International Forum for NeoVedantins

Selected Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna

[The 'sayings' are compiled from various books including "Sri Ramakrishna: Life and Teachings" by Swami Tapasyananda, and "Sri Ramakrishna and His unique Message" by Swami Ghanananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai (India) Publication.]

(All the expressions are equally applicable to females! Hence read she and her wherever he, him, or his is written! For seekers of Truth there is no gender bias!)
Selected Sayings:

1.) You see many stars in the sky at night, but not when the sun rises. Can you therefore say that there are no stars in the heavens during the day? O man, because you cannot find God in the days of your ignorance say not that there is no God.

2.) He is born in vain who, having attained human birth so difficult to get, does not attempt to realize God in this very life.

3.) Know the One, and you will have known the all. Ciphers placed after the figure one get the value of hundreds and of thousands, but they become valueless if you wipe out that figure. The many ciphers have value only because of the One. First the One and then the many. First God, and then the Jivas and the Jagat (creatures and the world).

4.) Little children play with dolls in the outer room just as they like, without any care or fear or restraint; but as soon as their mother comes in, they throw aside their dolls and run to her crying, "Mamma, mamma." You too, O men, are now playing in this material world, infatuated with the dolls of wealth, honor, fame, etc. and do not feel any fear or anxiety. If, however, you once see your Divine Mother, you will not afterwards find pleasure in these. Throwing them all aside, you will run to Her.

5.) There are pearls in deep sea, but you must hazard all perils to get them. If you fail to get at them by a single dive, do not conclude that the sea is without them. Dive again and again, and you are sure to be rewarded in the end. So also in the quest for the Lord, if your first attempt to see Him proves fruitless, do not lose heart. Persevere in the attempt, and you are sure to realize Him at last.

6.) God is the Infinite Being, while the Jiva is only a finite being. How then can finite grasp the infinite? It is like a doll made of salt trying to fathom the depth of the ocean. In doing so the salt doll is dissolved into the sea and lost. Similarly the Jiva, in trying to measure God and know Him, loses his separateness and becomes one with Him.

7.) The Lord Himself is playing in the form of man. He is the great Juggler and this phantasmagoria of Jiva and Jagat is His great jugglery. The Juggler alone is true; the jugglery is false.

8.) The human body is like a pot, and the mind, the intellect and senses are like water, rice, and potato. When you place a pot containing water, rice and potato on fire, they get heated, and if anyone touches them, his finger is burnt, even though the heat does not really belong to the pot, or the water, or the potato or rice. Similarly it is the power of Brahman in man that causes the mind and the intellect and the sense to perform their functions; and when that power ceases to act, these also stop working.

9.) As the snake is separate from its slough, even so is the Spirit separate from the body.

10.) There are three dolls - the first made of salt, and second made of cloth, and the third of stone. If these dolls are immersed in water, the first one will become dissolved and lose its form, the second will absorb a large quantity of water but would retain its form, and the third will remain impervious to water. The first doll represents the man who merges his self in the universal and all pervading Self and becomes one with It; he is the liberated man. The second represents the Bhakta or the true lover of God, who is full of divine bliss and knowledge. And the third represents the worldly man who will not admit even a particle of true knowledge into his heart.

11.) Man suffers so much simply for want of devotion to God. One should therefore adopt such means as would help the thought of God to arise in the mind at the last moment of one's life. The means is practice of devotion to God. If this is done during one's lifetime, the thought of God is sure to occur to one's mind even at the last hour.

12.) When an unbaked pot is broken, the potter can use the mud to make a new one; but when a baked pot is broken, he cannot do the same any longer. So when a person dies in a state of ignorance, he is born again; but when he becomes well baked in the fire of true knowledge and dies a perfect man, he is not born again.

13.) In God there are both Vidya Maya and Avidya Maya. The Vidya Maya takes man towards God, whereas the Avidya Maya leads him astray. Knowledge, devotion, dispassion, and compassion - all these are expressions of Vidya Maya; only with their help can one reach God.

14.) What is Maya? It is sexuality, which forms an obstacle to spiritual progress.

15.) Those who wish to attain God or make progress in their devotional practices should particularly guard themselves against the snares of sex and wealth. Otherwise they will never attain perfection.

16.) 'Woman and Gold' (Kamini and Kanchana) have drowned the whole world in sin. Woman is disarmed when you view her as the manifestation of the Divine Mother. God cannot be seen so long as one's passion for 'woman and gold' is not extinguished.

17.) He is truly a man to whom money is only a servant but, on the other hand, those who do not know how to make a proper use of it hardly deserve to be called men.

18.) The sun can give heat and light to the whole world, but cannot do so when the clouds shut out his rays. Similarly as long as egotism veils the heart, God cannot shine upon it.

19.) Rainwater never stands on high grounds, but run down to the lowest level. So also the mercy of God remains in the hearts of the lowly and humble, but drains off from those of the vain and the proud.

20.) There are two types of 'egos', one 'ripe' and the other 'unripe'. "Nothing is mine, whatever I see or feel, or hear, nay even this body itself is not mine; I am always eternal, free and all-knowing" - such ideas arise from the ripe ego. "This is my house, this is my child, this is my wife, this is my body" - thoughts of this kind are manifestation of 'unripe ego'.

21.) After the attainment of Samadhi some still retain the ego - the 'I' of the servant or worshipper of God. Shankaracharya kept the ego of Vidya (knowledge) for the purpose of teaching others.

22.) Hanuman was blessed with the vision of God both with form and without it (Sakara and Nirakara). But he retained the ego of a servant of God. Such was also the case with Narada, Shankara, Sanatana, and Sanatkumara.

