MITA(P) No.34/09/2009 ISSN0218-7183
State of spiritual enlightenment or illumination. Nirvana releases humans from the cycle of birth, suffering, death and all forms of worldly bondage.
this issue... An Incarnation is like the lamp from which other lamps are lighted. The Bhagavad Gita says an Incarnation appears when the society is in decay t o r e - e s t a bl i s h Tr u t h a n d Righteousness and to bring about a greater awareness of man’s spiritual goal. Prof Achuthan, a distinguished academic from Kerala, discusses the advent of Sri Ramakrishna more than a hundred years ago when Bengal was crying for a spiritual saviour. Sri Ramakrishna’s message o f r e l i g i o u s h a r m o ny a n d catholicity is finding more and more adherents the world over. (Page.3) To this skeletal presentation, Swami Muktirupananda adds flesh and blood. In his article “Down- to-earth Religion” he describes how Sri Ramakrishna swept aside the cobwebs of superstitious beliefs and rituals and charted an easy-to-follow
guide to God-realization. (Page 8) Religious and Racial Harmony, and the crying need for more of it, is a major topic of worldwide attention. In its own small way, the Volunteer group at the Ramakrishna Mission turned the spotlight on this issue at their annual gathering on 1 May 2010. After searching discussions on how we as individuals can contribute to this cause, the consensus was that the concept advanced by Sri Ramakrishna more than a hundred years ago has the potential. So, let each of us be the change we want. (Page 16) We catch up with the serial R a m aya n a . A f t e r a h e a r t breaking exit from Ayodhya, Rama enters the forest to begin his fourteen-year exile. (Page 22)
Edited and Published by Swami Muktirupananda, President, Ramakrishna Mission, 179 Bartley Road, Singapore 539784 Tel: 6288 9077 Fax: 6288 5798. Print Production: VED Print Singapore Pte Ltd
Pearls of Wisdom
Uddhava Gita Translated by Swami Madhavananda Śri bhagavān uvāca Manogatim na visrjet jitaprāno jitendriyaḥ Satvasampannayā buddhyāmana ātmavaśam nayet Eṣa vai paramo yogo manasaḥ samgraha smritaḥ Hridayajnatvamanvicchan damyasyevārvato muhuḥ Sāmkhyena sarvabhavānām pratilomānulomataḥ Bhavāpyayāvanudhyāyenmano yāvatprasidati The Lord said:
He should not lose sight of the course of his mind, but holding his Prana and sense-organs in subjugation, should bring the mind under his control by means of an intellect charged with Sattva. This sort of control of the mind is spoken of the highest Yoga - like the control of an unruly horse with a view to making him conform to his rider’s wishes at every step. One should reflect through discrimination on the origin and dissoultion of all things in their backward and forward order, till the mind is at rest. (To be continued) Uddhava Gita, XV, 20-22
Conqueror of Enemies
od is described as the conqueror of enemies. Does he have enemies and who are they? All are his children then how can he have any enemies? Enemies are said to be of two types â€“ internal and external. God is truth, dharma, purity, love and unity. Whenever a person tries to move towards God -- towards truth, love and unity, he is troubled by internal powerful six enemies. They are â€“ desire, anger, delusion, pride, jealousy and greed. These obstacles thwart the spiritual progress of man, hinder him in his devotion. God sitting in the hearts of devotees knows these are the enemies which trouble devotees in reaching Him. His devoteesâ€™ foes are his enemies. Out of his mercy He enables them to conquer these foes which obstruct their devotion and love. The more one moves towards God the more one moves away from these foes.
They are a menace to society. Left unchecked these evil spirits can destroy everything. So whenever such degeneration, unrighteousness and chaos start reigning this world, the higher power descends and subdues the evil forces. It restores once again the balance and peace in society. It is always the fight between good and bad forces. Sometimes it appears that evil forces are going to win and the earth would plunge into darkness. But it has not happened, somehow a mighty power descends and saves the planet and humanity. These two-fold enemies, though powerful, ultimately get defeated and vanquished by the Lord. This rise and fall, the battle between truth and falsehood seem to be the constant play of the creation.
Who are the external enemies? Those fiends who go against truth, dharma, love and compassion. They, full of vanity, become intoxicated with ego, and trouble and torture people. They disturb the balance of society and also destroy peace.
