For the householders, Sri Ramakrishna did not prescribe the hard path of total renunciation. He wanted them to discharge their obligations to their families. Their renunciation was to be mental. He inspired them to lead God-centered lives while living as householders. His teachings for householders can be summarised thus:
- Keep chanting the God’s name, thinking of his glory.
- Do Sadhusanga, Satsang, being with holy people; visit places where there are holy thoughts.
- Go to a solitary place once in a while and meditate. Protect and nurture your godly feelings and thoughts.
- Constantly deliberate and discriminate about right and wrong, truth and untruth, real and unreal, ‘Nitya’ and ‘Anitya’, ‘Sat’ and ‘Asat’. God alone is true, ‘Nitya’, permanent, real, ‘Sat’, Right.
- Discharge your duties as a householder with full responsibility but always keep in mind that none of this belongs to you.
Ram Chandra Dutta, Mano Mohan Mitra, Surendranath Misra, Kedarnath Chatterji, Suresh Chandra Dutta, Girish Chandra Ghosh, Nag Mahashay, Mehendranath Gupta and Balaram Bose were some of His prominent householder devotees.
Sri Ramakrishna also became acquainted with a number of noted men like Devendranath Tagore, Michael Madhusudan, Kritodas Pal, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar and Bankim Chatterji.
The vision of Sri Ramakrishna that a galaxy of pure and earnest souls imbued with the lofty spirit of renunciation and service would receive his message of universal love and harmony and carry it to humanity soon materialized. One by one, these heroic souls who were subsequently transformed into mighty spiritual figures by the magic touch of the Master, gathered round him.
The batch of disciples consisted mostly of ardent young men who afterwards left their hearth and home and embraced monastic life.
Among the college students who came to Sri Ramakrishna, was a remarkable youth whose name was Narendranath Datta. He had a strong physique and fine large eyes. He could sing beautifully in a melodious voice. He had a sharp intellect. So keen was his memory that he could remember things read only once. He was good at games too, and a natural leader. With all this, he was pure in heart and longed for the knowledge of God.
He had visited a number of great men of Calcutta and had asked them about God and religion. They could not give him replies that satisfied him. At last, one day, he heard from one of his professors about Sri Ramakrishna. Thus it was that one day he went to meet Sri Ramakrishna.
As soon as Narendra entered his room, Sri Ramakrishna received him as if he were an old acquaintance. Narendra asked the question which he had been asking each great man he had met, “Sir, have you seen God?”
Promptly came Sri Ramakrishna’s answer, “Yes, I see Him just as I see you here, only more intensely.” And he continued, “God can be realised and seen and talked to, but who cares? People cry and weep for money and enjoyment, but who weeps for God?”
This impressed Narendra tremendously. For the first time here was a man who said he saw God. No wonder he developed a great respect for him. As time went on, this relation matured into that of a Guru and disciple – the disciple being none other than the famous Swami Vivekananda, who spread Sri Ramakrishna’s message throughout the world!
The disciples whom the Master trained for monastic life were: Swami Vivekananda, Swami Abhedananda, Swami Adbhutananda, Swami Advaitananda, Swami Akhandananda, Swami Brahmananda, Swami Niranjanananda, Swami Nirmalananda, Swami Premananda, Swami Ramakrishnananda, Swami Saradananda, Swami Shivananda, Swami Subodhananda, Swami Trigunatitananda, Swami Turiyananda, Swami Vijnanananda, Swami Yogananda.
Sri Ramakrishna’s realization enabled him to approach men and women with the innocence and simplicity of a child. He looked upon every woman as the living embodiment of the Divine Mother. Women devotees who flocked to him for spiritual guidance and help in God-realization felt not the least uneasiness in his presence. He read their thoughts and understood their feelings as easily as those of men. As his mind was absolutely pure, it was but natural that he evoked only the highest sentiments in them. He advised them to renounce lust and greed for wealth, and to struggle for God realization.
Lives of some of his distinguished women devotees including Yogin-Ma, Golap-Ma, Aghormani Devi (better known as Gopal’s mother), Gauri-Ma, and Lakshmimani Devi furnish illuminating instances of how pure unalloyed devotion and spirit of absolute self-surrender can bestow supreme realization on all sincere seekers irrespective of caste or gender. The magnetic touch of Sri Ramakrishna’s divine love transformed their lives into pure gold and made them recipients of the transcendental bliss. Many among such women devotees, sometimes walked the whole distance from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Dakshineswar in their eagerness to hear words of wisdom from Sri Ramakrishna. The Master, with his usual love and readiness, fulfilled the aspirations of these earnest souls and thus built up a brilliant group of women devotees. Their lives became in time an unfailing source of spiritual comfort to a large number of aspirants.
Sri Ramakrishna and Spiritual Seekers
Dakshineswar, once a silent and solitary retreat, was now the resort of hundreds of earnest souls who crowded his small room from morning till night to receive spiritual guidance. Sri Ramakrishna, without the least consideration for his personal comfort or convenience, always ministered to the spiritual needs of these eager aspirants with his usual alacrity and zeal.
Sometimes his small room would remain packed with devotees for hours together, and he could hardly get a moment’s respite for meals or to relax for a short time. His heart beat with every throb of all the hearts that ached, known and unknown, and he gave out his whole being unto them in the fullness of love and compassion. He often inspired the hearts of these sincere souls with his devotional songs and illuminating gospel as also with the narration of his own spiritual struggles and realisations.
Sometimes his room would ring with the swelling cadence of songs sung with unspeakable fervour by the assembled devotees. The whole atmosphere remained surcharged with spirituality, and everyone that came into intimate touch with the Master felt a maddening enthusiasm for God-realization. There is a saying that when the flower blooms, bees come uninvited to suck the honey therefrom. This was exactly the case with Sri Ramakrishna. Attracted by Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual life, persons of all denominations and stations of life began to flock to him.
But his feeble health began to break down under the stress of constant ecstasies and frequent religious discourses to numerous devotees. Despite the tremendous physical exertion, he did not in the least relent in his efforts to give spiritual comfort to the distressed souls, even if they came to him at odd hours. He never turned anybody away. His temporary sense of bodily weakness was swept away by the spirit of his infinite compassion for ignorant and suffering humanity.
He would burst out saying, “Let me be condemned to be born over and over again even in the form of a dog. If by doing so I can be of help to a single soul. I would give up twenty thousand such bodies to help one man. It is glorious to help even one man.”
So deep was his solicitude for all that he sometimes blamed himself for falling into trances, as they absorbed much of the time that could otherwise have been utilized for the spiritual benefit of others.
Illustrations by Smt. Hema Satagopan
- Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master by Swami Saradananda, Translated by Swami Jagadananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai - 600 004
- The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Translated by Swami Nikhilananda (Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1974)
- The Path Divine, Sathya Sai Balvikas Magazine, Dharmakshetra, Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri (East), Mumbai - 400 093
- A Short Life of Sri Ramakrishna, published by Swami Tattwavidananda, Adhyaksha, Advaita Ashrama, Uttarkhand, Himalayas from its Publication Department, Kolkata
- The Story of Ramakrishna, Published by Swami Bodhasarananda, Advaitha Ashrama, Uttarkhand, from its Publications Department, Kolkata