3.2 A FEW WORDS ON BHAVA,
(THE SPIRITUAL MOODS, PROFOUND MEDITATIONS AND SPIRITUAL VISIONS)
Listen again to my supreme word, the profoundest.
You are dear to me; therefore, I will tell you what is good for you.
— Gita XVIII. 64.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that, before the Master became well known, the people of Calcutta, both educated and uneducated, were completely ignorant about Bhava, Samadhi or the extraordinary visions and experiences of the realm of spirituality. The uneducated masses had a fantastic conception about these owing to fear and awe; and the modern educated community allowed themselves to be carried away by the current of foreign education, completely devoid of the religious background, and looked upon this kind of vision, ecstasy, etc., as impossible or as derangement of the brain. The bodily changes due to ecstasy, belonging to the domain of spirituality, appeared in their eyes to be a fainting-fit or a peculiar disease. Although conditions have changed to a great extent, very few people are, even now, really able to understand the inner meaning of Bhava and Samadhi. Again, it is necessary to have a fair knowledge of the nature of Samadhi in order to understand, even to a very small extent, the state of Bhavamukha, in which Sri Ramakrishna was always dwelling. Hence we shall now try to explain a little of these to the reader.
What the people in general do not experience is called by us “an abnormal state.” But the subtle experiences of the spiritual world can never be objects of knowledge for the ordinary human mind. Such experiences require instruction, training, constant practice, etc. The extraordinary visions and experiences make the spiritual aspirant pure and gradually make him fit for realizing eternal peace by filling him every day with new vigour and ideas. Is it then reasonable to call these visions, experiences, etc., abnormal? Every one has to admit the fact that all abnormalities without exception make men weak and bring about a deterioration in their intellectual and other powers. As the effect of the visions and experiences of the spiritual world is quite the opposite of deterioration, it must be admitted that the cause of all these is also opposite; and therefore these cannot be called diseases or derangements of the brain.
It is through these visions etc., that especial spiritual experiences have always been gained. But a man cannot be fit to realize the eternal peace, till he reaches the Nirvikalpa state through the cessation of all mental modifications, and the non-dual state of consciousness becomes natural to him. As an example of this, Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “When a thorn runs into the body, one has to take it out by means of another and then throw away both.” Forgetting the divine Lord, man has come into this abnormality, the world. The abnormalities of sights, tastes, etc., gradually get attenuated by those visions and experiences, which ultimately lead man to the knowledge of non-duality. He then feels blessed by knowing the truth of the Rishi’s utterance:1 “He is verily Bliss Itself.” This is the process. All the doctrines, experiences, visions, etc. of the spiritual world, without exception, help man to go forward towards that goal. Swami Vivekananda often said that these visions, experiences, etc., indicated how far the aspirant had gone forward towards the goal; he called them the “milestones on the way to progress”. Therefore let not the reader think that when there is a little intensity of a particular spiritual mood or there is seen the vision of the forms of one or two deities through meditation, spiritual realization has reached its culmination. In that case he will fall into a great error. Falling into this kind of error in the religious world, aspirants miss the goal, have only one idea and are filled withhatred and animosity towards one another. If a man makes this error in cultivating devotion to God, he becomes “fanatical” and “bigoted”. It is this defect that is a great thorn in the path of devotion, and it arises out of the “mean narrow mind.”
Again taking such visions to be the whole of religion, many come to the wrong conclusion that one who has not had such experiences is not at all religious. Spirituality and aimless miracle-mongering seem to them to be the same thing. But this kind of hankering after miracles does not make man religious; on the contrary it makes him weaker daily in all respects. That which does not lead to steadfastness and strength of character, that which does not enable man to take his stand on the rock of purity for the sake of truth in defiance of the whole world or that which entangles him more and more in various kinds of desires instead of setting him free from them, is outside the realm of spirituality. If extraordinary visions have not produced such results in your life and nevertheless you are having those visions, know that you are still outside the realm of spirituality and that they are due to a diseased brain and so are of no value. If, on the other hand, instead of having wonderful visions and experiences, you find yourself acquiring strength, know for certain that you are on the right path and that you will also have these visions and experiences at the proper time.
Finding that some of the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna were experiencing ecstasy while he, though he had been visiting the Master for a long time, had had no such experience, a friend2 of ours felt much perturbed, and going to him with tears laid bare to him the distress of his heart. Hearing it, Sri Ramakrishna consoled him and said, “Don’t be silly, my child. Do you think everything is gained when that is attained? Is it something very big? Know for certain that true faith and renunciation are far greater. Why, ‘Narendar’ (Swami Vivekananda)3 does not generally have these; but just see how great his renunciation is, how great his faith and how great his vigour and steadfastness.”
When the time for living in oneness with the divine Lord comes through the elimination of desires, helped by steadfastness, firm faith and single-minded devotion, some aspirants have sometimes on account of past impressions such pure desires as “I will do good to the people, I will act for the
happiness of the many.” Under the influence of such desires, they cannot then remain wholly in the non-dual state. They come down just a little from that high plane of consciousness to the realm of “I” and “mine” again. But that “I”-ness of theirs lives in constant unbroken consciousness of an intimate relation with God, such as “I am a servant, a child or a part of Him” That “I” can no more devote itself day and night to lust and gold. Knowing that God is the quintessence of everything, that “I” does not any more hanker after the enjoyment of worldly objects such as sight, taste, etc. It draws at will upon as little of the experience of those objects as is conducive to the realization of that end and no more. Those who were once in worldly bondage, but have now attained perfection by means of Sadhana and are living the rest of their lives in some loving relation with the divine Lord are known to be “liberated-in-life.” It is those who are endowed from their very birth with the consciousness of such a special relation with God and have never in this life fallen in bondage like ordinary men that are termed in the scriptures as “Adhikarika-Purushas”, “Isvarakotis”, “ever-free ones” and so on. Again, there is a class of Sadhakas, who, after attaining the non-dual state of consciousness, never come down from that state even for the purpose of doing good to humanity; they are spoken of as “Jivakotis” And we have heard from the Master that it is these who are the greatest in number.
Again there is, amongst those Sadhakas who, having experienced the non-dual state in Samadhi, come down thence for doing good to humanity, a difference in degree in their experience of oneness with the Cause of the universe. Some of them have merely seen the sea of consciousness from a distance; some have gone near and touched it and others have drunk but a few drops. Sri Ramakrishna said by way of illustration, “Narada, the seer among gods, saw that sea from a distance and came back; Sukadeva touched it but thrice and Siva, the spiritual teacher of the world, took three sips only and lay devoid of consciousness of the external world. Becoming one with the non-dual consciousness even for a short time is what is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi”.
Just as there are differences in the experiences of the non-dual state, there are differences in the experience of the devotional moods such as Santa, Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya, etc.,— all belonging to the lower strata of consciousness leading the aspirants ultimately to the non-dual state. Some become blessed by fully experiencing the one or the other of these states; while others have just a glimpse of it. The full experience of any of these devotional moods has been termed in the scriptures on Yoga as Savikalpa Samadhi.
The aspirant gets wonderful bodily changes, spiritual visions, etc., in all kinds of spiritual states of consciousness, in the higher non-dual state as well as in the lower Savikalpa states. Again, these visions and transformations are seen to be different in different individuals; these changes are observed in some people after only superficial experiences; while very little of these is observed in others even when they have profound experiences. In illustrating this, Sri Ramakrishna used to say, “If a couple of elephants get into the water of a small pool, the water is thrown into a violent agitation and it overflows; but the water in a vast lake remains as still as ever even when scores of them get into it.” Nor is it a fact that mere bodily changes, visions, etc., are inevitable signs of the depth of ecstasy.
If, however, the depth of spiritual experiences has to be measured it must be inferred, as said before, from one’s stead-fastness, renunciation, strength of character, the attenuation of desires for enjoyment, etc. It is by means of this touchstone alone and by no other means that the amount of dross in ecstasy can be assessed. One thing, therefore, is very clear, namely, the complete picture of the fully developed stage of one or other of the moods of Santa, Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya and Madhura can be seen in those persons alone who have realized their nature to be pure, awakened and free, by giving up all kinds of desires, and not in those who are entangled in the desires for lust and gold. One blinded by desires feels the attraction of desires only; how can such a one feel the sentiments towards God experienced by minds free from the slightest tinge of desire?
