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A pril 2010

VOL. 97, No. 4 ISSN 0042-2983

A CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL M O N T H L Y O F T H E R A M A K R I S H N A O R D E R

Started at the instance of Swami Vivekananda in 1895 as Brahmavâdin,


it assumed the name The Vedanta Kesari in 1914.
For free edition on the Web, please visit: www.sriramakrishnamath.org

CONTENTS
April 2010
Vedic Prayers 125
Editorial
Harnessing the Power of Words 126
Articles
„ In Praise of Japa 137
William Page
„ Sri Ramakrishna—One with Cosmic Existence 148
Sudesh
„ The Frame and the Fill
—Thoughts on Some Aspects of Human Brain 154
Swami Samarpanananda
Reminiscences
„ Reminiscences of Master Mahashay 132
Lalit Chattopadhyay
New Find
„ Unpublished Letters of Swami Saradananda 140
Special Column
„ Influence of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda on
Contemporary Bengali Literature 142
Hironmoy Mukherjee
The Order on the March 158
Book Reviews 161
Features
Simhâvalokanam (Spiritual Greatness of India)—130,
Vivekananda Tells Stories—153



Cover Story: Page 4


2

The Vedanta Kesari


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Cover Story
Sri Ramakrishna Temple in Sagar Islands
Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Manasadwip (situated in Sagar
Islands—the place where Ganga joins the Bay of Bengal) was
started in 1928. One has to travel by boat or a steamer to reach
this remote centre of the Ramakrishna Mission. The Ashrama
runs a number of schools (a high school, a junior basic school,
a primary school and a students’ home), several coaching
centres and non-formal education centres, besides a
homoeopathic dispensary and weekly medical camps. It also
carries on relief and welfare work such as providing food,
milk, medicines and pecuniary help to the poor and needy
and service to the pilgrims in the Gangasagar Mela every year.
The temple of Sri Ramakrishna, with bell-shaped domes, was
constructed sometimes in 1990s. (Address: Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Manasadwip,
Dist. 24 South Parganas – 743390, West Bengal)

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The Vedanta Kesari Library Scheme


SL.NO. NAMES OF SPONSORS AWARDEE INSTITUTIONS

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(To be continued. . .)
VOL. 97, No. 4, APRIL 2010 ISSN 0042-2983

E ACH SOUL IS POTENTIALLY DIVINE. T HE GOAL IS TO MANIFEST THE DIVINITY WITHIN.

Vedic Prayers
Tr. by Swami Sambuddhananda
gÀ`ß kmZ_Z›Vß ~´˜ & `mo doX {Z{hVß Jwhm`mß na_o Ï`mo_Z≤ &
gmo@ÌZwVo gdm©Z≤ H$m_mZ≤ gh& ~´˜Um {dn{¸Vo{V&
—Taittiriya Upanishad, II, I. 1
`mo who doX knows gÀ`ß truth kmZß knowledge AZ›V_≤ with-
out end Jwhm`mß in the cave {Z{hVß hidden na_o in the highest
Ï`mo_Z≤ ether gÖ He gdm©Z≤ H$m_mZ≤ all desires (blessings) AÌZwVo
enjoys (fulfils) B{V thus gh ~´˜Um with Brahman {dn{¸Vm
omniscient.
He who knows Brahman as the Eternal Embodiment of
Truth and Knowledge, seated hidden in the cave (depth of
the heart), in the ether above, he enjoys all blessings at one


with Brahman, the omniscient.

‘This Self is first to be heard, then to be thought upon, and then


meditated upon.’ Everyone can see the sky, even the very worm
crawling upon the earth sees the blue sky, but how very far away it is!
So it is with our ideal. It is far away, no doubt, but at the same time,
we know that we must have it. We must even have the highest ideal.
Unfortunately in this life, the vast majority of persons are groping
through this dark life without any ideal at all. If a man with an ideal
makes a thousand mistakes, I am sure that the man without an ideal
makes fifty thousand. Therefore, it is better to have an ideal. And this
ideal we must hear about as much as we can, till it enters into our
hearts, into our brains, into our very veins, until it tingles in every drop
of our blood and permeates every pore in our body. We must meditate
upon it. ‘Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh,’ and out
of the fullness of the heart the hand works too.
—Swami Vivekananda, CW, 2: 152
T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 125 ~ D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9
Harnessing the Power of Words
The Power of Words between thought and word and what can be
‘Tongue is not steel but it cuts’, thus goes achieved by the power of the word. In every
the old saying. It not only cuts, it cuts deep. religion the power of the word is recognised, so
But along with its capacity to cut, the tongue much so that in some of them creation itself is
also has a tremendous capacity to stitch and said to have come out of the word. The external
unite. Whether our tongue will cut or whether aspect of the thought of God is the Word, and
as God thought and willed before He created,
it will unite, well, much depends on how we
creation came out of the Word. In this stress
use it—on how much we have disciplined our
and hurry of our materialistic life, our nerves
speech.
lose sensibility and become hardened. The older
Words have marvellous power. A
we grow, the longer we are knocked about in
popular way to illustrate it is through the story
the world, the more callous we become; and we
of a man who sued another man for calling are apt to neglect things that even happen
him names. The judge called the complainant persistently and prominently around us. Human
and asked him what the accused had said. nature, however, asserts itself sometimes, and
‘He called me a hippopotamus’, replied the we are led to inquire into and wonder at some
complainant. of these common occurrences; wondering thus
‘When did he call you?’ asked the judge. is the first step in the acquisition of light.
‘A year back,’ replied the man. Sound symbols play a prominent part in the
‘And you are reporting the matter now?’ drama of human life. I am talking to you. I am
exclaimed the judge. not touching you; the pulsations of the air caused
‘Because I saw a hippopotamus in zoo by my speaking go into your ear, they touch
yesterday,’ said the man. your nerves and produce effects in your minds.
That indeed is the power of words—it You cannot resist this. What can be more won-
impels us to do something or convinces us derful than this? One man calls another a fool,
not to act in a particular way. Words make a and at this the other stands up and clenches his
great difference in our lives. Though, in one fist and lands a blow on his nose. Look at the
power of the word! There is a woman weeping
sense, words may be just sound-forms, when
and miserable; another woman comes along and
understood and reflected upon, they change
speaks to her a few gentle words, the doubled
the whole course of our life. We cannot think
up frame of the weeping woman becomes
of any other power as great as the power of
straightened at once, her sorrow is gone and
words. Simple words can do marvel. But we
she already begins to smile. Think of the power
have to explore this transforming power of of words! They are a great force in higher philo-
words before we can really use it. Swami sophy as well as in common life. Day and night
Vivekananda says, we manipulate this force without thought and
There are many other aspects of this science of without inquiry. To know the nature of this force
work. One among them is to know the relation and to use it well is also a part of Karma-Yoga.1

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 126 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
7

Using the Right Word they produce evidence to support the belief.
Rightly does Swamiji say that in order They feel increasingly victimized and out of
to live meaningfully, one should ‘know the control, not in charge of their life . . .they blame
nature of this force and to use it well’. What is outside forces—other people, circumstances,
speech? Well, it is not just sound. All living even the stars—for their own situation.’2
beings—human beings including—make some In order to change oneself, one should
form of sound. Animals make a variety of change one’s language. Instead of indulging in
sounds. Lion roar, elephants trumpet, beetles self-pity and building a negative self-image, one
drone, cows moo, frogs croak, jackals howl, should look upon oneself in a positive way,
sheep bleat, monkeys gibber and birds chirp, using the language of trust and self-respect.
tweet and at times sing! But all of these are
just primitive forms of communication. Even Disciplining the Speech
if there be something like an animal-language Sri Krishna, while describing the various
or a bird-language, surely it is quite primitive kinds of disciplines (tapas) in the Bhagavad
and rudimentary. It can convey only a few Gita, speaks of the discipline of speech.
animal impulses and emotions. Only the Without a proper discipline of the power of
humans have the gift of a highly developed speech, one cannot lead a higher life. Viveka-
language and forms of communication. The chudamani (367) calls ‘discipline of speech as
gift of language is unique to human beings. It the first step towards Yoga’ (yogasya prathama
is this gift which is the source of man’s capacity dvaram vang nirodhah).
to learn and communicate his learning to What is the discipline of speech? Explains
others and preserve it for the future genera- Sri Krishna:
tion. Language is the single most important
AZw¤oJH$aß dmä`ß gÀ`ß {‡`{hVß M `V≤ü&
tool for the accumulation of knowledge in all
Òdm‹`m`m‰`gZß M°d dmL≤>_`ß Vn C¿`Voü&&
fields of life.
But such is the irony of life that more Speech which causes no vexation, and which is
evil comes through speech than through true, as also agreeable and beneficial, and regular
action! How much of wickedness is generated study of Vedas—these are said to form the
and spread through the misuse of this gift of austerity of speech.3
speech! If only one should learn to use one’s Let us reflect on the meaning of this
speech properly or else just keep quiet—life verse:
will be a great blessing. 1. Speech which causes no vexation: This is
On the other hand, language plays a vital the first requisite of disciplining the speech—
role in changing oneself. If a person is reactive resolving never to hurt others through one’s
and suffers from ‘I am a victim of circum- speech. It is not easy. At first, at a highly
stances’ attitude and is always blaming others, undeveloped state of our being, we do not
his speech will reflect it. An eminent authority care the kind of language we use while
on this subject says: communicating with others. But as we grow,
A serious problem with reactive language is that we begin to see the consequences of using
it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People improper language. We then realize how
become reinforced in the paradigm that they are words can damage a situation or aggravate
determined [by circumstances and others], and our dealings and jeopardize our relationships.

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 127 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
8

The importance of a proper speech then begins only echoing the well-known shanti mantra:
to dawn on our mind. Holy Mother Sri Sarada ‘May my speech be established in my mind
Devi says, and my mind be established in my speech’
One must live carefully. Every action produces (vang me mansi pratishthitaha mano me vachi
its results. It is not good to use harsh words pratishthitam)
towards others or to be responsible for their One of the important aspects of speaking
suffering.4 ‘which is true’ is not to indulge in gossiping
‘Speech which causes no vexation’ is the about others. What an amount of human
speech which does not arouse any feeling of energy is wasted in discussing, analyzing,
anxiety, fear, bitterness and anger. It is the art berating, and criticising others in their absence!
of speaking with care. It is thinking well about The worst thing is that not only people spend
the consequences of what we speak and never their precious time criticising others, they enjoy
wanting to hurt or humiliate anyone. this unhealthy practice. Such kind of delight
While speaking to others, at times, we can be surely a part of what Sri Ramakrishna
want them to understand something and if called vishyananda or ‘the pleasure of the
everything fails, we often become sarcastic and objects of senses’. A seeker of Truth should
abusive in our language. One should try to not spend his time and energies over the affairs
avoid such situations though for someone who that hardly concern him.
is very thick-skinned and lacks the capacity to 3. Agreeable and beneficial: This is the third
take a hint or understand our intents, the use aspect of the speech-discipline. Not only one
of a strong language becomes inevitable. But should speak no harsh words and be truthful,
such a situation cannot be the way of life. As one should also be kind in one’s speech. ‘Speak
a general rule one should use only words that the truth but do not speak unpleasant truth.’
cause no agitation in others’ mind. Or if one has to tell an unpleasant truth, one
2. Which is True: Speaking truth is a great should be prudent in when and how to tell it.
austerity. It means speaking what one knows This means that while speaking to others, we
to be true through one’s senses and mind. It is must keep their sensitivities in mind. It is
speaking what one knows and not what one practising the adage: ‘The kindest word in all
imagines or pretends to know. Why do people the world is the unkind word, unsaid.’ To
tell untruth? To gain an immediate benefit in leave the unkind word unsaid requires intro-
a given situation. This sense of immediate spection, self-control and wisdom. Agreeable
benefit makes them a hypocrite and they say and beneficial speech also means to avoid
something but mean something else. Of course discussing all unnecessary, quarrelsome and
in their hearts of hearts they know that it is controversial issues.
not true. They thus develop a division in their Holy Mother’s insightful words in this
mind—a part of mind knows what is true and context may be recalled here:
another part knows what has been said is Should anyone ever utter a thing that hurts
untrue. Disciplining the speech actually means another’s feelings? An unpleasant truth, though
integrating the mind. It is aligning our mind true, must not be uttered. For that grows into a
and speech. Sri Ramakrishna instructed all habit. By indulging in rude words one’s nature
those who came to them to ‘make their mind becomes rude. One’s sensitivity is lost if one has
and mouth united’ (mon mukh ek karo). He was no control over one’s speech. And once a man

