhi or Moksha.

Therefore the act of speaking the truth always takes us towards Soul-realization, which is the same as God-realization.

On the other hand when we lie to ourselves and to others, then we immediately cloud our mind with egotistical impurities and thus devolve to a lower consciousness by getting enveloped in the darkness of falsehood. For this reason being truthful has always been emphasized by the sages of the Upanishads as the most important spiritual discipline.

And it was this very same teaching of the Mundaka Upanishad that Sri Ramakrishna underscored for his disciple Rakhal (Swami Brahmananda) in a very interesting incident. At the time this incident took place, Rakhal was still a young disciple under the tutorship of Sri Ramakrishna and had not yet attained to Nirvikalpa Samadhi or complete mergence with God. Hence Sri Ramakrishna was focused on pointing out the imperfections in his disciple’s nature, so that Rakhal could correct them and thus attain to the perfection of God-consciousness.

Satyameva Jayate – Truth Alone Leads to God – Sri Ramakrishna Teaches Rakhal

“When the lamp of truth is lit, darkness vanishes by itself. Stand up men and women, dare to believe in the truth, dare to practice the truth!”
– Swami Vivekananda

One day when Rakhal came to Sri Ramakrishna’s room, Sri Ramakrishna said to him: “Rakhal, for some reason, I can’t look at you. I see a veil of ignorance covering your face. Tell me have you done anything wrong?”

Rakhal was greatly perturbed. He tried hard to remember what he had done wrong but could not recollect anything.

“Try to recall”, Sri Ramakrishna said “if you have told any untruth.” Rakhal immediately remembered and admitted that he had recently jokingly told a lie to a friend.

Sri Ramakrishna forgave him and said: “Never do it again. To speak the truth always is the most important spiritual discipline. The virtue of truthfulness is most critical. If a man always speaks the truth, and tenaciously holds to the truth he will realize God, for God is Truth.”

“The great King Bhartrihari said – ‘Let the sages blame or let them praise; let the goddess of fortune come or let her go wherever she likes; let death come to-day, or let it come in hundreds of years; he indeed is the steady man who does not move one inch from the way of truth.’”
– Swami Vivekananda

Om Namah Shivay

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Lighted lantern in your hand

“A man wanted a smoke. He went to a neighbor’s house to light his charcoal. It was the dead of night and the household was asleep. After he had knocked a great deal, someone came down to open the door. At sight of the man he asked, ‘Hello! What’s the matter?’

The man replied: ‘Can’t you guess? You know how fond I am of smoking. I have come here to light my charcoal.’

The neighbor said: ‘Ha! Ha! You are a fine man indeed! You took the trouble to come and do all this knocking at the door!

Why, you have a lighted lantern in your hand!’ (All laugh.)

“What a man seeks is very near him. Still he wanders about from place to place.

Sri Ramakrishna
=====================
Q: I have been a teacher for many years. I see in myself and other teachers that we don’t always practice the basic course points and it disturbs me to a point that I feel a bit of a fraud when I teach. What to do?

Guruji: It is good that you feel the pinch. That is the safety valve. If you are oblivious to your not following the teaching, then there is a problem. The moment you recognize that there are shortcomings in you then you are very safe.

Don’t think that you are a fraud. You are a traveller on the path and you are guiding the people who are coming behind you. This will only bring humility in you and you will know that knowledge is precious. No doubt you may not follow it 100% but you cannot deny that your life has changed and you are following it at least 80%. So even if you are not following the course points or the knowledge a 100%, you look into the 80% of the points that you are following. There are people who have not even understood or started their journey. For them you can be a real help.