We have tried to explain the nature of ecstasy as we have heard it from the Master. It is necessary to say here a few words more in this connection so that the reader may understand it clearly. From what we have said about a difference amongst the aspirants in the experiences of the moods of Santa, Dasya, etc., and of non-duality it is not to be inferred that even the incarnations of God remain confined within any limits in the matter of experiencing those moods. They can at will manifest fully in themselves any of these devotional moods. Again, they can, by adopting the non-dual mood, proceed so far in the experience of their oneness with God that it is not in the power of any mortals, Jivanmukta, ever-free or Isvarakoti, to do so. For having once proceeded far in the experience of their oneness with Bliss Itself ordinary mortals cannot come down again to the realm of “I” and “mine” by separating themselves from the Bliss Itself. This is possible in the case of the incarnations of God alone; it is by the recording of their wonderful experiences that the scriptures like the Vedas and the Bible, have come into being. Is it, therefore, strange that the spiritual experiences of incarnations should go beyond those recorded in the Vedas and other scriptures? Sri Ramakrishna used to say in illustration of it: “The state of this place (meaning his own experiences) has gone much beyond what is written in the Vedas and the Vedantas.” It is because Sri Ramakrishna was the foremost amongst them that he could return to the realm of “I” and “mine” “for the good of the many” and “for teaching the people” even after remaining absorbed in the non-dual state of consciousness continually for six months. That is a wonderful story. It will not be out of place to say a few words about it here.
On the third day of his initiation in Sannyasa by Tota Puri, the Master attained the ultimate realization of Nirvikalpa Samadhi or complete oneness with God, spoken of in the Vedanta. By that time the Master had finished the disciplines according to the Tantras, and the learned Bhairavi Brahmani — the Master spoke of her as Bamni — who had collected necessary articles for these sadhanas and taught their applications, was living at Dakshineswar. We have heard from the Master that the Bhairavi forbade him to mix with Tota Puri and said, “My child, do not mix so much with him. These people lack devotion. Your love and affection for God will then vanish”. But the Master did not pay heed to her advice and used to be absorbed night and day in the discussion of the Vedanta and its realization.
Tota Puri stayed at Dakshineswar for eleven months and left. The Master then decided to dwell continuously in the experience of oneness with God or in the consciousness of non-duality, instead of remaining in the realm of “I” and “mine”. And he began to act accordingly. That is a wonderful story. The Master was then not at all conscious that he had a body. Even ideas necessary for maintaining the body, like those of eating, sleeping, answering calls of nature, etc., did not cross his mind, not to speak then of desires like “talking with others.” Neither did the ideas “I” and “mine”, “you” and “yours” have any existence in that state. The idea of “two” or of “one” also did not exist there, as “one” may be felt only when there is the memory of “two”. In that state all the functions of the mind without a single exception are completely stilled. A perfect calm prevails. There exists only “an indescribable something of the nature of eternal Consciousness and Bliss, incomparable, transcending all limitations, eternally free, nameless, limitless like ether, without parts, devoid of all ideas, an infinite immensity, untouched by cause or effect, a mood beyond all moods which a man of selfknowledge is conscious of in his heart during the profound concentration of mind called Samadhi.”4 Bliss and bliss alone! It has no direction, no space, no object, no form, no name. There abides alone the bodiless Self or the nature peculiar to Itself, indescribable and blissful; it abides as a mood beyond all moods and ideas which exist within the domain of mind and intellect — a state beyond all states, which the scriptures speak of as a sport of the self with the Self. The Master was always experiencing such an indescribable state without any break.
The Master said that no worldly object or relation acted as an obstacle in the path leading to his experience of the Nirvikalpa Samadhi according to the Vedanta. For, he had verily renounced for Her sake all kinds of desires from his mind. While offering everything to the Mother, he had said, “Mother, here is Thy knowledge and here is Thy ignorance, here is Thy good and here is Thy evil, here is Thy vice and here is Thy virtue, here is Thy fame and here is Thy calumny, grant me pure devotion to Thy lotus feet and show Thyself to me.” Thus had he renounced all kinds of desires for enjoyment out of pure love for Her and in order to have a direct vision of Her holy feet. Can we ever imagine of doing this even to a small extent? Leave aside having a direct feeling of that divine love for love’s sake. Even if ever we say to God, “Here it is, O Lord, whatever is mine”, immediately afterwards, when we require it, we oust Him, call all that “mine” and calculate our profit and loss regarding it. When we do anything, we think of what people will say. We get agitated in many ways and restlessly run after many things; thinking of the future, we alternate between the abyss of pain and the height of pleasure; we have this deep-rooted egoism in us, that if we cannot overturn the whole world to make it yield to our selfishness, we can at least give it a sufficient twist to serve that end. But the Master’s was not a cheat’s mind like ours; so the moment he said, “Here it is, O Mother, whatever was given by You”, his mind never since that instant cast a covetous glance at it. Never did he have such subtle repining, as “Word has already been given, what can I do now? It would have been all right had it not been given.” This is why we see that the Master could never call “mine”, whatever he once said he had given to the Mother.
We would like to say another thing in this connection. The Master could not say to the divine Mother, “Here is Thy truthfulness and here is Thy untruthfulness, O Mother,” though he made to her an offering of everything belonging to his mind and body, merit and demerit, vice and virtue, good and evil, fame and calumny and the like. Once the Master himself told us the reason of it. “If I give up truthfulness in this way,” said the Master, “how can I keep the truth that I have offered everything to the Mother of the universe?” Ah, how great a devotion to truthfulness have we seen in the Master though he indeed surrendered everything else to the Mother! If he once said he would go to a place, he was there without fail at the proper time. If he once said he would accept a thing from a certain person, he could not take it from anyone else. When he happened to say that he would not eat a certain thing or do a certain action, he could not from that day on eat it or do it. “One who has devotion to truthfulness,” said the Master, “realizes the God of truth. Mother prevents his words from turning untrue.” Ah, how many illustrations of this point have we not seen in the Master’s life! We would mention a few here.
One day it was arranged at Dakshineswar that the highly devoted Gopala’s mother should cook rice for the Master and feed him. Everything was ready; the Master sat down to take his food. He found the rice hard, not properly boiled. The Master was annoyed and said, “Can I eat this rice? I will not take rice out of her hands any more.” When these words came out of the Master’s mouth, everyone thought that the Master had only warned Gopala’s mother in order to make her careful for the future; it was impossible to imagine that he would not take rice any more out of her hand, seeing that he had so much love and respect for her. He would forgive her a little later, and there the matter would end. But the contrary happened, for the Master had shortly afterwards a disease in his throat. It became gradually so acute that he could not take rice any more. In this way circumstances conspired to make that casual remark of his come true.
One day, while, he was in a spiritual mood, the Master said at Dakshineswar, “I shall not eat anything except porridge henceforward.” The Holy Mother was bringing his food to him at the time. Hearing this and knowing that any word coming out of the Master’s mouth never proved untrue she felt nervous and said, “Why, I shall cook for you rice and soup; why porridge?” “No, porridge” were the words uttered by him in that spiritual mood. Soon after, he got the throat-disease and it turned out that none of the preparations that are generally taken with rice could be taken by him; he lived on porridge, milk-barley, and the like.
The Master specified the well-known Sambhuchandra Mallick of Calcutta who was generous and wealthy, as the second of the four suppliers of his provisions. He had a garden near the Kali temple of Rani Rasmani. There he used to spend much time with the Master in discussing the Divine. There was in that garden his charitable dispensary. Sri Ramakrishna suffered often from stomach troubles. Coming to know of this one day, Sambhu advised him to use a small dose of opium everyday and asked him to take it from him before he returned to Rasmani’s garden. The Master also agreed. Afterwards, engaged in conversation, both of them forgot it.