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 128 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
9

casts all consideration for other to the winds, he One should not spend one’s time in
stops at nothing. Sri Ramakrishna would say, ‘If beating about the bush and instead learn to
you have to ask a lame man how he became say what one wants to say rightly and clearly.
lame, then you have to speak thus: “How did Too many explanations and stating un-
your leg come to such a condition?”’5 necessary facts make the speech annoying and
4. Regular study of Vedas: What are wasteful. One should value others’ time and
Vedas? Explains Swamiji: not test their patience. As someone said
[Vedas] are not mere books composed by men humorously about his friend’s chatty habit:
in some remote age. They [are] an accumulated ‘My friend not only explains what he says but
mass of endless divine wisdom, which is also explains what he explains!’
sometimes manifested and at other times Again, even though one may have some-
remains unmanifested. . . No one has ever seen thing really meaningful to say, one should not
the composer of the Vedas, and it is impossible go on saying it too long. One should practice
to imagine one. The Rishis were only the a certain economy in what and how much one
discoverers of the Mantras or Eternal Laws; they should speak.
merely came face to face with the Vedas, the One of the important aspects of harnes-
infinite mine of knowledge, which has been there sing the power of words is to practice silence.
from time without beginning.6 To be silent means to be free from endless
Regular study of Vedas, therefore, means chatter—both verbal and mental—in which
study of the wisdom of Rishis or the Upani- some people indulge. It is conserving one’s
shads. One can read the Upanishads in original energies. Silence means not disturbing one’s
or in translations. Explanatory books on own peace and the peace of the world. Silence
Upanishads are also helpful. We may also means realising that one does not necessarily
expand the meaning of the word ‘Vedas’ to have to speak or respond every time someone
mean any authentic spiritual literature reading expresses some idea or information to us. At
which one could gain insight into one’s time, silence can be our answer. One should
spiritual nature and derive benefit in one’s not, however, force silence on oneself. After
spiritual life. By a regular study of such books, the period of forced silence gets over, it often
one’s conception of life expands and one leads to a torrent of words let lose from the
discovers the spiritual dimension of life. The dam of artificial restrain. Silence, on the other
awareness of spiritual dimension of human hand, should be gradually cultivated. One
life helps one appreciate the importance of should begin by reducing one’s meaningless
right speech and brings gracefulness in life. comments and discussions and speaking only
when one is truly required to speak.
Some More Considerations A properly cultivated speech, thus, is a
A healthy speech should be marked by great asset. A man who has harnessed the
precision of expression (sushtham) and a quality power of words has unlocked a great source
of being measured (mitam). of spiritual strength and wisdom. †

References
1. CW, 1: 75 2. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, p.79 3. Gita, 17. 15
4. Teachings of Holy Mother, p.100 5. Ibid, p.100 6. CW, 3: 456

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 129 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
Simhâvalokanam
From the Archives of THE VEDANTA KESARI
(April, 1919-20, pp. 373-375)

Spiritual Greatness of India

(Presidential address delivered by Rajakarya Prasakta B.


Ramakrishna Rao at the Sree Ramakrishna Hall, Madras, during
the birthday celebration of Bhagavan Sree Ramakrishna.)
Great is old India’s mission. It is no less sacred. India is a preservation on the mercy of
Providence. India’s ancient glory is now no more. India’s famous trade has long since fled,
India's manufacturers which once astonished the world constitute a page of past history. Yet
one thing survives: and that thing is all-important. So long as that breath, however weak, lasts
no country need despair of her revival. That is the master-key India holds to the mystery of life.
. . .Griffith gives us these memorable Lines.
Life flies like torrents downward fall. Speeding away without recall,
So virtue should our thoughts engage. For Bliss is mortal’s heritage.
Indeed, that bliss to gain is man’s goal.
Who is there but wants happiness? And who is there but wants it to be long and lasting.
Is that happiness found in trade? . . . Does happiness then consist in power and wealth?
History answers this in the negative. These are but transient. Empires come and go. Greece,
Rome and Persia reared great Empires of old. Where are they now? India’s selection is that it is
spirituality that leads to bliss—bliss unalloyed, bliss immortal. Here is hope. Doctor Wallace,
one of the foremost modern scientists of the West has spoken of the 19th century as the
Wonderful Century and has given us a very interesting and instructive volume about its
successes and failures. Did he know of the hero of heroes Calcutta of late produced about
whom we are speaking here today, he would had surely styled him a wonderful soul of that
wonderful century.
In Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the hero, appears as the conqueror. Conqueror of
whom? Conqueror of the root enemies of mankind. Who are they? They are six—. . . (1) Kama,
(desire): (2) Krodha (passion) (3) Lobha (avarice), (4) Moha (carnal love): (5) Mada (pride) and
(6) Matsarya (envy and hate). Their sway is unlimited. The conqueror of these foes is the real
hero who fully deserves our homage. In such a soul the Divine spark shines the brightest. We
must fall down and worship at his feet.

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 130 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
11

Such from all accounts was Sri Ramakrishna. His is quite a historic character of the
modern sceptic age. He was free from the domain of what is technically termed Eshna traya,
the tripple bondage of man; viz., Putreshana, the son-bondage; then Viteshana the enslavement
of wealth and the third, Daryeshana the wife-thraldom. No relationship attachment, no
inducement of power, or, self and no fetters of female charms could make him swerve an
infinitesimal inch from that strict path of spiritual devotion which he followed most unerringly
and constantly. We have long since been familiar with such names as Krishnadas, Ramadas,
Iswardas and Bhagwandas: Of late have we not had to register names like, a Dravyadas,
(worshipper of wealth), an Adhikardas (worshipper of power) and a Patnidas (worshipper of
the wife)! To such temptations of the flesh and earthly allurements, the influence of Sri
Ramakrishna has been clearly antagonistic. He soared high above the region swayed by what I
may perhaps be allowed to call the three W's viz., wine, woman and wealth. This was his
greatness in the negative direction.
On the other side, his wholesome influence accentuated what may be termed the three
positive W’s, i.e., will, word and work, or, Mano-Vakkaya-Karma. The inexorable Law of
Karma and how to attain freedom from its whirlpool, his teachings speak about in a way
telling and most consistent with India’s time-honored wisdom. Anything done pure-minded
has its advantages, while whatever is done with impure motives never fails to visit the author
with its inevitable consequences, compound interest being reckoned in either case. In the
presence of Sri Ramakrishna as in that of like holy sages, kindness flowed free and responsive
hearts derived the resulting benefits. His example reminded man of the need to pump out the
gas of selfishness in him and to exchange the I, Mine and Me for Thou, Thine and Thee. How
this sage spurned money and like material attractions, the learned lecturer has so graphically
described. All conquest is possible only through self conquest. . .
Sri Ramakrishna lived a life of a pure Bramhachari, a true celibate, despite the fact that he
had been betrothed. Such solid Bramhacharya cannot but command the greatest admiration,
nay veneration, from mankind. I am here reminded of the Sri Sringeri Jagad Guroos in my
country, Mysore. They have all along, since the days of the Ade Shankaracharya Swami, been
unbetrothed Bramhacharies true to their Sacred Monastic Order of Renunciation, Sanyasashrama;
and even scandal has feared to breathe a word against their hallowed moral character. Sri
Ramakrishna’s betrothed spouse has likewise been a remarkable character. Quite a
Brahmacharini saintess, she took delight in doing homage at his feet. She survives him as a
noble example of pure Pathivratya, devotion to her husband in life and spirit. †

He who gains a victory over other men is strong, but he who gains a victory over
himself is all-powerful. —Lao Tze

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 131 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
Reminiscences of Master Mahashay
LALIT CHATTOPADHYAY

(Continued from the previous issue. . .)

Master Mahashay, Mahendranath Gupta, or ‘M’, was an eminent householder disciple of Sri
Ramakrishna. He recorded the conversations of Sri Ramakrishna in Bengali and published them later
as Sri Ramakrishna Kathamrita (translated into English: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna). The
following is the translation of reminiscences of ‘M’ from Srima Samipe, [In the Proximity of ‘M’], a
book in Bengali, edited by Swami Chetanananda (Udbodhan Office: Calcutta, 1996), pp.49-58. Swami
Chetanananda (the translator of the present article) is the Head of Vedanta Society of St. Louise, USA.
He has to his credit several notable books in Bengali and English, translations as well as original.

5 November 1917, Morton Institution initiation. One should develop a spiritual life
Following M.’s instructions I went to the by practising the guru’s instructions. There is
Udbodhan house in Baghbazar with my wife a saying: “A man may receive the grace of
and widowed sister to bow down to Holy God, the grace of the guru, and the grace of
Mother. That afternoon I visited M., who was the devotees, but nothing will avail if he does
then listening to a boy from Orissa sing a song not receive the grace of his own mind.” Please
about [Lord] Jagannath. tell me what transpired between your wife and
‘Please tell me your news,’ M. said. ‘What Holy Mother.’
transpired between your wife and Holy I replied, ‘When my wife and sister went
Mother?’ upstairs, Holy Mother inquired, “Where is
I replied, ‘My wife and sister are talking your home? What does your husband do?
about Mother and counting the days until they Who else do you have?” Meanwhile, Holy
receive initiation, which will be on Kartik Mother became busy with the women devotees
Sankranti, an auspicious day. They also want and the worship service. After the worship,
to see you. They are waiting in the car on the she distributed prasad.
street.’ ’Finally, Holy Mother reminded my wife
M. immediately went to the car, met and sister, “You have not said why you have
them there, and said to them, ’If God is come here.”
pleased, the whole world is pleased.’ “Will you kindly initiate us?” they said.
When the car left, we went upstairs. ‘Holy Mother said with a smile, “Very
M. said, ‘If one bows down to the feet of well. The day of Kartik Sankranti is coming
Holy Mother, one receives the result of visiting soon. Lord Kartik will be worshipped on that
every holy place. Please tell me about your day and it is an auspicious day for initiation.”
meeting with the Mother. It is good to think Later, she called me upstairs and informed
about initiation. But it is not enough to have me also of our initiation date. I bowed

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13

down to her and she blessed me, touching my saw a devotee drop a bit of sandesh [a Bengali
head.’ sweet] on the floor, M. asked him to wash
M. said joyfully: ‘Wonderful! There is no that spot with water.
more worry if the Divine Mother looks after ‘Do you know the meaning of prasad?’
you. This is in Chaitanya Charitamrita: “So many M. asked. ‘It destroys old samskaras, or
iron rods became gold by touching the tendencies, and makes the mind calm. While
philosopher’s stone.” If Holy Mother is taking prasad, one should think: “Let all my
gracious and accepts responsibility for a accumulated samskaras from birth after birth
person, he or she will achieve everything. Now be wiped out.”’
please pray, and wait for that auspicious day. It was 10:00 p.m. The devotees took leave
Practise self-control. Jesus said: “Unless ye be of M.
born again, ye cannot enter the kingdom of
God.” Initiation brings new life and shows the 15 November 1917, Morton Institution
path of God-realization.’ It was Kartik Puja. My sister, wife, and I
It was evening. A devotee waved incense received initiation from Holy Mother. We had
in front of the pictures of gods and goddesses lunch and Mother’s prasad in Udbodhan and
in M.’s room. Several devotees arrived and all then returned home after meeting Swami
sat on grass mats. Everyone silently repeated Saradananda and other monks. In the after-
their respective mantras. noon I went to see M., who was then filling
M.: ‘It is a rare chance to be born during out Money Orders. Every month M. sent
the time of an avatar. One can attain his grace remittances to Kankhal, Varanasi, and other
with just a little effort. The Master said, “The centres, and also to some monks. I bowed
breeze of God’s grace is always blowing; only down to M. and sat on a grass mat.
unfurl the sail.” Although the Master’s M.: ’Today I was thinking of you off and
physical form is no longer amongst us, he is on. Please tell me how you received the grace
now performing his lila through Holy Mother. of Holy Mother. What was she doing when
He now bestows mercy through her. She is you arrived? And what happened next?’
distributing many precious spiritual gems.’ ‘It is your grace, sir, that the impossible
A devotee: ‘The guru is also a mine of became possible,’ I replied. ‘We got up at 4:00
gems, like the ocean.’ am, bathed, and went to Udbodhan at 6:30
M.: ‘The ocean looks awesome and am.’
dreadful from a distance, but if you sit on the ‘Very good! It is not good to delay in
beach, its gentle waves will refresh and this respect. One needs longing. Then what
invigorate your body. We shall not gain happened?’ [M said]
anything by merely counting the waves; we ‘When we bowed down to the Mother,
must collect gems from the ocean floor. What she said: “I have not been feeling well since
great spiritual treasures we received by living yesterday. However, since you have come,
with the Master!’ please wait. Let me finish my bath in the
A devotee brought prasad from Mother Ganges.” When she heard this, Golap-ma
Kali of Dakshineswar and gave it to M. He [Holy Mother’s attendant] objected: “My
touched it to his head, took a little, and then goodness! Mother, you had a fever yesterday.
distributed it amongst the devotees. When he Let them come another day.” Holy Mother

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14

replied: “You see, they have come with great on: Don’t do anything that would cause her
expectation. Today I shall initiate them. It will pain. Did you give any guru dakshina?2
be all right if I have a quick bath in the ‘Yes, we did. Each of us gave Mother
Ganges.” She then left for her bath and we five rupees and a red-bordered silk cloth. She
waited downstairs. She returned shortly and sent everything to Swami Saradananda and
called me to enter the shrine.’ did not keep anything for herself. When my
‘Ah, how compassionate is the Mother! wife had asked her before whether she should
What next?’ [M. observed] wear a Varanasi sari [which is expensive] for
‘We carried flowers, fruits, and sweets initiation, Holy Mother replied: “Are those
for the offering. Those were arranged on trays who do not have such a cloth denied
in front of the Master. Holy Mother sat on an initiation?”’
asana [small rug] and asked me to sit on [M. said]: ‘Yes, Holy Mother is right. She
another asana nearby. I asked my widowed does not consider money to be the primary
sister to receive initiation first, and I sat in the thing. Do you know who the guru is? The
corner. When her initiation was over, Mother guru is God Himself. He lives in heaven but
called me. But when I asked her to initiate my He takes human birth out of His mercy, to
wife beforehand, she said: “No, it is not the remove human delusion. A spiritual aspirant
custom. The wife gets initiation after the feels blessed finding Him in front as the
husband. She will be initiated after you.”’ Chosen Ideal because of his or her good karma
‘That is true. Then?’ [asked M.] in previous lives. After the guru passes away,
‘I sat on the asana next to Holy Mother. He waits in the other world, becoming a
She asked me to sip a little Ganges water for saviour for His disciples. He is the ocean of
purification and repeat the gayatri mantra ten mercy. The more you have faith in the words
times. Then she whispered the seed mantra of your guru, the easier your liberation will
and showed me how to practise it on my be.’
fingers. Before initiation she asked about our [I said]: ‘Today I made a mistake. Out of
family tradition. When I hesitated, she said: “I egotism, I used a disrespectful word to a monk
understand, your family worships Shakti.” She in Udbodhan. Please bless me so that I may
then pointed to an oil painting of Kali on the get rid of this bad habit.’
wall, and said, “She is your Chosen Deity.” ‘Please pray to the Master. If you pray
Pointing to the Master’s picture on the altar, sincerely, he will listen.’
“He is your guru. Now bow down.” Then after It was evening. A kerosene lantern was
initiating my wife, Holy Mother gravely said: lit and a devotee waved incense in front of
“From today onward your human birth is the deities on the wall. M. sat for meditation
over. I am taking on the burden of all of your and said to me: ‘Today is the first day of your
sins.”’ initiation. Please obey your guru’s instruction.’
[Hearing this exclaimed M.]: ‘You are Gradually other devotees came and filled the
blessed! Today you have received the grace of room.
the Mother of the Universe. Have you noticed After meditation a devotee asked: ‘What
the blessing that she bestowed on you all? She is the way for householders?’
took upon herself the burden of your sins M. replied: ‘The Master said: “There is a
rather than your virtues. Be careful from now constant disease [i.e., ignorance] in family life.

