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THE BOOK WAS 
DRENCHED 



<OU1 60473 >m 




SWAMI BRAHMANANDA 



SPIRITUAL TEACHINGS 

OF 

SWAMI BRAHMANANDA 

TRANSLATED FROM CONVERSATIONS AND 
LETTERS IN BENGALI 

Second Edition 




SRI RAMAKRISHNA MATH 
MYLAPORE, MADRAS 

1933 

(All Bights Reserved) 



SPIRITUAL TEACHINGS 

OF 

SWAMI BRAHMANANDA 



FOREWORD 



Swami Brahmananda was one of the most 
eminent and one of the most beloved of the 
disciples of Sri Ramakrishna the first also to 
come to Him. Sri Ramakrishna regarded him 
as His own son and admitted him to the utmost 
intimacy. In this familiar daily intercourse the 
disciple caught the glint of the Master's efful- 
gence. It shone through all he said, all he did, all 
he was. It gave him unlimited power and insight, 
and an authority no one thought to dispute. This 
last he used sparingly. He led rather by quiet 
appeal than by more insistent methods, but so 
mighty was his spiritual force that his gentlest 
suggestion was to those who heard it, a word of 
command. 

It was my blessed privilege to be closely associat- 
ed with the Swami during the six months of his first 
visit to Madras. When the present book of coun- 



sels was put into my hands to revise, edit and pre- 
pare for publication, there rose before my mind 
once again the picture of that majestic, yet child-like, 
figure moving in the twilight shadow up and down 
the dim monastery hall at Mylapore; once again his 
gentle voice sounded in my ears; once again the 
benediction of his loving presence fell in refreshing 
shower over my spirit. I have striven to lit that 
voice sound unmuted through these pages; to lea^e 
unbarred the benediction of that presence. 

The spiritual instructions which follow were 
spoken in largest measure at Benares, Kankhal, 
Belur, or elsewhere, in informal conversations. 
Some were written in personal letters. In the 
earlier days of the Swami's administration as 
President of the Ramakrishna Mission he remained 
nearly always in retirement at Puri, or at the Head 
Monastery of the Order on the Ganges above 
Calcutta. At that time he was reluctant to assume 
the place of teacher. At Madras, if any one asked 
him a question he would answer: "Go and ask 
Sasi Maharaj. He knows everything. I know 
nothing." 

vi 



Later he emerged from his seclusion and be- 
came an active and stimulating visitor at the various 
Centres of the Mission. The teaching set down in 
the present volume belongs to this second period. 
It was preserved by devout disciples and published 
in the "Vedanta Kesari," the Official Magazine of 
the Mission's work at Madras. Carefully and 
reverently revised, it appears now in more perma- 
nent form. 
* 

The counsels given are pre-eminently practical. 
They are the spontaneous expression of the 
Swami's own wide vision and profound spiritual 
experience. Their power is irresistible. They 
transform and redeem. They kindle fresh ardour 
in the heart. They transmute life into living. 
Charged with a holy message they go forth now, 
bearing to world and cloister alike, the promise of 
spiritual achievement. 

DEVAMATA 

ANANDA-ASHRAMA, 
LA CRESCENTA, CALIFORNIA, U. S. A. 
June, 1931. 

vii 



CONVERSATIONS 



PRINTED AT 

THE MADRAS PUBLISHING HOUSE, LTD., 
MOUNT ROAD, MADRAS. 



CONTENTS 



FOREWORD 



CONVERSATIONS 



J. MEDITATION AND REALIZATION 

II. SPIRITUAL PRACTICES 

III. WORSHIP AND MEDITATION 

IV. THE KUNDALINI 

V. WORK AND WORSHIP 

VI. HAPPINESS 

VII. WORLDLY LIFE AND SPIRITUAL LIFE . 

VII! REALIZATION THROUGH SELF-SURRENDER 

IX. DIVINE GRACE 

X. POWER OF RENUNCIATION 

XI BRAHMACHARYA 

XI] COMPANY OF HOLY MEN 

XIII. THE WORLD AND GOD 

XIV. NATURE OF MAN 
XV. SEEK GOD ONLY 

XVI CONTROL OF THE MIND 

XVIJ TURNING THE MIND TO GOD . 

XVIII. EXAMPLE OF HOLY MEN 

XIX. MEDITATION 

XX. GOD- VISION 

XXL DIFFERENT METHODS OF ATTAINMENT 

XXII. SAMADHI 

XXIII. POWER OF MIND 

xi 



PAGIi 



1 

6 

11 

17 

21 

29 

36 

43 

52 

60 

68 

75 

82 

89 

95 

100 

103 

112 

117 

124 

130 

139 

144 



PAGE 

XXIV. WORSHIP OF GOD 150 

XXV. FRAGMENTS OF CONVERSATIONS . . . 155 
XXVI. GOD-MINDFULNESS - 163 

XXVII. ATTACHMENT FOR GOD . . 169 

XXVIII. WHAT A SADHU SHOULD DO 175 

XXIX. NAME OF THE LORD 183 

XXX. THE PROCESS OF MEDITATION .189 

XXXI. TRUE VISION .... 193 

XXXII. WHAT IS TAPASYA? . 196 

LETTERS AND STRAY COUNSELS. 

XXXIII. LETTER TO A DISCIPLE 203 

XXXIV. LETTER TO A DISCIPLE 216 

XXXV. EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS 229 

XXXVI. STRAY COUNSELS 234 



I 

MEDITATION AND REALISATION 

(CONVERSATION AT BENARES, 1921) 

t 

p Maharaj, I am practising ]apam and medita- 
tion, but I have not yet acquired any taste for these. 
Somehow or other I am struggling on. What must 
I do? 

THE SWAMI Is it possible to have that taste 
in the beginning? No. Struggle hard to attain 
it. Concentrate all your energies on its achieve- 
ment, and never for a moment pay heed to other 
matters. Apply yourself whole-heartedly to it and 
to it alone. Onward, onward! Never be satis- 
fied with your present state of mind. Try to create 
within yourself a burning dissatisfaction. Say 
to yourself "What progress am I making? Not 
a bit." Sri Ramakrishna used to say to the Divine 
Mother "Mother, another day is gone and I have 
not seen Thee!" 

1 



Spiritual Teachings 

Every night before you go to bed, think for a 
while how much time you have spent in doing good 
deeds, how much again in doing useless things; 
how much time you have utilised in meditation and 
how much you have wasted in idleness. Make 
your mind strong through Tapasya f austerity) 
and Brahmacharya (continence) . 

In rich men's houses they keep a Darwan 
(porter) whose duty is to prevent thieves, cows, 
sheep, etc., from entering the compound. The 
mind is man's Danvan. The stronger the mind 
becomes, the better. Mind has also been compar- 
ed to a restive horse. Such a horse generally 
takes the rider along the wrong path. Only he 
who can hold a tight rein and check the horse can 
go the right way. Struggle, struggle on! What 
are you doing? Is everything achieved by the 
mere wearing of the Gerua cloth (ochre-coloured 
cloth of the Sannyasin) or by renunciation of hearth 
and home? What have you realised? Time is 
flying. Do not waste a single moment. You will 
be able to work hard only another three or four 

2 



Meditation and Realisation 

years at the most. Afterwards both body and mind 
will become weak and infirm and you will not be 
able to do anything. What can be achieved with- 
out diligence? 

You are thinking, "Let us first of all have yearn- 
ing, faitfe and devotion; then we shall do our 
Sadhana (spiritual practices)." Is that possible? 
Can we see the day without the break of dawn? 
When the Lord comes, love, devotion and faith 
follow Him as His retinue. 

Can anything be achieved without Tapasya? 
Brahma at first heard "Tapas (meditate), Tapas 
(meditate), Tapas (meditate)/* Do you not see 
what a severe Tapasya even the Avataras (Incar- 
nations of God) had to perform? Has anybody 
gained anything without labour? Buddha, 
Sankara and others what tremendous austeri- 
ties they practised in their lives! What burning 
renunciation they possessed! What severe Sadhana 
they performed! 

Real faith cannot be had in the beginning. First 
realisation, then faith. But at first the Sadhaka 

3 



Spiritual Teachings 

(aspirant) has to pin his faith " blind faith" it 
may be to the precepts of his Guru (spiritual 
teacher) or of some great soul; then only can he 
advance toward the goal. 

Do you not know the parable of the oyster as 
told by Sri Ramakrishna? The oyster floats about 
on the surface of the sea with its shell wide open, 
just for a little drop of the Swati-rain (rain falling 
when the star Swati or Arcturus is in the ascendant) . 
As soon as it gets a rain drop, it dives down to the 
ocean-bed and there forms a fine pearl. Like the 
oyster, you too should be up and doing and then 
dive deep into the ocean of meditation. 

You have no self-reliance. Personal exertion is 
an indispensable factor for success in the spiritual 
life. Do something for a period of at least four 
years. Then if you do not make any tangible pro- 
gress, come and take me to task. 

Japam and meditation are impossible unless you 
transcend the limitations of Rajas (excessive acti- 
vity) and Tamas (inertia or lethargy). After- 
wards, you have to rise even above Sattwa (illumi- 

4 



Meditation and Realisation 

nation) and attain the high spiritual plane from 
where there is no return. 

How difficult is the attainment of a human birth! 
Yet it is only in this human birth that God-realisa- 
tion is possible. Strive hard in this life and reach 
that state from which you will not have to come 
back. 

^he mind is to be raised, step by step, from the 
gross state to the subtle, then to the causal state, 
still further to the Great Cause (Mahakarana) and 
finally to Samadhi (highest illumination). Resign 
yourself fully to the Lord. He is everything. 
There is nothing besides. ^ ggfeq^ 3^jj "Verily 
all this is Brahman." Everything is His and His 
only. Never be calculating. Is self-surrender 
possible in a day? When that is achieved, every- 
thing is achieved. One must struggle hard for it. 

Life is eternal. The span of man's life is at 
most a hundred years. Give up the pleasures of 
these hundred years, if you want to enjoy eternal 
life and, with it, eternal bliss. 



II 

SPIRITUAL PRACTICES 

(CONVERSATION AT BENARES) 

THE SWAMI Are your religious practices 
going well? 

S No, Maharaj. With all my efforts I see no 
spiritual unfoldment; hence I find no peace of 
mind. Evidently we are born with evil Samskaras 
(impressions) and these stand in the way of our 
spiritual progress. 

THE SWAMI My boy, you should not think 
thus. Practise Japam at dead of night. If you 
cannot do it at that time, do it during the early 
hours of the morning. Perform Pur as char ana*. 
Do not waste your valuable time any more. Lose 
yourself in prayer and meditation. All inner 

*Usually it implies regular Japam or the repetition of the 
name of the Deity a prescribed number of times, followed by 
Homa and other ceremonies. Additional Jtipam is also permis- 
sible in place of these ceremonies. 

6 



Spiritual Practices 

truths will come by themselves, if you practise 
Sadhana for some time. 

The spiritual aspirant should not take much food 
at night. At first take three-fourths of your usual 
diet. Then reduce the quantity to half. In the 
beginning you may feel some weakness of the body. 
But the* body will be all right after some time, and 
will remain active and in perfect condition. 

(The Swami then referred to the days when he 
practised Sadhana in the company of his brother- 
disciples and said: <f We used to take only a single 
meal during the whole day and night.") 

THE SWAMI A Sadhaka should first learn 
about the spiritual path from some great soul, then 
follow it methodically. If he does it haphazard, 
he cannot achieve much success. Again if he gives 
it up, he will have to put forth double the usual 
effort to gain the desired result. But no endeavour 
is lost. Lust, anger, greed, gradually go away 
from him who leads the spiritual life. 

Your mind is now covered over by Rajas (acti- 
vity) and Tamas (inertia). It must be made pure 

7 



Spiritual Teachings 

and subtle, and raised to the state of Sattwa 
(illumination). Then you will find pleasure in 
religious practices and will also feel inclined to 
devote more and more time to them. Later on, 
when the mind attains perfect purity, you will 
naturally devote yourself to spiritual culture. The 
mind is at present on the gross plane. Consequent- 
ly it leans toward gross things. But when * it 
becomes awakened, it inclines naturally toward the 
spiritual. When it grows subtler, its capacity also 
increases and the aspirant is able to understand 
within a short time the truths about God. 

When you sit in meditation, first think of a bliss- 
ful Divine form. This will have a soothing effect 
on your nerves and mind. Otherwise meditation 
will become dry and tedious. Think of the form 
of your Ishtam (Ideal) as smiling and full of bliss. 

While away your time no longer. Now the 
senses are strong and must be kept under control. 
This is no doubt a troublesome task. But practise 
Sadhana continuously for seven or eight years, then 
you will enjoy the fruits of your practices, the peace 

8 



Spiritual Practices 

and bliss thereof. Many women devotees have 
attained spiritual illumination. Should you not 
also strive for it? But women have greater faith 
than men. That is why they succeed in a compa- 
ratively short time. 

Belie^ me, the Lord is always with you. \'L you 
practise a little, He will extend His helping hand 
to you. It is He who is protecting us all from 
miseries and troubles. How unbounded is His 
grace! How can I describe it to you? 

You have been only hearing of all these spiritual 
things. Now realise them. You have done enough 
study and reasoning. Now do some spiritual prac- 
tice. First take up that aspect of God which 
appeals to you most. Follow your own path of 
Sadhana. When you realise God through it, you 
will feel the joy of realising Him also in other 
aspects and through other paths. 

One should meditate on the form of the Ishtam 
along with Japam. Otherwise Japam does not 
become effective. If you cannot think of the whole 
form, think only of a part. Begin your meditation 

9 



Spiritual Teachings 

on the "lotus feet" of the Deity. Continue to do 
it even if you fail in the beginning. Why should 
you stop until you succeed? Succeed you must. 
Practice will make everything easy. 

Is meditation an easy affair? Remember, it is 
next only to Samadhi. Try to leave everything to 
the Lord, Resign yourself wholly unto Him. Then, 
through your Sadhana, self-surrender and every- 
thing will come from within. 



10 



Ill 

WORSHIP AND MEDITATION 

(CONVERSATION AT BENARES) 

K. Maharaj, you spoke to us of the practice of 
Puja (worship) , meditation, continence and study 
of the Scriptures. What does Puja mean? 

THE SWAMI Puja means both external and 
mental worship. In external worship certain 
accessories such as flowers, incense, and water are 
necessary. It is difficult to get these things always. 
So mental worship is more convenient for you. 
After worshipping the Ishtam (Chosen Ideal) men- 
tally with Padya (water for washing the feet) , 
flowers and incense, which are offered in external 
worship, practise meditation and mental Jap am. 
In purely mental Japam the Mantram (name of 
the Deity) is to be repeated without moving the 
lips. But in ordinary Japam one has to utter the 

11 



Spiritual Teachings 

Mantram and there is therefore movement of the 
lips.* 

In meditation you should think of the form of 
your Ishtam as effulgent. Imagine that everything 
is shining through its lustre. Think of this efful- 
gence as non-material and possessed wirt\, intelli- 
gence. This kind of meditation will later on 

)> 
develop into meditation on the formless and infinite 

aspect of God. In the beginning the aspirant has 
to take the help of imagination; later on, when he 
develops his spiritual sense, he will feel the pre- 
sence of the Divine. Next, when he gets the 
highest spiritual vision, he will come face to face 
with Truth. He is then transported into a different 
realm altogether, of which this world of matter 
appears to be a mere shadow and, as such, some- 
thing unreal. The mind is then lost in Savikalpa 
Samadhi (superconscious vision with thought). 
Next comes Nirvikalpa Samadht (superconscious 
vision without thought). There is then the reali- 

*Japam may be (i) loud, that is, audible to all, (ii) (a) 
audible to oneself only, or (b) silent but with the movement 
of the lips, and (iii) mental without any movement of the lips. 

12 



Worship and Meditation 

sation of that which is beyond thought and speech. 
In this state there is nothing to be seen; nothing to 
be heard. Everything is lost in the Infinite. 

When one attains to this state, one can bring 
down the mind only with great effort to the world 
of phenomena, which appear to be unreal. It is 
%cfT%cT - fcrefsrcf "beyond duality and non-duality, 
Seme persons attaining to this state look 
upon the body as an obstacle in the way of un- 
broken spiritual experience, and cast it off in 
Samadhi. It is like the breaking of an earthen jar, 

Sri Ramakrishna used to give a beautiful illus- 
tration to explain the highest state of spiritual 
realisation. Suppose there are nine pots full of 
water, the sun reflected in each one. You break the 
pots one after another until only one is left, with 
the sun reflected in it; finally even this last pot is 
broken. Then whatever is, is there. It can neither 
be seen nor described. 

K Maharaj, some think of the Ishtam as the 
all-pervading Spirit. Is this not also a form of 
meditation ? 

13 



Spiritual Teachings 

THE SWAMI Yes, quite so. Everyone has to 
practise this meditation but only after making 
some progress in spiritual life; not in the begin- 
ning. The presence of the Ishtam is to be realised 
everywhere. He who is personal and with form is 
also impersonal and without form. He dwells in 
every being. He prevades land and water, hills 
and dales, sky and stars, everything. 

K Maharaj, the Scriptures speak of service to 
the Guru as a necessary means to spiritual realisa- 
tion. How far is this true ? 

THE SWAMI It is necessary at the preliminary 
stage. But afterwards one's mind itself plays the 
part of the Guru.* 

The Guru should not be looked upon as an 
ordinary human being. His physical body is the 
temple in which resides the Lord. If the Guru is 
served with this idea in mind, one comes to acquire 
love and devotion for him, which can then be 
directed toward the Lord. 

*The guidance of God the Guru of Gurus, dwelling within 
comes through one's purified mind. 

14 



Worship and Meditation 

There are Sadhakas (aspirants) who meditate 
upon the Guru in the Sahasrara (thousand-petalled 
lotus in the brain), and next they merge the form 
of the Guru into that of the Ishtam. Sri Rama- 
krishna used to say very clearly: "The Guru 
appears before the disciple in his spiritual vision; 
then pointing out the Ishtam to him he says, 'Look, 
Aere is your Ishtam? and loses himself in it." 
Really the Guru is not different from the Ishtam. 
There are so many practices in the spiritual life. 
How can I tell you about all of them ? 

Follow the spiritual path in right earnest. When 
the mind becomes pure through religious practices 
you will understand all the truths of the spiritual 
world. Remember, there is no end to them; they 
are countless. The spiritual aspirant remains 
wholly absorbed in them. 

Q If the Sadhaka gets a little taste of Ananda 
(Divine bliss), he is very much encouraged to pro- 
ceed on his spiritual path. Is this not so? 

THE SWAMI True. But in the higher spirit- 
ual state there is neither bliss nor sorrow, pain nor 

15 



Spiritual Teachings 

pleasure, existence nor non-existence. The Ananda 
that you speak of is only a help during the period 
of Sadhana. The boat stands in need of a favour- 
able wind so long as it has not reached its destina- 
tion. But when it has once reached it there is no 
need for wind, whether favourable or unfavourable. 
Ananda helps the aspirant in his onward course like 
the favourable wind. 

Knowledge, the object known and the knower, 
all three lose themselves in the Absolute; so much 
only have the Scriptures been able to say. But 
what takes place after this, none has the power to 
describe. One has to realise it for oneself through 
spiritual practice. 

How wonderful is Infinite Existence where 
there is neither want nor fear. The very thought 
of it elevates the soul. There are some spiritual 
men who realise the Absolute (Nitya) as distinct 
from the Relative (Lila, Divine Sport). Others 
look upon both of these as one and the same. 
There is yet another state of spiritual experience, 
which is beyond both Absolute and Relative. 

16 



IV 
THE KUNDALINI 

(CONVERSATION AT BENARES) 

Q %Maharaj, how can the Kundalini* be 
awakened ? 

THE SWAMI Through the practice of ]apam 
(repetition of the Lord's name) , Dhyana (medita- 
tion) and other spiritual exercises. According to 
some Yogis there are special forms of meditation 
and practices which awaken it, but I believe it can 
be best done through ]apam and Dhyana. The 
practice of Japam is specially suited to our present 



*Lit. co /led. It is described in the Tantras as a coiled serpent 
sleeping in the human body. Kundalini is the spiritual power 
latent in all beings. With its awakening begins the real religious 
life of the aspirant. According to the Yogis there exists in the 
spinal column a hollow canal called Sushumna with seven 
lotuses or centres. These centres begin with the Muladhara 
or the centre at the base of the spinal column, and end in the 
Sahasrara or the thousand-petalled lotus in the brain. As the 
Kundalini rises higher and higher, wonderful psychic powers and 
spiritual visions come to the Yogi. When it reaches the Saha- 
srara the Yogi attains the highest spiritual illumination. 

17 



Spiritual Teachings 

iron age (Kali Yuga) . There is no other spiritual 
practice easier than this. But meditation must 
accompany the repetition of the Mantram. 

Q Does meditation mean thinking of the form 
of the Deity ? 

THE SWAMI It implies thinking of the 
Divine, both with form and without form. 

Q Maharaj, is it the Guru who decides whethe. 
one is fit for meditation on God with form or with- 
out form? 

THE SWAMI Yes. But the pure mind itself 
plays the part of the Guru. At times the mind is 
inclined to think of the form. At other times the 
formless aspect of God appeals. The outer Guru 
cannot be had always. As the aspirant goes on 
with his spiritual practices, his power of 
comprehension also increases. Then his mind can 
act as a guide. 

The Yogavasishtha-Ramayana says that mental 
energy is wasted through various distractions. A 
part of it is drawn to the body, another part to the 
senses, still another part to the objects of sense. 

18 



The Kundalini 

The mind is tied to many things. Snap all the 
bonds. Collect the scattered forces of the mind 
and make them flow in a particular direction. This 
is the task of the spiritual life. 

Concentrate the whole mind and direct it to 
spiritual practices until the goal is reached. Strive, 
Be up and doing. You are young now. This is 
the time to practise spiritual exercises. You will 
not be able to do anything when you grow old. In 
the beginning it is necessary to do some spiritual 
exercises as part of the daily routine. Whether 
the mind likes it or not, these must be followed 
regularly. 

Begin your spiritual life in right earnest. If 
you can concentrate all the distracted powers of 
the mind, you will find that this will generate a 
tremendous energy. Do it through Japam or 
through meditation or through discrimination. 
Know that all these means are equally effective. 
Take up any one and merge yourself in Sadhana* 
Do not question any more. First do something; 
then come and ask questions, if you have any. 

19 



Spiritual Teachings 

Q Maharaj, is it true that the Kundalhri 
awakens by the grace of the Guru? 

THE SWAMI Through the grace of the Guru 
not only can the Kundalini be roused, but every- 
thing else can be had, ^even the knowledge of 

Brahman. But this grace cannot be attained 


easily. One has to strive one's utmost to get it. 

Ask the mind in your calm moments if you have 
done any spiritual practice. It will tell you that 
you have done absolutely nothing. Practise some 
spiritual discipline. Begin now. Devote yourself 
to this and this alone. Do not pay heed to any- 
thing else. Plunge into the very depth of your 
soul. 



20 



V 
WORK AND WORSHIP 

(CONVERSATION AT BENARES) 

THE SWAMI How are you getting on with 
your spiritual practices? 

S Maharaj, I do not find enough time for them. 
There is too much work to do. 

THE SWAMI It is a mistake to think that 
Sad ban a (spiritual exercises) cannot be practised 
for want of time. The real cause is the restlessness 
of the mind. 

Work and worship must go hand in hand. It is 
very good if one can devote oneself solely to spirit- 
ual practices. But how many can do it? Two 
types of men can sit still doing nothing. One is 
the idiot, who is too dull to be active. The other 
is the saint who has gone beyond all activity. As 
the Gita says, " Without performing work none can 

21 



Spiritual Teachings 

reach worklessness." One can attain knowledge 
merely through the discipline of work. As we see, 
even those who give up work and lead a retired life 
have to spend a good deal of their time in putting 
up thatches, cooking food and doing other things. 
Instead of working for yourself, work for the 
sake of the Lord. Know that all the work you 
have to do is Sri Ramakrishna's and Swanu 
Vivekananda's. If you can work with this idea, 
your work will not bind you. On the other hand, 
it will improve you in every way, spiritually, moral- 
ly, intellectually and also physically. Offer your 
body and soul at the feet of these great teachers. 
Give yourself up wholly to them; be their servant 
and tell them, "I give you my body, soul and all I 
have. Do with them what you will; I am ready to 
serve you to the best of my power/' If you can do 
this, the responsibility of your spiritual welfare 
rests with them. You need not bother about your- 
self any more. But you should resign yourself in 
the right spirit. You should not do it with a doubt- 
ing heart "taking the name of God and at the 

22 



Work and Worship 

time keeping your clothes untouched by water*." 
We led a wandering life for five or six years and 
then set ourselves to work. Swamiji (Swami 
Vivekananda) called me aside one day and said, 
"There is nothing in a wandering life. Work for 
the sake of the Lord/' We did various kinds of 
work, but I do not think it did us any harm. 
Rather, it did us great good. But we had strong 
faith in Swamiji's words. I tell you, you must have 
infinite faith in these two great souls, Sri Rama- 

*This reference is to Sri Ramakrishna's parable of the milk- 
maid and the Brahmin priest. A milk-maid used to supply milk 
to a Brahmin priest living on the other side of a river. Owing 
to the irregularities of boat service, she could not deliver the 
milk punctually every day. Once being rebuked for her delay 
the poor woman said, "What can I do, Sir? I have to wait 
a long time for the boatman." The priest said, "Woman! people 
cross the ocean of life by uttering the name of God, and canst 
thou not cross this little river?" The simple-hearted woman 
believed the priest. And from the next day she began to cross 
the river uttering God's name. One day the priest asked her 
why she was never late as before. The woman replied, "I cross 
the river by uttering the name of the Lord as you bade me 
dp." The priest could not believe this, and wanted to see 
himself how the woman crossed the river. The woman took him 
with her and began to walk over the water repeating the name 
of the Lord. But looking behind, she saw the priest following 
timidly, holding up his clothes. "How is it, Sir," she said, "you 
are uttering the name of the Lord, but at the same time you 
are trying to keep your clothes untouched by water? You do 
not fully rely on the Lord." Complete resignation and absolute 
faith in God are at the root of all miracles. 