He bade good-bye to Sambhu and came to the road, when he remembered it. He came back to take the opium, but found that Sambhu had gone into the inner apartment. Instead of calling him, the Master asked his manager for it and having got a little, was returning to Rasmani’s garden. But as soon as he came to the road, he felt a sort of reeling and could not see the road. His legs were drawn, as it were, into the drain by the road. He said to himself, “What is this? This is by no means the road.” At the same time, he could not find out the cause. As a last resort he thought that there might be a mistake as to the direction, and turning to Sambhu’s garden, he saw that the road leading that way was distinctly visible. He thought a little and came back to Sambhu’s gate and ascertaining the road well from there, again proceeded with care towards Rasmani’s garden. But no sooner had he advanced a couple of steps than he found himself in the same plight — he could not see the road. His legs were being drawn in the opposite direction. When it happened thus a few times, it struck him that Sambhu had asked him to take the opium from him; but instead of doing that he had taken it from his manager and that too without Sambhu’s knowledge. That was why the Mother had been preventing him from going. The manager should not have given it without Sambhu’s orders and he too should have taken it from Sambhu himself, as he had been asked to do. But as it was, two wrongs, theft and lying, were being committed by him. That was why the Mother was preventing him from returning. Thinking thus he came to Sambhu’s dispensary and found that the manager also had gone. Therefore, he threw the packet of the opium through the window and said in a loud voice, “Hullo, here is your opium.” Saying so, he started towards Rasmani’s garden. This time he did not have that reeling and the road was clearly seen and he reached the garden without difficulty. “Have I not,” said the Master, “completely taken refuge in the Mother? That is why Mother has taken hold of my hand. She prevents me from taking a single wrong step.” There are many such examples in the Master’s life of which we have heard. Ah, what a wonderful thing! Can we even imagine the least bit of such devotion to truthfulness and such entire dependence on God? Is it this kind of dependence on God of which the Master spoke again and again to us in the following parable: “In that part of the country (Kamarpukur) there are ridges by the fields. People walk from one village to another along those ridges. They are narrow; the father is carrying the younger child in his arms lest it should slip; and the elder child, as it is grown up, has caught hold of the other hand of the father and is going along. As they go, the children see a white kite or something else and clap their hands in joy. As the child in the father’s arms knows that its father is holding it, it is free from fear and goes joyfully; while the other child, who is holding its father’s hand, forgets all about the ridge and claps its hands after letting go its hold, when it immediately falls down and cries out. Even so, he whose hand Mother clasps is without fear, while he who clasps Mother’s hand is in fear; for, the moment he lets go his hold he falls.”
Thus no kind of worldly desires or impressions stood as obstacles to the Master on his path to Nirvikalpa Samadhi, because owing to the intensity of his love for God, he felt no restraining force from behind nor any attraction for any person or thing of the world. The only thing that stood as an obstacle was the form of the divine Mother, “beautiful, more beautiful than the most beautiful”, the only One that the Master was so long lovingly worshipping with devotion, knowing Her to be the essence of all essences and the cause of all causes. “No sooner,” said the Master, “had I collected the mind and concentrated it on one point than the Mother’s form appeared before me. I could not have the heart to leave that form behind and go beyond. Such was the case as often as I tried to make the mind objectless, driving away everything from it. At last after a great deal of thinking, I gathered much mental strength, regarded knowledge as a sword, and with that sword mentally cut that form in two. There was nothing left in the mind then; and it rushed quickly up to the complete Nirvikalpa state.” These seem to us to be meaningless words, for, we have never made any form of the universal Mother our own; nor have we established any loving relation with Her, never have we learnt to love anyone with all our heart. Whole-hearted, intense love, we have for this mind of ours and this lump of flesh. This is why we feel such a great fear of death or of a radical change in the mind. But the Master had indeed none of it. He knew the lotus feet of the divine Mother in his heart of hearts to be the only essential thing in the world and was devoting his time to meditation of Her lotus feet and to the service of Her divine form day and night. Therefore what else could support his mind in the world when he somehow removed that from it? It became completely objectless and devoid of all modifications and reached the Nirvikalpa state. Reader, try at least once to imagine it even if you cannot fully comprehend it! You will then feel how far the Master made the divine Mother his own and with what an intense eagerness he loved Her.
The Master was in that Nirvikalpa state continually for six months. “I was,” said the Master, “for six months in that state from which ordinary mortals never return; the body lives for twenty-one days only and then falls like a dry leaf from a tree. There was no consciousness at all, of time, of the coming of day or the passing of night. Just as flies enter into the nostrils and the mouth of a dead man, so they entered into mine; but there was no consciousness. The hair became matted on account of accumulation of dust. Calls of nature were perhaps answered unconsciously. Could the body have lived? It would have succumbed at that time. But a holy man came then. He had a small stick like a ruler in his hand. He recognized my state as soon as he saw it and knew that much of Mother’s work was yet to be done through this body; much good would be done to many if only it could be saved. Therefore he would carry food in time and, by striking this body again and again, would try to bring it back to consciousness. The moment he saw signs of consciousness appearing he would thrust some food into the mouth. Thus on some days a little food found its way into the stomach and on others it did not. Six months passed that way. Then the Mother’s command was heard, ‘Remain in Bhavamukha; for the spiritual enlightenment of the people, remain in Bhavamukha.’ This was followed by illness, blooddysentry; there was wringing pain in the intestines and it was excruciating. It was after continually suffering for about six months that the mind gradually came down to the normal body-consciousness; before that it used to go up and reach that Nirvikalpa state ever and anon.”
As a matter of fact, we are informed by those who had the good fortune to meet the Master some ten or twelve years before he passed away, that even then they rarely heard him speak, for he used to be in continual ecstasy for all the twenty-four hours, and who could be there to speak to? We have been told by Visvanath Upadhyaya, an official of the Nepal Government, that he saw him absorbed in ecstasy continuously for three days and three nights. Moreover he said that on such occasions when deep Samadhi would continue for a long time, cow’s ghee would be rubbed at intervals on the person of the Master from the neck to the lower end of the backbone and from the knee to the soles of the feet in a downward direction. When this was done, the Master felt it convenient to come down to the realm of “I” and “mine” from high planes of Samadhi.
The Master himself said to us on many occasions, “The natural tendency of this mind is upwards towards the Nirvikalpa plane. Once in Samadhi, it does not feel inclined to come down. It has forcibly to be brought down for your sake. This force is moreover not sufficient for bringing me down, so I catch hold of some trifling desires of the lower plane, as ‘I will smoke tobacco’, ‘I will drink water’, ‘I will take this’, ‘I will see so-and-so’, ‘I will talk’; these also have to be retained in the mind by effective repetition. It is only then that the mind gradually comes down to the state of body-consciousness. Again, when coming down, it flies off in that (upward) direction. It has to be brought down again by means of such desires.” What a wonderful phenomenon! When we were told all this, we sat astounded and thought, “If the meaning of his saying, ‘Tie the knowledge of non-duality in the corner of your cloth and then do whatever you like’ is this, ah, what a fine hope have we of realizing it in our lives!” We find that the only way for us is to take refuge in him and wait for his grace. But when we try to do so we are faced with difficulties in a short time. The roguish mind sometimes would think, “Why should the Master not love me more than others? Why should he not love me as much as he loves Narendra? In what respect am I inferior to him?” and so on. So much for the Master’s mental make-up; let us now follow the main topic.5
We shall now try to touch on a few aspects of the spiritual consciousness of higher planes and of the nature of Samadhi, as far as we have understood them from the Master’s teachings, and then pass on to explain the state of Bhavamukha. We have clearly mentioned that some kind or, other of bodily changes is sure to accompany any ideas, higher or lower, arising in the mind. This requires no explanation; it is a matter of daily experience. It is easily understood by observing the ordinary ideas experienced every day; for example there is one kind of change when anger comes and another kind when love is felt. Again, when there is a great preponderance of good or evil thoughts in a person’s mind so much change is produced in his body that one can know his nature as soon as one sees him Looking at a man, we say among ourselves, “See, how angry he appears” or “how lustful” or “how honest”. These daily expressions are clear proofs of our contention. Again, many of us must have observed how the appearance and gestures of even a person of perverted nature and of hideous appearance become gentle and free if he spends continually, say, a period of six months, for some reason or other, in thinking holy thoughts and living a good life. The Western physiologist says, “Whatever may be the nature of an idea that comes to your mind it will for ever leave a mark in your brain. Your character is built more or less of the aggregate of these two kinds of impressions, good and bad, and you pass for a good or a bad character accordingly.”