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15

One needs the company of the holy.” When- Mother. They look after Holy Mother’s conven-
ever you have an opportunity, please visit a ience and inconvenience; so before visiting the
holy place. One should have faith in the words Mother one should listen to her attendants and
of the guru. It is sinful to consider the guru to try to please them.’
be a human being. The guru is the compas- As the night advanced, the devotees
sionate form of God. Human beings do not bowed down to M. and left for home.
always see God, so He sometimes descends
as a human being like us and plays His divine October 1918, Thakur Bari
play. Human beings understand a little about It was Maha-Ashtami (Durga Puja). That
God by associating with the avatar [divine morning my wife and I went to see Holy
incarnation] and by loving him and tasting Mother in Udbodhan. In the afternoon I visited
his divine love. While explaining Bhakti Yoga M., who was then seeing the images of Mother
in the Gita, Krishna said: “Fix your mind on Durga with the devotees in the neighbour-
Me alone. If you are unable to do that, then hood. Afterwards he went to Thakur Bari [the
devote yourself to My service.” And finally: name of M’s house], entered the shrine on the
“Abandon all duties and come to Me alone third floor, and bowed down to the Master.
for refuge. I will deliver you from all sins; do He then went to the big room downstairs to
not grieve.” People die for lack of water, and meet with devotees.
they get it in plenty in their courtyard when M. said to me: ‘It would be good if you
the avatar comes. The Master is now bestowing could visit Holy Mother during Durga Puja.’
blessings through Holy Mother.’ I replied: ‘Yes, this morning I went to
M. then sang these two lines from one of Udbodhan with my wife to pay our respects.’
the Master’s favourite songs: ‘Very good. Today is a very auspicious
O Mother, Thou my Inner Guide, ever awake
day and you have visited your guru. Please
within my heart! tell me something about your visit to her.’
‘My wife and sister finished cooking
Day and night Thou holdest me in Thy lap. early and then we went to Udbodhan at 10:00
M. picked up a towel and wiped away am. The Mother was seated on the roof in the
his tears of joy, and then continued: ‘This is sun. She was rubbing medicated oil on her
not an artificial relationship. And this idea that feet, because she has arthritis. My sister rubbed
the Mother is there and I am here is false. She oil on one foot, and then Mother asked my
always dwells in the heart. She is the mother wife to rub it on the other. Then she said to
of all, but she thinks more about her weak my wife, “It is not proper to touch only one
and destitute children. As the Master said, “If foot; please rub the other also.”’
water falls on the hilltop, it flows downward [M. said]: ‘Oh, how compassionate she
and accumulates on low ground.” When King is! What happened then?’
Guhaka was busy serving Rama, Rama told ‘She went to her room and called for me.
him, “Please take care of my two horses first; I bowed down to her and she blessed me and
they carried me here. I shall be happy if they talked to me for a while. I was a little hurt
are fed first.”’ that only the women could stay with her for a
M. then spoke directly to me: ‘One long period. Shall I tell you something
should not be angry at the attendants of Holy personal?’

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16

‘Of course.’ A devotee: ‘But nowadays if a person is


‘I said to Holy Mother: “While repeating too simple, he or she will be cheated.’
the mantra, I don’t like to visualise the Master’s M. smiled and said: ‘A scholar from
form. Your form appears in my mind instead, Oxford University wrote in a book directed at
and I feel good. Is there anything wrong with the English: “You have brought so much gold
this?” She said with a smile: “No, there is and gems from India and now all the men are
nothing wrong. You meditate on that form gone for the War [the First World War, 1914-
which appeals to you most.”’ 1919]. You could not bring the great spiritual
[M. responded]: ‘Yes, the Master would treasures from India. You built fancy homes
also say that. Then what happened?’ with their wealth, but could not bring their
‘I asked her whether one should pray to religion.” Lord Ronaldsey, the present gover-
the Master to solve one’s family problems. She nor of Bengal, read The Gospel of Sri Rama-
replied: “Of course, one can let the guru know krishna, and then went to Dakshineswar with
about one’s problems. If a person chants the his wife and secretaries. He saw the places
Master’s name, all of his or her sufferings go that were mentioned in the Gospel. He also
away.”’ greeted Ramlal, knowing that he was the
[M. exclaimed]: ‘Ah! How compassionate Master’s nephew.’
is the Mother!’ A devotee: ‘The same blood of the
‘Then she gave us the Master’s prasad Master’s family flows in Ramlal.’
and we returned home.’ M.: ‘Yes, it is true. The scriptures say that
A devotee said: ‘There is a saying: “O one should respect not only the guru but his
Lord, teach me how to love Thee more.”’ family members also. The Master would say:
M. commented: ‘Without simplicity, one “Those who have a little attraction for God
cannot reach God who is the embodiment of will have to come here.”’
simplicity. The parents of the avatar are always It was late evening. The devotees bowed
simple, like Nandaraja and Yashoda.’ down to M. and left for home. (Concluded.)

Reference: 2. Dakshina: After initiation the disciple is supposed to give something, such as money or a
cloth or a fruit, to the guru, according to his or her means.

Those who have pure thoughts and noble ideals and loving characters exert a
strong influence on others. Whenever we want to have a lasting effect on
any character we must not expect to do it too quickly or too easily. If it is
done too quickly, it will not last. It is like hay-fire. You set hay on fire
and it makes a tremendous blaze, but in a moment it is over; while
a log fire is slow to catch, but it lasts a long time. The real
spiritual life is manifested when there is no element of fear, no
ulterior motive, no bargaining. When we pray, we must not ask
God to give us something in return. Our prayer must spring
from the spontaneous desire to commune with what is beautiful.
—Swami Paramananda,
Book of Daily Thoughts and Prayers, p.156

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 136 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
In Praise of Japa
WILLIAM PAGE

Japa is one of the main spiritual practices Prayer and meditation require our full
of the Ramakrishna Movement. Combined attention, but one of the advantages of japa is
with prayer and meditation, it forms a triangle that you can do other things at the same time.
—a three-fold method of reaching out for God, Holy Mother, who was famous for doing
establishing Him within, and keeping Him prodigious amounts of japa, undoubtedly did
there. much of it while busy with her household
Prayer is simply the act of talking to God. chores—husking paddy, sweeping and scrub-
The words can be spoken aloud, whispered, bing the floor, washing and cutting vegetables.
or uttered mentally. They reach out to God It’s also a good way to shut down the
and invite him to come down and take his endless chatter of the mind. We often find our
seat upon the lotus of the heart. thoughts wandering. Japa pulls them back and
Once he’s there, we begin to do japa and gives them focus. It’s like a thread that ties
meditate. Japa is the continuous, silent the mind to the lotus feet of the Lord; it
repetition of a very short prayer or invocation reminds us always to pay attention to him.
called a mantra. It can be done on its own or Sri Ramakrishna taught a variety of
in conjunction with meditation. Meditation is spiritual practices, but Swami Brahmananda
the act of visualizing God within us. Together, and Holy Mother placed special emphasis on
these two practices establish God within us japa. If you study their teachings, you’ll find
and enable us to feel his presence. that they constantly emphasized the necessity
In the intervals between meditation of doing it, and especially at fixed times in the
sessions, we usually get preoccupied with our morning and evening.
daily work. If God gets restless at being The fixed times establish the habit. Once
neglected and seems inclined to leave his seat, you get used to doing it at certain times, you
we can bring him back by doing japa. get restless to do it when those times come. If
So prayer draws the Lord from the you don’t do it, you feel guilty. In fact, guilt
heavens to the heart, japa and meditation feelings are common among devotees who
establish him on his throne within, and japa skip doing their japa. If you don’t want to feel
keeps him there. Of course, his grace is also guilty, better not skip it!
necessary. Without it, nothing happens. A common complaint among beginners
is that they don’t feel any results. Swami
Do It Now Brahmananda constantly had to reassure his

William Page is a retired English teacher living in Bangkok, Thailand. He has been associated with the Rama-
krishna Vedanta Society of Massachusetts since 1960. Courtesy: American Vedantist, Volume 15, No.3, Fall
2009, p.8 -11. …

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 137 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
18

disciples that if they didn’t feel any results in Coffee, Tea, or Japa?
the beginning, they would feel them later on. Early-morning japa, which is recom-
Perseverance is the key. In fact, he told one mended most highly, is supposed to take hold
disciple, ‘Follow some spiritual discipline for quickly, because the mind is fresh and doesn’t
at least three years, and then, if you find you have to wean itself away from worldly thoug-
have made no tangible progress, you may hts. But you have to make sure that you’re
come back and slap my face!’1 fully awake, or you’re likely to fall asleep.
People like me, who need three cups of
Vicarious Japa: A Gift from Holy Mother coffee just to wake up in the morning, are al-
Holy Mother said that some of her ways relieved to read about a disciple of Holy
disciples were incapable of doing much japa, Mother who told her that it was impossible
so she did it for them. In her old age, when for him to do japa before having his morning
her attendant noticed that she was doing japa tea. Fortunately for us all, Holy Mother gave
even in bed, she asked, ‘What can I do, my him permission to drink his tea first.3
son? The boys come and entreat me eagerly. I have been quick to interpret this as
They take the mantra and go home. But permission to drink my three cups of coffee in
nobody does any japa regularly. Some don’t the morning before trying to do anything that
do it even once. Yet as I have shouldered the requires the slightest bit of intelligence. I
burden, should I not look after them? That’s console myself for this weakness by invoking
why I do japa and pray to the Master, “O the example of an eminent Tibetan lama, the
Master, grant them enlightenment, grant them late Kalu Rim-poche, who used to drink
emancipation, and do you take on yourself Tibetan tea while meditating.
their care in every way here and hereafter!”’2
I can imagine some people grumbling, Don’t Mess with the Mantra
‘Holy Mother made it too easy for her Japa is sometimes difficult for Wester-
disciples. She spoiled them. How could they ners, because the mantra is in Sanskrit, a
develop any character if she did everything language we’re unfamiliar with. I know an
for them?’ American devotee who once rebelled against
I can also imagine her giving a sharp his mantra. ‘I’m tired of this Sanskrit gib-
reply: ‘I am the Mother! Shall I not do berish,’ he complained. ‘I want an English
everything for my children? As for their mantra.’ So, although he had been initiated
character, you don’t need to worry about it. I by a perfectly well-qualified teacher, he made
will take care of it.’ up an English mantra and started doing japa
Lazy guys like me envy Holy Mother’s with it.
disciples. What a soft deal they had! We don’t At first it seemed new and fresh, and he
have the luxury of knowing that she’s doing was heartened by the results. The image of
japa for us. Some of us have to do three rounds his Chosen Ideal glowed within him; it seemed
of the rosary just to get started. Sometimes it to be cheering him on. Novelty is always excit-
takes that long just to drag the mind away ing, and he expected to make rapid progress.
from worldly thoughts and get it settled down. But surprise, surprise! Novelty wears off
That’s especially true in the evening, after a pretty quickly unless there’s some substance
day of being beaten up by the world. behind it. Pretty soon, about halfway through

