The Mother Divine
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From Gospel of Ramakrishna
Conversations recorded by Mahendranath Gupta, translated by Swami Nikhilananda

Thursday, December 14, 1882

It was afternoon. Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on his bed after a short noonday rest.  Vijay, Balaram, M., and a few other devotees were sitting on the floor with their faces toward the Master.  They could see the sacred river Ganges through the door.  Since it was winter all were wrapped up in warm clothes.  Vijay had been suffering from colic and had brought some medicine with him.

Vijay, the Brahmo preacher

Vijay was a paid preacher in the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, but there were many things about which he could not agree with the Samaj authorities.  He came from a very noble family of Bengal noted for its piety and other spiritual qualities.  Advaita Goswami, one of his remote ancestors, had been an intimate companion of Sri Chaitanya.  Thus the blood of a great lover of God flowed in Vijay's veins.  As an adherent of the Brahmo Samaj, Vijay no doubt meditated on the formless Brahman; but his innate love of God, inherited from his distinguished ancestors, had merely been waiting for the proper time to manifest itself in all its sweetness.  Thus Vijay was irresistibly attracted by the God-intoxicated state of Sri Ramakrishna and often sought his company.  He would listen to the Master's words with great respect, and they would dance together in an ecstasy of divine love.
It was a week-day.  Generally devotees came to the Master in large numbers on Sundays; hence those who wanted to have intimate talks with him visited him on week-days.

Tendencies from previous births

A boy named Vishnu, living in Ariadaha, had recently committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.  The talk turned to him.

MASTER: "I felt very bad when I heard of the boy's passing away.  He was a pupil in a school and he used to come here.  He would often say to me that he couldn't enjoy worldly life.  He had lived with some relatives in the western provinces and at that time used to meditate in solitude, in the meadows, hills, and forests.  He told me he had visions of many divine forms.

"Perhaps this was his last birth.  He must have finished most of his duties in his previous birth.  The little that had been left undone was perhaps finished in this one.

"One must admit the existence of tendencies inherited from previous births.  There is a story about a man who practised the sava-sadhana. He worshipped the Divine Mother in a deep forest.  First he saw many terrible visions.  Finally a tiger attacked and killed him.  Another man, happening to pass and seeing the approach of the tiger, had climbed a tree.  Afterwards he got down and found all the arrangements for worship at hand.  He performed some purifying ceremonies and seated himself on the corpse.  No sooner had he done a little japa than the Divine Mother appeared before him and said: 'My child, I am very much pleased with you.  Accept a boon from Me.' He bowed low at the Lotus Feet of the Goddess and said: 'May I ask You one question, Mother? I am speechless with amazement at Your action.  The other man worked so hard to get the ingredients for Your worship and tried to propitiate You for such a long time, but You didn't condescend to show him Your favour.  And I, who don't know anything of worship, who have done nothing, who have neither devotion nor knowledge nor love, and who haven't practised any austerities, am receiving so much of Your grace.' The Divine Mother said with a laugh: 'My child, you don't remember your previous births.  For many births you tried to propitiate Me through austerities.  As a result of those austerities all these things have come to hand, and you have been blessed with My Vision.  Now ask Me your boon.' "

Suicide after the vision of God

A DEVOTEE: "I am frightened to hear of the suicide."

MASTER: "Suicide is a heinous sin, undoubtedly.  A man who kills himself must return again and again to this world and suffer its agony.

"But I don't call it suicide if a person leaves his body after having the vision of God.  There is no harm in giving up one's body that way.  After attaining Knowledge some people give up their bodies.  After the gold image has been cast in the clay mould, you may either preserve the mould or break it.
"Many years ago a young man of about twenty used to come to the temple garden from Baranagore; his name was Gopal Sen.  In my presence he used to experience such intense ecstasy that Hriday had to support him for fear he might fall to the ground and break his limbs.  That young man touched my feet one day and said: 'Sir, I shall not be able to see you anymore.  Let me bid you good-bye.' A few days later I learnt that he had given up his body. 

Four classes of men

"It is said that there are four classes of human beings: the bound, those aspiring after liberation, the liberated, and the ever-perfect.

Parable of the fish and the net

"This world is like a fishing-net.  Men are the fish, and God, whose maya has created this world, is the fisherman.  When the fish are entangled in the net, some of them try to tear through its meshes in order to get their liberation.  They are like the men striving after liberation.  But by no means all of them escape.  Only a few jump out of the net with a loud splash, and then people say, 'Ah! There goes a big one!' In like manner, three or four men attain liberation.  Again, some fish are so careful by nature that they are never caught in the net; some beings of the ever-perfect class, like Narada, are never entangled in the meshes of worldliness.  Most of the fish are trapped; but they are not conscious of the net and of their imminent death.  No sooner are they entangled than they run headlong, net and all, trying to hide themselves in the mud.  They don't make the least effort to get free.  On the contrary, they go deeper and deeper into the mud.  These fish are like the bound men.  They are still inside the net, but they think they are quite safe there.  A bound creature is immersed in worldliness, in 'woman and gold', having gone deep into the mire of degradation.  But still he believes he is quite happy and secure.  The liberated, and the seekers after liberation, look on the world as a deep well.  They do not enjoy it.  Therefore, after the attainment of Knowledge, the realization of God, some give up their bodies.  But such a thing is rare indeed.

