Book Extract from “Spiritual Talks (by the first disciples of Sri Ramakrishna)”

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

This is an extract from a book that I most treasure, “Spiritual Talks (by the first disciples of Sri Ramakrishna)“. It is a small book that contains some dialogues with some of the first disciples of Shri Ramakrishna. I have found it a wonderful book with full of pointers for spiritual practice. It also offers us a glimpse of the life of Sri Ramakrishna through of the eyes of those who had the divine opportunity to see and serve him in the physical form.

In these excerpts, the Swami who is speaking is Swami Premananda, one of the foremost disciples of Shri Ramakrishna , who was in charge of the Belur Monastery. The Swami was a very attractive personality and seemed almost to exhale purity and love.

  • Prasad

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Shri Ramakrishna’s purity : 

After the noonday meal, he began to speak enthusiastically of Shri Ramakrishna to the assembled monks and devotees.

Swami: “Seeing that the Master liked lemon much, Yogin (Swami Yogananda) used to bring him a lemon every day. One day the Master said to him, ‘Wherefrom did you get the lemon yesterday? I could note take it. ‘ Yogin knew that the Master could not take things brought from evil and impure persons. But he had brought the lemon from the same plant from which he had brought the other lemons. Why was it, then, that the Master could not take it? Yogin felt much perturbed and began to look out for the cause. After a careful enquiry he came to know that the orchard from which he used to bring the fruits had changed hands on the day previous to the incident – the lease had expired. He received permission to get the fruits from the former lessee. On that particular day, therefore, that permission did not hold, and it was really a theft though unconscious.

“The Master could see the very mind of the donor in the things given to him. He could not take any food which was contaminated by the least sin. How wonderful was his purity? He could not tolerate the touch and approach of any impurity. Therefore if you want to realize him, you must make your heart absolutely pure. All the passions will have to be conquered. Whoever will come here must become an ideal. You must remember that you are his children. But do not let this make you proud. Pride must be given up once for all. Maharaj (Swami Brahmananda) says that sometimes he feels as if he is not of this world. The Master also used to say, ‘ With whom shall I speak if Naren and Raakhaal are not by me? They are of very pure mind – they are Naaraayana Himself. I feel my lips burning if I talk with worldly persons’. What purity ! You must be all as pure as he”.

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How to realize Shri Ramakrishna?

At night after the service in the shrine the Swami sat downstairs in the main building. The disciple asked him, “Kindly tell me how I can realize the Master”.

Swami: “You have seen the Holy Mother and have received her blessings. Why should you worry?”

Disciple: “But Maharaj, I cannot at all make my mind calm. Please tell how i can make it calm”.

Swami :  :’This is not a sweet in the hand of a child that you can coax it out of him’. But don’t worry. The Master used to say, ‘I see an ocean in a drop’. If we proceed towards him a single step, he will approach us by a thousand steps. Take refuge in him and repeat his name. Gradually you will realize him”.

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Should we renounce the world?

Disciple: ” Maharaj, I am told that without renouncing the world, one cannot get his grace.”

Swami: (Sternly) “What have you, which you can renounce? Remain in whatever condition and whenever he keeps you. You cannot realize him by doing anything.  Through his grace everything is possible. Many practice hard disciplines and yet do not realize his grace, while others very easily get it”.

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Shri Ramakrishna’s love for his shishyas

In the afternoon the disciple was sitting with S., by the side of the Ganga, when the Swami came there. S. was a sweet man and naturally attracted the love of the Swami. The Swami began to tell him of the love the Master bore towards them.

He said, “My mother would not allow me to stay at my village home even during holidays, for fear that I might mix with bad boys and spoil myself. But she would cry when I returned to Calcutta. The Master also used to cry when I returned from Dakshineshwar to Calcutta. Oh, how can I explain to you how he used to love us? He would go to Calcutta in a carriage in order to feed Purna. He would wait near the school where Purna read, send someone to bring him, and then feed him with delicacies. He would say, ‘What is this that has happened to me? You have not even a mat to receive me. Yet I am restless to see you!’

One day he was found outside Balaram Babu’s house where I used to stay. Balaram Babu was not at home. The Master did not enter the house for fear of rebuke. He had come to see me! Afterwards someone called him in. His love knew no bounds and one drop of it could fill us full. Everyone thus thought that he was the most beloved of the Master. He used to say, ‘ I can stand everything except egotism.’ That is why when he wanted to meet anyone, he sent Hriday beforehand to see if the man was proud. He has left a mould for us. We have now to knead the clay of the mind, eliminating all stones and rubbish from it and cast it in the mould and a beautiful form will easily emerge. He came for the whole world.”

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The first meeting with Shri Ramakrishna:

Disciple; “Please tell us your experience when you first met the Master.”

Swami: “On the night of my first visit to Dakshineshwar, myself and another devotee slept on the verandah outside the Master’s room. I could not sleep well because of the shoutings of the night watchmen. At last I had a little sleep. But just then the Master came to us, nude, with his cloth rolled under his arm. He woke us up and said, ‘ Do you know Narendra? He is a very good boy and lives at Shimla (Shimulia in Bengal). He is well up in music, studies and everything. Ask him to see me once. I want to see him very much. Tell him to come tomorrow in a carriage – the hire shall be paid from here.; So saying he left us and we lay down again. We were about to fall asleep when he came again and said, ‘ Do tell him to come once. My inside is being clawed like the earth clawed by a cat. Ask him to come tomorrow positively, Will you?’ When he went away, I thought within myself, ‘ How deeply does he love him ? And the boy does not come to see him! How crude and wicked!’ Very soon the Master came again and began to entreat us to tell Narendra to come, and praised him highly . Thus the whole night passed.

