A Story by Sri Ramakrishna On Aspiration

In response to a query from a devotee, Sri Ramakrishna tells a story on how we should aspire to the Divine. This is my retelling of that story, in response to question on why I had said that the Sadhana we perform is paltry.

There was once a widow with a young son. With no earning member the family, they had to subsist on the generosity of villagers.

The boy was soon of school going age. There was an operational hassle, the school had to be reached by going through a forest. Those who could afford had their bullock carts or other helpers to ferry the kids to school and back. Our little boy had none of these, so naturally he was scared and reluctant.

The mother then does what every soul with no recourse amongst the living does, she kneels and holds him close to her and says, “Do not fear my dearest, you have a brother, Krishna is his name. Call him when you are afraid”.

For the mother, her child is all that makes life worth living. The love she bestows upon him sustains her. She fears as every mother that something would befall him. But what else could she do? She who would gladly give her life to let her child grow, gives him up at the feet of Sri Krishna.

The boy takes his mother’s word to heart and starts his trek to school. The unfamiliar always evokes fear. A barefoot, barely clothed 6-7 year old is no different. It is soon dark in the dense jungle and the path barely visible. The first tendrils of fear clutch him. Every play of shadow and rustling of trees are promises of horrors that would soon fall on him.

The Fates slay heroes, a child is no match and he is soon broken.

Crying and knowing his mother would not hear even if he called, he remembers what she told about a brother. He does not know this brother, never seen him and sees none around. But the fear soon overwhelms and he cries out, “Krishnaaa, Krishnaaa”.

No answer.

Was his mother wrong, does he really have a brother? But he knew his mother never lied.

So he cries out again, fear choking him, cowering amidst the forest clearing, “Krishnaaa..O Krishnaaa”.

And suddenly, from behind a tree comes out a stranger, a young lad of 9 or 10 years, clothed like a shepherd, a peacock feather stuck in his head. Smiling, he walks to the boy and says, “You called”.

Sri Krishna in Forest

I have found a lot of times that is all there is. That cry, that single cry of the entire being. And the answering grace from the friend of man and the goal of our journeys. The prayers we offer, the sadhana we perform is paltry. We cover ourselves in rituals, mantras and prayers, all of which are ineffective without that cry. Sri Krishna can indeed walk in front wherever you are reading this. What is needed is the cry, everything else is pittance.

How do I learn more about Hinduism?

Temple in Angkor Vat

That was the question asked by someone few days back. “Aspire”, was my response. For that is the key element, without which the Shastra[1. Veda, Upanishads etc] and Guru will be in vain with regard to understanding Hinduism and living its tenets meaningfully.

Aspiration is a subtle seeking, not the hankering of crude ambition, but a prayerful poise. The pride of external accomplishment left behind, we unmoor our little selves from familiar shores.

It is fine that we have nothing yet, not even a Guru. What matters is that in the depths of our being the gong has been struck and the time has arrived for the journey to begin.

Based on the intensity of this seeking, external events will be moved with an infinite precision by the all pervading Divine.

The stranger who guides you away from harm, the scrap of paper that latches onto your leg that magically clarifies your pressing doubt, a song of aspiration you hear when half-asleep and flying over a foreign ocean, the priest-less nameless temple in which you shudder in awe at an unexplained presence, the beggar at the traffic signal who provides an opportunity to practice generosity, the almost bare farmer sheltering his child from rain on a remote highway, the laborer who watches his toddler though slaving in sweltering heat..everything, everything becomes a book that you can and should learn from.

The Shastra and Guru will arrive when necessary, but know it is enough to depend on the Purushottama[2. The Divine, Perfect Being, Brahman] within.

For when not constrained by your personal preferences of institution, form and method, the Divine is perfectly free to engineer serendipity. And there is nothing more pleasing to Sri Krishna than a soul that not only “knows” of his omniscience but also acts with perfect obedience and strength upon the knowledge of that omniscience.