Sri Ramakrishna The best Incarnation
elief in God assuming a human form and coming into the midst of mankind – divine incarnation – in order to wean away human beings from worldliness to Godliness is perhaps as old as the Vedas. And the experience of the seekers and devotees is that God responds to their heart’s prayers in the form of a great sage, a spiritual teacher or a prophet. Sri Ramakrishna compares an incarnation of God to a large boat ferrying a vast number of people across the sea of pain and grief, birth and death. Of the innumerable incarnations, Sri Rama and Sri Krishna alone have won the heart of the people. Sri Rama, the embodiment of truth and righteousness, was essentially human. Sri Krishna, on the other hand, freely revealed his divinity which, however, did not come into conflict with his human nature in any way. He was superior to all other incarnations and was aptly described as ‘poornavatara’, the complete or perfect incarnation of God.
While most people knew him as a lunatic-neurotic temple priest, only a few intimate ones looked upon him as a devotee of God. Till the mahasamadhi of Sri Ramakrishna, even Swami Vivekananda was not quite convinced of his divinity. And yet, he described Sri Ramakrishna as ‘Avatara varishta’, the incarnation par excellence, not just superior to Sri Rama or Sri Krishna, but the supreme incarnation of God. In his lectures on MY MASTER, Swamiji throws enough light on this point as well as on what necessitated such a new advent. Western materialism, backed up by its astonishing scientific advance, threatened to wipe off India’s ageold religio-spiritual values and ways of life. It very nearly succeeded in proving “to the children of the sages that their religion was but mythology, and God and soul and everything they had been struggling for were mere words without meaning, that the thousands of years of struggle, of endless renunciation had all been in vain…. As I have said, the idea of reform came to India, when it seemed as if the wave of materialism that had invaded the shores would sweep away the teachings of the sages”. (1)
Sri Ramakrishna was neither a king, like Sri Rama, nor a king-maker, like Sri Krishna. His life of fifty summers was singularly uneventful.
mood and even seeing drunkards singing and dancing in joy had sent boy Gadadhar into states of selfoblivious trance. His life seemed to validate the Vedantic dictum, ‘yatra yatra mano yati, tatra tatra samadhayah, samadhi, the supersensuous state is experienced wherever the mind goes, whichever the object the mind settles on. For such a theo-centric contemplative as Sri Ramkrishna, spiritual disciplines were unnecessary, for he belonged to the unique class called the eternally liberated God-man, nitya siddha. Yet he practised them for twelve intense years in order to demonstrate to the cynics that God and religion could be proved true in a scientific way.
Besides, the religious reforms of the day, in proving the truth of religion and God to the Englisheducated people influenced by Western civilisation, was to use the methodology of modern science. ‘The teachings of the sages’ on religion and God were to be tested on the touchstone of experience and their validity proved by one’s direct sensory perception. Fortunately, it was the ‘creative scepticism’ familiar to the Hindu mind. As Swami puts it, “ Neither books nor theories can satisfy us, the one idea that gets hold of thousands of our people is the idea of realization. Is it true that there is a God? If it be true, can I see Him? Can I realise the truth? … not to know in the ordinary sense of the word, not intellectual understanding…. But intense realisation, much more real than this world is to one’s senses” (2) Only an advent assuming phenomenal powers of divinity could beat back the tide of Western materialism and help the people recover their lost faith in ‘the teachings of the sages’. And Sri Ramakrishna was such an incarnation of crystallised divinity in human form.
‘Seek and find out’, ‘do the experiment and secure the result’ is the idiom of science. That was exactly what Sri Ramakrishna first practised and then preached. His intense longing to see God was matched only by his long and hard spiritual practices of unsparing severity bordering on madness for God. The result was his realization of God in all the forms known to the Hindu pantheon and outside it, as well as the Absolute Brahman beyond all names, forms and attributes. This gave him the authority to declare that religion meant realization of God and that there could be as many faiths as there were paths that led to God. He taught that since every religion, if followed faithfully, would lead to God, all religions were true and that
From his boyhood onwards, Sri Ramakrishna was seen immersed in God-consciousness which was his second nature, so to say. Playing the part of Shiva in a drama, seeing a flock of white cranes flying in the blue sky, standing before Goddess Katyayani in the temple in a prayerful
religious intolerance would vanish once religion was understood as the instrument for God-realisation: Religious harmony then would prevail.
Nirmalanda, “long before the ideas of universal toleration and sympathy were mooted and discussed in any country in the world, there lived a man whose very life was itself a parliament of religions” (4). The introduction of the English system of education was pointed out to be the major factor in creating a cultural vacuum or anarchy in the minds of the educated Bengali youth. And it was a handful of such educated boys of Calcutta that Sri Ramakrishna chose as his instruments not only in driving away the evil influence of Western civilisation from the country, but also in spreading his message of religious harmony and a universal religion beyond her shores to all the continents in the world.
