Tuesday, 29 April 2014

12. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

Mahendranath Gupta, or popularly known as  M. had taken down the conversations of Sri Ramakrishna (the Master) and later published it as Kathamrita in Bengali. This book was translated into English  by Swami Nikhilananda as ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’.

Some extracts from the book are given here.
God and worldly duties
M. (humbly):"How ought we to live in the world?"

MASTER: "Do all your duties, but keep your mind on God.  Live with all - with wife and children, father and mother - and serve them.  Treat them as if they were very dear to you, but know in your heart of hearts that they do not belong to you. 

"A maidservant in the house of a rich man performs all the household duties, but her thoughts are fixed on her own home in her native village.  She brings up her Master's children as if they were her own.  She even speaks of them as 'my Rāma' or 'my Hari'.  But in her own mind she knows very well that they do not belong to her at all.
"The tortoise moves about in the water.  But can you guess where her thoughts are? There on the bank, where her eggs are lying.  Do all your duties in the world, but keep your mind on God. 

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

Respect for other faiths
(To Kedār and the other devotees) "God can be realized through all paths.  All religions are true.  The important thing is to reach the roof.  You can reach it by stone stairs or by wooden stairs or by bamboo steps or by a rope.  You can also climb up by a bamboo pole. 
Many names of one God
"You may say that there are many errors and superstitions in another religion.  I should reply: Suppose there are.  Every religion has errors.  Everyone thinks that his watch alone gives the correct time.  It is enough to have yearning for God.  It is enough to love Him and feel attracted to Him: Don't you know that God is the Inner Guide? He sees the longing of our heart and the yearning of our soul.  Suppose a man has several sons.  The older boys address him distinctly as 'Baba' or 'Papa', but the babies can at best call him 'Ba' or 'Pa'.  Now, will the father be angry with those who address him in this indistinct way? The father knows that they too are calling him, only they cannot pronounce his name well.  All children are the same to the father.  Likewise, the devotees call on God alone, though by different names.  They call on one Person only.  God is one, but His names are many."

Futility of mere lecturing
"What can you achieve by mere lecturing and scholarship without discrimination and dispassion? God alone is real, and all else is unreal.  God alone is substance, and all else is nonentity.  That is discrimination. 

"First of all set up God in the shrine of your heart, and then deliver lectures as much as you like.  How will the mere repetition of 'Brahma' profit you if you are not imbued with discrimination and dispassion? It is the empty sound of a conch-shell.
"There lived in a village a young man named Padmalochan.  People used to call him 'Podo', for short.  In this village there was a temple in a very dilapidated condition.  It contained no image of God.  Aśwattha and other plants sprang up on the ruins of its walls.  Bats lived inside, and the floor was covered with dust and the droppings of the bats.  The people of the village had stopped visiting the temple.  One day after dusk the villagers heard the sound of a conch-shell from the direction of the temple.  They thought perhaps someone had installed an image in the shrine and was performing the evening worship.  One of them softly opened the door and saw Padmalochan standing in a corner, blowing the conch.  No image had been set up.  The temple hadn't been swept or washed.  And filth and dirt lay everywhere.  Then he shouted to Podo: 

You have set up no image here,
Within the shrine, O fool!
Blowing the conch, you simply make
Confusion worse confounded. 
Day and night eleven bats
Scream there incessantly. 

Extracts form Purification of mind
"There is no use in merely making a noise if you want to establish the Deity in the shrine of your heart, if you want to realize God.  First of all purify the mind.  In the pure heart God takes His seat.  One cannot bring the holy image into the temple if the droppings of bats are all around.  The eleven bats are our eleven organs: five of action, five of perception, and the mind. 

"First of all invoke the Deity, and then give lectures to your heart's content.  First of all dive deep.  Plunge to the bottom and gather up the gems.  Then you may do other things.  But nobody wants to plunge.  People are without spiritual discipline and prayer, without renunciation and dispassion.  They learn a few words and immediately start to deliver lectures.  It is difficult to teach others.  Only if a man gets a command from God, after realizing Him, is he entitled to teach.”

Parable of the chameleon
"Listen to a story.  Once a man entered a wood and saw a small animal on a tree.  He came back and told another man that he had seen a creature of a beautiful red colour on a certain tree.  The second man replied: 'When I went into the wood, I also saw that animal.  But why do you call it red? It is green.' Another man who was present contradicted them both and insisted that it was yellow.  Presently others arrived and contended that it was grey, violet, blue, and so forth and so on.  At last they started quarrelling among themselves.  To settle the dispute they all went to the tree.  They saw a man sitting under it.  On being asked, he replied: 'Yes, I live under this tree and I know the animal very well.  All your descriptions are true.  Sometimes it appears red, sometimes yellow, and at other times blue, violet, grey, and so forth.  It is a chameleon.  And sometimes it has no colour at all.  Now it has a colour, and now it has none.'

"In like manner, one who constantly thinks of God can know His real nature; he alone knows that God reveals Himself to seekers in various forms and aspects.  God has attributes; then again He has none.  Only the man who lives under the tree knows that the chameleon can appear in various colours, and he knows, further, that the animal at times has no colour at all.  It is the others who suffer from the agony of futile argument.

"Kabir used to say, 'The formless Absolute is my Father, and God with form is my Mother.'

"God reveals Himself in the form which His devotee loves most.  His love for the devotee knows no bounds.”

* * *

For more information on Sri Ramakrishna, please visit the official website of 
Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission - http://www.belurmath.org/

No comments:

Post a Comment