A

pril 2010
April April April April April 2010 2010 2010 2010 2010
A CULTURAL AND SPIRITUAL MONTHLY OF THE RAMAKRISHNA ORDER
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
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„ Unpublished Letters of Swami Saradananda 140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
VOL. 97, No. 4 ISSN 0042-2983
CONTENTS
Cover Story: Page 4

The Vedanta Kesari
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(To be continued. . .)
125 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9 ~ ~
EACH SOUL IS POTENTIALLY DIVINE. THE GOAL IS TO MANIFEST THE DIVINITY WITHIN.
VOL. 97, No. 4, APRIL 2010 ISSN 0042-2983
Vedic Prayers
Tr. by Swami Sambuddhananda
nt¤ atºnº›a ¤˜ ¡ ¤t ¤º |º|ra ¤rt¤t ¤rn -¤tnº≤ ¡
nts+ºa n¤tº≤ =tntº≤ nr¡ ¤˜mt |¤¤|<a|a¡
—Taittiriya Upanishad, II, I. 1
¤t who ¤º knows nt¤ truth atºß knowledge ¤º›an≤ with-
out end ¤rt¤t in the cave |º|ra hidden ¤rn in the highest
-¤tnº≤ ether n· He n¤tº≤ =tntº≤ all desires (blessings) ¤+º a
enjoys (fulfils) r|a thus nr ¤˜mt with Brahman |¤¤|<at
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

126 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
Harnessing the Power of Words
The Power of Words
‘Tongue is not steel but it cuts’, thus goes
the old saying. It not only cuts, it cuts deep.
But along with its capacity to cut, the tongue
also has a tremendous capacity to stitch and
unite. Whether our tongue will cut or whether
it will unite, well, much depends on how we
use it—on how much we have disciplined our
speech.
Words have marvellous power. A
popular way to illustrate it is through the story
of a man who sued another man for calling
him names. The judge called the complainant
and asked him what the accused had said.
‘He called me a hippopotamus’, replied the
complainant.
‘When did he call you?’ asked the judge.
‘A year back,’ replied the man.
‘And you are reporting the matter now?’
exclaimed the judge.
‘Because I saw a hippopotamus in zoo
yesterday,’ said the man.
That indeed is the power of words—it
impels us to do something or convinces us
not to act in a particular way. Words make a
great difference in our lives. Though, in one
sense, words may be just sound-forms, when
understood and reflected upon, they change
the whole course of our life. We cannot think
of any other power as great as the power of
words. Simple words can do marvel. But we
have to explore this transforming power of
words before we can really use it. Swami
Vivekananda says,
There are many other aspects of this science of
work. One among them is to know the relation
between thought and word and what can be
achieved by the power of the word. In every
religion the power of the word is recognised, so
much so that in some of them creation itself is
said to have come out of the word. The external
aspect of the thought of God is the Word, and
as God thought and willed before He created,
creation came out of the Word. In this stress
and hurry of our materialistic life, our nerves
lose sensibility and become hardened. The older
we grow, the longer we are knocked about in
the world, the more callous we become; and we
are apt to neglect things that even happen
persistently and prominently around us. Human
nature, however, asserts itself sometimes, and
we are led to inquire into and wonder at some
of these common occurrences; wondering thus
is the first step in the acquisition of light.
Sound symbols play a prominent part in the
drama of human life. I am talking to you. I am
not touching you; the pulsations of the air caused
by my speaking go into your ear, they touch
your nerves and produce effects in your minds.
You cannot resist this. What can be more won-
derful than this? One man calls another a fool,
and at this the other stands up and clenches his
fist and lands a blow on his nose. Look at the
power of the word! There is a woman weeping
and miserable; another woman comes along and
speaks to her a few gentle words, the doubled
up frame of the weeping woman becomes
straightened at once, her sorrow is gone and
she already begins to smile. Think of the power
of words! They are a great force in higher philo-
sophy as well as in common life. Day and night
we manipulate this force without thought and
without inquiry. To know the nature of this force
and to use it well is also a part of Karma-Yoga.
1
127 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
7
Using the Right Word
Rightly does Swamiji say that in order
to live meaningfully, one should ‘know the
nature of this force and to use it well’. What is
speech? Well, it is not just sound. All living
beings—human beings including—make some
form of sound. Animals make a variety of
sounds. Lion roar, elephants trumpet, beetles
drone, cows moo, frogs croak, jackals howl,
sheep bleat, monkeys gibber and birds chirp,
tweet and at times sing! But all of these are
just primitive forms of communication. Even
if there be something like an animal-language
or a bird-language, surely it is quite primitive
and rudimentary. It can convey only a few
animal impulses and emotions. Only the
humans have the gift of a highly developed
language and forms of communication. The
gift of language is unique to human beings. It
is this gift which is the source of man’s capacity
to learn and communicate his learning to
others and preserve it for the future genera-
tion. Language is the single most important
tool for the accumulation of knowledge in all
fields of life.
But such is the irony of life that more
evil comes through speech than through
action! How much of wickedness is generated
and spread through the misuse of this gift of
speech! If only one should learn to use one’s
speech properly or else just keep quiet—life
will be a great blessing.
On the other hand, language plays a vital
role in changing oneself. If a person is reactive
and suffers from ‘I am a victim of circum-
stances’ attitude and is always blaming others,
his speech will reflect it. An eminent authority
on this subject says:
A serious problem with reactive language is that
it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People
become reinforced in the paradigm that they are
determined [by circumstances and others], and
they produce evidence to support the belief.
They feel increasingly victimized and out of
control, not in charge of their life . . .they blame
outside forces—other people, circumstances,
even the stars—for their own situation.’
2
In order to change oneself, one should
change one’s language. Instead of indulging in
self-pity and building a negative self-image, one
should look upon oneself in a positive way,
using the language of trust and self-respect.
Disciplining the Speech
Sri Krishna, while describing the various
kinds of disciplines (tapas) in the Bhagavad
Gita, speaks of the discipline of speech.
Without a proper discipline of the power of
speech, one cannot lead a higher life. Viveka-
chudamani (367) calls ‘discipline of speech as
the first step towards Yoga’ (yogasya prathama
dvaram vang nirodhah).
What is the discipline of speech? Explains
Sri Krishna:
¤ºr¤=r ¤t+¤ nt¤ |‡¤|ra ¤ ¤a≤¡
t¤t‹¤t¤t‰¤nº ¤¤ ¤tv≤n¤ a¤ ¬-¤a¡¡
Speech which causes no vexation, and which is
true, as also agreeable and beneficial, and regular
study of Vedas—these are said to form the
austerity of speech.
3
Let us reflect on the meaning of this
verse:
1. Speech which causes no vexation: This is
the first requisite of disciplining the speech—
resolving never to hurt others through one’s
speech. It is not easy. At first, at a highly
undeveloped state of our being, we do not
care the kind of language we use while
communicating with others. But as we grow,
we begin to see the consequences of using
improper language. We then realize how
words can damage a situation or aggravate
our dealings and jeopardize our relationships.
128 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
8
The importance of a proper speech then begins
to dawn on our mind. Holy Mother Sri Sarada
Devi says,
One must live carefully. Every action produces
its results. It is not good to use harsh words
towards others or to be responsible for their
suffering.
4
‘Speech which causes no vexation’ is the
speech which does not arouse any feeling of
anxiety, fear, bitterness and anger. It is the art
of speaking with care. It is thinking well about
the consequences of what we speak and never
wanting to hurt or humiliate anyone.
While speaking to others, at times, we
want them to understand something and if
everything fails, we often become sarcastic and
abusive in our language. One should try to
avoid such situations though for someone who
is very thick-skinned and lacks the capacity to
take a hint or understand our intents, the use
of a strong language becomes inevitable. But
such a situation cannot be the way of life. As
a general rule one should use only words that
cause no agitation in others’ mind.
2. Which is True: Speaking truth is a great
austerity. It means speaking what one knows
to be true through one’s senses and mind. It is
speaking what one knows and not what one
imagines or pretends to know. Why do people
tell untruth? To gain an immediate benefit in
a given situation. This sense of immediate
benefit makes them a hypocrite and they say
something but mean something else. Of course
in their hearts of hearts they know that it is
not true. They thus develop a division in their
mind—a part of mind knows what is true and
another part knows what has been said is
untrue. Disciplining the speech actually means
integrating the mind. It is aligning our mind
and speech. Sri Ramakrishna instructed all
those who came to them to ‘make their mind
and mouth united’ (mon mukh ek karo). He was
only echoing the well-known shanti mantra:
‘May my speech be established in my mind
and my mind be established in my speech’
(vang me mansi pratishthitaha mano me vachi
pratishthitam)
One of the important aspects of speaking
‘which is true’ is not to indulge in gossiping
about others. What an amount of human
energy is wasted in discussing, analyzing,
berating, and criticising others in their absence!
The worst thing is that not only people spend
their precious time criticising others, they enjoy
this unhealthy practice. Such kind of delight
can be surely a part of what Sri Ramakrishna
called vishyananda or ‘the pleasure of the
objects of senses’. A seeker of Truth should
not spend his time and energies over the affairs
that hardly concern him.
3. Agreeable and beneficial: This is the third
aspect of the speech-discipline. Not only one
should speak no harsh words and be truthful,
one should also be kind in one’s speech. ‘Speak
the truth but do not speak unpleasant truth.’
Or if one has to tell an unpleasant truth, one
should be prudent in when and how to tell it.
This means that while speaking to others, we
must keep their sensitivities in mind. It is
practising the adage: ‘The kindest word in all
the world is the unkind word, unsaid.’ To
leave the unkind word unsaid requires intro-
spection, self-control and wisdom. Agreeable
and beneficial speech also means to avoid
discussing all unnecessary, quarrelsome and
controversial issues.
Holy Mother’s insightful words in this
context may be recalled here:
Should anyone ever utter a thing that hurts
another’s feelings? An unpleasant truth, though
true, must not be uttered. For that grows into a
habit. By indulging in rude words one’s nature
becomes rude. One’s sensitivity is lost if one has
no control over one’s speech. And once a man
129 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
casts all consideration for other to the winds, he
stops at nothing. Sri Ramakrishna would say, ‘If
you have to ask a lame man how he became
lame, then you have to speak thus: “How did
your leg come to such a condition?”’
5
4. Regular study of Vedas: What are
Vedas? Explains Swamiji:
[Vedas] are not mere books composed by men
in some remote age. They [are] an accumulated
mass of endless divine wisdom, which is
sometimes manifested and at other times
remains unmanifested. . . No one has ever seen
the composer of the Vedas, and it is impossible
to imagine one. The Rishis were only the
discoverers of the Mantras or Eternal Laws; they
merely came face to face with the Vedas, the
infinite mine of knowledge, which has been there
from time without beginning.
