Nuggets of wisdom

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa would often say that the greatest impediment to man’s spiritual and mental progress was his ego. He called this ego as the ‘unripe or raw ego’ which caused man to identify himself with his worldly possessions and status, leading him to a state of bondage where he was inextricably caught in the tentacles of want and more want.

As contrasted to this ego, Sri Ramakrishna spoke of the ‘ripe ego’ where the mind had developed a sense of discrimination between the temporary or transient things of the world and the permanent or everlasting happiness of inner peace, stemming from spiritual attainments.

Sri Ramakrishna stressed on the need to strive towards attaining this ‘ripe ego’ state, by subjugating the natural impulses to run towards materialistic pleasures. But at the same time, he never advocated running away from familial obligations. Rather, he, by his own example, demonstrated that a man, while still being a householder, could still lead an exemplary life.

Another noteworthy aspect of Sri Ramakrishna’s persona was his utter simplicity and total abhorrence of praise or adulation of any sort. Once, when he was with a disciple, a few rich men came visiting. He had to go out of the room for a few minutes and as he was coming back, he overheard his disciple speaking highly of him. He immediately entered and chided the disciple, saying, “You must have seen their costly apparel and gold ornaments and thought that you would be rewarded if you heaped praises upon me. Never do that.” Turning towards the gentlemen, he said, “What he says is exaggeration. I am just following what the great masters and the scriptures have said. I am no different from anybody else.”

Though orthodox by upbringing and temperament, he never thrust his ideas upon his followers. Instead, he bade them accept only what suited their tastes and inclinations. His life and actions spoke louder than his words. His was a graded, calibrated approach to raising the tone of his follower’s lives, taking into account their human limitations, with the awareness that there is no universal prescription for spiritual emancipation. A disciple once asked Sri Ramakrishna to show tangible proof of God’s existence. Sri Ramakrishna replied, “Just because you do not see stars in the daytime, does it mean that stars do not exist? Milk contains butter. But, just by looking at milk, can you see the butter? Only when you churn the milk, the butter manifests itself. Similarly, you cannot realise God by mere polemical arguments. Mental discipline, unquestioning faith and devotion are required to grasp the highest truth.”

To an alcohol-addicted aspirant, Sri Ramakrishna advised, “First offer the drink at the feet of the Goddess and then partake of it as a consecrated drink. Only take care that you do not get intoxicated. Slowly, you will experience a feeling of spiritual exaltation and you will gradually desist from the evil habit.”

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