With Sri Ramakrishna
Swamiji never was interested in divine experiences and was very much averse when any one tried to highlight such things in his own life or even in the life of Sri Ramakrishna. He never encouraged such moods to be expressed in public. He used to tell that these are the hindrances in the spiritual path and should be kept secret to oneself. One should be able to digest these divine moods than only one can proceed further in his pursuit.
Narendra’s second visit; his wonderful experience through the Master’s power.
Narendra said: “I had no idea that the Dakshineswar temple was so far from Calcutta because I had been there only once before, and that was by carriage. I used to visit Dasharathi Sanyal, Satkari Lahiri, and other friends at Baranagore and thought that Rasmani’s temple garden was somewhere near their houses. But this time it seemed as if the journey would never end, however far I walked. After asking many people the way, I arrived at Dakshineswar at last and went straight to the Master’s room. I found him sitting, deep in meditation, on the smaller bed that stands beside the bigger one. There was no one with him. When he saw me, he joyfully called me to him and made me sit down on one end of the bed. He was in an ecstatic mood. He muttered something to himself that I couldn’t understand, looked hard at me, and then arose and approached me. I thought we were about to have another crazy scene. Scarcely had that thought passed through my mind when he placed his right foot on my body. Immediately I had a wonderful experience. My eyes were wide open, and I saw that everything in the room, including the walls themselves, was rapidly whirling around me and receding. At the same time, it seemed to me that my consciousness of self, together with the entire universe, was about to vanish into a vast, all-devouring void. This destruction of my self-consciousness seemed to me the same thing as death. Terrified, I felt death right before me, very close. Unable to control myself, I cried out loudly: ‘Ah, what are you doing to me? Don’t you know I have parents at home?’ When the Master heard this, he gave a loud laugh. Then he touched my chest with his hand and said: ‘All right, let it stop now. It needn’t be done all at once. It will happen in its own good time.’ To my amazement, the extraordinary vision vanished as suddenly as it had come. I returned to my normal state and saw things inside and outside the room standing as still as before.
Narendra’s resolve to know the cause of that experience and not be overwhelmed again in the future.
“Although it has taken so long to describe all this, it actually happened inonly a few moments. And yet it changed my whole way of thinking. I was bewildered and kept trying to analyze what had happened. I saw how this experience had begun and ended in obedience to the will of this extraordinary man. I had read about mesmerism and hypnotism in books, and I wondered if this was something like that. But my heart refused to believe that it was, for even people of great willpower can create such conditions only in weak minds. And my mind was by no means weak. In fact, up to then I had been proud of my intelligence and willpower. Ordinary people are overwhelmed and become puppets under the influence of a great personality, but this man hadn’t bewitched me or reduced me to that condition. On the contrary, when I first met him, I had decided that he was mad. Why then should I have suddenly found myself in this state? I couldn’t come to any conclusion. It seemed an utter mystery to me. Then I remembered the words of a great poet, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’ I thought that this might be one of those things. After much reflection, I concluded that this mystery could not be solved. I determined to be on my guard lest he exert more influence over me in the future.
Narendra’s speculations about the Master and his determination to understand him.
“The next moment I thought: How can I consider this person mad when he was able to destroy the strong structure of my mind at will – a mind that is endowed with tremendous willpower – and reshape it as if it were a lump of clay, making it think as he wished? But during my first visit he took me aside and said so many strange things; how can I believe them to be true, or to be anything other than an eccentric outburst? Because I couldn’t determine the cause of the wonderful experience I’ve just described, I could come to no firm resolution about this person, who was as pure and simple as a child. From my boyhood I have always used observation, investigation, reasoning, and argumentation to form an opinion about a person or a thing, but on that day my character was dealt a terrible blow, which distressed my heart. Consequently, a fierce determination arose in my mind to truly understand the nature and power of this wonderful man by any possible means.
The Master treated Narendra as if he had known him for a long time.
“Thus was my mind occupied with various thoughts and resolutions throughout the day. After this last incident, the Master became quite a different person. He began to feed me lovingly as he had during my first visit, and he treated me as cordially as if he had known me for a long time. He behaved with me exactly like a man who meets an old friend or relative after a long separation. But feeding and entertaining me, talking to me and making jokes with me, didn’t seem to satisfy him. His affectionate behaviour created a good deal of anxiety in me. As the day was coming to a close, I asked leave to go. This seemed to make him unhappy, and as on the previous occasion he demanded a promise: ‘Say that you will come Backsoon.’ So on that day I promised as before, and then I returned home.”