6
Regular study of Vedas, therefore, means
study of the wisdom of Rishis or the Upani-
shads. One can read the Upanishads in original
or in translations. Explanatory books on
Upanishads are also helpful. We may also
expand the meaning of the word ‘Vedas’ to
mean any authentic spiritual literature reading
which one could gain insight into one’s
spiritual nature and derive benefit in one’s
spiritual life. By a regular study of such books,
one’s conception of life expands and one
discovers the spiritual dimension of life. The
awareness of spiritual dimension of human
life helps one appreciate the importance of
right speech and brings gracefulness in life.
Some More Considerations
A healthy speech should be marked by
precision of expression (sushtham) and a quality
of being measured (mitam).
One should not spend one’s time in
beating about the bush and instead learn to
say what one wants to say rightly and clearly.
Too many explanations and stating un-
necessary facts make the speech annoying and
wasteful. One should value others’ time and
not test their patience. As someone said
humorously about his friend’s chatty habit:
‘My friend not only explains what he says but
also explains what he explains!’
Again, even though one may have some-
thing really meaningful to say, one should not
go on saying it too long. One should practice
a certain economy in what and how much one
should speak.
One of the important aspects of harnes-
sing the power of words is to practice silence.
To be silent means to be free from endless
chatter—both verbal and mental—in which
some people indulge. It is conserving one’s
energies. Silence means not disturbing one’s
own peace and the peace of the world. Silence
means realising that one does not necessarily
have to speak or respond every time someone
expresses some idea or information to us. At
time, silence can be our answer. One should
not, however, force silence on oneself. After
the period of forced silence gets over, it often
leads to a torrent of words let lose from the
dam of artificial restrain. Silence, on the other
hand, should be gradually cultivated. One
should begin by reducing one’s meaningless
comments and discussions and speaking only
when one is truly required to speak.
A properly cultivated speech, thus, is a
great asset. A man who has harnessed the
power of words has unlocked a great source
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
9
130 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
From the Archives of THE VEDANTA KESARI
S i mh â v a l o k a n a m
Spiritual Greatness of India
(April, 1919-20, pp. 373-375)
(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.
131 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
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. †
11
He who gains a victory over other men is strong, but he who gains a victory over
himself is all-powerful. —Lao Tze
132 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
Reminiscences of Master Mahashay
LALIT CHATTOPADHYAY
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
Following M.’s instructions I went to the
Udbodhan house in Baghbazar with my wife
and widowed sister to bow down to Holy
Mother. That afternoon I visited M., who was
then listening to a boy from Orissa sing a song
about [Lord] Jagannath.
‘Please tell me your news,’ M. said. ‘What
transpired between your wife and Holy
Mother?’
I replied, ‘My wife and sister are talking
about Mother and counting the days until they
receive initiation, which will be on Kartik
Sankranti, an auspicious day. They also want
to see you. They are waiting in the car on the
street.’
M. immediately went to the car, met
them there, and said to them, ’If God is
pleased, the whole world is pleased.’
When the car left, we went upstairs.
M. said, ‘If one bows down to the feet of
Holy Mother, one receives the result of visiting
every holy place. Please tell me about your
meeting with the Mother. It is good to think
about initiation. But it is not enough to have
initiation. One should develop a spiritual life
by practising the guru’s instructions. There is
a saying: “A man may receive the grace of
God, the grace of the guru, and the grace of
the devotees, but nothing will avail if he does
not receive the grace of his own mind.” Please
tell me what transpired between your wife and
Holy Mother.’
I replied, ‘When my wife and sister went
upstairs, Holy Mother inquired, “Where is
your home? What does your husband do?
Who else do you have?” Meanwhile, Holy
Mother became busy with the women devotees
and the worship service. After the worship,
she distributed prasad.
’Finally, Holy Mother reminded my wife
and sister, “You have not said why you have
come here.”
“Will you kindly initiate us?” they said.
‘Holy Mother said with a smile, “Very
well. The day of Kartik Sankranti is coming
soon. Lord Kartik will be worshipped on that
day and it is an auspicious day for initiation.”
Later, she called me upstairs and informed
me also of our initiation date. I bowed
(Continued from the previous issue. . .)
133 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
13
down to her and she blessed me, touching my
head.’
M. said joyfully: ‘Wonderful! There is no
more worry if the Divine Mother looks after
you. This is in Chaitanya Charitamrita: “So many
iron rods became gold by touching the
philosopher’s stone.” If Holy Mother is
gracious and accepts responsibility for a
person, he or she will achieve everything. Now
please pray, and wait for that auspicious day.
Practise self-control. Jesus said: “Unless ye be
born again, ye cannot enter the kingdom of
God.” Initiation brings new life and shows the
path of God-realization.’
It was evening. A devotee waved incense
in front of the pictures of gods and goddesses
in M.’s room. Several devotees arrived and all
sat on grass mats. Everyone silently repeated
their respective mantras.
M.: ‘It is a rare chance to be born during
the time of an avatar. One can attain his grace
with just a little effort. The Master said, “The
breeze of God’s grace is always blowing; only
unfurl the sail.” Although the Master’s
physical form is no longer amongst us, he is
now performing his lila through Holy Mother.
He now bestows mercy through her. She is
distributing many precious spiritual gems.’
A devotee: ‘The guru is also a mine of
gems, like the ocean.’
M.: ‘The ocean looks awesome and
dreadful from a distance, but if you sit on the
beach, its gentle waves will refresh and
invigorate your body. We shall not gain
anything by merely counting the waves; we
must collect gems from the ocean floor. What
great spiritual treasures we received by living
with the Master!’
A devotee brought prasad from Mother
Kali of Dakshineswar and gave it to M. He
touched it to his head, took a little, and then
distributed it amongst the devotees. When he
saw a devotee drop a bit of sandesh [a Bengali
sweet] on the floor, M. asked him to wash
that spot with water.
‘Do you know the meaning of prasad?’
M. asked. ‘It destroys old samskaras, or
tendencies, and makes the mind calm. While
taking prasad, one should think: “Let all my
accumulated samskaras from birth after birth
be wiped out.”’
It was 10:00 p.m. The devotees took leave
of M.
15 November 1917, Morton Institution
It was Kartik Puja. My sister, wife, and I
received initiation from Holy Mother. We had
lunch and Mother’s prasad in Udbodhan and
then returned home after meeting Swami
Saradananda and other monks. In the after-
noon I went to see M., who was then filling
out Money Orders. Every month M. sent
remittances to Kankhal, Varanasi, and other
centres, and also to some monks. I bowed
down to M. and sat on a grass mat.
M.: ’Today I was thinking of you off and
on. Please tell me how you received the grace
of Holy Mother. What was she doing when
you arrived? And what happened next?’
‘It is your grace, sir, that the impossible
became possible,’ I replied. ‘We got up at 4:00
am, bathed, and went to Udbodhan at 6:30
am.’
‘Very good! It is not good to delay in
this respect. One needs longing. Then what
happened?’ [M said]
‘When we bowed down to the Mother,
she said: “I have not been feeling well since
yesterday. However, since you have come,
please wait. Let me finish my bath in the
Ganges.” When she heard this, Golap-ma
[Holy Mother’s attendant] objected: “My
goodness! Mother, you had a fever yesterday.
Let them come another day.” Holy Mother
134 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
14
replied: “You see, they have come with great
expectation. Today I shall initiate them. It will
be all right if I have a quick bath in the
Ganges.” She then left for her bath and we
waited downstairs. She returned shortly and
called me to enter the shrine.’
‘Ah, how compassionate is the Mother!
What next?’ [M. observed]
‘We carried flowers, fruits, and sweets
for the offering. Those were arranged on trays
in front of the Master. Holy Mother sat on an
asana [small rug] and asked me to sit on
another asana nearby. I asked my widowed
sister to receive initiation first, and I sat in the
corner. When her initiation was over, Mother
called me. But when I asked her to initiate my
wife beforehand, she said: “No, it is not the
custom. The wife gets initiation after the
husband. She will be initiated after you.”’
‘That is true. Then?’ [asked M.]
‘I sat on the asana next to Holy Mother.
She asked me to sip a little Ganges water for
purification and repeat the gayatri mantra ten
times. Then she whispered the seed mantra
and showed me how to practise it on my
fingers. Before initiation she asked about our
family tradition. When I hesitated, she said: “I
understand, your family worships Shakti.” She
then pointed to an oil painting of Kali on the
wall, and said, “She is your Chosen Deity.”
Pointing to the Master’s picture on the altar,
“He is your guru. Now bow down.” Then after
initiating my wife, Holy Mother gravely said:
“From today onward your human birth is
over. I am taking on the burden of all of your
sins.”’
[Hearing this exclaimed M.]: ‘You are
blessed! Today you have received the grace of
the Mother of the Universe. Have you noticed
the blessing that she bestowed on you all? She
took upon herself the burden of your sins
rather than your virtues. Be careful from now
on: Don’t do anything that would cause her
pain. Did you give any guru dakshina?
2
‘Yes, we did. Each of us gave Mother
five rupees and a red-bordered silk cloth. She
sent everything to Swami Saradananda and
did not keep anything for herself. When my
wife had asked her before whether she should
wear a Varanasi sari [which is expensive] for
initiation, Holy Mother replied: “Are those
who do not have such a cloth denied
initiation?”’
[M. said]: ‘Yes, Holy Mother is right. She
does not consider money to be the primary
thing. Do you know who the guru is? The
guru is God Himself. He lives in heaven but
He takes human birth out of His mercy, to
remove human delusion. A spiritual aspirant
feels blessed finding Him in front as the
Chosen Ideal because of his or her good karma
in previous lives. After the guru passes away,
He waits in the other world, becoming a
saviour for His disciples. He is the ocean of
mercy. The more you have faith in the words
of your guru, the easier your liberation will
be.’
[I said]: ‘Today I made a mistake. Out of
egotism, I used a disrespectful word to a monk
in Udbodhan. Please bless me so that I may
get rid of this bad habit.’
‘Please pray to the Master. If you pray
sincerely, he will listen.’
It was evening. A kerosene lantern was
lit and a devotee waved incense in front of
the deities on the wall. M. sat for meditation
and said to me: ‘Today is the first day of your
initiation. Please obey your guru’s instruction.’
Gradually other devotees came and filled the
room.
After meditation a devotee asked: ‘What
is the way for householders?’
M. replied: ‘The Master said: “There is a
constant disease [i.e., ignorance] in family life.
135 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
15
One needs the company of the holy.” When-
ever you have an opportunity, please visit a
holy place. One should have faith in the words
of the guru. It is sinful to consider the guru to
be a human being. The guru is the compas-
sionate form of God. Human beings do not
always see God, so He sometimes descends
as a human being like us and plays His divine
play. Human beings understand a little about
God by associating with the avatar [divine
incarnation] and by loving him and tasting
his divine love. While explaining Bhakti Yoga
in the Gita, Krishna said: “Fix your mind on
Me alone. If you are unable to do that, then
devote yourself to My service.” And finally:
“Abandon all duties and come to Me alone
for refuge. I will deliver you from all sins; do
not grieve.” People die for lack of water, and
they get it in plenty in their courtyard when
the avatar comes. The Master is now bestowing
blessings through Holy Mother.’