One more thing, when you teach others, you also learn, so don’t say that I am a hypocrite. As you are teaching, you are also learning and you are refreshing the knowledge. Instead of sitting and blaming yourself and others, it is better you start teaching. Otherwise you will sit and blame yourself, ‘I am weak, I am unable to follow the knowledge, I am bad’, and then you go into guilt and self-blame. This is the worst thing that can happen to you on the spiritual path. That is why on this path, you always have a guru or a master. You leave your weakness to your master and go with the strength that you have and move as much as you can. So don’t be hard on yourself, and at the same time, recognize that you don’t follow all the knowledge but you have the intention to follow and that is good.

So just move on. Don’t get off the path and blame yourself. If you feel that way, just come and sit in an advance course, or a blessing course and it will wash it all off, because this life is a journey and you have to keep moving till you find perfection. And slowly and steadily you will definitely get it.

Just turn back and analyse. Suppose you had not followed any of the points in life, where would you have been? It will be utterly scary, that is why know this and walk ahead. Leave your shortcomings to me.

Om Namah Shivay

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How Swami Vivekananda Bestowed a Vision of “Lord Krishna” With His Mere Touch

“The one Godhead has many forms. All these forms are real. A seer can see them and talk to them.”

– Swami Brahmananda, direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna.

God in Advaita Vedanta has been described as the formless and infinite ocean of Sat-Chit-Ananda consciousness. However this One Infinite Godhead, being the all-powerful creator of the Universe, can take up any form in which, a devotee worships Him with faith.

This fact has been revealed by Sri Ramakrishna, who has emphasized that God is both with form and without form. It all depends upon the concept of God that a devotee holds dear.

For this reason, a devotee struggling on the path of God-realization, must not become a fanatic and think that only his/her particular notion of God is right, and all other ideas are false.

This truth about the multiple aspects of One God, was beautifully revealed to Sardar Hari Singh of Jaipur, who had been an ardent believer in the formless aspect of God and thus could not reconcile himself to the idol worship of many Hindus.

However through the infinite grace of Swami Vivekananda, the Sardar’s dilemma was resolved when Swamiji bestowed upon him, a vision of God with form. The details of this incident have been wonderfully captured in the book: The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples, Volume 1. Enclosed is an excerpt:

At Jaipur the Swami (Swami Vivekananda) became very intimate with Sardar Hari Singh, the Commander-in-Chief of the State. He passed many days in his home discussing many interesting and instructive spiritual and scriptural subjects.

One day the subject was the efficacy of image-worship. A strong believer in the doctrines of the Vedanta, Hari Singh did not believe in images and even after hours of discussion with the Swami he remained unconvinced.

In the evening they went out for a walk. As they were passing along the footpath they came upon some devotees carrying the image of Shri Krishna and singing devotional songs as they went. The Swami and the Sardar watched the procession for a while as it passed.

Suddenly the Swami touched Hari Singh and said, “Look there, see the living God!” The eyes of the Sardar fell on the image of Lord Krishna, and he stood there transfixed with tears of ecstasy trickling down his cheeks.

When he returned to ordinary consciousness, he exclaimed, “Well, Swamiji, that was a revelation to me. What I could not understand after hours of discussion, was easily comprehended through your touch. Verily I saw the Lord in the image of Krishna!”

Once Sri Ramakrishna had the following conversation with his disciple Mahendranath Gupta:

Sri Ramakrishna: “Well, do you believe in God with form or without form?”

Disciple: “Sir, I like to think of God as formless.”

Sri Ramakrishna: “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.”

Om Namah Shivay

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Life is wonderful if you know how to live

A rare conversation between Ramkrishna Paramahansa Swami Vivekanand

Swami Vivekanand:- I can’t find free time. Life has become hectic.

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Activity gets you busy. But productivity gets you free.

Swami Vivekanand:- Why has life become complicated now?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Stop analyzing life.. It makes it complicated. Just live it.

Swami Vivekanand:- Why are we then constantly unhappy?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Worrying has become your habit. That’s why you are not happy.

Swami Vivekanand:- Why do good people always suffer?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Diamond cannot be polished without friction. Gold cannot be purified without fire. Good people go through trials, but don’t suffer. With that experience their life becomes better, not bitter.