“This is an age of demonstration” says Swami Nirmalanda, in one of his talks on Sri Ramakrishna. “Every fact has to be demonstrasted as in a laboratory. So, Sri Ramakrishna came not as a scholar but as a demonstrator, a great religious laboratory in himself. He did not theorise. He did not argue. ‘God is, I see him.I can show Him to you’. That was what he said” (3). This is the language of modern science and this was the language of ancient Rishi of the Svetaswatara Upanishad. ‘ I have seen that great Person effulgent like the sun, beyond the darkness of ignorance’. And this again was the language with which Sri Ramakrishna dispelled the one serious doubt that disturbed the mind of young Narendra, ‘Can I meet anyone who has seen God?’. Bhagavan’s calm reply to the question, ‘Sir, have you seen God?’ not only quietened Narendra’s fevered mind but also silenced the dogmatism of the materialistic civilisation of the West.
On Sri Ramakrishna’s message of religious harmony and catholicity, Swami Nirmalananda observes, “there is no such thing as Ramakrishna-ism. He did not create a sect or teach anything new… The difference between the religion he lived and taught and the other religions is the difference between the footprint of the elephant and those of the other animals…. The Vedantic religion taught by Sri Ramakrishna has a place in it for all religions. But the other religions cannot contain the Vedantic Religion taught by Sri Ramakrishna, commonly called Hinduism.” (5).
Seated under the banyan tree at Dakshineswar, Sri Ramakrishna was quietly fashioning a universal religion which was to be proclaimed by Swami Vivekandanda and accepted by the world in later years. In the words of Swami
In a letter to Swami Ramakrishnanda, Swamiji writes:“From the date that the Ramakrishna incarnation was
born, has sprung the Satya-Yuga (Golden Age) … In this incarnation, atheistic idea will be destroyed by the sword of Jnana (knowledge), and the whole world will be unified by means of Bhakti (devotion), and Prema (divine love)”(6). Again to Swami Shivananda, he writes revealing his unbounded veneration for Sri Ramakrishna, “ his life is a search light of infinite power thrown upon the whole mass of Indian religious thought. He was the living commentary to the Vedas and to their aim. He had lived in one life the whole cycle of the national religious existence in India …. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is the latest and the most perfect concentrated embodiment of knowledge, love, renunciation, catholicity and the desire to serve mankind.
looked upon Sri Ramakrishna as Avatara-varishta, the Supreme Incarnation of God. Jai Ramakrishna References: 1.My Master : Advaita Ashrama, Kolkata-2005. Pages 11-12, P.14 2. Ibid
: P a g e s
3.Swami Nir malananda on Sri Ramakrishna: Sri Ramakrishna Niranjan Ashrama, Ottapalam, 2007 Pages 55-56
“So where is anyone to compare with him? He must have been born in vain who cannot appreciate him. My supreme good fortune is that I am his servant through life after life. A single word of his is to me far weightier than the Vedas and Vedanta…. Can you understand this phenomenon?” (7). All that we can hope to understand, and only partially at that, is why Swamiji
: Page 34
: 4th cover –page
: Letters of Swami Vivekananda: Advaita Ashrama, Ko l k a t a , 2 0 0 7 , P.202
7.Ibid : Pages 180-181.
Down-to-earth Religion Swami Muktirupananda
meeting. He said, “I heard of this man and went to hear him. He looked just like an ordinary man, with nothing remarkable about him. He used the most simple language and I thought, ‘Can this man be a great teacher?’” (Complete Works, Vol. 4 Page 179). Even a greater shock awaited ‘M’ – Mahendranath Gupta! He was a product of Kolkata university and took pride in booklearning and scholarship. He was a well-read man. Before entering Sri Ramakrishna’s room he asked the maid who was standing outside, did Paramahamsa read many books? The maid answered, books, oh, dear no! all books were on his tongue. M was startled to know that Sri Ramakrishna read no books. He wondered was it possible for a man to be great without being a scholar? He thought God-realization mainly depended on the acquisition of bookknowledge. ‘M’ is not an exception, even many of us today think on the same line. We are fortunate that Sri Ramakrishna did not read books on Eastern and Western philosophy, Metaphysics, otherwise his simple, homely teachings would have remained abstruse and obscure. They would have delighted pundits
hat strikes us most in Sri Ramakrishna are his extreme simplicity and childlike innocence. There was no sophistication or aristocracy in his behaviour or dealings. He did not wear any mask or project himself as a scholar or as a great saint so as to impress upon others. He did not care much about his dress nor about his language. The language he used was rustic language interspersed with day to day common examples. He quoted profusely the incidents which he had witnessed in his village, Kamarpurkur. Though he lived in cosmopolitan Kolkata (Calcutta) and mixed with educated people, the elite of society he was not at all influenced by the external surroundings. He remained the same unobtrusive and self-effacing person. Most of the time he wrapped a piece of white cloth around his waist and nothing else. He preferred this dress. Many times the upper class people would request him to go to their homes wearing a shirt and shawl like a gentleman. Even Swami Vivekananda was surprised to notice the utter simplicity of Sri Ramakrishna during his first
to write pedantic commentaries on them. Today any one can read and understand them without any help or interpretation.