M. then sang these two lines from one of
the Master’s favourite songs:
O Mother, Thou my Inner Guide, ever awake
within my heart!
Day and night Thou holdest me in Thy lap.
M. picked up a towel and wiped away
his tears of joy, and then continued: ‘This is
not an artificial relationship. And this idea that
the Mother is there and I am here is false. She
always dwells in the heart. She is the mother
of all, but she thinks more about her weak
and destitute children. As the Master said, “If
water falls on the hilltop, it flows downward
and accumulates on low ground.” When King
Guhaka was busy serving Rama, Rama told
him, “Please take care of my two horses first;
they carried me here. I shall be happy if they
are fed first.”’
M. then spoke directly to me: ‘One
should not be angry at the attendants of Holy
Mother. They look after Holy Mother’s conven-
ience and inconvenience; so before visiting the
Mother one should listen to her attendants and
try to please them.’
As the night advanced, the devotees
bowed down to M. and left for home.
October 1918, Thakur Bari
It was Maha-Ashtami (Durga Puja). That
morning my wife and I went to see Holy
Mother in Udbodhan. In the afternoon I visited
M., who was then seeing the images of Mother
Durga with the devotees in the neighbour-
hood. Afterwards he went to Thakur Bari [the
name of M’s house], entered the shrine on the
third floor, and bowed down to the Master.
He then went to the big room downstairs to
meet with devotees.
M. said to me: ‘It would be good if you
could visit Holy Mother during Durga Puja.’
I replied: ‘Yes, this morning I went to
Udbodhan with my wife to pay our respects.’
‘Very good. Today is a very auspicious
day and you have visited your guru. Please
tell me something about your visit to her.’
‘My wife and sister finished cooking
early and then we went to Udbodhan at 10:00
am. The Mother was seated on the roof in the
sun. She was rubbing medicated oil on her
feet, because she has arthritis. My sister rubbed
oil on one foot, and then Mother asked my
wife to rub it on the other. Then she said to
my wife, “It is not proper to touch only one
foot; please rub the other also.”’
[M. said]: ‘Oh, how compassionate she
is! What happened then?’
‘She went to her room and called for me.
I bowed down to her and she blessed me and
talked to me for a while. I was a little hurt
that only the women could stay with her for a
long period. Shall I tell you something
personal?’
136 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
‘Of course.’
‘I said to Holy Mother: “While repeating
the mantra, I don’t like to visualise the Master’s
form. Your form appears in my mind instead,
and I feel good. Is there anything wrong with
this?” She said with a smile: “No, there is
nothing wrong. You meditate on that form
which appeals to you most.”’
[M. responded]: ‘Yes, the Master would
also say that. Then what happened?’
‘I asked her whether one should pray to
the Master to solve one’s family problems. She
replied: “Of course, one can let the guru know
about one’s problems. If a person chants the
Master’s name, all of his or her sufferings go
away.”’
[M. exclaimed]: ‘Ah! How compassionate
is the Mother!’
‘Then she gave us the Master’s prasad
and we returned home.’
A devotee said: ‘There is a saying: “O
Lord, teach me how to love Thee more.”’
M. commented: ‘Without simplicity, one
cannot reach God who is the embodiment of
simplicity. The parents of the avatar are always
simple, like Nandaraja and Yashoda.’
A devotee: ‘But nowadays if a person is
too simple, he or she will be cheated.’
M. smiled and said: ‘A scholar from
Oxford University wrote in a book directed at
the English: “You have brought so much gold
and gems from India and now all the men are
gone for the War [the First World War, 1914-
1919]. You could not bring the great spiritual
treasures from India. You built fancy homes
with their wealth, but could not bring their
religion.” Lord Ronaldsey, the present gover-
nor of Bengal, read The Gospel of Sri Rama-
krishna, and then went to Dakshineswar with
his wife and secretaries. He saw the places
that were mentioned in the Gospel. He also
greeted Ramlal, knowing that he was the
Master’s nephew.’
A devotee: ‘The same blood of the
Master’s family flows in Ramlal.’
M.: ‘Yes, it is true. The scriptures say that
one should respect not only the guru but his
family members also. The Master would say:
“Those who have a little attraction for God
will have to come here.”’
It was late evening. The devotees bowed
down to M. and left for home. (Concluded.)
16
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
137 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
In Praise of Japa
WILLIAM PAGE
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. …
Japa is one of the main spiritual practices
of the Ramakrishna Movement. Combined
with prayer and meditation, it forms a triangle
—a three-fold method of reaching out for God,
establishing Him within, and keeping Him
there.
Prayer is simply the act of talking to God.
The words can be spoken aloud, whispered,
or uttered mentally. They reach out to God
and invite him to come down and take his
seat upon the lotus of the heart.
Once he’s there, we begin to do japa and
meditate. Japa is the continuous, silent
repetition of a very short prayer or invocation
called a mantra. It can be done on its own or
in conjunction with meditation. Meditation is
the act of visualizing God within us. Together,
these two practices establish God within us
and enable us to feel his presence.
In the intervals between meditation
sessions, we usually get preoccupied with our
daily work. If God gets restless at being
neglected and seems inclined to leave his seat,
we can bring him back by doing japa.
So prayer draws the Lord from the
heavens to the heart, japa and meditation
establish him on his throne within, and japa
keeps him there. Of course, his grace is also
necessary. Without it, nothing happens.
Do It Now
Prayer and meditation require our full
attention, but one of the advantages of japa is
that you can do other things at the same time.
Holy Mother, who was famous for doing
prodigious amounts of japa, undoubtedly did
much of it while busy with her household
chores—husking paddy, sweeping and scrub-
bing the floor, washing and cutting vegetables.
It’s also a good way to shut down the
endless chatter of the mind. We often find our
thoughts wandering. Japa pulls them back and
gives them focus. It’s like a thread that ties
the mind to the lotus feet of the Lord; it
reminds us always to pay attention to him.
Sri Ramakrishna taught a variety of
spiritual practices, but Swami Brahmananda
and Holy Mother placed special emphasis on
japa. If you study their teachings, you’ll find
that they constantly emphasized the necessity
of doing it, and especially at fixed times in the
morning and evening.
The fixed times establish the habit. Once
you get used to doing it at certain times, you
get restless to do it when those times come. If
you don’t do it, you feel guilty. In fact, guilt
feelings are common among devotees who
skip doing their japa. If you don’t want to feel
guilty, better not skip it!
A common complaint among beginners
is that they don’t feel any results. Swami
Brahmananda constantly had to reassure his
138 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
18
disciples that if they didn’t feel any results in
the beginning, they would feel them later on.
Perseverance is the key. In fact, he told one
disciple, ‘Follow some spiritual discipline for
at least three years, and then, if you find you
have made no tangible progress, you may
come back and slap my face!’
1
Vicarious Japa: A Gift from Holy Mother
Holy Mother said that some of her
disciples were incapable of doing much japa,
so she did it for them. In her old age, when
her attendant noticed that she was doing japa
even in bed, she asked, ‘What can I do, my
son? The boys come and entreat me eagerly.
They take the mantra and go home. But
nobody does any japa regularly. Some don’t
do it even once. Yet as I have shouldered the
burden, should I not look after them? That’s
why I do japa and pray to the Master, “O
Master, grant them enlightenment, grant them
emancipation, and do you take on yourself
their care in every way here and hereafter!”’
2
I can imagine some people grumbling,
‘Holy Mother made it too easy for her
disciples. She spoiled them. How could they
develop any character if she did everything
for them?’
I can also imagine her giving a sharp
reply: ‘I am the Mother! Shall I not do
everything for my children? As for their
character, you don’t need to worry about it. I
will take care of it.’
Lazy guys like me envy Holy Mother’s
disciples. What a soft deal they had! We don’t
have the luxury of knowing that she’s doing
japa for us. Some of us have to do three rounds
of the rosary just to get started. Sometimes it
takes that long just to drag the mind away
from worldly thoughts and get it settled down.
That’s especially true in the evening, after a
day of being beaten up by the world.
Coffee, Tea, or Japa?
Early-morning japa, which is recom-
mended most highly, is supposed to take hold
quickly, because the mind is fresh and doesn’t
have to wean itself away from worldly thoug-
hts. But you have to make sure that you’re
fully awake, or you’re likely to fall asleep.
People like me, who need three cups of
coffee just to wake up in the morning, are al-
ways relieved to read about a disciple of Holy
Mother who told her that it was impossible
for him to do japa before having his morning
tea. Fortunately for us all, Holy Mother gave
him permission to drink his tea first.
3
I have been quick to interpret this as
permission to drink my three cups of coffee in
the morning before trying to do anything that
requires the slightest bit of intelligence. I
console myself for this weakness by invoking
the example of an eminent Tibetan lama, the
late Kalu Rim-poche, who used to drink
Tibetan tea while meditating.
Don’t Mess with the Mantra
Japa is sometimes difficult for Wester-
ners, because the mantra is in Sanskrit, a
language we’re unfamiliar with. I know an
American devotee who once rebelled against
his mantra. ‘I’m tired of this Sanskrit gib-
berish,’ he complained. ‘I want an English
mantra.’ So, although he had been initiated
by a perfectly well-qualified teacher, he made
up an English mantra and started doing japa
with it.
At first it seemed new and fresh, and he
was heartened by the results. The image of
his Chosen Ideal glowed within him; it seemed
to be cheering him on. Novelty is always excit-
ing, and he expected to make rapid progress.
But surprise, surprise! Novelty wears off
pretty quickly unless there’s some substance
behind it. Pretty soon, about halfway through
139 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
19
his rosary, he began to nod off, and his old
mantra started welling up from the depths of
his mind. He stopped it, reimposed his English
mantra, and succeeded for awhile; but the old
Sanskrit mantra was stubborn, and kept
resurfacing when he least expected it. No
matter how much he resisted, it kept coming
back. Eventually the image of the Chosen Ideal
seemed to be grinning at him, and then he got
the message.
Finally he gave up and returned to his
old mantra. ‘There’s more to this mantra stuff
than meets the eye,’ he admitted. ‘I guess you
can’t keep a good mantra down.’
But It’s Boring!
The big complaint that most people make
about japa is that it’s boring. Who wants to
keep chanting the same old line? What a waste
of time! What’s the point?
The point, of course, is to recondition the
mind. That’s what spiritual practice is all
about: to recondition the mind so that it will
become a fit place for the indwelling of the
Lord. But our minds are restless, and scream
for more exciting fare. This is especially true
in our switched-on era, when cyberspace is
crackling with high-tech entertainment. Who
wants to pray when you can google? Who
wants to chant when you can twitter?