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 138 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
19

his rosary, he began to nod off, and his old If we’re serious about spiritual life, we
mantra started welling up from the depths of have to shut down the computer and dig out
his mind. He stopped it, reimposed his English the old rosary. Swami Brahmananda’s remark
mantra, and succeeded for awhile; but the old that his disciples could come back and slap
Sanskrit mantra was stubborn, and kept his face if they didn’t feel any results within
resurfacing when he least expected it. No three years is something we ought always to
matter how much he resisted, it kept coming keep in mind. He didn’t mean three years of
back. Eventually the image of the Chosen Ideal just piddling around. He meant three years of
seemed to be grinning at him, and then he got persistent and intensive effort.
the message. Experience shows that if we keep work-
Finally he gave up and returned to his ing on our japa, it gradually takes hold. It stops
old mantra. ‘There’s more to this mantra stuff being boring and eventually becomes sweet.
than meets the eye,’ he admitted. ‘I guess you The mantra becomes an old friend, something
can’t keep a good mantra down.’ solid in the foundation of our minds, an anchor
for our wayward thoughts. It can be a healing
But It’s Boring! balm in times of grief, a refuge in times of
The big complaint that most people make trouble. It takes on a life of its own, and rises
about japa is that it’s boring. Who wants to from our subconscious to greet us whenever
keep chanting the same old line? What a waste we turn to it.
of time! What’s the point? It also becomes something very much
The point, of course, is to recondition the like the default setting of the mind. When the
mind. That’s what spiritual practice is all mind wanders, the mantra often emerges
about: to recondition the mind so that it will spontaneously. We find it resounding within
become a fit place for the indwelling of the us without making any effort. All we have to
Lord. But our minds are restless, and scream do is listen.
for more exciting fare. This is especially true In fact, this may be one answer to the
in our switched-on era, when cyberspace is famous Zen koan, ‘Who is it that recites the
crackling with high-tech entertainment. Who Buddha’s name?’ When we become esta-
wants to pray when you can google? Who blished in japa, the Buddha’s name recites
wants to chant when you can twitter? itself. †

References
1. Swami Prabhavananda, The Eternal Companion, Nikhilananda, Sri Sarada Devi, The Holy Mother:
Vedanta Press, Hollywood, 1947; p.129 Her Teachings and Conversations, Skylight Paths
2. Swami Gambhirananda, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2004; pp. 25-26
Devi, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Fourth 3. Swami Gambhirananda, Holy Mother Sri Sarada
Edition, 1986; p. 397. See also Swami Devi, p. 410

The syllable Om, which is the imperishable Brahman, is the universe. Whatsoever
existed, whatsoever now exists, whatsoever shall exist hereafter is Om.
—Mandukya Upanishad

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 139 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
Unpublished Letters of Swami Saradananda1
The Math, Belur P.O.
Howrah, India
Dec 8th 1898
My dear Mrs.Vaughan,2
Mrs.Bull gave me very kindly to read a letter of yours & I felt strongly how lonely you
are feeling at your separation with our dear Edwina. I had that apprehension long before and
many a time in my meditations. Your sad face came up right before my eyes & my whole
heart went to you with sympathy. Indeed it is difficult for a time to adjust ourselves so that
we would not miss our dear ones in all the little things of daily life. Life seems a void without
any purpose in these times and the struggles here come out with a bitterness that overshadows
all idea of Divine Plan & mercy. But hope comes again when we calm down a little and read
back our past & the experience & blessing it has conferred on us. Then to think constantly on
Love as a permanent thing for it is of God and it is God and hence can never bring back again
the realisation that we can never really be separated from our dear ones & that is indeed a
great consolation.
From the little experience I have of this life I have found much good in meditating those
that I love placing them on the Divine, and trying to look to the general broad plan of Divine
action in & through us and holding myself perfectly willing to submit to it always. The best
prayer that I have ever known here is that short one which Jesus taught—‘Thy will be done’.
It has brought me peace & comfort in many a dark day & it will I am sure, in all future time.
It is foolish to tell you or any one not to feel lonely. The loneliness will come as soon as we
will look to the negative side of the event, which we can not help sometimes doing, for we
are frail & mortal. But as soon as we learn through His mercy to turn our eyes to the positive
side of any event, the most common drudgery brings joy and blessing & even death &
separation loose their strings.
May He who knows the throes of each aching heart & knows how weak [we] are in our
ignorance, give you that vision which will make you feel how much better fitted you have
been in & through this experience and how nearer you have been drawn through this towards
Him and Edwina as well. A new era is dawning in your life and the time is right when you
will feel through Divine Mercy how He has made you an instrument in His hand, through
this experience of yours, to bring peace & joy and blessing to many a throbbing heart.
The time is drawing nigh when Mrs.Bull will be with you again. She is doing well and
feels secure in the Divine Love & Presence in which we live & move.
Edwina & yourself are always in my thoughts & always will be and it would give me
great pleasure indeed if I can be of any little service to you in these days. Somehow I feel as if
we are of one family and that whatever concerns one, concerns us all.

T h e V edan t a K e s a r i ~ 140 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
T h e V edant a K e s a r i ~ 140 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
21

My kindest regards to you always & best prayers. Remember me kindly to all friends
at Sharon and Cambridge when you meet them.
Ever yours in the Lord
Saradananda
Address on the cover::
Mrs.V.B.Vaughan, Sharon, Mass. U.S.America

January 19th 1899


Deoghar, Baidyanath
C/o P.N.Mukherji.Esq.
My dear Granny,3
I have written everything to dear Jane and so add a few lines to you.
Everything is going on as normal here & I am feeling the kind touch with you in
almost everything. Instead of our mesmerising you two—you have done the same with us.
I am happy at the thought how glad Olen & others will be to have you back with your
added powers of comforting & being useful in ever so many vital ways.
The Swami4 regained his health & was evidently happy with his family—but he cannot
take care of himself you know & has brought on this illness by his constant & willful neglect
of diet. But I hope he will be well again in a few days. You will be glad to hear I have been
introduced to the cousin he is interested about.
Nivedita5 thought it best for me not to send this letter to Miss Muller; but as I have
written it, I am enclosing it to you & will be glad to have your opinion about it. Nivedita
thought it to be very kind but sentimental & not very dignified. Do you think so too?
My regards & blessings to yourself as before & I think I need not write them even, for
you feel them every minute—do you not?
Write me as often as you can dear & bless your boy.
With my constant prayers & salutations to the blessed feet of Uma, I remain as ever
Yours
S.
P.S. I had such light come to me about you while sitting by the side of Jogananda the
other night. I will write you of it sometime. Only I do not like to put that in a letter.
Yours
S.

1. A direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna 2. Mrs. Sara Bull’s daughter 3. Mrs. Sara Bull, an American
disciple of Swami Vivekananda 4. Swami Vivekananda 5. A disciple of Swamiji

Courtesy: Ramakrishna Museum, Belur Math

TTh he e 141~~
VVe ed da an nt ta a KKe es sa ar ri i ~~141 A AP PRRI IL L 2 20 01 10 0
While speaking of the influence of the Indian thoughts on world culture, Swami Vivekananda
said, ‘Slow and silent, as the gentle dew that falls in the morning, unseen and unheard yet producing
a most tremendous result, has been the work of the calm, patient, all-suffering spiritual race upon the
world of thought.’ [CW, 3:110]
Something similar can be said of the influence of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda ideology on
contemporary Indian literature. Numerous books and articles on Ramakrishna-Vivekananda that have
been written by eminent persons or by unheard of writers alike bear a testimony to the silent work that
has been going on in the last hundred years. India is a rich land with mind-boggling cultural
diversities and numerous languages. Many contemporary writers in these languages have been deeply
influenced and motivated by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda ideology. This has found, and continues to
find, its expression in their powerful literary works. In order to make an approximate assessment of
the way Ramakrishna-Vivekananda have influenced contemporary Indian literary traditions, The
Vedanta Kesari requested noted writers in these languages to trace the history, growth and richness
of this influence on contemporary works, which will be published in this column. Our thanks to the
contributors who agreed to undertake this voluminous exercise. The articles on the influence of
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda on Kannada, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil,
contemporary Indian English Literature and Sanskrit have already appeared in this series during
2006-08.

Contemporary Bengali Literature - I


HIRONMOY MUKHERJEE

An Enduring Legacy many decades after their demise, and even


The thoughts and philosophy of Sri today, their ideas inspired writers, poets,
Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda have playwrights, thinkers, historians and others.
left a rich legacy in the Bengali literature. Not Hundreds of books, articles plays and poems
only in the initial years when both the great have been written, and continue to be written,
luminaries were physically present but for on them and their philosophy.
Dr. Hironmoy Mukherjee is a devotee from Nagpur who retired as Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, Ministry
of Industry, Government of India. †

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23

Sri Ramakrishna Swami Vivekananda

One of the foremost authors whose name having any conventional degree from any
comes to our mind in this connection is Sri university. He was an outstanding actor and
Girish Chandra Ghosh. He was one of the himself trained and brought into existence
main figures in the renaissance in Bengali about thirty to forty successful actors and
literature in later part of the 19th century, actresses. Simultaneously he wrote about
studded by writers and poets like Bankim eighty-six plays and ran most of them
Chandra Chatterjee, Rabindranath Tagore, successfully in theatres, thereby exhibiting his
Michael Madhushudon Datta, Dwijendra Lal undoubted artistic and creative ability as well
Roy and many others. as his penchant for doing hard work. Most of
In the following article we will briefly the plays of Girish Chandra were based on
examine some of the eminent men of Bengali Puranas and many of the stories in plays were
literature who were influenced by the ideals drawn from Ramayana, Mahabharata and
of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda and their Bhagavatam. He portrayed the characters of
contribution in spreading this philosophy many saints and great personages beautifully
through their writings. in plays like Buddhadev Charit, Purna Chandra,
Nasiram, Kalapahar, Ashoka, Shankaracharya,
Girish Chandra Ghosh’s Contribution Chaitanyalila, Nimai Sannyas, Rup-Sanatan,
Girish Chandra (1842-1912) is known as Bilwamangal and others.
the father of Bengali Theatre as he had brought Battered by sorrow and grief in family
into existence the first Bengali Theatre. He was life, in his middle age Girish had lost belief in
a versatile and erudite scholar, though not God and was searching for someone who

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24

could bring peace to his parched life. By the


grace of God he got in touch with such a
person and he was none other than Sri
Ramakrishna himself. Girish was overwhel-
med with the unconditional mercy and
boundless compassion showered on him by
Sri Ramakrishna and found in him a haven of
repose. Finding sanctuary at the feet of Sri
Ramakrishna and getting his blessings and
permission to continue the work he was doing
involving play-writing and acting for larger
good of public, the playwright and actor Girish
had turned into ‘great devotee Girish’.
A new chapter of his literary life started
now and one can see this influence of Sri
Ramakrishna in his new plays starting from
Kalapahar. 1 Out of many plays written by
Girish, Sri Ramakrishna had seen at least three
plays, namely Vrisha Ketu, Chaitanya Lila, and
Prahlad Charitra. The story of Sri Ramakrishna’s
visit to the Star Theatre to see Chaitanya Lila
and his blessings to actress Vinodini after the Girish Chandra Ghosh
show is lucidly described in the Gospel of Sri
Ramakrishna [see p.683] and hence need not be once heard to say that he had learnt how to
repeated here. write plays from Sri Ramakrishna himself. Not
His play Bilwa Mangal was written and only that, we find Girish taking lessons from
staged a few months before the death of Sri Sri Ramakrishna about dramatic art, creation
Ramakrishna. The play was not written by of characters and acting and the play Bilwa
Girish after reading about the life of Surdas in Mangal was a direct outcome of this.4
the book Bhakta Mal. Rather, he had heard the Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘Faithful devotees
story from the lips of his guru Sri Rama- always feel the all-auspicious Lord in their
krishna. It was Sri Ramakrishna who had also hearts and are never discouraged, even when
suggested to Girish about the insertion in the facing thousands of dangerous situations.’5
play of the character of a false sadhu. As a Girish illustrated this teaching in the life of
matter of fact, he himself had demonstrated the title character of the play Puranchandra.
to Girish about how the role of the false Puranchandra was a five-act play and its theme
Tilakdhari sadhu should be shown in the play.2 was ideal renunciation and faith in God. The
While visiting Star Theatre for the second play was based on Hindi story entitled Puran
time on December 14, 1884, Sri Ramakrishna Bhakat (‘The Devotee Puran’). The central
had praised Girish and told him that no one character Puran was a prince who renounced
could sketch a divine character unless he has the world to become a disciple of Yogi
love of God in his heart.3 Girish Chandra was Goraknath. The Guru tested Puran by sending

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him to the house of a princess who wanted


to marry him. But by the grace of his Guru,
Puran maintained his celibacy and remained
unmoved by the princess’s beauty and wealth
and also inspired her to become a nun. Puran
returned to his Guru who was delighted that
his disciple had passed the test. Here Girish
portrayed Sri Ramakrishna’s uncompromi-
sing renunciation in this play.6
In the play Nasiram, Girish showed Sri
Ramakrishna’s teachings about how lust and
love—the animal nature and divine nature—
co-exists in human beings, and how the
divine finally overcomes the bestial. Through
every act of Nasiram, we seemed to see Girish
sitting at the feet of Paramhansa Deva and
wielding his pen as if at his Master’s bidding.
Nasiram was mad in the eyes of the worldly-
wise. Surely he must be a mad-fellow who
loved everybody and hated none, not even
the most despicable. Nasiram saw even in
Girish dictating a drama to Devendra Nath Majumdar
the worst sinner, the great possibilities that
might be attained by him, for the human soul tized Vedanta in Sri Ramakrishna. One could
is but God in man.7 also see shadow of Swami Vivekananda in the
play. The critics were surprised as to
how Girish could transform the well-
known austere and stern life of
Shankaracharaya into a humane,
compassionate story. Girish had then
said that he had drawn the character of
Shankaracharaya, based on the character
of Sri Ramakrishna, a glowing symbol
of Vedanta. It could be seen that Sri
Ramakrishna had turned Girish from a
a mere devotee to a person who is full
of highest consciousness (chaitanya
moi).8
Swami Vivekananda’s favourite
plays, written and staged by Girish
A recent photo of Star Theatre at Beadon street, Kolkata Chandra, were Buddhadev Charit, Bilwa-
In his introduction to the play Shankara- mangal and Chaitanya Lila. The play Buddhadev
charya, Girish stated that he had seen concre- Charit had cast a great influence on young