enlightenment is not possible. It was difficult for people to grasp the immense depth and vastness of Sri Ramakrishna from his outward appearance. He was like a giant iceberg. Only a tip of the iceberg is visible on the surface and its vast hidden portion is invisible. He was a spiritual king in disguise and did not reveal himself publicly to one and all. The purpose was to attract sincere spiritual seekers and make himself easily accessible to all. Because excessive manifestation of divinity frightens people and they never come closer. They stand at a distance, worship and go away. Selfglorification was not the purpose of his advent. By his mere glance or touch he could make sinners saints yet he remained humble and without the thought of self-importance. The result was that people flocked around him day and night, sought his blessings and guidance. His body was worn out by his constant gift of himself to the flood of seekers which never stopped till his last breath. His mission was to turn the minds of people to God or to their divine nature.
Therefore he said, “Many think that knowledge of God cannot be obtained without the study of books. But higher than reading is hearing, higher than hearing is seeing (Realization). Hearing of wisdom from the lips of the preceptor makes a greater impression than the mere reading of books; but seeing makes the greatest impression. Better than reading about Varanasi is hearing about the place from the lips of one who has visited it; better even than such hearing is seeing Varanasi with one’s own eyes.” In the spiritual field we are naïve and have no experience. We easily fall for external glamour and get deceived by hollow pomp and show. It is difficult to know which is a real gem and which is a glittering imitation stone. Self-styled teachers offer to sell spiritual enlightenment to any aspirant who is able to pay. A spiritually enlightened person does not grow horns, as Holy Mother said. There are no external indications of one’s spiritual attainments. Because it is inward transformation and not external change. This inward ripeness or unfoldment is gradual and not instantaneous. Spirituality cannot be swallowed in the form of a capsule. Without ethical purity
The great contr ibution of Sr i Ramakrishna was to simplify religion and cleanse it from the welter of bewildering theories, mysteries and meaningless practices. To ordinary people religion means observance of certain rites and
not out of generosity or liberality he accepted other traditions but it was based on his own irrefutable testimony of personal experience. Seeing him the Master of so many spiritual paths, seekers of all sects, cults and persuasions found him as their unfailing guide. He was equally at home when he dealt with orthodox pundits, theists, atheists, householders and young men who ridiculed everything. He was a holy fount to slake the spiritual thirst of the world.
rituals and belief in a bundle of dogmas and doctrines. Beyond this their vision never extends. Religion is usually buried under the mountain of theology, observances, ceremonials and a set of beliefs. People mistake these things as the core of religion and remain satisfied with them. These superficial things assume such importance that they eclipse the real goal of religion and reduce it to a mechanical routine. These observances, rituals and so on are only the means to take one to the higher end, realization. Man forgets it and gets trapped in the net of peripheral forms of religion. These non-essentials become the cause for divisions, factions and festering fights.
He threw open the doors of citadel of God to one and all. There is no secrecy and there is no mystery. With open arms he invited all to experience the kingdom of bliss. This reminds us a touching incident in the life of saint Ramanuja of the 12th century. Ramanuja received Narayana Mantra â€“ the bestower of bliss, from his guru Gosthipurna. He was strictly instructed by his teacher not to divulge this secret mantra to any one. Ramanuja was very compassionate and wanted to help fellow beings. So he did not remain content with enjoying the bliss himself and thought to share with others. He climbed to the tower of a temple and in a loud voice proclaimed the mantra to all those assembled there. The guru became quite angry. Ramanuja replied, if an insignificant man like him went to hell and thousands of men and women went to heaven, that was
As Sri Ramakrishna was simple, so was the religion he taught. It is free from conflicting view points, sectarian assertions and dogmatism. This religion is not confined to any race, class or country. It is universal and has no boundaries. Any one can practise it young or old, rich or poor, educated or illiterate. It is within the reach of all. Then is it a new religion? Sri Ramakrishna did not start a new religion or sect bearing his name. He did not criticize nor denigrate any existing religion or spiritual tradition. He found good in all of them. He realized the value of all the paths. Because he himself practised most of these disciplines and reached the same truth. It was
the greatest blessings for him. To Sri Ramakrishna, service of man was as important as that of worship of God in the temple. Once he said, “I will give up twenty thousand such bodies to help one man. It is glorious to help even one man.” What is the specialty of this religion? Sri Ramakrishna’s universal religion does not require any preparation, training or competency. A spiritual aspirant, according to Vedanta, should have certain qualifications. After fulfilling them only he is able to under take spiritual practice. Sri Ramakrishna, the teacher parexcellence, did not take into consideration these prerequisites. To him the earnestness of a devotee was enough. Everyone is fit to move towards God, every one is fit to take God’s name. It does not compel one to acquire the scriptural knowledge, or to renounce the world or to undergo severe austerities. It does not ask anyone to believe in a bundle of dogmas or in a particular philosophy. Bhakti and Jnana, dvaita and advaita, renunciation and life in the world, all find their place in the universal religion taught by this prophet. It is all embracing and excludes nothing. Sri Ramakrishna appreciated every human effort, aspiration to go beyond the limitations of this earthly existence and reach the highest goal of God-realization.