If we’re serious about spiritual life, we
have to shut down the computer and dig out
the old rosary. Swami Brahmananda’s remark
that his disciples could come back and slap
his face if they didn’t feel any results within
three years is something we ought always to
keep in mind. He didn’t mean three years of
just piddling around. He meant three years of
persistent and intensive effort.
Experience shows that if we keep work-
ing on our japa, it gradually takes hold. It stops
being boring and eventually becomes sweet.
The mantra becomes an old friend, something
solid in the foundation of our minds, an anchor
for our wayward thoughts. It can be a healing
balm in times of grief, a refuge in times of
trouble. It takes on a life of its own, and rises
from our subconscious to greet us whenever
we turn to it.
It also becomes something very much
like the default setting of the mind. When the
mind wanders, the mantra often emerges
spontaneously. We find it resounding within
us without making any effort. All we have to
do is listen.
In fact, this may be one answer to the
famous Zen koan, ‘Who is it that recites the
Buddha’s name?’ When we become esta-
blished in japa, the Buddha’s name recites
itself. †
1. Swami Prabhavananda, The Eternal Companion,
Vedanta Press, Hollywood, 1947; p.129
2. Swami Gambhirananda, Holy Mother Sri Sarada
Devi, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Fourth
Edition, 1986; p. 397. See also Swami
Nikhilananda, Sri Sarada Devi, The Holy Mother:
Her Teachings and Conversations, Skylight Paths
Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 2004; pp. 25-26
3. Swami Gambhirananda, Holy Mother Sri Sarada
Devi, p. 410
References
The syllable Om, which is the imperishable Brahman, is the universe. Whatsoever
existed, whatsoever now exists, whatsoever shall exist hereafter is Om.
—Mandukya Upanishad
140 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
The Math, Belur P.O.
Howrah, India
Dec 8
th
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.
Unpublished Letters of Swami Saradananda
1
140 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
141 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
21
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
141 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
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 19
th
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 Swami
4
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.
Nivedita
5
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.
142 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
HIRONMOY MUKHERJEE
Contemporary Bengali Literature - I
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.
An Enduring Legacy
The thoughts and philosophy of Sri
Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda have
left a rich legacy in the Bengali literature. Not
only in the initial years when both the great
luminaries were physically present but for
many decades after their demise, and even
today, their ideas inspired writers, poets,
playwrights, thinkers, historians and others.
Hundreds of books, articles plays and poems
have been written, and continue to be written,
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. †
143 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
23
One of the foremost authors whose name
comes to our mind in this connection is Sri
Girish Chandra Ghosh. He was one of the
main figures in the renaissance in Bengali
literature in later part of the 19th century,
studded by writers and poets like Bankim
Chandra Chatterjee, Rabindranath Tagore,
Michael Madhushudon Datta, Dwijendra Lal
Roy and many others.
In the following article we will briefly
examine some of the eminent men of Bengali
literature who were influenced by the ideals
of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda and their
contribution in spreading this philosophy
through their writings.
Girish Chandra Ghosh’s Contribution
Girish Chandra (1842-1912) is known as
the father of Bengali Theatre as he had brought
into existence the first Bengali Theatre. He was
a versatile and erudite scholar, though not
having any conventional degree from any
university. He was an outstanding actor and
himself trained and brought into existence
about thirty to forty successful actors and
actresses. Simultaneously he wrote about
eighty-six plays and ran most of them
successfully in theatres, thereby exhibiting his
undoubted artistic and creative ability as well
as his penchant for doing hard work. Most of
the plays of Girish Chandra were based on
Puranas and many of the stories in plays were
drawn from Ramayana, Mahabharata and
Bhagavatam. He portrayed the characters of
many saints and great personages beautifully
in plays like Buddhadev Charit, Purna Chandra,
Nasiram, Kalapahar, Ashoka, Shankaracharya,
Chaitanyalila, Nimai Sannyas, Rup-Sanatan,
Bilwamangal and others.
Battered by sorrow and grief in family
life, in his middle age Girish had lost belief in
God and was searching for someone who
Sri Ramakrishna Swami Vivekananda
144 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
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
show is lucidly described in the Gospel of Sri
Ramakrishna [see p.683] and hence need not be
repeated here.
His play Bilwa Mangal was written and
staged a few months before the death of Sri
Ramakrishna. The play was not written by
Girish after reading about the life of Surdas in
the book Bhakta Mal. Rather, he had heard the
story from the lips of his guru Sri Rama-
krishna. It was Sri Ramakrishna who had also
suggested to Girish about the insertion in the
play of the character of a false sadhu. As a
matter of fact, he himself had demonstrated
to Girish about how the role of the false
Tilakdhari sadhu should be shown in the play.
2
While visiting Star Theatre for the second
time on December 14, 1884, Sri Ramakrishna
had praised Girish and told him that no one
could sketch a divine character unless he has
love of God in his heart.
3
Girish Chandra was
once heard to say that he had learnt how to
write plays from Sri Ramakrishna himself. Not
only that, we find Girish taking lessons from
Sri Ramakrishna about dramatic art, creation
of characters and acting and the play Bilwa
Mangal was a direct outcome of this.
4
Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘Faithful devotees
always feel the all-auspicious Lord in their
hearts and are never discouraged, even when
facing thousands of dangerous situations.’
5
Girish illustrated this teaching in the life of
the title character of the play Puranchandra.
Puranchandra was a five-act play and its theme
was ideal renunciation and faith in God. The
play was based on Hindi story entitled Puran
Bhakat (‘The Devotee Puran’). The central
character Puran was a prince who renounced
the world to become a disciple of Yogi
Goraknath. The Guru tested Puran by sending
Girish Chandra Ghosh
145 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
25
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
the worst sinner, the great possibilities that
might be attained by him, for the human soul
is but God in man.
7
In his introduction to the play Shankara-
charya, Girish stated that he had seen concre-
tized Vedanta in Sri Ramakrishna. One could
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
Chandra, were Buddhadev Charit, Bilwa-
mangal and Chaitanya Lila. The play Buddhadev
Charit had cast a great influence on young
A recent photo of Star Theatre at Beadon street, Kolkata
Girish dictating a drama to Devendra Nath Majumdar
146 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
26
Narendra Nath (the future Swami Viveka-
nanda) and his young devotee-friends. The
inspiring life of all-sacrificing Buddha had
deeply attracted them and they were
particularly moved by one song of the play,
Judai te chai Kothai Judai. Many a time young
Narendranath used to sing this song at late
night hours at his Simula house in Calcutta
and the people in the neighbourhood would
get up from their sleep and listen spell-bound
to the song.
9
Defending the Worship of the ‘Virat’
Swami Vivekananda had to face the ire
of both the conservative and liberal section of
the society for introducing the noble and
innovative idea of social commitment for the
monks of Ramakrishna Math and Mission.
Girish in his Bengali article titled Vivekanander
Sadhanfal had defended Swamiji strongly in
the matter. He explained that the sense of
national unity in society would be a direct
result of the service to mankind. He further
brought to our notice the significance of the
existence of Advaita Ashrama and [Rama-
krishna] Sevashrama next to each other in
Varanasi. To Girish it was highly symbolic—
the same God to whom one prayed in temple
was also served in Sevashrama. One is remind-
ed here of Swami Brahmananda’s comments
about Varanasi Sevashrama: ‘it is a temple of
Virat’. In his article on the Monks of Rama-
krishna Math, Girish had replied to the unjust
criticism of the monks; he said that these
monks were engaged in various parts of the
country in providing education and food to
the needy as well as attending to the sick in
the spirit of the worship of God, without caring
for themselves; Girish had further said in the
article that no good would come to the society
if such monks went instead to caves in the
mountains.
10
In an article named Sri Rama-
krishna O Vivekananda, Girish had written, ‘To
comprehend Sri Ramakrishna fully. . . .one
would have to keep the live model of Viveka-
nanda constantly before one’s mind.’
10
Very often, critics had commented about
the resemblance of certain characters in
Girish’s plays with Sri Ramakrishna or Swami
Vivekananda. But Girish himself did not agree
to it. He opined that it is rather improper to
see images of Sri Ramakrishna or Swami
Vivekananda in some of the characters like
Nasiram, Puranchandra and others. Instead,
Girish strongly believed that since Sri Rama-
krishna was a man of unlimited spiritual
realization and a Divine Incarnation (avatar);
how could he even think of putting him in the
limited scope of a character in his plays! While
this is true, yet from a human angle, traces of
Sri Ramakrishna could be seen in some of the
characters of his plays and if one could see all
the characters together then, perhaps, a very
small part of Sri Ramakrishna could be seen.
The same view was also held by Girish about
characters resembling Vivekananda.
11
The Spreading Forth
From a historical point of view, Girish
was instrumental to the entry of Sri Rama-
krishna and Swami Vivekananda into a special
branch of Bengali literature i.e., plays. The
effect of this continued for more than 50 years
and as a result of which Sri Ramakrishna-
Vivekananda ‘Bhavdhara’ (spiritual message)
inundated the Bengali mind and literature. Sri
Ramakrishna himself had facilitated this path
of inundation by dissuading Girish from
leaving the stage and writing.
The beacon lighted by Girish was
followed by playwright like Amrita Lal Basu,
Khirod Prasad, Amarendra Nath Dutta and
Manomohan Goswami and others—not only
they had introduced Sri Ramakrishna-Viveka-
147 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
nanda philosophy but had candidly mentioned
their names in their plays.
Another powerful playwright of this age
Aparesh Chandra Mukhopadhya was himself
closely connected with Ramakrishna Mission.
He was liked by Swami Brahmananda and
Swami Saradananda. Aparesh Chandra had
inserted the words spoken by Swami Viveka-
nanda in the mouth of Karna in his very
successful drama Karnarjun.
12
The well-known writer and playwright
Sri Dwijendralal Roy was initially inimical to
Girish Ghosh but later he developed good
friendship and Dwijendralal acknowledged
Girish as his Guru in the dramatic world. His
biographer Sri Devkumar Basu, and son, well-
known writer and singer, Dilip Kumar Roy
had mentioned that Ramakrishna Kathamrita
[The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna] had left a great
influence on Dwijendralal which could be seen
in his plays written in his later life namely
Bhisma and Parapare.
