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PRABUDDHA BHARATAThe Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna according to Suresh Chandra Datta  






The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
according to Suresh Chandra Datta




Swami Chetananda




     The Life of Suresh Chandra Datta



     Suresh Chandra Datta, one of the recorders of Ramakrishna’s gospel, was born in west Calcutta in 1850. From his boyhood Suresh was honest, humble, simple, and self-reliant. He was a highly educated and talented man. From time to time Suresh would attend Keshab Chandra Sen’s lectures with Durgacharan Nag, a neighbour. At night they would meditate with Keshab’s devotees on the bank of the Ganges. Durgacharan longed for God and sought a guru to guide him.


     Every evening Suresh went to Durgacharan’s house to discuss religion. Suresh was a staunch follower of Keshab’s Brahmo Samaj, which advocated belief in God without form. Like Christians, Brahmos considered God as formless but full of divine qualities: God is omnipotent and omniscient, merciful and forgiving, kind and loving, and so on. Durgacharan, however, was an orthodox Hindu who obeyed every scriptural injunction. The two men had heated religious discussions every evening, but their different views were never reconciled. During one of their friendly squabbles, Durgacharan said to Suresh: ‘The gods and goddesses of the Hindus as well as the formless Brahman are all true. But attaining Brahman is so difficult, I doubt whether one or two in a million can ever reach this stage. Hence arises the necessity of believing in the various gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Do you think that the Vedas, Puranas, Tantras, and mantras are all false?’ Suresh retorted: ‘Uncle, set aside your scriptures. I have no faith in them.’


     Fortunately, during one of his visits to the Brahmo Samaj, Suresh happened to hear about Ramakrishna, the saint of Dakshines­war. He waited for two months before he suggested to Durgacharan that they visit the Master. After lunch that very day, they left for Dakshineswar.


     It was a hot summer day in April or May, probably in 1883. They arrived at Dakshineswar at 2:00 p.m. Both men were delighted by the panoramic view of the temple garden, and they enjoyed its peaceful atmosphere. Ramakrishna received them graciously and asked them to sit down. He talked to them for some time. In the course of conversation, Ramakrishna said: ‘Live in this world like a mud­fish. There is nothing wrong in staying at home. The mudfish lives in the mud but is not soiled by it. Similarly, live in this world but never be contaminated by its evils.’ (1) Then Ramakrishna sent them to the Panchavati grove to meditate. After half an hour they returned to the Master’s room, and Ramakrishna took them round to the various temples in the Dakshineswar compound. He first walked to the twelve Shiva temples and prostrated before each deity, circumambulating their respective shrines. Durgacharan followed the Master’s example, but Suresh merely looked on, for he had no faith in Hindu gods and goddesses.


     Ramakrishna next took them to the Krishna and Kali temples. Both Suresh and Durgacharan were astonished by the ecstatic mood that came over the Master when he entered the Kali temple. As a restless child holds on to the hem of its mother’s garment and moves around her, so the Master went round the image of Kali and prostrated before Her. About 5:00 p.m., after returning to the Master’s room, Suresh and Durgacharan took their leave. Ramakrishna gave them this parting advice: ‘Come again. Our acquaintance will grow deeper if you keep coming regularly for some time.’


     The experience of that first meeting left an indelible impression on their minds, and they could not help but talk about Ramakrishna. The next week they both visited the Master again. On seeing these two sincere seekers, Ramakrishna exclaimed in an ecstatic mood: ‘You have done well in coming again. I have been waiting here for you for a long time.’ The Master once again asked them to meditate in the Panchavati grove.


     Suresh visited the Master eight or nine times with Durgacharan. Undoubtedly he must have visited Ramakrishna many more times alone or with others, otherwise he could not have collected so many of the Master’s teachings. He published these teachings in a book during Ramakrishna’s lifetime. Suresh was not the first to record and publish Ram­krishna’s teachings, but the second.


