By M (Mahendra Nath Gupta)
Translated by Swami Chetanananda
These newly-discovered diary entries, written by M, the author of the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, were originally published in 1904 in Navya Bharat. Upon its rediscovery, it was published in Udbodhan, the Bengali-language journal of the Ramakrishna Order (vol 102, no 10 and vol 103, nos. 2 and 3.) Swami Chetanananda, head of the Vedanta Society of St. Louis, translated the articles from the Bengali and it was published in the February, 2006 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, one of the English-language journals of the Ramakrishna Order. Our thanks to Udbodhan and Prabuddha Bharata for their permission to place this newly-discovered treasure online here. This is the second of two installments; the first one appeared on this site in May, 2006.
Narendra enters the room. It seems that his hope for God-realization has weakened a little. He begins to sing:
Can everyone have the vision of Shyama?
Is Kali’s treasure for everyone?
Oh, what a pity my foolish mind will not see what is true!
Even with all His penances, rarely does Shiva Himself behold
The mind-bewitching sight of Mother Shyama’s crimson feet.
To him who meditates on Her the riches of heaven are poor indeed;
If Shyama casts Her glance on him, he swims in Eternal Bliss.
The Prince of yogis, the King of the gods, meditate on Her feet in vain;
Yet worthless Kamalakanta yearns for the Mother’s blessed feet! (Gospel, 679)
Narendra goes to another room in the monastery. What is he thinking? Has Sri Ramakrishna’s loving form suddenly come alive in his heart? He again begins to sing:
Dear friend, my religion and piety have come to an end:
No more can I worship Mother Shyama; my mind defies control.
Oh, shame upon me! Bitter shame!
I try to meditate on the Mother with sword in hand,
Wearing Her garland of human heads;
But it is always the Dark One, wearing His garland of wild wood-flowers
And holding the flute to His tempting lips,
That shines before my eyes.
I think of the Mother with Her three eyes, but alas! I see
Him alone with the arching eyes, and I forget all else!
Oh, shame upon me! Bitter shame!
I try to offer fragrant flowers at the Mother’s feet,
But the ravishing thought of His graceful form unsettles my helpless mind,
And all my meditations meant for the Naked One are drawn away
By the sight of His yellow scarf. (Gospel, 873)
After singing this song, Narendra remains silent for a while and then suddenly announces, ‘Let us go to the cremation ground.’ He then remarks: ‘My goodness! It seems to be a parlour and not a cremation ground.’ (All laugh.)
Paramanik Ghat is just near the monastery, and the cremation ground is near that ghat. The cremation ground is surrounded by walls, and there is one brick building with three rooms at the east end. Sometimes at night Narendra and others go there alone to practise sadhana.
* * *
The Holy Mother now lives in Vrindaban. Narendra and M are talking about her. One day at the Cossipore garden house, the young devotees told Sri Ramakrishna about the Holy Mother’s affection for them. At that time she was living at the garden house to serve the Master. The disciples told the Master that they had never met another woman as large-hearted as she was.
M: ‘What did the Master say?’
Narendra: ‘The Master began to laugh and then said: “She is my Shakti [Power]. So she loves all.”’
Friday, 17 February 1887
It is 12:30 p.m. at the Baranagore monastery. Narendra and the other monastic brothers are living at the monastery. Haramohan and M have arrived. Shashi is busy with the Master’s worship service. Narendra is about to go to the Ganges for his bath.
Narendra: ‘Krishna mainly discussed japa and austerity in the Gita.’
M: ‘How is that? Then why did he give so much advice to Arjuna?’
Narendra: ‘Krishna did not ask Arjuna to perform family duties.’
M: ‘When Krishna asked Arjuna to fight, Arjuna was a householder. He, therefore, was advising Arjuna to perform his family duties in a detached way.’
(Narendra later changed his opinion about this. While in America he lectured on karma yoga, and there he advised his students to perform action without attachment. When Narendra first took the vows of sannyasa, he was extremely disgusted with the duties of the world, so he said that japa and austerity were the main focus of the Gita.)
A householder devotee is talking with a monastic brother; his intention is to stay at the monastery. The devotee is impressed with the spiritual atmosphere of the monastery, and family life has become distasteful to him. They are talking on the southern veranda of the kitchen, where Niranjan is working.
The Devotee: ‘If I stay in the monastery, will I be blamed for neglecting my family?’
