The mind is like milk. If you put milk in the container of the world, it will mix with water and become diluted. But if you set the milk aside in a quiet place for some time, it becomes curdled. Then if you churn the curdled milk into butter, it is possible to put that golden butter into the water without it ever becoming mixed or diluted. Rather, it will float lightly upon the water of the world.
[Swamiji: Become gold and don’t lose your shine. Become butter and float on the water of the world.]
Swamiji: Vijay Goswami is describing his sadhana in a remote place of pilgrimage.
Vijay Goswami had just returned from Gaya, where he had been practicing spiritual disciplines in a quiet and solitary place. While there he also spent some time visiting nearby sadhus and having spiritual discussions with them. He had returned wearing the gerrua cloth of renunciation. His appearance was radiant. His eyes had the indrawn look of those who spend much time in deep meditation. He approached Paramahamsa Ramakrishna with his head bowed in reverence. He seemed to be in such a state of intoxication that one wondered what his inner experience could have been.
Ramakrishna (seeing Vijay in this condition): Vijay, did you find a place to stay? Once there were two traveling sadhus. They had wandered to many places when one day they came to a large city. Entering the city, they went their separate ways. One of the sadhus was very much impressed by the size of the city, the great number of houses, and the marketplace. He was gazing in wonder at all the sights in the bazaar, when he met his friend, the other sadhu, who asked him, “Where are all your belongings?” The first sadhu answered, “The first thing I did was to find a place to stay. There I locked my things in my room, and now I am carrying the key in my pocket. I am worry-free and can enjoy the sights of the city.” That is why I asked you, Vijay, “Have you found a place to stay?”
Ramakrishna (to M. and the other devotees): For a long time Vijay’s spiritual heart was covered up and hidden within, but now that he is wearing the gerrua cloth, it has really begun to blossom.
Swamiji: Sri Ramakrishna now explains to Vijay about performing action without attachment and what it means to wear the gerrua cloth of the all-renouncing sannyasin.
Ramakrishna (to Vijay): Look, Shivanath has a lot of difficulties. He has to write a newspaper, and he has many worldly activities which give him no peace. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, it says that among the twenty-four gurus that the Avadhuta had, one of them was a hawk. Once a man was fishing, and a hawk swooped down and caught a fish. As it flew back up into the air, a thousand crows, which had been waiting nearby, all flew after the fish. The hawk flew as fast as it could, but the crows were relentless in their pursuit, cawing and pecking at him continuously all along the way. The hawk flew to the east, to the north, the south, and the west. Then he began to circle around in the sky, but the crows followed close behind. Finally, the fish dropped from the exhausted hawk’s beak, and at once the crows left the hawk and flew after the fish. Afterward the hawk sat on the branch of a tree and thought, “That fish was the cause of all my problems. Now that the fish is gone, I have no worries at all.”
The Avadhuta learned from the hawk that as long as you keep the fish with you (meaning that so long as you have unfulfilled desires), your karma will remain, and karma can have a fearsome nature bringing with it lots of worries and a lack of peace. If you can renounce those desires, then your unpleasant karma will dissipate, and you will finally find peace. It is very difficult to perform action without desire. We think that we are acting without attachment, but even so desire still creeps in, from where no one can say.
If one has performed a lot of spiritual discipline before beginning to work in the world, it may be possible to act without attachment. Only after the vision of God is it possible to be completely free from desire. In such a case, all action generally drops away. Nevertheless, in some special cases like that of Narada, one continues to work in the world in order to teach others.
Swamiji: Sannyasins don’t store up objects of attachment. If you have love of God in your heart, your activities will automatically diminish.
Ramakrishna: The Avadhuta had another guru, a honey-bee. He observed that with great difficulty over many days, the honeybee stored up a lot of honey in its honeycomb. The bee did not have a chance to enjoy the honey, because before long someone came and broke the honeycomb and took it all away. Thus, from the humble honeybee the Avadhuta learned that one should not store up objects of attachment. A true sadhu will never store up for the future. He will rely one hundred percent on God.
This is not possible for people still attached to the world. To live in the world, one must store for the future and protect one’s possessions and relations. Neither birds nor sadhus store for the future, but when they have young ones, even the birds will store food for their chicks. In order to put food in the mouths of their children, birds will carry food home.
Vijay, if you see a monk carrying several bags of possessions with him, his cloth tied in ten or fifteen places where more things are being carried, don’t trust that sadhu! I saw monks of that kind at the foot of the banyan tree in the Panchavati. There were two or three of them sitting there. One was removing stones from the lentils they were about to cook, and another was sewing his cloth. They were all talking about the feast that was recently given for the sadhus at a rich man’s house. They said, “Oh, that wealthy man spent a hundred thousand rupees on the feast. He fed so many sadhus. We had puris and jilipis and many different kinds of sweets. And the little cakes! Oh, my, there were so many fine dishes!” (All began to laugh.)
[Swamiji: I’ll tell a little story. One day I was walking up a mountain in the Himalayas, and along the path, it was a very small and narrow path climbing up this mountain to a Shiva temple on the bank of the river on the other side, while I was walking along this path, I saw a sannyasi with two trunks on his head.
And I said, “Sadhu-baba, what do you have in your trunks?”
He said, “Are you going to the Shiva Temple?”
I said, “Yes, I am.”
He said, “You’ll see.”
I said, “Well, can I help you carry them?”
Well, we went up to the top of the mountain, and we came down the other side to the bank of the river. We went to the Shiva Temple, the sadhu moved in and immediately put a string across the temple, and put a blanket over it so that the temple was partially his and in total privacy. I went down to the bank of the river and took a bath, and changed my cloth, and sat on the bank of the river and did some meditation. When evening came, I went back to the temple. And I saw that there were platters of food, a rich, royal feast. And I said, “Sadhu-baba, we could have eaten, I have a little shatu, this is a little roasted barley grain you mix with water, and you put a little ghee on it, and it’s a fine meal. We could certainly have eaten that.”
And the sadhu turned to me and said, “My ishtadeva, my desired, my personal deity is the king Rama, Raja Rama. And I prepare a feast for my deity. He doesn’t eat shatu.”
Oh my, there will be so many fine dishes!]
Vijay: Yes, I saw monks of that kind at Gaya. They are called the sadhus who carry a water pot.
[Swamiji, lifting up a water pot: We call them pet ka sadhus. They are sadhus of the stomach.]
Ramakrishna (to Vijay): When you love God purely for God’s sake, your karma flies away. Let those who are doing religious work in the world continue to do so. For you,Vijay, it is time for you to renounce all that. It is time for you to say to your mind, “Oh, mind, let us now gaze at the Beloved Mother alone, and please, dear Mother, let no one else enter there.”
Saying this, Ramakrishna began to sing in his melodious voice:
[Swamiji: Ramakrishna, could you sing for us?]
Strive, oh mind, to always keep your beloved
Mother Shyama within your heart.
You and I will see
that no one else may enter there.
Then cravings and desires will flee from us,
and we will taste
the nectar of eternal bliss within
as we call upon our Mother Divine.
Bring no low desires nor worldly thoughts
with you, oh mind.
Keep far away from the bondages of the soul.
Light the eye of wisdom.
Let that be your trusted guard.
Ever vigilant and alert,
bid your guard protect you always.