     In 1885, during the Afghan War, Suresh was given a job in a military department that paid a monthly salary of two hundred rupees. He was assigned to Quetta, in the north-western part of India. Before his departure from Calcutta, Durgacharan urged Suresh to receive initiation from the Master. But Suresh had no faith in mantras or in God with form. After a prolonged discussion with Durgacharan on this point, they agreed that Suresh should abide by the Master’s wishes.


     The next day both men went to Dakshineswar, and Durgacharan raised the question of initiation. ‘Yes, Durgacharan is right,’ Ramakrishna said to Suresh. ‘A person should practise spiritual disciplines under the direction of a guru. What prevents you from admitting this?’ ‘Sir, I have no faith in mantras,’ replied Suresh humbly. ‘All right,’ said the Master. ‘Don’t worry about it now. Everything will come in time’ (235).


     In Quetta it was not long before Suresh began to feel the need for initiation very keenly. He continued his spiritual disciplines as usual. During this time an ugly incident tested his strength of character. Suresh was extremely honest. His manager tried to embezzle some money, and he asked Suresh to sign false bills. Suresh refused, and as a result he was forced to resign and return to Calcutta.


     One day in 1886 Suresh went to see Ramakrishna at the Cossipore garden house. The Master was then bedridden because of his illness. He asked Suresh: ‘Where is your doctor friend [Durgacharan]? He is said to be a good physician. Tell him to come here sometime soon’ (236). Seeing the Master’s fragile condition, Suresh could not bring himself to ask for initiation. Instead, he went home and informed Durgacharan that the Master wanted to see him.


     After the Master’s passing on 16 August 1886, Suresh regretted not having followed his friend’s advice about asking for initiation. He lamented his poor decision and passed his nights in prayer and meditation on the bank of the Ganges. One night he fell asleep while crying to God on the riverbank. Sometime before daybreak the next morning he dreamt that Ramakrishna had come out of the water and approached him, and then uttered a mantra in his ear. As Suresh was about to take the dust of Ramakrishna’s feet, he disappeared. At this point, Suresh’s life changed and he became an ardent devotee of the Master.




     A Brief Biography of Ramakrishna



     Suresh Chandra Datta wrote a small biography (2) as an introduction to his collection of the Master’s teachings, Sri Sri Ramakrishnadever Upadesh. In this biography he published some wonderful stories about the Master. I present some of these stories here. Kshudiram’s vision: Before Ramakrishna was born, his father, Kshudiram, had a vision of Vishnu in which the god said He would be born as his son.


     Ramakrishna’s early days in Dakshineswar: The Master had a wonderful relationship with Rani Rasmani, the founder of the Kali temple, and her son-in-law Mathur. Ramakrishna practised Tantra, Vedanta, and various other spiritual disciplines. He eventually realized God by practising different spiritual disciplines and religions. Due to his intense longing, he had his first vision of the Divine Mother.


     Ramakrishna’s renunciation: To test his purity, Mathur once took the Master to visit some alluring young women. But the Master had renounced lust. As soon as the Master saw the women, he addressed them as ‘Oh, my blissful mothers,’ and then went into samadhi. They were embarrassed and begged forgiveness from the Master, asking him to bless them. Ramakrishna had also given up money; he could not even touch it. Saying ‘Money is clay and clay is money,’ he threw a rupee and a clod of dirt into the Ganges. When Mathur offered money and property to him, the Master was so angry that he almost hit Mathur.


     Ramakrishna’s childlike nature: The Master was a true paramahamsa, so his nature was childlike. Once in ecstasy, while trying to embrace Lord Krishna, he fell and broke his right arm. He cried like a boy and was deeply distressed. But he had the faith of a child. During that time a man came from Calcutta and said, ‘Sir, your hand will be all right. It will heal.’ The Master was immediately relieved. He told his visitors: ‘Look, this man has come from Calcutta and says that my hand will be all right. So I will be all right.’


     Once he saw steamers passing on the Ganges, and a desire arose to see a steamer up close and find out how its engine made that jhak jhak sound. He was a real paramahamsa; so his nature was childlike.