What is religion? To common people religion means to belong to a particular denomination, do some pious acts, to believe in some doctrines and perform certain prescribed rites and rituals. The main purpose is to earn merit to enter heaven and to ward off suffering in the world. God is the giver and the human being is the receiver. Life in the world and its pleasures and pains are everything. God becomes the means and the happiness or enjoyment here or hereafter is the end. So the entire focus is on the world. God remains in the background and when man needs Him, He is expected to come to his help. He is remote and far away from the human beings. Only a handful of privileged saints can see Him. This concept of religion is handed down to man, generation after generation. This is peripheral religion. Religion has deeper side and higher dimensions. Religion is the manifestation of divinity already in man. Divinity means God is potentially present in our hearts. He is not outside but inside all of us. We are not aware of it because He is hiding behind our ignorance. Religion is the means to remove this ignorance and let God reveal himself more and more. Religion shows the way and it is not God. So manifesting our divinity is more important than holding onto the dry forms of religion. Vivekananda
So God is our own, nearer than the nearest. In search of Him we do not have to go to different holy places, nor to priests nor to memorize the holy books. In his inimitable way Sri Ramakrishna tells us, “In this modern age there is hardly time for doing all the duties, rites and rituals laid upon man by the scriptures. For this age love of God, repetition of his holy name is enough. Practise it and verify the truth of it in your own life.” (Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna Page 222). Chanting God’s name does not require special preparation, suitable time or place. Any time or place is appropriate. What is required is the willingness of a
summed up the message of Sri Ramakrishna for the modern world: “Do not care for doctrines, do not care for dogmas, or sects or churches or temples; they count for little compared with the essence of existence in each man, which is spirituality.” (Vol IV Page 187). So according to Sri Ramakrishna religion means spiritual growth, inner growth and other things of religion are less important. Direct perception of truth, seeing God is the essence of religion. Follow any path, take up any method and reach the destination. Quarrels and squabbles arise when this real purpose of religion is ignored.
Site of Sri Ramakrishna’s sadhana
unmitigated worldly happiness or pleasure. We are running here and there for peace of mind. We are chained by so many things and as a result feel limited and helpless. How to free oneself from these crushing fetters and remain in an undisturbed state of joy and happiness? Man desperately wants it. But his search is in wrong direction and with wrong means. This freedom is God and God is freedom. In touching His feet, in realizing Him there is freedom.
person. Why God-realization? Sri Ramakrishna again and again emphasizes about the realization of God. Even he says the goal of human life is to realize God. And again he says, “It matters not whether you live the life of a householder or men of the world, only you must fix your mind on God. Do your work with one hand, and touch the feet of the Lord with the other. When you have no work in the world to do, hold His feet fast to your heart with both your hands.”