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Narendra Nath (the future Swami Viveka- krishna O Vivekananda, Girish had written, ‘To
nanda) and his young devotee-friends. The comprehend Sri Ramakrishna fully. . . .one
inspiring life of all-sacrificing Buddha had would have to keep the live model of Viveka-
deeply attracted them and they were nanda constantly before one’s mind.’10
particularly moved by one song of the play, Very often, critics had commented about
Judai te chai Kothai Judai. Many a time young the resemblance of certain characters in
Narendranath used to sing this song at late Girish’s plays with Sri Ramakrishna or Swami
night hours at his Simula house in Calcutta Vivekananda. But Girish himself did not agree
and the people in the neighbourhood would to it. He opined that it is rather improper to
get up from their sleep and listen spell-bound see images of Sri Ramakrishna or Swami
to the song.9 Vivekananda in some of the characters like
Nasiram, Puranchandra and others. Instead,
Defending the Worship of the ‘Virat’ Girish strongly believed that since Sri Rama-
Swami Vivekananda had to face the ire krishna was a man of unlimited spiritual
of both the conservative and liberal section of realization and a Divine Incarnation (avatar);
the society for introducing the noble and how could he even think of putting him in the
innovative idea of social commitment for the limited scope of a character in his plays! While
monks of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. this is true, yet from a human angle, traces of
Girish in his Bengali article titled Vivekanander Sri Ramakrishna could be seen in some of the
Sadhanfal had defended Swamiji strongly in characters of his plays and if one could see all
the matter. He explained that the sense of the characters together then, perhaps, a very
national unity in society would be a direct small part of Sri Ramakrishna could be seen.
result of the service to mankind. He further The same view was also held by Girish about
brought to our notice the significance of the characters resembling Vivekananda.11
existence of Advaita Ashrama and [Rama-
krishna] Sevashrama next to each other in The Spreading Forth
Varanasi. To Girish it was highly symbolic— From a historical point of view, Girish
the same God to whom one prayed in temple was instrumental to the entry of Sri Rama-
was also served in Sevashrama. One is remind- krishna and Swami Vivekananda into a special
ed here of Swami Brahmananda’s comments branch of Bengali literature i.e., plays. The
about Varanasi Sevashrama: ‘it is a temple of effect of this continued for more than 50 years
Virat’. In his article on the Monks of Rama- and as a result of which Sri Ramakrishna-
krishna Math, Girish had replied to the unjust Vivekananda ‘Bhavdhara’ (spiritual message)
criticism of the monks; he said that these inundated the Bengali mind and literature. Sri
monks were engaged in various parts of the Ramakrishna himself had facilitated this path
country in providing education and food to of inundation by dissuading Girish from
the needy as well as attending to the sick in leaving the stage and writing.
the spirit of the worship of God, without caring The beacon lighted by Girish was
for themselves; Girish had further said in the followed by playwright like Amrita Lal Basu,
article that no good would come to the society Khirod Prasad, Amarendra Nath Dutta and
if such monks went instead to caves in the Manomohan Goswami and others—not only
mountains.10 In an article named Sri Rama- they had introduced Sri Ramakrishna-Viveka-

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27

nanda philosophy but had candidly mentioned started to become a part of plays, jatras [folk
their names in their plays. plays] and even screen-plays for cinema. Over
Another powerful playwright of this age the years, it gave rise a rich harvest of plays
Aparesh Chandra Mukhopadhya was himself and stories. Though the personalities of Holy
closely connected with Ramakrishna Mission. Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Vivekananda, Nive-
He was liked by Swami Brahmananda and dita, Girish Chandra Ghosh found a eminent
Swami Saradananda. Aparesh Chandra had place in the Bengali plays, the central character
inserted the words spoken by Swami Viveka- always remained Sri Ramakrishna. It is
nanda in the mouth of Karna in his very doubtful whether so many plays had been
successful drama Karnarjun.12 written on the basis of life of a single religious
The well-known writer and playwright person for more than 50 years and this trend
Sri Dwijendralal Roy was initially inimical to continues even today.14
Girish Ghosh but later he developed good Regarding Girish Ghosh's contribution to
friendship and Dwijendralal acknowledged Bengali literature in general, the following
Girish as his Guru in the dramatic world. His remark by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das may
biographer Sri Devkumar Basu, and son, well- be quoted here.15
known writer and singer, Dilip Kumar Roy
The Bengalis could not recognize the greatness
had mentioned that Ramakrishna Kathamrita of Girish Chandra Ghosh. It will take some time.
[The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna] had left a great Just as Shakespeare was recognized by the
influence on Dwijendralal which could be seen English people only after 100 years of his passing
in his plays written in his later life namely away, so also a day will come when our people
Bhisma and Parapare.13 will recognize and appreciate Girish’s genius and
A trend to write plays based on the life will finally be proud to honour him. Some day
of Sri Ramakrishna began sometimes in the Westerners will come here to learn more about
1950s. Consequently, the life of Sri Rama- Girish’s genius and the beauty and depth of his
krishna and his spiritual message and sayings writings.
O (To be continued. . .)
O
References
1. Bangla Desh O Sri Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna Ved- 8. Vivekananda O Samakalin Bharat Varsha, Vol. VII
anta Ashram, Darjeeling, Swami Vedananda, p.41 Shankari Prasad Basu p.596
2. Natya Premi Sri Ramakrishna, Birendra Kumar 9. Udbodhan, Saradiya Sankha, volume III, 1416 B-S,
Bandopadhya, Shardiya Udbodhan Vol.3 Ashwin September 2009 p.703
1416, September 2009 p.701 10. Vivekananda and Samakalin Bharat Varsha, Vol. VII
3. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Vol. II – Swami Shankari Prasad Basu p.597
Nikhilananda, p.677 11. Ibid, p.596
4. Girish Chandra O Ananya Prasanga, 2001, Nalini 12. Ibid, pp.598-599
Ranjan Chattopadhya p.61-62 13. Ibid, pp.598-599
5. Ramakrishna’s influence on Girish’s Plays by 14. Girish Chandra O Ananya Prasanga, Sri Nalini
Swami Chetanananda, Prabuddha Bharata Ranjan Chattopadhya 2001, p.65
November 2008, p.606 15. Girish Chandra Ghosh—A Bohemian Devotee of Sri
6. Ibid, pp.606-607 Ramakrishna, by Swami Chetanananda, Advaita
7. Ibid, p.607-608 Ashrama, p.467

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Sri Ramakrishna—One with
Cosmic Existence
SUDESH

Grace Bestowed on Rani Rasmani the noise and commotion, apprehending that
Sri Ramakrishna often sang songs des- they might inflict some injury on Sri Rama-
cribing the glory of Divine Mother Kali in his krishna, she commanded them not to take any
exquisitely melodious voice. Charmed with his action against him.
singing, whenever Rani Rasmani, the wealthy Sri Ramakrishna had identified Rani
lady of Calcutta who started Dakshineshwar Rasmani as one of the eight nayikas (attendant
Temple, visited the temple, requested him to goddess) of the Divine Mother. Endowed with
sing a few songs on Mother. On one such steadfast devotion and a sattvika nature, she
occasion, when he was singing, immersed in realized the above incident as a moment of
the thought of the Mother, as if he were divine grace. The idea of punishing Sri Rama-
singing for Her, and not for any mortal, he krishna due to anger or egotism did not cross
suddenly stopped and exclaimed, ‘What! Even her mind. Calmly, she absorbed the divine
here you think such thoughts!’ and struck the grace, though expressed through rather a
Rani with the palm of his hand. strange and offensive manner. According to
How dared this insignificant priest, Swami Saradananda,
drawing only six rupees a month, behave in . . .after he attained the nirvikalpa samadhi, the
such an insolent manner towards the founder limited ‘I’ in him vanished completely. And the
of the temple, whose wealth, status, devotion, little of ‘I’ that was left over, was united for all
and wisdom astounded the elite of Calcutta? eternity with the immense ‘I’. . . .and the
The women attendants of the Rani raised a universal ‘I’ or what may be called the ‘I of the
hue and cry. The guards and officers rushed Divine Mother’ manifested Itself through him
to the shrine to drag the mad priest out of the as the spiritual teacher, possessing the power of
temple. But junior Bhattacharya, as Sri Rama- bestowing grace and inflicting punishment.1
krishna was often called, sat calm and tranquil.
Rani Rasmani was a lady of deep patience and One’s Own Mind becomes the Guru: When?
introspection. Instead of losing her temper, she Sri Ramakrishna had slapped the Rani
took to self-analysis and found that she had but what a severe punishment his mind threat-
been thinking of a pending law-suit. Wonder ened him with! The higher the consciousness
of wonders! How could the young priest know of the aspirant, the severer is the punishment.
that her witless mind had strayed away from A purified mind, freed from the least tinge of
the Mother’s Lotus Feet! Becoming aware of attachment and delusion, could be the

… A devotee from Ambala, Sudesh regularly contributes inspiring articles to The Vedanta Kesari.

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aspirant’s own guru, said Sri Rama- people ventured not going even during day
krishna. Whatever appeared in the Pure Mind time. There he sat meditating, stripped even
was the voice of God. During sadhana, at the of his wearing cloth and the sacred thread—
time of meditation, he saw a Sannyasin with a naked like an innocent, guileless child, without
sharp trident come out of his body and a tinge of pride of noble descent or high caste.
threaten to pierce his heart if his mind strayed Forgotten were his childhood chums, his
even a little from his Chosen Ideal [ishta native village and even his own dear mother.
devata]. He began to have the vision of this Such single-minded was his meditation that
young Sannyasin which in fact was his own like the ‘angler’ and the ‘hunter’, he saw
Purified Mind or Higher Self. It guided each nothing, heard nothing; the sense-organs
action of his. At times, assuming a form, as it stopped functioning.
were, of a different person, it emerged from The one yearning of his heart was for
his own body and taught him what was to be the vision of Mother Kali. His soul thirsted
done and what to be rejected. The sadhana and panted for sweet union with the Mother—
period of Sri Ramakrishna’s life reveals how source of his being. It expressed itself as
he lost his individual existence in the Oneness agonised supplications to reveal Herself to him
of the Cosmic Existence, with his self, mind and copious tears from his eyes. How could
and intellect merged into the Mahakarana, the the Mother stay away from this divine child
Great Cause. who was ready to put an end to his life, if She
did not reveal Herself to him? Said Sister
A Unique Worshipper of Kali Nivedita,
An inexorable destiny led Sri Rama- In the case of Ramakrishna, innumerable prayers
krishna to take the office of the priest of and unheard-of austerities had culminated in a
Dakshineswar Kali Temple. No ordinary priest realisation so profound that there was scarcely
was he, who would perform ritualistic a memory of selfhood left. The man who lived
worship, arati and make food offerings to the and moved before his disciples was a mere shell,
Mother, and then retire to his room for rest or that could not fail to act as the indwelling
move about in the great city of Calcutta. Mother.2
Unique was the worship of this unlettered After the living vision of Mother Kali, he
village boy. Sitting before the image he sang forgot completely the idea of his separate
songs by Ramprasad, Kamalakanta and others, existence from Her. Many a time during
his heart swelling with emotions of the songs worship, he decorated his own person with
and sometimes danced in an ecstasy of joy to flowers, sandal-paste, etc., meant to be offered
please the Divine Mother. Sometimes he made to the Goddess, because of his constant vision
importunate requests to Her. Forgetting of the Blissful Mother, both inside as well as
hunger and thirst, heat and cold, he sat outside. He became identified with the object
motionless, for hours like an inert object, of his love in various ways, forgetting his
absorbed in the thought of the Mother. At individuality. This state was very close to the
night he meditated under an Amalaki tree, in non-dual transcendental experience of a
solitude of the jungle surrounding the Vedantist.
Panchavati. Besides being full of pits, ditches,
lowlands, it had been a burial ground where State of Non-Duality