The Monk: ‘No one will blame you for living here, but you have a responsibility to look after your family.’
Niranjan (from the kitchen): ‘Hello brother, what are you doing? What kind of advice are you giving to him?’ (All laugh.)
Narendra and Kali have returned from their bath in the Ganges. Kali is always engaged in studying Vedanta. He does not care for the attitude: ‘You are my Lord and I am Your devotee.’ He reflects continually: ‘I am that Brahman. I have no name and form.’ So after returning from his bath, he goes to his room and starts repeating: ‘I am beyond name and form. I am that Absolute Being. I salute You, I salute You, I salute You and Myself.’
The devotees sit down to have lunch. There is only one cook at the monastery. After lunch everyone clears away their own leaf-plates; but Narendra removes M’s leaf-plate. When M objects, Narendra replies, ‘Here all are equal.’
After lunch everyone assembles in the parlour. Some are chewing betel-rolls; some are smoking hubble-bubbles.
Rakhal (to M): ‘I want to visit you some day. I am eager to hear what you are writing about the Master.’
M: ‘I have decided that until my life is transformed I will not share those teachings with anybody. Each of the Master’s words is like a mantra. Is it not good to translate those teachings into one’s life?’
Rakhal: ‘Yes, indeed. Well, how do you like your family life?’
Shashi: ‘Look, brothers, Rakhal is lecturing.’
Rakhal (smiling, to M): ‘Previously I was not inclined to come here. Now I see that the company of the brothers is beneficial.’
Narendra: ‘Where is the real substance in human beings? I care for no one, except one. [Perhaps he meant Sri Ramakrishna.] Who has his own power? Every one is subject to circumstance—a slave to maya. Every one is a slave like me—a sport of circumstances.’
Rakhal smiles and whispers to Haramohan. Prompted by Rakhal, Haramohan asks: ‘What about Brother X?’
Narendra: ‘Brother X is a wretched fellow. If he wants to be a monk, why is he saving money? A sadhu should be penniless.’
A Monk: ‘Everyone is wretched and you consider yourself great.’
Narendra: ‘I am also wretched because I am a slave of circumstances. Do I have any power?’
M (to himself): ‘Is it circumstance or God? The Master used to say, “Everything happens by the will of Rama.”’
Narendra: ‘How can a man who has money be a monk? Moreover, he gives lectures to people. Is he not ashamed to preach?’
Haramohan: ‘Well, if a man experiences ecstasy or samadhi, he must be great.’
Narendra: ‘Go and study Buddha. According to Shankara the ultimate spiritual experience is nirvikalpa samadhi, which is the first stage that Buddha attained.’
A Devotee: ‘If nirvikalpa samadhi is the first stage, then there must be higher stages than that. Why don’t you describe a few to us? Buddha must have said something about it.’
Narendra: ‘I don’t know.’
A Devotee: ‘If nirvikalpa samadhi is the first stage of Buddha’s experience, then why did he later preach this doctrine: “Non-violence is the supreme dharma?”’
Narendra: ‘It is hard to understand this view, but the Vaishnavas learned their non-violence from Buddha.’
A Devotee: ‘Is it necessary for one to learn non-violence from Buddha? It often happens that one gives up eating fish without having any instruction from anybody. It may not be true that the Vaishnavas learned non-violence from Buddha.’
Narendra: ‘If someone renounces the killing of animals without being asked to, then it is to be understood as hereditary transmission.’
A Devotee: ‘Then what about the people in Europe who have given up killing animals? They were beef-eaters. They have not learned from Buddha.’
Narendra: ‘However, Buddha discovered this path.’
M (to himself): ‘Wonderful! Each disciple of the Master is a hero. Everyone is an independent thinker, not just Narendra. And why not? They are disciples of the Master and he trained them himself.’
* * *
Narendra is reading the Gita and explaining it to the brother disciples. He has been elucidating the following verses from the Gita (5.7-9): ‘He who is devoted to yoga and is pure in mind, who has conquered his body and subdued his senses, who has realized his Self as the Self of all beings—he is undefiled though he acts. “I do nothing at all”, thinks the yogi, the knower of Truth; for in seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting; in walking, breathing, and sleeping; in speaking, emitting, and seizing; in opening and closing the eyes, he is assured that it is only the senses busied with their objects.’
After reading the Gita for a while, Narendra says: ‘I am leaving; now you have the joyful company of M.’ But Narendra cannot go.