Why should we realize God to free ourselves? Are we not free? We are already free. We have political and economic freedom. We can choose any lifestyle we want, we can change jobs, we can go and settle in any country we like, we can choose our life partners as we want. More than that we may or may not accept any religion or God. We have freedom to choose anything we wish. Other than this what other freedom is there? Still the sages say the freedom we talk about is shallow. They ask, “Are you free from jealousy and hatred, lust and greed? Are you free from racial, religious and other prejudices? Are you free from the dictates of the senses and mind? Are you free from anxieties, stress, worries and miseries? When all these things are controlling you and you are slave to so many other things how can any one call himself free? A person who realizes God can alone
“Worldly men would be all right but for one sad mistake. If only they would undergo their sacrifices and hardships, and make use of all their learning, intellect and perseverance for the sake of God, instead of for riches and honour, what good might they not gain!” Such teachings are often disconcerting to multitude. Because people think as it is they are all right, what is the necessity for God-realization and why to hurry? Why trouble ourselves with it. People are satisfied, content with the thought that they are going to get whatever they want from the world - wealth, status, happiness and so on. That is only one side of it. But from the same world they get hard knocks, miseries, fear, anxieties and so on. There are disease, decay and death. Invite one pleasure and the other pain follows. There is no
enjoy this freedom. A free soul can roam in this world like a fearless lion. That person alone experiences what is everlasting peace and bliss. Therefore meditate upon that ever free blissful God. He and you are not different.” We are completely bewitched by the magic of this world and are unable to free ourselves from it. The only way left is to catch hold of the magician and learn from Him the mystery of it. God is that magician. He is the source of bliss and peace. He is the Self of all beings. In the words of Sri Ramakrishna, “Men may be divided into four classes: those bound by the fetters of the world, the seekers after liberation, the liberated and the ever-free.
world for the good of others, to teach men spiritual truth. Suppose a net has been cast into a lake to catch fish. Some fish are so clever they are never caught in the net. They are like the ever free. But most of the fish are entangled in the net. Some of them try to free themselves from it, and they are like those who seek liberation. But not all the fish that struggle succeed. A very few jump out of the water making a big splash in the water…. But most of the fish caught in the net cannot escape, nor do they make any effort to get out. On the contrary, they burrow into the mud with the net in their mouths and lie there quietly thinking, ‘we need not fear any more; we are quite safe here.’ These are like the men bound to the world.” (Gospel 86).
Those in bondage are sunk in worldliness and forgetful of God. Not even by mistake do they think of God.
Therefore God is called aushadham – medicine - and vaidya – physician in Vishnu Sahasranama. How to heal oneself from the worldly ills and suffering? We do not have any medicine to cure this sickness of misery. So far medical science has not come with any medicine. Where shall we go to find the cure? Sri Ramakrishna tells we do not have to run here and there, the cure lies in devotion to God. Remember Him and meditate upon Him and get rid of all miseries. His name is the unfailing medicine and God is the divine physician. He is the greatest
The seekers after liberation want to free themselves from the attachment to the world. Some of them succeed and others do not. The liberated souls, such as Sadhus and Mahatmas are not entangled in the world. Their minds are free from worldliness. Besides, they always meditate on the Lotus feet of God. Among the ever-free we may count sages like Narada. They live in the
religion is free from abstract philosophy and theology, intricate rites and rituals, dry dogmas and doctrines. This simple religion is meant for the modern age. Its message is to hold onto God and never let it go. In the words of the Master, “The fool who says only,’I am a sinner, I am a sinner, verily drowns himself in worldliness.’ One should rather say: ‘I have chanted the name of God. How can I be a sinner? How can I be bound?’” (Gospel 274)
physician who alone can make us healthy and happy by removing our worldly disease, bhavaroga. Sri Ramakrishna says this medicine of devotion and chanting of God’s name, however, appear bitter in the beginning but will do immense good to us. Take this medicine regularly. He assures, “Verily, I say unto you that he or she who wants Him finds Him. Go and verify it in your own life.” Sri Ramakrishna’s down-to-earth
Sri Ramakrishna’s room at Dakshineswar temple
Religious and Racial Harmony
“Each one has a role”
Opening song by Mrs. Swarna Kalyan
t was, perhaps, fitting that Religious and Racial Harmony was the topic of discussion at this year’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at the Ramakrishna Mission.
racial harmony has emerged as an issue that needs to be handled with considerable care and tact. Not only because some disturbing blips had appeared on the horizon which were tackled with characteristic dexterity (to which reference was made in our last issue), Singapore is in the midst of a region where passions are easily aroused.
