Indian Bhaktas – Part 2

Ramakrishna worshipped the form of the supreme as Kali, the divine mother. She represents the dissolution of life, pain and darkness, as well as loving kindness, protection and bliss. Kali is both loving and stern. He continuously reflected on her image and attributes, day and night. His bhakti was such that he could not stop thinking of her. Eventually, he saw her everywhere and in everything. This was his path to illumination.

He was often asked by people: what is the way to the supreme? His answer was sharp and definite: bhakti yoga. He said time and time again that bhakti yoga is the best sadhana for the Kali Yuga (Dark Age) of the present. His bhakti is illustrated by the following statement he made to a disciple:

To my divine mother I prayed only for pure love.

At her lotus feet I offered a few flowers

and I prayed:

Mother! here is virtue and here is vice;

Take them both from me.

Grant me only love, pure love for Thee.

Mother! here is knowledge and here is ignorance;

Take them both from me.

Grant me only love, pure love for Thee.

Mother! here is purity and impurity;

Take them both from me.

Grant me only love, pure love for Thee.

Ramakrishna, like Kabir, was a practical man. He said: “So long as passions are directed towards the world and its objects, they are enemies. But when they are directed towards a deity, then they become the best of friends to man, for they take him to illumination. The desire for worldly things must be changed into longing for the supreme; the anger which you feel for fellow man must be directed towards the supreme for not manifesting himself to you . . . and so on, with all other emotions. The passions cannot be eradicated, but they can be turned into new directions.”

A disciple once asked him: “How can one conquer the weaknesses within us?” He answered: “When the fruit grows out of the flower, the petals drop off themselves. So when divinity in you increases, the weaknesses of human nature will vanish of their own accord.” He emphasized that the aspirant should not give up his practices. “If a single dive into the sea does not bring you a pearl, do not conclude that there are no pearls in the sea. There are countless pearls hidden in the sea. So if you fail to merge with the supreme during devotional practices, do not lose heart. Go on patiently with the practices, and in time you will invoke divine grace.” It does not matter what form you care to worship. He said: “Many are the names of the supreme and infinite are the forms through which he may be approached. In whatever name and form you choose to worship him, through that he will be realized by you.” He indicated the importance of surrender on the path of bhakti when he said: “As dry leaves are blown hither and thither by the wind, without any choice of their own, so a bhakta also moves in harmony with His will.” And to further illustrate surrender he uttered: “Not I, not I, Thou . . . Thou.”

Ramakrishna saw the supreme in everything. He once said: “I have come to the stage of realization in which I see the supreme is walking in every human form, manifesting himself alike through the sage and the sinner, the virtuous and the vicious. Therefore, when I meet different people, I say to myself: the supreme in the form of a saint, the supreme in the form of a sinner, the supreme in the form of righteousness, the supreme in the form of unrighteousness.”

While discussing Ramakrishna, it is worthwhile mentioning his disciple Vivekananda. He was a great sceptic who believed and accepted nothing. He was a jnana yogi and he followed his natural inclinations. But his path of non-acceptance eventually led him to experiences that transformed him into a bhakta. In his speeches and books he continually praised the divinity that he saw around him.

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