"Bondage...in the uncultivated savage is to his consciousness very small....What he struggles against is the bondage of physical nature, the lack of physical gratification...(his) mind being very little developed. The vast mass of humanity is very little removed from the animals. Not only so, but in many instances, the power of control in them is little higher than that of the lower animals." - Swami Vivekananda
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PRABUDDHA BHARATAThey All Came | Sudesh  

 

                    

 

                 They All Came

 

 

 

                    Sudesh

 

 

 

                    I

 

     They all came to him: some on foot, some by carriage, some by boat and some by steamer; but the destination was the same: the pujari of Kali at Dakshineswar. Whether he was a realized soul or an advanced sadhaka, a monk or an incarnation of God they knew not, but still they came. They came in spite of themselves, as if under a spell.

 

 

     Mahendra Nath Gupta

 

 

     M came to him, his guru, in an utterly despondent mood, when he was on the verge of ending his life due to clashes in his joint family. He was told that life was too precious to end like that over fleeting worldly relations. No, no. He did not have to renounce worldly relations or his responsibilities. Like an ideal householder he was to serve them all, knowing that He alone would abide who dwelt within the heart. He alone would give him a place of rest when all friends and relatives have deserted him in his dying hour. How quickly did M grasp the evanescence of the world! He also realized through his gurus grace that the guru himself was the ishta, the eternal companion of his soul who had protected him during the great storm of Ashwin! Thakur had seen M in the sankirtan party of Chaitanya, in his incarnation as Chaitanya.

 

     When M first came to Dakshineswar he believed in God without form. But we see that right from the first moment he was unwittingly meditating on that serene-looking man. Even at home he was unable to banish the thought of Thakur for a moment. On the day he could not go to him, he mentally visualized every word, every gesture, of this enchanter of his soul. He noted it down in his diary. The result was the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Through the Gospel M has recreated the Deity of his meditation, who was to nourish beings all over the world with spiritual food. On Ms second visit, Thakur scolded him for criticizing those who worshipped images: Who are you to teach others? And yet, interestingly, it looks as if M was brought to the world exclusively to teach the words of his divine Master to posterity. In the proximity of Thakur new vistas and limitless horizons opened up to Ms inner vision. He realized that the Personal and Impersonal Gods were both two aspects of the one Reality. He was established in the state of a jnani and at the same time enjoyed the mellowed sweetness of bhakti.

 

     M had once wanted to bid farewell to this playhouse of deception, but now he could not take any risk with his life. One day while coming to Dakshineswar with Prankrishna in a boat, he found the river a bit choppy. In spite of Prankrishnas assurance that they would reach safely, M insisted on being left on the shore. He did not mind covering the remaining distance on foot in scorching heat, but reach he must. Ah! He had seen the Master singing and dancing intoxicated with God. Day after day he had seen him going into samadhi. While singing the glories of Divine Mother he was like a celestial vina. The words that came out of his lips were as if from the Goddess of Wisdom Herself. Enthralled, M wanted to see his divine play till the end.

 

 

     Girish Chandra Ghosh

 

 

     Girish came, though he intended not to come. A literary genius and the father of Bengal theatre, it was beyond Girish to accept a human being as guru. Still he came to his saviour, drawn as if by some invisible ethereal attraction. In him he found a huge pit where he could throw all his sins - Himalaya-high - and was transformed so much that he was given the ochre robe and rosary along with the would-be giant monks of the Ramakrishna Order; so much so that he in turn became the saviour of the women who due to abject poverty were forced to lead immoral lives. We cant but marvel at his transformation.