With the economy, a major cause of concern in recent years with attendant unemployment and social dislocation showing signs of robust recovery, the problem of religious and
It is also a topic reflective of the Mission’s philosophy of Harmony of Religions, almost a passion with Sri Ramakrishna. (more of it later). The function, held on 1 May 2010 at the Sarada Hall started with Vedic chanting followed by a solo rendered by Mrs Swarna Kalyan, Moral and Bhajan class teacher for children. Welcoming the gathering Swami Muktirupananda, President of the
Ramakrishna Mission, praised the efforts of the Volunteers some of whom rendered assistance in more than one institution. He noted that the topic for discussion, Religious and Racial Harmony was well chosen and some guidelines had been prepared for discussion. He pointed out that everybody wanted to see a better world - a world more beautiful, more prosperous and more loving. And generally we expect this change to come from outside. But Mahatma Gandhi said ‘be the change you want to see in this world.’ It sounds simple, but is a very significant statement. Gandhiji means that if everybody changes for the better the sum total is a better world. But for this to happen we have to change our outlook. We are all deeply rooted in certain culture, tradition, history, religion and language. And generally most people look at the world as something outside of us. But
the fact is: we are the world. So we have to develop this attitude that we are part of the world and do our bit in building a new world. Even small steps help. We have to apply this to the promotion of Religious Harmony. There are people who think their religion is the best and if only the others accepted it, there would be harmony all around. This obviously is no solution. Each one has to make a contribution to promote harmony and understanding by walking the extra mile. And how to do it is the question before us today. After the address, the gathering split into three groups to discuss the day’s topic, ‘How to enhance Religious and Racial Harmony.’ After a brief, but general, survey of the theme, the discussion centred on specifics – how individuals and groups can contribute to religious harmony. Because the volunteers of the RK Mission come from different professional, social and educational backgrounds, the discussion was lively and wide-ranging. One of the ideas mooted was that individuals should agree to better himself by studying his/her own religion and at the same time obtain a basic understanding of one or more of the other religions. This was generally supported as a
suggesting that early exposure of young minds to liberal religious thoughts might enhance harmony and understanding as they grow up. Service to people less fortunate in a spirit of humility will also help broaden oneâ€™s outlook and reduce misunderstandings.
recipe for promoting religious harmony. But questions were raised about its practicality in the light of the busy environment we live in, managing oneâ€™s job, home, family. volunteerism etc. It was suggested that there could be better returns if the time invested in religious studies is devoted to enhancing oneâ€™s spirituality, rather than religion per se.
Though the emphasis was mainly on the individual, as the agenda suggested, the role of the State in promoting harmony was not ignored. It was stated that suitable legislation in the schools as well as action through inter-religious organizations and social bodies will fortify efforts in this direction. These ideas were fine-tuned during the final plenary session. The general consensus was that the concept enunciated by Sri Ramakrishna
Other suggestions included more socialization among different groups, such as participation in social functions such as Deepavali, Har i Raya, Christmas, New Year etc. Schools and higher educational institutions received their attention. Teach them young, said some
Madam.Coo receiving a momento from
and later expounded by Swami Vivekananda (see page 20) should form the basis of our proposals. The main points are:
Swami Muktirupananda, Presidient
On the social front, as distinct from individual initiatives, suitable constitutional provisions were considered necessar y. These could be in the form of religious education at school and college levels, discussions on pluralism and liberal ideas. This could lead to more awareness of basic religious thoughts and practices. In other words the idea is to forge a society with a more open and liberal mind with fewer prejudices and absolutely no fanaticism.
* The basic teaching is that God is one, but many are His aspects. * All religions are true, they are different paths leading to the same Reality. *Be steadfast to oneâ€™s religion, but do NOT insist that that alone is true.
â€œ I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won; there have been tryants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall.â€? Mahatma Gandhi
Sri Ramakrishna’s Concept
without distinction of caste, creed, race etc.
ri Ramakrishna’s concept of the harmony of religions was derived from his own direct mystical experience, not from books or intellectual reasoning. He experimented with each religion and achieved realization. He never criticized any religion. From these premises the following tenets emerged: •
Sri Ramakrishna’s chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda, carr ied this message to the wider world during his appearance at the first Parliament of Religions in Chicago (1893) and later his extensive travels in America and Europe. The Swami added three corollaries to the four principles of his Master:
The ultimate Reality is only one – though it is known by different names in different religions. This Reality can be Personal or Impersonal. Realization of this ultimate Reality is the true goal and purpose of human life. There are several paths to the realization of the ultimate Reality. Each religion is such a path. As many faiths, so many paths. Each person should remain steadfast to his own path, but should not think his own path alone is valid. God dwells in all people
• • •
Religions of the world are mutually complementary. There is no need to change one’s own religion for another. The ideal approach is to accept and assimilate the best elements of other religions while remaining steadfast in one’s own religion.
Harmony of Religions is a living tradition in the Ramakr ishna Movement founded in 1897 and practised in its centres, numbering more than 172, throughout the world.
