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Sri Ramakrishna Teachings - A Collection of Teachings and Wisdom of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

This is a collection of teachings and wisdom of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ((18 February 1836 – 16 August 1886). The Sri Ramakrishna teachings have been collected from various sources including books, newspapers, magazines, Prabuddha Bharata and Vedanta Kesari. 

If one analyses oneself, one doesn’t find any such thing as ‘I.’ Take an onion, for instance. First of all you peel off the red outer skin; then you find thick white skins. Peel these off one after the other, and you won’t find anything inside.

When will I be free, when I cease to be.

Everyone thinks his watch alone gives right time.

The darkness of the mind disappears when God is realized. In the Purana it is said that it was as if a hundred suns were shining when Rama entered the court. Why, then, weren’t the courtiers burnt up? It was because the brilliance of Rama was not like that of a material object. As the lotus blooms when the sun rises, so the lotus of the heart of the people assembled in the court burst into blossom.

We must dive deep into the ocean of the Eternal Intelligent Bliss. Fear not the deep sea monsters – Avarice and Anger. Coat thyself with the turmeric of Dispassion and Discrimination. Those sea monsters will not approach you as the scent of this turmeric is too strong for them.

There are pearls in the deep sea, but one must hazard all to find them. If diving once does not bring you pearls, you need not therefore conclude that the sea is without them. Dive again and again. You are sure to be rewarded in the end. So is it with the finding of the Lord in this world. If your first attempt proves fruitless, do not lose heart. Persevere in your efforts. You are sure to realize Him at last.

The human body is like a boiling pot, and the mind and the senses are like water, rice or potato, and other things in it. Put the pot with its ingredients on the fire; it will be so hot as to burn your finger when you touch it. But the heat does not belong to the pot, nor anything contained in it, but is in the fire. So it is the fire of Brahman in man that causes the mind and the senses to perform their functions, and when that fire cease to act, the sense also, or the organs, stop. (Source: Ramakrishna His Life and Sayings, F. Max Muller, Page 103)

A logician once asked Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ‘What are knowledge, knower and the object known?’ To which he replied. ‘Good man, I do not know all these niceties of scholastic learning. I know only my Mother Divine and that I am her son.’ (Source: Ramakrishna His Life and Sayings, F. Max Muller, Page 120)

The Vedas, Tantras and the Puranas, and all the sacred scriptures of the world have become defiled because they have been constantly repeated by and have come out of human mouths. But the Brahman or the Absolute has never been defiled, for no one as yet has been able to express the Brahman.

Different people call on God by different names: some as Allah, some as God, and others as Krishna, Shiva, and Brahman. It is like the water in a lake. Some drink it at one place and call it ‘jal’, others at another place and call it ‘pani’, and still others at a third place and call it ‘water’. The Hindus call it ‘jal’, the Christians ‘water’, and the Muslims ‘pani’. But it is one and the same thing.

The camel loves to eat thorny bushes. The more it eats the thorns, the more the blood gushes from its mouth. Still it must eat thorny plants and will never give them up. The man of worldly nature suffers so much sorrow and affliction, but he forgets it all in a few days and begins his old life over again.

In God there are both Vidya and Avidya. The Vidya Maya takes man towards God, whereas the Avidya Maya entices him away from the path of the Lord. Knowledge, devotion, dispassion, compassion – all these are the expressions of the Vidya Maya; only with their help can one reach God.

God is in all men, but all men are not in God; that is why they suffer.

In a forest full of thorns, it is impossible to walk barefoot without getting injured. One can do so if the whole forest is covered with leather, or if one’s own feet are protected with leather shoes. It is impossible to cover the whole forest with leather, so it is wiser to protect one’s feet with shoes.

Similarly in this world man is troubled by innumerable wants and desires, and there are only two possible ways of escape from them, viz., either to have all those wants satisfied, or to give up all of them.

But it is impossible to satisfy all human wants; for with every attempt to satisfy them, new wants arise. So it is wiser to decrease one’s wants by contentment and the knowledge of Truth.

Bhagavan (The god), Bhagavata (His word), and Bhakta (devotee) are all one and the same.

Sunlight is one and the same wherever it falls; but only a bright surface like that of water, or of a mirror or of polished metals, reflects it fully. So is the light Divine. It falls equally and impartially on all hearts but the pure and pious hearts of the good and holy Sadhus alone receive and reflect that light well.