 

     Others saw in Girish a debauchee, a drunkard, a bohemian and a rebel against God. But Thakur saw in him a man of deep faith and a heroic devotee. He saw in him the inner divinity and sincere love for God. Could he otherwise have delineated divine characters so realistically, so intensely through his plays Chaitanya Lila and Prahlada? True, he could not submit to any set routine of spiritual practice, his timings of sleep and food being so irregular. Nor could his free spirit be bound to any rules. But how phenomenal was his surrender to the will of Thakur, the slayer of hells dire woes, whom he gave his power of attorney! Girish was moulded by the Great Moulder from then on. Girish had to suffer a number of bereavements. His two daughters, his wife and son died. He himself suffered from terrible asthma during the last few years. To his brother disciples he said with his usual vigour, Do you think I cannot get rid of this ordinary disease? If I roll on the ground of Panchavati and forcefully pray to the Master, this disease will go away. But I know the Master is all-merciful. It is his will that I am undergoing this disease, grief, pain, and suffering. Everything is for my good. (1)

 

     Thakur knew that deep-rooted samskaras cannot be uprooted by mere doctrines. Silently he moulded Girish through the influence of his transcendental love. The garlic cup was heated, removing all odour. All his poisoned blood came out, coming into contact with this holy man. Girish kicked all his old habits and gave up drinking altogether. Girish had come to his saviour, who knew him more intimately than he himself did. One ray of Light from him illumined all the dark nooks of his mind. Girish later said:

 

     Sri Ramakrishna has taken full possession of my heart and bound it with his love. If I have acquired any virtues, it is not through my own efforts, but solely due to his grace. He literally accepted my sins and left my soul free.

 

 

     To this redeemer of my soul I have paid little homage. In a drunken state I have abused him. In my attempts to escape all discipline I found myself disciplined without knowing it. Such is my Gurus grace. (2)

 

 

     Narendra

 

 

     The seed of spiritual life was sown in Narendra during his childhood by his mother. Sitting in her lap he heard the tales of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. He was an adept in meditation right from his childhood. He could quote passages after passages from the two epics and worshipped Sita-Rama with great devotion. One day their syce denounced married life and told young Naren of the bondage it entails. This gave a terrible blow to his devotion to Sita-Rama. Next moment out went the image of Sita-Rama down below on the pavement. In its place he installed an image of Shiva. What passion for truth even at the tender age of five or six! How easily he could break the illusion, howsoever sweet!

 

     As Naren grew he evinced a preference for intellectual pursuits. John Stuart Mills Three Essays on Religion shook his boyish faith. The study of Humes scepticism and Herbert Spencers doctrine of the Unknowable further strengthened his unbelief. A blazing flame of spirituality, Narendra was filled with harrowing doubts about the ultimate Reality. Terrible conflicts pierced his soul through and through. The great spiritual leaders of Bengal could not satisfy the yearning of his soul. Brahmo Samaj, a great organization, filled him with momentary peace but it was far from giving him a remote glimpse of Truth. He wondered if God really existed; and if He did, could He be seen? In such restlessness of mind Narendra came to his guru, nay, to his own Self, as it were.

 

     As Narendra came to the portal of Thakurs room, the mist of philosophical scepticism vanished, the doors were flung open and he saw God face to face. We see him in the Gospel singing O Lord, must all my days pass by so utterly in vain?/ My poor hearts humble cottage door is standing open wide;/ Be gracious, Lord, and enter there but once, and quench its thirst!3 But the following songs appear best to describe his feelings when he met Thakur:

 

     Lord, Thou hast lifted all my sorrow with vision of Thy face,/ And the magic of Thy beauty has bewitched my mind. (736) The Sovereign of my soul has entered my lowly hut:/ The springs of my love are welling forth on every side./ Tell me, my Beloved! O Thou, the Lord of my heart!/ What treasure shall I lay before Thy Lotus Feet?/ Take Thou my life, my soul; / Deign to accept my all. (898-9)

 

