Having plunged the depths of spiritual realisation, Sri Ramakrishna had a first-hand account of the way to reach that state. He, therefore, discouraged any tendency to consider scriptural study (of religious scriptures) a necessary step to the realization of God.
The reasons for this attitude of Sri Ramakrishna are many. Continual intellectual study resulted in vanity, false satisfaction and undigested knowledge, he said. Sacred books (or religious scriptures) were beneficial if they helped in cultivating devotion to God and stimulated the desire for inner realization. A mere scholar has an exaggerated notion of his own spiritual progress. If one busied oneself with an outer display of scriptural knowledge (studies), what time would be left for silent inward diving into the Ocean of God"s Beauty and gather the precious gems of spirituality—devotion, knowledge, discrimination and dispassion? After reading a few books (religious scriptures) man becomes conceited. Such egotism is begotten by ignorance, said Sri Ramakrishna. Through ignorance man forgets God and speaks always of 'I" and 'mine". On account of the barrier of ego one does not see God. Only the humble man, who surrendered himself to God, could attain knowledge.
'Bhakti—the Essential Thing"
Could God be realized through mere reasoning? No. Says a bhajan in Bengali:
Who is there that can understand what Mother Kali is?
Even the six darsanas are powerless to reveal Her.
Bhakti, love of God, is the essence of all spiritual discipline. God could be attained by the force of sheer bhakti, said Sri Ramakrishna. He asked the devotees to leave the 'counting of number of branches and leaves" (i.e. futile reasoning) and enjoy the sweet mangoes (bliss of divine love). A mere book-learned is dry like wood. But a bhakta swims in eternal bliss, like a pitcher kept immersed in the Ganges. It never runs dry.
Let us recall here Sri Ramakrishna"s unique worship of the Divine Mother Kali. As a priest of the temple his duty was to perform the rites according to scriptural (studies) injunctions; to wave lights in the Arati, to dress the image, and to offer Her the food offerings. But who could perform the rituals enjoined by (religious) scriptures if mad with love of God? Sitting before the image he made agonized supplications to the Universal Mother to reveal Herself to him, with streams of tears trickling down his cheeks. Intoxicated with divine love he danced and sang devotional songs and lost himself completely in the emotions of the songs. Sometimes he remained motionless like an inert object, meditating for hours on the blissful Mother. He felt the pangs of a child separated from its mother. One question, 'Art Thou true Mother…? If Thou dost exist, why do I not see Thee?" Greatly afflicted with the thought that it might not be his lot to realize Her in this life, he seized the sword lying in the temple to put an end to his life. What else could bring about the realization of the Mother if not such childlike simplicity and sincere devotion? That very moment the Mother revealed Herself. Describing the wonderful vision he said,
It was as if the houses, doors, temples and all other things vanished altogether…And what I saw was a boundless, infinite, Conscious Sea of Light! However far and in whatever direction I looked, I found a continuous succession of Effulgent waves coming forward, raging from all sides with a great speed. Very soon they fell on me…I panted and struggled, as it were, and lost all sense of external consciousness.
Thus he had the true knowledge of the light that is Mother. She was not mere poetry or fiction but a living Reality, in fact, the only Reality in this transitory, illusory world.
To be continued
About the author
Sudesh, a devotee from Ambala, regularly contributes inspiring articles to 'The Vedanta Kesari'. In this article he deals with progressing spiritually beyond the mere study of religious or Hindu scriptures.