But the Yogis and Rishis of the East, especially of India, say, “Those two kinds of ideas do not stop with merely impressing two kinds of marks in the brain, but they get transformed into subtle powers of impulsion and abide eternally in the sacral plexus called the basic centre (Muladhara) situated at the lower end of the vertebrae from where they urge you to do good or bad deeds again in the future. It is this centre that is the repository of these powers of impulsion accumulated in past lives. These are what are called “impressions” or “past impressions”; and it is only by the direct realization of the divine Lord or the attainment of Nirvikalpa Samadhi that these can be destroyed. Otherwise, at the time of leaving one body for another, mortals carry with them this bundle of impressions, “just as the wind carries smell from its receptacle.”6
This intimate relation, spoken of before, between the body and the mind continues to exist till the attainment of the knowledge of non-duality or what may be called the direct realization of God. The body reacts on the mind and the mind on the body. Again, like the relation between the body and the mind of the individual, there exists the relation between the body and the mind of the whole of mankind, the aggregate of the individual bodies and minds. My body and mind react to the actions of your body and mind and vice versa. Thus do the external or gross world and the internal or the subtle world stand eternally related and are continually acting and reacting on each other. It is therefore noticed that you feel grief where others are in grief; similarly a mood of devotion comes to you unnoticed in the company of devotees. This holds good everywhere.
It follows therefore that like physical disease and health, ideas or mental modifications are also infectious. They travel to persons of the requisite receptivity. That is why the scriptures have so much eulogized the company of holy men for infusing love of God into human minds. For the same reason, the Master used to say to new visitors, “Frequent this place; in the beginning one should pay more frequent visits here.”
The spiritual moods arising out of intense love of God similarly cause extraordinary physical changes. For example, when this kind of love grows in the mind, the aspirant feels less attracted towards sense-objects like sights, tastes, etc., takes less food and sleep; develops a taste for certain kinds of food, distaste for others; feels a desire to shun like poison his relations, worldly connection with whom deflects him from the divine Lord. The Master used to say in this connection, “I could not then bear the very atmosphere of worldly people, and felt when in the company of relatives, as if my breath would stop and the soul leave the body.” And again he would say, “The Mahavayu (the nervous vibration due to deep spiritual concentration) in the body of a man who calls on God sincerely cannot but rush to his head.”
It is therefore clear that the mental changes or ideas that are produced on account of the love of God have, each of them, a corresponding bodily picture or form. The Vaishnava scriptures took into consideration the mental changes or spiritual moods and have divided them into five, namely, Santa, Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya and Madhura; while the scriptures on Yoga have dealt with the bodily changes caused by those ideas or spiritual moods and have described the coiled power, the seven centres, etc., in the backbone and the brain.
We have to a certain extent acquainted the reader with what is called the coiled power (Kundalini). The great seers who have written treatises on Yoga have given this name to that great power of impulsion which expresses itself through the physical counterparts of all the mental modifications that a mortal has undergone in all the past lives and is still undergoing in the present. The Yogi says that it remains almost completely asleep or unmanifest in mortals who are in bondage. It is in this sleeping state of the coiled power of impulsion that the mental modifications such as memory, imagination, etc., are rendered possible. If by some means or other it gets fully awakened or manifested, it leads a man to the realization of infinite knowledge and through it to the direct vision of God. If it is asked how memory, imagination, etc., can arise from the sleeping coiled power, our answer is: although asleep, it gets a sort of momentary awakening through the nervous vibrations communicated to the brain through the doors of sense-organs by external objects like sights and tastes, just as the hand of a sleeping man bitten by a mosquito automatically strikes it or rubs the bitten part of the body.7
The Yogi says that the supreme Self or the divine Lord who is indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss resides in Its own nature of pure Consciousness in the space or the ether existing in the aperture8 in the crown of the head. The coiled power has a great attraction for It, or to put it in another way, the divine Lord is continually attracting it. But as it is not awake, the coiled power does not feel that attraction. The moment it is awakened, it will feel that attraction of the divine Lord and approach Him The path leading the coiled power to the divine Lord also exists in the body of each of us. Starting from the brain this path comes straight through the backbone down to the lowest centre (Meru Chakra) called the basic or Muladhara situated at the lower end of the vertebrae. This path has been spoken of in the scriptures on Yoga as that of the spinal canal (Sushumna-vartma).9 The Western physiologist has described this as Canal Centralis, but has not so far discovered its function or utility. It is by this path that, separated initially from the supreme Self, the coiled power came from the brain down to the basic centre and has been lying there asleep. It is by this path again that this power arrives at last at the brain, crossing one after another the six centres, situated one above the other within the backbone.10 As the awakened coiled power passes from one centre to another, the aspirant begins to have novel experiences; and as soon as it reaches the brain, he realizes the ultimate experience of the supreme knowledge of religion; in other words, he reaches the consciousness of non-duality, the oneness of the self with the supreme Self. It is then that the aspirant has the ultimate experience of his particular devotional mood. It is then that he becomes one with that great Idea from which all ideas are arising every moment in human minds — that Idea beyond all ideas.
Ah, how very simple were the words by which the Master explained to us these intricate facts of Yoga! “You see,” said he, “something goes up creeping from the feet to the head Consciousness continues to exist as long as this power does not reach the head; but as soon as it reaches the head all consciousness is completely lost. There is no seeing or hearing any more, not to speak of speaking. Who can speak? The very idea of ‘I’ and ‘you’ vanishes. While it goes up, I feel a desire to tell you everything — how many visions I experience, of what nature they are, etc. Until it comes to this place (showing the heart) or at most this place (showing the throat) speaking is possible and I do speak. But the moment it goes up beyond this place (showing the throat) some one forcibly presses the mouth, as it were, and I lose all consciousness. I cannot control it. Whenever I try to describe what kinds of visions I experience when it goes beyond this place (showing the throat) and think what kinds of visions I am witnessing, the mind rushes immediately up, and speaking becomes impossible”.
Ah! How many times, the Master made fruitless attempts to control himself with great effort in order to reveal the nature of the visions, experiences, etc., he had when his mind reached the centre above the throat! “One day,” says one of our friends, “the Master said very emphatically, ‘I’ll tell you everything today and will not keep anything secret.’ He described clearly the centres and the corresponding experiences up to the heart and the throat and then pointing to the spot between the eyebrows he said, ‘The supreme Self is directly known and the individual experiences Samadhi when the mind comes up here. There remains then but a thin transparent screen separating the supreme Self and the individual self. The Sadhaka then experiences — saying this, the moment he started to describe in detail the realization of the supreme Self he was plunged in Samadhi. When the Samadhi came to an end he tried again to describe it and was again in Samadhi. Finally after repeated attempts, he said to us with tears, ‘Alas, I have indeed a desire to tell you everything without concealing anything whatsoever, but in spite of all my efforts, Mother did not allow me to speak; She pressed my mouth.’ We were surprised and thought, ‘Ah, how strange it is! We see he is trying so much to tell us, and we realize that he is feeling pained also, that he is by no means able to express himself. That Woman, the Mother, is surely very naughty. Ah! Why press the mouth when he is to speak of holy things, things about the realization of God?’ Did we then understand that the mind, intellect and the like with the help of which speaking becomes possible, have not a very long range? And again, did we then understand that the complete realization of the supreme Self could not be attained if one did not go beyond this range? Did we then understand that the Master was trying to make the impossible possible on account of his love for us?
The Master used to describe in detail the nature of the experiences he had when the coiled power went up through the Canal Centralis. “Look here,” said he, “the something that goes up to the head producing a tingling sensation does not always do it in the same manner. It has five kinds of motion as described in the scriptures.
1. The motion like that of ants — just as ants carrying food in their mouths creep along in a line there begins a creeping sensation at the feet, it then goes slowly up till it reaches the head, when there is Samadhi.
2. The motion like that of frogs — just as frogs hop twice or thrice and then rest and again they do so twice or thrice and then rest, and so on they proceed; a similar sensation is felt to move from the feet in the direction of the head; and as soon as it reaches the head, there is Samadhi.