It is the nature of lamp to give light. With its help some may cook their food, some may forge deeds, and some other may read the Holy Scriptures. Similarly, some with the help of the God’s name try to attain salvation, while others use it for accomplishing their evil purposes. His holy name however, remains untainted in its purity.

The ordinary man should live in the world and fulfill his duties here, striving with affectionate zeal but without attachment to self, just as a good servant takes care of a house, although he is quite aware that the house is not his. By purity and love he is to achieve liberation from his desires. But only step by step with patience and modesty.

Only undertake those actions that fall within the limits of your purified thoughts and dreams. Seek not to flatter yourself with gigantic deeds. Undertake duties as small in size as your self-surrender to God. Then as your selflessness and purity grow – and things of the Soul grow very fast — it will pierce its own way through the material world and benefit others as the Ganga sprang through the hard rocks of the Himalayas and watered thousands of miles with her beneficence.

He who has surrendered his mind, heart, and soul to God is a spiritual seeker. He who has given up lust and gold is a spiritual seeker. He looks upon women as his mother and accordingly worships them is a spiritual seeker.

The essence of the Gita is what you get by repeating the word ten times. The word becomes reversed. It is then “tagi”, which refers to renunciation.

Absolute reality is like a vast expanse of water and ice. The water in cold regions freezes into blocks of ice. Similarly, through the cooling influence of divine love, God assumes forms for the sake of the devotees. Then the sun of knowledge rises and melts the ice form of the personal god. But mark this: form and formlessness belong to one and the same Reality.

Gather all information and then plunge in. Suppose a pot has dropped in a certain part of a lake. Locate the spot and dive there. One should learn the essence of the scriptures from the guru and then practice Sadhana. If one rightly follows spiritual discipline, then one directly sees God. The discipline is said to rightly followed only when one plunges in. What will a man gain by merely reasoning about the words of the scriptures? Ah. The fools! They reason themselves to death over information about the path. They never take the plunge. What a pity!

God alone is real and all else unreal. Water alone is real; its bubbles appear and disappear. They disappear into the very water from which they rise.

The goal of human life is to love God. He is born in vain, who, having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realise God in this very life

Truthfulness is the austerity of this age.

What man wants is already within him but he still wanders here and there searching for it.

Ananda, or perfect bliss within, is one of the signs of God-vision. The waves roll on the surface of the ocean, but the deep expanse of water lies unruffled beneath.

When Divine bliss is attained a person becomes quite intoxicated with it; even without drinking wine, he looks like one fully drunk.

As long as a man feels that God is there, he is ignorant. But he attains knowledge when he feels that God is here.

Householders are like silk worm who come out of their cocoon of their worldly life can if they wanted – but they do not even make an effort to come out of it and perish within it like silk worms.

Once I had the desire to put on a gold-embroidered robe, wear a ring on my finger, and smoke a hubble-bubble with a long pipe. Mathur Babu procured all these things for me. I wore the gold-embroidered robe and said to myself after a while, ‘Mind! This is what is called a gold-embroidered robe.’ Then I took it off and threw it away. I couldn’t stand the robe any more. Again I said to myself, ‘Mind! This is called a shawl, and this a ring, and this, smoking a hubble-bubble with a long pipe.’ I threw those things away once for all, and the desire to enjoy them never arose in my mind again.

During the day we cannot see stars but that does not mean that there are no stars.

Water appears to be divided into two parts if one puts a stick across it. But in reality there is only one water. It appears as two on account of the stick. This ‘I’ is the stick. Remove the stick and there remains only one water as before.

There are two kinds of yogis, the ‘revealed’ and the ‘hidden’. The householder may be a hidden yogi. None recognizes him. The householder should renounce mentally not outwardly. He may become a vijnani in the end. But it is not good to force oneself into renunciation.

Sometimes God totally effaces the ego of His devotee, as in the state of Samadhi. But in many cases He keeps a trace of ego. But that doesn’t injure anyone. It is like ego of a child. A five-year-old child no doubt says ‘I’, but that ego does not harm anyone.

Go forward. Push on. You will discover in the forest sandalwood. Go farther and you will find the silver mine. Go farther still and you will see gold mine. Do not stop there. Go forward and you will reach the mines of rubies and diamonds. Therefore, I say, go forward.

In a potter’s shop there are vessels of different shapes and forms—pots, jars, dishes, plates, etc — but all are made of the same clay. So also God is one, but He is worshipped in different ages and places under different names and aspects.