23 



Spiritual Teachings 

krishna and Swamiji, and work for their cause. Do 
not be afraid. Keep your faith firm. Hereafter 
many will try to shake your faith by saying, "The 
work you have taken up has nothing to do with Sri 
Ramakrishna or Swamiji/' But pay no heed to 
them. Even if the whole world stands against you, 
never give up what you have once believed to he 
true. 

S It is very difficult to devote oneself exclusive- 
ly to spiritual practices. I tried but could not con- 
tinue for a long time. 

THE SW AMI Why do you think that you can- 
not do it, because you failed once or twice? One 
has to try again and again. Sri Ramakrishna used 
to say "The new-born calf tries to stand up, but 
falls down many times. It does not stop. It tries 
again and again. And then at last, it not only 
stands up, but also learns to run." The mind gets 
good training if one takes up some regular work at 
the beginning of the spiritual life. Then the train- 
ed mind can be applied to meditation and other 
spiritual practices. The mind that is allowed to 

24 



Work and Worship 

drift will drift at the time of spiritual practices 
also. 

To the spiritually advanced man there comes a 
time when he wants to devote himself solely to 
meditation and prayer. At that time work falls off 
from him by itself. This takes place wheu the 
mind awakens spiritually. Otherwise, even if one 
takes to a life of exclusive spiritual practice by 
sheer effort of the will, one can go on only for a few 
days. Then comes monotony. Some even go mad 
by persisting. Others follow the spiritual path in 
a haphazard way, and keep their mind busy with 
other things as well. 

Great strength can be acquired through the prac- 
tice of Brahmacharya (continence and service). A 
true Brahmacharm can do the work of twenty-five 
men. In olden days, besides the practice of conti- 
nence, Brahmacharya included ]apam (repetition 
of the Lord's name) , meditation, study of the Scrip- 
tures, pilgrimage, association with holy men, and 
even more. 

All men cannot know what is good for them. For 

25 



Spiritual Teachings 

that reason one should keep the company of holy 
men. Here I give you full freedom. Let me see 
how long you can follow the right path. Not long 
not more than a .few days. 

All troubles arise because the mind is not pro- 
perly trained. There is no enemy more harmful 
than idle gossip. It ruins one completely. 

Unless one spends some time in solitude, one 
cannot understand the workings of the mind and 
realise the Truth. It is very difficult to grow spirit- 
ually along any particular line in the midst of 
tumult and confusion. 

I give freedom to all. I want everybody to 
advance along his own line. But when I find that 
he is not able to do so, I come to his help. 

It is good in every way to stay at a particular 
place and take up some form of service. You will 
feel uneasy if you stay here for a long time without 
doing any work useful to the institution. But if you 
render some form of service every day, you will feel 
right in both mind and body. 

During the days of our active life, we used to be 

26 



Work and Worship 

in high spirits and keep excellent health too. I 
think we used to feel much better then than now 
when we do not do any regular work. I am telling 
you my innermost thoughts what I actually feel. 
I have now retired from active work. I speak of 
myself just by way of illustration. Some people 
think they, too, should do like me and be less active. 
Itfever entertain such a thought. 

Eternal life is before you. What if you devote 
a few lives to the cause of Sri Ramakrishna and 
Swamiji ? Even if it is a mistake to do so, let a few 
lives be spent in vain. But I tell you, it is not 
going to be so. Through the grace of Sri Rama- 
krishna and Swamiji, you will see to what grear 
spiritual heights you will soar. 

Do not lead an easy-going life any more. If you 
-do, you will not be able to practise spiritual exer- 
cises properly. Any work that you take up, do 
with your whole heart. This is the secret of work, 
as Swamiji used to say. Set yourself to work. You 
are now required to conduct a magazine. Do it by 

27 



Spiritual Teachings 

all means. It is nothing to you, it is very easy for 
you. 

Before you begin to work, remember the Lord 
and offer your salutations to Him. Do the same 
at intervals in the course of the work, and also 
after you finish it. Spend all your time in f k''nking 
of the life, teachings and commandments of Sri 
Ramakrishna and Swamiji. Know in your heafc 
of hearts that the work you do is for their sake. 



28 



VI 
HAPPINESS 

(CONVERSATION AT BENARES) 

THE SWAMI Do you know why I ask you 
seriously, all of you, to devote yourselves heart and 
soul to the Lord ? When we were of your age, 
Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) used to push us and 
make us do our spiritual practices. In boyhood 
the mind remains plastic like clay. It receives an 
indelible impression from whatever it comes in con- 
tact with. So long as clay remains soft, you can 
give it any shape you like. But when the clay is 
burned, this cannot be done. Your mind now is 
like unburnt clay. It can be moulded in any way 
you want. It is still pure and untainted, so it can 
be directed very easily toward God. If the mind 
is kept wholly occupied with thoughts of the Lord 
from this time on, no foreign thought can disturb 
it. If the mind be now firmly fixed on the Divine, 

29 



Spiritual Teachings 

you need have no anxiety about your spiritual pro- 
gress. 

The mind is like a packet of mustard seeds. If 
the seeds are once scattered, it is very difficult to 
gather them up. So I ask you to mould your mind 
before its energy becomes scattered. Whgn you 
grow old and the energy of your mind has been 
frittered away, you will have to make very strenu- 
ous efforts to concentrate it; you will experience 
tremendous difficulty when you try to focus it on a 
particular object. Do you not see how impression- 
able is the mind of a little boy? You are now like 
him. If you want to mould yourselves, strive for 
it earnestly from your sixteenth to your thirtieth 
year. After that there is less chance of achieving 
illumination. Up to the thirtieth year the body 
and the mind remain fresh. That is the time when 
the mind can be given a definite shape. But you 
must labour hard and devote yourselves heart and 
soul to your ideal of life. Whatever impression 
the mind may receive during youth will last 
throughout life. If therefore you have determined 

30 



Happiness 

to lead a holy life in order to realise God, strive 
your utmost from today. Your health is all right 
now. The mind also is plastic. This is the time 
for spiritual practices. Mould your mind through 
constant struggle. If this period of your life goes 
by, it will be more difficult to do anything after- 
wards. 

If you can leave a strong stamp on the mind 
during this period, if you can make God the be-all 
and end-all of your existence, if you can devote 
yourselves sincerely to realise Him, you will be free 
from all sorrow and pain. jNo misery, no unhappi- 
ness will be able to throw you 5if-yaiir balance. You 
will become the inheritor of everlasting bliss #nd 
joy divine. 

What does man want? He wants happiness. 
How he runs after it! What plans he makes! What 
strenuous efforts he puts forth! But does he get 
it? After many attempts, after many a plan, he 
is baffled. He plans again and again, but to no 
purpose. In this way his whole life ebbs away. 
He has not the good fortune to enjoy peace and 

31 



Spiritual Teachings 

happiness at all. He toils hard like an ordinary 
labourer and in return reaps sorrow and pain. 
Then he departs from this world. Thus he lives 
and dies in vain. Nothing better can be expected 
by one who runs after empty pleasures, forgetting 
the goal of life. 

If you wish to attain real happiness, you must 
sacrifice all worldly pleasures, all attachment fo? 
fleeting joys, and direct the whole energy of your 
mind toward God. The more you advance toward 
Him, the greater the bliss you will realise. The 
more your mind becomes attached to the world and 
to sense-enjoyments, the more will you suffer. 

Do you know the nature of the ordinary man? 
He seeks only pleasure, joy and diversion. And 
he makes this mistake from the very beginning. 
Ninety-nine per cent of those who seek happiness 
do not know what it really is. They grasp at 
whatever they find near at hand and believe they 
have got the thing they seek. Then when they are 
disappointed, they take up something else; and 
when again they fail, they bemoan their lot. But 

32 



Happiness 

see the folly of it; they are disappointed again and 
again; still they will not change their course, they 
will not take up the right path. They pass their 
lives receiving blow after blow and bewailing their 
destiny. Thakur (Sri Ramakrishna) used to com- 
pare theni to a camel. The camel will not take 
good grass even when close by. It knows well that 
thorny grass makes the mouth bleed, but still it 
insists on eating it. In the same way man 
suffers because of wrong thoughts and wrong 
desires. 

You are boys very young boys. Your mind 
has not yet received any evil impression from the 
outside world. If you can struggle hard from now 
on, you will be able to escape life's sorrows and 
miseries. 

Whatever the riches you may possess, whatever 
your chances of living a happy and prosperous life, 
however wide your circle of friends and well- 
wishers, you will not have real happiness. All 
these things last for a few moments, or at the mbst 
an hour; they do not last longer. Then comes a 

33 
2 



Spiritual Teachings 

reaction of misery. Thus reaction follows action. 
If one is to attain true and eternal happiness, one 
must aspire after that joy which brings no reaction 
in its train. Wherein lies that true and eternal 
happiness? It lies in realising God. This divine 
enjoyment alone brings no reaction; all other kinds 
of enjoyments you can name are followed by re- 
action. And you must know that wherever there 
is reaction, there is sorrow and suffering. 

Never forget the ideal of human life. This life 
is not given us to while away in eating, drinking 
and sleeping like an animal, in idle gossip and such 
things. When you have been born as a human 
being, spurn all worldly enjoyments. Firmly re- 
solve to realise God and attain infinite bliss. Flinch 
not, even if you die in the attempt. 

Why have you come away from your hearth and 
home in the name of our Thakur (Sri Rama- 
krishna) ? Is it not to realise Him, to get rid of 
the sorrows and sufferings of the world and attain 
everlasting peace and happiness ? 

Sincerely struggle then toward the ideal of life, so 

34 



Happiness 

long as you have strength of body and mind. By 
no means relax your efforts, saying that you will 
realise the ideal later or that it will be possible only 
through the Lord's grace. It is idlers alone that 
talk in this way. I do not want you to idle away 
your time. If you are not in earnest, speak out 
clearly. Say, "I have a desire to enjoy worldly 
pleasures. I have not a sincere longing to realise 
Truth to attain God/ 1 Let your speech and your 
thought be one. 

When are you going to do spiritual practices? 
The best part of life, as I told you, is from the 
sixteenth to the thirtieth year. Do you hope that 
after wasting these valuable years in useless pur- 
suits, you will be able to take up spiritual practices 
in old age? Know that is cheating, deceiving one- 
self. Do not cheat yourselves. 



35 



VII 
WORLDLY LIFE AND SPIRITUAL LIFE 

(CONVERSATION AT THE BEUJR MATH) 
THE SWAMI Most people waste their life in 
trivial concerns; then when old age overtakes them. 
many who are in service retire on pensions and 
spend their last days at some place of pilgrimage. 
They think that thus they will attain Bhakfi 
(devotion) and Mukti (liberation). They hope 
also that the Tirthas (places of pilgrimage) will 
enable them to expiate all the sins they have com- 
mitted. Is it not sheer madness to think thus? 
What else can it be ? He who firmly believes in the 
purifying power of the Tirthas will, no doubt, 
receive some spiritual impetus therefrom. The 
Tirthas are always pure and holy, and those who 
have good Samskaras (tendencies) are somewhat 
benefited by them spiritually. That is all. Nothing 
more can be expected from them. Benares, how- 
ever, has to be considered an exception. Many 



Worldly Life and Spiritual Life 

people, for this reason, are anxious to spend there 
the last days of their life. They entertain the firm 
hope that they will attain liberation if they pass 
away in that sacred city. True it is that a man is 
freed from the bonds of Samsara (birth and death) 
if he breathes his last at Benares. Viswanach* is 
the Lord of the Universe, and strange and inscru- 
table are His ways. 

Is it desirable to live a life in misery and suffer 
ing and then attain Mukti (liberation) ? Is it not 
wiser to enjoy the present life in the ecstasy of 
devotion and spiritual practice and then once for 
all enter the portals of infinite bliss? As Thakur 
(Sri Ramakrishna) used to say, "You can enter 
a house through its front gate or through its back 
door/* But which of these is better? When it is 
possible to gain entrance through the front gate, 
why should we enter through the back door? 
Decide now which of these two you should choose 
momentary happiness or infinite bliss, the pleasures 

*Lit. Lord of the Universe, a name for Shiva who, as the 
devotee believes, confers the highest knowledge and salvation to 
those who die in the holy city or Benares. 

37 



Spiritual Teachings 

of this life or the everlasting peace of the life 
beyond ? 

One great thing to be considered is Kripa (Divine 
grace). The breeze of His grace is always blow- 
ing. Only unfurl your sails and you will have it. 
How can you catch the breeze if you keep your sails 
furled? Hoist them now and do not delay any 
longer. Give up your desires for worldly enjoy- 
ments, your hankering for name and fame, and 
fully resign yourself to the Lord. It is quite 
impossible to enjoy worldly pleasures and at the 
same time realise God. You cannot serve both 
God and mammon at the same time. If you want 
to realise God, you must renounce worldly plea- 
sures. If, on the other hand, you desire to enjoy 
temporal pleasures, you will have to give up God. 
Do not keep your feet in two boats, as they say. If 
you do, you will only make yourself miserable. 
You must have a clear conception of your life's 
ideal. Decide now what life you want to lead. 
Should it be this fleeting life of transient pleasures 
or the everlasting life of eternal bliss ? 

38 



Worldly Life and Spiritual Life 

You are young boys, innocent and guileless. 
Worldliness has not yet left its impress on your 
mind. If you will be up and doing now, you can 
escape from the clutches of the trials and tribula- 
tions of worldly life. See that your principles are 
fixed even now. If it is not done now, it will never 
be done. Mere skipping on the surface will be of 
no avail. Hold to your ideal; hold fast, and never 
loosen your grip. To the man who has accepted 
God as the be-all and end-all of life, who has for 
saken all desires and cravings for sensual enjoy- 
ments to him God is very near. Such a man 
binds God with the ties of his love as Yasoda and 
the Gopis did Gopal. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "He who has denied 
himself for the sake of God has a strong and undis- 
puted claim on Him." As one can endearingly 
demand anything of one's parents or one's near 
relations, so a devotee has a right to ask God, 
"Lord, appear before me. Will you not come? 
You must come." When a devotee is earnest, GoI 
cannot remain unmoved. He hastens to him and 

39 



Spiritual Teachings 

takes him on His lap. Oh, how inexpressible that 
joy! How boundless that bliss! He alone knows 
it who has had that supreme experience. Corn- 
pared to it, worldly pleasures, so dear to most 
people, become insipid and worthless. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "He who has totally 
given up carnal enjoyments for the sake of God 
has already covered three-fourths of his journey." 
Is it easy to renounce all enjoyments? Only if a 
man has God's grace and has done severe Tapas 
(spiritual discipline) in his past life, can he acquire 
the strength required for renunciation. Purify your 
mind in such a way that vile thoughts may not arise 
in it at all. 

You are all Brahmacharins (unmarried). You 
will not marry, you have pledged your life to God, 
sacrificing pleasures, enjoyments and all for His 
sake. But bear in mind that it is very hard to lead 
a pure and unsullied life. It is not so easy as yoii 
young boys take it to be. Do you know what it is 
like? It is like walking on the edge of a drawn 
sword. Every moment there is the chance o a 

40 



Worldly Life and Spiritual Life 

fall, of being sliced to pieces. Perfect continence 
is the only condition of success in this life. And 
it is difficult, nay impossible, to practise absolute 
purity without love and faith in God. You have 
to live in a world full of passions and enjoyments. 
Every day you have to see before you more than 
ninety-nine per cent of the people running mad 
after sensual pleasures; there is constant risk of 
your mind being contaminated with evil thoughts. 
If your mind becomes tainted by them, there is no 
hope for you. Those who want to lead a life of 
Brahmacharya (continence) must always engage 
their minds in thinking good thoughts, studying 
good books and in discussing elevating subjects. 
They must spend their time in worship of God, 
service of holy men, in the company of pious people, 
and in the practice of meditation and other kinds 
of spiritual discipline. This is the only way to 
mould one's character. 

First of all, be firm in your devotion to the prac- 
tice of Brahmacharya (continence). Everything 
else will come by itself. Perfection in continence 

41 



Spiritual Teachings 

cannot be attained without Sadhana (spiritual 
practices) ; and without perfect continence, realisa- 
tion of God is impossible. Unless God is realised, 
real bliss cannot be had, and without real happi- 
ness, human life will be spent in vain. You are ail 
young boys with pure minds and noble aspira- 
tions. I beg of you, my dear ones, do a little 



Sadhana and you will see how Shraddha (faith) 
and Bhakti (devotion) will be roused within you. 
You will become heirs of immortal bliss; you will 
be blessed with the vision of your Ishtam (Chosen 
Ideal), with the vision of God. You will then 
attain to the ultimate goal of human life. 



42 



VIII 

REALISATION THROUGH SELF- 
SURRENDER 

'AT THE BELUR MATH. 

THE SWAMI Sri Ramakrishna used to say that 
Tt person can attain God if he possesses the intensity 
of this threefold love the love a devoted wife 
bears her husband, the attraction a worldly man 
feels for the world, and the attachment the miser 
has for his hoarded gold. Intense yearning of this 
kind is sure to enable one to realise God. Do you 
know what it means? It means that one can reach 
the Lord and be blessed with His vision and spiritual 
touch the moment the mind is cleansed of all desires 
and filled with a sincere longing for God-realisation. 
The Lord says in the Gita 



* 'Relinquishing all individual effort, take refuge 
in Me alone." 

Self-surrender, self-surrender, self-surrender 

43 



Spiritual Teachings 

that is the only way; there is no other. In this iron 
age (Kali Yuga) man depends too much on food 
and is shortlived. He has to do many things in 
this brief span of life. He possesses very little of 
the energy, strength, renunciation, courage and 
spirit of penance, that are essential for God-reali- 
sation. His mind is weak and naturally runs after 

9 

enjoyment. But in spite of all this, God has to be 
realised, Without God-realisation life is vain; 
one comes into the world and goes out of it with- 
out accomplishing anything worthy. Man must 
therefore realise God, and there is no path easier 
than self-surrender. 

What do we understand by self-surrender ? Does 
it mean that we have not to do anything, that we 
have only to sit quiet? No, it does not mean that. 
The devotee has to pray constantly with a pure 
heart in this manner, "Oh Lord! I do not know 
what is good and what is bad for me. I am solely 
dependent on Thee. Grant unto me all that I need 
for spiritual life. Take me along the path that 
will bring me the greatest good. Vouchsafe unto 

44 



Realisation Through Self-Surrender 

me the faith and strength constantly to remember 
Thee and meditate on Thee." 

It is indeed no easy thing to dedicate oneself heart 
and soul to the Lord. Many people say: "I have 
surrendered myself, my all, to God. I am doing as 
He is making me do/' But if we observe their life, 
we shall see that their actions are quite contrary to 
what they profess. If they do anything good, they 
take the credit to themselves, feel highly elated 
over it, and think: "Oh, what a great thing I have 
achieved!" But when even a slight trouble besets 
them, they immediately throw the blame on the 
Lord, saying: "What a great misfortune He is 
bringing on me!'* This is how most people spend 
life. 

We judge men only by their exterior, but God 
looks into their innermost mind. God runs to him 
who prays with a sincere heart. Know this as 
certain. Be pure in heart. Let not your words 
be different from your thoughts and God will 
reward you according to your deserts. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say "If you do one- 

45 



Spiritual Teachings 

sixteenth part of the Sadhana (spiritual practices) 
that I have done, it is enough." He has made 
Sadhana so very easy for us. But we are so 
indolent that we shirk our work and fail in our 
duty. By doing so we cheat ourselves. If some 
one gives us good things to eat, we want them to be 
put into our mouths. There are many who request 
me to bless them. I cannot help laughing to 
myself when I hear them. They do not do as I 
instruct them. The moment they leave my 
presence, they do whatever they like. If I should 
ask any one of them whether he follows my instruc- 
tions, he would reply, "No, Sir, I had no time to 
do it," or "Weak and evil-minded as I am, I 
was not able to do it." Those who have no sincere 
desire to follow me and have no faith in me may do 
anything they like without asking me. They will 
not follow my instructions and yet they want to be 
blessed by me. They wish to attain spiritual reali- 
sation without the necessary exertion, by mere 
dodging. When such people come, I while away 
the time in aimless talk in jesting and making 

46 



Realisation Through Self-Surrender 

fun. What is the use of tiring myself by talking 
of spiritual practices to people who will not follow 
them? I speak of higher matters only to a very 
few who, I think, will take my words and act on 
them. But even then they do not follow the in- 
structions fully and properly. Always accustomed 
to shirking work, they want to attain everything 
without effort. 

There is no dearth of Divine grace. The trouble 
is that men do not care to avail themselves of it. 
They take pleasure in idle gossip only. No one 
wants to realise the Supreme Truth. Man takes 
pride in talking nonsense; that is how he spends his 
life. And as he sows, so he reaps. "Teachers can 
be had by thousands, but rare indeed is a true 
disciple." There are many to take up the role of 
teachers, but where are the men to hear and follow 
their teachings? If one goes on striving for a 
higher life, with strong faith in the words of the 
GurUj then there is an end to one's miseries. He 
who has such faith need not run about here and 
there with a restless mind. The Lord looks to all 

47 



Spiritual Teachings 

his wants. He takes him by the hand and leads 
him along the right path. There need be no anxiety 
for him who has been blessed by the Lord. 

It is given only to one in a million to cherish 
noble desires and sublime thoughts, and of such 
souls as are so privileged very few can stick to their 
ideals to the last. Those persons in whose mind 
good thoughts have already sprung up should try 
their utmost to strengthen and make them perma- 
nent. In order to keep up their fervour they should 
pray unceasingly to the Almighty, "Vouchsafe unto 
me, O Lord, Thy grace! May it be on me forever!'* 
Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "To all appearances 
the maid-servant in a house looks upon all that 
belongs to her master as her own, but in her heart 
of hearts she knows that they do not belong to her 
at all. So long as we live, we must do our work 
without attachment. We should know in our heart 
of hearts that this world is not our permanent home, 
but only a temporary abode. And we should direct 
our mind to God, the heavenly home from where 
we came. 

48 



Realisation Through Self-Surrender 

How many care for Truth or God? Puffed up 
with pride, man sometimes raises himself on such a 
high pedestal that he totally denies even the exis- 
tence of God. Everyone thinks himself infallible 
and his way the only way to salvation. Do you 
know what such a one says? "We do not accept 
what we cannot understand." He little thinks how 
limited is his power of comprehension! What he 
thinks right today, he gives up as false tomorrow. 
Thus his opinion changes from day to day. In 
making a parade of his knowledge, he does not care 
a straw for what is high and noble. The Divine 
Mother alone knows in how many ways man is 
deluded. 

Every person conceives of God in his own little 
individual way. But our conception of the Lord 
should not be so limited, for He is all-comprehen- 
sive. He is not perceptible to the mind and in- 
tellect. That one alone can realise God's nature, 
to whom He is pleased to reveal His mysteries. 
And when He is realised, the gates of knowledge 
are opened, the knots of the heart are cut asunder 

49 



Spiritual Teachings 

and infinite wisdom is attained. Only when man 
realises this state, can he fully understand the 
relation between God and himself that the Lord 
is his own and he is the Lord's. 

Man cannot attain any knowledge unless the 
Mother reveals it. The mysteries of this world and 
the next will be revealed only when She discloses 
them out of Her mercy. The intellect, as ordinari- 
ly understood, is not the real intellect. Its area 3 
its range, is very limited. Those who want to gain 
real bliss in this life, those who really desire to solve 
its intricate problems "Who am I?" "What have 
I come here for?" "Why am I suffering from so 
much misery?" "Why does one man attain to 
God-hood and another remain a mere brute?" 
those who desire answers to these problems have 
one and only one duty, to strive to realise God by 
all possible means. Life's perplexing problems will 
be solved the moment He is realised. 

Children find joy in turning round a pillar, hold- 
ing on to it firmly. Do you know where their atten- 
tion is fixed? It is on the pillar; for they know full 

50 



Realisation Through Self-Surrender 

well that if they loosen their grip, they will fall 
down and be injured. So first of all hold fast to 
the Pillar of life, then you may go on circling round 
it as many times as you like. There will be no fear 
of falling down. Our first and foremost duty in 
life is to realise God. Know that He is the Pillar. 
Whatever you do, do clasping Him; then you will 
not take any false step and fall. What you do will 
be right and will be for the good of yourself and of 
the world. Blessed will be your life on earth. 



51 



IX 
DIVINE GRACE 

(CONVERSATION AT THE BELUR MATH) 

THE SWAMI The name of the Lord purifies 
both the body and the mind. "I have taken the 
name of God; what have I to fear? What is there 
in the 'world to bind me? I have become immortal 
by taking the Lord's name with such a burning 
faith one should practise spiritual exercises. 

What is the goal of spiritual practices? It is to 
realise God, to attain Divine grace. The practices 
are meant to clear the heart of all the impurities 
brought there by lust and greed. Unless this is 
done, you can never reach your goal, however much 
you may try. 

You cannot attain God's grace nor realise Him 
unless you purify your heart. Impurities have 
gathered in it through innumerable lives, and they 
are to be removed. Sri Ramakrishna used to cite a 

52 



Divine Grace 

beautiful illustration: "So long as the needle is 
covered with mud, it is not attracted by the load- 
stone. But when the mud is washed off, the needle 
is naturally drawn towards the loadstone." 
Similarly the dirt of the mind is washed away if one 
can think of the Lord and meditate on Him; if one 
can cry unto Him with repentance, saying, "Lord! 
forgive me. I will not do wrong in the future." At 
once the magnet of God draws the needle of the 
mind. Divine grace flows the moment the mind 
becomes pure; and then the realisation of God takes 
place as a matter of course. 

God is the sun of knowledge. He can be seen 
only when He reveals His glory to the seer. In 
fact, so long as a person cherishes a desire for world- 
ly enjoyment, he cannot have sincere yearning for 
the knowledge or vision of God. Children forget 
themselves when they get dolls to play with or 
sweets to eat. But after a time the dolls lose all 
charm for them; they want to go to the mother. 
Such is the case with men. Only after they become 
satiated with the enjoyments of the world do they 

53 



Spiritual Teachings 

long for God. Then the thought of God-realisa- 
tion becomes uppermost in their mind. They are 
eager to hear what others have to say about God 
and they try to realise Him in their own lives. 

