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Reminiscences of Ramakrishna

Atul Chandra Ghosh

(Brother of Girish Chandra Ghosh)

Sri Ramakrishna visited the house of Dinu Babu (in North Calcutta ) one day, and my second brother, Girish, went to see him. When he returned I asked him: “What is this man like?” “A hypocrite,” he replied. Thus I was dissuaded from making any further inquiries about the Master. But my brother soon became a frequent visitor to Dakshineswar, and I began to observe that Deven Babu and my brother were always whispering about him, keeping everything secret from me. One day, probably in March 1885, I came home to find Deven Babu and Haripada with my brother, and when I entered the room they began whispering as usual. “What are you whispering about?” I asked. “Is it about the Paramahamsa? Your Master is not a Paramahamsa, he is a Rajahamsa. He wears a red-bordered cloth, beautiful shirts, polished slippers and sleeps on a comfortable bed.” It was in this vein that I was talking when Sri Ramakrishna entered the room, accompanied by Narayan, saying: “Girish, it is by the grace of God that I have come to you.” The Master had crossed the courtyard and climbed the steps to the first floor without any of us being aware of his presence until we heard his voice. My brother and the others saluted him by lying full length on the floor, and since it was our family tradition that `a brahmin should be respected’, I too saluted him, with folded hands. The Master then took a seat and my brother sat in front of him while the rest of us sat in a circle around him. My brother, Girish, introduced me saying: “This is my younger brother, but he has just been criticising you.” Then he looked at me and said: “Why are you silent now? Are you charmed by his presence?” I was somewhat embarrassed but not at all fearful or intimidated by the Master. So I said to him: “Sir, you are not a Paramahamsa, you are a Rajahamsa – that is what I was saying when you arrived.” Whereupon the Master said to my brother: “But this is not a criticism. When milk and water are mixed together, the swan separates them and drinks only the milk. Moreover, if you go to Varanasi you will find innumerable Paramahamsas all over the place, and he has made me their king. It has been well said.” I could see that the Master was very intelligent and was not to be caught out by my comments. I wanted to test his ego, so I asked: “Sir, what is your name?” Caressing my back, the Master replied: “Do we have names?” `Hei,’ `Hallo’ – in this way one can call me and I will know who is being called.” “What is this?” I thought to myself. “Is he reading my mind?” I knew a little about thought-reading and had practised it for some time. Anyhow the Master continued: “Before today I was a little frightened of you. The other day I was passing by your house. Knowing that Girish was not at home, Narayan, who was with me, pointed out to me that you were seated on the veranda and asked whether he should speak to you as to the whereabouts of Girish. I forbade him to and we went on to Balaram’s. Seeing your long beard I was frightened of you, but now it is all gone.” “Sir,” I replied, “how do I know the cause of your fear and why it has gone away today? I am the same man with the same beard.” About that time, M., Paltu, and the younger Naren entered. The Master said (to M.): “Welcome, O three-and-a-half degree holder, come in.” They saluted the Master, smiling at him, and took their seats. The conversation got underway with a discussion as to whether God is formless or with form. Then came the question of knowledge and devotion – which was the higher way. The Master: “Both are the way and one can attain God through both of them. The path of knowledge and the path of devotion both lead to the same destination, and after arriving there one understands that pure knowledge and pure devotion are one and the same.” The conversation continued in this way for a time and then all left. As time passed I learned that many devotees always took something to the Master when they visited him. I rarely presented anything to him. One day, sitting near the Master at Cossipore, I was thinking to myself that it would give me so much pleasure if he would ask me to bring him something. Immediately he said: “My stock of barley has run out. Rakhal, would you check the can?” Rakhal opened the can and found it empty. Then the Master asked me: “Could you buy a can of barley for me and bring it tomorrow?” I hesitated since it would not be possible for me to bring it the next day. Right away he said: “Please buy the barley tomorrow morning and send it to Balaram. Inform him that I have no barley and that it must reach me without delay. He will make the necessary arrangements.”




Nagendra Nath Gupta

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa - Frank Parlato Jr.