13
A trend to write plays based on the life
of Sri Ramakrishna began sometimes in the
1950s. Consequently, the life of Sri Rama-
krishna and his spiritual message and sayings
1. Bangla Desh O Sri Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna Ved-
anta Ashram, Darjeeling, Swami Vedananda, p.41
2. Natya Premi Sri Ramakrishna, Birendra Kumar
Bandopadhya, Shardiya Udbodhan Vol.3 Ashwin
1416, September 2009 p.701
3. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Vol. II – Swami
Nikhilananda, p.677
4. Girish Chandra O Ananya Prasanga, 2001, Nalini
Ranjan Chattopadhya p.61-62
5. Ramakrishna’s influence on Girish’s Plays by
Swami Chetanananda, Prabuddha Bharata
November 2008, p.606
6. Ibid, pp.606-607
7. Ibid, p.607-608
References
8. Vivekananda O Samakalin Bharat Varsha, Vol. VII
Shankari Prasad Basu p.596
9. Udbodhan, Saradiya Sankha, volume III, 1416 B-S,
September 2009 p.703
10. Vivekananda and Samakalin Bharat Varsha, Vol. VII
Shankari Prasad Basu p.597
11. Ibid, p.596
12. Ibid, pp.598-599
13. Ibid, pp.598-599
14. Girish Chandra O Ananya Prasanga, Sri Nalini
Ranjan Chattopadhya 2001, p.65
15. Girish Chandra Ghosh—A Bohemian Devotee of Sri
Ramakrishna, by Swami Chetanananda, Advaita
Ashrama, p.467
started to become a part of plays, jatras [folk
plays] and even screen-plays for cinema. Over
the years, it gave rise a rich harvest of plays
and stories. Though the personalities of Holy
Mother Sri Sarada Devi, Vivekananda, Nive-
dita, Girish Chandra Ghosh found a eminent
place in the Bengali plays, the central character
always remained Sri Ramakrishna. It is
doubtful whether so many plays had been
written on the basis of life of a single religious
person for more than 50 years and this trend
continues even today.
14
Regarding Girish Ghosh's contribution to
Bengali literature in general, the following
remark by Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das may
be quoted here.
15
The Bengalis could not recognize the greatness
of Girish Chandra Ghosh. It will take some time.
Just as Shakespeare was recognized by the
English people only after 100 years of his passing
away, so also a day will come when our people
will recognize and appreciate Girish’s genius and
will finally be proud to honour him. Some day
Westerners will come here to learn more about
Girish’s genius and the beauty and depth of his
writings.
(To be continued. . .) OO
27
148 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
Sri Ramakrishna—One with
Cosmic Existence
SUDESH
Grace Bestowed on Rani Rasmani
Sri Ramakrishna often sang songs des-
cribing the glory of Divine Mother Kali in his
exquisitely melodious voice. Charmed with his
singing, whenever Rani Rasmani, the wealthy
lady of Calcutta who started Dakshineshwar
Temple, visited the temple, requested him to
sing a few songs on Mother. On one such
occasion, when he was singing, immersed in
the thought of the Mother, as if he were
singing for Her, and not for any mortal, he
suddenly stopped and exclaimed, ‘What! Even
here you think such thoughts!’ and struck the
Rani with the palm of his hand.
How dared this insignificant priest,
drawing only six rupees a month, behave in
such an insolent manner towards the founder
of the temple, whose wealth, status, devotion,
and wisdom astounded the elite of Calcutta?
The women attendants of the Rani raised a
hue and cry. The guards and officers rushed
to the shrine to drag the mad priest out of the
temple. But junior Bhattacharya, as Sri Rama-
krishna was often called, sat calm and tranquil.
Rani Rasmani was a lady of deep patience and
introspection. Instead of losing her temper, she
took to self-analysis and found that she had
been thinking of a pending law-suit. Wonder
of wonders! How could the young priest know
that her witless mind had strayed away from
the Mother’s Lotus Feet! Becoming aware of
the noise and commotion, apprehending that
they might inflict some injury on Sri Rama-
krishna, she commanded them not to take any
action against him.
Sri Ramakrishna had identified Rani
Rasmani as one of the eight nayikas (attendant
goddess) of the Divine Mother. Endowed with
steadfast devotion and a sattvika nature, she
realized the above incident as a moment of
divine grace. The idea of punishing Sri Rama-
krishna due to anger or egotism did not cross
her mind. Calmly, she absorbed the divine
grace, though expressed through rather a
strange and offensive manner. According to
Swami Saradananda,
. . .after he attained the nirvikalpa samadhi, the
limited ‘I’ in him vanished completely. And the
little of ‘I’ that was left over, was united for all
eternity with the immense ‘I’. . . .and the
universal ‘I’ or what may be called the ‘I of the
Divine Mother’ manifested Itself through him
as the spiritual teacher, possessing the power of
bestowing grace and inflicting punishment.
1
One’s Own Mind becomes the Guru: When?
Sri Ramakrishna had slapped the Rani
but what a severe punishment his mind threat-
ened him with! The higher the consciousness
of the aspirant, the severer is the punishment.
A purified mind, freed from the least tinge of
attachment and delusion, could be the
… A devotee from Ambala, Sudesh regularly contributes inspiring articles to The Vedanta Kesari.
149 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
29
aspirant’s own guru, said Sri Rama-
krishna. Whatever appeared in the Pure Mind
was the voice of God. During sadhana, at the
time of meditation, he saw a Sannyasin with a
sharp trident come out of his body and
threaten to pierce his heart if his mind strayed
even a little from his Chosen Ideal [ishta
devata]. He began to have the vision of this
young Sannyasin which in fact was his own
Purified Mind or Higher Self. It guided each
action of his. At times, assuming a form, as it
were, of a different person, it emerged from
his own body and taught him what was to be
done and what to be rejected. The sadhana
period of Sri Ramakrishna’s life reveals how
he lost his individual existence in the Oneness
of the Cosmic Existence, with his self, mind
and intellect merged into the Mahakarana, the
Great Cause.
A Unique Worshipper of Kali
An inexorable destiny led Sri Rama-
krishna to take the office of the priest of
Dakshineswar Kali Temple. No ordinary priest
was he, who would perform ritualistic
worship, arati and make food offerings to the
Mother, and then retire to his room for rest or
move about in the great city of Calcutta.
Unique was the worship of this unlettered
village boy. Sitting before the image he sang
songs by Ramprasad, Kamalakanta and others,
his heart swelling with emotions of the songs
and sometimes danced in an ecstasy of joy to
please the Divine Mother. Sometimes he made
importunate requests to Her. Forgetting
hunger and thirst, heat and cold, he sat
motionless, for hours like an inert object,
absorbed in the thought of the Mother. At
night he meditated under an Amalaki tree, in
solitude of the jungle surrounding the
Panchavati. Besides being full of pits, ditches,
lowlands, it had been a burial ground where
people ventured not going even during day
time. There he sat meditating, stripped even
of his wearing cloth and the sacred thread—
naked like an innocent, guileless child, without
a tinge of pride of noble descent or high caste.
Forgotten were his childhood chums, his
native village and even his own dear mother.
Such single-minded was his meditation that
like the ‘angler’ and the ‘hunter’, he saw
nothing, heard nothing; the sense-organs
stopped functioning.
The one yearning of his heart was for
the vision of Mother Kali. His soul thirsted
and panted for sweet union with the Mother—
source of his being. It expressed itself as
agonised supplications to reveal Herself to him
and copious tears from his eyes. How could
the Mother stay away from this divine child
who was ready to put an end to his life, if She
did not reveal Herself to him? Said Sister
Nivedita,
In the case of Ramakrishna, innumerable prayers
and unheard-of austerities had culminated in a
realisation so profound that there was scarcely
a memory of selfhood left. The man who lived
and moved before his disciples was a mere shell,
that could not fail to act as the indwelling
Mother.
2
After the living vision of Mother Kali, he
forgot completely the idea of his separate
existence from Her. Many a time during
worship, he decorated his own person with
flowers, sandal-paste, etc., meant to be offered
to the Goddess, because of his constant vision
of the Blissful Mother, both inside as well as
outside. He became identified with the object
of his love in various ways, forgetting his
individuality. This state was very close to the
non-dual transcendental experience of a
Vedantist.
State of Non-Duality
150 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
30
Again, initiated by Totapuri, a monk of
great repute, into Vedantic discipline, Sri
Ramakrishna attained the immediate Know-
ledge of Brahman. Hitherto, Mother’s Lotus
Feet were to him the only Reality, the only
object of meditation and adoration. The world
appeared to him merely a transitory, insub-
stantial, shadowy existence. Now, when he
succeeded in withdrawing his mind from
Mother’s Form, it became completely objectless
and reached the nirvikalpa state. For three
days he remained merged in eternal Con-
sciousness and Bliss of the Infinite Immensity.
Totapuri was amazed as he examined his pupil
who sat in a steady posture like a piece of
wood. With the disappearance of his ‘I’
consciousness his pulse and heart-beat also
stopped. Completely unaware of the external
world, stilled were the modifications of his
mind, merged was it in the Indivisible.
Consciousness of body and ego were not. A
perfect calm and bliss prevailed. It looks like
the state of maha-nirvana or Cosmic Pralaya
as Swami Vivekananda has said:
When. . . Knowledge, the knower and the
known, dissolved;
When action, act, and actor, are no more,
When instrumentality is no more;
. . .Everything deluged
In one homogeneous mass, subtle,
Pure, of atom-form, indivisible
3
Just as at the beginning of next cycle the
first great change of the Absolute is ‘Om’, it
was when Totapuri filled the whole atmos-
phere with profound sounds of ‘Om’ that Sri
Ramakrishna came back to the awareness of
the phenomenal world.
After Totapuri left Dakshinewar, Sri
Ramakrishna thought of dwelling in unbroken
bliss of union with the Absolute. After six
months of nirvikalpa samadhi, the Mother
commanded him to ‘Remain in Bhavamukha’.
Impelled from within by the force of Her
Command and the irresistible necessity that
had brought him into being he awoke from
his Samadhi. But even after coming down
unceasing samadhi and bhava were the natural
state of his mind. Uttering ‘Ma’ or ‘Om’ his
mind merged into the boundless expanse of
chidakasha. Talking of his Samadhi he said,
During samadhi my mind leaps out of this body,
as it were, and plunges into Existence-Know-
ledge-Bliss Absolute… there is no body con-
sciousness, and the soul merges in the higher
Self—the Paramatma—in the thousand-petalled
lotus of the head… This very self then becomes
Shiva, the Absolute.
4
Coming back to external consciousness,
from the rapture of Eternal Union, Sri Rama-
krishna perceived that Brahman was none else
but the Mother Herself in Her nirguna aspect.
Kali, who was one with the Formless, Attri-
buteless, and Infinite Reality manifested as the
universe and all living beings as diverse names
and forms. Being established in bhavamukha,
which consists in experiencing Oneness with
the Universal Mother, he felt that the whole
universe has emanated from him. ‘I see that
all things—everything that exists—have come
from this,’ he said,
5
one day, placing his hand
on his heart. Once while plucking a leaf, a bit
of bark came off. He was grieved that he had
hurt the tree which appeared to him as full of
Consciousness. He scolded the person who
brought three twigs instead of one to clean
his teeth. Had he created the tree that he broke
its branches at his own whim? Only the
Creator knew how difficult it was to create,
he told him. A boatman was thrashed by
another and Sri Ramakrishna’s back became
red and swollen. Not to talk of living beings
and trees and plants, he cried out in pain when
Swamiji (then Narendra) happened to snap a
wire while tuning a tanpura.