Noble desires do not arise in the mind easily. 
Know this; those who have them, have them by 
the special grace of God, In this world of Maya, 
men receive innumerable blows and suffer untold 
miseries; still they do not want to change their 
course. Strangely enough, they go again and again 
to the same place only to get blow after blow. If 
some one gives them good counsel they feel annoyed 
with that person. 

Men know full well that if they put their hand 
into the fire, it will get burned; still they do it 
again and again. Not only that; they invite others 
to do likewise. If any man differs from them, they 
call him mad and even go to the point of persecut- 
ing him. 

Do you not see how guardians try their best ta 
raise obstacles in the way of the boy who wishes to 
take up the religious path, to lead a Sannyasm's 

14 



Divine Grace 

life? But they make little effort to turn back one 
who is leading a wild life and who may become a 
source of evil to himself and to his country. AH 
the objections rise only when a boy wants to live a 
virtuous life. People try their utmost to drag him 
down to their own level. 

Do you know what the father of a monk once 
said referring to his own son? He said, "I would 
have been happier had he died instead of becoming 
a monk. There is no control over death; one has 
to yield to it. But I cannot bear to see others tak- 
ing away what belongs to me/' This is what is 
called the world, so full of selfishness. 

People lose themselves in anger the moment self- 
interest is hurt. But they have not the sense to 
understand that if a person is able to be a true 
Sannyasin, not only does he do good to himself, but 
also he paves the way for the spiritual advance- 
ment of those near to him. 

Nowadays people have become so very restless, 
they have not the patience to think seriously before 
acting. They take up whatever comes in their 

55 



Spiritual Teachings 

way, without caring to think whether or not it is 
likely to do them good. But the mischief does not 
end here. People train up their children in such a 
way that they too have to suffer like them when 
they grow up. 

Everyone is born with the impressions of in- 
numerable past lives. The tendency to enjoyment 
is already strong and the training one gets in child- 
hood intensifies this propensity. How fortunate 
must they be who have escaped already or are try- 
ing to escape from the manifold dangers that 
threaten their spiritual life! 

Through the grace of God, you have been able to 
give up the world. Beware, that you do not miss 
this rare opportunity of reaching your desired goal. 
Be up and doing. Realise God. Do not pay heed 
to anything else; look up to Him alone. He will 
take your whole burden. Then you will see that all 
your lower desires and cravings will leave you 
altogether. 

What can we know of God with our little brain? 
Nothing. Therefore I ask you to surrender your- 

56 



Divine Grace 

self completely to Him. His will be done! He is 
omnipotent! What power has man? All that 
you can do is to love God. Have intense yearning 
for Him. The whole world is mad for something; 
why run mad after fleeting objects of this world? 
Better be mad for God. The goal is to realise God. 
Work can never be the aim of life. Even selfless 
work is not an end in itself, but only a means to 
Divine realisation. 

Practise spiritual discipline and advance in the 
way of God. Then you will know that God alone 
is real, and all else unreal; that the realisation of 
God is the ultimate goal of life. You may get a 
little more light after a few days' religious prac- 
tice. But do not think that you have got every- 
thing. Continue your discipline and move onward 
and onward. Then you will realise God. You will 
be blessed with His vision. You will be able to 
know Him intimately. 

Hear me, my boys. You are all born of good 
families and are well educated. You have had 
enough of study, argument and discussion; why 

57 



Spiritual Teachings 

care for more? Now compose your mind and fix 
it on God. Say to your mind: "Plunge into the 
ocean of God/' You have given up the world. If 
again you remain busy with trash and do not dedi- 
cate yourself to God, you will lose both this world 
and the next. Through the grace of the Lord you 
have got noble thoughts and aspirations. Make 
the best use of this Divine grace. Do not sacrifice 
the infinite bliss of God for the sake of the 
ephemeral pleasures of the world. Pray to the 
Lord, "Grant me, O Lord! the necessary strength 
to overcome all the obstacles that stand in my way 
to You/' 

All worldly pleasures become insipid to him who 
gets a taste of Divine bliss. What is there in the 
world? Be it name or fame, wealth or children, 
nothing can bring peace to man. These only 
add to his misery and anxiety. 

Why have you come here, leaving your family 
and home? Is it to increase your burden or to 
lessen it? All the objects of enjoyment that you 
see before you vanish the moment you breathe your 

58 



Divine Grace 

last. To speak the truth, they only tend to take 
you into greater and greater darkness. Do you 
want to tread the path of darkness or the path of 
light? When you have once got a glimpse o the 
light, you should not turn your face from it. Do 
not look at the things of the world. If you do so, 
you will get lost in them. So great is the influence 
of desires that if they once leave an impression on 
your mind, they will drag you down lower and 
lower; yet they will not let you feel your downward 
course. The only way to be saved from these 
dangers is to offer yourself solely to God. 



59 



X 
POWER OF RENUNCIATION 

(AT THE BELUR MATH) 

THE SWAMI Complete self-surrender to the 
Lord is not an easy matter. The mind always 
creates doubts and raises such questions as this 
"I have neither seen nor known God. How is it 
possible for me to love and resign myself to Him?" 
The natural tendency of the mind is to drag us 
down from higher thoughts and ideals to the things 
of the world. 

Once a certain person complained to Sri Rama- 
krishna, "Sir, I do not feel inclined to take the name 
of the Lord." "What is it then that draws your 
mind away?" asked Sri Ramakrishna. "It is my 
ram. I love it more than anything else," was the 
reply. "Very well/' said Sri Ramakrishna, "when 
you feed and serve your ram, think that you are 
feeding and serving the Lord Himself. Do this 

60 



Power of Renunciation 

sincerely for some time and you will find every- 
thing all right." 

The Guru (spiritual teacher) shows the disciple 
the path to life eternal, and protects him from all 
troubles. Putting great faith in the words of the 
GurUj let the disciple live them. After a time he 
will feel that the impurities of his mind are vanish- 
ing and Divine Light is making its appearance 
within. There is no doubt that everything is 
achieved through faith in the perfect Guru. The 
disciple should look upon him as God incarnate on 
earth. Through constant thought and meditation 
on the Guru, the disciple is purified both in body 
and mind. Then the Guru appears before the disci- 
ple, and revealing the Ishtam (Chosen Ideal) to the 
latter, he passes out of sight. It is said in the 
salutations to the Guru 



an? *sr 

"Guru is Brahma; Guru is Vishnu; Guru is Shiva 
himself. Verily Guru is no other than the highest 

61 



Spiritual Teachings 

Brahman. Salutations unto the Guru." 

If the disciple has sincere faith in the Guru, it is 
easy for him to attain Divine knowledge and devo- 
tion. The one thing needful is faith in the Guru. 
When this is gained, everything is gained. 

Realisation of God is impossible without purifi- 
cation of the heart. Sri Ramakrishna used to say 
"If the Guru is a perfect and illumined soul, the 
ego of the disciple is destroyed in no time. But if 
the Guru himself is unillumined, then both he and 
his disciple have to suffer a great deal. Anyway 
the disciple is not able to get rid of his ego or the 
fetters that bind him to the world/' It is not pos- 
sible for an unillumined Guru to bring about the 
liberation of his disciple. How is it possible for 
an ordinary man to save another from the fetters of 
the world? The Lord alone, who is the author of 
this world-enchanting Maya, can free man from its 
meshes. 

Only the knower of God can show the way of 
salvation to another. But how can he, who has 
not realised God, who has no commission from 

62 



Power of Renunciation 

Him, who has not been strengthened by Divine 
strength, how can he free a soul from the bonds of 
the world? If the blind lead the blind, both are 
sure to come to grief. It is only after God-realisa- 
tion that one gets the inner vision. Then only can 
one truly understand the difficulties of another and 
give him proper instruction. 

If a person possesses sincere yearning for the 
Lord and is eager to follow the spiritual path, he is 
sure to find a real Guru through the grace of the 
Lord. Therefore a spiritual aspirant need not feel 
anxious about finding a Guru. 

Those who come under the guidance of a Guru 
who has attained realisation need have no anxiety 
about their spiritual progress. They have been 
put on the right way. Now their only task is to 
follow it. If they meet with any trouble or make 
any mistake, the Lord is sure to protect them and 
show them the right course. Having sincere faith 
in the words of the Guru let them walk along the 
path shown by him; that is enough. 

What is this world like? It is like the country 

63 



Spiritual Teachings 

hog-plum containing only stone and skin, but no 
pulp. Besides, it brings acidity and colic to the 
one who eats it. 

You are all pure, young souls. Your mind is 
now under control, not being distracted by worldly 
thoughts. You can realise God easily, if you strive 
from now on. You can fix your mind on God with- 
out much exertion so long as you are young. But 
it is a very hard task to bring the mind under 
control once it gets scattered. 

The Vaishnavas have this beautiful saying 
"The ]iva has the grace of the three, the Guru, 
the Lord and the devotees of the Lord. But with- 
out the grace of the one it comes to utter ruin/' 
The meaning is: The disciple has received the 
grace of the Guru through the grace of God, he has 
also been imbued with noble ideals; besides these 
two he has the company of holy men. Now what 
is wanted is the grace of the one, that is, of the 
mind. If the mind is favourable, everything is 
accomplished. The grace of the others can be felt 
only when the mind is free from restlessness. The 

64 



Power of Renunciation 

mind must be brought under control. Unless this 
is done, all strivings prove of no avail. 

Therefore I warn you, my boys, "Beware!" Your 
mind has not yet learned to wander. Before it does 
so, hold fast the reins. Just as the driver first 
trains a huge elephant and then makes it do what- 
ever he pleases, so also we have to train the mind 
in such a way that it may act according to our 
command. It must not be our master. The only 
way to train the mind is to lead it to relinquish the 
desire for enjoyment. The moment this is done, 
it becomes your slave. It is for this reason that 
the Bhagavad Gita and other Scriptures speak 
again and again of the glory of renunciation. 

What we want is renunciation. That is the only 
path, and they alone can realise the glory of renun- 
ciation whose mind has not been distracted by the 
things of the world, Sri Ramakrishna used to say, 
"The parrot learns to repeat the words taught to it 
when it is young. When it grows beyond a certain 
age, it cannot learn anything. Then it can only 
cry 'caw, caw/ " 

65 



Spiritual Teachings 

Divine thoughts leave a deep mark on the tender 
mind. It is only in youth that one is able to appre- 
ciate and grasp the higher ideals of life. But with 
the advance of age the mind is occupied with mani- 
fold things; it becomes restless and always wants 
to wander; it loses steadiness and the power of sus 5 
tained thinking. It is very difficult, then, to make 
any deep impression on it. 

How simple and strong is the faith of little boys? 
They believe what they hear from others and try 
to act accordingly. They attain success whenever 
they apply their undistracted mind. But with the 
advance of age there is a tendency to become 
sceptical. As people grow older, they begin to 
doubt everything. At last they reach such a state 
that it becomes very hard for them to have faith 
in anything. Therefore I tell you do what you 
want to do now, when you are young. 

We saw in the life of our Master that he used to 
speak of the life of renunciation particularly to 
young men. He wanted to impress on their mind 
the idea that God-realisation is the highest object 

66 



Poiver of Renunciation 

of life. He knew that the young alone would be 
able to take up his ideal fully. Fortunately, you 
are all young and your mind is not tainted by world- 
ly thoughts. Give up all desires and dedicate your- 
self solely to the Lord. You cannot have Divine 
bliss and worldly enjoyments at the same time. 
You cannot get the one without renouncing the 
other. You cannot give up the lower unless you 
come to possess a taste for the higher. 

This is the proper time for you to fill your mind 
with the thoughts of the Lord to the fullest extent. 
Make Him your own. "He is my all" when this 
idea is firmly fixed in your mind, all your troubles 
will come to an end. Then no one will be able to 
do you harm either here or hereafter. 

Does he who has tasted the syrup of sugar-candy 
relish molasses? Worldly joys lose their flavour 
when one gets a taste of Bliss Divine. All objects 
of enjoyment appear to be not only insignificant 
but positively bitter. What I wish to say to you 
is this offer yourself, heart and soul, to the Lord 
and let Him do with you as He pleases. 

67 



XI 
BRAHMACHARYA 

AT THE BELUR MATH 

THE SWAMI In spiritual practices, the same 
rule cannot be applied to all. We must know the 
peculiar tendencies of each individual before any 
spiritual instruction can be given for his guidance. 
If the instruction goes against the particular bent 
of his nature, not only will it do no good, but it 
may even give rise to harmful consequences. It is, 
therefore, very essential that the Guru should study 
closely the individual tendencies and peculiarities 
of his disciples, and give instructions in such a form 
as will readily appeal to their temperaments. 

Beyond one or two general rules, no individual 
can be told in the presence of others what partic- 
ular path he should follow. I have seen in the 
case of Sri Ramakrishna how he would take each 
disciple alone and give him in private the special 

68 



Brahmacharya 

instructions necessary for him. If you want to ask 
your Guru anything regarding your Sa4hana, you 
must do so in private. In a general way, the 
observance of a few rules will be beneficial to all 
spiritual aspirants. In the first place, you must 
have firm faith in God. You must be fully con- 
vinced that if you realise God and obtain His grace, 
all the problems of your life will be solved; you 
will gain the object for which you have taken this 
birth; and on getting a taste of Eternal Bliss you 
will become immortal. 

Next is Bfahmacharya (continence). Without 
strict Brahmacharya^ it is not possible for any one 
to hold fast to great ideals. To secure the full 
development and vitality of the body, brain and 
mind, Brahmacharya is essential. Those who 
observe strict Brahmacharya develop a strong 
memory and a remarkable capacity for understand- 
ing. By means of Brahmacharya f a special nerve 
is developed which brings about these wonderful 
powers. Do you know why our great teachers have 
laid so much emphasis upon Brahmacharya? It is 

69 



Spiritual Teachings 

because they knew that if a man fail in this respect, 
everything is lost. The strict Brahmacharin does 
not lose his vitality. He may not look like a 
Pal wan (a great athlete) but the development of 
his brain is so fine that his capacity for grasping 
supersensuous things is remarkable. 

There are certain rules which a Brahmacharin 
must observe. He must avoid exciting food, over- 
sleep, over-exercise, laziness, bad company and evil 
conversation. If you indulge in idle talk your 
brain gets excited, you cannot control your 
thoughts, and you suffer from sleeplessness and 
other troubles. 

The control of the appetite is also essential. 
Otherwise you will be subject to many troubles. 
Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "Keep your Bhudi 
(stomach) and Mudi (brain) cool." It means you 
can do effective work only if your head and stomach 
remain calm and cool. The glutton who has no 
control over his appetite brings ruin on his body 
and mind. Eating too much of such foods as 
garlic, onion, or chilli, excites the system, and one 

70 



Brahmacharya 

finds it extremely hard to control the mind. I 
believe that those who want to lead a spiritual life 
should pay special attention to what they eat and 
drink. It is desirable to take only nutritious and 
easily digested food. There is no good in overload- 
ing the stomach. 

No hard and fast rule can be laid down regarding 
diet. With some, fish and meat might agree very 
well, while to others they may do harm. Every in- 
dividual must find out from his own experience the 
food that agrees with him. 

We should eat only in order that our body may 
remain fit and that we may be able to realise our 
true nature. The Sastras declare :^rtr*JTq*r isrer wr- 

*TTOT*[ (Health is the vital factor in spiritual 
practice). This does not mean that one should 
think of his body day and night. It means that one 
should see that the vitality of the body remains 
unimpaired. One should eat healthy food, avoid- 
ing that which excites or produces lethargy. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "You may eat as 

71 



Spiritual Teachings 

much as you like during the day, but you must 
eat only sparingly at night/' The idea is that if 
you take only a little food at night, your body will 
remain light and you can easily concentrate your 
mind. Otherwise you will have a tendency to sleep 
or be lazy. Would you sleep away the night or 
spend it in meditation? Daytime has many dis- 
tractions and hence is unsuited for meditation, but 
at night all creatures go to rest and nature herself 
is calm and silent. This is the time for aspirants 
to meditate on the Lord. In the depth of the night 
the mind is easily concentrated. 

Spiritual practices should not be done in public 
or for show. If you do them before others, they 
will be harmful to you. People will mock at you, 
they will offer you advice gratis and give you 
conflicting suggestions, as a result of which various 
doubts will arise in your mind and your spiritual 
progress will be obstructed. The ideal Sadhaka 
behaves thus, he goes to bed at night with the 
mosquito curtain drawn down; everybody thinks 
that he is sleeping, but as a matter of fact he spends 

72 



Brahmacharya 

the whole night in meditation lying quietly on his 
bed. 

While you are young, you must try hard to get a 
taste of Divine Bliss. When once you have got this 
taste, you can never forsake your Sadhana. Even 
at the risk of your life, you will continue your 
spiritual practices. Those who are troubled with 
too much sleep in the night will do well to sleep 
during the day, with a view to devote the night to 
meditation. The best time for meditation is dawn, 
eventide and midnight. Too often people waste 
this time in useless ways. 

Sri Ramakrishna never used to spend the night 
in sleep, nor would he allow the young devotees 
who stayed with him to sleep long. When others 
had gone to bed, he would wake up his disciples, 
give them definite instructions and send them to 
the Panchavati, or the Mother's Temple, or Shiva's 
Temple for meditation. They would spend the 
whole night in Sadhana as directed, and take rest 
during the day. It was in this way that Sri Rama- 
krishna used to take them through various spiritual 

73 



Spiritual Teachings 

exercises. Often he used to say, "Three classes of 
people keep awake in the night, Yogis, Bhogis 
(seekers of enjoyment) and Rogis (sick persons). 
You are all Yogis. You should by no means sleep 
away the night." 



74 



XII 
COMPANY OF HOLY MEN 

AT THE BELUR MATH 

THE SWAMI When once you get established 
in meditation, you will come to know how sweet is 
the bliss of it. Days and nights pass away un- 
noticed. You feel that you are floating in an ocean 
of infinite bliss. Do not speak about your 
experiences to everybody, least of all to those of a 
contrary nature. It may hinder your growth. But 
if you exchange your experiences with one of a like 
nature with yours and in harmony with your 
temperament, you may be helped in your progress. 
Both of you are travellers on the same path. 
Perhaps your companion has already walked along 
it and is aware of its dangers and difficulties. 
Benefited by his experiences, you may be able to 
avoid those dangers and difficulties. 

Do you know the object of Satsanga (company ^f 
holy men) ? The experiences of holy men are a 

75 



Spiritual Teachings 

great help to a Sadhaka. When you visit a new 
place, if you have the help of a good guide, you will 
be able to see within a short time all that is worth 
seeing there; also you will be saved from the 
dangers and difficulties into which strangers are 
likely to fall. Similarly, from the company of ad- 
vanced Sadhakas you will be able to gather many 
valuable hints, and your spiritual struggle will be 
very much simplified. The intelligence of an 
ordinary man does not go very far. Life is short 
and many things have to be done. So you must 
find out the best way of doing your work within as 
short a time as possible. Hence the need of holy 
company. 

This life may come to an end after some years or 
even today. Nobody knows when the end will 
come. It is better to get equipped for the journey 
as soon as possible. To go empty-handed to a 
strange and unknown place would involve much 
suffering and sorrow. Birth must inevitably lead 
to death. Death means going to an unknown place, 
so you should provide fully for the journey. Finish 

76 



Company of Holy Men 

all your duties here and be ever ready for the great 
call. Then you will be able to depart from this 
world with a smiling face. If you have finished all 
your work, there is no fear for you. You know 
that you are well provided for the journey. 

You have seen that children, while turning round 
a post, keep firm hold of it. You too should by all 
possible means hold firmly to the Pillar of life 
(God). Have faith in yourself. Believe, "I am a 
man; I can do anything." With such strong faith 
in yourself forge ahead and you will attain to your 
life's goal and be blessed forever. 

Fear is the greatest sin. Banish all fear and 
weakness from your mind. When the desire to 
realise God is alive in you, when you have the 
opportunity to lead a spiritual life, put forth all 
your might and get a taste of Supreme Bliss. The 
cycle of births and deaths is full of misery. Make 
the best use of your present life. Free yourself 
from this cycle and become the eternal companion 
of the Lord. 

77 



Spiritual Teachings 

Unless you can fix your mind on God, you will 
find it very difficult to keep yourself pure in this 
world. Mahamaya (The Divine Mother) sports 
in diverse ways and it is not easy to withstand the 
innumerable temptations created by Her. Lust, 
anger, greed are almost invincible; to conquer them 
is no child's play. Through the strength of the 
Lord alone, not by any other means, can you cut 
the meshes of Maya and make yourself free. 

Therefore I urge you to become strong in the 
might of the Lord. Then you can pass the rest of 
your life as He wills and directs. It is not given to 
ordinary mortals to know God through their own 
exertion. They alone can understand Him, to 
whom out of His infinite grace He reveals Himself. 
Only such fortunate persons become free from the 
net of Samsara (worldliness) and obtain pure devo 
tion and liberation. 

You must have a routine for spiritual practices. 
Nishtha (steadfastness) is a very important 
factor; without it no great achievement is possible. 

78 



Company of Holy Men 

Your steadfastness must be of such a nature that, 
wherever and under whatever circumstances you 
may be, the rules that you have laid down for your- 
self must be observed at any cost. For your 
meditation, your study, your reflection, your sleep, 
you must have certain definite hours. If you lead 
an irregular life, you cannot succeed in anything. 
Whether it is physical or mental development, the 
only way to attain it is through a strictly regular 
life. If a clock gets out of order, the watch-repairer 
sets it right; then it continues to keep correct time. 
So with the mind of man. It has become irregular 
owing to various reasons. By keeping the company 
of good men, you will get your mind set properly. 
If you try to mould your life according to the 
instructions of holy men, you will easily avoid the 
pitfalls and temptations of life. Following in their 

footsteps you too will reach the goal attained by 
them and fulfil your life's purpose. 

So long as your mind is not controlled there is 
great need to observe certain definite rules. With- 
out them you can never get mastery over your 

79 



Spiritual Teachings 

mind. The natural tendency of the mind is to 
shirk work; but when you have made a routine, 
you must tell your mind, "You are subject to this 
rule now; whether you like it or not, you must 
observe it." In this way, you should try to bring 
the mind under control. When you have succeed- 
ed in this, you need not observe any more rules. 
They will fall off of their own accord. 

Life is fast flowing away like a stream. The day 
that is once gone can never be recalled. So make 
the best use of your time. Crying out, "Alas! 
Alas!!" at the last moment will be of no avail. 
Therefore be up and doing. Make up your mind 
to realise your goal or die in the attempt. Death 
is certain. It may come today or tomorrow. If 
you lose your life in trying to attain God, it is no 
loss, but a positive gain. 

Try to fix your mind on the Lord and firmly re- 
solve to realise Him. What happiness is there in 
this world? It is all nothing but sorrow and 
misery. Treat it as worthless. You must go 
beyond all sorrow and misery. If you get a glimpse 

80 



Company of Holy Men 

of God, you will have Infinite Bliss; and sensuous 
pleasures will lose all charm for you. When you 
have once come to the Lord, there will be no room 
for fear or anxiety. Give up all things of the 
world and dwell on Him and Him alone. 



81 



XIII 
THE WORLD AND GOD 

AT THE NAYA BAZAR BUNGALOW, BHADRAK 

THE SW AMI God is the Kalpataru (the 
mythical tree that grants whatever a man desires 
when he is sitting under it). From Him one gets 
whatever one asks for. Yet, having obtained the 
rare privilege of human birth, man does not care to 
direct his mind toward the lotus feet of the Lord. 
Instead, he drowns himself in the deep ocean of 
Sam sara and exclaims, "How happy am I!" God 
also allows him to remain in that state undisturbed 
until, tossed about on the waves of sorrow and 
misery, he repents for the past and cries, "Alas! 
what have I done!" Then He makes him feel his 
mistake. Man is, as it were, sitting under the 
shadow of the Kalpataru. If he wants to be a God, 
so can he be; if he wishes to be a brute, that also 
he may become. 

82 



The World and God 

The Lord has given man both Vidya and Avidya. 
Vidya means discrimination and renunciation. With 
it man may attain the grace of the Lord; while 
Avidya, which means lust, anger, greed, egoism and 
envy, degrades man to the level of the brute. The 
culture of Vidya destroys Avidya and makes man 
fit for Supreme Bliss; but the growth of Avidya 
strengthens the idea of "I" and "mine," and binds 
him more and more to the world. He is taken 
further and further away from God, and has to 
bear many sorrows and difficulties. Man possesses 
not only Vidya and Avidya, but also the power co 
discriminate between the two. On the nature of 
his choice depends the success or failure of his life. 

It is a great mistake to hold God responsible for 
your sufferings. You chose a path according to 
your own will and pleasure, and now enjoy the 
consequences of your choice. How can you blame 
God? For a moment's pleasure you forgot every- 
thing else; you did not pause to consider right and 
wrong. If you put your hand into the fire it will 
naturally get burned. Is it the fault of the fire? 

83 



Spiritual Teachings 

No. You alone are responsible for it . Sri 
Ramakrishna used to say: "A lamp is burn- 
ing. Some may read Bhagavatam (Sacred 
Scriptures) by its light, while others may 
forge a document or do some other mischief. The 
lamp is not to blame for it" The Lord has placed 
before man the two paths, good and evil. Choose 
as you please. 

As you think, so you become. With the help of 
discrimination and renunciation, realise God, and 
become heir to Infinite Bliss. If you run after 
worldly things, you may no doubt enjoy sensuous 
pleasures for a time; but you may be sure your 
future will be dark and gloomy and you will have 
to pass through endless suffering. The world is so 
constituted that, if you want pleasure, you must 
undergo pain. Whether you like it or not, you 
cannot have the one without the other. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say: According to 
the popular belief, when the Malaya* breeze 

*Name of a mountain range in the South of India abounding 
in sandal trees. 

84 



The World and God 

blows, all the timber trees are converted into 
sandal trees, while the bamboo, the plantain and 
other trees remain what they are. Similarly there 
are two classes of men in this world. Men belong- 
ing to the first of these are easily influenced by spirit- 
ual teachings which awaken in them Viveka (dis- 
crimination) and Vairagya (renunciation). They 
regard the world as worthless and yearn for the 
grace of the Lord. They are determined to 
realise Him and solve the mystery of existence even 
at the risk of their lives. With such a firm resolu- 
tion they begin their Sadhana and succeed in the 
end. The people of the second class can never be 
awakened either by the sorrows and miseries of life 
or by any lofty spiritual ideas. They think they are 
going to live eternally and fondly imagine that with- 
out them the world cannot go on. "What I have 
in my hand, I must enjoy to the full; otherwise I 
shall be a fool" thinking thus they drag themselves 
down to the depths of ignorance and suffering. 

