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Ramakrishna period

(As quoted by the ‘Life of Swami Vivekananda by his Eastern and Western Disciples’)

It is impossible to give others any idea of the ineffable joy we derived from the presence of the Master. It is really beyond our understanding how he could train us, without our knowing it, through fun and play, and thus mold our spiritual life. As the master wrestler proceeds with great caution and restraint with the beginner, now over powering him in the struggle with great difficulty as it were, again allowing himself to be defeated to strengthen the pupil’s self confidence-in exactly the same manner did Shri Ramakrishna handle us. Realizing that the Atman [Self], the source of infinite strength, exists in every individual, pigmy though he might be, he was able to see the potential giant in all. He could clearly discern the latent spiritual power which would in the fullness of time manifest itself. Holding up that bright picture to view, he would speak highly of us and encourage us. Again he would warn us lest we should obstruct this future consummation by becoming entangled in worldly desires, and moreover he would keep us under control by carefully observing even the minute details of our life. All this was done silently and unobtrusively. That was the secret of his training of the disciples and of his molding of their lives. Once I felt that I could not practice deep concentration during meditation. I told him of it and sought his advice and direction. He told me his personal experience in the matter and gave me instructions. I remember that as I sat down to meditate during the early hours of the morning, my mind would be disturbed and diverted by the shrill note of the whistle of a neighboring jute mill. I told him about it, and he advised me to concentrate my mind on the sound of the whistle itself. I followed his advice and derived much benefit from it. On another occasion I felt difficulty in totally forgetting my body during meditation and concentrating the mind wholly on the ideal. I went to him for counsel, and he gave me the very instruction which he himself had received from Totapuri while practicing Samadhi according to Vedantic disciplines. He sharply pressed between my eyebrows with his fingernail and said, “Now concentrate your mind on this painful sensation!” I found I could concentrate easily on that sensation as long as I liked, and during that period I completely let go the consciousness of the other parts of my body, not to speak of their causing any distraction hindering my meditation: The solitude of the Panchavati, associated with the various spiritual realizations of the Master, was also the most suitable place for our meditation. Besides meditation and spiritual exercises, we used to spend a good deal of time there in sheer fun and merry-making. Shri Ramakrishna also joined in with us, and by taking part enhanced our innocent pleasure. We used to run and skip about, climb on the trees, swing from the creepers and at times hold merry picnics. On the first day we picnicked the Master noticed that I had cooked the food, and he partook of it. I knew that he could not take food unless it was cooked by Brahmins, and therefore I had arranged for his meal at the Kali temple. But he said, “It won’t be wrong for me to take food from such a pure soul as yourself.” In spite of my repeated remonstrations, he enjoyed the food I had cooked that day.