Narendra’s third visit
We do not know how long it was before Narendra returned. After encountering the Master’s miraculous power, Narendra had an intense desire to know him, so it seems it must not have been long before he came Backto Dakshineswar. His eagerness must have brought him Backto the Master as soon as he was able. Because he was attending college, the third visit probably took place on a weekend. When Narendra wanted to investigate something, he lost all interest in food, sleep, or relaxation; he would take no rest until he had mastered the situation. So, quite naturally he was extremely anxious to understand the Master. It is certain that during the third visit Narendra was extremely cautious and very much on his guard lest he fall under a hypnotic spell as before. But what happened was inconceivable. We shall now present what the Master and Narendra told us about it.
Narendra loses outer consciousness at the Master’s touch.
On that day the Master invited Narendra for a walk in Jadu Mallick’s garden, just south of the Dakshineswar compound, either because the temple complex was crowded with devotees or for some other reason. Jadu and his mother were very devoted to the Master, and they had left a standing order with the manager that if the Master wished to walk in the garden when they were absent, the parlour facing the Ganges should be kept open for him. On that day the Master walked with Narendra in the garden on the bank of the Ganges.
As the Master and Narendra talked about various things, they eventually came to the parlour, where the Master sat down and soon went into samadhi. Narendra sat nearby, closely watching the Master’s condition, when the Master suddenly touched him, just as he had on the previous occasion. Although Narendra was on his guard, he was completely overwhelmed by that powerful touch. This time he became completely unconscious, not partially as before. When he regained his normal consciousness after some time, he saw the Master passing his hand over his chest and smiling at him, sweetly and gently.
Narendra did not tell us anything about what he experienced when he lost his outer consciousness. We thought that he did not tell us about it because it was a secret. But one day in the course of conversation the Master told us what had happened during that incident and we realized that Narendra had no memory of it.
The Master asks Narendra various questions while he is in that state.
The Master told us: “That day, after Narendra lost consciousness of his current incarnation, I asked him many questions, such as who he really was, where he had come from, why he had come [been born] how long he would stay in this world, and so forth. He entered his innermost being and found the correct answers to my questions. These answers confirmed what I’d already learned about him in visions. It’s forbidden to reveal those things, but I can tell you this: On the day he knows who he really is, he will no longer remain in this world. With a strong effort of will, he will immediately give up his body through the power of yoga. Narendra is a great soul, perfect in meditation.”
Later the Master described to us one of his earlier visions concerning Narendra. We shall mention it here for the reader’s convenience, but when the Master told us about it, it seemed that he had this vision before Narendra first visited Dakshineswar.
The Master’s wonderful vision concerning Narendra
The Master said: “One day I found that my mind was soaring high in Samadhi along a luminous path. It soon transcended the stellar universe and entered the subtle realm of ideas. As it ascended higher and higher, I found the path lined with ideal forms of gods and goddesses on both sides. My mind then reached the outer limits of that region, where a luminous, barrier separates the sphere of relative existence from that of the Absolute. My mind crossed that barrier to enter the transcendental realm, where no corporeal being was visible. Even the gods dare not enter that sublime realm and are content to keep their seats far below. But the next moment I saw seven venerable rishis seated there in samadhi. It occurred to me that these rishis must have surpassed not only humans but even the gods in knowledge and holiness, in renunciation and love. Lost in admiration, I was reflecting on their greatness when I saw a portion of that undifferentiated luminous region condense into the form of a divine child. The child came to one of the rishis, tenderly clasped his neck with his lovely arms and, addressing him in a sweet voice, tried to drag his mind down from the state of samadhi. That magic touch roused the rishi from the superconscious state, and he fixed his half-opened eyes upon the wonderful child. His beaming countenance showed that the child was the treasure of his heart. In great joy the divine child spoke to him: ‘I am going down. You must go with me.’ The rishi remained mute but his tender look expressed his assent. As he gazed at the child, he again became immersed in samadhi. I was surprised to see a fragment of his body and mind then descending to earth in the form of a bright light. No sooner had I seen Narendra than I recognized him to be that rishi.
Narendra’s conviction about the Master as a result of his direct experience.
Narendra was completely dumbfounded when the influence of the Master’s divine power put him under the same hypnotic spell for a second time. He deeply felt the insignificance of his mental and intellectual power compared to this unsurpassable divine power. His former belief that the Master was a monomaniac was changed. But we cannot say that this encounter brought him to understand the meaning and significance of what the Master had told him privately during his first visit to Dakshineswar. He felt that the Master must be an extraordinarily great soul
The Master’s behaviour during Narendra’s visits to Dakshineswar.
When Narendra came to Dakshineswar, the Master quite often went into ecstasy at the very sight of him. When he later regained some consciousness, he would have long spiritual talks with Narendra. At such times the Master would joyfully try to transmit the highest spiritual experiences to Narendra through words and other means. Sometimes the Master wished to listen to devotional songs, and as soon as he heard the sweet melodious voice of Narendra, he would go into samadhi. But this did not interrupt Narendra’s singing. Absorbed, he would continue to sing one song after another for hours. When the Master again regained partial consciousness, he would request Narendra to sing a particular song. He would not be completely satisfied until he had heard Narendra sing “All that exists art Thou.”