     The Master’s Vaishnava sadhana: When Ramakrishna was practising spiritual disciplines in the mood of Radha, he dressed and acted like a woman. When he practised the servant attitude towards Ramachandra, he behaved like Hanuman. While practising humility, he cleaned the privy at the Dakshin­eswar temple garden. Although he was a brahmin priest, he did not consider himself to be higher than the untouchable sweeper.


     The Master as an avatara: In the course of time, Ramakrishna became known among Calcutta people through Keshab Chandra Sen, Vijaykrishna Goswami, and other Brahmo leaders. The famous scholars Pandit Vaishnavcharan, Pandit Gauri, and Pandit Padmalochan all recognized him as an avatara.


     Once a great scholar visited Dakshineswar to evaluate Ramakrishna’s spirituality. The Master was in his room, surrounded by his devotees. The scholar entered the room and asked: ‘Are you a paramahamsa?’ He found the Master seated on a soft bed, with a bolster at his back. He saw the Master’s shoes and other articles in his room. He then sat on the Master’s bed and told the devotees: ‘You have come from Calcutta to see a parama­hamsa! You are all deceived by this man. I have read the scriptures and I know the signs of a paramahamsa.’ He then quoted the scripture where the signs of a paramahamsa are mentioned. Disgusted, the scholar left the room; he had expected Ramakrishna to be an austere hermit. The scholar went to the bank of the Ganges to practise his evening meditation. While he was concentrating on his Chosen Ideal, he had a vision. He immediately rushed to the Master and found him in samadhi. The scholar stood in front of Rama­krishna and exclaimed with folded hands: ‘You are God!’ (75-77).


     When he talked about God, the Master would merge into samadhi. He lost consciousness of the outside world, his face would beam with a sweet smile, and tears would trickle from his eyes. Only after hearing the Lord’s name would he become normal again. Pointing to his picture, Ramakrishna said: ‘In the future, I will be worshipped in many homes.’




     Sri Sri Ramakrishnadever Upadesh



     As mentioned earlier, Suresh met Ramakrishna in 1883. After associating with him for a couple of years, he discovered that the Master’s teachings were more precious than gems and jewels. He felt that the words of the Master must be recorded. He had heard many sermons at the Brahmo Samaj and had read its literature. Ramakrishna’s simple, convincing words and examples, stories and parables made a deep impression on his mind. He asked some of the Master’s close disciples who lived with him to record his teachings. But the disciples were too absorbed in the bliss of the Master’s holy presence and overwhelmed by his personality to do such a thing at that time.


     So, driven by evangelical inspiration, Suresh began recording the teachings of the Master that he heard directly from him. Haramohan Mitra, another householder disciple of the Master, had some experience in publishing. He came forward to help Suresh, and in December 1884 he published 100 of the Master’s teachings while Ramakrishna was still alive. The second part, which comprised another 100 teachings, came out in 1886. Inspired, Suresh started collecting even more of the Master’s teachings from other disciples who had heard them directly from the Master. Thus Suresh collected 600 teachings. In 1894 he combined all of the teachings he had collected and added a biography of the Master. Thus Sri Sri Ramakrishnadever Upadesh came into existence. The rapid sale of the book inspired both Haramohan and Suresh. Over time, Suresh added to his collection; the book now contains 950 teachings. (3) These wonderful teachings of Ramakrishna have not yet been translated into English in their entirety. Some stories and teachings appear in different forms in Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna (published by Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata) and Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna (published by Ramakrishna Math, Chennai).


     Suresh wrote in the introduction that if anybody could prove that any of the teachings or stories in his collection were not true, or distorted or exaggerated, he would make corrections in the next edition. He did not accept any second-hand information. Moreover, he verified the information that he collected by checking with at least one other source. He did not interpret the Master’s teachings because he wanted to let the readers understand Ramakrishna in their own way.


     Suresh died in 1912.




     Some Teachings from Sri Sri Ramakrishnadever Upadesh




     1. You see many stars in the sky at night, but not when the sun rises. Can you therefore say that there are no stars in the heavens during the day? O human beings, because you do not find God in your ignorance, say not that there is no God.