Swami Vivekanand:- You mean to say such experience is useful?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Yes. In every term, Experience is a hard teacher. She gives the test first and the lessons afterwards.

Swami Vivekanand:- Because of so many problems, we don’t know where we are heading…

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- If you look outside you will not know where you are heading. Look inside. Eyes provide sight. Heart provides the way.

Swami Vivekanand:- Does failure hurt more than moving in the right direction?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Success is a measure as decided by others. Satisfaction is a measure as decided by you.

Swami Vivekanand:- In tough times, how do you stay motivated?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Always look at how far you have come rather than how far you have to go. Always count your blessing, not what you are missing.

Swami Vivekanand:- What surprises you about people?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- When they suffer they ask, “why me?” When they prosper, they never ask “Why me?”

Swami Vivekanand:- How can I get the best out of life?

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear.

Swami Vivekanand:- One last question. Sometimes I feel my prayers are not answered.

Ramkrishna Paramahansa:- There are no unanswered prayers. Keep the faith and drop the fear. Life is a mystery to solve, not a problem to resolve. Trust me. Life is wonderful if you know how to live.

==========================

If you think positively
Sound becomes music
Movement becomes dance
Smile becomes laughter
Mind becomes meditation and
Life becomes a celebration…

Om Namah Shivay

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How Lord Buddha Suddenly Appeared Before Swami Vivekananda

“The Buddha is not a person but a (state of) realization to which anyone can attain.” – Swami Vivekananda explaining Lord Buddha’s last words on his death-bed.

Lord Buddha was one of the great spiritual ideals of Swami Vivekananda (Swamiji), whom he worshiped with intense love and devotion, just as he did his guru Sri Ramakrishna.

“Who was there ever like Him?” he once spoke of Buddha, his whole face aglow with inspiration. “The Lord – who never performed one action for Himself – with a heart that embraced the whole world! So full of pity that He – prince and monk – would give His life to save a little goat! So loving that He sacrificed himself to the hospitality of a pariah and blessed him!“

So immense was Swamiji’s reverence for Lord Buddha, Sister Nivedita relates, that he once told a lady “‘Madam, I am the servant of the servants of the servants of Buddha!’ as if even the title of a believer would seem, to his veneration, too exalted to claim.”

So it is not at all surprising to note that the deeply cherished ideal – Lord Buddha Himself, choose to appear before his ardent devotee, to shower his blessings on 2 noteworthy occasions.

Incident #1 – Lord Buddha Suddenly Manifests in Swami Vivekananda’s Room

The first incident took place when Swami Vivekananda was just a student (probably in his first year of Bachelor’s degree). Those were the early days of his discipleship under Sri Ramakrishna and Swamiji was in the habit of spending the entire night meditating in his room, after his family had gone to bed.

Recollecting his special practice of meditation during those days, his brother disciple Swami Saradananda wrote:

“Narendra (Swamiji’s childhood name) adopted a new method of practicing meditation…and prayed to the effect: ‘O God, make me fit to see Your real nature.’ He then removed all kinds of thought from his mind and keeping it still and motionless like the flame of a lamp in a windless place, tried to remain in that state. As the result of doing so, Narendra’s mind used to merge in itself so deeply that even the consciousness of time and of his own body disappeared now and then.”
– Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master by Swami Saradananda, page 1134.

One day as a consequence of this kind of meditation, Swami Vivekananda had an extraordinary vision, which he later related to Swami Saradananda and his disciples Sister Nivedita and Sharat Chandra Chakravarty, on 3 separate occasions. A combined account of this incident in Swamiji’s own words, gathered from these 3 sources is presented here:

One day while meditating, “there flowed in my mind a current of serene bliss when I kept it still, devoid of all objects. I felt for a long time even after the end of the meditation, a sort of intoxication under its impulse.