(Ramakrishna Paramahamsa) was practically an unlettered man like some of the great prophets of old, and by occupation he was the priest of a temple, a vocation for which he became unfit later on. Ignorant people thought his mind was giving way, but in reality it was a struggle of the spirit seeking true knowledge and finding its expression. And when this was attained, he no longer avoided men, and drew around him a small band of earnest young men who sought for guidance from him and endeavored to follow his teachings. Many of his sayings have been collected and published, but these give only a faint indication of his individuality. It may be said with absolute truth that he was one of the elect who appear at long intervals in the world for some great purpose. It has been my privilege to hear him speak; and I felt then, as I feel now, that it is only rarely that men have the great good fortune of listening to such a man. The Paramahamsa’s language was Bengali of a homely kind; he was not supple of speech as he spoke with a slight though delightful stammer, but his words held men enthralled by the wealth of spiritual experience, the inexhaustible store of simile and metaphor, the unequalled powers of observation, the bright and subtle humor, the wonderful catholicity of sympathy and the ceaseless flow of wisdom.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa frequently passed into a trance orsamadhi, The exciting cause was invariably some spiritual experience or some new spiritual perception. On one occasion — it was in 1881 — I formed one of a party that had gone with Keshab Chandra Sen by river to see the Paramahamsa. He was brought on board our steamer, which belonged to Maharaja Nripendra Narayan Bhup of Cooch Behar , Keshab’s son-in-law. The Paramahamsa, as is well known, was a worshipper of thegoddess Kali; but he was also an adept in the contemplation of Brahman the formless, nirakara, and had some previous conversation with Keshab on this subject. He was sitting close to Keshab facing him, and the conversation was practically a monologue, for either Keshab or some one else would put a brief question and, in answer, the Paramahamsa with his marvellous gift of speech and illustration would hold his hearers entranced. All of us there hung breathless upon his words. And gradually the conversation came round to nirakara (formless) Brahman, when the Paramahamsa, after repeating the word nirakara two or three times to himself, passed into a state of samadhi. Except the rigidity of the body there was no quivering of the muscles or nerves, no abrupt or convulsive movement of any kind. The fingers of the two hands as they lay in his lap were slightly curled. But a most wonderful change had come over the face. The lips were slightly parted as if in a smile, with the gleam of the white teeth in between. The eyes were half closed with the balls and pupils partly visible, and over the whole countenance was an ineffable expression of the holiest and most ecstatic beatitude. We watched him in respectful silence for some minutes after which Trailokya Nath Sanyal, known as the singing apostle in Keshab Chandra Sen’s sect, sang a hymn to the accompaniment of music, and the Paramahamsa slowly opened his eyes, looked inquiringly around him for a few seconds and then resumed the conversation. No reference was made either by him or any one else to his trance.

Durga and lion - Frank parlato Jr.

On another occasion the Paramahamsa wanted to see the Zoological Gardens of Calcutta. His eagerness was like a child’s and would not brook any delay. There were times when his ways were strongly reminiscent of the saying in the Shrimad-Bhagavata that the mukta, the emancipated and the wise, is to be known by his childlike playfulness. A cab was sent for and the Paramahamsa, accompanied by some disciples, was driven the long distance from Dakshineswar to Alipur. When he entered the Gardens, the people with him began showing him the various animals and aquatic collections, but he would not even look at them. “Take me to see the lion,” he insisted. Standing in front of the lion’s cage he mused. “This is the Mother’s mount” — thegoddess Kali in the form of Durga or Parvati is represented as riding a lion — and straightway passed into samadhi. He would have fallen but for the supporting arms around him. On regaining consciousness, he was invited to stroll round the Gardens and see the rest of the collection. “I have seen the king of the animals. What else is there to see?” replied the Paramahamsa. And he went back to the waiting carriage and drove home.

There seems to be an obvious incongruity between the predisposing causes of samadhi on these two occasions. On the first, it was the contemplation of the nirakara Brahman, a high and abstruse spiritual concept; on the second, it was merely the sight of a caged lion. But in both instances the process of the concentration of the mind and the spirit is the same. In one, it is the intense realization of the supreme Brahman without form; in the other, it is a realization in the spirit of a visual symbolism inseparably associated with the goddess Kali. In both cases a single spiritual thought occupies the mind to the exclusion of everything else, obliterates the sense of the objective world, and leads to samadhi. No photograph taken of the Paramahamsa insamadhi ever succeeded in reproducing the inward glow, the expression of divine ecstasy, brahmananda, stamped on the countenance.