After that they would spend some time discussing the various mysteries of Advaita Vedanta, such as the difference between the jiva and Ishwara, the real nature of the jiva and of Brahman, and so on. Narendra’s presence thus created a wave of bliss in Dakshineswar.
Narendra joins Hazra in criticizing nondualistic philosophy; in ecstasy, the Master touches Narendra.
One day the Master told Narendra various things regarding the oneness of jiva and Brahman according to nondualistic philosophy. Although he listened attentively, Narendra did not understand. When the Master finished speaking, Narendra went to see Hazra. While smoking and discussing that topic again, Narendra said, “Can it ever be possible that the water pot is God, that the cup is God, that everything we see and all of us are God?” Hazra joined Narendra in ridiculing the idea, and they both burst into laughter. The Master was in an ecstatic mood, and when he heard Narendra laughing he came out of his room, holding his cloth under his arm like a boy. “What are you talking about?” he asked them. Smiling, he touched Narendra and went into samadhi.
Narendra’s extraordinary experience as a result of the Master’s touch.
Narendra later related this to us: “That day my mind underwent a complete revolution at the marvellous touch of the Master. I was aghast to realize that there really was nothing whatsoever in the entire universe but God. I remained silent, wondering how long this state of mind would continue. It didn’t pass away all day. I got Backhome, and I felt just the same there: Everything I saw was God. I sat down to eat, and I saw that everything – the plate, the food, my mother who was serving it, and I myself-everything was God and nothing but God. I swallowed a couple of mouthfuls and then sat still without speaking. My mother lovingly asked me: ‘Why are you so quiet? Why don’t you eat?’ That brought me Backto everyday consciousness and I began eating again. But from then on I kept having the same experience, no matter what I was doing – eating, sitting, lying down, or going to college. It was a kind of intoxication that I can’t describe. If I were crossing a street and saw a carriage coming towards me, I didn’t have the urge to get out of its way for fear of being run over, as I would ordinarily. I said to myself: ‘I am that carriage. There’s no difference between it and me.’ During that time, I had no sensation in my hands or my feet. When I ate food, I felt no satisfaction from it; it was as if someone else were eating. Sometimes I would lie down in the middle of a meal and then get up again after a few minutes and go on eating. Thus, it happened on those days that I would eat far more than usual, but this never upset me. My mother became alarmed. She thought I was suffering from some terrible disease. ‘He won’t live long,’ she would say.
“When that first intoxication lost some of its power, I began to see the world as though I were dreaming. When I went for a walk around Hedua, or Cornwallis Square [now Azadhind Bagh], I would knock my head against the iron railings to see if they were dream-railings or real ones. The loss of feeling in my hands and feet made me afraid that I was becoming paralyzed.
That overwhelming intoxication didn’t leave me for some time. When I did at last return to normal consciousness, I was convinced that the state I’d been in was a revelation of nondualistic experience. And then I knew that what is written in the scriptures about this experience is all true. From that time on, I had no doubts about the truth of nonduality.” The author has an eventful day with Narendra.
On another occasion Narendra described a wonderful incident to us. He toldus about it in the winter of 1884, when we were well acquainted. We believe that the incident must have taken place during this period, so we are relating it to the reader here. We remember going to Narendra’s house at Gaur Mohan Mukherjee Street in Simla on that day a little before noon and staying till eleven at night. Swami Ramakrishnananda was with us. Since our first meeting, we had felt a divine attraction to Narendra, and this feeling was intensified a thousand fold that day. Before this we understood the Master to be a knower of God or a perfected soul. But on that day Narendra’s inspired talks brought a new light to our hearts. We realized that the extraordinary events recorded in the lives of Jesus, Chaitanya, and other great teachers of the world, which we had studied but disbelieved, had parallels in the Master’s daily life. With merely a touch, or his desire that it be so, the Master released from bondage those who had taken refuge in him and granted them devotion. He granted them samadhi, thus endowing them with divine bliss. Or he diverted the course of their lives into a spiritual channel so strong that they attained a vision of God immediately and were blessed forever. We remember that in the evening Narendra took us for a walk in Cornwallis Square. On the way he told us of divine experiences that he had experienced by the grace of the Master. He was absorbed within himself for a while and then finally expressed his inner bliss with his heavenly voice:
Gora bestows the Nectar of love; Jar after jar he pours it out, Andstill there is no end! Sweetest Nitai is summoning all; Beloved Gora bids them come; Shantipur[v] is almost drowned, And Nadia is flooded with love!