151 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
31
His Answers to Our Unasked Thoughts
Coming back from lofty plane of trans-
cendental Reality, Sri Ramakrishna’s mind
remained pitched to a state of Oneness. One
with Cosmic Mind, he knew the inmost thou-
ghts of all minds and answered them unasked.
That explains how he declared his Godhead
to just a passing thought in Narendra’s mind.
One day, overwhelmed with divine fervour,
while returning to his room after visiting Ma
Kali, he sang a number of songs. M. said to
himself, ‘I wish he would sing:
Mother, thou canst not trick me any more
For I have Thy crimson Lotus Feet.
6
No sooner did the thought pass through
M.’s mind than he sang the song. Another time
he said to M. ‘Yes what you are thinking will
also come to pass’.
7
On January 1, 1886, Sri Ramakrishna
blessed the devotees touching them all. At his
touch each of the devotees experienced in-
effable bliss. Some laughed, some wept, some
saw Light, some had visions of their Chosen
Ideals, and some felt within their bodies the
rush of spiritual power. Ramlal, Thakur’s
nephew stood behind him thinking that he
only carried Sri Ramakrishna’s water-pot and
towel, but all others were blessed with spiritual
experiences. As soon as this thought crossed
his mind, Sri Ramakrishna touched his chest,
pushing aside his shawl. Ramlal said:
Before that, during my meditation I could see
with my mind’s eye only a part of my Chosen
Deity. Moreover, Whatever I saw never seemed
to be alive. But no sooner had the Master touched
me than the whole form of my Chosen Deity
appeared in my heart as a living presence,
looking benign and effulgent.
8
Seeing the Inner Nature
Sri Ramakrishna could see the inner
nature and traits of a man merely by looking
at him, as though he were looking through a
glass pane. He was fond of eating a particular
sweet. When his favourite dish was brought
by a person whose regular salary was 25
rupees and he was making an extra 30 rupees
by presenting false bills, it appeared filth to
him.
It happened not just once. If he felt
hesitation about taking any food or drink, it
was found to have been brought by a man of
immoral or deceitful character. When about
to give spiritual guidance to an unfit person,
his power of speech failed suddenly. Seeing a
particular aspirant, the form of that very deity
appeared in his mind, whom he worshipped.
Sarada, a friend of Adhar, was a devotee of
Sri Chaitanya. He was stricken with the grief
on account of his son’s death. Adhar took him
to Dakshineswar to visit the Paramahamsa-
deva. Inspired with the ideal of Gauranga he
sang song after song to soothe Sarada’s mind;
sometimes describing Gauranga’s blissful
ecstasy in an exuberance of joy, sometimes
assuming the attitude of a woman devotee
infatuated with love of Gauranga. When
Balaram’s father came, he sang of the divine
love of the gopis for Krishna. When a Shakta
devotee came, he sang of the Divine Mother
to kindle his love for the Mother. We see that
whatever ideas came in his mind were found
to be true as they were eternal verities existing
in a subtle state in the Universal Mind.
Leads All to the Path of Realisation
Made one with the Mother in ‘Yoga
Sleep’, Sri Ramakrishna had the unusual
power of knowing the events of all previous
births, their inherent tendencies and the future
progress of his intimate devotees. Nearer to
them than they themselves were, he knew the
spiritual mood natural to each and led each
accordingly to the path of Supreme Realisa-
152 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
tion. He led some through pure devotion, some
through devotion mingled with discrimination,
others through a synthesis of the soul-melting
love of Personal God and the lofty Knowledge
of Impersonal Truth, and still others through
all-embracing realisation of Godhead—to see
God in all beings. He told them what form of
meditation would be helpful: with form or
formless aspect. He knew which of his
devotees would embrace monasticism, renoun-
cing their worldly life. To them he pointed
out the steep path of complete renunciation of
‘woman and gold’. It was like observing the
ekadasi without drinking even a drop of water.
To the householders he led through the
performance of their duties, unattached. At the
same time they were to keep their mind fixed
at the Lotus Feet of God through prayer, japa,
and meditation.
Coming Down after Samadhi
Sri Ramakrishna says that some ordinary
sadhakas may attain samadhi through spiritual
discipline but they cannot come down to the
realm of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ by separating them-
selves from the bliss of Oneness. The body
falls off within twenty-one days. Then there
are the sages like Shukadeva and Narada—
the Ishvarakotis (God-like souls). Not satisfied
with their own illumination, they come down
a few steps to bring spiritual light to others.
Shuka had to recite Bhagavata to bring Parikshit
and retained the ‘ego of Knowledge’. Narada
had to teach the path of devotion and retained
the ‘ego of Devotion’. Thus great sages impart
spiritual instruction and share their bliss with
others. But they do not hold the key to liberate
others like the Incarnations of God.
It is said that sages like Shuka and
Narada tasted a drop of the Ocean of Brahman-
Consciousness. But we have seen that Sri
Ramakrishna was that ‘Ocean Of Conscious-
ness’ without limit. ‘From It come all things of
the relative plane, and in It they merge again.
Millions of Brahmandas rise in that chidakasha
and merge in It again.’
9
That is why by a mere
touch or wish or blessing he could put anyone
in the inebriation of divine bliss, or deep
meditation, or samadhi, and even confer
liberation. He converted many rank materia-
lists and agnostics into believers and atheists
and scoffers into ardent devotees. Removing
all dross and impurity he turned drunkards
and sinners into mighty saints.
Sri Ramakrishna was the Cosmic Shakti
Itself, descended in a finite human form, to
revive the declining religion, to establish the
harmony of religions, to deliver erring souls
from a wilderness of doubt and despair. He
lived as a bhakta to teach us how a devotee
should have faith and yearning of a child, for
God. The child cannot be cajoled with sweets
and toys and only cries, ‘I want to go to my
mother.’ †
1. Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master, Swami Sarada-
nanda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, 1978,
p.446-447
2. The Complete Works of Sister Nivedita, Ramakrishna
Sarada Mission, Calcutta, 1972, p 481
3. In Search Of God And Other Poems, Swami Viveka-
nanda, Advaita Ashrama, 1947, p 55-56
4. Ramakrishna As We Saw Him, Swami
References
Chetanananda, Advaita Ashrama, 1992, 346
(Henceforth As we Saw Him)
5. The Gospel Of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna
Math, Chennai, 2000, p 945
6. Ibid, p 665
7. Ibid, p 382
8. As we Saw Him, p 55
9. Gospel, p 653
32
153 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i 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 education of the princes being
finished, Dhritarashtra put Yudhishthira, the
eldest of the sons of Pandu, on the throne of
his father. The sterling virtues of Yudhishthira
and the valour and devotion of his other
brothers aroused jealousies in the hearts of the
sons of the blind king, and at the instigation
of Duryodhana, the eldest of them, the five
Pandava brothers were prevailed upon to visit
Vâranâvata, on the plea of a religious festival
that was being held there. There they were
accommodated in a palace made under Duryo-
dhana’s instructions, of hemp, resin, and lac,
and other inflammable materials, which were
subsequently set fire to secretly. But the good
Vidura, the step-brother of Dhritarashtra,
having become cognisant of the evil intentions
of Duryodhana and his party, had warned the
Pandavas of the plot, and they managed to
escape without anyone’s knowledge. When the
Kurus saw the house was reduced to ashes,
they heaved a sigh of relief and thought all
obstacles were now removed out of their path.
Then the children of Dhritarashtra got hold of
the kingdom.
The five Pandava brothers had fled to
the forest with their mother, Kunti. They lived
there by begging, and went about in disguise
giving themselves out as Brahmana students.
Many were the hardships and adventures they
encountered in the wild forests, but their
fortitude of mind, and strength, and valour
made them conquer all dangers. So things
went on until they came to hear of the
approaching marriage of the princess of a
neighbouring country.
I told you last night of the peculiar form
of the ancient Indian marriage. It was called
Svayamvara, that is, the choosing of the
husband by the princess. A great gathering of
princes and nobles assembled, amongst whom
the princess would chose her husband. Prece-
ded by her trumpeters and heralds she would
approach, carrying a garland of flowers in her
hand. At the throne of each candidate for her
hand, the praises of that prince and all his
great deeds in battle would be declared by
the heralds. And when the princess decided
which prince she desired to have for a hus-
band, she would signify the fact by throwing
the marriage-garland round his neck. Then the
ceremony would turn into a wedding. King
Drupada was a great king, king of the Pan-
chalas, and his daughter, Draupadi, famed far
and wide for her beauty and accomplishments,
was going to choose a hero. (4: 79)
(To be continued . . .)
The Story of Mahabharata
(Continued from the previous issue. . .)
154 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i 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’
A journey down our memory lane, say
to our school days, reveals a very interesting
characteristic of our brain. We tend to
remember only the broad outlines of the
individuals and the incidents, whereas the
details associated with them seem to get lost.
This tendency of the brain to retain and recall
only the outlines becomes more pronounced
as we grow in age. In our old age, what we
are able to grasp, retain, and recall are only
the broad outlines, which we may call,
‘frames’. On the deathbed, one responds only
to the images and names most dear to him. In
these last moments, one holds on to the barest
frame that he had built all through his life.
A more interesting characteristic of the
brain is to fill up the details of the frame by
itself. Thus, if we are asked to write an essay
on, for instance, a cow, our brain scoops up
the facts from its storehouse, seasoning it with
language, metaphors and descriptions. The
effectiveness of any communication or des-
cription depends on the correctness of the
frame and the power to fill it up by itself.
Since most people are not very good at filling,
they cover it up by memorising what is
necessary.
Filling up the ‘Frames’
The brain does not stop here. Whenever
the required detail is missing for a frame, it
tends to conjure up data to fit into the pattern
to make it a logical whole. It is something like
when we hum a song in front of someone and
stop midway, the listener, if he knows the
song, automatically provides the next words.
Recent studies in neuroscience have revealed
the fact that whenever the brain faces blind
spots, it fills them up in such a way that the
pattern becomes a complete whole. V.S.
Ramachandran in his well-known book,
Phantoms in the brain, has discussed these
graphically. What was a mere suspicion
concerning the fallibility of observation (of all
senses) has been clinically found to be
correct—whenever there is a need, the brain
supplies data. The brain is incapable of
handling incomplete frames. It must have the
harmony, the symphony, the pattern and the
logical whole, without which it feels lost.
If the brain is good at supplying the
detail, it is also good at constructing the frames
for the details that do not fit in the existing
frames. Philosophical speculations, growth of
mathematics and theoretical physics, struggle
to formulate patterns and laws in every field
of knowledge are some of the examples when
an advanced brain created a frame to take care
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. …
155 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
35
brain is advanced or developed enough to
create the proper frame. This has devastating
conclusions which can be seen in the childish
cosmological details given by the theologians
of different religions. There are more interes-
ting examples: a kid who fails to see his mother
for a while starts crying, fearing that she might
be gone forever. Similarly a stump of wood in
the darkness of night is perceived variously
as a ghost, a thief, a policeman, a friend, etc.,
by different observers depending on their
mental state.