     Doubts now gave way to a fiery devotion to the guru, and intellectual scorn ended in total self-surrender. Who could have extinguished the hellfire that was burning in Narendras mind but he who was the roaring of fire of spirituality himself. Who else could slake the thirst of his soul but he who was the Ocean of Bliss itself. Who else could pierce the veil and show him God but he who had seen Him himself - not only seen but had talked to Him in whispers as if He were nearer than the nearest. Where was Narendra searching for God? Were not all the poor, the miserable, the downtrodden Gods? In vain was he trying to dig a well on the shore of the Ganga. Through the gurus grace he realized that nothing else existed but God. Not only in the highest Brahman but even in the insignificant worm, down to the minutest atom was the same God. Only the manifestation differed. And He was there in the saint and the sinner, the virtuous and the wicked, the sentient and the insentient. Where was He not? The essence of all existence was divinity of the Soul, only covered by the dust of ego. As soon as the mud is removed it would shine forth in all its effulgent glory. And it could be done by following any of the yogas: karma, bhakti, raja or jnana. Narendra became the heir to all the spiritual treasures of Thakur, the heir to immortal Bliss. Exuberantly he went out into the world, east and west. He proclaimed to all the message of his beloved Master that they were all the sinless pure Self, heirs to immortal Bliss, till life-breath departed from him even before he completed forty years on earth.

 

 

     Keshab Chandra Sen

 

 

     The Brahmo leader came to him with his followers. Influenced by Western culture, the Brahmo movement stood for various educational and social reforms like widow remarriage, education of women and the abolition of caste. Brahmo Samaj declared the supremacy of reason; it was not founded on the deep spiritual experiences of saints. Keshab was an orator and had written books and articles. His fame spread to the distant shores of London. Queen Victoria herself entertained him. Yet he visited the sage of Dakshineswar bare-chested with offerings of flowers and fruits. He saluted the Master bowing low, touching the ground with his forehead. He dared not open his mouth before this unlettered priest of Kali, fearing that it would be like trying to sell needles to a blacksmith. Fascinated, he and other Brahmo leaders listened to various melodies sung by Thakur as he sang now of Kali, now of Krishna or Gauranga. He could not be monotonous like them who harped only on a monotone of I am He or I am Brahman. Under the influence of Thakur, Keshabs devotion to the Divine Mother deepened. Sometimes Keshab and his followers danced and sang for hours in his company, the Master in the centre and all others dancing around him in circles.

 

     Nor could the other Brahmo leaders escape the spell of Thakurs spiritual fervour. Pratap Chandra Mazumdar, an accomplished Brahmo preacher in Europe and America, wrote:

 

     I, a Europeanized, civilized, self-centred, semi-sceptical, so-called educated reasoner, and he, a poor, illiterate, unpolished, half-idolatrous, friendless Hindu devotee? Why should I sit long hours to attend to Him? And it is not I only, but dozens like me, who do the same. He worships Shiva, he worships Kali, he worships Rama, he worships Krishna, yet is a faithful and most devoted meditator on the perfections of the One Formless, Absolute, Infinite Deity. His religion is ecstasy, his worship means transcendental insight. He, by his child-like bhakti, helped to unfold it [God as our Mother] in our minds wonderfully. (45)

 

 

               II

 

 

     The Old Came

 

 

     To them he said that the world was all hollow without any substance. It was like pickled hog plum - all stone and little pulp. In old age one should retire to Varanasi like Pandit Jaynarayan or to a solitary place away from home and devote ones time to contemplating God and repeating His name. One should not keep on clinging to the world making ones grandson an excuse. When the teeth are all gone how could one enjoy worldly pleasures?

 

 

     The Young Came

 

 

     They came in spite of the resistance from their elders. They came to get the leather jacket, the armour of bhakti; attracted by his love, who fed them khir and other sweets with his own hands; like a mother caressed them, touched their chins and took them on his lap. He made them roll with laughter by his mimicry of the funny kirtani, and the silly prattle of the women who went to bathe in the Ganga. In his presence it was a perpetual festivity with God. Amidst all this fun and merrymaking, he always kept before them the goal of God-realization. He constantly warned them of the snares of woman and gold and encouraged them to cultivate knowledge and devotion.

