Spiritual Talks of Swami Adbhutananda

Recorded by Swami Raghavananda

From the November-December, 1959 Vedanta and the West.

Swami Adbhutananda, the first monastic disciple to come to Sri Ramakrishna, was born in a very humble family in a village of Bihar. When he was still a child he lost both parents. Subsequently he found employment as a houseboy with Ramachandra Dutta, the great householder-devotee of Sri Ramakrishna, who took him to Dakshineswar and introduced him to the Master. At their first meeting, Sri Ramakrishna recognized the spiritual potentiality of the boy. Within a short time, when Sri Ramakrishna needed an attendant, he asked Ramachandra to let the boy stay with him at the temple garden.

Latu (or Leto, as the Master affectionately called him) served Sri Ramakrishna with single-minded devotion, and under his guidance engaged himself in spiritual disciplines with great earnestness. The boy had unusual powers of concentration. One day he was sitting on the bank of the Ganges deeply absorbed in meditation. He was completely unconscious of the fact that the tide had risen and water surrounded him. Sri Ramakrishna arrived on the scene and by loudly calling Latu brought his mind down to the normal plane.

After Sri Ramakrishna’s passing away, Latu Maharaj went to Brindaban with the Holy Mother, whom he deeply revered. He was not closely connected with the work of the Ramakrishna Mission since he could not conform to an institutional routine. Therefore he lived mostly outside the monastery excepting for short periods. But his love for his brother-disciples, particularly for Swami Vivekananda, was very great.

“Latu is Sri Ramakrishna’s greatest miracle.” Swami Vivekananda said about his brother-disciple. “Without any education whatsoever he has attained the highest wisdom simply through the Master’s touch.” Swami Adbhutananda could not even sign his name. Sri Ramakrishna at one time had tried to teach his unlettered disciple how to read and write—but in vain. Latu Maharaj was unable to master the alphabet. However, here was a living proof that true wisdom does not depend on book-learning. At one time several young monks came across a difficult passage in the Upanishads. They could not understand it, although they referred to a number of commentaries. One of them later told Swami Prabhavananda, that they went to Swami Adbhutananda and asked him for an explanation. As the Swami did not know Sanskrit, the boys rephrased the passage in his own language. He thought for a moment, and exclaimed, “I’ve got it!” With a simple illustration he explained the text, and his questioners found wonderful meaning in it.

Latu Maharaj was unsophisticated, plain-spoken, and very humble. It never occurred to him that he was helping others along the spiritual path. Whenever he felt that his words might be interpreted as if he had taken the teacher’s role, he would rebuke himself. He felt that only those who were born with a mission like Swami Vivekananda were qualified to make disciples and preach religion. But many persons approached him to solve their problems and felt drawn to his compassionate and loving personality.

Once at midnight a man came to Swami Adbhutananda and drunkenly insisted that the Swami accept several articles of food so that he himself might partake of the leavings as sanctified by a holy man. The Swami quietly complied with the request.

On another occasion Swami Adbhutananda offered his clothes to a devotee who came to him drenched with rain. The man felt too humble to wear the robes of such a holy personality, but the Swami insisted, pointing out that otherwise the devotee, who lived in straitened circumstances, might fall ill and lose his job.

The following spiritual talks of Latu Maharaj, addressed to monastic aspirants, were found in one of the notebooks of the late Swami Raghavananada. Swami Prabhavananda has translated them from the original Bengali. Although undated, the conversations probably took place in 1915 or 1916 in Benares, where Swami Adbhutananda had retired in 1912 to spend the rest of his life.

When you transcend the three gunas—the elements such as earth, air, water, etc.—they will serve you. Heat and cold, hunger and thirst will obey you. Now you are their slave, but at that stage they will be under your control. What will then be the state of your mind? You will remain indifferent to praise and blame, good and evil, and all the opposites of life. You make no distinction, whether a rich man or a poor man comes. Now you are a minor; then you will come of age. You will be like Trailanga Swami [an Indian holy man]: Nature is under his control and serves him. Now there is always the fear lest some craving arise in your mind. There is the sense of good, so there is the fear of evil. Struggle, and through His grace you will attain union with God, though it may take many births.

First discrimination and dispassion, then comes devotion. You have to clear your path by taking recourse to discrimination and dispassion. Then is it that you will know what is real and what is unreal. When you have strong discrimination and dispassion, evil cannot approach you. But if you are weak in these virtues, evil gets hold of you.

Those who wish to practice meditation and japam should eat very little in the evening. Holy men keep awake and meditate during the night. That is why they eat less in the evening. Don’t fast, but eat a little.

Keep association only with those who have attained God. Avoid the company of others. If you try to look equally upon all in the beginning of spiritual life, you will become worldly.

The Master used to say about Swamiji [Swami Vivekananda]: “He has nothing that he calls his own. He who calls nothing his own, what does he have? He possesses God directly.” What devotion Swamiji had to Sri Ramakrishna! One time the Master gave him a pair of shoes to wear, but [out of reverence] Swamiji never wore them. Others learned devotion from him.

Sri Ramakrishna used to send me to bring Swamiji to him, and Swamiji would say: “Why does he want me? He has so many devotees. . .”

Swamiji said at one time: “He alone is my refuge. When he [Sri Ramakrishna] comes again, I will also have to come.”

When Swamiji came back from America I hesitated to approach him because he had received such worship in the West. Swamiji took me by the hand and said: “I am still that same Naren and you are that same Leto. What you see is all the will of the Lord. It is the play of the Lord’s power.”

How can worldly people understand and judge spirituality? Keep your spiritual moods inside. Humility, and so on, are all in the inner attitude. Sri Ramakrishna did not let us practice external austerities. Deben Thakur [the father of Rabindranath Tagore] used to wear a cashmere shawl, but his mind was on a high plane. Worldly people considered Sri Ramakrishna to be a dandy. Wear clean clothes, keep your body clean and your mind cheerful.

God does not look to the caste or lineage of a man. He sees his deeds. Dear to him is his devotee. It is the deeds that make a man either great or small.

Orthodox Brahmins used to speak ill of Sri Ramakrishna because he was not strict about caste. Hirananda once brought some sweets for him from the shop of a Mohammedan. The Master ate the sweets and said: “They are pure because they have been brought by a devotee.”

God’s main teaching is: “O man, call on Me! Love Me! You have no other refuge but Me.” Never forget Him, and you will live happily. Forget Him, and you will suffer. Always pray that your mind may be fixed in Him.

Girish Ghosh once said: “What can I do? He [Sri Ramakrishna] only showed me his grace when I became old. If I had been younger I would have set the example of sannyas {monastic life].”Girish Ghosh used to say: “Nobody understands my life; only the Master understood.”

Sri Ramakrishna often repeated: “Every being is Narayana [the Lord]—saint Narayana, sinner Narayana, hypocrite Narayana, and so on. If you associate with the drunkard Narayana, you also will become a drunkard. So bow down to this kind of Narayana from a distance.”

Only through the meritorious deeds of many past lives can one get a Vivekananda as a brother-disciple. The Master asked him to look after the rest of us, and what did he not do for us! Yes, I worship Vivekananda! . . .At the Baranagore Math, Vivekananda would meditate the whole night while we would fall asleep.

Everybody was not allowed to visit the Holy Mother during those days. Only Harish [a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna] and I were free to do so. Later on, when I did not visit her often, she said: “Why don’t you come and see me? I am still the same mother to you.”

The Lord is pleased if you please his devotee.

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Spiritual Talks of Swami Adbhutananda