What is it that you want the sweet perfume of 
sandal or the foul odour of filth? Do you want 

85 



Spiritual Teachings 

peace or unrest? Decide exactly what you want 
and strive for its attainment. Time is flowing like 
a swift stream. It will be of no avail to cry over 
the past when it is too late. Make the best use of 
the present, without wasting a single moment. 
Train your mind in such a way that you may con- 
stantly think of God and nothing else. Your days 
are numbered; they are fast running out. Do not 
spend your time in vain. 

Pray to the Lord with all your heart and soul, 
"Lord! give me wisdom and make me Thine own." 
Give up all ideas of "I" and "mine". You have 
suffered enough on that account. Replace "I" and 
"mine" by "Thou" and "Thine." Is there anything 
that you can call your own the moment you die? 
Nothing you now cherish as yours will accompany 
you. Those you hold very dear will pass away 
when their time comes, without caring for you. 
Leaving everything behind, you will have to go to 
an unknown place. The more you think of "I" 
and "mine", the more you fetter yourself. What 
is there in this Samsara for which to spend your 

86 



The World and God 

whole life? Can this worldly life help you cross 
the ocean of birth and death? Will it save you 
from the troubles that may attend you in after- 
life? What greater misfortune can befall you 
than to leave unfulfilled the purpose for which 
you have taken this birth! Make a strenuous 
effort and pray to Him with earnest devotion that 
you may reach the goal. 

Have you not heard what Sri Ramakrishna used 
to do at Dakshineshwar ? How bitterly he used 
to cry for a sight of the Divine Mother, saying, 
"Mother, one more day is gone and Thou hast not 
yet blessed me with vision of Thee!" Call on Him 
with an intense yearning. What is this world but 
an abode of misery? You have spent most of your 
days here in sorrow and trouble; and do you wish 
to do the same hereafter as well ? 

You have come under the shelter of Sri Rama- 
krishna; know that you have been blessed by Him. 
Make good use of the grace you have received. It 
will be really very unfortunate if you fail to solve 
the riddle of life and death, and do not obtain 

87 



Spiritual Teachings 

Eternal Bliss. You are the men of this age, and 
have caught its spirit. Do not fail to take full 
advantage of it. No one in any age has shown the 
path in such a simple and easy manner as Sri 
Ramakrishna has done. If you miss this 
opportunity, you will have to suffer long. 

Spread the sails of faith and devotion, and with 
the aid of the spiritual breeze that is blowing push 
on to your goal. Do it, and your boat will be 
carried swiftly to its destination. He is waiting 
for you. Arise! Awake! Infinite capacity is 
within you. Have firm faith in yourself and say: 
"I have heard His name, I have taken shelter at 
His feet; fear and weakness can have no place in 
me; by His grace I will attain Him in this very 
life." Do not look back. Go ahead. Be blessed 
with His vision; thus fulfil the mission of your life 
and partake of Infinite Bliss. 



88 



XIV 
NATURE OF MAN 

AT THE RAMAKRISHNA SEVASHRAM, 
KANKHAL, HARDWAR 

THE SWAMI This place is very sacred. Here 
it is not difficult to attain concentration of the 
mind. The very atmosphere is pure. The holy 
Ganges and the majestic Himalayas naturally 
induce the mind to become calm and meditative. 
The eternal sound of Omkara can be heard here. 
Having come to this place, it will be really unfor- 
tunate if you spend your time in sleep and idleness. 
Far better to give up your body in this place 
practising meditation and austerities. 

Human birth is for the attainment of wisdom 
and devotion, not for living and procreating like 
brutes. God is most manifest in the human body; 
try to grasp and realise this. Have you not heard 

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Spiritual Teachings 

what severe austerities the disciples of Sri Rama- 
krishna used to perform to realise the Truth? They 
all saw in Sri Ramakrishna a blazing fire of 
spirituality, and hence they could do so much. It 
may not be possible for you to do all they did, but 
at least try. 

Swamiji gave his very life to build up this 
organisation and to give facilities to you all for 
your spiritual Sadhana. Try to realise the great 
love that Swamiji bore you. He cut short his life 
by overwork out of his infinite love for all. Do not 
be ungrateful to him. He had great faith in 
Bengal. To you, young men of Bengal, Swamiji 
has left the charge of his mission as a sacred trust. 
Remain true and loyal to him. Sri Ramakrishna 
manifested Himself to the world through Swami 
Vivekananda, and gave His message through him. 
Sri Ramakrishna is too great for the ordinary mind 
to understand. Swamiji has placed Sri Rama- 
krishna and His ideals before the world so that they 
may be understood by the ordinary mind. All 
blessed souls will have to come under His banner. 

90 



Nature of Man 

Read Swamiji's works carefully; and whenever 

you do not understand any point, ask S and 

others to explain it. Swamiji has preached Sri 
Ramakrishna's ideals in a form intelligible to all. 
It is madness to try to understand Sri Ramakrishna 
except in the light of Swamiji's teachings. Read 
again and again the Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna 
and Swamiji's works, and plunge yourselves in 
meditation. If you cannot fix your mind now, you 
will repent hereafter. This is the best period of 
your life. Make good use of it. Once you get well 
established in the spiritual life there will be no fear 
for you. Then you can turn your mind in any 
direction you like. Bring your mind under control. 
When this is done, a good advance has been made. 
But take care let not your mind swerve from the 
straight path even by an inch. When it wants to 
run astray, curb it by every possible means. 

Beginners should have a routine for spiritual 
practices, with fixed hours for Japam, meditation 
and study. With firm determination tell your mind, 
" Whether you like it or not, these rules must be 

91 



Spiritual Teachings 

followed/' After some time a habit will be formed 
and it will be painful to remain without meditation. 
When such a state is attained, it means you are 
progressing toward the ideal. Know that you are 
nearing God when you feel as restless for His vision 
as a hungry and sleepy man for food and sleep. 

First get a taste of Divine Bliss and become 
immortal. Then come what may, whether you are 
cast into the street or placed on a throne, it will be 
all the same to you. When the iron is turned into 
gold by the touch of the philosopher's stone, it does 
not matter whether it is kept in a safe or buried in 
the ground. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say, "Have the 
knowledge of Advatia in your pocket and act as 
you please/' After attaining the knowledge of the 
Absolute or supreme devotion to the Lord, what- 
ever work you do will not bind you. 

The religious life is full of obstacles. Divine 
Mother does not easily release men from the bonds 
of Her Maya. To obtain Her grace one should 
pray with a devout and yearning heart. You have 

92 



Nature of Man 

a whole bundle of Samskaras (tendencies) acquired 
in previous lives to overcome, and even now new 
Samskaras are being formed and added. All your 
life you must be prepared to fight these Samskaras. 
The more you resist them, the stronger will they 
become. If in the midst of defeats and disappoint- 
ments you can stick to your path, you will surely 
reach the goal. 

There are two tendencies in human nature, good 
and bad. The former tends toward renunciation 
and the latter toward enjoyments. There is con- 
stant warfare between these two. The victory of 
the one or the other determines the nature of man. 

Finding innumerable means of enjoyment in this 
world, men become so much attached to them that 
they forget that there is another side to the picture. 
They think: "No one can be sure of the future; why 
should we not enjoy what we have at present? 
Nobody knows whether God can be realised or not, 
whether Eternal Bliss is possible or not. But to 
enjoy the world is within our reach. Why should 
we therefore give it up?" Consequently they rush 

93 



Spiritual Teachings 

headlong into sense enjoyments. But when bitter 
experiences teach them that worldly pleasures bring 
only pain and misery and not peace and happiness, 
they cry with disappointment, "Alas, what have we 
done?" By following an unbridled life of enjoy- 
ment men become slaves of the senses. 



94 



XV 
SEEK GOD ONLY 

AT THE RAMAKRISHNA SEVASHRAM, 
KANKHAL, HARDWAR 

THE SWAMI Everyone wants happiness. 
Who likes to undergo pain and misery? But how 
to obtain that happiness ? Certainly not by running 
after the fleeting pleasures of the senses and ignor- 
ing Him, Who is the abode of all happiness. He 
has created many playthings to delude the human 
mind. Throw away all these and pray to Him, 
He will then hasten to take you in His arms. 

I tell you, you have had play enough; it is high 
time now to give it up and call upon the Mother. 
When a child is fond of play, the mother gives it 
toys to while away its time. But the child that 
does not care for play she carries about with hen 
Happy is the child that sits in the mother's lap. 
It not only enjoys the play but has also the happi- 
ness of the mother's company. The child that is 

95 



Spiritual Teachings 

engaged in play enjoys it no doubt, but also runs 
the risk of being hurt in its play. It may quarrel 
with its playmates and get beaten. But the child 
in the mother's lap has no such troubles. It is 
always happy and knows full well that the mother 
will take care of it and supply all its wants. 

The parable of the mango grove told by Sri 
Ramakrishna is very instructive. "You have come 
to eat the mangoes. Why do you bother yourself 
about the number of trees, branches and leaves in 
the garden? Eat the mangoes and be satisfied." 
You have come into this world for the realisation 
of God. Accomplish this object first of all and ful- 
fil your life's mission. Solve your own problem 
and equip yourself for life's journey. Struggle hard 
and become deathless by tasting Immortal Bliss. 
Pray to Him day and night. Whatever the form in 
which you think of Him, it will certainly do you 
good. Whatever form or name appeals to you, take 
it sincerely and pray to Him. You are sure to get 
the vision of Him. Parvati once asked Mahadeva 
how Sachchidananda could be realised. The reply 

96 



Seek God Only 

was, "Through faith." 

You have been shown the right path. Follow it 
with faith, patience 2nd perseverance. Waste no 
more time in discussing the forms and details of 
your Sadhana. Pray to Him in any way you 
please, and you are sure to get His blessing. Sri 
Ramakrishna used to say, ' 'Sweetened bread will 
taste sweet in whatever way you begin to eat it." 
You are, as it were, sitting under the Kalpataru 
(wish-yielding tree) and you will get whatever you 
ask for. 

Do not think yourselves too clever. The crow 
thinks itself very clever, but it lives on filth. Those 
who are too clever in this world get cheated in the 
long run. 

With a faith that knows no wavering, plunge 
yourselves in deep meditation. Do not get dis- 
heartened, if after a little practice you do not 
realise God. The ocean is full of precious pearls, 
but you may not get them at the first dive. My 
boys, once again I enjoin you, have firm faith in 
the words of your Guru, and try to get absorbed in 

97 



Spiritual Teachings 

deep meditation. Be sure, sooner or later you will 
have a vision of the Lord. 

Do not allow your mind t5 get distracted. Keep 
steadily and patiently to your Sadhana. His grace 
will descend on you in due time. Suppose you 
wish to see a great man. You have first to see and 
satisfy his attendants. Similarly to obtain the 
grace of the Lord you have to seek the help of godly 
men and undergo many spiritual practices. 
Knowing Him to be dearer than the dearest, pray 
to Him with a yearning heart for His grace and 
vision. 

Cry unto the Lord like a child. Incessant crying 
cannot but make the mother run to it. So also 
with the Lord. He reveals Himself to that one 
who unceasingly prays for His grace and vision. 

Shake off your sleep, and seek the grace of the 
Lord with steadfast devotion. Make the mind 
one-pointed like the mariner's compass. In what- 
ever direction the ship may sail, the compass 
always points to the north, thus keeping the ship 
on its course. Even so with the human mind. If 

98 



Seek God Only 

it is fixed on God, there will be nothing to fear. If 
by chance one is thrown into a bad environment, 
even then his faith and devotion will remain 
unshaken. The moment he hears any talk about 
God, he will become mad with Divine Love just 
as the flint, lying under water for a hundred years, 
when taken out and struck, emits sparks. 

Those who have been favoured with a vision of 
the Lord have their mind always fixed on Him. 
They will have no taste for anything except to talk 
of Him and to seek the company of holy men. 

Like a fallen leaf tossed to and fro by the wind, 
be content to remain wherever you are placed by the 
Lord. Do not have any will or desire of your own. 

Your mind is now pure and untainted. Try to 
keep it in this state always. The spotless mind 
is like a dry match stick. It ignites the moment 
you strike it, but it is of no use if it gets wet. 
You may go on striking it, but it will only break 
into pieces. Similarly if the mind once becomes 
soiled, you will find it extremely difficult to restore 
it to its former purity. 

99 



XVI 
CONTROL OF THE MIND 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, with all my efforts I cannot 
control my mind, it is so restless. Please tell me 
how to curb it. 

THE SWAMI No doubt to control the mind 
is difficult, but it is not impossible. By regular 
practice it can be quieted and brought under re- 
straint. Therefore perform a little meditation 
every day, and never fail to do it. The nature of 
the mind is to run away like a restless boy. Drag 
it back whenever it seeks to go out, and set it to 
meditating on God. If you can continue this 
struggle for two or three years, you will find in you 
a joy unspeakable; your mind will be calm and 
docile. In the beginning meditation proves very 
difficult and dry. But if you persist, as in the 
taking of a medicine, you will find in it a perennial 
source of joy, pure and unalloyed. What terrible 
ordeals does a student pass through for his exami- 
nations! God-realisation is far easier than that 
If you call upon Him with sincerity and an unper- 

100 



Control of the Mind 

turbed mind, He will surely reveal Himself unto 
you. 

DISCIPLE All this is no doubt hopeful, but 
at times when I think that with so much meditation 
I have not made any progress, everything seems 
vain, and a horrible despondency overwhelms me. 
I despair of success. What shall I do then, Sir? 

THE SWAMI Never despair. There is no 
cause for despair. The law of Karma is irresis- 
tible. If you do a good deed, it will produce a 
good effect. With sincere devotion or without it, 
in any way you like, if you chant the holy Name of 
God, it will always bring you good. The result is 
inevitable. Therefore shake off all your despair 
and push on in the struggle with strictness and 
regularity. Then peace will surely come and dwell 
in you. Through meditation, not only does the 
mind become pacified, but the body also improves 
and diseases lessen. Therefore, even from the 
standpoint of good health one should practise 
meditation. 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, what is the necessity of 
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Spiritual Teachings 

spiritual initiation? Without the help of a guide, 
if a man in his own way devotes himself entirely 
to God, will not that be enough to realise Him ? 

THE SWAMI Initiation is necessary because 
it helps concentration. When you are initiated 
you are shown the object upon which the mind is 
to be concentrated. You cannot let your mind 
waver from one thing to another. If you are not 
initiated, you have no particular object to concen- 
trate upon. Today you fix your mind on Hari, 
tomorrow on Kali, and the third day on the form- 
less Brahman. A grim restlessness is the result. 
This is most harmful to an aspirant. Until this 
state is overcome and replaced by a peaceful 
attitude of mind, spiritual realisation will ever 
remain a distant prospect. To attain this calm- 
ness of mind and to avert unsteadiness, initiation 
or the help of a guide is necessary. The spiritual 
path is a most formidable one, strewn with innu- 
merable pitfalls. Unless a man is guided by an 

experienced hand, however clever he may be, he is 

,& 
sure to stumble. 

102 



Control of the Mind 

Without tormenting yourself, work hard, my boy, 
then will you find joy. In the beginning you are to 
drudge on as if you were learning the alphabet. Do 
not worry, do not complain, gradually peace will 
come. Do you know how I behave with those who 
always complain that they are not finding peace or 
joy? For the first two or three years after their 
initiation I give no reply, nor do I pay heed to them. 
After that, when they meet me, they tell me that 
they are making some progress and also finding 
some joy and peace. A man must try steadily for 
some time before he can expect a peaceful state of 
mind. Therefore I ask you to struggle for a period 
of at least three years without any break; then you 
can have a claim to joy and not earlier. You will 
not do anything and yet you want to succeed. Is it 
not absurd? Nothing great can be achieved by 
trickery or idleness. If you really want peace, if 
you truly desire to realise God, then work steadily 
and wait. Spiritual realisation is a question of time. 

Yours is to struggle and to wait. The mother 
bird knows well when to open the egg. So the 
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Spiritual Teachings 

Divine Mother reveals Herself to the devotee when 
the time is ripe. Work and wait. This waiting 
period is a very hard time. The devotee is always 
in suspense now hope, now despair; now joy, the 
next moment sorrow: so the struggle goes on. He 
is constantly fighting a fierce duel and this 
continues till he is blessed with the vision of God. 
But if he is led by a competent guide, he can be 
relieved of much of this struggle. A wise guide 
can give an upward lift to the struggling mind, 
even when it is not mature. Such help also has its 
dangers. If repeated too often, a greater struggle 
and a deeper despair may result. 

In this period of struggle and Sadhana the aspi- 
rant must be always alert. He must follow certain 
fixed rules of conduct and never deviate from them. 
He must observe perfect continence and eat only 
such foods as have a soothing effect on his body. 
He will have to be under the direct guidance of one 
who understands. He must not exert his brain too 
much in meditation. Otherwise he is sure to suffer; 
his brain will become heated; he will feel giddy, 

104 



Control of the Mind 

and other brain troubles will follow. 

Meditation in the primary stage being regular 
warfare with the mind the mind constantly going 
outward and the Sadhaka trying to drag it back to 
the feet of the Lord there is every possibility of 
the brain becoming overheated. The aspirant 
should prevent this. In the beginning of his 
Sadhana he should apply himself to Pranayama 
(control of breath) and other Hatha-Yoga 
exercises. He should proceed slowly and steadily 
in the spiritual path. Then these preliminary 
struggles will disappear one by one until finally he 
will attain to the state of real meditation. Then 
even though he meditates for long hours at a 
stretch, he will feel as refreshed both in body and 
mind as after deep sleep. He will also feel great 
joy within. 

The spiritual novice must keep a special eye on 
his diet. The body and the mind being closely 
connected, the least change in the one is followed 
by a corresponding change in the other. If the 
stomach is irritated by taking any improper food, 

105 



Spiritual Teachings 

the mind too will have a like effect; and for a 
restless mind meditation is impossible. It is for 
this reason that such stringent emphasis is laid on 
the dietetic regulations of a Sadhaka. 

Under no circumstances, again, should the 
Sadhaka fill more than one-half of his stomach 
with food. (And half of the remaining half is 
to be left for water, while the rest should be kept 
empty for the free passage of air.) An aspirant 
must not be dejected in spirit, brooding on his 
failures and mistakes. However great a sin a 
man may have committed, it is a sin only to the 
limited vision of man; from the absolute stand- 
point, from the standpoint of God, it is nothing at 
all. A single glance of the Lord sets at nought 
all the sins of millions of births. The heavy 
punishments prescribed for sin in the Scriptures 
are merely to maintain social order and to make 
people refrain from the evil ways of life. God, 
our Father, is ever merciful to us. He is ever 
loving to His children. His Name removes all 
evils. Therefore, there is no cause for dejection 

106 



Control of the Mind 

if we call upon Him sincerely. 

It is true, no doubt, that as the result of our past 
actions, at times dejection and despair sweep over 
our mind; but that is no reason why a Sadhaka 
should yield to them. Knowing that past actions 
may try to overwhelm him, he should be prepared 
to fight against them. God will give him strength. 
His Name will be an impenetrable armour. It 
will save him from all consequences. This is one 
way of Sadhana. It is rather dry and monotonous 
in the beginning. There is another path, the path 
of the Vaishnavite. It is a very pleasant path. 
It does not involve so much hardship. It is more 
gentle. In this path you are to contemplate the 
life and deeds of Sri Krishna, Sri Rama or some 
other Incarnation of the Lord. There is no 
monotony, no drudgery in it. A devotee must 
establish some relation with God and worship Him 
in that aspect. But this also has great dangers. 
It has often been found that many unfit persons, in 
their attempt to worship God as a lover, have 
fallen off from their ideal. 

107 



XVII 
TURNING THE MIND TO GOD 

DISCIPLE Sir, how can we turn our mind to 
God? 

THE SWAMI By keeping company with the 
wise and the good; by observing their daily actions 
and living them in your own life, you can turn your 
mind to God. You are to imitate the ways and 
manners of those who have their minds turned 
toward Him. The great barrier that obstructs your 
correct vision of God is the doubt and confusion of 
your mind. They haunt the mind, swing it to and 
fro, and lead it to run after diverse objects. Drive 
them out with the sharp sword of discrimination. 
If you are not able to do so by your own strength, 
seek the aid of those who are adept in doing it, 
the Sadhus. 

A beginner should sit beside holy men and listen 
to them with profound attention and retain their 
words of counsel in his memory. But it must not 

108 



Turning the mind to God 

end there. He must try to realise what he learns 
from them. Bear in mind that neither talking, 
nor learning, nor study, will lead you to realisation, 
unless you practise and live what you hear and 
learn. Practice in life is not at all possible with- 
out Brahmacharya, or absolute continence. Hence 
Brahmacharya is very necessary. Many attempt 
to realise God by studying the Scriptures; but they 
do not know that without Brahmacharya no one 
can catch the spirit of the Scriptures, much less 
realise God. 

For various reasons Brahmacharya is most essen- 
tial. If you have the desire to turn your mind to 
God and realise Him, perform spiritual practices 
based on Brahmacharya. If you wish to read any 
books I would recommend to you "The Gospel of 
Sri Ramakrishna" and such works. Read them 
and then try to realise what you read. The more 
you read such books, the more light you will find in 
them. Your knowledge of God derived from ^hear- 
say is quite different from that acquired by practis- 
ing Sadhana. This again differs widely from the 

109 



Spiritual Teachings 

knowledge you acquire after realisation. 

Do you know what Nag Mahashaya used to say? 
"It is easier to earn fame than to renounce it. He 
who can renounce it is a really great man/' He also 
said: "An anchored boat does not move forward." 
He meant, a man whose mind is deep-rooted in lust 
and gold cannot move Godward unless he can free 
himself from their deluding influence through 
austere Sadhana. God and pleasure-seeking can- 
not go together. If you want the one you have to 
banish the other. 

Human birth is a rare privilege; having it, if you 
do not strive after God, you are surely very unfor- 
tunate. Your human birth will have been in vain. 
Sri Sankara has said: "Human birth, desire for 
salvation and the company of holy men are rare 
things on earth. Those who are blessed with all 
three are the most fortunate among men." 

DISCIPLE As to the best way of directing the 
mind inward to God, Sri Ramakrishna has prescrib- 
ed occasional retirement into solitude for a day or 
a month or for a year, as opportunity may permit; 

110 



Turning the mind to God 

you prescribe the company of the holy. Now which 
of the two are we to follow holy company or 
solitude? 

THE SWAMI Both are true and both are to be 
followed. In the primary stage a man should not 
suddenly retire into solitude. To do so involves 
great danger. Many in their effort to cut off 
human associations have gone mad; hence great 
caution is necessary. It is only when a man has 
made some progress in the spiritual path that he 
can retire into solitude without danger. True soli- 
tude can be found nowhere in this world. Time, 
space and causation are too small to give it. It is 
beyond mind, beyond intellect. It can be felt only 
in Samadhi (super-consciousness). It is identical 
with the Most Tranquil. 



Ill 



XVIII 
EXAMPLE OF HOLY MEN 

THE SWAMI Read or hear however much you 
may, nothing will leave a more profound impres- 
sion on your mind and benefit you so largely and 
practically as the company of holy men. You 
learn just from watching their daily life. As an 
illustration, I would like to relate an incident from 
the life of a devotee. Adhar Sen went to Sri 
Ramakrishna accompanied by a friend of his, an 
Inspector of Schools. This friend would at times 
experience a kind of inspiration and lose all out- 
ward consciousness. People called it Bhava. One 
day it so happened that just after their arrival, the 
Master fell into deep Samadht. From his face 
beamed a lustre divine indicating the unbounded 
joy that the Master felt. At sight of this, Adhar 
Babu said to his companion: "Look here, my 
friend. I see your Bhava is not real Bhava. When- 
ever you enter it, you seem to feel a great torment 

112 



Example of Holy Men 

within. From Divine communion no torment or 
torture can result. By what I see now in the 
Master, this flood of Divine joy, my eyes are 
opened/' 

Another man once visited Trailinga Swamt, the 
great saint of Benares, who usually kept silent. On 
his return he thought within himself: "I went, but 
he did not speak; then what is the good of going to 
him any more?" Nevertheless he paid him a second 
visit. This time, no sooner had he taken his seat by 
the side of the Swami than the latter suddenly began 
to weep bitterly and then he began to laugh. He 
was beside himself with madness of devotion. At 
this the man said to himself: "What I have learnt 
today a thousand books could not teach. When I 
shall so yearn for God, I shall see Him; when I shall 
have His grace, only then shall I enjoy such bliss." 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, many maintain that merely 
paying visits to holy men is enough hearing them 
or observing their life is not necessary. Are we to 
believe this? 

THE SWAMI No! Never! You must mix 

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Spiritual Teachings 

with them with an open heart. If any doubt 
arises in your mind, you must tell it to them frankly 
and get it solved by their help, if you are not able to 
do it yourself. You must also observe their life in 
detail and model yours by what you see in them. 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, you said that momentary 
enthusiasm brings no good, that spiritual realisa- 
tion is a question of time am I then to give up 
my yearning for God-realisation ? 

THE SWAMI I might have said that in connec- 
tion with something else. By momentary enthusi- 
asm is meant, to become restless and cry and jump 
for a day or two from a fit of emotion: an external 
manifestation of a sudden internal feeling. This 
disappears in no time; then out of despair and 
dejection, man gives up the path altogether. 

DISCIPLE As Sri Ramakrishna has said, if the 
place for digging a well is shifted again and again, 
you will never get water. Is that what you mean? 

THE SWAMI Yes, tenacity is what is require- 
ed. If a man's restlessness results from sincere 
love of God, he cannot live a God-less life, even 

114 



Example of Holy Men 

though he fails to realise Him. Millions of births 
may pass without attaining Him, yet he will persist 
in calling upon Him steadily and quite unmoved. 

Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) used to say that 
a little awakening of the Kundalini (individualised 
cosmic energy) was very dangerous. Until She 
rises up higher, lust, anger and other lower passions 
become very disturbing. The Vaishnavite Sadhana 
of Madhur Bhava or Sakhi Bhava (the attitude of 
worshipping God as an eternal bridegroom or a 
friend of the devotee) is exceedingly dangerous. 
In trying to remember constantly the story of Sri 
Krishna's Divine play with Sri Radha, they 
(Vaishnavites) cannot control their lust and they 
do all sorts of lecherous acts. Hence the restric- 
tion for the beginner in reading the Rash-lila (story 
of Sri Krishna's Divine play with Sri Radha) and 
such works. 

Meditation is not an easy thing. Eat a bit more 
and your mind will not settle that day. When lust, 
anger, greed and the whole host of evil passions are 
kept under control, then and then alone does medi- 

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Spiritual Teachings 

tation become possible. If any one of these asserts 
itself, meditation will be impossible. It is easier 
to sit in a circle of burning fire. But to keep the 
passions under control and not allow them to make 
an impression upon the mind that is real Tapasya. 
What religion can there be for eunuchs! The 
control of passions and desires is the greatest 
penance. Seeing that worldly men are constantly 
engaged in unholy acts, it is not so much of a sin on 
your part if occasional evil thoughts crop up in 
your mind. Drive them out. 

Without meditation the mind cannot become 
tranquil, and without tranquillity religion is not 
possible. To think "I shall meditate when the 
mind grows tranquil" is to think an impossibility. 
Tranquillity and meditation must go hand in hand. 

We cannot love Sri Ramakrishna so long as there 
is the idea of bargaining in us. That is why we 
despair" when we cannot see Him after a little 
prayer. Still again, it is not desirable to give 
expression to our inner feelings, for that lessens the 
intensity of love. 

116 



XIX 
MEDITATION 

DISCIPLE JViaharaj, how can God-yearning be 
intensified ? 

THE SWAMI Through steady spiritual prac- 
tice with a mind purified by the influence of holy 
company and the instruction of the Guru (spiritual 
teacher) . In this world even in the art of stealing, 
a Guru is required. How much greater must be the 
necessity of a Guru for acquiring supreme 
knowledge of Brahman! 

DISCIPLE How can one attain peace ? 

THE SWAMI Peace and sincere love of God 
and true faith come together. At the very start 
how can one attain peace? First must come rest- 
lessness, yearning and intense pain for not having 
seen Him; the greater the thirst, the sweeter the 
water. We must rouse unrest in the heart. When 
a man does not find happiness in the world, then he 

117 



Spiritual Teachings 

grows restless and attachment to God awakens 
within him. 

DISCIPLE How can love of God grow? 

THE SWAMI By Sadhana and prayer thus 
have all attained. 

DISCIPLE Is it possible in the world? 

THE SWAMI Is there any one outside the 
world ? 

DISCIPLE No, I mean, living in the family. 

THE SWAMI It is possible, but very difficult. 

DISCIPLE When dispassion for the world 
comes, should one renounce? 

THE SWAMI That is what is called Vairag- 
yam yes, that is real Vairagyam (dispassion). 
Real Vairagyam is like fire, it is never extin- 
guished, but gradually spreads and grows hotter. 
Sri Ramakrishna used to say, as a fish swims 
about merrily when put in larger waters, so is the 
man who has renounced the world; never does he 
want to be fettered again. 

DISCIPLE Is it possible without a Guru? 

118 



Meditation 

THE SWAMI I think not. Guru means one 
who shows the path to the Ishtam through a Holy 
Name (Mantram). U pa-gurus (intermediaries) 
can be many. But the supreme Guru is one that 
commands: "Practise these Sadhanas and move 
with holy men/' In olden times the custom was 
to live with the Guru. The Guru would watch 
over the pupil and the pupil would serve him. When 
the pupil went astray, the Guru would bring him 
back. So none but the knower of the Brahman, or 
one far advanced in Sadhana, should be chosen as 
the Guru. 

DISCIPLE How to know him? 

THE SWAMI By moving with him closely for 
some time. The Guru too will watch his would-be 
disciple. If the disciple possesses a strong desire 
for enjoyment and can not be easily brought round, 
the Guru will not initiate him. He will reject him. 
Whomsoever the Guru chooses, he will keep with 
him and watch over him. The family Guru has one 
advantage, that he knows everything regarding the 
family to which the disciple belongs. 

119 



Spiritual Teachings 

The way to focus the mind is by prayer and wor- 
ship, concentration and meditation. Pranayama 
(control of breath) too is a way, but not safe for 
the householder the loss of the vital fluid brings 
about disease. Good food, a good place and pure 
air these are necessary: there is no other condition 
for meditation. Meditation in solitude has to be 
practised not for an hour or for a day; the more 
you practise, the more benefited you will be. Go 
wherever you choose. If you find a good place 
with favourable surroundings, take that for your 
practice. Seek Him and Him alone. Give up 
Kamini-Kanchana (lust and greed). First practise 

renunciation in the mind, draw in the mind 

from earthly things. 

In the beginning meditation must be Sahara 
(with form), then Nirakara (formless) and finally 
you realise that "Brahman is real and all else is 
illusion/' The world as it appears to us is all illu- 
sion. In Samadhi the world does not exist, only 
bliss, as after deep sleep a man says, "I tasted real 
joy." When a man descends (from Samadhi) 

120 



Meditation 

like the Rishis he says of his experience, "It was 
bliss and bliss only; words cannot describe it. The 
T and 'Thou' vanish Sachchidananda (Exis- 
tence-knowledge-bliss Absolute) alone remains." 

If asked, "What is the proof that God exists?" 
the answer is, "I have seen God, and you too can 
see Him if you follow me/' So have said all the 
saints and saviours. As Sri Ramakrishna has said: 
"By merely repeating the name of Siddhi (hemp 
leaves) you cannot become intoxicated. Gather 
them, grind and dissolve them, drink them and wait 
for a while, then alone will you feel the intoxica- 
tion. In the same way, simply crying out 'Lord', 
'Lord' will not do; practise Sadhana and wait/' 

DISCIPLE In performing Japam sometimes I 
forget everything; what is that, Sir? 

THE SWAMI The Pancbadashi is of opinion 
that this feeling stands as an impediment. Medita- 
tion means to think of Him; and when this is in- 
tensified, when God becomes visible, it is Samadhi. 
After Samadhi the blissful emotion lingers on for 
a long time. Some hold, it continues for ever. 

121 



Spiritual Teachings 

Sri Chaitanya sent a man to Ramananda, 
Ramananda lived a life of luxury, but at the name 
of the Lord a fountain of tears of devotion bursi 
from his eyes. The man did not understand wh) 
he wept. They say, if you are not a Sadhu you 
cannot know a Sadhu as a brinjal seller cannot 
appraise a diamond. Only that one who through 
Sadhana has attained a higher stage can understand 
a true devotee. 

At the time of meditation you must think that 
desires and passions have no existence, that they are 
unreal. Gradually this impression will sink into 
your mind. As you drive out these thoughts, force 
in good ones. During your meditation, if you per- 
ceive some light or sound, know that you are going 
along the right path. But these are trivial signs. 
Still, as signs, they are good. Meditating in a 
lonely place, one can hear the sound of Pfanava 
(sound symbol of the Brahman) or that of a bell or 
a sound from a distant place. 

There was a man, a great dare*devil. Fifteen 
minutes before his death he said: "Carry me 

122 



Meditation 

straight to the Ganges. Do you think I wish to die 
here?" Reaching the sacred stream he smiled and 
prayed: "Mother! I have sinned much. 1 
believe, Mother, Thou canst wash away everything. 
Save me, Oh ! Mother! 99 And he died. 



123 



XX 
GOD VISION 

^Conversation at Calcutta, 2nd of February, 
1922. The Swam? is the honoured guest of a 

devotee., 

THE SWAMI A pure, healthy mind is what is 
required. Remain under the shelter of His lotus 
feet. He will do all that is needful; you have only 
to keep your mind fixed ever on Him. Give up all 
longing for the world. It is a very unholy place. 
Pay no more heed to it than is absolutely necessary; 
devote the rest of yourself to God. I tell you, you 
are just the person to do this. Try and you will 
succeed. Struggle and struggle you will have to 
struggle hard. Begin this moment; no more delay, 
no more doubt, no more speculation. Oh, the joy 
of realisation, the satisfaction of it! Just a little of 
it even, will suffice for you. Strive; strive to cross 
over PAahamaya (Divine illusion) ; yes, in this very 

124 



God-Vision 

life you must go beyond it. Strive hard; it is in- 
deed a difficult task. Faith, unshakable faith is 

necessary. Without that you cannot succeed. Be 
determined; remove all doubts; then you can tear 
the veil of Maya and see God. Faith, you know, is 
the only resource; strengthen it by all possible 
means. 

DISCIPLE If doubt creeps in at times, what 
shall I do? 

THE SWAMI You cannot have unshakable 
faith until God-realisation comes. It is possible 
only when you have the vision of God, when you 
have realised Him. Till then you can only make 
an approach to true faith; nothing more. When- 
ever doubts disturb the even balance of the mind, 
hold fast to God and pray. If you can do so over 
and over again, your conviction will be firm and in- 
vincible. Doubts surely will come, but drive them 
out in this wise. Think within yourself: "God is, 
but because of my lot I cannot see Him. The mo- 
ment His grace descends, that moment I shall be 
blessed by seeing Him." Do not lose faith. Cling 

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Spiritual Teachings 

to Him always and under all circumstances. 

This gross mind cannot comprehend God. God 
is beyond mind, He is far beyond intellect. The 
world that you see is within the domain of the 
mind; the mind is its author, the mind has created 
it, and beyond it the mind cannot go. But through 
Sadhana a subtle mind opens up the mind of 
spirit. That is already in you, but in the form of 
a germ. In course of time this germ will develop 
and unfold. The gross mind will lead you to the 
subtle. The subtle shines forth in the glory of its 
own self. It is at this stage that you can have the 
vision of finer truths. The world with all its 
diversity will then lose all charm for you. It can 
delude you no more. Then you will pass your 
time, day and night, completely lost in the contem- 
plation of God and His glory. 

The next stage is Samadhi. This Samadhi can- 
not be described. It is beyond the reach of the 
gross mind, beyond language. It is beyond Asti 
and Nasti (human calculation), beyond pleasure 
and pain, beyond joy and sorrow, beyond light, 

126 



God-Vision 

beyond darkness, beyond all duality. Human 
language is too feeble to say what that blessed state 
is. 

"The Vedas all deal with the three Gunas. Be 
thou free, O Arjuna, be thou free from the three 
Gunas" Sri Krishna says in the Gita. If you 
want God, you must transcend the limits of the 
Gunas. Disputes and dissensions, wars and feuds, 
malice and jealousy, egotism and pride, these are the 
products of Tamas. Rajas goads man to activity, 
and creates the desire for name and fame. A man 
full of Rajas meditates for half an hour at best and 
then looks around to see if it has attracted the 
notice of others. If it has not, he thinks his medi- 
tation is all in vain; this half hour's meditation! 
He is a beggar of popular applause. Then comes 
Sattwa (the state of serene vision). The Vedas 
deal with these Gunas t but we must not stop here. 
We must go beyond the Gunas. 

DISCIPLE In this world certain works seem to 
us as duties; how are we to do these, Sir? 

THE SWAMI "This world is God's. Nothing 

127 



Spiritual Teachings 

in it can I call my own; He is getting His work 
done by me; verily nothing belongs to me." If you 
can do what you call your duties with this attitude, 
then they will do you no harm; your work will no 
longer bind you. "This thing belongs to me, that 
is mine," this attitude you must banish from your 
mind; in its stead say: "Everything is God's, even 
myself; I am placed here by His Will, and I shall 
be removed hence the moment He wills it." Let 
this be your principle of life. Do not identify 
yourself with the things of the world. 

Do your duties with this attitude; and also do 
them thoroughly and well, so that people may not 
perceive your real motive and blame you. But in 
the heart of hearts know, earthly things you have 
none. God is the Doer and you the instrument 
Through you, He will get done what He likes to 
have done. 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, in my attempt to do work 
in this way, if at times I forget the true motive, if 
egotism asserts itself and if attachment prevails, 
what then? 

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God-Vision 

THE SWAMI Do not yield to depression. 
Never allow yourself to be depressed. If at times 
you forget your true motive, never mind. Begin 
once more with redoubled energy and see that it 
does not recur again. Doubts and confusion? 
Who can kill them before God-realisation is attain- 
ed? They will come and they will go. That is 
their nature. But do not get dejected. Shake off 
despair, shake off disappointment, shake off doubt; 
make no compromise. Have infinite tenacity, and 
infinite energy. "To do or die" let this be your 
motto. God you must realise; now in this very life 
you must see Him. In vain is your being, in vain 
your mind, in vain your life, everything is in vain, 
if you cannot realise Him here in this very life. 
Therefore, say boldly: "What shall I do with the 
body, what is the use of the mind, if I cannot see 
God with them? What do I care if they perish? 
Let them stay or go, but I must see God; I must 
see Him." 



129 



XXI 
DIFFERENT METHODS OF ATTAINMENT 

DEVOTEE Maharaj, these different forms of 
worship, these different rituals, these different gods 
and goddesses, do they mean anything special? 

THE SWAMI All these have one and the same 
purpose God-realisation. There is so much differ- 
ence between one man and another in their inclina- 
tions and their temperaments that no one method 
can be assigned to all for their Sadhana or spiritual 
advancement. Different temperaments require 
different Sadhana and different ways of worship. 
To meet these varying demands the Scriptures hav^ 
prescribed four principal means, S am ad hi > 
Dhyana, actual Japam, prayer, and external worship. 

The best kind of worship is Samadhi or the direct 
worship of the Brahman the actual vision of the 
Omnipresent Reality. 

The second in importance is Dhyana or medita- 
130 



Different Methods of Attainment 

tion, where two things exist, "Himself" and "my- 
self." ]apam, prayer and the like have no room 
here. When meditation deepens, one perceives the 
holy form of one's Ishtam or chosen Deity, the 
form, pure and simple. Here again Japam and 
prayer have no place. The next step is Japam and 
prayer, in which one sings the glory of the Lord 
praying, chanting or repeating the hallowed Name 
of one's chosen Deity, simultaneously meditating 
upon the blessed form behind that holy Name. 

The last is external worship. This consists in 
worshipping the Supreme Being in Pratika or 
images. These different forms of worship, different 
gods and goddesses all these are but creations of 
the human mind. They mark different degrees of 
progress of the mind, its evolutionary stages, in its 
onward march to God. A man desires to perform 
Sadhana. Now, what should he do ? Can he begin 
from any point? No. He must start exactly 
where his mind stands and proceed stage after stage 
till the Goal is reached. Take the case of an 
ordinary man: if you ask him to meditate upon the 

131 



Spiritual Teachings 

Supreme Brahman who is without name or form; 
or if you ask him to practise Sawadhi, he will not 
comprehend, nor will he be well-disposed towards 
his task. The result will be that he will give up 
Sadhana altogether. On the other hand, if he 
worships the Brahman in an image with offerings 
of flowers and sacred leaves, he will think he has 
done something. For some time at least, his minct 
will be free from distractions, into which every 
moment it is liable to fall. He will be unperturb^ 
ed, and will rejoice in his worship. By and by he 
will outgrow that stage. 

The finer the mind grows, the less becomes the joy 
of man in things gross and secular. Jf you begin 
Puja or external worship now, later on you will feel 
naturally that ]apam is a better substitute. Then 
you will find in meditation a far better substitute, 
and so on. This gradual process is the natural way 
of growth for the human mind. In the course of 
this mental evolution, the experience the mind 
acquires is not lost; the mind retains and stores it 
up in the memory. 

132 



Different Methods of Attainment 

Take an illustration: standing down in the court- 
yard, you wish to get on the roof. What will you 
do? You have to find the stair-case and, climbing 
the steps one after the other, you reach the roof. 
Instead, if you are thrown through the air right up 
to the house-top, that certainly would mean a great 
deal of discomfort and danger. You can avoid 
hurt or injury only by following the gradual pro- 
cess. So is it with the world within. To avoid all 
untoward circumstances in your march toward spirit- 
ual realisation, you must follow the gradual path 
that is marked out for us by the seers of the past. 
These different forms of worship constitute that 
path. Waytfe and means, rules and regulations 
these exist in the physical world as well as in that 
of the mind. The same law rules both. 

DEVOTEE If a distracting thought, well- 
known to me, persists in rising in the mind, what 
shall I do then, Revered Sir ? How shall I check it ? 

THE SWAMI "This thought is immensely 
harmful to me; it can bring about my ruin; it is my 
worst enemy" impress this idea on your mind by 

133 



Sptfitual Teachings 

repeated effort. Once you can stamp this impres- 
sion upon the mind, you will find the distracting 
thought vanishing in no time. Take, for example, 
this boy who is sitting here. "This boy who is 
he? I do not know him. He is good for nothing; 
he is worthless" if you persist in thinking thus 
for some time, before long you will find that he has 
become so; for you he will be of no importance 
whatsoever. Your mind will no longer turn toward 
him. And why? Because you have impressed 
upon the mind that idea. Take one more illustra- 
tion, a little child: it does not know the results of 
taking poison. If you give it a little poison it will 
not care; it will not be afraid. But if that very 
same thing is given to you, you will start and recoil 
to a safe distance. It is because you know the effect 
of poison. So we see the mind is a strange thing; 
whatever you hold before it, it will learn. 

One thing, and a very serious thing, I must tell 
you: first choose your ideal and then struggle to 
realise it The ideal must never be lowered. God 
is the highest ideal God who is smaller than an 

134 



Different Methods of Attainment 

atom and bigger than the solar system; He who 
shines forth everywhere, at all times and in all 
beings, in you and in me; differing only in mani- 
festation, greater or smaller. He is the same as the 
Atman that pervades the entire universe. Nothing 
is superior to Him. Make Him your ideal, Him and 
Him alone. Try a little, and you will realise what 
an inexhaustible fount of joy He is. The world 
you have had enough experience of it! Now try 
the other side seek God. The veil of Maya, 
ignorance, hangs before you, obstructing your 
vision of God; tear it off and lo, He is there! To 
cross Maya's bounds is indeed a hard task, but not 
an impossibility. Men have crossed before you and 
you can also cross. Strive on, success is at hand; 
''Knock and it shall be opened unto you." The 
world will stand transformed to these very eyes of 
yours. 

DEVOTEE Regarding the Scriptures, what atti- 
tude should we maintain? Should we put faith in 
their authority? 

THE SWAMI Certainly! All these Scriptural 

135 



Spiritual Teachings 

injunctions are true. For the good and guidance 
of mankind through the ages, these have been for- 
mulated by men of the past and handed down from 
generation to generation, from father to son, up to 
the present day. You must obey them. 

Another thing: as regards Karma (work), you 
must never give it up wholly. Without it your 
very existence would be impossible. It can also 
lead you, in the end, to God-realisation. Man 
does not know when Karma began, but he knows 
where it ends. Verily, with God-realisation all the 
shackles of Karma fall off; then, no more work 
remains to be done. But until that state is reach- 
ed you are within the bounds of Karma and you 
have to work. By doing your Karma for the sake 
of Karma you will attain to the greatest Good. 

DEVOTEE And what sort of food are we to 
take, Sir? Are there any rules about diet? 

THE SWAMI A very difficult question! It is 
very hard to answer. Men differ so widely in their 
constitution that it is hardly possible to lay down 
any hard and fast rule about food. One thing may 

136 



Different Methods of Attainment 

be suitable to your constitution, but the same may 
not suit mine. Our Scriptures therefore have not 
laid much stress on this point. In the Gita we 
come across certain passages referring to dis- 
crimination about food; but that is a general 
classification. Roughly speaking, it can be said 
that rich dishes should be avoided. One should 
choose one's own food according to one's power of 
assimilation. 

DEVOTEE Mahara j , non- vegetarian diet, 
does it not involve sin, the sin of killing animals? 

THE SWAMI No. They say Ahimsa (non- 
injury) is the greatest virtue, but when? Only 
after Samadhi, when the supreme knowledge has 
been attained, when God has been realised in all 
creatures. Then only can there be true Ahimsa. 
Before that, no amount of talk can make it so. It 
comes when you realise that the same Atman 
resides in you as well as in the little ant, and that 
no difference exists. Before that it is impossible. 
You may speak of Ahimsa, but truly speaking, 
can you avoid Himsa? What food do you take? 

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Spiritual Teachings 

Potato? It shoots forth young sprouts when 
planted; these bring a new crop; is the potato life- 
less? Sow the paddy grain; it grows into a plant; 
and this again bears new paddy. Is the paddy then 
lifeless ? 

Examine a drop of water under a microscope and 
you will find millions of little lives; and you drink 
it! Again, to live is to take breath. Now, with 
every breath you kill millions of little creatures. 
Take the case of those who make much of this vege- 
table diet. What food do they prescribe? Milk 
and Ghee? Now, how do you get milk? By 
depriving a poor creature, the tiny calf, of its legiti- 
mate food. That is an extremely cruel act. But 
that is no sin, in common parlance, and all the sin 
lies in a bit of fish or meat! Such flimsy arguments 
cannot stand. The old Hindus never had such 
ideas. It is a later Vaishnavite interpolation. 



138 



XXII 
SAMADHI 

THE SWAMI Samadhi is mainly of two kinds, 
Savikalpa (ecstatic state of dual consciousness) 
and Nirvikalpa (undifferentiated state of con- 
sciousness). In the Nirvikalpa Samadhi a man 
loses all knowledge of name and form, and the 
whole world vanishes into nothingness. In the 
Cossipore Garden, Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) 
attained the Nirvikalpa Samadhi, but very few 
knew of it, for he seldom spoke of his experiences. 
There is yet another kind of Samadhi called 
Ananda Samadhi. In this the mind tastes such 
ecstatic joy that the body can scarcely hold it and 
as a consequence the Brahma-Randhra (the gate 
of the body in the top of the head) gives way. In 
this blissful state of consciousness, the body lasts 
three weeks at best, and no longer. 

Men visualise God in different forms, Sattwic, 
Rajasic and Tamasic, according to the predomi- 

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Spiritual Teachings 

nance of one or other of these three qualities. 
What a pity that instead of trading in this price- 
less merchandise, people bargain for paltry worldly 
things! Men must cultivate the habit of remem- 
bering and thinking on God constantly, for they 
have only God to call their own and they have to 
realise this truth in this life. 

The natural bent of the ordinary human mind 
is towards enjoyment, but that must be changed 
and the mind given an upward turn. Sri Rama- 
krishna's mind ever soared in the region of Bliss 
Supreme; especially during His Sadhana under the 
Panchavati (at Dakshineswar) it reached such a 
high pitch that time passed unnoticed. He totally 
lost all appetite for food and drink. But, since 
His body had to be preserved, the man who waited 
upon the Master would thrust a morsel of rice into 
His mouth whenever He seemed to come down 
from the exalted state of bliss in which He 
usually remained. In this way, during the 
whole day and night, the Master was made to 
swallow some seven or eight morsels of rice at most. 

140 



Samadhi 

Much later when we met Him, even then we could 
mark that He had to bring His mind down to the 
physical plane by force. 

One day in the course of His teaching the Master 
spoke at length about the Shabda Brahman (the 
manifestation of Brahman as sound). This was 
the subject of my noontide meditation in the Pan- 
chavati, and lo! suddenly I had the truth of His 
words revealed to me: I heard the birds on the 
trees around sing the Divine Vedic lore. 

On one occasion Sri Ramakrishna said: "One 
day as I was meditating in the Kali Temple, in a 
vision I saw the screens of Maya (ignorance) 
disappear one after the other from my sight. 
Another day, Mother held before my eyes a flood 
of light surpassing in effulgence and splendour a 
million suns, and out of that luminous mass I saw 
a form, purely of the nature of consciousness, 
emerge slowly, only to melt away into the light the 
next moment/* The formless assumed form, and 
the form lost itself in the formless! 

One day entering the Kali Temple, K. began to 

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Spiritual Teachings 

admonish the Mother in a violent tone: his chest 
became red and tears trickled down from his eyes 
in great anger. Sri Ramakrishna who had all this 
time been inside the Temple, perceiving his tone, 
came out and said: "True, temper can be shown 
to our near and dear ones; but yours is a very 
difficult attitude (Virabhava or the attitude of a 
lord to his consort). Mine is Matribhava (the 
attitude of a son to his mother) ." 

The human body is the greatest temple of God. 
For this reason the Scriptures enjoin that medita- 
tion and worship should be performed in the body. 
In this body is the Sahasrara (the thousand-petal- 
led lotus in the head, i.e., the upper brain) from 
where the mind does not ordinarily come down, if 
once it ascends there. It is for this reason that the 
Scriptures say: ''When in the Ratha is seen the 
Vamana, rebirth is at an end"; which means that 
in this very body (Ratha) resides God (Vamana) ; 
and realising Him therein, man escapes the 
repeated cycles of birth and death. In this body 
Ramaprasad saw the Lord, the Father and Mother 

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Samadhi 

of all, and instantly he sang, "Thou abidest in this 
body, Oh Mother, and herein do I see Thee." 

There is a third eye, the eye of knowledge, in 
this body on the forehead between the eye-brows. 
When it opens, one sees, as Sri Ramakrishna has 
said, everything blissful and happy around him. 
What is true of the Macrocosm is true of the 
Microcosm. 

How wonderful it is that God is so near us! 
Verily, if a man can once realise Him and have a 
taste of Bliss Divine, he will forthwith lose all 
taste for everything else. The temples, cars and 
chariots used in external worship are but symbols 
of the greatest temple of God, the human body, 



143 



XXIII 
POWER OF MIND 

THE SWAMI A King lives in his palace 
within seven gates. A poor man begs of the 
Minister a royal interview and his prayer is 
granted. The Minister leads him through the 
gates to the royal presence. Now, finding an 
officer richly dressed and stationed at each gate the 
man asks his guide if he (the officer) is the King; 
but every time the answer is in the negative. When 
they enter the seventh gate, at the sight of the 
exquisite beauty and grandeur of the real King the 
man at once recognises him as such and asks the 
minister no more. Such is the case with the Guru: 
like the Minister, the Guru leads the disciple 
through different stages till he leaves him with the 
Lord. 