3. The motion like that of snakes — a snake lies motionless in coils or at full length and the moment it sees a prey or is frightened, it wriggles zigzag to the prey or its place of hiding; a sensation like that is felt going upwards direct to the head; when it reaches there, one goes into Samadhi.
4. The motion like that of birds — a bird at the time of perching comes flying, sometimes a little high, sometimes a little low, stops nowhere and reaches its destination straight, when it takes rest; a sensation with similar movements is felt proceeding to the head — which culminates in Samadhi.
5. And the motion like that of monkeys — just as a monkey, when it goes from one tree to another, jumps from branch to branch suddenly and reaches the destination in two or three jumps, so a sensation is felt to reach the head in two or three jumps and Samadhi follows.”
About the visions in each centre while the coiled power goes up by the passage of the Sushumna, the Master used to say, “The Vedanta speaks of seven planes. The experiences in these planes differ from one another. The mind normally moves up and down in the three lowest planes. Its attention is fixed to the anus, the organ of generation, and the navel — to eating, dressing, coition and the like. If, however, it happens to transcend those three planes and reaches the heart, one has the vision of light. But although the mind rises sometimes to the heart, it comes down to the three lower planes again. If anyone’s mind goes up to the throat he cannot speak on any mundane topics. He will speak only of God. In those days, I felt as if I was struck on the head with a stick when anyone spoke of worldly matters; I would fly to the Panchavati where I would not have to hear the talk on those topics. I would feel frightened and would hide myself when I saw worldly people. Relatives appeared to me to be enemies trying to push me down into deep pits; and if I fell once, I might not get up again. I felt suffocated; it seemed I was at the point of death. I could have peace only when I fled from them The mind might come down again to the anus, the generating organ and the navel even though it had reached the throat; one should even then be alert. If, however, anybody’s mind reaches the spot between the eyebrows he has no more fear of a fall. He then has the direct knowledge of the supreme Self and remains continually in Samadhi. There is only a screen, transparent like glass, separating this centre from the thousand-petalled lotus11 in the brain, the Sahasrara. The supreme Self is so near then that it seems as if one is merged in Him, identified with Him But the identification is yet to be. If the mind comes down from here it comes at the most down to the throat or the heart. It cannot come lower down. The Jivakotis never come down from this plane. After the experience of continuous Samadhi for twenty-one days the screen is pierced and the oneness of the self with Him becomes complete. To be completely merged in the supreme Self in the Sahasrara is what is called reaching the seventh plane.”
35. The Master’s retentive power12
Hearing the Master speaking of the Veda, the Vedanta and the science of Yoga, some of us, however, would sometimes ask him, “Sir, although you never learnt even reading and writing whence did you know all these?” The wonderful Master was not annoyed even at that strange question; he would smile a little and say, “Ah, it is true I did not study myself but I have heard much. I remember all that. I have heard the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Darsanas and the Puranas from good and reliable scholars. After hearing them and knowing what they contained, I made a garland of them all (the books) by means of a string and put it round my neck, offered it at the lotus feet of the Mother, saying, “Here are all Thy scriptures, Puranas and the like. Please grant me pure devotion.”
He would say of the non-dual mood or the mood beyond all moods: “That is the last word. Do you know how? Suppose there is an old servant. His master is pleased with him on account of his good qualities, has faith in his words and consults him on all matters. One day he is very pleased, catches hold of his hand and tries to make him sit on his (the master’s) own seat. The embarrassed servant quails. Still the master drags him, makes him sit there and says, ‘Do sit down, you and I are one.’ It is just like that.”
A friend of ours paid much attention to the study of the Vedanta at one time. The master loved him on account of his continence from childhood, devotion, steadfastness and so on. As he applied himself to the study of the Vedanta, meditation, devotional exercises and the like, the friend did not or could not visit the Master as usual for some time. This did not pass unnoticed. One day the Master saw a boy who used to visit him along with our friend, come alone to Dakshineswar and asked him, “Well, how is it that you come alone; hasn’t he come?” The boy said in reply, “Sir, he has now applied his mind intensely to the study of the Vedanta. He spends night and day in study, discussion and argumentation. It is perhaps because he thinks that time will be wasted, he has not come.” The Master beard this and said nothing more.
The person we are speaking of, came to Dakshineswar a few days after. As soon as he saw him the Master said, “Well, I hear you are now given much to the discussion of the Vedanta. That is very good. But does it not amount to this — Brahman is real, the world unreal? Or is it anything else?
Friend: “Yes sir, what else can it be? The friend says that the Master opened his eyes to the import of Vedanta in those few words. Hearing those words he was surprised and thought, “It is indeed true that everything of the Vedanta is understood when one is convinced in one’s heart of hearts of the truth of these few words.”
The Master: “Hearing, thinking and meditating. First hearing — you at first hear that Brahman is real, the universe unreal; then thinking — by reason and discrimination you get that idea deeply and correctly imprinted in your mind; and after that, meditation — you apply your mind to Brahman the real entity, by renouncing the universe, the unreal entity; that is all. Of what avail will it be if one hears and understands this, but does not try to give up what is unreal? It is like the knowledge of the worldly people. One cannot attain Reality by means of that knowledge. Conviction is necessary, renunciation is imperative. It is then alone that one can succeed. Otherwise you may repeat, ‘There is no thorn, no pricking’, but the moment you touch the thorn you feel the prick and cry out in pain. You merely utter, ‘There is no universe, it is unreal; it is Brahman alone that exists,’ and so on, but as soon as the objects of the world — sights, tastes, etc., come before you, you take them to be real and you get entangled. There came a holy man to the Panchavati. He used to speak incessantly on the Vedanta to the people. Then one day I heard that he had contracted an illicit connection with a woman. I went in that direction in order to ease myself, when I saw him sitting there. I said, ‘You talk so much about Vedanta, what is this talk about you then?’ He replied, ‘What does it matter? I can make it clear to you that there is no harm in that. When it is a fact that the world is unreal in the past, present and future, will my action alone be real? That is also unreal.’ I was annoyed When I heard this and said, ‘Fie on your knowledge of Vedanta. That is the kind of knowledge which the worldly people have of Vedanta. That knowledge is no knowledge at all.”
There the conversation ended. The Master told him all this while he was walking with him under the Panchavati. Our friend had been labouring under the apprehension that the Vedanta could not be understood, and liberation would be a far cry, till difficult books like the Upanishads, Panchadasi and the like were studied and a clear understanding of the philosophical systems like Sankhya, Nyaya, etc., was attained. From the Master’s talk that day, he came to understand that the only purpose of all Vedantic discussions was to have that conviction in one’s heart. One might read basketfuls of books on philosophy and logic, but if one did not have the firm conviction, “Brahman alone is real, the world unreal”, it would make no difference whether one studied them or not. He bade good-bye to the Master and returned to Calcutta, deciding that he should thenceforward apply his mind more to the practice of spirituality than to the study of books. Determined to know God direct through spiritual practices, he now applied himself whole-heartedly to them
Whenever the Master came to the house of anyone in Calcutta the news of his coming spread in a short time to the devotees of the inner circle. No one in particular took the responsibility of spreading it among all. But the hearts of the devotees were extremely eager to see him, so much so that if, prevented by business, they could not go to Dakshineswar to meet him, they would very often visit one another’s house and derive great joy in conversing about him If anyone amongst them somehow came to know of the Master’s arrival, the news would travel automatically from mouth to mouth and spread amongst them all. It is very difficult to explain to the reader how through the Master’s grace the devotees were bound by an indescribable bond of love. It was in the quarters of Baghbazar, Simla and Ahiritola that many of the Master’s devotees lived. For this reason the Master would come on most occasions to one or other of those three places. Of the three places again, it was to Baghbazar that he would come most often.