Another night I was sleeping in the Master’s room. At the dead of night I woke up and found the Master going from one end of his room to the other, saying, ‘Mother, I do not want this. Do not bring me honour from men. Don’t Mother, don’t. I spit on it’ He said this and ran like a madman in the room. I was filled with great wonder. I thought, ‘How strange! People are so eager for fame, and he is entreating the Mother not to give it to him! Why is this happening before me? Is it for my personal edification?’ “

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Advice to a monk who had begged for train-fare: 

A young man who had lately entered the Order was finding it inconvenient to continue his spiritual practices at the Belur Math on account of it being crowded. He wanted to go to Varanasi and so had gone to Calcutta to beg his train-fare. The Swami did not like this. When the new monk returned from Calcutta, he said to him:

” Are you not ashamed to beg – you , a young man? You are a monk – walk all the way to Varanasi. Do you think you will go comfortably to Varanasi and repeat the Lord’s name a few times and the Lord will hasten to you. God cannot be realized so easily. ‘O my mind, dost thou think thou wilt attain the Divine Mother with thy hypocritical love? She is not a sweet in the hand of child that thou wilt coax it out of him!’ Boys have nowadays a fancy to give up work, as if they have all become Shukadeva. This is the result of reading Kathamrita (The Gospel of Shri Ramakrishna by M.) M.’s books record the conversations of a few days only. ‘ Call on the Lord in solitude!’ That is all right. But who weeps for Him? Who can weep for Him?

Sattva and Tamas both look alike. Tamas begets sleep, laziness and aversion for work. Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) used to say, “The country is immersed in Tamas. Like a delirious patient, it is thinking that it is all right and does not want to take any medicine. I  have found the remedy. It is now necessary to apply it. Poisonous drugs are the remedies for delirium, so is Rajas the cure for Tamas. We must bring Rajas into the country in order to free it from Tamas.’ Vairaagya (dispassion) and Tamas are quite different things.

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Advice to monks on renunciation and love for God:

At night a class was held on Raaja-Yoga. When it was over, the Swami siad to the monks,

“Merely reading all these things won’t do. You must meditate on these and build your life accordingly. None of you who have come here through the grace of the Lord, are insignificant. You are all lion-cubs. IT won’t be enough for you to say to people that you know this and that, or that Swamiji has said so and so. You must demonstrate the validity of these teachings by your own life. Everyone of you must be a model of renunciation, discrimination , and passionlessness.

“The essence of Shri Ramakrishna’s teaching is that one should give up all pride and egotism. A little meditation is no good. God cannot be realized through such lukewarm mood.s One must yearn deeply, one must become restless”.

“One must have intense indifference to the world and deep hankering after the Lord – “I must realize Him even in this birth, even now!” No slow process! Remember this carefully : Work is no use if you do not get immersed in Him. Make your heart a temple of the Lord and install Him there. Take His name and for ever lose yourselves in Him.:

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Advice to monks regarding relationship between the Mission’s work and their spiritual life:

It was the annual general meeting of the Ramakrishna Mission. When the agenda of the meeting had been gone through, the Swami thus spoke to all present:

” Elephants have two sets of teeth, one outside – the tusks and another inside, to munch food. The activities of our Mission are like the elephant’s tusks. Whatever work you may do – conducting Sevashramas or doing relief work, unless you have character, all will be in vain. What is wanted is character, purity, steadfast devotion to God. If you have them, you will prosper, otherwise you will totally fail.

Advice to Mission members:

(To the lay members) It is no good being only the members of the Mission You must build up your own character, you must make the whole world your own through love, so that people may find inspiration from your selflessness, renunciation, and purity. You must drive away all egotism and pride from your heart and consider yourselves as servants of the Lord and thus serve humanity.

Our Master never sought name and fame, and so they have come to him in profusion. Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) often said in his later life that he was disgusted with name and fame. Be you all men of character. Do you grow into gods. Only then will the work of the Mission prosper. This is my earnest prayer to you all.

After this the meeting was dissolved.

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Rooting out desires:

That night, after meal, the Swami sat on the bench on the ground floor overlooking the Ganga, and thus spoke to the monks and devotees gathered before him:

” In the world the mind is scattered on various things, on Kaama and Kaanchana. It is the function of Avidya not to allow the mind to be concentrated. But our task is to concentrate it. Spiritual discipline is nothing but the bringing together of the scattered mind. So long as there is the least desire the mind cannot be absorbed in God. Along with meditation and repetition of the Lord’s name , we must reason keenly and carefully – we must search out the desires hiding in the dark corners of the mind and drive them away. This is what is called in Gita as `saving the self by the self’. Thus we are to conquer the mind. We shall then find the Peace Everlasting within ourselves and become sages. Simply meditating and repeating God’s names, without any effort at rooting out the desires, will not do.

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