No Guru is greater than your own mind. You 
will see when your mind is made steady through 



Power of Mind 

meditation, it will dictate from within what you 
have to do and which way to follow. Even in your 
daily duties it will show what is to be done first 
and what next. Thus it will lead you on till the 
Goal is reached. 

You can develop your mind and make it steady 
in either of two ways, by retiring to a solitary 
retreat and making the mind absolutely unsuscepti- 
ble to any change through concentration and medita- 
tion or by continually thinking good thoughts and 
developing love and attachment toward God. The 
mind is just like a milch cow which gives a larger 
supply when fed well. Give the mind more food 
and you will find it giving you better service in 
return. And what constitutes the food of the 
mind? Meditation and concentration, prayer and 
worship, and all such practices. 

There is a class of Sadhakas who let loose their 
mind and keep a strong watch over its movements. 
The mind, after roaming here and there, nowhere 
finds lasting peace, consequently it turns back to 

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Spiritual Teachings 

God and takes refuge in Him. The fact is, if you 
look after the mind, the mind will look after you. 
This being the case, it behoves you to keep a vigilant 
eye on the movements of the mind and analyse them 
with the utmost care and scrutiny. For this mental 
analysis no place is more suitable than a place of 
solitary retirement. It is for this purpose that the 
Rishis of old always selected the Himalayan 
retreats or the bank of the Ganges to carry on their 
Spiritual practices. The mind has to be purged of 
all attachment; it must be made transparent or it 
will not be able to catch the reflection of God. True 
renunciation consists in giving up all attachment 
for worldly objects to which the mind is bound. 
When the mind is once freed from this shackle it 
will not be affected in the least, even though it is 
placed in the midst of numberless objects of sense. 
Hence the value of struggle. A man who has no 
struggle in his life is lifeless. But he who bravely 
faces any obstacle that comes in his way will have 
the reward of everlasting peace. 

The most favourable time for meditation is the 
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Power of Mind 

time of Samyama, the hour when the day closes and 
night commences, and when the night closes and 
day breaks. At these hours Nature is calm and at 
rest. This is the reason why early rising forms an, 
essential factor in the religious life of a man. At 
this time the Sushumna Nodi (the central nerve 
within the spinal cord) sets to work and as a result 
the breath passes through both nostrils, the usual 
course which is generally through one only, either 
the Ida or the Pin gala disturbing the mind. Certain 
Yogins always watch for the time when the Su- 
shumna starts to function and when it is actually at 
work, at once they will sit for meditation, leaving 
aside whatever they may be engaged in. 

Man wants peace; but how can he realise it un- 
less he can establish a close intimacy with God and 
make Him his own; unless in the mental world he 
can hold intercourse with Him, feed Him, dress 
Him and behave with Him sweetly and cordially 
just as he does with his near and dear ones, his 
friends and relatives on this physical plane? To 
acquire this mental attitude the easiest course is to 

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Spiritual Teachings 

think constantly on Him; it is therefore the simplest 
of all Sadhanas. Mysterious is the way of God. 
He is infinite and finite. He also incarnates Him- 
self in the human form. Who can understand 
Him? Bhusandi, the Crow, at first took Rama- 
chandra for an ordinary being; but unable to pro- 
cure any shelter in the three worlds heaven, earth, 
or the nether world when chased by the unseen 
Hand of Rama, at last he recognised Him as God 
incarnate and prayed to Him. Many and varied are 
the paths through which God leads man; and no- 
body knows through which path he will be led. 
God sometimes leads him through a thorny path and 
at other times through a soft, rosy one. The one 
course open to man therefore is to resign himself 
wholly at His Feet. This is the only way out. 

The body, mind and the senses all become low 
and benumbed through the debasing influence of 
Maya. "Ensnared in the trap of the five elements," 
says Sri Ramakrishna, "the Brahman Himself 
weeps and laments/* Such is Maya! But to a 
man who has first realised God, who has transcended 

148 



Power of Mind 

once for all Her deluding charms and attractions, 
a thousand worlds cannot do the least harm. Such 
a man is beyond the bounds of Maya, and to such a 
one alone are revealed Her mysteries. 

Under the delusion of this divine Maya, man 
cannot comprehend how terribly painful and 
troublesome it is to be born and to live in this world. 
The body is decaying day by day; still he is forget- 
ful of the sacred mission for which he has taken this 
human birth. In spite of the troubles and tribula- 
tions of life here on this earth, human birth has a 
unique advantage. It is only in this birth that a 
being can realise God. Therefore without paying 
heed to the ease and comforts of this frail form, a 
man should do here such meritorious works as will 
produce lasting effect hereafter and thus terminate 
the repeated cycles of birth and death. Indeed, for 
the sake of mental peace one has to invoke peace- 
lessness. Such is the teaching of the wise. 



149 



XXIV 
WORSHIP OF GOD 

ADMONITIONS TO A DISCIPLE 
i 

THE SWAMI Pilgrimages are beneficial in 
many ways. The chief advantage is that we are 
enabled to meet holy men and serve them. Another 
advantage is that worldly thoughts tend to 
decrease and there is constant remembrance of 
God. No doubt these will aid us in our spiritual 
progress. We will gain much spiritual knowledge 
also. 

Kashi (Benares) is a very sacred place. Many 
Sadhus (holy men) live there. Thus we get the 
opportunity to be in their company. A spiritual 
current is always flowing in Kashi. Householders 
have many facilities for the worship of the Lord 
there. It would be good if you could stay there for 
a time. 

Vrindavan is another sacred place. There are 
150 



Worship of God 

many Sadhus there immersed in the contemplation 
of the Lord day and night. You ought to go and 
see those places. Work you will have always. But 
in spite of this, find time to visit these places at least 
once. So far as work is concerned, there is some 
which will lead you Godward. Unselfish work 
belongs to this class. But selfish work will never 
help you in your spiritual path. Know that your 
wife, children and all which you now call yours 
belong to the Lord. If you have this firm belief, 
everything will go on all right for you. The con- 
trary belief will bring about a contrary result. 

ii 

Repetition of the holy Name of the Lord is very 
good. The mind will become pure through it. 
While repeating the Name of the Lord you should 
keep remembrance of the Lord in your mind. Such 
repetition and remembrance will do much good. 
Mere repetition without the remembrance of the 
Lord will not be of much use. I do not say that 
this is easy. To do it one must have Upadesb, or 
initiation by the Guru. 

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Spiritual Teachings 

The Guru will determine your Ishta-Devata 
(form of Ideal) and other things necessary for your 
spiritual progress. According to the difference in 
the nature of each individual, there are many Ishta- 
Devatas. One cannot suit all. Until spiritual 
knowledge dawns upon you, you have to follow the 
directions of your Guru. The more you work, the 
purer you become. 

To practise without the aid of the Guru is always 
very difficult. A few rare souls of exceptional 
strength of mind might be able to realise without 
any such external help. Yet it is better to work 
under the guidance of a Guru. Then there is no 
possibility of your committing any mistake. Still 
you should not remain idle because you have not 
got a Guru. Begin at once and the Guru will come 
in proper time. 

The Guru must select the Shishya (disciple) and 
the Shishya must choose the Guru. Otherwise if 
one alone selects, it is not so good. Only a perfect 
soul (Siddha-Guru) can really help the disciple. 
Such a Guru alone can give initiation according to 

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Worship of God 

the differences in the nature of the disciples. An 
ordinary Guru can do no such thing. This latter is 
ready to give Upadesh to anyone at any time. When 
the proper time comes, God will send you your 
Guru. Until you get such a Guru, your duty is the 
worship of the Lord. If not, your days \vili be 
spent in vain. Hence have regular meditation, 
Japam, and Bhajanam (singing the praises of the 
Lord) every day. 

iii 

As you proceed with meditation you will see that 
you are getting more and more realisation. There 
is no use in merely reading the Shastras (Sacred 
Scriptures) and discussing about them. By medi- 
tation, the mind will become pure, and when the 
mind becomes pure, realisation of God follows as a 
matter of course. Ordinarily, we hold our mind on 
worldly matters. No result worth the name comes 
out of this. But if you fix your mind in the pure 
thought of God, you will feel a taste of real bliss. 

All your energy is spent in worldly things. Exert 
yourself a little in the worship of God. You should 

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Spiritual Teachings 

not spend your life thus in vain. Begin at once the 
worship of the Lord. Our span of life is very 
short. The most important duty for us in this 
short life is the worship of God. If we waste our 
time, we can never regain it. Whatever work you 
may be engaged in, think of the Lord always. It 
is not enough if you merely sit in a corner for a 
short time at a certain period of the day and shut 
your eyes; for then you will see the whole world 
coming before your mind's eye. 

It is best to start from Dualism. If you proceed 
a little along this path, you will find that you are 
naturally led to Non-dualism. To see God outside 
of ourselves is a right path. Afterwards you will 
be able to see God within yourself. This is the 
highest form of meditation. Is not God all-pervad- 
ing? Until you get the taste of bliss, you should 
practise meditation. Until then, Dualism is neces- 
sary. In the state of Samadhi, you will see God 
alone. None can describe the nature of self-reali- 
sation. So long as you have the thought of God in 
you, sin will not affect you. 

154 



XXV 
FRAGMENTS OF CONVERSATIONS 

i 

DEVOTEE Maharaj, the other day you told 
me that the mind can be made steady in two ways. 
Now, which of these two am I to follow ? 

THE SWAMI Hold the mind fast to the sacred 
feet of your Ishtam (Chosen Deity) . 

DEVOTEE Where shall I meditate upon the 
blessed form of my Ishtam ? 

THE SWAMI In the heart. 

DEVOTEE In the heart! And how, vener- 
able Sir? 

THE SWAMI Consider your Deity as facing 
you while you are in meditation. 

DEVOTEE But in the heart there are flesh and 
blood; how can a man think of his Ishtam there? 
Is He residing in these things flesh, bones and 
blobd ? Shall I think on Him in this wise ? 

155 



Spiritual Teachings 

THE SWAMI No, do not think of the flesh 
and bones at all. Your Ishtam is residing right in 
the core of the heart itself; develop this idea and 
meditate. In the beginning, of course, the con- 
sciousness of body will sometimes rise in your mind > 
but afterwards it will not. You will forget it 
totally; only the image of the Ishtam will then 
reign supreme in your mind. 

DEVOTEE Shall I think on my Ishtam exactly 
as I find Him in pictures and images? Or in any 
other way? 

THE SWAMI Not exactly; in a form, but 
living and luminous. 

ii 

DEVOTEE In the Scriptures I have read and 
also heard from many that ]apam should be per- 
formed, at the same time meditating on the mean- 
ing of the Mantram (holy Name). Now, how to 
think on this meaning? Letter by letter, or on the 
Mantram as a whole? 

THE SWAMI Not so. It is just like address- 
ing a man by his name. The moment I address 

156 



Fragments of Conversations 

you by your name, your form also flashes into my 
mind. Similar is the Mantram and the form that 
is bom out of it. 

DEVOTEE How shall I perform ]apam? 
Mentally or muttering low? 

THE SWAMI When you are alone in a solitary 
retreat, then do it in a manner as may be audible 
to you only. If there is anybody nearby, it must 
be done silently; but the lips must move in either 
case. 

iii 

DEVOTEE For the last few days in my medi- 
tation, I clearly perceive the Mantram shining 
forth in letters, bright and effulgent before my 
eyes. Then I do not see my Ishtam, the Mantram 
alone forming the sole object of perception. What 
shall I do, Sir? Shall I try to think on the image 
of my Ishtam alone, after driving away the 
Mantram from the mind? Or what? 

THE SWAMI That is very good, an auspi- 
cious sign indeed. Yes, surely that is good. But 
both have to be thought on. The Mantram is no 

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Spiritual Teachings 

other than the Brahman Himself manifested 
through name. Hence you should not drive it out 
of the mind. Think on the Mantram and also the 
holy form represented by it. Think on both. It 
is better not to banish either. 

DEVOTEE Well, Sir, which part of the blessed 
figure of my Ishtam shall I think on first, the face 
or any other part? 

THE SWAMI Why, begin from His lotus feet 
after first offering unto them your salutations; and 
then face, hands or feet whatever rises before you. 

DEVOTEE Why is the Mantram so very long? 
. THE SWAMI True, the Mantram sometimes 
becomes long. But long or short, it possesses a 
special power; and if you perform Japam constant- 
ly, you will know the truth of it in no time. 

DEVOTEE Many are of opinion that if at the 
time of Japam and meditation the fourth finger 
touches the rosary, it constitutes a sin; may I ask 
you, Sir, why? 

THE SWAMI Do you perform Japam with the 
fourth finger? All right, do as you like. If you 

158 



Fragments of Conversations 

like to perform Japam with the fourth finger, you 
can do it without any hesitation. It will not bind 
you to any sin whatsoever. 

iv 

DEVOTEE How shall I steady the mind, Sir? 

THE SWAMI By regular daily practice you 
can make the mind firm and steady. And for this 
practice early morning is the best time. Before 
meditation reading from any of the holy Scriptures 
will make concentration easier. After medi- 
tation half an hour's silent rest is necessary; for 
at the time of meditation you may not derive the 
desired effect; it may come a little later. There- 
fore it is said that if immediately after meditation 
you divert your attention abruptly to secular 
affairs, it will not only do you great harm in 
general, but also it will deter the growth of your 
mind toward spiritual realisation in particular. 

Japam and meditation, these are the food of the 
mind; and their practice is what constitutes the 
first and foremost necessity of man. If, in the 
beginning, you are not able to carry on your Japam 

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Spiritual Teachings 

and meditation in the right way, even then you 
must not give up the practice altogether. By 
practice alone you can gain a good deal. Daily 
two hours' ]apam and meditation and then half- 
an-hour's rest is what is required of everybody. 
Solitary retirement is also a great help to the 
spiritual aspirant. Simply by sitting silently in 
the secluded nook of a garden or on the solitary 
bank of a river, or on the lonely outskirt of a vast, 
open field, or shut up within your own closet, you 
can profit much. You must make up a routine 
before you commence your spiritual practices. 
And you must not take upon yourself any work 
which may stand in the way of following the 
routine. 

v 

DEVOTEE If at the time of meditation any 
form of any god or goddess other than that of my 
Ishtam appears to my mind, what should I do 
then, Sir? 

THE SWAMI Know it to be a very auspicious 
sign. Your Ishtam Himself may appear to you 

160 



Fragments of Conversations 

in various forms. He is one, and at the same 
time He is many. Enjoy the holy sight o your 
Ishtam and welcome that one which comes in His 
stead. In the end you will find these different 
forms merging one by one into the sacred body of 
your own Ishtam. 

You must lay much stress on ]apam and medi- 
tation, especially on the Amavasya, Purnima and 
Ashtami tit his (the last day of the dark fortnight, 
the full moon day and the eighth day of either 
fortnight of the month), and also on th^e occasions 
of the worship of Mother Kali (Shyama) , Jagad- 
dhatri and Durga. You must also look upon all 
women as your mother. And instead of giving 
any positive word to anybody simply say, "I shall 
try"; for you may not be able to keep to your 
promise. 

DEVOTEE Maharaj, you are always insisting 
on the same theme, "Serve your father'*. But 
is it not a most unfortunate thing for me, Sir, that 
renouncing all, I have not yet been able to become 
a monk and serve you ? 

161 



Spiritual Teachings 

THE SWAMI Monk! You are already that. 
The only thing is that you have not taken the 
Gerua (the ochre-coloured dress of a monk). But, 
my son, Gerua alone cannot make you a monk. 

DEVOTEE Is it not a great privilege to be 
able to join the Holy Order (Sri Ramakrishna 
Order) and become Sannyasin and serve you ? 

THE SWAMI Indeed it is; but by serving 
your sick father, my boy, you will attain to the 
same result, the greatest good. And if you do not 
entangle yourself furthermore by marriage or 
otherwise, you have nothing to fear in this world. 
I ask you again, my child, devote yourself wholly 
to your father's service and also to Japam and 
meditation and the study of sacred books. 



162 



XXVI 
GOD-MINDFULNESS 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, while engaged in Relief 
Work, I have to labour very hard all day long; I 
have little or no opportunity to carry on my 
spiritual practices: I find no time at all; so I do not 
feel inclined to do such work. 

THE SWAMI But have you to work like that 
all through? 

DISCIPLE No, Sir, for the first few days only. 

THE SWAMI Then why do you complain that 
you find no time? It is the ordinary worldling 
who is often heard to grumble in this strain, that 
secular duties stand in the way of spiritual prac- 
tices. Such flimsy argument, my boy, does not 
befit you, a Sadhu. You have the power of 
Brahmacharya (absolute continence) in you; you 
must carry on both spiritual practices and 
mundane duties simultaneously. My idea is that 

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Spiritual Teachings 

you do not possess any strong desire at heart for 
spiritual exercises; you only like to pass your time 
in vain works, and in merriment; your plea of want 
of time is nothing but a lame excuse. In Relief 
operations the first few days may be a very busy 
time for you and I fully appreciate that; but this 
state of things does not continue for long. What 
do you do then? Why do you not carry on your 
Sadhana at that time? Do you not feel ashamed 
to complain in this wise? 

Those who are really inclined toward Sadhana 
perform their practices under all circumstances: 
only they do it more intensely whenever and 
wherever the opportunity is favourable. Those 
who always complain of inconveniences of time and 
place never make any progress in their life; they 
wander about like vagabonds and spend their 
precious time in vain. 

Engage yourself heart and soiil in Sadhana. 
Plunge into your spiritual practices. Oh, the joy 
of it! If you once have a taste of that joy, all else 
will lose its savour for you. Then, wherever and 

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God-Mindfulness 

in whatever circumstances you may be placed by 
Providence, you will not relish anything except 
Sadhana. True, in the very beginning you cannot 
have that joy; but believing in the words of your 
Guru, if you persist in Sadhana for some time, the 
joy of it will descend upon you unsought. 

In performing ]apam and meditation, time and 
other conditions are indeed necessary, but Smaran 
and Manan (constant remembrance and contem- 
plation of God) wait for no such conditions. 
Whether at work or idle, whether dining or sitting 
alone, you can always practise these. You must 
cultivate this habit; and when you become an 
adept in it, know that you have made a fair 

advance in mind toward God. According to Sri 
Ramanuja such an uninterrupted flow of thought 

is called Dhyana (meditation) . 

I wonder why you are so much afraid of work. 
(Pointing to Swami P.) They are all saintly men; 
you must do whatever they ask you to do. This 
will surely bring you good. But if you disobey, 
you will never make any spiritual advancement. 

165 



Spiritual Teachings 

Therefore I beg you, my boy, to obey them 
implicitly. This is the sincerest advice that I can 
give you. What a huge lot of work we had to do 
under the Divine dispensation! Even as Sadhus 
we had to be involved in litigations and frequently 
visit lawyers' offices, seeking their legal advice. 
With all that we cannot say that any evil result has 
come from our work; for we knew that all work 

was His. 

* * * * 

THE SWAMI (Seeing a small broken bottle) 
That bottle has been broken. This shows a bad 
habit of mind. You work with an unsettled mind. 
I fear you think of a hundred other things while 
engaged in work. But secular or sacred, nothing 
great can be achieved with an unsteady mind. 
Whether it is a lofty undertaking or a humble one, 
it must be done with the utmost care and atten- 
tion. Let me tell you, those who are steady in 
secular work are also steady in their spiritual 
exercises. 

If you desire to do work in the right manner, you 
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God-Mindfulness 

must hold these two great principles in view. In 
the first place you must possess a profound regard 
for the work undertaken, and secondly you must 
be quite indifferent to the fruits thereof. Then 
alone can you do work in the proper way. This is 
called the secret of Karma-Yoga. And you can 
avert all disinclination for work if you only con- 
sider it as belonging to God. It is when you forget 
this secret that you become disturbed in mind; with 
a disturbed mind, you will not succeed either in 
advancing spiritually or in secular work. 

Under the impulse of name and fame, it is indeed 
easier to do a magnificent work, but through such 
work you cannot appraise the value of a man as he 
really is. In order to do so, you have to examine 
his daily actions; for it is the ordinary actions of 
a man which reveal the real man. Through such 
actions alone can you know how far the man has 
developed his character. A true Karma-Yogin 
(selfless worker) will lose himself heart and soul in 
any undertaking, even though it is of a most in- 
ferior kind. He is never actuated by the least desire 

167 



Spiritual Teachings 

of winning cheap popular applause. 

Who cannot do a work if it is his own choice? 
Where then lies the difference between a Karma- 
Yogin and an ordinary layman? A Karma-Yogin 
must welcome any work that may fall to his share 
and gradually adjust himself to all requirements. 
Simply carrying on some work is not sufficient; it 
must be done disinterestedly in the holy Name of 
the Lord. A Karma-Yogin must keep three-fourths 
of his mind fixed on God, and with the remaining 
one-fourth he should do whatever he has to do. 
Follow this rule, then alone can you do your work 
in proper manner; your mind too will become ex- 
panded and you will feel great joy in you. But on 
the other hand, if you work forgetting God, egotism 
and pride will easily get the better of you and 
quarrels and dissensions will ensue, disturbing the 
equanimity of your mind. Therefore I tell you, 
whether at work or not, never forget God. To 
maintain this attitude, you must stick to your 
Sadhana (spiritual practices) by all means. 



168 



XXVII 
ATTACHMENT FOR GOD 

DISCIPLE Sir, is Sri Ramakrishna still living? 

THE SWAMI Have you gone mad? If He 
does not live, why should we then lead such a life, 
giving up our home and all? He is. Only pour 
out your whole heart in prayer to Him, and He will 
stand revealed in His glory to you and will remove 
all the doubts and confusions that are troubling 
you constantly. 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, do you see Him now? 

THE SWAMI Yes, but only when He is pleased 
to reveal Himself to us; then alone can we see Him. 
Everyone can see Him through His grace. But 
alas! who longs to see Him? How few have that 
yearning ! 

DISCIPLE Venerable Sir, please tell us some- 
thing about the Master. 

THE SWAMI His is a never-ending story, my 
boy; and very little of it do we know! You will 

169 



Spiritual Teachings 

know Him only when He will be pleased to make 
you know Him. Bear this in mind; without the 
concentration of the threefold power, bodily, 
mental and spiritual religious unfoldment is not 
possible. God realisation is not so easy a task, 
my son! 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, when I sit for medita- 
tion, I find my mind roaming about the whole 
universe; it thinks on no end of things. How to 
stop this restlessness of the mind, Sir ? 

THE SWAMI In the beginning this always 
happens, but you must try diligently to check the 
mad outward course of your mind. You can suc- 
ceed in the following manner: never begin your 
meditation immediately after sitting down on your 
Asanam (holy seat). By discrimination first draw 
the mind back from its external pursuits and lock 
it up within, at the sacred feet of your Ishtam; then 
begin Japam and meditation. If you follow this 
course for some time, the mind will naturally cease 
to wander. 

The easiest way in this Katt-Yuga (Iron Age) is 
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Attachment for God 

the path of ]apam. By constantly performing 
Japam the mind can easily be made calm and 
steady, and finally it will lose itself in the Ishtam. 
The path of Yoga and all similar paths are paths 
to God, but very difficult to follow. Therefore I 
ask you to perform Japam frequently, and along 
with it think on the Ishtam; in doing this you 
perform both Japam and meditation simultaneous- 
ly. This dual method brings success sooner. 

Always perform your Sadhana with unswerving 
steadfastness and do not let a single day pass by 
without it. Whether you wish or not, sit down on 
your Asanam at the appointed hour every day. If 
you can carry on your practices for three years with 
such unerring regularity, I assure you that love and 
attachment for God will grow in you and you will 
feel yourself nearer to Him. Then you will be 
prompted from within to call upon Him and Him 
alone; you will not be able to turn your mind in 
any other direction. It is at this stage that the 
joy of Sadhana is felt by an aspirant in his heart. 

Without intense love and attachment for God, it 
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Spiritual Teachings 

is very difficult for a beginner to perform Sadhana 
in the right way, even after retiring into solitude. 
Being alone, there is always a possibility of serious 
consequences. Therefore, two of a similar type 
and temperament should live together; in that case 
mutual help and guidance may be rendered, should 

any crisis befall one or the other at any time. But, 
on the other hand, if the number is more than two, 

gossip and confusion enter in, and nothing is more 
injurious to spiritual practice than indulgence in 
worldly talk. By such idle talk not only does the 
mind lose its higher tendencies and nobler aspira- 
tions, but it is made to forget God, who is the 
supreme Ideal of human life. 

While carrying on spiritual exercises, an aspirant 
must not beg his food from Chatrams (Rest- 
houses for pilgrims) ; for these are maintained in 
greater part with the funds of Shraddha (funeral 
ceremony) given by worldly people with the pur- 
pose of serving the holy. A hundred other desires 
also prompt the minds of the people before subscri- 
bing their share to these charitable food-supplying 

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Attachment j or God 

agencies. For all these reasons, a meal supplied by 
them is not pure. But to live on Madhukan (holy 
begging of food) is very good; it is pure and un- 
contaminated by any unholy desire. 

At the time of Sadhana, you must also cut down 
the quantity of your food to a minimum; With a 
loaded stomach Japam and meditation are not pos- 
sible because the greater part of your energy will be 
squandered in digesting the food, and the mind will 
remain perturbed. That is why moderation in 
habits, in food and recreation, in everything, has 
been so strongly enjoined in the Srimad-Bhagavad- 
Gita. "Yoga is not for him," the Lord says, "who 
eats too much or too little; nor, O Arjuna, for him 
who sleeps too much or too little." 

Again, if you really want spiritual realisation you 
must settle down in a particular place and carry on 
your Sadhana uninterruptedly for a length of time. 
By wandering about you will never gain anything 
tangible or permanent. This I am telling you from 
the pages of my own life. But I doubt if you are 
prepared to profit by my experience. 

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Spiritual Teachings 

In this sacred monastery of Swamiji (Swami 
Vivekananda) how grand are the facilities for 
Sadhana! Food and clothes, nothing have you to 
think about. All is ready at hand. Why do you 
not live here and apply yourself whole-heartedly to 
a life of constant prayer and meditation? But who 
will listen to us! No good comes of 'Vagabondis- 
ing/' my child. 