A short time after the event, one day the Master came to the house of Balaram Basu at Baghbazar. Many of the devotees of that quarter came to know of this and assembled there. Our friend lived near. The Master inquired of him A young acquaintance of his fetched him at once. As soon as the friend entered the spacious parlour on the first floor of the house of Balaram Babu, he saw the Master surrounded by the devotees, and saluting him sat down near him on one side. The Master made loving enquiries about his health and welfare and went on with the subject of his conversation. From a word or two the friend understood the drift of the discourse. The Master was emphasising that nothing whatever, be it knowledge, devotion or direct spiritual experience, could be achieved without God’s grace. As the friend was listening, it struck him that the Master had introduced the topic in order to remove the misconception of his mind and the whole discourse was meant for him only.
He heard the Master say, “Well, is it a very easy matter to realize that lust and gold are really unreal and to have the firm conviction that the universe is eternally non-existent? Is it possible without His compassion? It is possible only if His grace produces the conviction in us. Can a man have that conviction by his own effort? Ah, how small is his power and how small is the effort he can put forth with that power!” Thus speaking of the grace of God, the Master went into ecstasy. After a while he was in divine semi-consciousness and said, “Man cannot have a clear idea of even one thing and he wants another.” Then the Master began in that state to sing the song:
“Why are you proud O Kusa, O Lava?
Could you have captured me if I had not
Allowed myself to be captured?”
As he was singing, streams of tears flowed down from the Master’s eyes and a part of the sheet covering the carpet got wet. Caught by the pathos of the wonderful teaching, the friend also could not check himself and shed profuse tears. It was some time before both of them came to the normal state. The friend says, “That teaching has for ever been imprinted on my mind. I have known from that day that nothing can be achieved without the grace of God.”
We cannot refrain from mentioning here another fact about the depth of the Master’s non-dual knowledge. When there was a crisis in the Master’s illness at Kasipur, Sri Sasadhar Tarkachudamani heard of it and came with a few others to see him. “Sir,” said the Pandit to the Master in the course of conversation, “we have read in the scriptures that persons like you can at will cure bodily diseases completely. Diseases are fully cured if a strong desire be created in the mind that they should get cured and the concentrated mind be directed once to the diseased part of the body for some time. May you not just try this once?
The Master said, “Ah, how could you, a Pandit, speak like that? Can I feel an inclination to withdraw the mind from the Existence Knowledge-Bliss to whom I have offered it, and place it on this dilapidated cage of bones and flesh?”
The Pandit was silent; Swami Vivekananda and other devotees, however, did not remain passive. As soon as the Pandit left, they requested the Master persistently to act as the Pandit had suggested. “You must”, said they, “cure the disease; for our sake you must cure it”.
The Master: “Ah, do I wish that I should suffer from a disease? I wish I were cured, but do I get cured? To be cured or not depends on Mother.”
Swami Vivekananda: “Then please ask the Mother to cure the disease. She will surely grant your request.”
The Master: “You say so, but such a request does not come out of my mouth.”
Swamiji: “No, Sir, that will not do. You must ask the Mother. For our sake you must do it.”
The Master: “All right, I shall see if I can ask Her.”
After a few hours the Swami came again to the Master and asked him, “Sir, did you ask Her? What did the Mother say?”
The Master: “I said to Mother, ‘I cannot eat anything on account of this (showing the sore in his throat). Please do something that I can eat a little.’ But Mother said, ‘Why, you are eating through all these mouths (showing all of you)’. I could speak no more for shame.”
Ah, how wonderful was his lack of body-consciousness! How extraordinary was the non-dual knowledge wherein he was established! He was then for six months continually on a daily diet of about half a pound of barley-water only. As soon as the Mother of the universe said in that condition of his health, “Here you are eating through so many mouths,” the Master became silent and bent his head in shame thinking, “What an evil act have I committed, I have called this limited body ‘I’.” Reader, can you appreciate even a little of this mood?
Oh, what a wonderful Master we had the good fortune to meet! What a marvellous harmony of all paths of religion, — knowledge and devotion, concentration and action, both ancient and modern have we not seen in him! The Rishis, the authors of the Upanishads, say that a person who is a true knower of Brahman knows everything and all his thoughts and desires come true — he becomes a Satya-sankalpa. All objects and powers of the external world obey his desires implicitly and undergo corresponding changes. Is it to be wondered at that his own body and mind will also do the same? It is not in the power of ordinary people to test the truth of that saying. But then it may well be said that the manner in which we, of small powers as we are, always used to test the Master in all things did not perhaps allow of any loop-hole for disbelief. The Master, however, stood the tests smilingly and used to tell us, as if in ridicule, “Ah, lack of faith even now! Have faith, firm faith. The very one who became Rama and Krishna is now within this sheath, (showing his own body) but this time the advent is incognito, like the supervision of his own kingdom by a king in disguise! As soon as there is publicity or whispering he moves away from that place. It is just like that.”
Many events of the Master’s life open our eyes to the truth of the above-mentioned saying of the Upanishad. All the ideas that arise in a man’s mind are truly known to himself alone, that is, he alone can gauge their amount, intensity, range, etc. Others merely infer them from external signs. The subjective nature of these ideas is within the direct experience of all. All know that, like the ideas of ordinary persons, those of men who experience Samadhi are also mere modifications of mind or manifestations of mental powers; they arise in the mind and merge in it. It is impossible to see or show their counterparts in the external world. But the reverse of it is noted in many of the ideas of the Master. Take, for example, his desire to put up a fence round the Panchavati when he saw that-the plants planted by him were cropped by cattle. Shortly after, there was a high tide in the Ganga and all the articles necessary to make that fence — some mangrove posts, coir-rope with even a chopper came floating and ran aground just near the spot and he put up the fence with the help of the gardener of the Kali temple named Bhartabhari. Take another example, his assertion in the course of an argument with Mathuranath, the son-in-law of Rasmani, that “anything can happen by the will of God, a plant producing red flowers can yield a white flower too,” and the latter’s refusal to accept the proposition. The very next day the Master saw two flowers, one red and the other white, on two twigs of the same branch of a china rose in the garden. He broke the branch with the flowers and handed it over to Mathuranath. Take again another example: the arrival at the Kali temple at Dakshineswar of a perfected person in each of the faiths of the Tantra, the Vedanta, the Vaishnava, Islam, etc., and the initiation of the Master by each in his particular faith, whenever a strong desire to practise any of those faiths arose in the Master’s mind. Or, still another example: The Master yearned to meet his inner circle of devotees whom he had seen in visions long ago and called them; and they came and he recognized and received them. Many such instances may be cited. On a close scrutiny of the subject, these facts make it clear that many of the ideas of the Master did not end like those of ordinary human minds in mere mental modifications, but produced corresponding changes in the events of the external world through the influence of an inscrutable power. These were the facts — now let the readers judge and discuss everything as they like.
We have already said that the Master used to remain in the Bhavamukha13 at all times except during the Nirvikalpa Samadhi. This is why we see that he used to have different spiritual relations of love with different devotees — a particular relation with a particular devotee — and he always kept that relation intact. His lifelong filial relationship with all women who are the especial manifestations of the bliss-giving, and nourishing aspects of the Mother of the universe, is now well known to all. But the fact that he had particular relationships with individual men devotees is perhaps not yet generally known. Therefore it will not be out of place here to say something in this connection. The Master divided his devotees into two broad categories — one born of a part of Siva and the other of that of Vishnu. He said that the devotees of these two groups differed in their nature and behaviour and in their love for spiritual exercises. And he could clearly understand the difference. But it is almost beyond our power to explain to .the reader what this difference was.
Therefore, let the reader know this much, that the characters of Siva and Vishnu are, as it were, two moulds or models; and the mental make-up of the devotees is cast in these two moulds. The Master had all kinds of spiritual relationship of love, viz, Santa, Dasya, Sakhya, Vatsalya, etc., established with all those devotees — he had particular relations with particular persons. For example, he used to say of Narendranath, “Narendra is, as it were, my counter-part — the Principle that resides within this (showing himself) is female and that which is within him (showing Narendranath) is male.” He looked upon Swami Brahmananda as his very son. The Master had a particular relation of this nature with each of the especial devotees, both lay and monastic, and it is needless to say that he had the relation of calmness (Santa) with the ordinary devotees for he had the firm conviction that they were forms of Narayana Himself.