God is in all humans but all humans are not in God; that is the reason they suffer.

The blessed one who has beheld the vision divine, becomes like a child – simple, open – turning his eye upon the fresh world as it is, stripped of its artificial names and formulas. Often he is intoxicated with divine love at the sight of the revelation before him. He is one with the living fountain of holiness.

Only one thing has never been defiled by the tongue of mankind, and that is Brahman itself. There are defects in every religion, but it is God who maintains them there and it is God who also removes them in time.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Thoughts on the Bhagavad Gita

What is the significance of the Gita? It is what you find by repeating the word ten times. It is then reversed into ‘tagi’, which means a person who has renounced everything for God. And the lesson of the Gita is: ‘O man, renounce everything and seek God alone.’ Whether a man is a monk or a householder, he has to shake off all attachment from his mind.
An aspirant entitled to the Knowledge of God is very rare. It is said in the Gita that one in thousands desires to know God, and again, that among thousands who have such a desire, only one is able to know Him.

One truly realizes God if one performs one’s worldly duties in a detached spirit.

Bhakti alone is the essence – Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

What is Bhakti Yoga? It is to keep the mind on God by chanting His name and glories ... Bhakti, love of God, is the essence of all spiritual discipline. Through love one acquires renunciation and discrimination naturally.

To love God is the essence of the whole thing. Bhakti alone is the essence. Narada said to Rama, ‘May I always have pure love for Your Lotus Feet; and may I not be deluded by Your world-bewitching maya!’ Rama said to him, ‘Ask for some other boon.’ ‘No,’ said Narada, ‘I don’t want anything else. May I have love for Your Lotus Feet. This is my only prayer.’

Bhakti is the one essential thing. To be sure, God exists in all beings. Who, then, is a devotee? He whose mind dwells on God. But this is not possible as long as one has egotism and vanity. The water of God’s grace cannot collect on the high mound of egotism.

Sri Ramakrishna Teachings on – How to Pray?

How to pray is the question. Let us not pray for things of the world, but pray like Saint Narada.
Narada said to Ramachandra, ‘O Rama, grant that I may be favored with Bhakti (love, devotion and self-surrender) for Your lotus-feet.’
‘Be it so, Narada,’ said Rama, ‘but will you not ask for anything else?’
Narada replied, ‘Lord, may it please You to grant that I may not be attracted by Your Maya, which fascinates the universe.’
Ramachandra said once more, ‘Be it so, Narada, but will you not ask for anything else?’
Narada replied, ‘No, Lord that is all I pray for.’

Sri Ramakrishna Thoughts on Pride

After dusk when the glow-worms make their appearance, they think, ‘We are giving light to the world.’ But when the stars begin to twinkle, the pride of the glow-worms is humbled.
Now the stars begin to think, ‘We are illumining the universe.’ But after a while the moon ascends the sky, and her silvery light humiliates the stars and they pale away in sadness.
Again, the moon grows proud and thinks that by her light the world is lighted and bathed in beauty. But presently the dawn proclaims the ascent of the sun on the eastern horizon. And where is the moon now!

Sri Ramakrishna on Maya and Brahman

Hari, wearing the mask of a lion’s head, looks indeed very terrible. He goes where his little sister is playing, and roars hideously. She is shocked and terrified, and shrieks out trying to escape from the frightful creature. But when Hari puts off the mask, the frightened girl at once recognizes her loving brother and runs up to him, exclaiming, ‘Oh, it is my dear brother after all!’

Such is the case with all men. They are deluded and frightened. But when the veil of Maya is removed from the face of Brahman, one does not see in Him a terrible and uncompromising Master, but one’s own most beloved inner Self.

Sri Ramakrishna on Goddess Kali

That which is Brahman is also Kali, the Mother, the Primal Energy. When inactive, It is called Brahman. Again, when creating, preserving, and destroying It is called Shakti.

Still water in an illustration of Brahman. The same water moving in waves, may be compared to Shakti or Kali.

What is the meaning of Kali? She who communes with Maha-Kala, the absolute, is Kali. She is formless and, again She has forms.

If you believe in the formless aspect, then meditate on Kali as that. If you meditate on any aspect of Hers with firm conviction, She will let you know Her true nature. Then you will realized that not merely does God exist, but He will come near you and talk to you, as I am talking to you. Have faith and you will achieve everything. (Source: From the Foreword to Saundarya Lahari published by Ramakrishna Math, Page IX)