When we leave the field of art for that of spiritual religion, the scarcity of competentreporters becomes even more strongly marked. Of the day-to-day life of the greattheocentric saints and contemplatives we know, in the great majority of cases, nothingwhatever. Many, it is true, have recorded their doctrines in writing, and a few, such as StAugustine, Suso and St. Teresa, have left us autobiographies of the greatest value. But, alldoctrinal writing is in some measure formal and impersonal, while the autobiographer tendsto omit what he regards as trifling matters and suffers from the further disadvantage of being unable to say how he strikes other people and in what way he affects their lives.Moreover, most saints have left neither writings nor self-portraits, and for knowledge of their lives, their characters and their teachings, we are forced to rely upon the records madeby their disciples who, in most cases, have proved themselves singularly incompetent asreporters and biographers. Hence the special interest attaching to this enormously detailedaccount of the daily life and conversations of Sri Ramakrishna."M", as the author modestly styles himself, was peculiarly qualified for his task. To areverent love for his master, to a deep and experiential knowledge of that master's teaching,he added a prodigious memory for the small happenings of each day and a happy gift forrecording them in an interesting and realistic way. Making good use of his natural gifts andof the circumstances in which he found himself, "M" produced a book unique, so far as myknowledge goes, in the literature of hagiography. No other saint has had so able andindefatigable a Boswell. Never have the small events of a contemplative's daily life beendescribed with such a wealth of intimate detail. Never have the casual and unstudiedutterances of a great religious teacher been set down with so minute a fidelity. To Westernreaders, it is true, this fidelity and this wealth of detail are sometimes a trifle disconcerting;for the social, religious and intellectual frames of reference within which Sri Ramakrishnadid his thinking and expressed his feelings were entirely Indian. But after the first fewsurprises and bewilderments, we begin to find something peculiarly stimulating andinstructive about the very strangeness and, to our eyes, the eccentricity of the man revealedto us in "M's" narrative. What a scholastic philosopher would call the "accidents" of Ramakrishna's life were intensely Hindu and therefore, so far as we in the West areconcerned, unfamiliar and hard to understand; its "essence", however, was intenselymystical and therefore universal. To read through these conversations in which mysticaldoctrine alternates with an unfamiliar kind of humour, and where discussions of the oddestaspects of Hindu mythologygive place to the most profound and subtle utterances about thenature of Ultimate Reality, is in itself a liberal, education in humility, tolerance andsuspense of judgment. We must be grateful to the translator for his excellent version of abook so curious and delightful as a biographical document, so precious, at the same time,for what it teaches us of the life of the spirit.