Thus, to run the life smoothly, we need
both the right frame and a correct filling. If
either of these becomes too weak, one lands
in the mire of wild speculation and fertile
imagination. Schizophrenia, madness and
other hyper tendencies are all examples of an
unsound frame or incomplete filling. However,
the frame is much more important than the
fillings for any individual.
Wide-ranging Ways of Frame-making
In the field of education and learning,
the importance of frames over fillings is
indisputable. One who knows the frames well,
is able to create the necessary filling; but he
who pays more attention to the filling, fails
miserably while confronting a complicated
problem. When we look back at our childhood,
and also the present education system, we
realise the blunder committed by the teachers.
They tend to focus more on the details without
trying to impress the young minds with the
frame. This results in a general dissatisfaction
among the more bright ones, who invariably
become failures. Most of the great scientists,
including Einstein and Ramanujan were
famous ‘failures’ of their time. The goal of all
education should, therefore, be to make a
student conversant with the frames of a
subject.
Indian scholars of the past were well
aware of this fact. That is why they developed
the Sutra literature, in which all the essential
things about a book or a philosophy were
written down aphoristically. Any student
desirous of remembering the work would
simply memorise all the aphorisms (sutras)
which would be used by him to explain the
work with his own explanations, which were
like the fillings. That is how we have so many
different commentaries on every Sutra work.
The same thing applies in the field of
religion too. One needs to know the frames
thoroughly. The details get automatically filled
up, or are ignored. For example, a devotee of
Christ must know Christ’s exalted character,
sacrifice and love. These constitute his devo-
tional personality. On the other hand, details
like the name of Jesus’ parents or his date of
birth are non-essential for his personality. It is
good to know these too, but they are really
not central to his devotion of Christ.
Rigid Thinking Patterns
As one ages, the brain becomes more set
in its working. It then relies more on relating
the incoming data with the already existing
frames. This is what causes senility which
keeps growing, till at deathbed one remembers
only the bare essentials of life. It is indeed
painful to see how the brain keeps losing the
data in a natural process that it had collected
over the years with great effort.
A more serious problem is the brain’s
tendency to react negatively whenever it has
to confront an input that is a mismatch for its
related frame. A person, who is accustomed
to seeing the young behave obediently with
the seniors, gets vexed and disturbed when
he comes across his grandson behaving
informally with his father. Such experiences
can be nerve-wrecking.
156 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
36
This very tendency of the brain explains
why we react strongly when we come across
people who fail to live up to our expectations.
For example, most of us value honesty and
are honest in our dealings. So, when we find
our pockets picked in a crowded place, or the
shoes lifted from the temple premise, we feel
very sad. This sadness is not really for the
loss, but more for the ill-fitting detail of
cheating in the existing frame of expectation
in our brain. In the same way, people expect
their children to be truthful, honest and well-
behaved. But, when the parents face the fact
that the child is not living up to the set
expectation, they react violently, particularly
when they face it for the first time.
Actually, the problem does not lie with
the harsh facts of life, but with our own frames
of morality and expectations from the world.
This setting up of the frame comes from the
teachings of our elders, our own experiences,
perception, and thinking. Every time we are
assailed with negative emotions like sadness,
anger and depression, we can easily analyse
the situation to see that the inputs from the
world failed to fit in the frames of our brain.
We realise that the world is not at all at fault
for our pain, but it is our own frame-system
that is responsible for it. A change in the frame
will invariably result in much less or no dis-
appointments, and, consequently, less pain.
What holds for the external world, also
holds for ourselves. After all, for the brain,
the body is only an integral part of the world.
That is to say, the brain has frames for every
kind of every activity, including the thoughts.
Whenever these fail to fill in the existing
frames, the brain reacts. This reaction is our
conscience which goads us into self-reproach
and self-punishment. Thus, if we have to tell
a lie (assuming that we are normally truthful),
our conscience pricks and protests. Depending
on the enormity of the lie, we may feel bad,
lose sleep, lose peace, or in extreme cases lose
our mind. The best antidote for such self-
failures is to confess the guilt to the right
person, or to perform some kind of penance.
But, the fact remains that the mismatch of our
action with the expected frame can be
devastating.
Values—Frame or Filling?
There are thousands of values in any
society, but not every value is picked up by
everyone. The set of values practised by an
individual is his or her personalised value
system that becomes the real frame for one’s
life. All inputs from the external world, and
also the individual’s actions conform to these
frames. Every person is capable of attaining
the highest, which is accomplished with the
help of personalised value system.
Unfortunately, in most cases these values
are not chosen, but imposed on the individual.
This means that these are not really his frames,
but fillings, which by their very nature are of
secondary importance. Thus, when one says
that he believes in ‘honesty is the best policy’,
he really means to say that he believes that he
believes so. This is at the root of all personality
disintegration. A person does what he really
believes to be true for him. His acts conform
to the frames of his mind, whereas he poses
according the fillings. In most cases, even the
concerned person does not realise this
incongruity.
However, it is easy to recognise if a
person’s particular value is his frame or filling.
If he commits an act contrary to the expecta-
tion, then it might be an aberration; but if he
repeats the act, then it is his personality trait.
If one’s actions are contrary to his words, then
the values professed by him are only the
fillings, and not his frame.
157 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
37
Universal values are mere concepts. It is
only the personalised values that have any
reality and are really of any importance. The
moment a person realises that what he thought
to be his frame, is only the filling, then he
only need to pick up the right ones and start
afresh. Others may laugh at him, but his own
life would be free of shame and guilt.
We tend to brand a person immoral or
insensitive when his acts fail to fit in our own
frames. An interesting fact is of those persons
who themselves indulge in certain acts but
condemn the same of others. We may try to
pass them off as hypocrites, but really it is not
so. The explanation lies in the frame structure.
When a person condemns others, although
guilty himself of the same faults, it invariably
means that he feels bad about his own acts
too. He may not be expressing that in public,
but his heart must be shedding tears for his
own acts. If it is not so, then only he is a
hypocrite.
The growth of a person depends on the
intake that he gets from the society, but the
real assimilation is based on his personal
frame. One may read, hear, or see anything
that he may come across, but ultimately he
would retain only what fits into his frame.
The rest will overflow. This makes teaching of
any higher thought difficult to a common man.
The real growth is always gradual because that
is how the frame is constructed.
In the history of the mankind, the real
successful people have been those who defined
their own frames as opposed to the frames
imposed by the society on them. Every great
thinker rebelled against many of the existing
ideas and beliefs of the then society. Jesus
opposed the way of worship in synagogues,
Buddha condemned Vedic sacrifices, Nachi-
keta, the young mentioned in the Kathopani-
shad, went against his father, Sri Ramakrishna
rebelled against the orthodox caste system at
the time of his sacred thread ceremony,
Mahatma Gandhi was ostracised by his own
caste people, and Swami Vivekananda was
criticised for crossing the ocean. Wherever we
may care to look, we find the rule of the thumb
that every successful famous person has been
a rebel against the crystallised frames of the
social mind.
Holding on to Frames
The only way to lead a sane and a mean-
ingful life is to focus on one’s frames and stick
to it. These frames have to be selected and set
by the individual and must not be copied
blindly from others. Gandhiji chose certain
frames for himself and made every action of
his fill those frames. For him, nothing existed
outside those frames. Same with Sri Rama-
krishna. On the other hand, lesser mortals
casually pick up some frames, impress them
upon their mind, and keep suffering for the
rest of their lives with a sense of bad
conscience, inferiority and a double personality
that invariably result in disaster. The goal
should be to fix workable frames, and then
allow only those details in one’s life that fit
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
158 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i 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. †
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-
tisgarh) on 11 February.
Consecration of the remodelled temple with marble image of Sri Ramakrishna—Allahabad Ashrama
Sri Ramakrishna Tithi puja celebration at Belur Math


159 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i 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),
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
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 New Medical Block by the Chief Minister of Delhi
Presentation of Vivekananda Prashasti, Chennai Math
Inauguration of the Silver Jubilee celebrations and a view of the audience—Palai Ashrama, Kerala
160 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i 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
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
Children queuing up for dental checkup—Chandigarh

161 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i 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
MONARCH OF MONKS
By Dushyanta Pandya.
Published by Readworthy Publi-
cations (P) Ltd. A-18 Mohan
Garden, Near Nawada Metro Sta-
tion, New Delhi-110 059. 2009,
paperback, pp.253, Rs.320.
The life of Swami Viveka-
nanda, as also his message, is an
eternal subject to write about. The book under
review is another attempt in this direction,
providing a deep insight into the life and achieve-
ments of Swamiji.
Describing Swamiji’s family background and
early life, the author presents a detailed account of
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
Ramakrishna Movement, his teachings, his tour to
the Western countries, his efforts to spread the
message of peace and universal brotherhood as well
as the philosophy of Vedanta with special reference
to his lecture at the World Parliament of Religions
at Chicago in the year 1893. The author presents
the entire life history of Swami Vivekananda in
chronological order in simple language in 24
chapters.
What gives this book a unique identity is the
way the subject matter is presented with realism
which keeps the reader glued to this book. As we
go through the pages, we experience the joy and
sorrow Swamiji had to go through in his life, the
way his guru’s grace and divine blessings came to
his rescue at critical moment in Chicago and the
tireless efforts of Swamiji in spreading the message
of Sri Ramakrishna and establishing the Rama-
krishna Mission. Written more than a hundred years
after the life of Swami Vivekananda, the book is
commendable effort.
Though an erratum is attached to the book,
there are more corrections to be added to this list;
we presume these will be made before further
prints/editions are brought out. The cover design
is attractive, but the book could have been
competitively priced as to make it more affordable
for a larger section of the society. We also suggest
adding of sources and references to the various
incidents the book beautifully records.
Swami Vivekananda was a historic perso-
nality who lived in the recent past, but our up-
coming generation has hardly any knowledge about
him. So, it is desirable that books like this on the
life and teachings of Swamiji are recommended for
study in all our junior colleges.
__________________________ H. SUBRAMANIAN, BANGALORE
IN MY OWN WORDS: AN INTRO-
DUCTION TO MY TEACHINGS AND
PHILOSOPHY—HIS HOLI -
NESS THE DALAI LAMA
Edited by Rajiv Mehrotra
Published by Hay House Pubi-
shers (India) Pvt. Ltd., Muskaan
Complex, Plot No.3, B-2 Vasant
Kunj, New Delhi-110 070. 2009,
paperback, pp.210, Rs.195.
In My Own Words is, in essence, a blueprint
behind the Dali Lama’s ‘moral and ethical alchemy’.
It spells out with authenticity, absolute clarity and
deeply moving candour the insights which went
into the making of the global consciousness,
embracing both the horror and glory of the world
today. With disarming modesty, he says, that these
are ‘thoughts that may be of direct, practical benefit
to those who are lucky to read them.’ And those
162 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
42
who are lucky to read will agree that ‘may be’
should be replaced by ‘they are’ invariably helpful.