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Again, initiated by Totapuri, a monk of Impelled from within by the force of Her
great repute, into Vedantic discipline, Sri Command and the irresistible necessity that
Ramakrishna attained the immediate Know- had brought him into being he awoke from
ledge of Brahman. Hitherto, Mother’s Lotus his Samadhi. But even after coming down
Feet were to him the only Reality, the only unceasing samadhi and bhava were the natural
object of meditation and adoration. The world state of his mind. Uttering ‘Ma’ or ‘Om’ his
appeared to him merely a transitory, insub- mind merged into the boundless expanse of
stantial, shadowy existence. Now, when he chidakasha. Talking of his Samadhi he said,
succeeded in withdrawing his mind from During samadhi my mind leaps out of this body,
Mother’s Form, it became completely objectless as it were, and plunges into Existence-Know-
and reached the nirvikalpa state. For three ledge-Bliss Absolute… there is no body con-
days he remained merged in eternal Con- sciousness, and the soul merges in the higher
sciousness and Bliss of the Infinite Immensity. Self—the Paramatma—in the thousand-petalled
Totapuri was amazed as he examined his pupil lotus of the head… This very self then becomes
who sat in a steady posture like a piece of Shiva, the Absolute. 4
wood. With the disappearance of his ‘I’ Coming back to external consciousness,
consciousness his pulse and heart-beat also from the rapture of Eternal Union, Sri Rama-
stopped. Completely unaware of the external krishna perceived that Brahman was none else
world, stilled were the modifications of his but the Mother Herself in Her nirguna aspect.
mind, merged was it in the Indivisible. Kali, who was one with the Formless, Attri-
Consciousness of body and ego were not. A buteless, and Infinite Reality manifested as the
perfect calm and bliss prevailed. It looks like universe and all living beings as diverse names
the state of maha-nirvana or Cosmic Pralaya and forms. Being established in bhavamukha,
as Swami Vivekananda has said: which consists in experiencing Oneness with
When. . . Knowledge, the knower and the the Universal Mother, he felt that the whole
known, dissolved; universe has emanated from him. ‘I see that
When action, act, and actor, are no more, all things—everything that exists—have come
When instrumentality is no more; from this,’ he said,5 one day, placing his hand
. . .Everything deluged on his heart. Once while plucking a leaf, a bit
In one homogeneous mass, subtle, of bark came off. He was grieved that he had
Pure, of atom-form, indivisible 3 hurt the tree which appeared to him as full of
Just as at the beginning of next cycle the Consciousness. He scolded the person who
first great change of the Absolute is ‘Om’, it brought three twigs instead of one to clean
was when Totapuri filled the whole atmos- his teeth. Had he created the tree that he broke
phere with profound sounds of ‘Om’ that Sri its branches at his own whim? Only the
Ramakrishna came back to the awareness of Creator knew how difficult it was to create,
the phenomenal world. he told him. A boatman was thrashed by
After Totapuri left Dakshinewar, Sri another and Sri Ramakrishna’s back became
Ramakrishna thought of dwelling in unbroken red and swollen. Not to talk of living beings
bliss of union with the Absolute. After six and trees and plants, he cried out in pain when
months of nirvikalpa samadhi, the Mother Swamiji (then Narendra) happened to snap a
commanded him to ‘Remain in Bhavamukha’. wire while tuning a tanpura.

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His Answers to Our Unasked Thoughts at him, as though he were looking through a
Coming back from lofty plane of trans- glass pane. He was fond of eating a particular
cendental Reality, Sri Ramakrishna’s mind sweet. When his favourite dish was brought
remained pitched to a state of Oneness. One by a person whose regular salary was 25
with Cosmic Mind, he knew the inmost thou- rupees and he was making an extra 30 rupees
ghts of all minds and answered them unasked. by presenting false bills, it appeared filth to
That explains how he declared his Godhead him.
to just a passing thought in Narendra’s mind. It happened not just once. If he felt
One day, overwhelmed with divine fervour, hesitation about taking any food or drink, it
while returning to his room after visiting Ma was found to have been brought by a man of
Kali, he sang a number of songs. M. said to immoral or deceitful character. When about
himself, ‘I wish he would sing: to give spiritual guidance to an unfit person,
Mother, thou canst not trick me any more his power of speech failed suddenly. Seeing a
For I have Thy crimson Lotus Feet.6 particular aspirant, the form of that very deity
No sooner did the thought pass through appeared in his mind, whom he worshipped.
M.’s mind than he sang the song. Another time Sarada, a friend of Adhar, was a devotee of
he said to M. ‘Yes what you are thinking will Sri Chaitanya. He was stricken with the grief
also come to pass’.7 on account of his son’s death. Adhar took him
On January 1, 1886, Sri Ramakrishna to Dakshineswar to visit the Paramahamsa-
blessed the devotees touching them all. At his deva. Inspired with the ideal of Gauranga he
touch each of the devotees experienced in- sang song after song to soothe Sarada’s mind;
effable bliss. Some laughed, some wept, some sometimes describing Gauranga’s blissful
saw Light, some had visions of their Chosen ecstasy in an exuberance of joy, sometimes
Ideals, and some felt within their bodies the assuming the attitude of a woman devotee
rush of spiritual power. Ramlal, Thakur’s infatuated with love of Gauranga. When
nephew stood behind him thinking that he Balaram’s father came, he sang of the divine
only carried Sri Ramakrishna’s water-pot and love of the gopis for Krishna. When a Shakta
towel, but all others were blessed with spiritual devotee came, he sang of the Divine Mother
experiences. As soon as this thought crossed to kindle his love for the Mother. We see that
his mind, Sri Ramakrishna touched his chest, whatever ideas came in his mind were found
pushing aside his shawl. Ramlal said: to be true as they were eternal verities existing
Before that, during my meditation I could see in a subtle state in the Universal Mind.
with my mind’s eye only a part of my Chosen
Deity. Moreover, Whatever I saw never seemed Leads All to the Path of Realisation
to be alive. But no sooner had the Master touched Made one with the Mother in ‘Yoga
me than the whole form of my Chosen Deity Sleep’, Sri Ramakrishna had the unusual
appeared in my heart as a living presence, power of knowing the events of all previous
looking benign and effulgent.8 births, their inherent tendencies and the future
progress of his intimate devotees. Nearer to
Seeing the Inner Nature them than they themselves were, he knew the
Sri Ramakrishna could see the inner spiritual mood natural to each and led each
nature and traits of a man merely by looking accordingly to the path of Supreme Realisa-

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tion. He led some through pure devotion, some and retained the ‘ego of Knowledge’. Narada
through devotion mingled with discrimination, had to teach the path of devotion and retained
others through a synthesis of the soul-melting the ‘ego of Devotion’. Thus great sages impart
love of Personal God and the lofty Knowledge spiritual instruction and share their bliss with
of Impersonal Truth, and still others through others. But they do not hold the key to liberate
all-embracing realisation of Godhead—to see others like the Incarnations of God.
God in all beings. He told them what form of It is said that sages like Shuka and
meditation would be helpful: with form or Narada tasted a drop of the Ocean of Brahman-
formless aspect. He knew which of his Consciousness. But we have seen that Sri
devotees would embrace monasticism, renoun- Ramakrishna was that ‘Ocean Of Conscious-
cing their worldly life. To them he pointed ness’ without limit. ‘From It come all things of
out the steep path of complete renunciation of the relative plane, and in It they merge again.
‘woman and gold’. It was like observing the Millions of Brahmandas rise in that chidakasha
ekadasi without drinking even a drop of water. and merge in It again.’9 That is why by a mere
To the householders he led through the touch or wish or blessing he could put anyone
performance of their duties, unattached. At the in the inebriation of divine bliss, or deep
same time they were to keep their mind fixed meditation, or samadhi, and even confer
at the Lotus Feet of God through prayer, japa, liberation. He converted many rank materia-
and meditation. lists and agnostics into believers and atheists
and scoffers into ardent devotees. Removing
Coming Down after Samadhi all dross and impurity he turned drunkards
Sri Ramakrishna says that some ordinary and sinners into mighty saints.
sadhakas may attain samadhi through spiritual Sri Ramakrishna was the Cosmic Shakti
discipline but they cannot come down to the Itself, descended in a finite human form, to
realm of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ by separating them- revive the declining religion, to establish the
selves from the bliss of Oneness. The body harmony of religions, to deliver erring souls
falls off within twenty-one days. Then there from a wilderness of doubt and despair. He
are the sages like Shukadeva and Narada— lived as a bhakta to teach us how a devotee
the Ishvarakotis (God-like souls). Not satisfied should have faith and yearning of a child, for
with their own illumination, they come down God. The child cannot be cajoled with sweets
a few steps to bring spiritual light to others. and toys and only cries, ‘I want to go to my
Shuka had to recite Bhagavata to bring Parikshit mother.’ †

References
1. Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master, Swami Sarada- Chetanananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1992, 346
nanda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, 1978, (Henceforth As we Saw Him)
p.446-447 5. The Gospel Of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna
2. The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, 2000, p 945
Sarada Mission, Calcutta, 1972, p 481 6. Ibid, p 665
3. In Search Of God And Other Poems, Swami Viveka- 7. Ibid, p 382
nanda, Advaita Ashrama, 1947, p 55-56 8. As we Saw Him, p 55
4. Ramakrishna As We Saw Him, Swami 9. Gospel, p 653

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 152 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
Swami Vivekananda was a great storyteller. His talks and
writings are interspersed with numerous anecdotes, examples,
similes, and illustrations mirroring his vast knowledge of human nature—its potential
and its relative limitations. Some of these stories are well known, many others are little
known. We present here some more of these insightful stories, selected from his Complete Works.

XXXXXIV
The Story of Mahabharata

(Continued from the previous issue. . .)

The education of the princes being giving themselves out as Brahmana students.
finished, Dhritarashtra put Yudhishthira, the Many were the hardships and adventures they
eldest of the sons of Pandu, on the throne of encountered in the wild forests, but their
his father. The sterling virtues of Yudhishthira fortitude of mind, and strength, and valour
and the valour and devotion of his other made them conquer all dangers. So things
brothers aroused jealousies in the hearts of the went on until they came to hear of the
sons of the blind king, and at the instigation approaching marriage of the princess of a
of Duryodhana, the eldest of them, the five neighbouring country.
Pandava brothers were prevailed upon to visit I told you last night of the peculiar form
Vâranâvata, on the plea of a religious festival of the ancient Indian marriage. It was called
that was being held there. There they were Svayamvara, that is, the choosing of the
accommodated in a palace made under Duryo- husband by the princess. A great gathering of
dhana’s instructions, of hemp, resin, and lac, princes and nobles assembled, amongst whom
and other inflammable materials, which were the princess would chose her husband. Prece-
subsequently set fire to secretly. But the good ded by her trumpeters and heralds she would
Vidura, the step-brother of Dhritarashtra, approach, carrying a garland of flowers in her
having become cognisant of the evil intentions hand. At the throne of each candidate for her
of Duryodhana and his party, had warned the hand, the praises of that prince and all his
Pandavas of the plot, and they managed to great deeds in battle would be declared by
escape without anyone’s knowledge. When the the heralds. And when the princess decided
Kurus saw the house was reduced to ashes, which prince she desired to have for a hus-
they heaved a sigh of relief and thought all band, she would signify the fact by throwing
obstacles were now removed out of their path. the marriage-garland round his neck. Then the
Then the children of Dhritarashtra got hold of ceremony would turn into a wedding. King
the kingdom. Drupada was a great king, king of the Pan-
The five Pandava brothers had fled to chalas, and his daughter, Draupadi, famed far
the forest with their mother, Kunti. They lived and wide for her beauty and accomplishments,
there by begging, and went about in disguise was going to choose a hero. (4: 79)
(To be continued . . .)
T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 153 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
The Frame and the Fill
Thoughts on Some Aspects of Human Brain
SWAMI SAMARPANANANDA

Making of the ‘Frames’ The brain does not stop here. Whenever
A journey down our memory lane, say the required detail is missing for a frame, it
to our school days, reveals a very interesting tends to conjure up data to fit into the pattern
characteristic of our brain. We tend to to make it a logical whole. It is something like
remember only the broad outlines of the when we hum a song in front of someone and
individuals and the incidents, whereas the stop midway, the listener, if he knows the
details associated with them seem to get lost. song, automatically provides the next words.
This tendency of the brain to retain and recall Recent studies in neuroscience have revealed
only the outlines becomes more pronounced the fact that whenever the brain faces blind
as we grow in age. In our old age, what we spots, it fills them up in such a way that the
are able to grasp, retain, and recall are only pattern becomes a complete whole. V.S.
the broad outlines, which we may call, Ramachandran in his well-known book,
‘frames’. On the deathbed, one responds only Phantoms in the brain, has discussed these
to the images and names most dear to him. In graphically. What was a mere suspicion
these last moments, one holds on to the barest concerning the fallibility of observation (of all
frame that he had built all through his life. senses) has been clinically found to be
A more interesting characteristic of the correct—whenever there is a need, the brain
brain is to fill up the details of the frame by supplies data. The brain is incapable of
itself. Thus, if we are asked to write an essay handling incomplete frames. It must have the
on, for instance, a cow, our brain scoops up harmony, the symphony, the pattern and the
the facts from its storehouse, seasoning it with logical whole, without which it feels lost.
language, metaphors and descriptions. The If the brain is good at supplying the
effectiveness of any communication or des- detail, it is also good at constructing the frames
cription depends on the correctness of the for the details that do not fit in the existing
frame and the power to fill it up by itself. frames. Philosophical speculations, growth of
Since most people are not very good at filling, mathematics and theoretical physics, struggle
they cover it up by memorising what is to formulate patterns and laws in every field
necessary. of knowledge are some of the examples when
an advanced brain created a frame to take care
Filling up the ‘Frames’ of the ill-fitting data. Unfortunately, not every

The author is a monk of the Ramakrishna Order at its Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, Belur Math,
West Bengal. …