Yet, do not trust every stranger and charlatan who comes your way. Judge what you see, then think and decide. The one who carries the Divine light within carries it in silence. Many would tout their exclusive truths, ride rough with the strength of their swords or haggle for the allegiance of your soul. About these we shall not concern ourselves now.

Once you have begun to aspire, as Swami Vivekananda says and I paraphrase, “The quest for God is like canker, whether in this life time or next it is sure to lead you to the Divine”.

This and this alone makes one a Hindu, everything else is mere preparation and not the actual understanding or living the tenets of Hinduism.

Trey Ratcliff via Compfight

Aphorisms: Human Modesty

To shun human modesty is to grow aware of God nude wisdom and delight of self-seeing; then modesty becomes a condition of His nudity and utter delight of existence.

Modesty is a subtle form of human ego, a masquerade too dangerous to be part of a spiritual self-evolution.

Behind the human ego stands an infinite divine Person, stripped of our disguises and self-pretensions and it is to this inner Deity that we must turn for spiritual guidance and succour and give ourselves in earnest self-giving without the least reservation so that we may be undone of all constitutional make-up and re-emerge into the Spirit of light, pure of self and nature.

It is in this transformed state of consciousness that the all-Delight of the Divine could manifest and the human frame sustain it for the progressive play of Krishna.

Every finger of his quietly dangling hand expressed peace

Siddhartha, in Herman Hesse’s book of the same name, arrives at Jetavana hoping to catch a glimpse of the Budhha, the Enlightened One. Not having seen him before, Siddhartha waits, almost wondering how to identify the Awakened One from the river of ochre colored robes that seemed to flow through the Jetavana grove. And then it happens, read how Hesse describes this sequence.

Siddhartha saw him, and he instantly recognised him, as if a god had pointed him out to him. He saw him, a simple man in a yellow robe, bearing the alms-dish in his hand, walking silently.

“Look here!” Siddhartha said quietly to Govinda. “This one is the Buddha.”

Attentively, Govinda looked at the monk in the yellow robe, who seemed to be in no way different from the hundreds of other monks. And soon, Govinda also realized: This is the one. And they followed him and observed him.

The Buddha went on his way, modestly and deep in his thoughts, his calm face was neither happy nor sad, it seemed to smile quietly and inwardly. With a hidden smile, quiet, calm, somewhat resembling a healthy child, the Buddha walked, wore the robe and placed his feet just as all of his monks did, according to a precise rule. But his face and his walk, his quietly lowered glance, his quietly dangling hand and even every finger of his quietly dangling hand expressed peace, expressed perfection, did not search, did not imitate, breathed softly in an unwhithering calm, in an unwhithering light, an untouchable peace. – Siddhartha, Herman Hesse.

The sentence “..every finger of his quietly dangling hand expressed peace..” has stayed with me ever since I read it almost a decade back. A peace that fills the entire being is perhaps alien to most in practice. But that is the payoff for a soul that has consented to take the difficult journey to the Divine.

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Sri Ramakrishna in Samadhi

That phrase and idea also reminds me of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa’s picture above. Check the posture when he entered into a state of Samadhi. Notice the inward drawn countenance and specifically those fingers, all indicating complete absorption in the immanent Divine.

This peace and union with the Divine is attainable through systematic practice of Yoga or any spiritual practise. This possibility is open to everyone regardless of their station of birth, race, caste and other human taxonomies society thinks of to classify itself. The old world notions of a specific caste or race or tribe having exclusive access to the Divine, or the condition that one has to follow a specific Messenger or Prophet, sometimes under the not so gentle nudge of sword or money, is a perversion of all that can be considered Divine.

Any universal principle or power would not stoop down to laying criteria for embracing humanity and all of life. Anything that insists on human criteria can safely be assumed to be less than Divine or a Divine impulse misused for lesser purposes by men. What matters is adherence to Dharma, inner Yoga and renunciation of all human hypocrisy.