If you think that you can become a Mahatma or 
a great saint by roaming about here and there for 
some time, let me tell you, you are misguided. You 
cannot become a saint in that way. Without un- 
ceasing practice you cannot have any religious 
experience; it cannot be had simply by trickery. If 
you sincerely cherish a longing for God-realisation, 
you must plunge into Sadhana and be completely 
lost in your practice. Without sincere Sadhana 
what good will come out of your wandering about 
from place to place, though dressed in the sacred 
Cerua and living on holy begging? 



174 



XXVIII 
WHAT A SADHU SHOULD DO 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, I have been trying in 
various ways to bring my senses under control but 
all are of no avail; will you tell me how I can 
succeed in my attempt? 

THE SWAMI "I will conquer lust, I will con- 
quer anger, greed" if you try in this way, you will 
never conquer them; but if you can concentrate 
your mind on God, the senses will of themselves be 
curbed without much effort on your part. Sri 
Ramakrishna used to say, the more you proceed 
eastwards, the further are you from the west; you 
have not to spend any energy to accomplish this. 
Take up this direct method; call upon God and 
pray to Him; then the senses will lose their ven- 
omous sting in no time. 

The way in which you perform ]apam and medi- 
tation is most superficial. With such casual effort, 
by an hour's practice or two, God can never be 

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Spiritual Teachings 

realised. But if you can lose yourself day and 
night in the contemplation of God, His Name and 
glory, then alone will you be blessed with vision of 
Him; otherwise not. That is the only way: be 
plunged in Sadhana heart and soul; no more waste 
of time. 

In the primary stage of your Sadhana you should 
go on increasing your Japam and meditation slowly 

and steadily, little by little. If today you spend 
an hour, a few days after add a little more time; 

again a few days later, devote still more, and so 
on. In this way you should lengthen the time of 
your spiritual practice, more and more every day. 
But in momentary enthusiasm you must never in- 
crease your Japam and meditation by leaps and 
bounds. If you violate this law, I warn you, you 
will suffer badly:' the reaction from the sudden 
increase will be too severe for you to bear unmoved; 
consequently you are likely to undergo terrible 
depression of mind. Then you will have no more 
inclination for fapatri. and meditation. It is an 
arduous task to lift up a depressed mind and turn 

176 



What a Sadhu Should Do 

it back to Sadhana once again. 

In all spiritual realisation His grace is most 
essential; without that no progress is possible. 
Therefore, for His grace you must pray to Him with 
an eager heart. Prayer has a wonderful efficacy 
of its own; also it is pleasing to God. 

In the beginning of your Sadhana you must not 
let yourself be swayed by any desire for enjoyment. 
For you, now is the time for complete abstinence, 
for controlling all desires. By the grace of the 
Lord when you are once well established in this 
practice, then you will have no more fear of being 
stained by desires, should they rise in your mind at 
any time. 

Again, those who have embraced the life of a 
monk after giving up their home and all, for them 
it is most unworthy to be actuated by the desire to 
exercise authority over others. For a monk such 
a motive is the root-cause of falling again into 
bondage. Therefore you must be very careful 
about this pitfall. Whatever you may do or see, 
look upon it as belonging to God and upon your- 

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Spiritual Teachings 

self as an instrument in His hand. Remember the 
words of the Gita, ''Being deluded by egotism, man 

calls himself the doer/' 

Lying is yet another great sin. Even a drunkard 

or a man who frequents places of ill fame can be 
trusted, but not the one who lies. It is the blackest 
of all sins in this world. 

You must never find fault with others nor criti- 
cise them. Such a habit is extremely detrimental 
to one's own good. By thinking of the evil quali- 
ties of others day and night, they will be impressed 
on your own mind; and that, at the cost of the 
good tendencies that you may possess. So there 
is no good in fault-finding! Rather, sing His glory 
and mix heartily with all and rejoice. But who 
will listen to this advice ? It is very bad for Sadhus 
to sit in groups to find fault with others and launch 
a malicious crusade against them. None but the 
low-minded take part in such shameful actions ! 

Always cultivate the habit of looking at the 
goodness of a man and doing him honour and prais- 
ing him, even though only a slight trace of goodness 

178 



What a Sadhu Should Do 

is to be found in him. Take it from me, my boy, 
if you do not show due regard for other's greatness, 
your mind will never expand, nor will you ever be 
called great by others. 

It is not honest on the part of a Sadhu to accept 
a householder's offerings without performing 
Sadhana in return. The householder supplies him 
with food and provisions, because he is expected 
to carry on his Sadhana exclusively, withdrawing 
himself from all other pursuits of life. Without 
Sadhana, therefore, you must not take a house- 
holder's service; if you disobey this rule, know that 
you do so at your own cost. The acceptance of 
holy alms, in whatever shape, from a householder 
entitles the latter to a share of the former's religious 
merit. Therefore a Sadhu must accumulate as 
much merit as will leave a decent remainder after 
meeting this charge. 

Man is composed of both good and bad tenden- 
cies; so do not slight another because only the evil 
ones are visible to you; but, considering him as 
your own counterpart, try to rectify him and by 

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Spiritual Teachings 

love draw him towards the good. Then only do 
you deserve to be called a man. What is the use of 

crying down a fellow-being! 

* * * * 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, on some days during my 
meditation my mind of itself becomes calm and 
steady, while on others I cannot make it so, try as 
I may; it runs about to and fro; how to make it 
steady, Sir? 

THE SWAMI As you see ebb and flow in the 
tide of the Ganges, my son, even so is the case with 
everything in this world. Your Sadhana too has 
its ebb and flow. In the beginning, however, this 
is not to be wondered at. But stick to your 
Sadhana. If you can carry it on for some time, 
the ebb and flow will stop and your mind will flow 
in a smooth and unobstructed current. 

Whenever you feel that the mind is calm and 
steady, then leaving aside all work engage yourself 
deeply in Sadhana. Again when you are perturb- 
ed in mind and do not feel calm, then also you 
must sit for your usual daily exercises, and try to 

180 



What a Sadhu Should Do 

bring the mind under control through discrimina- 
tion. The mind does not become steady all at 
once. You have to struggle and struggle every 
moment. Through struggle the mind and senses 
and intellect, all will surely come under control. 

Remember, my child, since you are a Sadhu, you 
are expected to be calm and gentle and modest and 
fair-spoken; goodness must flow out through every 
word you utter, every action you perform, through 
your behaviour and movements. By their contact 
with you, others must attain peace of mind and be 
drawn toward God and goodness. 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, we hear of the spiritual 
current of holy places; may I know what that 
means, Sir? 

THE SWAMI Yes, every place of pilgrimage 
has a time when the spiritual current begins to 
flow. At such a time the mind can be easily 
pacified by means of ]apam and meditation, and 
also you will feel a great joy at heart. 

DISCIPLE How to know that time, Sir? 

THE SWAMI Oh, that is not so difficult to 

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Spiritual Teachings 

know; a sincere man can easily catch it at a 
slightly advanced stage of his Sadhana. 

Regarding Kashi (Benares), it is wholly beyond 
the ordinary world; it is a place of mighty spiritual 
consciousness. Whatever Sadhana you perform 
here will multiply itself tenfold; also the dormant 
lion of Mantram awakens very soon in this sacred 
place. In Kashi, the land of eternal freedom, Lord 
Viswanath bestows salvation unasked on all, great 
or small, rich or poor, virtuous or vicious, on all 
alike. He who can procure an honest living in this 
thrice blessed home of spirituality is indeed a man 
among men. 



182 



XXIX 
NAME OF THE LORD 

THE SWAMI Do you perform prayer and 
meditation now? 

DEVOTEE No, Sir. Not at all. 

THE SWAMI It is better to do a little every 
day. That will give you peace of mind and steadi- 
ness. I am sure you have a family Guru; why 
have you not taken initiation from him? You had 
better receive it from him soon. Every day you 
should perform a little Japam and meditation. 
Purchase a string of Rudraksha beads; dip it in the 
holy waters of the Ganges and touch the sacred 
Feet of Lord Viswanath with it; then perform 
Japam with that a hundred and eight or a thousand 
times daily. If you like to do more, you can safely 
do so; and you should. 

DEVOTEE What shall I repeat, Sir? 

THE SWAMI The blessed Name of the Lord! 
Among His various Names that one which inspires 

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Spiritual Teachings 

the greatest faith and devotion in you that is the 
Name you should choose for your Japam. 

DEVOTEE Again, without a form, meditation 
is not possible; what form shall I meditate upon, 
and where? 

THE SWAMI You must meditate upon that 
one of the many forms of Him you like best. You 
can place Him in the heart or outside. A wise 
Guru, however, will understand the particular form 
of God that calls forth the greatest faith and regard 
from the disciple, and will instruct him to medi- 
tate on that. 

Then there is mental worship. As you do 
external worship with offerings of flowers, sandal 
paste, burning of camphor, exactly so is the wor- 
ship in the mind. In the mind you have to picture 
the form of Deity you choose, in the mind you are 
to offer all the holy things used in worship, 
and in the mind again you have to adore 
Him with all the reverence and devotion of your 
heart in humble supplication. You have heard 
enough; now do something and show your worthi- 

184 



Name of the Lord 

ness. No more waste of time; begin from this day 
this very evening. For the present do these two 
things: Japam and meditation every morning and 
evening without fail, and continue this habit for a 
couple of years at least. Then you will find great- 
joy; you will come to us more frequently, and will 
know more and more of spiritual mysteries. 

So much for the present. I shall tell you in time 
what more practices you have to take up. Now 
you need not bother yourself about the mental 
worship; leave it for the time being. After your 
formal initiation, if I think you should do it, I will 
tell you. Regarding initiation itself, you need not 
worry over that at this stage. Now only do as 
much as instructed and nothing more. No more 
wasting of time, my child; begin this very day, and 
go bravely on. 

Procure a new Asanam or rug to sit upon; keep 
it apart to be used solely for meditation, worship 
and such things. Also choose a solitary retreat for 
your meditation and Sadhana; your garden house, 
I imagine, stands in a very lonely place. If you 

185 



Spiritual Teachings 

feel inconvenient or disturbed at home, now and 
then retire there at night. Remember always that 
here in this sacred city of Kashi, spiritual realisa- 
tion is easily attainable. If you can carry on your 
Sadhana for two years at a stretch, I am sure you 
will gain, some realisation. There are those who 
have attained still sooner in a year even. So 
begin now, and after the lapse of some time you 
will feel so much joy at heart that you will like to 
meditate more and more. 

Frequent holy places, study sacred books, and 
come to me now and then. While meditating, sit 
erect and cross-legged, and hold your hands near 
your chest or the upper abdomen. Do not begin 
your meditation immediately after taking your 
posture; sit silently for a couple of minutes or so, 
and try to make the mind calm, so that no alien 
thoughts may cross it; then only is meditation to be 
begun in right earnest. For a year or two you will 
have to exert your mind to the limit of its power; 
thereafter meditation will become natural to you. 
If any day you are hard pressed with work, that 

186 



Name of the Lord 

day you may sit for meditation only once, or may 
finish it in a few minutes, say, in ten or fifteen 
minutes. In the event of greater pressure, fix your 
mind on God for a moment, then bow down to Him 
and close your meditation. You can do this in 
exceptional cases, but not always. 

Before your morning service wash your hands 
and face and dress yourself in clean freshly washed 
clothes; then sit for your practice. You may also 
take a little of the sacred Ganges water. In the 
evening also, follow the same routine. I assure you 
once more, if you do these things regularly, you will 
enjoy great peace of mind and will live happily. 

Regarding moral conduct, observe these two 
rules; speak the truth always, and honour and 
worship all women as mother. Nothing more need 
you trouble yourself with now. The observance 
of these two rules will make all other moral rules 
living through your life. 

Believe in the existence of God, and never say 
He does not exist. I tell you, my child, God is. 
Therefore hold fast to Him in sincere devotion and 

187 



Spiritual Teachings 

in lowliness of spirit and pray and pray! No more 
speculations, no more waste of time, no more idle- 
ness; begin now, this very day, and move forward. 
I will see to the rest. 



188 



XXX 
THE PROCESS OF MEDITATION 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, some meditate 011 the 
Ideal in the heart, some think of it in the head; I 
see it outside as I see you. Which is the proper 
way, Sir? 

THE SWAMI The process of meditation 
differs according to the differences in Sadhana. 
Ordinarily it is better to meditate on the Ideal in 
the heart. The body should be considered as the 
temple and God as residing in it. When the mind 
becomes steady through continued spiritual prac- 
tices, then alone can a man have a vision of his 
Isbtam (Chosen Deity) ; and wherever he realises 
Him head or heart there he can carry on his 
meditation with ease. 

Through persistence in meditation the first 
experience that a man gets is the perception of a 
hallowed effulgence; and simultaneously with that 
experience or a little later, a kind of higher and 

189 



Spiritual Teachings 

nobler joy is felt and the mind is reluctant to move 
onward, leaving that joy. But if one goes further, 
he sees the effulgence taking more definite form, 
and the mind tends to merge itself in that form of 

consciousness. Sometimes the mind can be com- 
pletely obliterated by continuously hearing the long, 

sacred sound of the Pranava (Om, the sound 
symbol of Brahman) . 

Spiritual realisation knows no bounds! The 
more you know, the more yet remains to be known. 
It is unbounded, infinite! By experiencing a little 
of that effulgence, many think they have reached 
the end; but the fact is quite otherwise. Accord- 
ing to some, again, when the mind ceases to be 
active, then true religion begins; but others believe 
that that is the end. 

DISCIPLE Generally we find that the mind, 
after making some progress along the spiritual 
path cannot advance further: what makes it stop, 
venerable Sir? 

THE SWAMI The weakness of the mind is 
solely responsible for this mental torpor. Accord- 

190 



The Process of Meditation 

ing to its capacity the mind moves on to a certain 
point, then stops; it cannot advance more. All 
minds are not of the same capacity, although all 
can be and must be developed. Sri Ramakrishna 
has said that through Brahmacharya the mind can 
be strengthened more and more; and a strong mind 
never wavers even when overtaken by lust and 
anger. To such a mind these passions are trifles. 
It is firmly convinced that these can do it no harm. 
Many are the pitfalls that stand in the way of 
Sadhana. External troubles are negligible compar- 
ed to the internal. Hence the many injunctions for 
Asanam (posture) and Mudra (position of fingers) 
in religious worship. 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, you call each one of us 
to you and inquire about our spiritual progress and 
our difficulties. You give us new courage and 
enthusiasm. Your encouragement takes away all 
fear and anxiety and makes us bold and un- 
compromising. 

THE SWAMI Such an attitude of mind does 
not always come, my child. At times, of course, 

191 



Spiritual Teachings 

the mind is in such a state that I feel I could entreat 
you all one by one, even touching your feet and 
saying, "Do this, my son, do this, I implore you." 
But again I think, "Who am I to instruct you in all 
this; the Lord is there; and as He makes us do, so 
is it done. Whom to ask! The Lord Himself is 
the cause; the Lord Himself is the instrument, and 
He Himself is all!" Why should people take my 
words even though they ask me! But then you 
know, my boy, when the inspiration comes from 
within, then people do take them and follow them. 
Strive on, my son, strive on and on; do not waste 
a moment. At the close of each day Sri Rama- 
krishna wept and prayed: "Mother, another day 
is gone and I am not yet blest with Thy vision!" 
Even so yearn after God, my child, and be lost in 
Him! 



192 



XXXI 
TRUE VISION 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, is grace conditional? 

THE SWAMI Sri Ramakrishna has said that 
when it is hot, man fans himself; but when the cool 
breeze sets in, he stops fanning. Even so with 
grace. 

DISCIPLE What is the distinction between the 
true vision of God and hallucination? How to 
distinguish them, Sir? 

THE SWAMI From the true vision of God 
results a lasting bliss; one's own mind knows it 
instinctively. 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, what is the necessity of 
Mudra (position of fingers) and other rituals in 
formal worship? 

THE SWAMI The mind is disturbed by many 
evil influences. The right sort of Mudra helps 
the worshipper in warding them off. Sometimes 
you may think that you are all right and that, if you 
meditate, your mind will become concentrated. But 

193 



Spiritual Teachings 

as you sit for meditation, within five minutes 
various distractions crop up in the mind and shake 

its balance. Once an evil thought rose in me, and 
as I approached the Master, from a distance He 
divined it, and said: "My boy, I see that an evil 
thought is disturbing your mind." So saying, he 
placed his hand on my head in blessing and uttered 
some words inaudibly; within five minutes it had 
gone! When the mind moves on higher planes, no 
evil influence can reach there and agitate it. 

* * * * 

DISCIPLE Maharaj, I have heard that medita- 
tion should be preceded by the worship of the Guru; 
but I do not know how to conduct it; pray tell me 
how, Sir! 

THE SWAMI It is not essential; the worship 
of the Ishtam is enough. 

DISCIPLE Pray tell me how to worship the 
Guru. 

THE SWAMI You can learn how from 
Swami P. 

DISCIPLE No, Sir, I beg you to tell me; he 



True Vision 

may not tell me at all. 

THE SWAMI Very well; at first, you should 
meditate upon the Guru in the heart; then after a 
while imagine him as merging himself in the 
Ishtam; then begin to repeat the sacred name of 
your Ishtam and meditate upon His blessed form; 
and thus continue. 



193 



XXXII 
WHAT IS TAPASYA? 

{His Holiness Swami Brahmanaiida spent the 
last days of his life on this earth in the Head 
Monastery of the Ramakrishna Mission on the 
bank of the Ganges above Calcutta. The conver- 
sation which follows took place during this time. 
It was the evening of the 17th of March, 1922. The 
venerable figure of the Swami was seated on the 
eastern verandah of the Math (monastery) . A 
group of disciples sat on the floor in front of him. 
As the older Sadhus of the Order finished their 
evening meditation, they came one by one to bow 
at the Swami's feet in reverent salutation. The 
stillness of prayer and contemplation was in the 
air, broken only by the murmur of swift-flowing 
waters and the faint sound of Vesper chants from 
surrounding temples. Suddenly through the silence 
came the question, "Maharajji, what is meant by 
Tapasya?"] 

THE SWAMI Yhere are different kinds of 
196 



What is Tapasya? 

Tapasya. Some take a vow that they will not sit 
for a long period. I have seen a man who had taken 
a vow not to sit for twelve years. At that time he 
had almost finished that period only five or six 
months were remaining. By constantly standing, 
his legs had grown very stout as in elephant- 
iasis. For sleeping he held to a rope. The rope 
was tied to both ends of a wooden piece, holding to 
which the man slept at night. There are other 
kinds of Tapasya. In the winter season, one stands 
all night up to the neck in very cold water and 
spends the time in making Japam! In very hot 
weather one sits and meditates in the midst of five 
blazing Dhuntes under a burning sun. In another 
kind one stands or sits in meditation on a seat with 
pointed nails. 

DEVOTEE Is this true Tapasya, Maharaj ? 

THE SWAMI Heaven knows! These people 
do these things with some motive. They hope they 
will become kings; or enjoy the world in their next 
birth. They have admitted this to me. 

DEVOTEE Do they get these results? 

197 



Spiritual Teaching* 

THE SW AMI Heaven knows! 

DEVOTEE Then what is real Tapasya? 

THE SWAMI Real Tapasya is not in such 
feats. Any one can do these things by practice. 
It is very easy to conquer the body; but to conquei 
the mind is the greatest difficulty to conquei 
lust, greed, desire for name and fame. Real 
Tapasya lies in three things: (1) You must be very 
truthful. Truth is the pillar to which you must 
always hold. Every inch of you must b truthful, 
(2) You must get rid of lust. (3) You must gain 
control over your Vasanas. These are the main 
things to be observed. Of these the second is the 
most important, that is, Brahmacharya. Real 
Tapasya lies here. Our Shastras say that by 
observing Brahmacharya for twelve years very 
strictly, God becomes easy to realise. This is very 
difficult. I can tell you from my own experience 
I have learned that no true meditation is possible 
without real Brahmacharya. It is very difficult to 
get control over the Sukshma Vasanas, so the rules 
for Sannyasins are very strict. The Sannyasin 

198 



What is Tapasya? 

should not even look at a woman. By seeing one, 
a picture is formed in the mind. When we see 
anything beautiful to the senses, our natural 
instinct is to enjoy it. So we unconsciously enjoy 
in our mind. This is very injurious. If a Sadhu 
sees a woman in a dream or gets night pollution, 
he has to make Prayaschittam. He has to take 
little food the next day or no food at all and he has 
to make penance by making Japam for thousands of 
times. Without Brahmacharya the mind will not 
gain the power to meditate. The mind will be 
thinking of this or that and will not think of His 
feet. You will not get the correct imagination. 
When you develop Brahmacharya you will see 
everything in a different light. Everything will look 
fresh to you. By observing Brahmacharya, Ojas is 
aroused in you. Science also says the same thing. 
Semen, they say, is produced from blood, and the 
best part of blood. 

DEVOTEE It is a pity that nobody with 
authority speaks about these things to our young 
boys. 

199 



Spiritual Teachings 

THE SWAMI Formerly young boys lived with 
their Gurus and they had to observe Brahma- 
charya. After a time they could go home and 
marry; but if they married, they continued to 
observe certain rules of Brahmacharya, that in the 
Grihastha Ashrama life they might produce strong 
and healthy children. If they became Sannyasins, 
they went to the forest and meditated on God. 

DEVOTEE These ideas about Brahmacharya 
are known only among Brahmin boys. As young 
boys they are called Brahmacharis, but now it has 
become a mere farce. Maharajji, cannot these 
ideas be made known to all castes ? 

THE SWAMI Yes, but Brahmacharya should 
be accompanied by Japam. Otherwise Brahma- 
charya cannot stand. 



200 



LETTERS 

AND 

STRAY COUNSELS 



XXXIII 
LETTER TO A DISCIPLE 

BHADRAK, BALASORE 

DEAR A. , 

I am glad to learn from your letter that by the 
grace of the Lord, you have a desire to spend some 
time in Sadhana (spiritual practices) and have 
secured a convenient place for your practice. 
Everything has come out all right. You are yet 
young. Make the best use of this opportunity. 
Do not waste your valuable time. Instead of 
bothering yourself with big metaphysical problems, 
apply yourself steadily to Sadhana and you will 
realise the truth. Have faith and go ahead. You 
will not achieve anything without steady practice. 
Even if you spend your whole life in the study of 
philosophical questions, you will not be able to 
derive any benefit. Now that all things are 
favourable, settle down quietly to Sadhana at least 
for a year. Your body and mind will become pure 
and you will realise many things through God's 
grace. 

203 



Spiritual Teachings 

My advice is: give your mind wholly to Him 
without any other thought. Engage yourself 
always in Dhyanam (meditation), Japan/ (repeat- 
ing the holy Name) and Smaran-Manan (constant 
remembrance and contemplation). Do not indulge 
in idle talk and gratuitous advice to others. You 
have strength of body and your mind is not yet 
burdened with unholy impressions. Now is the 
time to do spiritual practices. It is easier to give 
the mind a good shape when it is still pure and 
plastic. You have such a mind. Therefore plunge 
deep in Sadhana and pray to God with a yearning 
heart. He will solve all your doubts and difficul- 
ties. If you miss this opportunity, it will be 
extremely difficult for you to do anything after- 
wards. 

As far as possible I am giving you suitable 
answers to all your questions below. If you can 
follow them for some time at least, you will surely 
be blessed and many of your life's problems will 
solve themselves. 

Q How many hours in the day should we spend 
204 



Letter to a Disciple 

in Japam and meditation and how many again in 
Puja (worship) and the study of Scriptures ? 

A The more time you can spend in all these, 
the better for you. Those who lead a purely medi- 
tative life should spend at least sixteen hours in 
jap am and D by an am. As you continue your 
practice, you will be able to prolong this period. 
The more the mind is turned inward, the greater 
will be the joy. Once you get a taste of it, the 
desire for it will grow stronger and stronger. Then 
your mind itself will tell you how long you are to 
devote to Sadhana. Before this stage is reached, 
it is desirable that you should give at least two- 
thirds of your daily practice to Japam and Dhya- 
nam. The rest of the time should be spent in 
reading sacred books and examining the various 
thoughts which rise in the mind at the time of your 
meditation. You should further see that good 
thoughts are sifted from the evil ones. Then 
gradually all unholy thoughts are to be eliminated 
and replaced one by one by holy thoughts, and 
these again analysed with great care and serious- 

205 



Spiritual Teachings 

ness. In this way, when all the disturbing 
elements of the mind are controlled and well- 
regulated, you can attain the state of real medita- 
tion. Simply closing the eyes and counting your 
beads or casually thinking on God will not bring 
you the desired object God-realisation. 

Intense and serious thinking on God is what ig 
required of those who long for eternal peace and 
happiness. The object of meditation is to make 
the mind calm and serene. And if you do not 
succeed in this or get any joy therefrom, you are 
to know that your meditation is not directed in the 
proper channel. One other point also I should 
like to impress on your mind. That is this: 
whoever is supplying you with food and other 
necessaries is entitled to a share of your merit; 
therefore acquire so much as will leave you a 
decent balance after meeting this charge. 

Q What should I do when at times the mind 
seems unwilling to meditate; should I then study 
sacred books or try to engage the mind perforce 
in meditation? 

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Letter to a Disciple 

A-^ In the preliminary stages you must force 
your mind to meditate in order to cultivate a strong 
habit. The very nature of the mind is to shirk 
work, always seeking for ease and comfort. But 
if you really, yearn for peace eternal, you have to 
labour hard. If you feel uncomfortable to sit for 
41 long time at a stretch, then lie down on your bed 
and begin to perform your ]apam; and again, if 
you are sleepy, do it walking about. Anyhow, 
keep the mind always engaged in the thought of 
God. On the other hand, if you let loose your 
mind, you will never be able to cultivate the firm 
habit without which spiritual progress is impossible. 
Carry on, therefore, a regular fight with the mind 
and give it a firm shape. This is Sfidbana; and 
the end of all Sadhanas is to bring the mind under 
control. 

Q Are the processes of Hatha-Yoga, Pranayama 
(control of breath), Asana (sitting posture), etc., 
more or less necessary for my spiritual practices? 
If. so, how much time should be devoted to these ? 