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 154 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
35

brain is advanced or developed enough to Indian scholars of the past were well
create the proper frame. This has devastating aware of this fact. That is why they developed
conclusions which can be seen in the childish the Sutra literature, in which all the essential
cosmological details given by the theologians things about a book or a philosophy were
of different religions. There are more interes- written down aphoristically. Any student
ting examples: a kid who fails to see his mother desirous of remembering the work would
for a while starts crying, fearing that she might simply memorise all the aphorisms (sutras)
be gone forever. Similarly a stump of wood in which would be used by him to explain the
the darkness of night is perceived variously work with his own explanations, which were
as a ghost, a thief, a policeman, a friend, etc., like the fillings. That is how we have so many
by different observers depending on their different commentaries on every Sutra work.
mental state. The same thing applies in the field of
Thus, to run the life smoothly, we need religion too. One needs to know the frames
both the right frame and a correct filling. If thoroughly. The details get automatically filled
either of these becomes too weak, one lands up, or are ignored. For example, a devotee of
in the mire of wild speculation and fertile Christ must know Christ’s exalted character,
imagination. Schizophrenia, madness and sacrifice and love. These constitute his devo-
other hyper tendencies are all examples of an tional personality. On the other hand, details
unsound frame or incomplete filling. However, like the name of Jesus’ parents or his date of
the frame is much more important than the birth are non-essential for his personality. It is
fillings for any individual. good to know these too, but they are really
not central to his devotion of Christ.
Wide-ranging Ways of Frame-making
In the field of education and learning, Rigid Thinking Patterns
the importance of frames over fillings is As one ages, the brain becomes more set
indisputable. One who knows the frames well, in its working. It then relies more on relating
is able to create the necessary filling; but he the incoming data with the already existing
who pays more attention to the filling, fails frames. This is what causes senility which
miserably while confronting a complicated keeps growing, till at deathbed one remembers
problem. When we look back at our childhood, only the bare essentials of life. It is indeed
and also the present education system, we painful to see how the brain keeps losing the
realise the blunder committed by the teachers. data in a natural process that it had collected
They tend to focus more on the details without over the years with great effort.
trying to impress the young minds with the A more serious problem is the brain’s
frame. This results in a general dissatisfaction tendency to react negatively whenever it has
among the more bright ones, who invariably to confront an input that is a mismatch for its
become failures. Most of the great scientists, related frame. A person, who is accustomed
including Einstein and Ramanujan were to seeing the young behave obediently with
famous ‘failures’ of their time. The goal of all the seniors, gets vexed and disturbed when
education should, therefore, be to make a he comes across his grandson behaving
student conversant with the frames of a informally with his father. Such experiences
subject. can be nerve-wrecking.

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 155 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
36

This very tendency of the brain explains on the enormity of the lie, we may feel bad,
why we react strongly when we come across lose sleep, lose peace, or in extreme cases lose
people who fail to live up to our expectations. our mind. The best antidote for such self-
For example, most of us value honesty and failures is to confess the guilt to the right
are honest in our dealings. So, when we find person, or to perform some kind of penance.
our pockets picked in a crowded place, or the But, the fact remains that the mismatch of our
shoes lifted from the temple premise, we feel action with the expected frame can be
very sad. This sadness is not really for the devastating.
loss, but more for the ill-fitting detail of
cheating in the existing frame of expectation Values—Frame or Filling?
in our brain. In the same way, people expect There are thousands of values in any
their children to be truthful, honest and well- society, but not every value is picked up by
behaved. But, when the parents face the fact everyone. The set of values practised by an
that the child is not living up to the set individual is his or her personalised value
expectation, they react violently, particularly system that becomes the real frame for one’s
when they face it for the first time. life. All inputs from the external world, and
Actually, the problem does not lie with also the individual’s actions conform to these
the harsh facts of life, but with our own frames frames. Every person is capable of attaining
of morality and expectations from the world. the highest, which is accomplished with the
This setting up of the frame comes from the help of personalised value system.
teachings of our elders, our own experiences, Unfortunately, in most cases these values
perception, and thinking. Every time we are are not chosen, but imposed on the individual.
assailed with negative emotions like sadness, This means that these are not really his frames,
anger and depression, we can easily analyse but fillings, which by their very nature are of
the situation to see that the inputs from the secondary importance. Thus, when one says
world failed to fit in the frames of our brain. that he believes in ‘honesty is the best policy’,
We realise that the world is not at all at fault he really means to say that he believes that he
for our pain, but it is our own frame-system believes so. This is at the root of all personality
that is responsible for it. A change in the frame disintegration. A person does what he really
will invariably result in much less or no dis- believes to be true for him. His acts conform
appointments, and, consequently, less pain. to the frames of his mind, whereas he poses
What holds for the external world, also according the fillings. In most cases, even the
holds for ourselves. After all, for the brain, concerned person does not realise this
the body is only an integral part of the world. incongruity.
That is to say, the brain has frames for every However, it is easy to recognise if a
kind of every activity, including the thoughts. person’s particular value is his frame or filling.
Whenever these fail to fill in the existing If he commits an act contrary to the expecta-
frames, the brain reacts. This reaction is our tion, then it might be an aberration; but if he
conscience which goads us into self-reproach repeats the act, then it is his personality trait.
and self-punishment. Thus, if we have to tell If one’s actions are contrary to his words, then
a lie (assuming that we are normally truthful), the values professed by him are only the
our conscience pricks and protests. Depending fillings, and not his frame.

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 156 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
37

Universal values are mere concepts. It is imposed by the society on them. Every great
only the personalised values that have any thinker rebelled against many of the existing
reality and are really of any importance. The ideas and beliefs of the then society. Jesus
moment a person realises that what he thought opposed the way of worship in synagogues,
to be his frame, is only the filling, then he Buddha condemned Vedic sacrifices, Nachi-
only need to pick up the right ones and start keta, the young mentioned in the Kathopani-
afresh. Others may laugh at him, but his own shad, went against his father, Sri Ramakrishna
life would be free of shame and guilt. rebelled against the orthodox caste system at
We tend to brand a person immoral or the time of his sacred thread ceremony,
insensitive when his acts fail to fit in our own Mahatma Gandhi was ostracised by his own
frames. An interesting fact is of those persons caste people, and Swami Vivekananda was
who themselves indulge in certain acts but criticised for crossing the ocean. Wherever we
condemn the same of others. We may try to may care to look, we find the rule of the thumb
pass them off as hypocrites, but really it is not that every successful famous person has been
so. The explanation lies in the frame structure. a rebel against the crystallised frames of the
When a person condemns others, although social mind.
guilty himself of the same faults, it invariably
means that he feels bad about his own acts Holding on to Frames
too. He may not be expressing that in public, The only way to lead a sane and a mean-
but his heart must be shedding tears for his ingful life is to focus on one’s frames and stick
own acts. If it is not so, then only he is a to it. These frames have to be selected and set
hypocrite. by the individual and must not be copied
The growth of a person depends on the blindly from others. Gandhiji chose certain
intake that he gets from the society, but the frames for himself and made every action of
real assimilation is based on his personal his fill those frames. For him, nothing existed
frame. One may read, hear, or see anything outside those frames. Same with Sri Rama-
that he may come across, but ultimately he krishna. On the other hand, lesser mortals
would retain only what fits into his frame. casually pick up some frames, impress them
The rest will overflow. This makes teaching of upon their mind, and keep suffering for the
any higher thought difficult to a common man. rest of their lives with a sense of bad
The real growth is always gradual because that conscience, inferiority and a double personality
is how the frame is constructed. that invariably result in disaster. The goal
In the history of the mankind, the real should be to fix workable frames, and then
successful people have been those who defined allow only those details in one’s life that fit
their own frames as opposed to the frames into those frames. †

Impurity of the heart is greed, impurity of the tongue is falsehood,


impurity of the eyes is gazing on another’s wealth, another’s wife and her
beauty; impurity of the ear is listening to slander. —Guru Nanak

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 157 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
 Remodelled Temple at Allahabad Ashrama Consecrated 
Sri Ramakrishna Temple at Allahabad Math was remodelled on the occasion of the Ashrama’s centenary.
Revered President Maharaj, Srimat Swami Atmasthanandaji Maharaj, consecrated the temple, with a marble
image, on 17 January, the birthday of Swami Brahmanandaji Maharaj. Revered President Maharaj also
addressed a public meeting organized on this occasion and released the commemorative volume. In all,
about 120 monastics and several hundred devotees attended the function. †

Consecration of the remodelled temple with marble image of Sri Ramakrishna—Allahabad Ashrama

Y The birthday (tithi puja) of Sri Ramakrishna was celebrated at Belur Math on Tuesday, 16 February.
Cooked prasad was served to about 38,000 devotees. Swami Smarananandaji, Vice-President, presided over
the public meeting held in the afternoon. The public
celebration held on Sunday, 21 February, drew more
than a lakh of visitors who thronged the Math
throughout the day. Cooked prasad was served to
about 38,000 persons on that occasion.
Sri Ramakrishna’s birthday was celebrated at all
the centres of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission,
and by numerous groups of devotee across the world,
with Puja, Bhajans, lectures, public meetings, cultural
programmes, poor feeding, and so on. †

 General News 
Sri Shekhar Dutt, Governor of Chhattisgarh,
inaugurated the physiotherapy unit at hospital run by
Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narainpur (Chhat-
Sri Ramakrishna Tithi puja celebration at Belur Math tisgarh) on 11 February.

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 158 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
39

Y Twenty students (seven from Class X and


thirteen from class XII) of the school run
Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Narainpur
(Chhattisgarh) have won Mukhyamantri Jnana
Protsahan Puraskar (cash award of Rs. 10,000/-
each) for their excellent performance in the State
Board Examinations 2008-09.
Y Smt. Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi,
declared open the new medical block at the
Ramakrishna Mission Diagnostic Centre at Karol
Bagh, New Delhi on 16 February.
Y Ramakrishna Math Chennai has introduced
an award called Vivekananda Prashasti to be
presented to persons contributing in various fields,
such as Education (Vidya), Music and Arts (Kala), Inauguration of New Medical Block by the Chief Minister of Delhi
Service (Seva) and Sports and allied sectors
(Shakti), on the lines of Swami Vivekananda’s
teachings. The first award, Vivekananda Vidya
Prashasti, was presented to Sri Atmakur Raman-
aiah, Programme Officer of the Math’s Publication
Department, for his doctoral thesis on ‘Swami
Vivekananda’s Humanism’ in Telugu. The award,
comprising a citation, a statuette of Swamiji, a
shawl and Rs. 50,000/- in cash, was presented to
him during the public celebration of Sri Rama-
krishna Jayanti at Chennai Math on 21 February.
Y The Sanskrit College run by Ramakrishna
Math Palai in Kerala celebrated its silver jubilee
on 27 and 28 February. Besides inaugural
and valedictory secessions, the two-day
programme consisted, a seminar on the importance Presentation of Vivekananda Prashasti, Chennai Math
of studying Sanskrit, and a group discussion in
Sanskrit by old students. Swami Shivamayananda, Secretary, Swami Vivekananda’s Ancestral House and
Cultural Centre, Kolkata, and many local leaders spoke on the occasion. In all around 400 people attended
the 2-day event. †

Inauguration of the Silver Jubilee celebrations and a view of the audience—Palai Ashrama, Kerala

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 159 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
40

Y Chandigarh centre organized a Child Eye Care


Programme in which 2512 school children from a
poor locality of the city underwent eye check-up. Of
these, 272 children with refractory errors were given
free glasses. The centre also conducted a Child Dental
Care project in which 670 primary school children
were examined and treated.
Y A student of Class IX of our Narottam Nagar
school, who hails from the backward Tusta tribe of
Tirap district, has won the prestigious National Talent
Search Award for the year 2009, comprising a
certificate and Rs. 6000/-.

 Relief News 
Children queuing up for dental checkup—Chandigarh
1. Aila Cyclone Relief: Our centres in West Bengal
continued relief operations among the victims of Aila Cyclone. Details of the relief materials distributed are
given below.
a) Baranagar Mission centre –saris, dhotis, lungis, chadars and blankets to 500 families in Sandeshkhali-
II block, North 24-Parganas district, on 3 and 4 February.
b) Belgharia centre – 3766 mosquito-nets to 3739 families in Gosaba block, South 24-Parganas district,
on 17 January.
c) Swamiji’s Ancestral House, Kolkata – 400 blankets to cyclone victims at 5 villages of Sandeshkhali-I
block in North 24-Parganas district from 12 to 23 January.
2. Flood Relief: Andhra Pradesh: Hyderabad centre distributed 133 looms to the poor weavers of
Rajoli village in Mehaboobnagar district who had lost their looms in the recent flood there.
3. Winter Relief: Blankets were distributed through the following centres to poor people affected by the
severity of winter: Belgaum – 200, Gol Park – 650, Kankurgachhi – 200, Muzaffarpur – 400, Ooty –
300, Taki – 811. Besides, Baghbazar Math distributed 123 chadars and 123 sweaters to the needy.
4. Distress Relief: The following centres distributed various items, shown in brackets, to the needy:
Baghbazar (assorted garments to 444 children, and textbooks, school uniforms, etc to 40 students), Gol
Park (50 kg rice), Taki (1178 saris and 95 lungis), Jalpaiguri (400 saris and 80 children’s garments). †

Distribution of relief materials at different centres of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 160 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
For review in THE VEDANTA KESARI,
publishers need to send us
two copies of their latest publication.