(Source: Harmony of Religions by Swami Bhajanananda)
21 A painting on the harmony of religions
The Long March begins N.Narandran
appealing to him and even the horses to stop and return to the city. Rama addressed the unmanageable crowd, reminding them that he had to fulfil his father’s wishes. He urged them to return and show the same love, affection and allegiance to Bharata, the new Yuvaraja (Crown Prince). But the crowd could not be persuaded. Finally, Rama stopped the chariot and the three of them descended and went on foot. The people followed.
s Rama’s chariot disappeared from view, King Dasaratha, struck by the realization that Rama had left, collapsed to the ground. Kausalya and Kaikeyi rushed to his side and sat on each side. Looking at Kaikeyi, the king denounced her for her heinous sins against him and renounced her as his wife. He also declared that upon his death, he would not want Bharata to perform the funeral rites. The king, heart-broken and with a feeling of emptiness within him, spurned Kaikeyi and turned to go to Kausalya’s palace. There he sought solace and comfort from her but she too was distraught at the misfortune that had befallen her. Sumitra, listening to Kausalya’s laments, consoled her saying that Rama had done what he did to preserve the king’s honour and no harm would come to Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. She advised Kausalya to rein in her grief and wait patiently, for Rama would return and place himself at her feet. Kausalya was somewhat con-soled.
Suddenly the river Tamasa appeared before them and Sumantra unyoked the horses to let them graze. Rama spoke to Sita and Lakshmana and they decided to end the first day of their exile on the banks of the river Tamasa and spend the night there. Rama and Sita lay on a bed of grass prepared by Lakshmana while the latter and Sumantra kept vigil during the night. Rama woke long before dawn and told Lakshmana that he could not allow the large mass of his faithful countrymen to follow him and deter him from what he had to do. They should therefore yoke the horses to the chariot and move far away from
A huge crowd of people from Ayodhya followed Rama’s chariot,
the people before they woke up. The chariot was prepared by Sumantra and they crossed the river to its southern bank. Rama then decided on a ruse to deceive the people into thinking that he had returned to Ayodhya. Sumantra was to ride the chariot north towards Ayodhya and then return stealthily without leaving tracks. The people, upon waking up, would notice the chariot’s tracks leading to Ayodhya and would be tricked into returning to the city. Sumantra carried out the plan and when he returned, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana got into the chariot and travelled southwards. The journey into the forest began
years of his exile there if he wanted to. Rama embraced Guha and thanked him for his great affection and hospitality but declined all that was offered to him by his good friend for he had sworn to lead the life of a tapasvin (renunciate) and live off the jungle. He had only one request of Guha and that was to take care of the horses which were his father’s favourites. After a simple meal, Rama and Sita lay down to sleep while Lakshmana, Sumantra and Guha guarded them. Guha made a bed for Lakshmana and requested him to sleep too while Guha and his men kept guard, but Lakshmana, the devoted brother, declined. He lamented the fate that had befallen Rama, Sita and his parents back in Ayodhya. Guha was deeply touched by Lakshmana’s devotion to his brother.
They travelled deep into the forest, passing several cities, villages and streams before reaching the southern boundary of the kingdom of Kosala. Then, facing Ayodhya with folded palms, Rama pledged that after completing his period of exile, he would return to Ayodhya to be reunited with his father and mother.
The next mor ning Rama told Lakshmana to request Guha to prepare a big, sturdy boat to cross the river. Guha’s men got the boat ready and Guha helped Lakshmana to load the boat with their weapons. Sumantra stood before Rama awaiting further instructions. Rama placed his hand on Sumantra’s shoulder and said that there was no further need for a chariot and he should return with it to Ayodhya. Rama spoke to Sumantra who was in tears, telling him that it was his duty to take care of his aged father and to serve him in every way. He was to convey to the king that nei-
They left Kosala far behind and reached the city of Shringiberapura on the banks of the Ganga and decided to spend the night there. Guha, the ruler of the city, having been informed earlier by his hunters of Rama’s impending arrival, came to welcome Rama and Lakshmana. Guha, a close friend of Rama had prepared a lavish feast for his guest and requested Rama to treat this city as his own and to spend the fourteen
ther Rama, Sita nor Lakshmana was unhappy about having to leave Ayodhya and live in the forest. After fourteen years they would return to be reunited. He was also to convey their love to Kausalya.
install Bharata as the Yuvaraja. Rama then turned to Guha to take leave. He requested for some milk of a particular tree to make his hair into a tangled mass or ‘jada’. Now, made up like tapasvins, the three of them got into the boat and Guha’s men took them across the river.
Sumantra could not contain his grief and moaned about how tragic it would be to return to Ayodhya in an empty chariot, but Rama urged him to return as an empty chariot would convince Kaikeyi that Rama, Sita and Lakshmana were indeed in the forest. She would then end her harassment of the king and
Soon they reached the southern banks of the Ganga. The boat was sent back to Guha. The three of them then entered the forest, Lakshmana in front, Sita next and Rama in the rear.
References: (To 1. Ramayana by Kamala Subramaniam 2. Ramayana by C. Rajagopalachari
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