The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda/Volume 7/Inspired Talks/Monday, July 1
MONDAY, July 1, 1895. (Shri Ramakrishna Deva)
Shri Ramakrishna was the son of a very orthodox Brahmin, who would refuse even a gift from any but a special caste of Brahmins; neither might he work, nor even be a priest in a temple, nor sell books, nor serve anyone. He could only have "what fell from the skies" (alms), and even then it must not come through a "fallen" Brahmin. Temples have no hold on the Hindu religion; if they were all destroyed, religion would not be affected a grain. A man must only build a house for "God and guests", to build for himself would be selfish; therefore he erects temples as dwelling places for God.
Owing to the extreme poverty of his family, Shri Ramakrishna was obliged to
become in his boyhood a priest in a temple dedicated to the Divine Mother,
also called Prakriti, or Kâli, represented by a female figure standing with
feet on a male figure, indicating that until Maya lifts, we can know
nothing. Brahman is neuter, unknown and unknowable, but to be objectified He
covers Himself with a veil of Maya, becomes the Mother of the Universe, and
so brings forth the creation. The prostrate figure (Shiva or God) has become
Shava (dead or lifeless) by being covered by Maya. The Jnâni says, "I will
uncover God by force" (Advaitism); but the dualist says, "I will uncover God
by praying to Mother, begging Her to open the door to which She alone has
The daily service of the Mother Kali gradually awakened such intense
devotion in the heart of the young priest that he could no longer carry on
the regular temple worship. So he abandoned his duties and retired to a
small woodland in the temple compound, where he gave himself up entirely to
meditation. These woods were on the bank of the river Ganga; and one day the
swift current bore to his very feet just the necessary materials to build
him a little enclosure. In this enclosure he stayed and wept and prayed,
taking no thought for the care of his body or for aught except his Divine
Mother. A relative fed him once a day and watched over him. Later came a
Sannyasini or lady ascetic, to help him find his "Mother". Whatever teachers
he needed came to him unsought; from every sect some holy saint would come
and offer to teach him and to each he listened eagerly. But he worshipped
only Mother; all to him was Mother.
Shri Ramakrishna never spoke a harsh word against anyone. So beautifully
tolerant was he that every sect thought that he belonged to them. He loved
everyone. To him all religions were true. He found a place for each one. He
was free, but free in love, not in "thunder". The mild type creates, the
thundering type spreads. Paul was the thundering type to spread the light.
(And it has been said by many that Swami Vivekananda himself was a kind of
St. Paul to Shri Ramakrishna.)
The age of St. Paul, however, is gone; we are to be the new lights for this day. A self-adjusting organisation is the great need of our time. When we can get one, that will be the last religion of the world. The wheel must turn, and we should help it, not hinder. The waves of religious thought rise and fall, and on the topmost one stands the "prophet of the period". Ramakrishna came to teach the religion of today, constructive, not destructive. He had to go afresh to Nature to ask for facts, and he got scientific religion which never says "believe", but "see"; "I see, and you too can see." Use the same means and you will reach the same vision. God will come to everyone, harmony is within the reach of all. Shri Ramakrishna's teachings are "the gist of Hinduism"; they were not peculiar to him. Nor did he claim that they were; he cared naught for name or fame.
He began to preach when he was about forty; but he never went out to do it.
He waited for those who wanted his teachings to come to him. In accordance
with Hindu custom, he was married by his parents in early youth to a little
girl of five, who remained at home with her family in a distant village,
unconscious of the great struggle through which her young husband was
passing. When she reached maturity, he was already deeply absorbed in
religious devotion. She travelled on foot from her home to the temple at
Dakshineswar where he was then living; and as soon as she saw him, she
recognised what he was, for she herself was a great soul, pure and holy, who
only desired to help his work, never to drag him down to the level of the
Shri Ramakrishna is worshipped in India as one of the great Incarnations, and his birthday is celebrated there as a religious festival. . . .
A curious round stone is the emblem of Vishnu, the omnipresent. Each morning
a priest comes in, offers sacrifice to the idol, waves incense before it,
then puts it to bed and apologises to God for worshipping Him in that way,
because he can only conceive of Him through an image or by means of some
material object. He bathes the idol, clothes it, and puts his divine self
into the idol "to make it alive".
There is a sect which says, "It is weakness to worship only the good and
beautiful, we ought also to love and worship the hideous and the evil." This
sect prevails all over Tibet, and they have no marriage. In India proper
they cannot exist openly, but organise secret societies. No decent men will
belong to them except sub rosa. Thrice communism was tried in Tibet, and
thrice it failed. They use Tapas and with immense success as far as power is
Tapas means literally "to burn". It is a kind of penance to "heat" the
higher nature. It is sometimes in the form of a sunrise to sunset vow, such
as repeating Om all day incessantly. These actions will produce a certain
power that you can convert into any form you wish, spiritual or material.
This idea of Tapas penetrates the whole of Hindu religion. The Hindus even
say that God made Tapas to create the world. It is a mental instrument with
which to do everything. "Everything in the three worlds can be caught by
Tapas." . . .
People who report about sects with which they are not in sympathy are both
conscious and unconscious liars. A believer in one sect can rarely see truth
A great Bhakta (Hanuman) once said when asked what day of the month it was, "God is my eternal date, no other date I care for."