International Forum for NeoVedantins

The Story of Sri Ramakrishna:  Part 7
A Long Series

Bhava (Divine Mood or Attitude) and Altered state of consciousness

Further, in human beings themselves, depending on the refinement of mind, consciousness may appear as narrow selfish to broad unselfish attitude. In certain states the highly refined and trained mind may be able to perceive finer or subtler realities. Such states are called altered states of consciousness. The alteration in the state of consciousness may be brought about by the functional or structural changes in the brain, which in turn, can be induced by drugs, dreams, hypnosis, sleep, or spiritual practices - sadhana. We are mainly concerned here with the state brought about by the last method. The study of altered state of consciousness is a science in itself in so far as it studies the observable data of a state of changed perception.

The question arises, whether it is desirable to have such changed state of consciousness? From the life of Sri Ramakrishna it can be seen that the desirability of 'samadhi', as the altered state of consciousness, lies in that it makes the individual (and thereby, the community as a whole) selfless, ethical (value oriented), and divine. Development of pure love, compassion, and altruism; and freedom from slavish clinging to the senses, are the positive outcome. A dramatic reduction in stress, anxiety, worry, and tension can be envisaged in individual and in collective life.

Whether an individual, a group, or a people can possibly and with ease attain to such a desirable state is another point in question. It is a question of evolutionary progress. Should nature be allowed to take its own prolonged course to effect these changes, or whether it is possible for us to defy nature and attempt to become the 'trusty' of future evolutionary possibilities? If the persons, who fulfill the criteria and qualify to express the higher state of value system, agree, accept, and attempt to follow this 'trusteeship' the average mind may also follow these 'enlightened persons'.

As Lord Krishna says in the Gita (III. 21): "As the competent person with the authority and qualification of knowledge behaves, so do the individuals or social group will follow him; whatever is established as an ideal by that great person, the same is put in the practice by others."

During the sadhana of sixty-four Tantras, Sri Ramakrishna had many visions in various moods -bhava. He described these visions to many of his close disciples, and the visitors well-known to him. On one occasion he said,

"During my sadhana, when I meditated, I would actually see a person sitting near me with a trident in his hand. He would threaten to strike me with the weapon unless I fixed my mind on the Lotus Feet of God, warning me that he would pierce my breast if my mind strayed from God."

"During my sadhana period I had all kinds of amazing visions. I distinctly perceived the communion of Atman. A person exactly resembling me entered my body and began to commune with each one of the six lotuses. The petals of these lotuses had been closed, but as each of them experienced the communion, the drooping flower bloomed and turned itself upward. Thus blossomed forth the lotuses at the centers of Muladhara, Swadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna, and Sahasrara. The drooping flowers turned upward. I perceived all these things directly."

Sri Ramakrishna said that, once thinking of Hanuman - the monkey God and the chief disciple of Sri Rama - incessantly he became so much absorbed that he forgot altogether for some time his separate existence and individuality. At that time he used to walk, take his food, and do all other actions like a monkey. He did not do this of his own accord, but the actions so happened of themselves. His eyes assumed a restless expression like those of animals of that species, and strange to say, the lower end of his backbone (coccyx) lengthened at that time by nearly an inch like the tail of a monkey.

In his transcendental states, Sri Ramakrishna used to feel identified himself with both living and non-living things. Once near Kali Temple the garden was covered with newly grown grass in the lawn. Sri Ramakrishna in his ecstatic mood (Bhava) transcended the normal consciousness and was feeling identified with the grass when a man happened to walk across that spot. At this Sri Ramakrishna felt very restless, feeling unbearable pain in the chest, as if trampled by the person walking over the lawn.

At another time, on the bank of Ganges, two boatmen happened to quarrel amongst themselves; soon a fight ensued between them. Sri Ramakrishna became identified with the weaker of them, and the marks of injury were visible on his (Sri Ramakrishna's) body when the stronger one hit the weaker one.

Such innumerable examples can be quoted from his life.
Continued part 8...   |  Previous Part 6...  |  Index to all Parts...
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