SPIRITUAL ADVICE

SRI RAMAKRISHNA: “Do your duty to the world after knowing God. With one hand hold to the Lotus Feet of the Lord and with the other do your work.”

VAIKUNTHA: “Is the world unreal?”

SRI RAMAKRISHNA: “Yes, it is unreal as long as one has not realized God. Through ignorance man forgets God and speaks always of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. He sinks down and down, entangled in maya, deluded by ‘woman and gold’. Maya robs him of his knowledge to such an extent that he cannot find the way of escape, though such a way exists.

“Listen to a song:

When such delusion veils the world, through Mahamaya’s spell,                                                         

That Brahma is bereft of sense

And Vishnu loses consciousness,

What hope is left for men? . .

“You all know from your experience how impermanent the world is. Look at it this way. How many people have come into the world and again passed away! People are born and they die. This moment the world is and the next it is not. It is impermanent. Those you think to be your very own will not exist for you when you close your eyes in death. Again, you see people who have no immediate relatives, and yet for the sake of a grandson they will not go to Benares to lead a holy life. ‘Oh, what will become of my Haru then?’ they argue.

The narrow channel first is made, and there the trap is set;

But open though the passage lies,

The fish, once safely through the gate,

Do not come out again.

 Yet even though a way leads forth,

Encased within its own cocoon,

The worm remains to die.

This kind of world is illusory and impermanent.”

Devotee: “Why, sir, should one hold to God with one hand and to the world with the other? Why should one even stretch out one hand to hold to the world, if it is impermanent?”

SRI RAMAKRISHNA: “The world is not impermanent if one lives there after knowing God. Listen to another song:

O mind, you do not know how to farm!

Fallow lies the field of your life.

If you had only worked it well,

How rich a harvest you might reap!

Hedge it about with Kali’s name

If you would keep your harvest safe;

This is the stoutest hedge of all,

For Death himself cannot come near it. . . .

“Did you listen to the song?

Hedge it about with Kali’s name

If you would keep your harvest safe.

Surrender yourself to God and you will achieve everything.

This is the stoutest hedge of all,                                                                                                           

  For Death himself cannot come near it.

Ideal householder’s life

“Yes, it is a strong hedge indeed. If you but, realize God, you won’t see the world as unsubstantial. He who has realized God knows that God Himself has become the world and all living beings. When you feed your child, you should feel that you are feeding God. You should look on your father and mother as veritable manifestations of God and the Divine Mother, and serve them as such. If a man enters the world after realizing God, he does not generally keep up physical relations with his wife. Both of them are devotees; they love to talk only of God and pass their time in spiritual conversation. They serve other devotees of God, for they know that God alone has become all living beings; and, knowing this, they devote their lives to the service of others.”

NEIGHBOUR: “But, sir, such a husband and wife are not to be found anywhere.”

SRI RAMAKRISHNA: “Yes, they can be found, though they may be very rare. Worldly people cannot recognize them. In order to lead such a life both husband and wife must be spiritual. It is possible to lead such a life if both of them have tasted the Bliss of God. God’s special grace is necessary to create such a couple; otherwise there will always be misunderstanding between them. In that case the one has to leave the other. Life becomes very miserable if husband and wife do not agree. The wife will say to her husband day and night: ‘Why did my father marry me to such a person? I can’t get enough to eat or to feed my children. I haven’t clothes enough to cover my body or to give to my children. I haven’t received a single piece of jewelry from you. How happy you have made me! Ah! You keep your eyes closed and mutter the name of God! Now do give up all these crazy ideas.’ ”

DEVOTEE: “There are such obstacles, certainly. Besides, the children may be disobedient. There is no end of difficulties. Now, sir, what is the way?”

Solitude and holy company

SRI RAMAKRISHNA: “It is extremely difficult to practise spiritual discipline and at the same time lead a householder’s life. There are many handicaps: disease, grief, poverty, misunderstanding with one’s wife, and disobedient, stupid, and stubborn children. I don’t have to give you a list of them.

“But still there is a way out. One should pray to God, going now and then into solitude, and make efforts to realize Him.”

NEIGHBOUR: “Must one leave home then?”

SRI RAMAKRISHNA: “No, not altogether. Whenever you have leisure, go into solitude for a day or two. At that time don’t have any relations with the outside world and don’t hold any conversation with worldly people on worldly affairs. You must live either in solitude or in the company of holy men.”