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA THE after the life of Swami Vivekananda, the book is
MONARCH OF MONKS commendable effort.
Though an erratum is attached to the book,
By Dushyanta Pandya. there are more corrections to be added to this list;
Published by Readworthy Publi- we presume these will be made before further
cations (P) Ltd. A-18 Mohan prints/editions are brought out. The cover design
Garden, Near Nawada Metro Sta- is attractive, but the book could have been
tion, New Delhi-110 059. 2009, competitively priced as to make it more affordable
paperback, pp.253, Rs.320. for a larger section of the society. We also suggest
adding of sources and references to the various
The life of Swami Viveka-
incidents the book beautifully records.
nanda, as also his message, is an
Swami Vivekananda was a historic perso-
eternal subject to write about. The book under
nality who lived in the recent past, but our up-
review is another attempt in this direction,
coming generation has hardly any knowledge about
providing a deep insight into the life and achieve-
him. So, it is desirable that books like this on the
ments of Swamiji.
life and teachings of Swamiji are recommended for
Describing Swamiji’s family background and
study in all our junior colleges.
early life, the author presents a detailed account of
__________________________ H. SUBRAMANIAN, BANGALORE
how he came into contact with Sri Ramakrishna as
a young seeker, the moulding of his life as a monk,
training under his Master, the building of the IN MY OWN WORDS: AN INTRO-
Ramakrishna Movement, his teachings, his tour to DUCTION TO MY TEACHINGS AND
the Western countries, his efforts to spread the P HILOSOPHY —H IS H OLI -
message of peace and universal brotherhood as well NESS THE DALAI LAMA
as the philosophy of Vedanta with special reference
Edited by Rajiv Mehrotra
to his lecture at the World Parliament of Religions
at Chicago in the year 1893. The author presents Published by Hay House Pubi-
the entire life history of Swami Vivekananda in shers (India) Pvt. Ltd., Muskaan
chronological order in simple language in 24 Complex, Plot No.3, B-2 Vasant
chapters. Kunj, New Delhi-110 070. 2009,
What gives this book a unique identity is the paperback, pp.210, Rs.195.
way the subject matter is presented with realism In My Own Words is, in essence, a blueprint
which keeps the reader glued to this book. As we behind the Dali Lama’s ‘moral and ethical alchemy’.
go through the pages, we experience the joy and It spells out with authenticity, absolute clarity and
sorrow Swamiji had to go through in his life, the deeply moving candour the insights which went
way his guru’s grace and divine blessings came to into the making of the global consciousness,
his rescue at critical moment in Chicago and the embracing both the horror and glory of the world
tireless efforts of Swamiji in spreading the message today. With disarming modesty, he says, that these
of Sri Ramakrishna and establishing the Rama- are ‘thoughts that may be of direct, practical benefit
krishna Mission. Written more than a hundred years to those who are lucky to read them.’ And those

T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i ~ 161 ~ A P R I L 2 0 1 0
42

who are lucky to read will agree that ‘may be’ contend with existing imbalances (social, economic,
should be replaced by ‘they are’ invariably helpful. ethical, etc.,) as its coordinates. Since science and
The book begins with the generic human technology take a quantum leap in evolution, but
endeavour for ‘happiness’ and by implication, the human consciousness is mired in economic and
cessation of sorrow. ‘I believe,’ His Holiness says, erotic (miscalled esthetic, in many cases), we are
‘the purpose of life is to be happy’, a purpose which victims of mental and pervasive environmental
animates all sentient beings. One endeavours to corruption. With transparent candour, His Holiness
achieve this by harnessing the energies imbedded implicates both science and religion as engineering
in the psycho-physical as also the moral and agents of perceptible ‘chaos’ and says: ‘without
spiritual dimensions of consciousness. Not only are altruistic motivation, scientists cannot distinguish
these dimensions interconnected, their fulfillment between beneficial technologies and the merely
has to be achieved in the inescapable context of expedient.’ And adds, ‘Nor are the religions of the
inter-dependence. Only when all these are har- world exempt from the responsibility.’
monized, we manifest the innate, infolded ‘inner That these are not pious pronouncements is
tranquillity’. This harmony stems ‘from the develop- evident in the ‘Gentle Bridges’ that His Holiness is,
ment of love and compassion.’ consistently and with tangible results, construc-
Compassion is not emotive excesses or ting through dialogues with scientists on
effusions, but, says His Holiness, ‘a firm commit- behavioural sciences specially. Their immense
ment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly potential for creating spaces of mutual concern is
compassionate attitude toward others does not already evident in the abiding presence of Buddhist,
change even if they behave negatively.’ All that is and other Eastern traditions, of spiritual as also
negative offers contexts for actualising the imbed- meditative life. (If media are to be believed, the
ded positives in the consciousness. Since the quest economic recession has forced a slow re-visioning
for happiness animates all, it is a clear context for of affluence: ‘not money but mindset’, they say.)
cultivating ‘empathy and closeness’ towards all. ‘By We are immeasurably grateful to Rajiv
accustoming your mind to this sense of universal Mehrotra, the dynamic secretary of the Foundation
altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness, for
others,’ says His Holiness. editing this compact volume of timeless significance
The rest of the chapters cover the implications and a miraculously timely one, available to us. His
in two intricately interrelated segments. One crisp introduction is, as it ought to be, clear and
analyses, in two chapters ‘Universal Responsibility’ cogent. And Hay House has, as usual, done an
and ‘Science at the Crossroads’, the phenomenon exquisitely aesthetic job of production. The photo-
of pervasive global ethos of unrest and imbalances. graphs on the cover are so gracefully evocative that
The other segment, consisting of nine chapters is they are, in themselves, exquisite images for vibrant
as it were, the core of the volume. His Holiness is meditation.
simply enchanting in these chapters which Pico Iyer, in his recently published biography
manifestly emerge from his own experience. They of His Holiness, records the experience his father
cover the uniqueness of Buddhism, its essential felt in the Presence of His Holiness: it has ‘the
teachings, its perception of the law of karma, the freshness of immense personal purity’. It is this
techniques of transforming the mind, the nature of abiding freshness that one experiences in the words
an awakening mind (though he denies any as found in this volume.
knowledge of what it is!), eight verses for taming _______________________ M. SIVARAMKRISHNA, HYDERABAD
the mind, living and dying in a meaningful manner,
and understanding Emptiness. SANSKRIT AND SCIENCE
All these insights have to function and
achieve actualisation in the face of what His General Editor V.Kameswari
Holiness calls ‘the most frightening and the most Published by The Kuppuswami Sastri Research
serious’ problem today: ‘the wide variety of Institute, No.84, Thiru Vi.Ka. Road, Mylapore,
suffering. This is global and threatens to destroy Chennai – 600 004. 2008, paperback, pp.
the entire planet.’ In other words, happiness has to 191+xii, Rs.250.

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43

Sanskrit is considered to educative presenting information which is normally


be the oldest language of human not known to the general public.
history. With the period of the The Institute should be complimented for
Vedas being pushed back in time bringing out this volume first in 1997, and now in
more and more, this language is a revised edition. It gives the reader a compre-
acquiring more and more impor- hensive idea of the broad sweep of the Sanskrit
tance among the intelligentsia of language. This language is now not only an Indian
the world. heritage, it has assumed the role of International
This book is the compila- heritage. It is the duty of every right-thinking
tion of papers contributed in two person to preserve it for posterity.
seminars, the first on ‘Sanskrit ______________________________ NVC SWAMY, BANGALORE
and Science’ held on 9th October 1994, and the
second on ‘Sanskrit and Medical Sciences’ held on HERITAGE & TRADITION
23rd January 1995, to mark the Golden Jubilee of
the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute. By Probat Kanti Paul
There are eleven papers in the book. The first Published by author Sri Probat
part on ‘Sanskrit, Astronomy and Computer Kanti Paul, Plot No.266, R.R.
Science’ contains five. The second part on ‘Sanskrit Colony, P.O.Rynjah, Shillong
and Medical Science’ has three papers, and the last 793 006. 2009, paperback,
part on ‘Sanskrit and Other Sciences’ contain the pp.52, Rs.45.
rest three. All the papers have been contributed by The unifying role of
specialists in their respective fields, and carry the temples, dotting the religious
stamp of authority. Unfortunately, they are too and cultural landscape of India,
technical for lay readers. is one of the significant features of
Sanskrit came to the attention of computer the Hindu society. As these temples knit a
scientists about half-a-century ago, with the homogeneous fabric of our social and cultural lives,
discovery that it forms the ideal medium for it is necessary that we document their history and
computer translation. Three of the papers of the popular practices. The book under review is an
first part are about the technicalities involved in interesting account of history and the religious
language processing through computers, with tradition of some such temples located in different
special reference to Sanskrit. These papers are parts of Meghalaya—one of the north eastern
highly technical, but contain a lot of technical states of India—and is a laudable attempt in this
information. The other two papers are about direction.
philosophy and astronomy, which make easier The book is divided in three parts. The first
reading. part is titled ‘Sacred and Holy places of Meghalaya’,
The second part basically is about Ayurveda, the second ‘Cherrapunjee Rain’ and third ‘Bio-
India’s contribution to medical science. It is gaining graphy of Prahlad Chandra Paul’. The first part
importance all over the world, because of the contributes to more than fifty percent of the work.
interest recently generated on alternate medical The first part is the translation of a work from
systems. A knowledge of Sanskrit is mandatory for Bengali by the same author. It describes the location
the study of the basic textbooks, along with an of one particular temple, mythological lore
understanding of the Sankhya philosophy, on which associated with it, as also religious ceremonies
it is based. All the three papers in this part are conducted at the temple. Occasionally the recent
equally important, especially the third one about history of the temple is narrated.
the importance of Yoga. At the time of the visit of The second part was published as a separate
Chinese travellers to India, it was a common booklet in 2004. It was mainly aimed at establishing
practice for a Yogi to be an expert on Ayurveda the fact that Cherrapunjee receives the highest
and vice versa. rainfall in the world. This part also has monthly
The last part has papers about Cartography, data of rain received at Cherrapunjee from 1973 to
Svarodaya Yoga, and Agriculture. These are highly 2005.

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44

The third part deal with the activities of Sri This synopsis under review was originally
Prahlad Chandra Paul (1920-2002), a prominent written and published in four volumes by the Dr.
citizen of Cherrapunjee born and brought up there. Hazari himself and translated into French, Bengali,
It describes association and participation in various Tamil and Malayalam. Judging by the synopsis, The
religious movements in Cherrapunjee, providing a Hindu and The Indian Express wrote appreciative
glimpse of the history of these movements during comments excerpts from which are given on the
his period. His involvement in the developmental back cover along with a line from the mystic and
work of the region is also narrated. author Sri Anirvan.
The first part is a laudable effort very much The editor has done an admirable job, adding
needed today. For those who have not been to several appendices including the table of contents
Meghalaya, it gives a glimpse of native religious of the original epic, genealogical charts of the
life of the people of this region. characters and transliteration of four cantos of the
Though the book needs use of more stan- original in Devanagari and Bengali scripts.
dardized language, it is a welcome addition and No judgment on any literary work can be
needs to be encouraged. pronounced on the basis of a synopsis, let alone a
__ SWAMI ATMAPRANANANDA, RKM ASHRAMA, BELGAUM work of this size and range. However, one cannot
help marvelling at the achievement of the author.
GLIMPSES OF DEVAYANA We do not believe that any single author wrote any
of the primary epics, Western or Eastern. They were
By Dr. Hajari. shaped by many bards over the centuries in oral
Published by New Age Books, A traditions before they were recorded in their final
– 44, Naraina Phase I, New form; but here is a single-handed achievement
Delhi – 110 028. 2007, Paper- which will force us, sceptics, to shed our disbelief
back, Pp.337, Rs.250. in divine afflatus, the moral and legislative role of
Dr. Hajari composed a the poet, the primacy of imagination and related
massive epic running into notions and may eventually bring about another
twelve volumes of thousand romantic revolution, this time with a genuinely
pages each named Devayana oriental content.
_________________________ M.C.RAMANARAYANAN, KERALA
(like Ramayana the first two vowels are long and
the ‘n’ is articulated retroflexively) in the early
1950’s. According to the poet himself, the poem LIVING LEGEND—
manifested itself through divine agency and he was DADA J.P. VASWANI
only a witness. Published by Gita Publi-
The epic is regarded as an instrument of the shing House, 10, Sadu
imminent transition from the dark age of Kali to Vaswani Path, Pune -
the golden age of Satyayuga. The great God, Pingala 411 001. Hardback,
Mahadeva, assuring the Rishis of the advent of the pp.139, Rs.750.
new age, says: ‘At that moment I shall also manifest
Published on the
there and open the way for the journey of gods to
occasion of the 90th
the earth, through the epic Devayana. Through this
birthday of Dada J. P. Vaswani, a ‘living legend’,
epic, the earth will become like heaven and the
this photo-portrait is a visual treat of Dada
influence of Kali will be removed (p132)’. Devayana
Vaswani’s ‘rainbow-like qualities including
means the journey of gods. If the second vowel is
humility, love, service, compassion’.
shortened it may also mean the vehicle of gods.
The book reveals the wide range of services
We may legitimately understand this to mean that
rendered to the poor including food, medical aid,
the poem will act as a vehicle of ideas that will
value based education, through the Sadhu Vaswani
ultimately transform modern man’s outlook from
Mission as service to God.
one of crass cynicism and despair to one of hope
†______________________________ P. S. SUNDARAM, CHENNAI
and spiritual aspiration.
Z
Z
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