So, I did not feel inclined to leave the seat and get up immediately. While I was sitting in that condition at the end of the meditation, from the southern wall of that room a luminous figure stepped out and stood at a little distance in front of me, filling the room with a divine effulgence.

It was the figure of a Sannyasin (monk) in ochre cloth, absolutely calm, shaven-headed, and staff and Kamandalu (a Sannyasin’s wooden water-bowl) in hand.

The man was tall and largely built. There was a wonderful radiance on his visage, yet there seemed to be no play of emotion on it. In his face was a calm so deep and so established, that it seemed, as if both pain and pleasure had been forgotten during infinite time.

He gazed at me for some time and I too gazed at him in speechless wonder. I felt very much drawn towards him. He walked forward towards me with a slow step, with his eyes steadfastly fixed on me, as if he wanted to say something.

But I was seized with fear and could not keep quiet. I got up from my seat, opened the door and walked out of the room with rapid step. The next moment I thought, ‘Why this foolish fear?’ I made bold and went back into the room to hear the monk, who, alas, was no longer there.

I waited long in vain and felt dejected, repenting that I had been stupid enough to fly away without listening to him. I have seen many monks, but never have I found such an extraordinary expression in any other face. That face has been indelibly imprinted in my heart.

It may be a hallucination, but very often it comes to my mind that I had the good fortune of seeing Lord Buddha that day.”

– Swami Vivekananda relating his vision of Lord Buddha, to Swami Saradananda (Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master, page 1134-1135); Sister Nivedita (The Master as I Saw Him) and Sharat Chandra Chakravarty (Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume 7).

Incident #2 – Vision of Lord Buddha at Bodh-Gaya
A few years after the above incident, just before the passing of Sri Ramakrishna in August of 1886, Swami Vivekananda and 11 other disciples took the monastic vow of Sannyas (renunciation), receiving from Sri Ramakrishna ochre clothes and rosaries of rudraksha beads. (Source: Ramakrishna and His Disciples)

Immediately after being initiated into Sannyas, Sister Nivedita writes, Swami Vivekananda’s first act was to hurry to Bodh-Gaya, the place where his monastic ideal Lord Buddha had attained to enlightenment.

For many thousands of years ago, Lord Buddha too had taken the same monastic vow of Sannyas, renouncing his kingdom and princely wealth and set out to attain Nirvana (enlightenment). Now Swamiji was walking in the holy one’s foot-steps.

While in Bodh-Gaya, Swami Vivekananda paid reverential respects to the Bodhi-tree, an offshoot of the original tree under which Buddha had attained Nirvana, and remained absorbed in meditation before the image of Buddha. (Source: Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

It was while meditating thus that he for the second time, keenly felt the presence of Lord Buddha and saw vividly how the history of India had been changed by his noble teachings. (Source: Vivekananda a Biography)

Upon returning from Bodh-Gaya, Swamiji eagerly described this second vision of Buddha, to his guru Sri Ramakrishna. This conversation has been captured by “M” in his book the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (Chapter 50: The Master and Buddha):

“M” (Mahendranath Gupta): Sri Ramakrishna asked Narendra by sign whether he had seen a tuft of hair on Buddha’s head.

Narendra (Swami Vivekananda): “No, sir. He seems to have a sort of crown; his head seems to be covered by strings of rudraksha beads placed on top of one another.”

Sri Ramakrishna: “And his eyes?”

Narendra (Swami Vivekananda): “They show that he is in samadhi.”

Many years later, upon returning back from his trip West, Swami Vivekananda once more visited the sacred soil of Bodh-Gaya on his 39th birthday. This visit was the last. He gave up his body in Samadhi shortly thereafter.

“When a man merges his Buddhi, his intelligence, in Bodha, Consciousness, then he attains the Knowledge of Brahman (God); he becomes Buddha, enlightened.
Sri Ramakrishna

Om Namah Shivay

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