It is on knowing the internal nature of each of the devotees that the Master had a particular spiritual relationship established with him For he used to say, “I clearly see everything in a man’s mind like articles in a glass case.” One can never act contrary to one’s nature; therefore it was not in the power of any of the devotees to act contrary to that spiritual relation of love in which the Master stood to him If, however, any one, in imitation of another, acted contrarily, the Master felt much annoyed and would clearly point out his mistake. As an example, we cite the case of a devotee. The Master called Girish a Bhairava.14 One day he saw during his ecstasy in the temple of Kali that Girish was a Bhairava. He would smilingly put up with Girish’s importunities and rude language; for he saw that there was an extraordinary tender feeling and complete dependence hidden under the covering of the rudeness of his language. One day, another beloved devotee of the Master imitated Girish’s rude language in his behaviour with him, at which the Master became extremely displeased with him and afterwards pointed out his mistake.
Established in Bhavamukha, the Master knew well the spiritual mood natural to each man or woman, and in accordance with that mood had a relation of love with him or her. We shall here present the reader with some of the numerous methods the Master would adopt in leading each devotee to the realization of God according to his spiritual mood. It was after he came down from the non-dual spiritual plane in his first vision of the divine Mother in the temple that the Master practised the spiritual devotional moods of Sakhya, Vatsalya and Madhura to experience directly the bliss of those moods, and attained the highest stage in each of them Long afterwards, when the devotees of the inner circle came to him, one day the desire arose in the Master’s mind that the devotees also might experience ecstasy and he prayed to the Mother accordingly; and immediately some of them began to have such experiences. In that mood of spirituality their consciousness of the external world including their own bodies grew dim to a certain extent, and an internal current of a particular spiritual mood, for example, the thought of a form of God became so manifest that they saw that form come, stand before them, smile, speak and do things as if it were vividly living. They mostly experienced that state while they listened to devotional songs, music, etc.
The Master had another class of devotees who did not have a similar experience when listening to devotional music, but had visions of forms of gods at the time of meditation. To begin with, they had visions of mere forms, then with the deepening of meditation, they saw their movements and heard their words. Others, again, had various kinds of visions in the beginning, but did not have any when their meditation grew deeper. But it is a matter of great surprise that immediately on hearing about the visions and experiences of each of them, Sri Ramakrishna knew the class to which each belonged, his current needs and his future visions and experiences. Let us mention here one devotee as an example. Instructed by Sri Ramakrishna, one15 of our friends began practising meditation and other spiritual exercises and in the beginning began to see clearly his chosen Ideal in various forms at the time of meditation. He used to go to the Master at Dakshineswar at short intervals and inform him of his experiences. On hearing of them the Master would say, “very good”, “practise this way”, and so on.
Later, that friend saw at the time of meditation that all the forms of gods and goddesses merged in the body of one form When the Master came to know it, he said, “Fine, you have the vision of Vaikuntha. You will have no more vision!” Our friend said, “As a matter of fact that was what exactly happened.
I could not any longer see any form whatever during meditation. Higher ideas such as the all-pervadingness of the divine Lord arose in my mind and occupied it. I had then a great liking to have visions of forms and tried hard to have them again. But all to no purpose, no form could be seen any more.”
“At the time of meditation,” said the Master to the devotees who believed that God had forms, “think that you have tied with a silk thread your mind to the lotus feet of your chosen form of God, so that your mind may not stray away from there. Why do I say ‘silk thread’? Because, those lotus feet are indeed very soft and delicate. They will be hurt if any other kind of string is used.” He would sometimes say, “Should one think of the chosen Ideal at the time of meditation only and then forget Him at other times? You should always keep a part of the mind attached to Him You must surely have noticed that a sacrificial lamp has to be lighted at the time of the worship of Durga. That light should always be kept burning near the deity, it should not be allowed to go out. If it does, it augurs ill for the householder. Even so, after the chosen Ideal is brought and seated on the lotus of the heart, the sacrificial lamp of meditation on Him should always be kept burning. While one is engaged in worldly duties, one should watch at intervals whether that lamp is burning within or not.”
Sometimes he would say, “Ah,. in those days before beginning to meditate on the chosen Ideal, I imagined that I was thoroughly flushing out the inside of the mind! You see there exist various kinds of dirt and dust (bad thoughts and desires) within the mind. I imagined that I was washing them off and was then making the chosen Ideal sit there. Do just like that.”
The Master spoke to us at one time about the meditation on the two aspects of the divine Lord, the one with forms and the other without forms, “Some reach the formless aspect through that with forms, others attain that with forms through the formless.” At the house of the great devotee, Girish, a friend16 of ours, one day asked him, “Sir, which is higher—the conception of God with forms or that without forms?” “There are”, replied the Master, “two kinds of conception about the formless aspect, the ‘ripe’ and the ‘unripe’. The ‘ripe’ conception of the formless aspect of God is high indeed; one has to reach that through the aspect with forms. As regards the ‘unripe’ conception of the formless aspect, it is all darkness as soon as one shuts one’s eyes, as is the case with the Brahmos.”17
As the result of Western education there was also another circle of devotees of the Master, who were proceeding in Sadhana through the “unripe” conception of the formless aspect of God. He forbade them to imitate the Christian missionaries in condemning the meditation on the aspect of God with forms, in hating the devotees going forward in Sadhana with the help of images of other symbols of the divine Lord and in calling them “idolaters”, “blind believers”, and so on. He said, “Ah, it is true that He is with forms and it is equally true that He is without forms; who knows what else He is, besides these?” “Do you know how God with forms is? Just like water and ice. By freezing, water becomes ice; ice is water inside as well as outside. Ice is nothing but water. But look here, water has no form (it has no particular shape) but ice has. Similarly the indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute gets condensed at it were, through one’s devotion and assumes various forms like ice.” It is beyond our power to assess how many people got mental peace through this example of the Master, which produced in them the conviction that it was possible for both the aspects of the divine Lord to coexist.
We cannot but make mention here of another fact. Swami Vivekananda was the foremost in the circle of the Master’s devotees following the “unripe” doctrine of the formless aspect of the Divinity. The Master placed him above all — not only of this class of devotees but of all classes of them. Having come under the influence of Western education and the Brahmo Samaj, the Swami used sometimes to pass uncharitable remarks on the devotees. This mood was particularly noticeable in him at the time of argumentation. But the Master enjoyed the fun sometimes by bringing about a vehement discussion between him and some devotees of God with forms. During such discussions it often happened that none could stand his argument and some felt hurt when silenced by his keen intellect. The Master also described joyfully that fact to many persons on many an occasion and said, “The other day Naren ‘cut to pieces’ the arguments of so and so with the least effort. Ah, what a sharp intellect!” and so on. But the Swami was silenced on one occasion during a discussion with Girish, who followed the doctrine of God with forms. It seemed to us on that occasion that in order to make Girish’s faith more firm and perfect, the Master was on his side. However in the course of conversation with the Master on another occasion, Swami Vivekananda referred to the faith of the devotees of God with forms as “blind faith”. The Master said in reply, “Well, can you explain to me what you call ‘blind faith’? The whole of faith is indeed blind; has faith any eye! Speak either of faith or of knowledge. But no, you will speak of some as blind and some as having eyes; how is that?” Said the Swami later, “Indeed I was in a fix in trying to explain to the Master that day the meaning of ‘blind faith’. I could find no meaning for the expression. I have given up using that phrase since then, as I was convinced of the truth of the Master’s contention.”
The Master used to view the followers of the “unripe” doctrine of God without forms and the devotees of God with forms with the same eye. He told them also what form of meditation would be helpful. “Look here,” said he, “in those days I used to imagine the divine Lord to be an ocean filling the whole universe and me to be a fish diving, floating, swimming in that vast sea of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss; And again, sometimes I considered myself to be a pitcher immersed in the water of that indivisible Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Infinite pervading me through and through.”
He would again say, “Look here, once think of this (showing himself) before sitting down for meditation. Why do I say so? Because you have faith here. Thinking of this will remind you of that divine Lord. Haven’t you noticed? Just as when one sees a herd of cows, one remembers the cowherd, when one sees the son, one is reminded of the father, when one sees a pleader, one recalls the court, even so is this case. Do you understand? The mind is scattered here, there and everywhere; thinking of this it will get collected in one place and right meditation will follow when it is directed on God.”