23.) To explain God after merely reading the scriptures is like explaining to a person the city of Banaras after seeing it only in a map.

24.) Grantha (Book) always does not mean a Holy Scripture, but often it comes to mean 'Granthi' or a knot. If a man does not read it with an intense desire to know the Truth and renouncing all the vanity, the mere reading of books only gives rise to pedantry, presumptions, egoism, etc., which will be an encumbrance on his mind like so many knots.

25.) Para Vidya i.e. higher knowledge is that by which we know God. All else, scriptures, philosophy, logic, grammar, etc. only burden and puzzle the mind. The Granthas (books) are sometimes Granthis (knots). They are good only when they lead to the higher knowledge.

26.) If you first smear your palm with oil and then cut open the jack, the milky exudation of the fruit will not stick to your hands and inconvenience you. If you first fortify yourself with the true knowledge of the Universal Self, and then live in the midst of wealth and worldliness, surely they will in no way affect you.

27.) The magnetic needle always points to the North, and hence it is that the sailing vessel does not lose her direction. So long as the heart of man is directed towards God, he cannot be lost in the ocean of worldliness.

28.) While raising a building, the scaffolding is indispensable; but when the work is completed no one feels the necessity of it. So also image worship is necessary in the beginning but not afterwards.

29.) The milk of the cow in reality pervades the whole body of the animal through its blood, but you cannot milk it by squeezing the ears or the horns; you can get the milk only from the teats. Similarly, God pervades the universe everywhere, but you cannot see Him everywhere. He manifests Himself more readily in sacred temples, which are full of the spirit of devotion generated by the lives and spiritual practices of the devotees of former time.

30.) As the blacksmith keeps alive the fire of his furnace by blowing the bellows, so the mind should be kept clean and glowing with help of pious company.

31.) If you wish to see God, have firm faith in the efficacy of repeating the 'name' of Hari and try to discriminate the real from the unreal.

32.) Sing with Bhakti (full devotion) the hallowed 'name' of the Lord, and the mountain of your sins will vanish, just as a mountain of cotton will burn to ash and disappear if but a spark of fire falls on it.

33.) As one and the same water is called by different names by different people, some calling it 'water', some 'vari', some 'Aqua', and some 'pani, so the one Sachchidananda, Existence-Intelligence-Bliss Absolute is invoked by some as God, by some as Allah, by some as Hari, and by others as Brahman.

34.) Different creeds are but different paths to reach the one God. Diverse are the ways that lead to the Temple of Mother Kali at Kalighat in Calcutta. Similarly various are the paths that take men to the house of the Lord. Every religion is nothing but one of these paths.

35.) The young of a monkey clasps and clings to its mother tightly when she moves about. The kitten on the other hand does not do so but mews piteously, and the mother grasps it by the neck. If the young of the monkey lets go its hold of its mother, it falls down and gets hurt. This is because it relies upon its own strength. But the kitten runs no such risk, as the mother herself carries it about from place to place. Such is the difference between self-reliance and entire resignation to the will of God.

36.) As it is very difficult to gather the mustard seeds that escape out of a torn package and get scattered in all directions, so it is not a very easy affair to ingather and concentrate the mind, which runs after worldly things in diverse directions.

37.) Meditate on God either in an obscure corner, or in the solitude of forest, or within the silent sanctuary of your own heart.

38.) Deep meditation brings out the real nature of the object of meditation, and infuses it into the soul of the meditator.

39.) If you must be mad, be it not for the things of the world. Be mad with the love of God.

40.) Some men shed streams of tears because sons are not born to them; others eat away their hearts in sorrow because they cannot get riches. But alas! How many are there who sorrow and weep for not having realized the Lord! Very few indeed! Verily, he who seeks the Lord, who weeps for Him, attains Him.

41.) He finds God quickest whose concentration and yearning are strongest.

42.) The darkness of centuries is dispersed as soon as a light is brought into a room. The accumulated sins (or ignorance) of countless lives vanish by a single glance of God.

43.) The wind of God's grace is incessantly blowing. Lazy sailors on the sea of life do not take advantage of it. But the active and the strong always keep the sails of their minds unfurled to catch the favorable wind and thus reach their destination very soon.

44.) However much you may try, without God's grace nothing can be attained; He cannot be realized without Divine grace. (i.e. whatever you have achieved is due to His Grace!)

45.) Think not that Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are mere allegories and not historical personages, or that the scriptures are true only in their inner or esoteric meaning. Nay, those personages were human beings of flesh and blood just as you are; but because they were divinities, their lives can be interpreted both historically and allegorically. The Avataras are to Brahman what waves are to the ocean.

46.) The Avatara is always one and the same. Having plunged into the ocean of life, the one God rises up at one point and is known as Krishna, and when after another plunge, He rises up at another point, He is known as Christ.

47.) God is indeed infinite. But He is omnipotent. He may so ordain that His divinity as love may be manifest in flesh, and be among us as God Incarnate. Love streams to us from God Incarnate.

48.) Pure Knowledge and pure Love are both one and the same.

49.) The Vedas, the Tantras, the Puranas, and all the sacred scriptures of the world have become impure as it were (i.e. defiled like the food thrown out of the mouth), because they have come out of and have so often been repeated by human mouth. But Brahman or the Absolute has never been so defiled for no one has yet been able to express It by speech.

50.) Brahman is beyond mind and speech, beyond concentration and meditation,, beyond the knower, knowledge, and known, beyond even the conception of the real and the unreal. In short, It is beyond all relativity.

51.) So long as there is the 'I' in me, there is the Personal God also before me, revealing Himself through various forms of glory, and as the world and living beings.

Series on the life of Sri Ramakrishna...
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