 

 

     Scholars Came

 

 

     They came to him though they could read in the shastras all the things they heard from him. They came to hear them from his lips and to see a life lived according to the precepts of the shastras, a life that was a living shastra. To them he said that one has to purify oneself through sadhana. Who could understand the ways of the Spirit through scholarly reasoning? While expounding scriptures one should remove the head and tail and not confuse others in a maze of scriptural words and karma kanda. Being dependent on food, life in Kali yuga was too short to perform scriptural rites.

 

 

     The Shaktas Came

 

 

     They thought that their Divine Mother was the Empress of the universe. She had employed that fellow Krishna to ferry men across the ocean of the world. And, lo, their delusion was broken when they learnt from the holy man that Krishna, Hari and the Divine Mother were one and the same Reality. The difference lay only in the names as jal, pani and water are the various names for one single substance.

 

 

     The Vaishnavas Came

 

 

     They thought that Krishna was the Lord of all. None could go to the other shore without taking refuge in Him. They were stunned out of their wits to hear that the Charmer of Radhas heart, the Player of the flute, the Friend of the cowherd boys of Vrindaban and the Darling of Ma Yashoda was none other than the terrible Kali with dishevelled hair, wielding her sword in the battlefield - Kali, whose terrible laughter fills the quarters, Kali, under whose weight the earth trembles and whose three great eyes roll in frenzy while destroying the demons. Who could refute Thakurs words?

 

 

     The Vedantists Came

 

 

     To them he said that the path of Vedantic discipline was the path of neti, neti; not this, in which all that is unreal is negated and renounced. Reasoning thus, the mind merges in the eternal Brahman and the aspirant goes into samadhi. But was it easy to realize ones identity with Brahman? How hard the rishis laboured to realize Brahman as their inner Consciousness? As long as one was conscious of the body and the objects around, one could not realize I am He. Moreover, as long as one was conscious of doing ones duties, it was not right for one to say that one was the actionless supreme Self. He told them to give up I am He and stick to I and Thou to make merry with God. Even if one has reached the Absolute it would be best to keep oneself in the relative to enjoy the love of God.

 

 

     The Bereaved Came

 

 

     Hari came. He had lost his wife, and did nothing in particular, but was taking good care of his parents, brothers and sisters. He said to him not to lead just a meaningless life like Elder, the pumpkin-cutter but to provide nourishment to the Spirit too by reading books like Chaitanya Lila and the Bhagavata. To Sarada Charan, who had lost his only son, he asked to take up arms against death by chanting the name of Kali. It was the strongest hedge where Kala himself shuddered to enter. The disconsolate Brahmani had lost her only daughter. He filled her with peace by telling her that the Ocean, God, alone was real; children were like so many bubbles having a moments existence. Why grieve? Why not cultivate love for the lotus feet of God?

 

     The story is endless and can go on and on.

 

 

               III

 

 

     They all came to Sri Ramakrishna: Hindus, Mussalmans, Sikhs and Christians. To him came countless pilgrims, sages, sadhus, fakirs, and visionaries. To slake their thirst they came to him, who, as Romain Rolland said, realized in himself the total unity of this river of God, open to all rivers and all streams. To each he pointed the way to immortal Bliss according to his own natural taste and inclination. And they are still coming to him: people from all strata of society, from all corners of the world. When the heart is flooded with bhakti one may not come even on foot, by boat, by carriage or by streamer. One can plunge straight into the waves and waves of liquid love that are rolling on and on from the depths of this ethereal Being.

 

 

     References

 

 

     1. Swami Chetanananda, They Lived with God, (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1993), 290.

     2. Ramakrishna as We Saw Him, ed. and trans. Swami Chetnananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1993), 338.

     3. M, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, trans. Swami Nikhilananda (Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 2002), 508.



     



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


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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