Moreover, he would say, “Hold fast to some form of God or some mood, whomever or whichever you like; it is then only that there will be steadfastness. ‘He is realizable by means of spiritual mood (Bhava) alone. Can He be realized when one is lacking in them?’ Spiritual moods are necessary. One should cultivate a particular spiritual mood and then call on Him. ‘As is one’s mood, so is one’s gain; it is faith that is at the root. It is through a mood that love sprouts.’ Spiritual moods are an imperative necessity; so is faith; it is necessary to hold fast, then only one succeeds. Do you know what a spiritual mood is? Establishing a relationship with God and keeping it bright before our eyes at all times — at the time of eating, drinking, sitting, sleeping, etc. — is what is called a spiritual mood (Bhava).
For example, ‘I am His servant’, ‘I am His child’, ‘I am a part of Him’ — this is what is called the ‘ripe I’, the ‘I’ of knowledge. And ‘I am a Brahmin’, ‘I am a Kayastha’, ‘I am the son of so-and-so’, ‘I am the father of so-and-so’ — all these are the ‘I’s of spiritual ignorance. These should be given up, should be renounced. They bring about bondage by strengthening egoism and pride. Constant remembrance is necessary. A part of the mind should always be kept turned towards Him. It is then only that success comes. One must make Him one’s own by holding fast to one particular loving relationship; it is in that way alone that loving pressure can be exerted on Him. Just see, when intimacy first starts or is about to start, we address as ‘Sir’; as it deepens it gives place to ‘you’, when it reaches culmination ‘you’ also sounds flat; then ‘thou, thee’ become necessary. He must be made more than one’s own. Then comes success.
Take, for example, a woman gone astray. She is just beginning to love a paramour; how much of secrecy, fear, coyness is there! Then when the love has grown intense, none of those emotions remain. She then stands outside her family fold, going the extreme length of holding him by the hand in the presence of all. If that man hesitates to take care of her and desires to desert her, she puts a piece of cloth round his neck and pulling him says, ‘What, I have left home and all and have rendered myself helpless for your sake; and now you seek to desert me? Maintain me, you must.’ Similarly a person who has renounced everything for God’s sake and made Him his own, exerts pressure of love on Him and says, ‘I have renounced everything for you, say whether you will now show yourself to me or not’!”
When he found that the love of God had decreased in anyone, he used to ask, “Why do you say, ‘I shall realize Him in the next life, if not in this?’ One should not have such lukewarm devotion. ‘I will realize Him by His grace in this very life, this very moment.’ Such strength, such faith, should be maintained. Can one succeed otherwise? In that Part of the country, when cultivators go to buy oxen they extend their hands to feel their tails. There are some oxen that do not get annoyed when people put their hands at the roots of their tails, but relax their bodies and lie on the ground. They know that these oxen are no good. Those oxen that jump up and become frisky, as soon as hands are put on their tails, are the promising ones. The man then selects his oxen out of them. Lukewarm devotion is no good. Have strength, have faith and say, ‘I will surely realize Him, there is no doubt about it. I will realize him this very moment.’ It is then and then only that realization comes.”
“Give up”, he would continue, “all the worldly desires one by one. Far from giving these up one by one you are increasing them; how can you then expect to succeed?”
When the devotees of God both with forms and without forms were stuck in the quagmire of despondency in practising meditation, devotional exercises, prayer and the like with no response, the Master encouraged them thus, “Bait must be thrown into the water of the pond first, if one wants to angle for fish. You have perhaps been sitting long with the fishing rod in your hand; no sign of fish is seen and you think there are perhaps no fish in the pond. One day perhaps you notice the flouncing of a big fish and you immediately believe that there are fish in the pond. Another day the float on the line perhaps moves and you believe that evidently a fish has come near the hook. After some days, may be, the float sinks and you lift the hook and find that the fish has eaten the bait and fled. Again you put bait on the hook and holding the fishing rod you sit very watchfully. One day at last as soon as a fish has taken the bait you pull the line and the fish comes up on land.”
He sometimes said, “Ah! He is very quick-eared; He hears everything without exception. He has heard everything that you said to Him in your prayer. He will without doubt show Himself some day or other. He will show Himself at least at the time of death.” He said to some, “If you cannot ascertain whether He is with forms or without, pray to Him saying, ‘I do not, O Lord, know whether Thou art with forms or without; please show Thyself to me by Thy grace whatever Thou mightest be.” He said to some others, “Ah, verily God is seen. Just as you and I are sitting together and speaking, so, He can be seen and spoken with. I say this in truth, in very truth.”
If a person remains in the contemplative mood, in Bhava for all the twenty-four hours, contemplativeness increases so much that no worldly duties can be performed by him, nor can he apply his mind to the small things of the world. This is what we see everywhere. Examples are found in the lives even of people devoted to science, politics etc., not to speak of those devoted to spirituality. Ordinarily such people are unable to attend to the cleanliness of their own bodies or to other small matters like keeping articles of daily use in their proper places. But we see in the Master’s life that he was meticulous about even these small matters, in spite of his intense contemplativeness. When he was not so, as in deep ecstasy, he lost consciousness of everything including his body. And when he was in normal consciousness he was careful about everything. This is a matter of no little surprise. We shall cite here three instances.
One day the Master was going to the house of Balaram Babu from Dakshineswar and with him were going Ramlal and Yogananda. All got into the carriage. The carriage started and came up to the gate when the Master asked Yogananda “Well, have you brought the cloth and the towel?” It was morning then. Yogen answered, “No, Sir, I have brought the towel but have forgotten to bring the cloth. They (Balaram and others) will be glad to get you a new piece of cloth.” The Master said, “What is it that you talk? They will say, ‘What a wretched, unlucky fellow has come?’ They will be put to trouble and will be in a fix. Stop the carriage, go and bring it.”
The Master continued, “There is sufficiency and no want when a good man, a lucky one, comes as a guest. But there arises difficulty in everything, when an unlucky wretched fellow comes, and he comes on the very day on which there is dearth of necessaries in the house, and the householder has to undergo much trouble to look after him.”
One Pratap Hazra, used to spend long periods at Dakshineswar when the Master was alive. All of us used to call him Hazra Mahasay.18 He also sometimes accompanied the Master when he went to see the devotees at Calcutta. On one such occasion, while returning from Calcutta along with the Master, he forgot to take down a towel. At Dakshineswar, the Master came to know of it and said to him, “I lose in the name of God the consciousness even of my cloth, but I never on a single occasion have left my small bag or towel behind at Calcutta, and you are so forgetful doing this little Japa!”
The Master taught the Holy Mother, “At the time of getting into a carriage or a boat go and get into it first and when leaving it get down last after examining whether anything has been left, behind.” The Master had such an eye even for very small matters.
Thus, though remaining incessantly in Bhavamukha, the Master was careful about all the necessary things. He would keep a thing invariably at its proper place, take care of the articles of daily use such as clothes, the small bag of spices, etc., belonging to himself, inquire whether any necessary thing had been forgotten and left behind at the time of going to or returning from any place and always think how the environment of devotees might be made favourable to the spiritual practices by his constant searching inquiries into their worldly affairs to the same degree as to their spiritual.
The Master appeared to us as a visible embodiment of the aggregate of all kinds of ideas. Such a great king in the world of ideas was never seen before. Constantly dwelling in Bhavamukha, the Master manifested in himself to the fullest degree all the spiritual states from the non-dual Nirvikalpa to the Savikalpa, acquainted devotees of all classes with the details of their particular paths and goals and thus brought to them extraordinary light in darkness, unprecedented hope in despair, and incomparable peace amidst worldly trials and tribulations.
Words fail us to express what a safe haven of hope he was to all of us, what power he wielded in the entire realm of spirit. “It is not a very difficult matter,” said Swami Vivekananda, “to bring under control the material powers and flaunt a miracle; but I do not find a more marvellous miracle than the manner this mad Brahmin (Sri Ramakrishna) used to handle human minds, like lumps of clay, breaking, moulding and remoulding them at ease and filling them with new ideas by a mere touch.”