Worldly-minded forget their lessons

"The bound creatures, entangled in worldliness, will not come to their senses at all.  They suffer so much misery and agony, they face so many dangers, and yet they will not wake up.

"The camel loves to eat thorny bushes.  The more it eats the thorns, the more the blood gushes from its mouth.  Still it must eat thorny plants and will never give them up.  The man of worldly nature suffers so much sorrow and affliction, but he forgets it all in a few days and begins his old life over again.  Suppose a man has lost his wife or she has turned unfaithful.  Lo! He marries again.

"Or take the instance of a mother: her son dies and she suffers bitter grief; but after a few days she forgets all about it.  The mother, so overwhelmed with sorrow a few days before, now attends to her toilet and puts on her jewellery.  A father becomes bankrupt through the marriage of his daughters, yet he goes on having children year after year.  People are ruined by litigation, yet they go to court all the same.  There are men who cannot feed the children they have, who cannot clothe them or provide decent shelter for them; yet they have more children every year.

"Again, the worldly man is like a snake trying to swallow a mole.  The snake can neither swallow the mole nor give it up.  The bound soul may have realized that there is no substance to the world-which the world is like a hog plum, only stone and skin-but still he cannot give it up and turn his mind to God.

"I once met a relative of Keshab Sen, fifty years old.  He was playing cards.  As if the time had not yet come for him to think of God!

"There is another characteristic of the bound soul.  If you remove him from his worldly surroundings to a spiritual environment, he will pine away.  The worm that grows in filth feels very happy there.  It thrives in filth.  It will die if you put it in a pot of rice."
All remained silent.

Bondage removed by strong renunciation

VIJAY: "What must the bound soul's condition of mind be in order to achieve liberation?"
MASTER: "He can free himself from attachment to 'woman and gold' if, by the grace of God, he cultivates a spirit of strong renunciation.  What is this strong renunciation? One who has only a mild spirit of renunciation says, 'Well, all will happen in the course of time; let me now simply repeat the name of God.' But a man possessed of a strong spirit of renunciation feels restless for God, as the mother feels for her own child.  A man of strong renunciation seeks nothing but God.  He regards the world as a deep well and feels as if he were going to be drowned in it.  He looks on his relatives as venomous snakes; he wants to fly away from them.  And he does go away.  He never thinks, 'Let me first make some arrangement for my family and then I shall think of God.' He has great inward resolution.

Parable of the two farmers

"Let me tell you a story about strong renunciation.  At one time there was a drought in a certain part of the country.  The farmers began to cut long channels to bring water to their fields.  One farmer was stubbornly determined.  He took a vow that he would not stop digging until the channel connected his field with the river.  He set to work.  The time came for his bath, and his wife sent their daughter to him with oil.  'Father,' said the girl, 'it is already late.  Rub your body with oil and take your bath.' 'Go away!' thundered the farmer.  'I have too much to do now.' It was past midday, and the farmer was still at work in his field.  He didn't even think of his bath.  Then his wife came and said: 'Why haven't you taken your bath? The food is getting cold.  You overdo everything.  You can finish the rest tomorrow or even today after dinner.' The farmer scolded her furiously and ran at her, spade in hand, crying: 'What? Have you no sense? There's no rain.  The crops are dying.  What will the children eat? You'll all starve to death.  I have taken a vow not to think of bath and food today before I bring water to my field.' The wife saw his state of mind and ran away in fear.  Through a whole day's back-breaking labour the farmer managed by evening to connect his field with the river.  Then he sat down and watched the water flowing into his field with a murmuring sound.  His mind was filled with peace and joy.  He went home, called his wife, and said to her, 'Now give me some oil and prepare me a smoke.' With serene mind he finished his bath and meal, and retired to bed, where he snored to his heart's content.  The determination he showed is an example of strong renunciation.
"Now, there was another farmer who was also digging a channel to bring water to his field.  His wife, too, came to the field and said to him: 'It's very late.  Come home.  It isn't necessary to overdo things.' The farmer didn't protest much, but put aside his spade and said to his wife, 'Well, I'll go home since you ask me to.' (All laugh) That man never succeeded in irrigating his field.  This is a case of mild renunciation.

"As without strong determination the farmer cannot bring water to his field, so also without intense yearning a man cannot realize God.