“Suppose at the Name of the Lord your hair stands on end or tears of joy start from your eyes; verily I say unto you the term is over for your ‘work for the Lord.’” – Sri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886).
These are the first words of the great Hindu saint Sri Ramakrishna chronicled by his future disciple, Mahendranath Gupta (M.) in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. It is an extraordinary document of spirituality, which makes spirituality simple to practice for a person in any situation in life. Spirituality can be practiced while continuing to carry out the duties and responsibilities of life, but those duties are not the end of life. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna takes you where you stand and lifts you up one step at a time without stopping until you reach the highest heights of spirituality.
“Sandhya ends in Gayatri; Gayatri, in the simple symbol Om.”- Sri Ramakrishna
The drama of his banter, songs, preaching, ecstasy, worship, and love is vividly and minutely recorded by M. in the setting of Dakshineswar Temple and surrounding areas. Great monks, students, businessmen, meditators, and seekers of truth came to him and nobody went away empty-handed.
"Here the Gods are ministered unto from day to day -- from morning till night. Here too holy men and the poor are daily fed out of the offerings made to the Deity." – Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
The speaker's introduction:
Swami Tattwamayananda, currently the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, (originally founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) served in various centers of the Ramakrishna Order in India as editor, publisher, and teacher of Sanskrit, Advaitic texts such as Sri Shankaracharya's commentaries on the 'Prasthanatraya' (the fundamental Sanskrit texts of Vedanta philosophy), Buddhism and Indian philosophy. He underwent traditional training in Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit, Vedic and Vedantic literature for many years, from his early days. Before coming to the United States in January 2012 he was teaching Sanskrit, Vedantic scriptures and Indian philosophy at the Training center in Belur Math, the institution that trains the monks of the Ramakrishna Order at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, Kolkata, India. Apart from his traditional education, the Swami has also received modern University education in English literature, psychology, European history, and Western philosophy. He is frequently invited for lectures on Yoga, Vedanta, and traditional Hindu scriptures and for participating in interfaith dialogues.
Swami Tattwamayananda's discourses were given at the Lake Tahoe Retreat "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna: Finding Fulfillment in Everyday Life" (July 19-27, 2014). Discourses were also given at the New Temple of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco (founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900).
All Original Content © Vedanta Society of Northern California
"Sir, How Ought One to Live in the World as a Householder?" | 9 Tahoe Retreat 2014 | Swami Tattwamayananda
From the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:
M.: "Sir, how ought one to live in the world as a householder?"
Master: "Do all your duties with your mind always fixed on God. As for your parents and wife and children, serve them as if they were your own, but know in the inmost recesses of your heart that they are not really yours, unless they too love the Lord. The Lord alone is really your own, and also those who love the Lord."
“A rich man's maid-servant will do all her duties, but her thoughts are always set upon her own home. Her master's house is not hers. She will, indeed, nurse her master's children as if they were her own, saying often; 'My own Rama,' 'My own Hari,' But all the while she knows full well the children are not hers.”
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna describes Sri Ramakrishna’s last visit to Keshab Sen, the great leader of one of the major Hindu reform movements of those days.
The Master speaks highly of Keshab before his disciples. “Keshab is free from the vulgar pride of the preceptor who comes in his own name. Very often has he said to many of his disciples, ‘Go to the Temple at Dakshineswar where you will have your doubts solved.’ It is my way also to say, ‘Let Keshab increase a million-fold.' What shall I do with fame? Yes, Keshab is great, honoured alike by men of the world and by holy men who seek God alone.”
This lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on July 27, 2014.
“But Take Care You Do Not Run Away with the Idea That Your View Alone Is True” | 8 Tahoe Retreat 2014 | Swami Tattwamayananda
Sri Ramakrishna’s message was universal. Following Vedic tradition, he was not in conflict with the innumerable spiritual paths.
M. said: “I should like Sir, to meditate upon God as the Formless rather than as a Being ‘with form.’”
Sri Ramakrishna: “That is good. There is no harm in looking at Him from this or that point of view. Yes, yes, to think of Him as the Formless Being is quite right. But take care you do not run away with the idea that your view alone is true and all others false. Meditating upon Him as a Being `with form’ is equally right. But you must hold to your particular point of view until you realise – until you see God, when everything will become clear.” – The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
One Shankaracharya of Sringeri Math, a great monk and teacher of Advaita, nondualism, the formless God, was once asked why he continued to be immersed in worshipping in the shrine and in the temple. His reply was, “what else should I do?” The worshipper of the formless has no conflict with the worshipper of God with form.
This lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on July 26, 2014.
“The Holy Man Said to Him, ‘My Good Man, Go Forward.’” | 7 Tahoe Retreat 2014 | Swami Tattwamayananda
-"The mind is everything. If the mind loses its liberty, you lose your liberty. If the mind is free, you too are free. The mind may get dipped in any color like a white cloth fresh from the wash-house." – The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
-“Tat Tvam Asi” – Chandogya Upanishad
-“How can I go back home, the place I belong to?” – The parable of the three robbers
From the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:
"Once upon a time a wood-cutter went into a forest to chop wood. There suddenly he met a brahmachari. The holy man said to him, 'My good man, go forward.' On returning home the wood-cutter asked himself, 'Why did the brahmachari tell me to go forward?' Some time passed. One day he remembered the brahmachari's words. He said to himself, 'Today I shall go deeper into the forest.' Going deep into the forest, he discovered innumerable sandal-wood trees. He was very happy and returned with cart-loads of sandal-wood. He sold them in the market and became very rich.
"A few days later he again remembered the words of the holy man to go forward. He went deeper into the forest and discovered a silver-mine near a river. This was even beyond his dreams. He dug out silver from the mine and sold it in the market. He got so much money that he didn't even know how much he had.