Baburam: ‘I don’t understand the Gita and other scriptures. The Master said the right thing, “Renounce, renounce.”’
Shashi: ‘Do you know what the real import of the word ‘renounce’ is? It means to remain in this world as an instrument in the hands of God.’
Prasanna begins to study the Gita in Kali’s solitary room; Sharat is also there reading Lewis’ History of Philosophy. Another monk is meditating in the Master’s shrine.
The discussion turns to the vision of God.
Narendra: ‘The vision of God is a kind of false perception.’
Rakhal: ‘What do you mean? You have experienced it.’
Narendra (with a smile): ‘One gets such a vision because of a derangement of the brain, like a hallucination.’
Mani: ‘Brother, whatever you may say, the Master had visions of divine forms; so how can you say that it is a derangement of the brain? Do you remember when Shivanath remarked that the Master’s samadhi was a kind of nervous disorder or mental illness, the Master replied, “Does anyone become unconscious thinking of Consciousness?”’
Narendra and the other brothers have assembled in the parlour. Some are chewing betel-rolls, some are smoking hubble-bubbles. It is spring, and the nature as if is pulsating with joy. The monastic brothers are also joyful. They practise celibacy and renunciation and think of God day and night. Always before them is their great ideal, their guru, Sri Ramakrishna. Sometimes out of exuberant joy, they shout the great saying of the Sikhs: ‘Wah guruji ki fateh!’—Victory to the guru! Narendra taught them this mantra, prefacing it with ‘Om’.
M asks Sharat to join him in repeating ‘Victory to the guru!’ one hundred times, which makes him happy.
Narendra: ‘It does not work to just give an order. One should first start repeating the mantra, then others will join in.’
Balaram has sent some sweets and other things from his Calcutta residence. The kachuris (fried bread with a spicy filling) are delicious. All of the brothers enjoy the refreshment. One brother tries to eat more than his share.
Narendra (to the brother): ‘You greedy rascal! It is not good to eat too much.’
It is evening. Shashi burns incense in the shrine and bows down to the Master, glorifying his sweet name. Then he visits the pictures of gods and goddesses in each of the rooms, addressing them one after another and waving incense in front of each of them. He chants in his melodious voice: ‘Salutations to the guru’; ‘Salutations to Mother Kali’; ‘Salutations to Chaitanya taking the form of Rama and Krishna’; ‘Salutations to Radha and Krishna’; ‘Salutations to the beloved of Radha’; ‘Salutations to Advaita Acharya and other devotees’; ‘Salutations to Gopala and Mother Yashoda’; ‘Salutations to Rama and Lakshmana’; ‘Salutations to Vishwamitra’.
The senior Gopal performs vespers by waving the light and the devotees watch him. Narendra and M are in the main hall. M had asked Narendra to join the vesper service, but due to some work he could not do so.
After the vespers, the devotees sing a hymn to Shiva in chorus: ‘Jaya Shiva Omkara, Bhaja Shiva Omkara; Brahma Vishnu Sadashiva, Hara Hara Hara Mahadeva.’
As night falls, everyone sits for a light supper, which Baburam serves. Each person is served a few chapatis, some vegetable curry, and a little bit of molasses. M is eating with them, sitting next to Narendra. When Narendra sees a couple of burnt chapatis on M’s plate, he immediately replaces them with good ones. Narendra keeps a vigilant eye on everything.
After supper everyone sits together in the parlour. A monastic brother tells M: ‘Nowadays we hardly get to hear any songs on the Divine Mother. Why don’t you sing that favourite song of the Master’s?’
O Mother Shyama, full of the waves of drunkenness divine!
Who knows how Thou dost sport in the world?
Thy fun and frolic and Thy glances put to shame the god of love.
O Wielder of the sword! O Thou of terrifying face!
The earth itself is shaken under Thy leaps and strides!
O Thou Abode of the three gunas! O Redeemer! Fearsome One!
Thou who art the Consort of Shiva!
Many the forms Thou dost assume, fulfilling Thy bhaktas’ prayers.
Thou dancest in the Lotus of the Heart,
O Mother, Eternal Consort of Brahman! (Gospel, 808)
While talking with M, Rakhal says: ‘I want to visit Varanasi. I feel I should go there alone.’
Rakhal has his father, wife, and son at home, but he has renounced everyone and everything for God-realization. He is endowed with intense renunciation. His mind is longing for God all the time, so he wants to wander alone.