     581. God dwells in all beings, but all beings do not identify themselves with God, so they suffer.


     567. Some people shed a jugful of tears to have children; some cry for money and property; but who longs to see God? Those who want God, find Him.


     569. In this Kaliyuga a human being can attain perfection in three days. Those who cry with a longing heart for God day and night see Him.


     11. Question: ‘How can one ascertain the state of perfection?’

     Answer: ‘As potatoes and eggplants become soft when they are boiled, so people become very soft or humble when they attain perfection. Their egos dissolve completely.’


     30. A room may be dark for a thousand years, but it is lighted instantly as soon as a lamp is lit. Similarly, one glance of God’s grace can wipe away sins accumulated in thousands of births.


     160. If one drops a salt doll, a cloth doll, and a stone doll in the ocean, the salt doll melts instantly and loses its individual existence. The cloth doll becomes soaked with water; it does not become one with it, and it maintains its own separate existence. Water does not enter into the stone doll at all. A free soul is like the salt doll, a worldly soul is like the cloth doll, and a bound soul is like the stone doll.


     157. The sun may shine equally everywhere, but it reflects more clearly in clean water, mirrors, and other transparent objects. Similarly, God may dwell in every heart, but He manifests more completely in the hearts of holy people.


     234. Tears of repentance and tears of joy come out from opposite corners of the eyes: the former from the inner corner and the latter from the outer corner.


     235. Question: ‘Nowadays many preachers are preaching religion. What do you think of them?’

Answer: ‘It is like a man who has food for one person, but he has invited one hundred. After practising a little sadhana, he has started to make money by initiating disciples like a professional guru.’


     236. Question: ‘What is real preaching?’

     Answer: ‘Real preaching requires that one be absorbed in God before preaching spirituality to others. He who tries to make himself free, preaches well. Hundreds of people from all directions come to one who is free and they ask for instruction. When the flowers bloom, bees come of their own accord.’


     303. Let the boat be in the water, but not water in the boat. Let a spiritual aspirant live in the world, but let not worldliness enter inside him.


     364. The same God manifested here as Krishna and manifested there as Jesus.


     383. God laughs twice. When two brothers divide the land, saying, ‘This part is mine and that part is yours,’ God laughs. He says to Himself, ‘The whole universe belongs to Me, but they say they own this portion or that portion.’ When the physician says to a patient’s mother, ‘Don’t be afraid, mother; I shall certainly cure your boy,’ God laughs. He says to Himself, ‘I am going to take his life, and this man says he will save it!’


     376. When shall I be free? When ‘I’ ceases to be. If ‘I’ wants to remain, let it stay as a servant-I of God.


     405. Neither sin nor mercury can be hidden.


     406. One who eats radish belches radish; one who eats cucumber belches cucumber. What is inside a person comes out through his or her speech.


     471. One cannot see God without renouncing lust and gold.


     570. Question: ‘What should I do with bad thoughts?’

Answer: ‘Let bad thoughts arise in the mind; they cannot do any harm until you do something wrong.’


     593. Once the Master said, ‘If you want to understand after hearing one sentence, come to me. And if you want to understand after hearing a million sentences, go to Keshab Chandra Sen.’ A man asked him, ‘Please give me knowledge in one sentence.’ He said, ‘Jagat mithya brahma satya; This world is impermanent and Brahman is real.’


     621. One cannot achieve anything if there is any theft in the chamber of the heart [meaning hypocrisy].


     688. Friend, as long as I live so long do I learn.


     720. As many faiths, so many paths. Have steadfast devotion to your path, but never hate or criticize the paths of others.


     744. God loves simplicity. Call on Him with a simple and pure mind. You will then surely find Him (21-208).








     1. Swami Chetanananda, They Lived with God (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1991), 232.

     2. Suresh Chandra Datta, Ramakrishna Paramahamsadever Jivani o Upadesh (Calcutta, 1908), 1-82.

     3. Sri Sri Ramakrishnadever Upadesh, comp. Suresh Chandra Datta (Calcutta: Haramohan Publishing, 1968).






International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015










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