"A few more days passed. One day he thought: 'The brahmachari didn't ask me to stop at the silver-mine; he told me to go forward.' This time he went to the other side of the river and found a gold-mine. Then he exclaimed: 'Ah, just see! This is why he asked me to go forward.'
"Again, a few days afterwards, he went still deeper into the forest and found heaps of diamonds and other precious gems. He took these also and became as rich as the god of wealth himself.
"Therefore I say that, whatever you may do, you will find better and better things if only you go forward. You may feel a little ecstasy as the result of japa, but don't conclude from this that you have achieved everything in spiritual life. Work is by no means the goal of life. Go forward, and then you will be able to perform unselfish work. But again I say that it is most difficult to perform unselfish work. Therefore with love and longing in your heart pray to God: 'O God, grant me devotion at Thy Lotus Feet and reduce my worldly duties. Please grant me the boon that the few duties I must do may be done in a detached spirit.' If you go still farther you will realize God.
You will see Him. In time you will converse with Him."
This lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on July 25, 2014.
Just Because You are a Devotee Does Not Mean You Should Be a Fool | 6 Tahoe Retreat 2014 | Swami Tattwamayananda
From the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna:
-"At one time there was a drought in a certain part of the country. The farmers began to cut long channels to bring water to their fields. One farmer was stubbornly determined. He took a vow that he would not stop digging until the channel connected his field with the river. He set to work. The time came for his bath, and his wife sent their daughter to him with oil. 'Father,' said the girl, 'it is already late. Rub your body with oil and take your bath.' 'Go away!' thundered the farmer. 'I have too much to do now.' It was past midday, and the farmer was still at work in his field. He didn't even think of his bath. Then his wife came and said: 'Why haven't you taken your bath? The food is getting cold. You overdo everything. You can finish the rest tomorrow or even today after dinner.' The farmer scolded her furiously and ran at her, spade in hand, crying: 'What? Have you no sense? There's no rain. The crops are dying. What will the children eat? You'll all starve to death. I have taken a vow not to think of bath and food today before I bring water to my field.' The wife saw his state of mind and ran away in fear. Through a whole day's back-breaking labour the farmer managed by evening to connect his field with the river. Then he sat down and watched the water flowing into his field with a murmuring sound. His mind was filled with peace and joy. He went home, called his wife, and said to her, 'Now give me some oil and prepare me a smoke.' With serene mind he finished his bath and meal, and retired to bed, where he snored to his heart's content. The determination he showed is an example of strong renunciation.
-"Now, there was another farmer who was also digging a channel to bring water to his field. His wife, too, came to the field and said to him: 'It's very late. Come home. It isn't necessary to overdo things.' The farmer didn't protest much, but put aside his spade and said to his wife, 'Well, I'll go home since you ask me to.' (All laugh) That man never succeeded in irrigating his field. This is a case of mild renunciation. "As without strong determination the farmer cannot bring water to his field, so also without intense yearning a man cannot realize God."
This lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on July 24, 2014.
Real Renunciation: Distaste for Worldly Enjoyment Comes All in One Stroke | 5 Tahoe Retreat 2014 | Swami Tattwamayananda
How does a worldly person spend his life?
-“The bound souls never think of God. If they get any leisure they indulge in idle gossip and foolish talk, or they engage in fruitless work. If you ask one of them the reason, he answers, ‘Oh, I cannot keep still; so I am making a hedge.’ When time hangs heavy on their hands they perhaps start playing cards.” There was deep silence in the room. – Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
What is the meaning of complete renunciation?
-A husband and wife renounced the world and jointly undertook a pilgrimage to various holy shrines. Once as they were walking along the road, the husband being a little ahead of the wife saw a piece of diamond on the road. Immediately he began to scratch the ground to hide the diamond in it, thinking that if his wife saw it perhaps she might be moved by avarice and thus lose the merit of her renunciation. While he was scratching the ground the wife came up and asked him what he was doing. He gave, in an apologetic tone, an evasive reply. She, however, finding not the diamond and reading his thoughts remarked, ‘why have you left the world if you still feel the distinction between the diamond and the dust?’ – Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
How does a man come to Vairagya (dispassion for worldly enjoyment)?
-A wife once said to her husband, "Dear, I am very anxious about my brother. For the past one week, he has been thinking of becoming an ascetic and he is making preparations for it. He is trying to reduce gradually all his desires and wants." The husband replied, "Dear, be not at all anxious about your brother. He will never be a mendicant. No one can become a sannyasin in that way. You cannot renounce things in installments." "How does one become a sannyasin, then?" asked his wife. "It is done in this way." So saying he tore into pieces his flowing dress, took a piece of it, tied it around his body and told his wife that she and all others are now mothers and sisters and brothers for him. He left the house, nevermore to return. – Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
This lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on July 23, 2014.
“The Liberated Are Those Who Are Not Attached to Either ‘Lust’ or ‘Gold’” | 4 Tahoe Retreat 2014 | Swami Tattwamayananda
From the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
-“The Ever-Free, like Narada, the Holy Sage, are those who abide in the world for the sake of others – in order to teach the Truth to others.”
-“The Worldly are they who are attached to the little things of this world – money, honours, titles, sense pleasures and power. They forget God and never give a thought to Him.”
-“The Seekers After Liberation do their best to avoid the world, made up as it is of ‘Lust and Gold.’ But it is given to only a few amongst them to find what they seek, namely, Liberation.”
-“The Liberated are those who are not attached to either ‘Lust’ or to ‘Gold.’ Holy men are examples of these. In their minds there is not a trace of attachment to the things of this world. They meditate always on the Hallowed Feet of the Lord.”
This lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on July 22, 2014.