The Brahmani was the enthusiastic teacher and astonished beholder of
Sri Ramakrishna in his spiritual progress. She became proud of the achievements
of her unique pupil. But the pupil himself was not permitted to rest;
his destiny beckoned him forward. His Divine Mother would allow him no
respite till he had left behind the entire realm of duality with its visions,
experiences, and ecstatic dreams. But for the new ascent the old tender
guides would not suffice. The Brahmani, on whom he had depended for,
three years, saw her son escape from her to follow the command of a teacher
with masculine strength, a sterner mien, a gnarled physique, and a virile
voice. The new guru was a wandering monk, the sturdy Totapuri, whom
Sri Ramakrishna learnt to address affectionately as Nangta, the "Naked
One", because of his total renunciation of all earthly objects and attachments,
including even a piece of wearing cloth.
Totapuri was the bearer of a philosophy new to Sri Ramakrishna, the non-dualistic Vedanta philosophy, whose conclusions Totapuri had experienced in his own life. This ancient Hindu system designates the Ultimate Reality as Brahman, also described as Satchidananda, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Brahman is the only Real Existence. In It there is no time, no space, no causality, no multiplicity. But through maya, Its inscrutable Power, time, space, and causality are created and the One appears to break into the many. The eternal Spirit appears as a manifold of individuals endowed with form and subject to the conditions of time. The Immortal becomes a victim of birth and death. The Changeless undergoes change. The sinless Pure Soul, hypnotized by Its own maya, experiences the joys of heaven and the pains of hell. But these experiences based on the duality of the subject-object relationship are unreal. Even the vision of a Personal God is, ultimately speaking, as illusory as the experience of any other object. Man attains his liberation, therefore, by piercing the veil of maya and rediscovering his total identity with Brahman. Knowing himself to be one with the Universal Spirit, he realizes ineffable Peace. Only then does he go beyond the fiction of birth and death; only then does he become immortal. 'And this is the ultimate goal of all religions — to dehypnotize the soul now hypnotized by its own ignorance.
The path of the Vedantic discipline is the path of negation, "neti", in which, by stern determination, all that is unreal is both negated and renounced. It is the path of jnana, knowledge, the direct method of realizing the Absolute. After the negation of everything relative, including the discriminating ego itself, the aspirant merges in the One without a Second, in the bliss of nirvikalpa samadhi, where subject and object are alike dissolved. The soul goes beyond the realm of thought. The domain of duality is transcended. Maya is left behind with all its changes and modifications. The Real Man towers above the delusions of creation, preservation, and destruction. An avalanche of indescribable Bliss sweeps away all relative ideas of pain and pleasure, good and evil. There shines in the heart the glory of the Eternal Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Knower, knowledge, and known are dissolved in the Ocean of one eternal Consciousness; love, lover, and beloved merge in the unbounded Sea of supreme Felicity; birth, growth, and death vanish in infinite Existence. All doubts and misgivings are quelled for ever; the oscillations of the mind are stopped; the momentum of past actions is exhausted. Breaking down the ridge-pole of the tabernacle in which the soul has made its abode for untold ages, stilling the body, calming the mind, drowning the ego, the sweet joy of Brahman wells up in that superconscious state. Space disappears into nothingness, time is swallowed in eternity, and causation becomes a dream of the past. Only Existence is. Ah! Who can describe what the soul then feels in its communion with the Self?
Even when man descends from this dizzy height, he is devoid of ideas of "I" and "mine"; he looks on the body as a mere shadow, an outer sheath encasing the soul. He does not dwell on the past, takes no thought for the future, and looks with indifference on the present. He surveys everything in the world with an eye of equality; he is no longer touched by the infinite variety of phenomena; he no longer reacts to pleasure and pain. He remains unmoved whether he — that is to say, his body — is worshipped by the good or tormented by the wicked; for he realizes that it is the one Brahman that manifests Itself through everything. The impact of such an experience devastates the body and mind. Consciousness becomes blasted, as it were, with an excess of Light. In the Vedanta books it is said that after the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi the body drops off like a dry leaf. Only those who are born with a special mission for the world can return from this height to the valleys of normal life. They live and move in the world for the welfare of mankind. They are invested with a supreme spiritual power. A divine glory shines through them.