The book begins with the generic human
endeavour for ‘happiness’ and by implication, the
cessation of sorrow. ‘I believe,’ His Holiness says,
‘the purpose of life is to be happy’, a purpose which
animates all sentient beings. One endeavours to
achieve this by harnessing the energies imbedded
in the psycho-physical as also the moral and
spiritual dimensions of consciousness. Not only are
these dimensions interconnected, their fulfillment
has to be achieved in the inescapable context of
inter-dependence. Only when all these are har-
monized, we manifest the innate, infolded ‘inner
tranquillity’. This harmony stems ‘from the develop-
ment of love and compassion.’
Compassion is not emotive excesses or
effusions, but, says His Holiness, ‘a firm commit-
ment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly
compassionate attitude toward others does not
change even if they behave negatively.’ All that is
negative offers contexts for actualising the imbed-
ded positives in the consciousness. Since the quest
for happiness animates all, it is a clear context for
cultivating ‘empathy and closeness’ towards all. ‘By
accustoming your mind to this sense of universal
altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for
others,’ says His Holiness.
The rest of the chapters cover the implications
in two intricately interrelated segments. One
analyses, in two chapters ‘Universal Responsibility’
and ‘Science at the Crossroads’, the phenomenon
of pervasive global ethos of unrest and imbalances.
The other segment, consisting of nine chapters is
as it were, the core of the volume. His Holiness is
simply enchanting in these chapters which
manifestly emerge from his own experience. They
cover the uniqueness of Buddhism, its essential
teachings, its perception of the law of karma, the
techniques of transforming the mind, the nature of
an awakening mind (though he denies any
knowledge of what it is!), eight verses for taming
the mind, living and dying in a meaningful manner,
and understanding Emptiness.
All these insights have to function and
achieve actualisation in the face of what His
Holiness calls ‘the most frightening and the most
serious’ problem today: ‘the wide variety of
suffering. This is global and threatens to destroy
the entire planet.’ In other words, happiness has to
contend with existing imbalances (social, economic,
ethical, etc.,) as its coordinates. Since science and
technology take a quantum leap in evolution, but
human consciousness is mired in economic and
erotic (miscalled esthetic, in many cases), we are
victims of mental and pervasive environmental
corruption. With transparent candour, His Holiness
implicates both science and religion as engineering
agents of perceptible ‘chaos’ and says: ‘without
altruistic motivation, scientists cannot distinguish
between beneficial technologies and the merely
expedient.’ And adds, ‘Nor are the religions of the
world exempt from the responsibility.’
That these are not pious pronouncements is
evident in the ‘Gentle Bridges’ that His Holiness is,
consistently and with tangible results, construc-
ting through dialogues with scientists on
behavioural sciences specially. Their immense
potential for creating spaces of mutual concern is
already evident in the abiding presence of Buddhist,
and other Eastern traditions, of spiritual as also
meditative life. (If media are to be believed, the
economic recession has forced a slow re-visioning
of affluence: ‘not money but mindset’, they say.)
We are immeasurably grateful to Rajiv
Mehrotra, the dynamic secretary of the Foundation
for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness, for
editing this compact volume of timeless significance
and a miraculously timely one, available to us. His
crisp introduction is, as it ought to be, clear and
cogent. And Hay House has, as usual, done an
exquisitely aesthetic job of production. The photo-
graphs on the cover are so gracefully evocative that
they are, in themselves, exquisite images for vibrant
meditation.
Pico Iyer, in his recently published biography
of His Holiness, records the experience his father
felt in the Presence of His Holiness: it has ‘the
freshness of immense personal purity’. It is this
abiding freshness that one experiences in the words
as found in this volume.
_______________________ M. SIVARAMKRISHNA, HYDERABAD
SANSKRIT AND SCIENCE
General Editor V.Kameswari
Published by The Kuppuswami Sastri Research
Institute, No.84, Thiru Vi.Ka. Road, Mylapore,
Chennai – 600 004. 2008, paperback, pp.
191+xii, Rs.250.
163 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
43
Sanskrit is considered to
be the oldest language of human
history. With the period of the
Vedas being pushed back in time
more and more, this language is
acquiring more and more impor-
tance among the intelligentsia of
the world.
This book is the compila-
tion of papers contributed in two
seminars, the first on ‘Sanskrit
and Science’ held on 9th October 1994, and the
second on ‘Sanskrit and Medical Sciences’ held on
23rd January 1995, to mark the Golden Jubilee of
the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute.
There are eleven papers in the book. The first
part on ‘Sanskrit, Astronomy and Computer
Science’ contains five. The second part on ‘Sanskrit
and Medical Science’ has three papers, and the last
part on ‘Sanskrit and Other Sciences’ contain the
rest three. All the papers have been contributed by
specialists in their respective fields, and carry the
stamp of authority. Unfortunately, they are too
technical for lay readers.
Sanskrit came to the attention of computer
scientists about half-a-century ago, with the
discovery that it forms the ideal medium for
computer translation. Three of the papers of the
first part are about the technicalities involved in
language processing through computers, with
special reference to Sanskrit. These papers are
highly technical, but contain a lot of technical
information. The other two papers are about
philosophy and astronomy, which make easier
reading.
The second part basically is about Ayurveda,
India’s contribution to medical science. It is gaining
importance all over the world, because of the
interest recently generated on alternate medical
systems. A knowledge of Sanskrit is mandatory for
the study of the basic textbooks, along with an
understanding of the Sankhya philosophy, on which
it is based. All the three papers in this part are
equally important, especially the third one about
the importance of Yoga. At the time of the visit of
Chinese travellers to India, it was a common
practice for a Yogi to be an expert on Ayurveda
and vice versa.
The last part has papers about Cartography,
Svarodaya Yoga, and Agriculture. These are highly
educative presenting information which is normally
not known to the general public.
The Institute should be complimented for
bringing out this volume first in 1997, and now in
a revised edition. It gives the reader a compre-
hensive idea of the broad sweep of the Sanskrit
language. This language is now not only an Indian
heritage, it has assumed the role of International
heritage. It is the duty of every right-thinking
person to preserve it for posterity.
______________________________ NVC SWAMY, BANGALORE
HERITAGE & TRADITION
By Probat Kanti Paul
Published by author Sri Probat
Kanti Paul, Plot No.266, R.R.
Colony, P.O.Rynjah, Shillong
793 006. 2009, paperback,
pp.52, Rs.45.
The unifying role of
temples, dotting the religious
and cultural landscape of India,
is one of the significant features of
the Hindu society. As these temples knit a
homogeneous fabric of our social and cultural lives,
it is necessary that we document their history and
popular practices. The book under review is an
interesting account of history and the religious
tradition of some such temples located in different
parts of Meghalaya—one of the north eastern
states of India—and is a laudable attempt in this
direction.
The book is divided in three parts. The first
part is titled ‘Sacred and Holy places of Meghalaya’,
the second ‘Cherrapunjee Rain’ and third ‘Bio-
graphy of Prahlad Chandra Paul’. The first part
contributes to more than fifty percent of the work.
The first part is the translation of a work from
Bengali by the same author. It describes the location
of one particular temple, mythological lore
associated with it, as also religious ceremonies
conducted at the temple. Occasionally the recent
history of the temple is narrated.
The second part was published as a separate
booklet in 2004. It was mainly aimed at establishing
the fact that Cherrapunjee receives the highest
rainfall in the world. This part also has monthly
data of rain received at Cherrapunjee from 1973 to
2005.
164 T h e V e d a n t a K e s a r i A P R I L 2 0 1 0 ~ ~
44
The third part deal with the activities of Sri
Prahlad Chandra Paul (1920-2002), a prominent
citizen of Cherrapunjee born and brought up there.
It describes association and participation in various
religious movements in Cherrapunjee, providing a
glimpse of the history of these movements during
his period. His involvement in the developmental
work of the region is also narrated.
The first part is a laudable effort very much
needed today. For those who have not been to
Meghalaya, it gives a glimpse of native religious
life of the people of this region.
Though the book needs use of more stan-
dardized language, it is a welcome addition and
needs to be encouraged.
__ SWAMI ATMAPRANANANDA, RKM ASHRAMA, BELGAUM
GLIMPSES OF DEVAYANA
By Dr. Hajari.
Published by New Age Books, A
– 44, Naraina Phase I, New
Delhi – 110 028. 2007, Paper-
back, Pp.337, Rs.250.
Dr. Hajari composed a
massive epic running into
twelve volumes of thousand
pages each named Devayana
(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
manifested itself through divine agency and he was
only a witness.
The epic is regarded as an instrument of the
imminent transition from the dark age of Kali to
the golden age of Satyayuga. The great God, Pingala
Mahadeva, assuring the Rishis of the advent of the
new age, says: ‘At that moment I shall also manifest
there and open the way for the journey of gods to
the earth, through the epic Devayana. Through this
epic, the earth will become like heaven and the
influence of Kali will be removed (p132)’. Devayana
means the journey of gods. If the second vowel is
shortened it may also mean the vehicle of gods.
We may legitimately understand this to mean that
the poem will act as a vehicle of ideas that will
ultimately transform modern man’s outlook from
one of crass cynicism and despair to one of hope
and spiritual aspiration.
This synopsis under review was originally
written and published in four volumes by the Dr.
Hazari himself and translated into French, Bengali,
Tamil and Malayalam. Judging by the synopsis, The
Hindu and The Indian Express wrote appreciative
comments excerpts from which are given on the
back cover along with a line from the mystic and
author Sri Anirvan.
The editor has done an admirable job, adding
several appendices including the table of contents
of the original epic, genealogical charts of the
characters and transliteration of four cantos of the
original in Devanagari and Bengali scripts.
No judgment on any literary work can be
pronounced on the basis of a synopsis, let alone a
work of this size and range. However, one cannot
help marvelling at the achievement of the author.
We do not believe that any single author wrote any
of the primary epics, Western or Eastern. They were
shaped by many bards over the centuries in oral
traditions before they were recorded in their final
form; but here is a single-handed achievement
which will force us, sceptics, to shed our disbelief
in divine afflatus, the moral and legislative role of
the poet, the primacy of imagination and related
notions and may eventually bring about another
romantic revolution, this time with a genuinely
oriental content.
_________________________ M.C.RAMANARAYANAN, KERALA
LIVING LEGEND—
DADA J.P. VASWANI
Published by Gita Publi-
shing House, 10, Sadu
Vaswani Path, Pune -
411 001. Hardback,
pp.139, Rs.750.
Published on the
occasion of the 90th
birthday of Dada J. P. Vaswani, a ‘living legend’,
this photo-portrait is a visual treat of Dada
Vaswani’s ‘rainbow-like qualities including
humility, love, service, compassion’.
The book reveals the wide range of services
rendered to the poor including food, medical aid,
value based education, through the Sadhu Vaswani
Mission as service to God.
†______________________________ P. S. SUNDARAM, CHENNAI
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