A For the present no such practices are neces- 

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Spiritual Teachings 

sary for you. What is most essential is to meditate 
on God and God alone and pray to Him incessantly 
with a devout heart. The real thing is to be in 
constant touch with Him. Therefore try to follow 
this rule and He will lead you to do whatever is 
best for you. 

As regards the practice of Hatha-Yoga, you must 
keep yourself aloof from it or you will feel the 
consequences. It is a most dangerous path without 
the help of a competent guide. If you have a very 
strong desire for it, you can do it only when you 
happen to live with some one of Sri Ramakrishna's 
disciples, and then strictly under his direction and 
guidance. 

Q How long should a Sadhaka (one who is 
doing spiritual practices) sleep? Beyond his 
usual period of sleep, can he spend a little more 
time to give his body and mind rest ? 

A Ordinarily four hours' sleep is quite sufficient 
for a Sadhaka in good health; and sleep for more 
than five hours is not rest but a disease. It does 
great harm. By no means should a spiritual aspir- 

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Letter to a Disciple 

ant sleep away his time. As youth is the most 
favourable time for Sadhana when both the body 
and the mind are strong a Sadhaka must turn it to 
good account. During this time he must store up 
such an amount of spiritual energy that it will lead 
him safely through the most unsafe paths of life to 
peace and happiness. Therefore if you cannot 
make progress along the paths of spiritual life now, 
it will be hardly possible for you to do anything 
afterwards. You are yet young, my boy. Give a good 
shape to your mind. Lose yourself heart and soul 
in Sadhana and make the best use of your time. You 
will get enough time for sleep and gossip later on. 
If anybody is asked to labour hard in Sadhana, 
he will at once produce a number of lame excuses. 
He will say that the body is very weak and that rest 
is necessary. All this is insincerity. He should 
know that the sense organs of those who are 
methodical in their spiritual practices and who lead 
a strictly regular life, become so adjusted that four 
hours' rest is quite enough to keep the body healthy 
and in tune. By leading an irregular life, people 

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Spiritual Teachings 

generally tax their body and mind so heavily that 
even a period of eight or ten hours' sleep is too 
short to refresh their system. Therefore what I ask 
you, my boy, is this regulate your life by every 
means and then your body and mind will be fresh 
#nd active. Waste no more time. Do something 
if you really yearn for things divine. Idle talk and 
lofty metaphysical speculations bring no good unless 
translated into action. 

Q What rules are to be observed regarding 
food? Shall I accept whatever is offered to me or 
make any distinction? Which is better, Madhukari 
(food gathered by begging from house to house like 
a bee) or food brought by chance? 

A At the time of Sadhana, a little discrimina- 
tion in food is necessary. There are some kinds 
of food which produce sleep, drowsiness, etc.; they 
are the worst enemies to a Sadhaka; therefore it 
is always advisable not to take them. To eat too 
much sweet or sour food is bad, and Kolai-dal or 
any preparation of it is also very harmful to the 
growth of the spiritual life. Foods such as these 

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Letter to a Disciple 

stir up the Tamas (dullness) in man. As a result 
he feels drowsy at the time of meditation and 
cannot make any progress in the spiritual path. 

An aspirant must be very careful about his diet 
and eat only such foods as are easily digestible, 
Under no circumstances must he fill more than two 
thirds of his stomach. This will increase his 
strength and energy and he will be able to devote 
them to good account. But if the stomach is 
overloaded, he will have to spend all his energy in 
digesting his food. He will find no energy or 
inclination for meditation. Moreover, it may tell 
upon his health; for, as you know full well, good 
health is favourable to Sadhana. So guard it by 
all means and care for it now, when everything is 
in your favour. 

As regards Mad>hukari, it is very pure food. It 
does not bind you to any obligations. But if you 
accept food From a particular person, it binds; and 
a fraction of your merit will go to that person. 
Madhukari is specially beneficial to those who can- 
not continue the flow of meditation without break 

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Spiritual Teachings 

and consequently require some time for diversion. 
Instead of whiling away their time of diversion in 
idle talk, if they utilise it in Madhukari, they are 
thereby not only saved from the sin of killing time 
in vain, but they also keep themselves free from the 
obligation of giving a portion of their merit in 
ireturn for their food from any particular person. 

Q Is the vow of silence necessary at the time of 
Sadhana? If so, what is to be done when some 
unavoidable circumstances compel one to break it, 
or if the mind becomes irritated because of it ? 

A No, the vow of silence is not required as you 
understand it. Forced silence and wild indulgence 
in talk both have their evil effects on man. To be 
silent in mind is surely better than external silence, 
so always try to follow the former. Moreover, 
instead of binding yourself by any forced silence, 
if you talk only so much as is required, it will not 
only do you no harm, but will give you the same 
result as is attained by one observing absolute 
silence. 

Q How much clothing should a Sadhaka 
212 



Letter to a Disciple 

require? And to what extent should heat and cold 
be borne? If anybody offers any clothes to protect 
the body from the ravages of heat and cold, should 
they be accepted? 

A As for clothing, you should keep only as 
much as is barely necessary to keep the body 
healthy and protect it from heat and cold; but bear 
in mind that if those of delicate health practise 
many austerities, they will have their deserts. Your 
ideal is to realise God, not to bear unnecessary 
hardships. As for the acceptance of any offer, you 
must sincerely judge of that with reference to your 
utmost necessity. You may accept an offer only 
when you really feel a want for it; otherwise reject 
it at once. To accept anything from any body for 
the purpose of hoarding is a sin unpardonable in 
a Sadhaka. 

Q I know that both your noble self and the 
Lord have endless grace for me. Only bless me to 

realise it fully and well. Bless me also that my 
faith and devotion to you may be firm and 
unflinching. As I feel I have no power to do any- 

213 



Spiritual Teachings 

thing without your help, will you not make me do 
as it pleases you, venerable Sir ? 

A There is infinite strength in you. Never 
lose faith in yourself, my boy; God is in you. And 
His grace too. He is gracious to all. Know for 
certain that it is through His endless grace alone 
that you are able to be here under the banner of 
the Ramakrishna Order. It is again through His 
grace that you have found a good man to give you 
food and shelter during the period of your Sadhana. 
Have faith, therefore; have firm faith in Him. 
Work hard with unshakable determination and He 
will give you all knowledge. Strive unceasingly. 
You will know Him and you will realise His endless 
grace. Do not spend your time in vain. Go on 
with your Sadhana as instructed by them the 
disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and continue it till 
you realise Him in this very life. Do not be 
troubled with big questions any more. Do some- 
thing positive. Make the best of this opportunity 
and be blessed. 

I have answered all your questions. Now try to 
214 



Letter to a Disciple 

live them in your life. From your letter 1 under- 
stand that the gentleman who has been giving you 
food and shelter is really a devotee. Rich men 
seldom spend money in good deeds; and those that 
do so are very few in number. Your host has been 
doing so much for you; see that his money is not 
wasted. You should live there in such a way that 
from your conduct his inclination to spend more in 
good deeds may be gradually increased. As your 
benefactor will have a share of your merit and 
demerit both, do there only such work as will not 
make him suffer hereafter. Take care; do not run 
after name and fame. Those things you could have 
had in plenty at home. But once you have come out 
of their clutches, try your utmost not to fall a prey 
to them again. Pray to Him with a sincere heart 
that even the least taint of desire for name and 
fame may not soil your good heart. 

My love and best wishes to you and to our friend, 
your kind host. I always pray to the Lord that 
your desire may be fulfilled. May He give you 
good sense and make a man of you. 

215 



XXXIV 
LETTER TO A DISCIPLE 

PURI t SASHI NIKETANA^ 

DEAR A , 

Received your letter and also B's. His motive 
is not clear. He does not wish to marry. He 
wants to serve his country. That is all right, but 

it appears to me that it is all due to want of 
assimilation of his Western education. I do not 

know how far it is possible to serve others and 
country before one's character is well formed. My 
belief is that the man who cannot solve his own 
problem will not be able to be of much use to others 
Anyhow the body is good and if he leads a pure 
life, he may get a taste for a higher life. 

Sri Ramakrishna used to say: "Fix thy hold 
firmly on God and perform thy worldly duties; then 
thou shalt be free from all dangers." Again He 
said: "In the play of hide-and-seek, if the player 
succeeds in touching the grand-dame (Boori), he is 
no longer a 'thief*. Similarly by once seeing God 

216 



Letter to a Disciple 

we are no longer bound by the fetters of the world." 
You should always bear in mind that the goal of 
life is to realise God. First of all know Him; let 
your faith and devotion to His feet become strong. 
Then you may do whatever you wish to do. So 
long as you live you will have to do some kind of 
work. Even if you have no difficulties for your 
own maintenance, you will be doing something 
either for the sake of your body, or impelled by 
your ego or your past Samskaras (impressions). 
Therefore when you must work, it is better to do 
such things as will bring peace to your own mind 
and benefit to others. Those who have taken 
shelter under His feet and obtained His grace never 
go wrong. Every word spoken by them, every act 
done by them, leads to the good of humanity. 

It is good to remain unmarried. Those who 
keep Brahmacharya gain extraordinary powers. 
Only through such men do supernatural or divine 
powers manifest themselves. Sri Ramakrishna 
used to say: "The heart of the devotee is God's 
drawing-room." If we wish to become His 

217 



Spiritual Teachings 

devotees and servants we must become pure; for 
only in pure hearts can He reside. He is fai 
beyond the reach of the impure. When your mind 
and heart become as pure as clear glass, then only 
God can reside in you; then only can you claim to 
be His servant, His devotee, His dependent or 
child. Just as a bright clear mirror gives a good 
reflection, so does a pure heart manifest Him truly. 
Therefore I tell you who are young and free from 
all stain, instal Him in your heart and allow no 
other thing to enter there. It is not possible to 
know Him except through pure and holy living. 
In this life you can realise Him by this way only. 
The boy is good and has some auspicious marks 
on him. He can make spiritual progress if he per- 
severes. To get a B.A. or M.A. degree, to become 
a barrister and make some money, is not a very high 
ideal in life and gives but temporary enjoyment, 
It will not help one to attain God, the goal of 
human life. First of all form your character and 
make it perfect. Then whatever you may under- 
take, you will accomplish easily. If in studying 

218 



Letter to a Disciple 

religious books you can spend even one-twelfth of 
the time wasted in preparing for your B.A. or M.A. 
degree, you will imbibe many thoughts and ideas of 
the higher life. Students generally complain that 
they have no time when they are asked to read the 
sacred books. My dear boy, if you wish to be- 
come a man and live in eternal happiness, plunge 
into deep meditation and resolve to realise Him or 
die in the attempt. 

Those who want worldly enjoyment let them 
become B.A's. and M.A's. But those who care 
only for Supreme Bliss, have no need of university 
degrees. Sri Ramakrishna used to speak of 
Granthas (books) as Granthis (knots). This does 
not, of course, include the Shastras, Swamiji's 
works, etc. Reading purely secular books makes 
people vain, excites evil propensities in them and 
takes them far away from God. Any book which 
does not induce devotion and faith in God, 
however entertaining for the time being, will 
ultimately cause misery. The egotism arising 
fro/in B.A., M.A., etc., drags one away from God. 

219 



Spiritual Teachings 

The possession of wealth also works similar mis- 
chief. Money does more harm than good. 

Neither in the sleeping nor waking state could 
Sri Ramakrishna touch a coin. What He has 
taught us by His own life is that there is no other 
path to attain God but through Tyaga (renuncia- 
tion). By running after sense enjoyments, man 
becomes degraded to the level of the brute. If 
you want to be a man, practise renunciation; love 
and realise Him. Renouncing momentary pleas- 
ures fits you for Supreme Happiness. By renun- 
ciation is meant giving up all sense pleasures of 
this life. Take shelter at the lotus feet of the 
Lord; become mad with love and devotion for Him. 
Look at the life of Sri Ramakrishna and be a man 
in the best sense of the term. 

Renunciation alone can give you peace. 
Renounce all for His sake. Make God your own 
and pray to Him: "Thou art my father, Thou 
art my mother, Thou art my brother, Thou art my 
sister, Thou art my all." Giving up all thoughts 
of enjoyment in this life, when you are able to pass 

220 



Letter to a Disciple 

day and night in constant thought of Him and 
prayer to Him, you will feel infinite joy and become 
a man. That joy cannot be conveyed through 
words. The human heart is too small to hold it. 
When that state of joy is attained, His grace, His 
love and His presence will always be felt by you. 
Three things are essential for the realisation of 
God human birth, desire for salvation and the 
company of holy men. By the grace of God you 
have all three. Now make the best use of them 
and attain the supreme object of human birth. 
What is the good of running after fleeting pleasures 
when you can attain eternal peace and happiness? 
Renouncing everything, you have taken refuge at 
His lotus feet with the noble aspiration of realising 
Him; see therefore that your life is not spent in 
vain. Remember this, my boy, it is possible to be 
born again as man and have spiritual yearning as 
well; but I can assure you, that the company of 
such holy men (disciples of Sri Ramakrishna) as 
you enjoy now is a rare privilege and you cannot 
expect to have it always. The blessing of such 

221 



Spiritual * cachings 

holy company comes as a result of great merit, 
accumulated during many births. Therefore make 
the best use of this opportunity instead of wasting 
your life in worthless pursuits. 

Faith, intense faith, in the words of your Guru 
will make everything easy for you. Without this 
all forms and rituals of religion are useless. So 
surrender yourself absolutely to your Guru as a 
kitten does to its mother. He will then look after 
you and provide you with everything; yours is only 
to have simple faith alone. 

How far can your intellect go? He who has 
taken your burden on himself, has a sense of 
responsibility and feels anxious for your welfare 
much more than you do. He will save you from 
dangers and difficulties. No evil can befall a faith- 
ful disciple who is under the protecting wings of 
the Guru. 

Men will surely go wrong so long as they do not 
realise God. But if they surrender themselves to 
the Guru, the chances of committing error will be 
much less. Remember Sri Ramakrishna's parable 

222 



Letter to a Disciple 

of the father and the sun walking over narrow 
ridges across the fields. If the father himself takes 
hold of the son's hand, there is no fear of the latter 
slipping off his feet; but if the son tries to take hold 
of the father's hand, there is a chance of his falling 
down. Let those who have the grace of a compe- 
tent Guru rest content, leaving it to him to cure 
them of all their faults. 

Renunciation being the vital factor in attaining 
peace and happiness, everything should be given up 
for the sake of God. Unbroken Brahntacharya 
(continence) is also requisite for one seeking the 
Lord. A man without continence is no better than 
an animal. Discrimination is the trait which 
distinguishes man from the brute. Man can 
realise God if he strives for it, but the brute cannot, 
being a complete slave of the senses. 

If you wish to possess real peace and happiness 
and taste joy and cheerfulness in this very life, 
hold fast to God, giving up your all. Do not think 
renunciation consists in wandering about with a 
pair of tongs in hand and smearing the body with 

223 



Spiritual Teachings 

ashes. The outward marks of Tyaga (renuncia- 
tion) meant for show bring no good; rather are 
they harmful. Real renunciation consists in com- 
plete surrender of one's self to the will of God. 
Pray to Him saying: "Lord! my body, my mind 
and everything are Thine; Thou mayest use them 
as Thou wilt." Have you not heard that Sri 
Ramakrishna knew nothing but the Divine Mother, 
and that whatever He did was according to Her 
will and guidance? So always pray to God, "Lord, 
I do not know what is good and what is bad; I am 
merely Thy servant; let Thy will be done." 

Struggle incessantly to make this attitude 
permanent. If you surrender yourself completely 
unto God, He will do through you all that is need- 
ful. Therefore pray, ever pray to Him and take 
shelter at His feet. One thing more I wish to 
impress upon your mind. Whether you are praised 
or blamed, honoured or insulted, whether there be 
a place in the world for you or no, whether your 
body stands or falls, once you have understood that 
the end and aim of human life is to realise God, do 

224 



Letter to a Disciple 

not swerve an inch from this ideal. Say to your- 
self with firm determination: "I must realise God 
here and now, at any cost/' 

It is only when you can cast your life in this 
mould that you can be a man, a true and worthy 
child of Sri Ramakrishna. Your Sat-Sanga (com- 
pany of holy men) will then bear fruit and you will 
be blessed. Otherwise your life will be wasted; 
and between you and the brute there will be no 
difference. You will not deserve to be called a 
worthy son of Sri Ramakrishna, 

One other point which I wish you to bear in mind 
always, is this. Ordinary people understand by 
the term Guru, a person who whispers some 
Mantram into the ear of the disciple. They do not 
care whether he possesses all the qualifications of 
a true Master. But today such a conception is 
losing ground. It is now being recognised that 
none but a realised soul is qualified to be a spiritual 
teacher. He who does not know the path himself 
cannot show it to others. Mantras are today as 
potent as ever; but those who trade in spiritual 

225 



Spiritual Teachings 

lore are ignorant of the rules governing them and 
they themselves are not able to make any real pro- 
gress. Much less so their disciples. How then can 
they obtain real peace and happiness ? 

Sri Ramakrishna has turned the tide. The most 
invaluable spiritual gems are to be found among 
his disciples. Those who have received the blessing 
of the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna are really 
fortunate. If they can follow the children of the 
great Master with firm faith and steadfast devo- 
tion, they will surely attain Supreme Bliss, the 
goal of human life. These great followers of Sri 
Ramakrishna know full well the various paths of 
spiritual Sadhana suited to the time. They 
instruct those who go to them for spiritual help in 
a manner suited to their spiritual evolution. 
Proceed along the path into which it has been 
your good fortune to be led. Pray to your Guru 
with the faith of a child and he will certainly do all 
that is needful. He is the best Guru who, whether 
his physical body stands or falls, sees that every 
one of his disciples attains liberation. The 

226 



Letter to a Disciple 

speciality of this age is that even after the 
disappearance of his physical body, the Guru 
appears in flesh to his disciples to guide and bless 
them. 

Strive and struggle ceaselessly. Shake off all 
doubt and plunge into your Sadhana that you may 
realise and make your own what you have learned 
from your Guru. Let not your spiritual practices 
be done for show, or to catch the public eye; but 
follow them silently and steadily, so that even 
your neighbours may not know of them. There 
may be people who may ridicule you or try to 
shake your faith; there may be others who by their 
praise and respect for you, increase your egotism. 
Therefore always bear in mind this great teaching 
of Sri Ramakrishna: "Meditate in your mind, in 
the forest or in a quiet corner." The meaning of 
this is that all Sadhana must be done in strict 
privacy, that others may not come to know of it. 
If you steadily practise like this even for a little 
time, you will find what great joy and bliss will 
come to you. You will be a changed man alto- 

227 



Spiritual Teachings 

gather. Therefore you who have renounced the 
world in His name, say to yourself with all 
firmness: ''Realise Him I must, now, in this very 
life/' Yes, let this be your supreme aim in life. 
You have got the blessings of a real Guru and you 
are bound to succeed. There cannot be, my child, 
the least doubt of it. 



228 



XXXV 
EXTRACTS FROM LETTERS 

Keep your mind always in communion with 
God; then all depravity of the mind will vanish. 
Select a room for daily worship; every morning 
and evening retire there and sit on your Asanam; 
then perform ]apam and meditation and prayer 
regularly as long as you can. Born as a man here 
on this earth, the more you can devote yourself to 
the contemplation of God, the more fruitful will 
your life become; and the more attached you are 
to the vanities of the world, the more peaceless you 
will feel in mind. I pray to the Almighty that out 
of His endless grace He may lead you in the right 
path! 

Know this; without worshipping God you can 
never have peace of mind. Therefore suspending 
all activities completely, spend some time every 
day in the worship of God, in Japam and medita- 
tion, and in singing His glory. True devotion and 

229 



Spiritual Teachings 

faith and knowledge are the results of long and 
continued practice of Sadhana. Many people turn 
to agnosticism when, after a little lukewarm 
attempt at Sadhana, they cannot realise God or 
attain to the bliss Divine. The reason is not far 
to seek. These people do not possess sincere 
attachment to God, so they find it difficult to per- 
sist and persevere in the path of Sadhana. Sadhana 
proves too arduous an undertaking for them. 

Without Divine attachment and Divine love the 
mind becomes dry and peaceless. But the more 
you suffer for God's sake, the more peaceful will 
you become in the end. "Persist cheerfully in your 
attempt, my friend/ 1 said Sri Ramakrishna, "then 
you will succeed against all odds/* So plunge 
headlong into Sadhana and persevere in it; shrink 
not even if your very life is hazarded. 

* * * * 

I am very glad to learn that you have been carry- 
ing on your practices with great earnestness and 
regularity. If this state of things is continued for 
a couple of years without break, I assure you, my 

230 



Extracts from Letters 

friend, your effort will not go unrewarded. Let me 
also remind you that, as your constitution is weak, 
you need not at this stage practise for long at a 

stretch; rather proceed slowly and steadily. 

* * * * 

I propose to start on a pilgrimage to Kashi 
(Benares) and some other holy places early in June 
next and to spend three or four months visiting 
these places and also in practising Sadhana; but the 
fruition rests with Him, the Lord. 

It is indeed difficult to have any thought of God 
within the human heart without the fire of 
Vairagyam (renunciation). It is my settled 
conviction that the more a man possesses this fire 
in him, the greater is the peace he enjoys. A true 
and living representation of Viveka (discrimina- 
tion) and Vairagyam we saw in Sri Ramakrishna, 
the Master. It is only with the progress of time 
that we know Him more and more. We read of 
Vtveka and Vairagyam in Scriptures, but we saw 
them personified in Him. It was our misfortune 
that sitting at the feet of such a unique personality, 

231 



Spiritual Teachings 

the embodiment of Viveka and Vairagyam, we 

could not make them our own. 

* * * * 

You want to go to Kashi for Sadhana; well, I 
permit you wholeheartedly. But one thing, 
please do not forget to draw me there, that I may 
also live in the holy land with you. Oh, the 
sanctity of Kashi, the greatest and holiest of all 
places for Sadhana! Who is not tempted to go to 
this sacred place and live there? Whoever comes 
to me and seeks my counsel regarding a suitable 
place to carry on Sadhana, I at once suggest to him 
the sacred name of Kashi. I tell him to go there 
and live in continuous prayer and meditation. 
Whenever I am reminded of this holiest of holy 
places, I wish I could go straight there, throwing 
aside all engagements; I find no joy in anything 
else. It is my strong desire to live the last days 
of my life in Kashi and I am certain if you only 
attract me, my desire will be surely fulfilled. And 
remember, the noblest object of living in this 
blessed city of Kashi is well attained only when a 

232 



Extracts from Letters 

man can lose himself entirely in the intoxication ot 
love Divine, living in a lonely retreat quite undis- 
turbed. 



233 



XXXVI 
STRAY COUNSELS 

1. You must not divulge the secret of your 
Sadhana to all. 

2. There . is nothing without, everything is 
within. The music without is trivial compared 
with the music within. Oh, the charm of it, the 
sweetness! Singing at the Panchavati, Sri Rama 
krishna heard the music of the Vina within. 

3. God should be imagined as vast and infinite. 
To bring this idea of vastness within, one should 
see the Himalayas or the ocean, or gaze at the sky. 

4. True character cannot be formed unless a 
man becomes God-fearing, i.e., unless he believes in 
God, in the life hereafter, and in such principles. 

5. To conquer lust or control the mind by 
studying books is a task as impossible as walking 
on air. 

6. The water of the Ganges is verily the holiest 
of all waters; it fulfils one's desire and is a help 

234 



Stray Counsels 

to realising the Ishtam. Sri Ramakrishna has 
said: "The water of the Ganges, the holy 
Prasadam of Jagannath (at Puri), and the sacred 
dust of Vrindavan are verily Brahman in reality." 

7. So long as Mother Kundalini moves in a 
downward direction, the mind of man runs after 
things relating to the phallus, the anus and the 
navel. But as She rises up, the mind also rises; it 
then moves toward things spiritual. 

8. With the growth of Sattwa in man, he feels 
eager to behold the vision of God; he then delights 
in singing His glory and meditating upon Him more 
and more. 

9. The food of funeral ceremonies should not 
be taken; it is harmful. 

10. While coming down from Mughal Sarai in 
a motor car through the vast open fields, the 
scenery could not give me as much joy as did this 
holy land of Benares, when I crossed the bridge 
and entered its bounds. It was a joy unspeakable! 
Oh, the glory and the sweetness Divine of this land, 
the blessed abode of Shiva! Lord Shiva Himself 

235 



Spiritual Teachings 

is the supreme Teacher. In this hallowed land, on 
the one hand Mother Annapurna supplies man with 
his physical wants; and on the other, Lord 
Viswanath ministers spiritually unto him. During 
our Master's visit to this holy land, a divine form 
exquisitely luminous and with beard on the chin 
appeared before Him and showed to Him every- 
thing worth seeing. The Master's body was all 
the while lying unconscious. This holy guide was 
none other than Kala Bhairava (the guardian angel 
of the city of Shiva) . 

11. What bold and prophetic words are these 
uttered by Swamiji (Swami Vivekananda) ! "Who- 
ever will go and try to imitate me in that land 
(America) will become bound; he will surely be 
ensnared!" A great man is born, not made! In 
India who has earned a greater name and greater 
fame than Swamiji? When he left America, he 
left also all his costly robes there; and on reaching 
India he at once took to his old habit ''Hath, 
Hath" (the habit of a barefooted monk trotting). 
Barefooted he would go to Calcutta and come back, 

236 



Stray Counsels 

and like an ordinary man in the public road, he 
would purchase Chanachur (a mixture of fried 
peas, grams and nuts, a very delicious prepara- 
tion for children in particular) . Sometimes we 
gave him a pair of shoes to wear and he would 
accept them. What tremendous fame and honour 
he earned, but still more tremendous was the power 
he possessed to digest this honour and glory. 
Reaching India, like an insignificant man, he 
roamed about. The least trace of corruption could 
not soil his mind! That is why it is said, a great 
man is born, not made. 

12. Like the Buddha one should be bold. 
Behold, what a mighty renunciation he made! To 
realise God he gave up all his royal comforts with- 
out a thought. What a severe course of discipline 
he underwent! When, in spite of all, he could not 
realise God, he took his bath in the sacred Nirajana 
(a rivulet at Buddha Gaya), sat for the last time 
with this resolve: "Let this body go; but until I 
have attained illumination, I will not rise/' And 
the illumination came!